Documenting Dacha: My first day on the homestead

Hello! My name is Julia Nelson. I’m one of the new Media and Communication Interns for the Dacha Project. A recent graduate from the School of Art and Design at Alfred University, I studied sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, video and sound. I found my way to Ithaca due to my enrollment in the Community Herbal Intensive at the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine.  While it is exciting to be learning about the vast world of plants and how they interact with the body, helping the Dacha Project gives me an opportunity to utilize and continue to develop my artistic skills.

I feel very lucky to be seeing first hand how a community like Dacha works. I am fascinated with process of what it  means to build sustainable living practices starting from the ground up. Even if an individual wasn’t necessarily interested living the path the members of the Dacha Project have taken, there are so many aspects to the projects they do here that can be incorporated into many lifestyles. It is the DIY aspect that intrigues me, and I am happy to help share their savvy with the world.

My weekly updates to the Dacha Project’s website will offer online followers an opportunity to learn more about building practices, gardening, and various ideas about how life unfolds here. Keep on reading for photos from Sunday, June 8th!

My first mission is to finish this fence made with saplings and branches from felled trees around the property. The saplings and branches are still “green” meaning that they haven’t completely lost their living moisture. By weaving these flexible branches and trees we can create a sturdy, tall fence to keep out those pesky deer. Another trick to keep deer out of the garden is to plant aromatic herbs like garlic around the perimeter. There are few herbivores that like the taste of these plants.

The fence will also act as an armature for some pea plants that are growing along the edge. These climbers can get to be around six feet tall! They will look beautiful intertwined with the natural wood of the woven fence.

Here is a photo of some thriving gardens next to the homestead. There are salad greens and herbs growing here. I had the pleasure of picking some for my lunch.

Marina, a resident of the homestead, is starting an herb garden on the side of the house. She is also attending the Community Herbal Intensive and my first visit to the Dacha project was at a potluck she organized for the members of the herbal class and the Dacha residents. That gravel is meant to prevent any vegetation from growing next to the house’s foundation, which can compromise its stability and keep moisture where it shouldn’t be. It will also help to catch rainwater falling from the gutter and send it to the plants. Marina built a raised bed because the soil is too clay heavy for the herbs. With some wood she found lying around, and a rich horse manure mixture to fill the cavity these herbs are set up to thrive.

It was a full Sunday familiarizing myself with the homestead, working on the fence and talking to the Dacha Project community members. I can’t wait to get back to work next week. I hope to investigate beekeeping and gather footage for a series of video shorts. Tune in next Friday for the results!