Working to become the premier center for hands-on sustainable living education!

Excerpts from Internship Correspondence

The application process

     And what is the application process if any?

     You're doing it already :-)

     Taking on an intern involves a considerable investment on our part, so we need to know a good deal about a potential candidate and their interest in sustainable living. We want to know stuff like where they've been, what they want out of life -- we want to know if the chance to be part of a sustainable community is important to them, or just a curiosity.

     We think that this is a wonderful lifestyle, a remarkable conjunction of security and opportunity, but it's not for those who aren't willing to reap what they sow, create what they need, and cherish what they have. So talk to us about what you've done so far, what you've learned from that, and what you want to do tomorrow, and we'll respond with ways that the work we're doing here can help you achieve your goals.

     This isn't just about working out better ways to grow vegetables -- it's about evolving a better way to live because if the lifestyle isn't sustainable, nothing else will be either. Perhaps the skill most essential to cooperative association is the ability to communicate since we can't cooperate any better than we can communicate. So, we want to enter into a dialogue about what draws you to what we're doing, and which aspects of it resonate with your dreams.

     We want to know something about your ability to think "outside the box"and look beyond the conventional. The consumer culture is so pervasive, so woven into the fabric of modern values, that embracing something different enough to make a difference requires the ability to intentionally over-ride that consumption-driven programming, because only then will new and better ways to live, love and work together have a chance to flourish and be realized.

     For more on that, see Sustainability and the "Yuck!" Factor

On accommodations for visitors

     Would you have accomodations for a weekend or two if someone were to come down and see Windward and meet the community members?

      That's not a problem, but it's best to continue a dialog for a while before taking that step.

     There's an old saying that face what direction you will, you still turn your back on half the world. There's no question that Windward is an exceptional opportunity to do certain things, but that leads to the deeper question of whether those are the things you truly want to do? Since one can't have it all, one has to prioritize and decide what matters and what doesn't, and then be able to focus on the former and let go of the latter.

     You're young enough to dream, and old enough to know that dreams aren't enough, that the only magic elixir that can turn a dream into reality is composed of sweat, elbow grease and persistence liberally applied :-)

How does the Apprenticeship work?

     If someone is to create a sustainable home here for themselves, they'll need sustainable housing that suits them and a right livelihood that meets their financial and spiritual needs. In your case, you could cover your dues by using your credentials and our tax-exempt status to put on a couple of educational events during the summer, and then spend the winters working with clay.

     The apprenticeship period is intended to cover the time it takes to get from here to there. It's a minimum of twenty-four months, but it's achieving the goal of sustainability which counts not the number of months on site. Folks who come in the door with skills and capital can get there quicker, but we're confident that we can teach anyone who's serious how to become financially independent within the context of our association.

     This is an intentional community, which is to say that we intend to do things differently here. If we believed in the status quo, we wouldn't have needed to undertake to embody change. Windward exists because we see a need for change, and because we want to be a part of that positive change.

     But however brave our resolve, we're also emotional creatures who need time to work through changes in order to not do harm to ourselves as we evolve into the sort of persons we want to become. That is a process that takes time, attention to detail and on occasion the ability to be boldly honest with ourselves and each other as to our motives, goals and limitations.

     We can do that, but it's not something which will happen over night. The apprenticeship period is set up to allow a reasonable amount of time for those changes to happen in a positive, holistic way. Which is the only way truly sustainable change can happen.

How do living arrangements work at Windward?

     We all live in private spaces -- no dorm type arrangements. We've found that the demands of living in community make it best for each person to have their own private place to go to.

     We started with raw land, and have been steadily adding facilities to the point where we now have, for example, 11 septic systems installed. Our conditional permit allows for the construction of eight main cabins, and we're looking to starting work on them this year.

     In the meantime, we use a combination of trailers and campers for private space. As more sustainable housing comes on line, we'll retire the trailers.

     No one draws a salary from Windward; i.e. we don't pay anyone to be here. We see the intern stipend not as pay, but something to help cover the cost of toothpaste, etc. for people who are focusing their time on developing the sustainable systems.

     As someone becomes more involved, they'd move up to a larger housing unit with better features. For example, an intern would stay in dry quarters (i.e. no running water) and use the bathroom/shower/laundry facilities in the dining hall. An apprentice would stay in one of the medium size quarters with running water, and someone who takes on a leadership role would stay in larger quarters.

     Once someone is a full member, they're welcome to use sustainable construction methods to build a permanent dwelling that suits them such as a cordwood cabin, or the apartment/greenhouse/workshop that I'm building out of two shipping containers and some 20' green house arches.

How about kitchen / meals?

     We have a dinning hall kitchen for folks to use to prepare their breakfast and evening snack. The lunch meal is our main meal of the day and everyone on site is expected to attend. That way we can share any information that needs to go out, coordinate anything that needs doing, all without having to waste time in meetings.

     The medium and larger size trailers have their own small kitchens.

On the relationship between stewardship and vegetarianism

      You seem like great people, so I would assume (as you said) that you would not participate in the killing of organisms that can feel pain and experience suffering if it was not in the most humane ways possible and out of necessity.

     It is the nature of life that creatures (us included) are born, live and die. What we do as stewards is delay the animal's death for a while, and when it becomes necessary, we affect that death in a tranquil context that does not subject the animal to stress. That's far different from the process used in slaughter houses.

     So, with that said, could you explain how your husbandry system works, specifically what makes necessary?

     It is nature's way for rams and bucks to compete for the chance to breed. One will win, and the other nine will contest in vain. We just insure that those who are not winners at the breeding game also get to contribute to the welfare of the herd, something that would not happen in the natural environment. That is why roosters, who occupy a fixed territory, fight to the death -- nature dictates that for the sake of the flock the non-breeding males must not be allowed to consume resources which would otherwise go to the hens.

     From the standpoint of the individual, nature is extremely wasteful. As stewards, we step in and accomplish nature's objective without the waste. For example, the "purpose" of an oak tree producing acorns is to produce more oak trees. We can take a dozen acorns, germinate them and plant them in appropriate locations. By using our understanding to accomplish the oak's agenda, we "earn" the right to use the acorns -- that would otherwise go to waste -- to feed the animals who in turn feed us.

      I am not very experienced in sustainable lifestyles (yet), but I do believe I've heard of sustainable farm practices that don't involve the raising of animals for slaughter.

     Sustainability is based on using animals to convert things we don't eat (such as grass, leaves and bugs) into things we do eat (such as milk, meat and eggs). The raising of those animals involves the production of young animals, some of which will be surplus males or substandard females. Those are the ones who's lives are shortened by slaughtering, it's true, but in the natural state, some 70% of any generation will die from starvation or disease. What we do insures that they will have a good and gentle life, as opposed to the short and hard scrapple existence they would have in the wild.

      Are there places such as this,

     None that I know of. Failing to use animals to convert what you can't eat into what you can eat is unsustainable, just as using animals to convert what you can eat into meat is unsustainable (think feedlot).

      and if there are, why is Windward not one of them?

     Because we value and celebrate the role of sheep, goats and fowl in supporting human life, and the role of humans in caring for these animals which otherwise would be subject to predation.

      Is it the specific location in your specific bio-region that dictates the necessity of slaughter (and I use that term in a technical way, not at all in a judgmental way)?

     Yes. We can't grow food year round here, so we have to use animals to store up resources when they're abundant (think summer) for use later when they're not available (think winter). More importantly, it would be wasteful to compost food that can support animals which can in turn support people. Sustainability is founded on efficiency, and any practice which wastes resources is by definition non-sustainable.

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