A Windward Fellowship


      Windward is an unusual organization. For example, we have no paid staff. Instead, the Windward stewards choose to put that money towards building a life and body of work we believe in. As a result, our use of the term "Fellowship" is a bit unusual as well. This page was put together to describe what we mean by the term, and to clarify how a Fellowship would differ from an Apprenticeship or an Internship.

     Wikipedia tells us that the term "fellow...is most often used in an academic context: a fellow is often part of an elite group of learned people who work together as peers in the pursuit of knowledge or practice." We're comfortable with that definition so long as "elite" is defined in terms of a person's commitment to using their talents to help create a better world.

     The information below is offered in hopes of conveying some of the opportunities and challenges involved.


     The road leading to a goal does not separate you from the destination; it is an essential part of it.
          ‒ Charles DeLint


     Windward offers three sessions:

Spring     March through May
Summer     June through August
Fall     September through November

     Generally, there are six openings for the summer session with four openings available for the spring and fall sessions. Arrival and departure dates are flexible to some degree depending on the applicant's interests and other commitments.

Ways to get involved

     For the past five summers, Windward has offered Internships and Apprenticeships. This year, we will begin offering Fellowships as well. All Interns, Apprentices, and Fellows will be welcomed into the Windward community for the duration of their stay and will participate in the care of our forest, our animals, and our gardens, but there are three criteria that distinguish between the options:

  1. Skills

  2. Funding

  3. Dedication

     Fellowship ‒ The ideal Fellow candidate would possess all three criteria: key skills, funding, and a strong sense of being called to the path of Environmental Stewardship.

     Students who have finished at least their third year of undergraduate study in fields such as Chemistry, Ecology or Women's Studies are invited to study at Windward as a Fellow. Given the holistic nature of sustainability research, three months is not a long time, and it is important that Fellows arrive with some basic skills needed to support their studies.

     For the Summer 2011 session, two openings (out of a total of six) are reserved for Fellows. If you have a research project in mind, you're invited to make a proposal.

     Apprenticeship ‒ Apprenticeship candidates would have a strong interest and entry level skills in another area relevant to creating sustainable community and be able to fund their time here. Examples of other relevant interests would be woodworking, fiber arts, baking, wildcrafting, herbal studies, metalworking, passive earth construction, aquaponics, micro-processors, cheese making, leather working, broom making, grafting, forest management, cidering, glass working, food preservation, information management, sculpture, basket weaving, instrument making, and so on. An Apprenticeship offers the space and support to further pursue your own learning within a community context.

     The focus of an Apprenticeship is worked out between the applicant and Windward in much the same way that the subject of a Master's thesis is negotiated between a candidate and their advisor.

     Internship ‒ Individuals who bring a strong sense of being called to the path of Environmental Stewardship, but who lack the funding and potentially relevant skill sets, are invited to apply for internships.

     Interns will be involved in a wide range of sustainable systems including activities such as food production, sustainable construction, community building and current projects that align with their interests and skills. Reading Windward's activity blog is a good way for an Internship candidate to get an understanding of the various projects currently underway. Beyond that, we are "servants of the seasons," and Nature has first say in what we do and when we do it.

Participation Costs

     Sustainable systems are capital intensive; funding for this work comes from the monthly dues paid by the participants‒from the most junior apprentice to the senior Steward, all pay the same monthly fee in support of their research. We think of it as a sort of lab fee.

     By working together as a group to meet our common needs, we are then able to devote the majority of our time to pursuing our personal studies and interests. A key motivating factor for us is our desire to escape the dead-end roles of consumer and employee, and our dues structure is one way we ensure that our non-profit exists in support of the Stewards' work, instead of the other-way-around.

     For 2011, monthly dues will be $400/month, an amount which covers the basics: project materials, a private place to stay, food, energy, access to tools, storage, laundry, and Internet access. In that Windward is a full-time, live-in sustainability laboratory, Fellowship and Apprenticeship applicants might think of the monthly dues as a kind of "lab fee."

So, tell me about Windward

     Officially, the Windward Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit sustainability research station located about 80 miles east of Portland, Oregon, on the north (Washington state) side of the Columbia River. Our 131 acre campus lies in the transition zone between the Pacific rainforest and the high-desert, inland mesas. The forest we steward is a mix of Douglas fir, Ponderosa pine, and Oregon oak, with an annually increasing number of chestnuts and walnuts, apples and pears.

     Informally, Windward is an intentional community that for three decades has studied the skills needed to bring together a critical mass of sustainability. During much of that time, Windward funded its growth by serving as a state-recognized transitional center helping people overcome the ravages of addiction, domestic violence, and mental illness.

     In 2006, Windward began offering graduate-level internships and apprenticeships aimed at helping twenty-somethings gain hands-on experience with natural systems, especially those systems relevant to the development of vibrant autonomous and interdependent rural communities.

     Windward's experience with helping people in transition informs our understanding of this moment in time. We see a society that is addicted to non-renewable resources and willing to use violence to get its way. Our experience tells us that meaningful change only comes after an addict hits bottom.

     What will come after that point will depend on what options are available. When people realize that their survival will depend on learning how to care for the Earth and each other, what they'll need most of all will be practical examples of how to do that. Our goal is to answer that need by researching and then demonstrating ways that people can come together to meet their food, energy, and water needs using renewable resources on marginal land.

     We also believe that a plan that only addresses tangible needs isn't enough; that healing the trauma people have done to the Earth and to each other will require transitioning from fear and dominance to co-operation and stewardship.

     If patriarchy lies at the root of the military-industrial system that is grinding the Earth into dust, the core challenge is to find a viable alternative‒a social structure that furthers the concept of justice for all instead of the more common mind set of it's "all for just us."

     We're proud of the substantial progress we've made towards these goals. There's still much work to be done and many things to be learned, which is why we are reaching out in hopes of finding others who also feel called to the path of Environmental Stewardship: people who feel a passion for the Earth and its creatures; people who know that making a bad system a little less bad just isn't good enough; people who are willing to let Nature inspire their knowledge, creativity, and skill.

     Windward is not a large organization and does not aspire to be large. We believe that fundamental change has to happen in small groups before larger organizations can be changed for the better. Our work is journaled and our key documents are available on-line because our goal is to enable others to copy what we've learned wherever they are. By remaining small and focused, we believe we can best serve the goal of helping people create sustainable villages in their bit of deep country.


     Windward is offering Fellowships in Chemistry, Biology, and Women's Studies for the 2011 sessions.


Chemistry Fellow

     The most serious obstacle to our getting on with the necessary business of transforming our life-style and our society is the unwillingness or the inability to say clearly and publicly that we've come to the end of one way of life and to the beginning of another. -- George Leonard

     A community requires energy to operate; in the future, that energy will come from some form of captured sunshine. The forms that our work is focusing on are solar-heated steam engines and woody biomass. Here's a partial list of projects that a Chemistry Fellow could work on during the summer of 2011:

     A. The Vacuum Distillation of Glycerine from Bio-diesel Waste

     The collection of concentrated solar energy relies on the use of a Heat Transfer Fluid (HTF) to absorb sunlight in the form of heat, and then transport that heat to a flash boiler where the heat is used to generate steam to drive a steam engine which turns an alternator. The commercial-scale solar-energy systems operating in the Mohave Desert use proprietary HTFs that can't be made by a deep country village. A small system being designed at MIT for African villages uses automotive antifreeze as its HTF, a sweet-tasting poison that also can't be produced using village scale technology.

     The HTF that we're focusing on is the glycerine that can be recovered from the waste produced by the manufacture of biodiesel from locally available non-petroleum fats and oils. Glycerine is an environmentally safe material which has been approved by the FDA as a food additive. Because of the unique relationship between glycerine and water, the recovery involves a vacuum distillation process.

     B. The Direct Conversion of Woody Biomass into Syngas using Pure Oxygen

     The air-driven pyrolytic decomposition of woody biomass yields "producer gas" which is low in energy because half of the gas generated is inert nitrogen. This problem was resolved in the 1970's by Union Carbide through the use of pure oxygen produced by the cryogenic distillation of liquid air. Unfortunately, cryogenic plants are large and technically challenging facilities to operate.

     The 1990s saw the development of zeolite matrices capable of mechanically separating air using a process known as Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA). The medical need for home-produced oxygen has spurred the development of small and medium sized PSA units such as OGSI's Model OG-20 which uses 0.7 KwH to produce 20 cubic feet of oxygen per hour.

     We'll be using our OG-20 to explore the challenge of producing syngas (a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide) directly from woody biomass, thereby greatly facilitating the condensation of syngas into liquid fuels and lubricating oils. Syngas can also serve as an efficient village-scale replacement for natural gas.

     C. The Village-scale Conversion of Syngas into Transportation Fuels

     It's neither possible nor desirable for a community to cut itself off from trade with the larger world. In order to buy things that are needed, a community has to be able to produce things that are of value to their neighbors. Given the huge investment of our society in roads and vehicles, the demand for vehicular fuel isn't going to go away. By becoming able to produce its own transportation fuel, a community in deep country can not only create something of value it can trade, but also lessens the need to purchase fuel for the village itself.

     There are two time-tested ways that woody biomass can be converted into fuel: the condensation of methanol and the Fisher-Tropsch process. The first step in both cases involves the gasification of the biomass into hydrogen and carbon monoxide. This past summer we brought an automotive scale gasifier on line, and gathered more than 6,000 gallons of wood chips to serve as a uniform research material since many of the challenges in dealing with solid bio-mass involve material handling issues.

     We're currently working on a reactor designed to utilize recent advances made by Dr. Mahajan of Brookhaven National Laboratories. These advances bring down the reaction pressure and temperature to a range achievable at the village level.

Ecology Fellow

     To fully engage in the challenge of sustaining a village without depending on long-distance transportation, we need to continually deepen our understanding of and ability to encourage diverse and resilient ecosystems that can nourish us completely. This is a truly daunting process, and we can either begin with the study of a single species, which quickly expands into a study of how this species interacts with both the biotic and abiotic environment; or the process can begin by looking at both the existing ecological networks and the desired networks, and continually narrowing the scope to the community of individual species and abiotic components that would help us move from the existing state to the state desired.

     For this work to be whole, both the macro and micro lens is necessary. Needless to say, there is a broad base of projects that an Ecology Fellow could draw from to delineate the area of work that would be most meaningful to them and valuable to Windward.

     We are focusing on energy collection and energy conversion. Plants are the means by which the biosphere collects solar energy and we depend on a wide range of plants that store energy in various forms and for various purposes‒from food to craft to fuel. Our observations of Nature have informed us that everything is connected, that the vast majority of nutrients cycle locally, and that there are many roles that need to be filled in order for an ecosystem to function optimally. Our work then is to leave undisturbed as much as possible and when we do make modifications in an effort to better support our needs, we attempt to mimic the patterns, relationships, and cycles we observe in Nature.

     As a research forest and farm, Windward grows an ever more diverse range of plants. As co-collaborators in the production system, we go through an experimental process that ranges from asking "how do we grow this plant" to "how do we help this plant grow really well with minimal human input?" This proves true for everything from annuals in the garden, to fruit and nut trees in the forest, to grasses in the pasture, and this process necessarily involves gaining a better understanding of how each species connects and interacts with the whole. It also involves selecting species that grow optimally under our climatic conditions.

     One powerful biological tool that a Fellow could study at Windward is the group of plants commonly known as Duckweeds, species currently classified in the subfamily Lemnoideae within the Aracaceae family. This high protein plant has the ability to combine sunlight and nutrients so rapidly that it can double its mass in a few days. The entire plant is consumable to fish, ducks, chickens, rabbits, sheep, goats, and humans. Because of its rapid uptake of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphates, duckweed can also play a key role in water purification.

     Another system we would like to move forward is the use of grasses to collect and store solar energy as feed for animals. For villages located in cold climates, it is vital that the rain and sun of spring and summer be collected and stored for consumption in the winter; grasses have evolved to to do this remarkably well. We have recently acquired a pelletizing mill and are looking into the various options for on-site production of pelletized feed for fish, chickens and rabbits.

     Farmers have been known to say that they grow soil, not plants, and there is much to be said for the impact that the health of the soil has on the vegetation and productivity we observe above ground. One of the by-products of the conversion of woody biomass to fuel is biochar, a complex and stable carbon matrix that absorbs nutrients essential for plant growth that are also easily leached out of the rooting zone of the soil horizon. In this way, biochar has the capacity to significantly increase the nutrient retention in soils, boosting its fertility and productivity. Gaining a better understanding of how to utilize this resource to increase nutrient retention both in our forest, forest gardens and vegetable gardens would increase our ability to optimally capture and utilize the sun's energy.

     Another key category in our current work with living systems involves converting the energy collected by plants into other valuable resources. In short, we use animals and fungi to convert things we don't want to eat into things we do. Lots of attention has been paid to the role that animals such as chickens and goats play in creating sustainability at the village level, and rightfully so. What has received less attention is the role that insects and fungi play in the resource cycles on which all life depends.

     If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago.
      If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.

           ‒ Edward O. Wilson

     Larvae of the Black Soldier Fly (BSF) can play an important role in converting what would otherwise be considered waste into valuable resources, and in so doing, act as a biological barrier to disease and parasites. For example, if you take 24 pounds of kitchen waste or roadkill, and feed it to the BSF larvae, they'll rapidly transform that waste into 12 pounds of mature pupae. From the pupae you can extract six pounds of fat which can be transformed into one gallon of bio-diesel. In addition, you'd have six pounds of protein that you can mix with alfalfa to create a chicken feed high in calcium.

     The challenge that needs to be met in order for BSF larvae to be more broadly used involves solving the riddle of how to breed them in captivity and then induce dormancy so that eggs can be hatched over the winter as needed. This past summer we were able to raise multiple generations of BSF larvae; next summer we want focus on egg collection and storage. We're also working on utilizing other detrivores such as meal worms and mushrooms as a way to transform "wastes" into resources.

     The projects outlined above are not intended to limit the scope of an Ecology Fellowship, but rather to give specific examples of some of the work a Fellow could focus on. If an applicant has an ecology-based sustainability project they're passionate about, we'd like to hear about it.

Women's Studies Fellow

     Windward has lots of fascinating sustainability projects, but they're pursued as part of creating a life worth living, a life that supports life. One thing that sets Windward apart is that we understand that all the nifty technology in the world won't matter if we're not able to create a sustainable social context.

     But what would a viable alternative to the status quo look like? Is there credible evidence that it can be done? Can people believe in something they've never seen before, and believe in it enough to make it happen?

     It's been said that wisdom lies in the ability to look at something and see what's really there. All too often, we see what we expect, and we are helpless in the face of forces we cannot see; the good news is that we can change what we see.


     Here's an example most everyone can recognize; the FedEx logo is ubiquitous, but few notice the white arrow that lies hidden in plain sight. If the logo were to represent patriarchy, then the white arrow could be seen as a metaphor pointing towards an alternative path. The path to change is there; we just need to learn to see it.

     Transforming Contexts

     Patriarchy pervades modern society to the point that asking people to see it is like asking a fish to see water. In that patriarchy is all that most people have ever known, it's understandable if they interpret everything they see as part of that context.

     The challenge of functioning in an aquatic environment has convergently shaped profoundly different creatures into superficially similar forms, a telling metaphor for the way that patriarchy transforms cultures.

     Check out the similarities between these three creatures:

blue-fin tuna, a large fish


common dolphin, a large mammal


ichthyosaurus, a large lizard


     As you can see, having to function within an aquatic environment transformed profoundly different creatures into superficially similar forms; one can only wonder how much has functioning within the environment of patriarchy transformed us? Given the power of an environment to shape the individuals involved, our work is focused on creating a social environment within which meaningful change can take root and establish itself.

     To be viable, an alternative social structure will need to enable people to:

  1. Get right with nature

  2. Heal gender-based wounds

  3. Transform the nature of work

  4. Retain continuity over generations

     Windward's core work involves developing a detailed under​standing of these challenges, and then adapting our lives based on historically-informed principles. Any viable alternative must fully incorporate women at very level, which is why Women's Studies plays an important role in the work we're doing.

     Tasks that a Women's Studies fellow could undertake include analyzing matrilocal indigenous societies and the alternative social structures of nineteenth-century utopian communities as resources to inform the creation of a viable alternative today.

"You never change anything by fighting the existing. To change something, build a new model and make the existing obsolete."
          ‒ Buckminister Fuller

After my time at Windward, then what?

     Twenty-somethings are facing incredible challenges as they try to enter a job market that is very short on opportunities to create a positive personal niche. This is especially true for people who want to invest their heart into helping people reconnect with their land-base, into helping preserve diversity and into developing right-livelihoods.

     The Windward community is comprised of people who first came to study, and then later returned to follow the path of stewardship as a vocation. As they progressed first to Assistant Steward status and then to Steward status, they became stakeholders in the non-profit that owns the land, earning the right to use Windward as a base from which to pursue a range of studies either here or away.

     Sustainable systems require consistent input, something which can come to feel like a trap to those going it alone. By working together, we are able to maintain our life support systems even as individuals come and go during the year following their personal pursuits and opportunities. For one, that involved studying water quality in Costa Rican rainforests, and for another, it involved going to Colorado to become a certified outdoor science teacher, to cite some actual examples.

     One definition of "home" is that it's where you store your stuff while you're off on an adventure. In that sense, and in many others, Windward is our home. For those who find that the path of environmental stewardship is right for them, it could become their home as well.

     For more thoughts along these lines, please check out the Two-Way Audition essay.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 71