Monday, July 15, 2013

Whippoorwill Festival - 2013

This year I attended the Whippoorwill Festival for the first time. Organized by Dave Cooper, the festival is described as an earth-friendly, sustainable living skills festival. The annual festival takes place at HomeGrown HideAways, near Berea Kentucky, which I had the opportunity to visit last year during the 2012 Berea Solar Tour.

The festival lasts four days, but I only attended for one. I wanted to get a feel for things before committing to spending four days there. For those who do attend multiple days, spots for onsite camping is available. There were several tents still set up when I was there on Sunday, so it appears that several people did take advantage of the camping opportunity.

Workshops at the festival each last two hours, with three workshop sessions scheduled each day, with the exception of Thursday, when there are only two. I attended two of the workshops on Sunday: Straw Bale Construction and Repurposed and Reused Materials.

The Straw Bale Construction Workshop was led by Daryl Pifer of Cedar Ridge Farm in Edmonton, KY. I found this workshop to be very informative, and took away a couple of very useful bits of information. One thing I learned was how to re-tie a straw bale, using a straw bale needle. While this was illustrated for the purposes of creating custom sized bales to fit into small spaces, I can see an immediate use for it as a method of allowing me to use less than a full bale, without having the remaining bale get scattered before I use the rest. By far the most useful thing I learned, however, is that the state of Kentucky has special exemptions for farm dwellings and structures that allow them to be built without conforming to the building code. I have verified the information, and found that we will just have to do a few things to have our place classified as a farm, which should not be difficult. It will be more than worth it to be able to build the house we want, without worrying about the inflexibility of the building code regarding alternative building methods, composting toilets, gray water systems, etc.

The Repurposed and Reused Materials workshop was led by Lori Beard. This workshop was a good example of why I believe that festival literature should provide a description of the workshops. I, incorrectly, assumed that the focus would be on things like building supplies, which is something that greatly interests me. Granted, there was no indication in the name of the workshop that it would focus on that, so that was my mistake. Instead, it was about repurposing materials for craft projects. It was still a very enjoyable workshop, and I learned a lot. Andrea would have loved it, so I tried to remember as much as I could to share with her.

There were approximately seventy-five workshops in total, so my experience is based on only a very small percentage of what was available. Some of the others I would have liked to have attended include Tracking And Wildlife/Nature Awareness, Snakes and Salamanders of Kentucky, Walk: Tree Identification and Forest Ecology/Ecological Design, Top Bar Beekeeping, Backyard Chickens, Recycling Humanure, Identifying Collecting and Growing Kentucky Wildflowers, Running a Successful Small Business in Appalachia, and Simple Living: Getting Your Needs Met.

In addition to the workshops, the festival featured nightly speakers and music, as well as a dance and stargazing opportunities. While the workshops were informative, I think that the best way to experience the festival would be to camp on site, or at least stay late enough to take part in the evening activities. The festival also seemed like a very social event, which is not exactly the environment in which I strive. Yes, I enjoyed the festival, and I think that I would enjoy spending the weekend, but I believe it would be more enjoyable for someone at ease in social situations, rather than an introvert like myself.

I plan to attend the festival again next year, although I am not yet sure if it will be for the entire weekend or just specific days. I will wait to see the workshop schedule before making my final decision. It may also depend on whether I can find someone wanting to camp out for the weekend with me.

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