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Author: Dan Dynan

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SKILLS & INTERESTS

Progressive, cutting-edge, ecologically sound, and holistic are all characteristics I attempt to embody with every and all my projects. I am passionate and driven about the fields of sustainability, environmental science, regenerative agriculture, and agroforestry. My employment and involvement with Earthship Biotecture have allowed me to pioneer and map out the unique Earthship Greenhouse Management style. Moving forward in my career, I am excited to be involved with groups, movements, and projects that espouse integrative and eco-friendly principles to heal the land and culture.

My Work

Find My Book on The Earthship Web Store!

Accomplishments

Gallery I

Gallery II


 

A Spring of New Beginnings: Dan Dynan ’25 at the Antioch Farm

May 11, 2022
 

At the time of this post, I will be in my second semester at Antioch. Being enrolled as a student here right now has been an intriguing time because of all the major shifts in the works. There are new staff and faculty members with a vision for the college and several other avenues that are opening doors that have the potential to influence the direction the college is headed profoundly. As I learn more about the history and the goals shaping up now, it feels like a brand new chapter for the college. From my perspective, It could be a time of tremendous regeneration and possibly a whole new era for Antioch.

As an older student, I have different restraints and considerations that impact my scholastic endeavors compared to what most other students attending college do. One of those restraints is that, in terms of co-oping, it would generally take a lot more time and organization for me to do an out-of-town co-op because I have a family and life outside of my academic pursuits. However, in spite of all this, my second semester is, in fact, a co-op term, and I could not be more excited about it.

My professional background is predominantly in sustainability, horticulture, and to some degree, agricultural work. As oddly synchronous as it may seem to me, the campus farm is undergoing the beginning stages of what could be an significant transformation because of the generousity of an anonymous donor. The donor has outlined a unique plan of disseminating funds that are attached to specific goals and stipulations to be met by the farm. These goals have to do with productivity levels and volume, gathering research data, and academic development. With all these new demands on the farm and the changes taking place, it has been a genuine win-win situation for the college and me. I am grateful to be a part of the new vision for the farm.

The opportunities presenting themselves on the farm are things that I have wished for and longed to gain experience in for years now. Much of what I am doing so far on my co-op and what I am slated to do are things that will help round out my skill set and knowledge base. For a long time, I had dreamt of being an organic market gardener, but with all the changes that have recently taken place in my life, a part of me had given up the dream of them ever happening. So I feel blessed to get this type of hands-on practical experience from my co-op. It is a strange and surreal feeling for me to suddenly be able to do a ton of things that I tried so hard to make happen in the past after completely letting go of them. I guess that is how life works sometimes. When you finally let go and stop striving, life drops it in your lap.

Spring is a time for flowers and new life. This winter has been challenging, and with the lingering cold and gray days slowly disappearing, the sun and warmer temperatures are a more than welcomed relief. Moving across the country from a high desert climate into a lush and temperate zone has made me feel like a shriveled cactus swelled up like a balloon with water. Just the growth and abundance of biomass that I see weekly shooting up before my eyes is foreign and mind-blowing.

I love my new co-op morning routine. I am up and on the farm by 6:30 am. From 6:30 – 7, I walk my pup around the farm so he can get some good exercise in. As summer approaches, that window of time will decreasingly become less of early dawn with a sunrise, but right now, I get to walk around and take in the treeline of the glen as the sun comes up while I drink my matcha. By 7, I have the shed open and am doing the morning chicken duty. Fill up the water tubs, put out the feed, and let the birds loose. It took a while for the geese to warm up to me. At first, when I would let them out of their pen, they would squawk aggressively at me and march out with their wings spread entirely open. It was actually pretty intimidating. Now that they have gotten used to me, they don’t do that anymore, and to be honest, I miss it. I called it their morning liberation dance which was made up of equal parts fear of me and celebration of a new day. By the time I tried to capture their liberation dance in the morning on video, they had stopped doing it. However, I will embed a short clip of one of the geese bathing in a tiny tub for your viewing pleasure.

Once I have let the chicks out, I check in with Bruce(the farm manager) and get cracking on any projects that need to be done. Since the weather has been so poor, I have been giving the forest garden area some much-needed attention, especially on rainy mornings. As the weather cooperates, the other students and I will spend the bulk of our time in the row gardens tending to the veggies. I am looking forward to a few months from now when harvest time will be in full swing, and we will really get a feel for how much food is being produced. There are a bunch of exciting projects on the horizon as well. We will be setting up a new high tunnel greenhouse for extended winter production, expanding into growing a few acres of alfalfa for research purposes, doing heritage grain trials for sustainability and ecological resilience projects, a mushroom log workshop in the fall and we are working on incorporating a Permaculture Designers Certificate course that has hands-on integration with the farm. If you are on campus, be sure to come stop by and check out all the fun changes happening on the farm!

 


 

A Pilgrimage of Sustainability: Dynan ’25 at Earthship Biotecture

Apr 18, 2022
 

Just Because a Door is Closed, Doesn’t Mean it Won’t Open.

Returning to school as an older student is a challenging endeavor. Often, since the conventional pathway and typical arc of life flow from high school directly to college, by the time someone may decide to go back to school, it is simply unrealistic because of life demands. My case is no different. Returning to college at the age of thirty-three with a wife, nine-month-old twins, and a dog is not without tribulation. However, although it is arduous, my return to school is deeply enriched by my life experiences. Most notably in the context of this post is my work experience and how it has provided me with an ever-renewing fount of drive and conviction to excel and grow in my passions and goals.

Conventionality never suited me in my youth. Always rebellious, eccentric and bucking the system marked much of my younger years and even into adulthood. I grew up in the Greater Philadelphia area, the urban sprawl and commercialization of the landscape encroached upon my sense of what is healthy and good. As I grew, my value system emphasized conservation, sustainability, and environmentally sound practices. Adopting these ethics was the beginning of my journey to discover my future workplace for more than ten years of my life. 

My employer before my enrollment at Antioch was Earthship Biotecture. If you haven’t heard of it, it is an off-grid construction and engineering company that utilizes natural and recycled materials to build homes with sustainable principles. Check out this 60second documentary to get a feel for what this is all about.

As a summary, six-building principles constitute what makes a structure an “Earthship.” They are: building with natural and recycled materials, thermal/solar heating and cooling, solar and wind electricity, water harvesting, contained sewage treatment, and food production (Reynolds). 

At this point, I think it would be relevant to share an excerpt from the preface of my book on Earthship greenhouse management about how I discovered Earthships and the beginning of a profound chapter of my life. Here I share my first encounter with Earthships:

I remember the first time I visited the Earthship community in Taos, New Mexico. I was on a short road trip from southern Colorado to Albuquerque for a workshop. I had never heard of Earthships at all, but a handful of friends told me that if I was going through Taos, I had to stop and see them. I thought it was maybe some crazy art installation in the desert where people carved pirate ships out of the mountainside or something (which wasn’t that far off, now that I think about it). I ended up going to the Earthship Biotecture Visitor Center and taking a short tour of the building they had open at the time. I thought to myself, as I was going through the premises, if all the claims of being able to live off-grid by designing the home this way were true, why was this not more widespread? 

When the tour was over, there was someone on staff you could speak to about any questions that may have come up. I asked some probing ones, without being rude, because I was skeptical about the whole thing, but still profoundly interested and maybe slightly perplexed. As I stood there at the end of the tour digesting all this information, I saw a planter bed and, in it, a six-foot banana plant flowering with maybe fifty bananas on it. It felt like it was staring me in the face. I had never seen anything like that in my life and was stunned that there was a tropical fruit thriving in a high desert environment. Everything I had just experienced stuck with me for the rest of my trip. 

I needed some time to mull it over. When I got home, I researched Earthships extensively. This led me to apply for an internship on-site and, in turn, to my employment with the company and, ultimately, to working with the plants in the greenhouses and teaching the academy course. In a way, I feel indebted to that banana tree because, without it, I probably wouldn’t be living the life that I feel so blessed to have (Dynan).

Working for a small company, being versatile is a huge asset. So early on, I wore many hats and helped out in many different roles. I would give tours, clean water organizing modules, did maintenance on the solar panels and battery banks, but as my excerpt described, my niche became greenhouse management. For the bulk of my time at Earthship, it was spent taking care of the various plant systems in the company-owned buildings. Watering, pruning, fertilizing, turning the compost, and starting seeds are all common daily tasks that fell under my responsibility. I love plants, so it was a great way to spend my days.

Taos, New Mexico, can be a harsh place to live. The workplace environment at Earthship can also be tough. The combination can make for some extreme situations, and it takes real tenacity to live and work long term in a place like this. 

One of the most powerful lessons on a personal level that I learned as a young adult working at Earthship Biotecture was grit, determination, and the meaning and impact of hard work. Having a reasonably comfortable upbringing, working at Earthship, and living on my own was a reality check and a psychological crossroads for me. Either I mustered up all my strength and met the demands of this new experience, or I could crumble and run away. My time in the high desert and living off-grid was not easy, but it was, without a doubt, awesome and magical. At some point, I believe life comes around to burst our bubble; although painful, confronting it head-on and enduring any hardships most always ends in an enriched life or at least a more authentic version of the self on the other end. 

My time at Earthship has fortified my direction in life, and I am grateful for its role in becoming the adult I am today. Many people come and go working at Earthship. It is a transient rich place because of all the difficulties people encounter trying to put roots down there. I am proud that I have left a lasting mark at Earthship and remain a key figure and voice for the greenhouse aspect of the company. Reflecting on my time at Earthship, I see it now as a rite of passage from boy to man.

Sometimes you need to just open a door and walk through, even if you don’t know how it will turn out or where it will go. Persevering through the trials and celebrating the good times have been incredibly fruitful, and I would not take back anything from my adventure so far.

Works Cited

“Recycled Homes | Earthships // 60 Second Docs – Youtube.” Earthship 60second Doc, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNEBoSXmcoI. 

Reynolds, Michael. “Design Principles.” Earthship Biotecture Michael Reynolds, https://www.earthshipglobal.com/design-principles. 

Dynan, Daniel. Holistic Indoor Gardening: A Panoptic View Through The Lens of Greenhouse Management. Independently Published, 2019