Little love notes from those who have inspired and been inspired by Compass Rose Farms and The Dirt Rich School. Many thanks and love to all of you!
Compass Rose is a community of nurturing sheep, gardens, humans, and ideas that is part of an inspired movement that will propel our race into the next stage of life here on earth. There are skills you will practice, farm skills, community skills, skills of love and kindness and adaptation, that contributed to my cohort’s experience, and will contribute to yours.
I began expecting two months’ stay and a fun time, yet got what I truly desired: five months and the motivation to pursue my own life tied to land.
Time was structured well, and work divided fairly. Our community thrived as much as we put in. Kateen’s teaching energy and repertoire is strong and consistent, with plenty of space for questions. This is practice-based learning. You will hold seeds and she will show you how to make them grow. You will grapple a sheep and she will show you how to get it into a truck. And, you will wrestle with stresses and dreams, and she will intuit, or at least invite, resolution and action.
If you have an inkling, step forward and get dirty. This is the place. The time is now.
Though I’ve never officially enrolled as a student of The Dirt Rich School at Compass Rose Farms, I have learned a great deal about modern homesteading and practical permaculture from working alongside the owner and teacher, Kateen Fitzgerald, with the students and other volunteers like me. The place is full of wisdom and diversity of life, with an old growth forest, a wetland restoration site, orchard, vegetable and herb gardens, geese, ducks, chickens and turkeys, and Icelandic sheep. Not forgetting all the extraordinary people I have met here over the past two years. I am grateful for each and every one, and fortunate to still call some friends. This place is one of transformations great and small. And transforming can sometimes be hard work. But In so far as the work is good—and my work at Compass Rose has been just that—the cost is repaid and more at the end of the day. When I think of my experience at Compass Rose Farms, I’m reminded of the words of Theodore Roosevelt. “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
I came with very basic intentions – i.e. to grow delicious veggies, to learn more about animal systems, and to meet like-minded individuals – but the takeaway has been more than ever could have possibly imagined. Because – KATEEN!!! A real life angel! A star filled with the most lustrous light. A beacon, who celebrates life more fully than anyone I’ve known. My advice is to let her in. To listen! To question and engage. She is the most epic resource, and as my time here comes to an end, she is what I will miss the most. It’s as if she breathes knowledge, which sounds weird, but every time you’re around her you can’t help but learn ten new things. Wise words flow effortlessly from her and it truly is such a privilege to witness. I’m no longer afraid that I lack the abilities to provide for myself if “the worst” happened. I’ve learned to focus on the positives – all of the tools and resources we’ve developed, and all of the change we can make! My biggest “rose” is probably the fiber centricity of the farm. I am forever grateful for this program.
This place is so rich in its capacity to provide vast swaths of knowledge that it really helps to know what you’re really interested in and hit that as hard as you can. If you’re not sure what you’re interested in and your soul directed you here without you entirely understanding why, your mind and spirit have a great potential to be opened – and maybe even overwhelmed. Fear not. Kateen is absolutely brilliant at meeting people where they are.
My stay at Compass Rose Farms has lasted less than 24 hours and yet my gratitude and memory of this place and your infinite kindness will remain with me forever. I arrived unannounced with few sun rays left in the day, a damaged soul, and clogged brain. I was unpresentable and embarrassed by my state. You healed me without any expectations of getting anything in return. I feel so lucky to have met you.
I truly cannot thank you enough for everything you have done to create an environment that facilitates growth for all beings that reside here. I have grown more than I ever anticipated and discovered so much about myself along the way. I came here because I felt lost, because I wanted to change the world for the better, heal the environment, and find my calling. I felt powerless and like I’d hit a wall. When I found Compass Rose & The Dirt Rich School, it was like a sign from the Universe opening Her arms and giving me a clear direction. I am leaving here not only with tools and knowledge on how to heal and regenerate the Earth, but also myself. I came here seeking answers to sustainable living. I am leaving here whole, empowered, and excited about who I am, and who I want to (and know I will) become. I want to thank you for creating such a beautiful, healing space for people to be seen and heard for perhaps the first time in any of our lives. I am forever grateful to you and the space you hold. Thank you, thank you.
Compass Rose Farms is an amazing place, with a beautiful array of vegetables, herbs, and animals. This place possesses an aura of peace and happiness, the first time I set foot on the farm I fell in love with the land and the people. Kateen and her family work hard every day to make the farm an even better place. The knowledge they share is overwhelming for their knowledge is vast in all aspects of farming. On a day of the farm there is feeding and taking care of the sheep. Eggs are collected and washed, weeds are pulled, gardens are watered, construction projects take place from time to time, the art of making apple cider from scratch with a press was learned, but the best thing that is taught here is the skill of fending for yourself. Most people don’t know how to find wood to make a fire so they can keep warm and feed their hungry bellies, but on the farm survival skills are taught. This sustainable farm is a great place to live if you’re willing to work hard, be all you can be, and most of all have a thirst for knowledge. Great people, great food, and a beautiful place, what more could you ask for?
This place is so incredibly beautiful. Beauty bursts and blooms everywhere. Compass Rose Farms in one word is Magic, truly a feast for your senses.
Love, compassion, honesty, and appreciation emanate from this family’s hearth.
Sweet, cherished memories of pulling weeds in the cold Washington wet, the fresh rose kiss of each steaming shower, and the dry warming of the wood burning stoves. This is a place of unforgettable character and good spirits. Here, I was alive. I love these people!!
In response to our Weekly Fresh Sheet:
Your weekly sheet is one of the best things I get in my stupid email. I’m so tired of stupid ads for stuff and political ballywick begging for money I could just choke. So, please keep them coming as it lets me know that the world is still “right” in the Uncas Valley.
Thanks and blessings,
Compass Rose Farms and the beautiful team that supports it will empower, educate, and awe you. I WWOOF’d for six weeks in the Spring of 2013 and loved every minute of it (even the weeding!). It was one of those grounding and growing experiences that are often hard to find. I came to the farm a year after graduating from UCSB, fresh from quitting as a marketing coordinator for a small retail company. I cannot stress enough how rejuvenating it was. Kateen, her family, and Jacob, are the best kind of humans out there; genuine, generous, intelligent, and so full of compassion. I benefited and learned SO MUCH just by being around them.
Also, Port Townsend, the little town nearby, is adorable with its cafes, art, and well-stocked second-hand bookstore. And what I consider the most beautiful protected forest is just a quick drive north. All to say, if you’re considering WWOOFing, participating in The Dirt Rich School, learning more about farming, etc., this is exactly where you want to be.
I stayed with Kateen, Bev, and Robert at Compass Rose Farms for the month of August in 2011. To get to the farm I took planes, trains, boats, and buses, and by the end of one very long day was greeted and picked up for the final leg of my journey by a smiling faced Kateen. After this exceptional travel day all I wanted to do was fall over and sleep, but to my surprise was revitalized by the farm and people around me that night. The family was incredibly kind, once you meet Bev you will know, the farm was quiet, humble, and of perfect size, and the other WWOOF’ers, whom there were four, immediately treated me as a friend. It was very comforting for one feeling wayward.
During my stay at Compass Rose I did all different types of farm work, some I had done in years past and some new, but I was always learning. I learned about different edible flowers from Kateen, while making the weekly Co-op salads; how to make proper smoothies from Bev (ginger root!); proper maintenance of certain types of tomatoes, and how continual wet leaves can cause debilitating fungus; how to pick, strip, tear down, take apart, rebuild, and reseed a pea-pod garden all in one days work, while defending the fresh peas from two very mischievous ducks; how to gather sheep, how to roo sheep (an amazing experience), and how to flip a sheep onto their back to put them into submission. I learned a huge amount over the course of my stay on the farm, and while doing work, in the rain or sunshine heat, was always happy because of the demeanor and attitude of Kateen and the other co-workers. If while working I had a question, Kateen was always ready to help. She would stop what she was doing and aid me until I fully understood, and she never spoke in the voice that insinuated the, “really? you don’t know how to do this?”
After work I was allowed to do as I pleased. Food was readily available, and you can take whatever you want. Fires were built all the time, and usually someone played guitar. There were regular whole farm family dinners which were hilarious, and once a week, as well, there was arts and crafts night inside the house. If I had a question after work I could go to the house and ask Kateen without feeling intrusive. I never felt unwanted when I would knock after dark to ask something silly. In my own house I felt very comfortable. It was the first time I lived without power, but I grew to enjoy it considerably. I never felt in danger, scared or threatened, while staying at Compass Rose.
I remember when I left Compass Rose Kateen gave me a ride out of town, and on the way she received a call from Bev saying one of the sheep had died. She told me, and with teary eyes said that she loved that sheep. I have never owned sheep, and though I like them, have never had any emotion towards sheep, but my god, the emotion and sorrow I felt when Kateen told me was overwhelming. Kateen, Bev, and Robert put everything into Compass Rose Farms, and that is why it is as amazing, fun, and beautiful as it is today.
Since leaving the farm to continue traveling I have referred two friends for work there. I have worked on plenty of farms, some great and some under totalistic Trunchbull rule, but can honestly say nothing bad about Compass Rose. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to learn about farming, make great friends, and be in a beautiful area.
If you would like to talk further, my e-mail is listed below. And if you live in the New England area I would be willing to meet. Compass Rose Farms is a truly incredible place.
Hello prospective interns and tenants,
I lived with Compass Rose Farms for eight months or so. It is a wonderful place on a cold blustering winter morning with a steaming cup of black coffee, and on a hot afternoon with a cold beer in hand. The land there is quite special and for me rewarding to work on. Thus, work was fun and play was more fun. One can really sort some files up in the noggin walking the farm, taking time in the woods, gardens, and pasture.
The folks of Compass Rose Farms will always be dear to me. They are straight shooters, thankful for what they have, just living life right (even crazy Bella).
I am very thankful to have been invited to stay at Compass Rose farms, with the physical land surrounding the people there a kind place is formed and fond memories.
To whom this may concern, enjoy.
I WWOOF’ed at Compass Rose for 3 weeks in August, and I can say that it is a fantastic place to live and work. It’s very small, and not many people around, but the farm is beautiful, clean, and in a fantastic location. Kateen, Bev, and Robert are wonderful people who care about creating a friendly and fun environment. You’re responsible for your own meals, but there’s no shortage of ingredients.
The work you do seems to depend greatly on the time of year you come, and there are definitely opportunities to learn specific farming skills. All-in-all, it’s a small, friendly, well-kept farm that’s constantly growing and improving. A pleasure to be a part of.
I worked as an intern at Compass Rose Farms for three months (April through June) in 2011. During my internship, I lived at the farm full-time.
There were a great assortment of tasks to be done on the farm in addition to lots of gardening (planting, weeding, and harvesting), you might find yourself collecting eggs, wrangling stray sheep, working on greenhouse projects, selling at the Farmer’s Market, or engaging in a bit of beekeeping, to name a few of the many options. Although the work was often challenging, the variety kept any one project from seeming overwhelming and I was never bored. Kateen was open to assigning chores based on people’s interests and strengths and there was a much appreciated focus on education. Kateen and Bev are both enthusiastic teachers and learners; ready to explain the inner workings of each process and excited to expand their own knowledge and embark on new projects. I learned so much and still find myself drawing useful lessons from my experience on the farm.
Kateen and her family truly embrace the lifestyle and spirit of self-sufficiency and their enthusiasm is infectious. In addition to the enriching experience of living and working on such a beautiful piece of land, I feel grateful for the opportunity to have shared time with such a lovely, warm group of people. I believe an internship at Compass Rose is a wonderful opportunity for someone who wants to explore their own ability to be self-sufficient and is eager to try a little of everything.
I lived and worked over at Compass Rose Farms for Kateen Fenter for a year, from April of 2011 to April 2012. From the start, I had absolutely no experience with either livestock or any sort of farming, but after a year of working with Kateen, I had a wealth of knowledge under my belt, with skills ranging from farming and gardening to carpentry and veterinary skills. Kateen taught me a great foundation of skills, which I have continued to build upon. All learned knowledge aside, while at Compass Rose, I was treated like family, and had many great laughs and times with Kateen and her family. Everyone there is an exceptionally great and unique person, and they all love to give and to teach. I left that farm with a love for organic agriculture, and have looked back and recognized it for setting me on the path which I am on today. I am very grateful to have had Compass Rose as my starting point on my adventure in farming, and I hope that you find it just as beautiful of a place as I did (and still do!).
I worked and lived with Kateen for eight months about a year ago. She is an inspiration!
While I was new to the farm and just getting the lay of the land, Kateen would be outside shoveling with me and teaching me about different farming techniques hands–on! It was really nice having her show me how she wanted a job done, instead of just telling me.
If you’re new to organic farming techniques, Compass Rose is definitely a wonderful experience to put under your belt. And even if you’re a seasoned farmer, it’s awesome to learn more about primitive sheep breeds and fabric arts!
I’d recommend Kateen as a teacher, boss, and mentor to anyone.
Shawna Lee Cook
(Organic Farmer/seasoned WWOOFer)
I lived on Compass Rose Farms from April 2014 -January 2015. I came to the farm with almost no experience with farming, and I left with so many practical skills and a confidence in myself and my abilities.
On the farm Kateen and Jacob taught me a wealth of information about permaculture, and I developed skills including animal husbandry, basic carpentry and construction, composting, lambing, fiber cleaning, rooing, sorting and spinning, and all aspects of vegetable production including sowing, weeding, harvesting, and preserving.
I spent five weeks at Compass Rose and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. The hosting family is very amiable and open-hearted. I learned new skills every day, and additionally I was given the opportunity to state what I wanted to learn. So I made very diverse learning experiences such as building a fire, playing Native American flute or shooting a crossbow. Apart from this we had great and funny times of cultural exchange. I can very gladly recommend this farm for its hospitality, diverse possibilities of work, and its beauty in general. I can assure you will have a good time going there :-). I deeply wish to return to the farm someday. If you have the possibility for a weekend trip, I advise you to go to the Pacific. The coast is stunning!
Kateen and her beautiful family have set up the most wonderful haven in Port Townsend. It’s a true Garden of Eden and a tribute to all the hard work the family has put in to create such a wonderful home. I have dreamed of Compass Rose since leaving, it was an honour to stay with Kateen. I hope to come back at some point and stay for a longer period of time.
Compass Rose is a truly unique and special place. I spent a month there for my first time WWOOFing and came away with many new skills, friends and memories that I will cherish forever. Not only is the purpose of the farm to teach living well and sustainably, but also to be a home to anyone who wants to be a part of the community there. My time at Compass Rose was much to short (spend two months or even the whole season!) but I look forward to the encouraged return visits/stays in the future. Choose Compass Rose Farms for your WWOOFing experience!
My sister and I spent a month at Compass Rose this past June. We had an absolutely amazing time! I learned more than I ever would have thought possible and Kateen, Bev and Robert made us feel incredibly welcome. We worked on a variety of tasks in the gardens and with the animals and the whole time, Kateen was teaching and giving us great information. We planted numerous new vegetables, prepared beds, harvested vegetables and herbs on market day, helped with the rueing of the sheep, learned how to spin wool, gathered chicken eggs daily…and the list goes on! We also learned a lot about different herbs and how many different ways they can be used and cooked. Experimenting with different foods was awesome. They are wonderful people with a wonderful farm. Thank you to all of you for making our first WWOOFing experience a great one.
I spent a few weeks in October of last year at Compass Rose and had a great time. The work was varied and fun and the family was very kind and welcoming. In my time living on the farm I worked on everything from construction of an awesome new shower house for other wwoofers, to a full day of cider pressing, hanging an axe, and of course a bit of weeding beds and harvesting vegetables. The farm is a gorgeous, peaceful place located conveniently close to Olympic National Park where I spent my weekends camping and hiking. This was my first time wwoofing and though I was nervous going in, the whole family made me feel right at home.
I visited Compass Rose August of 2012, and it was amazing! Kateen and Bev are both kind hearted, and wonderful and patient teachers, and such an amazing example of hard workers. The farm is beautiful and a blessing to work on, its a great place to learn not only about farming,but about your self. I am sad I had to ever leave, and I plan on returning again! Tom and I both miss you all, and the farm (and Wendell and Mick, too!)
I really lucked out when I found this place. The farm itself is beautiful with a broad variety of jobs to do and things to learn. The work is good and satisfying and Kateen, Bev, and family are warm, knowledgeable, and supportive people. The lodging ranges from a heated cabin to an old yurt in the woods. I stayed a month in the yurt and had an amazing time. Olympic National Park is nearby and offers great weekend exploration opportunities. Port Townsend becomes quickly familiar and a great place to spend a day at. I learned so much on the farm and hope to come back one day.
I spent the month of October at Compass Rose and as a first WWOOFing experience, I could not have asked for a better one! Kateen and Bev are incredibly welcoming, patient, and knowledgeable. The farm and surrounding area is picturesque and full of things to explore. Port Townsend is a delicious blend of a maritime community with an artistic, touristy atmosphere. Also, the National Park is right next door and I was able to enjoy three full weekends exploring it. I learned how to prepare raised beds, planted, weeded, helped out in the greenhouse, and interacted with the animals. The sheep, dogs, and ducks are just as friendly as the family! The ducks chatter at you when you walk by, hoping for slug handouts. I especially miss my favorite sheep, Wendell and Muffin. I came away from the farm inspired and fresh, I would recommend Compass Rose to anyone open to working and living a simple lifestyle with beautiful people.
I had a great week at Compass Rose, wish I could have stayed longer! Their farm is probably the best kept and presented I have ever seen! was very impressed, and felt I had to up my weeding skills just to be worthy of their excellence! Great, warm people, and a lot of fun too!