Birch Creek Arts & Ecology Center

Programs  (

Trillium Farm

and Endangered
Little Applegate
Valley  (T.E.L.A.V


Ecostery students sample pond water. Reading at Orion Society Forgotten Language Tour. Garden Gate. Mother Garden flowers.

Please Note:

We will not be offering our Sustainable Living

Internship Program in 2016.



2015 Sustainable Living Internship Program at Trillium Farm:
Using Deep Ecology Practices we explore the dynamics of
 Earth Ethics and Sustainable Community Living






Internship Background

       Since 1999, Trillium Farm and Birch Creek Arts and Ecology Center have hosted the Sustainable Living Internship Program.  At our eco-village, deep in a wild river canyon of S.W. Oregon's Siskiyou Mountains, we provide Interns with a unique opportunity to explore both Nature and themselves.  Sustainable Living Interns experience a season of service at our rustic wilderness homestead, retreat and education center, while immersed in intentional community and the beauty of the natural surroundings.     
The program is designed to be a volunteer hands-on educational experience and a practice period of learning how to grow a garden, steward a remote educational retreat center, and develop sustainable living skills.  We are a non-profit service garden farm.  We steward a complex area of Land with irrigation, fruit tree culture, landscaping, firewood cutting, greenhouse work, maintenance of infrastructure (roads, trails, water systems, cabins, etc.). We are not a large commercial and/or production farm; we grow food organically on an intensive gardening scale without power equipment like tractors and rototillers.  We provide a place for people to come to learn, heal, and expand through Birch Creek Arts and Ecology Center.

Susanna and summer Sustainable Living Interns.


About the Program

        The Sustainable Living Internship Program is offered three times each year for two-month sessions. Spring Session (April and May) occurs during the magical time when the mountain snows high above us begin to melt, streams begin to flow, wildflowers bloom in profusion, and the gardens enter major planting mode. Summer Session (June and July) occurs during the sweetest season, and finds the gardens entering full production mode with early harvests and mid-season maintenance.  Autumn Session (September and October) blesses us with deepening autumn colors, abundant harvest, and final preparations for the onset of winter.  During all three seasons we are harvesting firewood by cutting dead trees on our Land and salvaging waste from logging projects on nearby public lands, mostly U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (B.L.M.).  Visiting these public lands for gathering firewood and wilderness hiking provides insights into our dedication to environmental activism: our efforts to promote wildland protection, forest restoration, and promotion of truly sustainable ecologically sensitive utilization of natural resources.

        MARCH UPDATE: Spring has arrived! And now that the ice has melted, ducks and turtles have returned to our big pond . Daffodils, Lenten roses, and primroses are blooming in the flower gardens. Out on the landscape the first wildflowers are blooming: shooting stars and satin lilies on the ridge, snow queen and milk maids at the river, and arabis all over. At this time, early March, we still have openings for our Spring Session: April and May. Spring Session is a wonderful time to be at Trillium, and a good opportunity to learn how to get a garden planted and growing. We also have openings for our Autumn Session in September and October, a spectacular season at Trillium featuring awesome fall colors and the transition from hot summer days to the crisp days of autumn. Autumn Session is an opportunity to learn how to harvest a garden, cooking and sharing the bounty. Also, harvesting apples and plums, plus the subsequent jamming and canning, freezing and storing the bounty, and preparing the garden for winter. We are also still accepting applications for our Summer Session, although it is nearly full. Interns from the earlier Sessions who find Trillium a rewarding lifestyle experience may be encouraged to participate in the following Session, or to continue as a resident after the Autumn Session.

Late summer on the banks of the Little Applegate River.
Late summer on the bank of the Little Applegate River.

It is our intention to provide
a unique learning opportunity
for students interested in exploring:

  •       What it means to live and work in an intentional community, developing a Sense of Place in a remote setting where the power of surrounding wilderness provides inspiration for personal growth and connection with wild Nature.

  •       How it feels to share in community practices by actively participating in service activities, celebrations, meal preparations, conversations, wilderness hikes, and visioning.

  •      Why it is important to learn the higher ideals of love and service both within our community and how that translates into the larger community.

  •      What it is to understand oneís Self at deeper levels through the community process, and  practicing ethical relationships through honesty and compassionate communication.

Seeding a new garden bed.


About the Experience

Intern Work and Time Contribution:

Sustainable Living Interns are considered temporary Trillium Residents, sharing the responsibility of running a wilderness eco-village and educational retreat center.  We ask that you look at your time here holistically, understanding that there is a blend between work, play, service, and creativity.  Your week may look like this in terms of hours and responsibilities:

3-4 days of focused service on the Land, usually 5-6 hours daily, blending service projects and homesteading skills

1 day participating in Trillium Service Activities as a community work party

5-6 hours weekly for community meals and weekly council

1 occasional day for group hikes, outings, and field trips

          Please do not arrange to have an outside job while interning.  Sustainable Living Internships are designed to offer a full immersion into community life at Trillium Farm.  It is our sincere intention that you find your time here a beneficial and rewarding experience to your heart, mind, body and soul. Please expect a bit of culture shock from living in community close to the Land in a rustic lifestyle at a remote location; it is not unusual.   Also expect jubilation, spontaneous explosions of beauty, and to learn a great deal.  If at any time you are uncomfortable or have questions, we are always available to your needs.

Getting down to harvesting roots. (Photo credit: Charling Chen.)


What Is Provided:


        The historic Garden Cabin in the "downtown" area of Trillium (parking lot, Mother Garden, barns, offices) provides Sustainable Living Interns with desk space, a community telephone with free long-distance for domestic (US) calls, a refrigerator, grid electricity, and limited internet access. This cozy space serves as an alternate vortex of activity from the historic Trillium School, a quarter-mile further up the canyon.

The historic Garden Cabin serves as the garden and Sustainable Living Intern office.

Sustainable Living Interns share our historic 2-story octagonal schoolhouse, with individual sleeping spaces and a common living room and kitchen featuring huge windows letting Nature inside and your gaze outside.  An outdoor hot shower sits at the base of a large pine tree, and a composting outhouse awaits a short distance by trail into the forest.  In season, Birch Creek flows right outside the door, providing music of waterfalls.  Surrounding fir and pine trees provide welcome shade in the warmer weather, and the School Meadow awaits nearby for expansive space and play.

Inside Historic Trillium School.

        We provide bulk food supplies for
Sustainable Living Interns.  These include: a wide variety of dry organic legumes, organic grains, organic baking supplies, some basic and culinary organic condiments, and garden food as available.  Specialty foods for personal use are provided by interns.  Interns are asked to maintain an organic vegetarian kitchen while at Trillium.  Trillium is a wildlife sanctuary; pets are not welcome.

Beautiful food, flowers, and herbs freshly harvested from the Mother Garden.


Academic Credit Opportunities:

Sustainable Living Interns who are enrolled in a college or university program may obtain academic credit for their Sustainable Living Internship experience through their home institution by working with Dakubetede Environmental Education Programs (DEEP).  This opportunity involves working with your academic advisor, DEEP university instructors, and creating time to complete written assignments, such as journals, papers, interviews.  DEEP fees for academic credit arrangements start at $200 per credit.

Transplanting spring salad greens in the Mother Garden.

We are looking for highly motivated folks who love the natural world and approach life with an attitude of integrity and optimism, and who are willing to learn new ways of living, working and serving.  Our most successful Sustainable Living Interns are people who are proactively moving forward in their lives to embrace this experience.

Celebrating successful installation of the footbridge crossing the river.

        We invite you to Trillium, where you can witness and become a part of the great beauty and harmony that this wilderness setting offers.  Our Sustainable Living Internship Program is one of our ways of serving the greater good, as we experience the transformations that this beautiful Land facilitates.  Each of us will naturally be drawn to work within certain areas that compliment our talents and interests, while other projects will seem less desirable or relevant.  True service is the ability to do what you may not be ordinarily inclined to do.  Everyday holds something new.  We try to do our best to match the person with the task, but we all remember it takes our common effort to achieve the goal.  There will be times when each of us is asked to stretch our vision of service to get the job done.

Spring Break Deep Ecology class from California Institute of Integral Studies.


Additional Program Logistics

Weather and Getting Around on the Land:

        Hiking!  We get around Trillium by walking/hiking on little dirt roads and scenic (some quite steep) hiking trails and paths.  Much of the activity at Trillium stretches along the canyon bottom of Birch Creek.  The historic schoolhouse sits about a quarter-mile upstream from "downtown" Trillium.  The century-old historic farmhouse and river canyon lie well below downtown.  Then there's the greenhouse in the ridge garden, a decent little climb up the trail.  Everywhere we walk and work at Trillium, we look out to inspiring wilderness vistas.  Our home trail system ranges from the bottom of the river canyon to the top of the ridge with awesome views, and connects with an extensive wilderness trail system on the surrounding federal lands.


Spring snow blankets historic Trillium School and forest.

        Weather! Spring weather (mid-March into June) can bring anything from hot days to spring snowstorms and enough rainy days to keep our water going through the coming autumn.  The smaller streams resume flow and early wildflowers grace the landscape.  Summer brings us the hot dry days and cool nights of semi-desert high mountains.  Thunderstorms roll through with awesome glory and hopefully enough rain to keep lightning strikes from igniting forest fires.   Autumn brings cooler days and colder nights, brilliant foliage, and sometimes the first light snows.  Our daily and weekly schedules often depend on what weather Mother Gaia serves us!  We stay flexible as the spectacle of Nature's changing seasons surround our lives.

Warming up the school with a hot meal. (Photo credit: Bre Cuevas.)


        It's remote out here in the wilderness!  We do have neighbors (anyone within 10 miles is a neighbor!) who are also organic farms and intentional communities.  We get together in the warmer weather for parties, music and fire circles.  But it's still 13 miles to the closest store, library, and cell phone reception.  Closest gasoline, bank, and post office are over the mountain pass in Jacksonville, 22 miles away.  Lovely Ashland, 40 miles away, features Southern Oregon University, a natural food co-op, theaters, restaurants, pubs, and more.  Medford, the region's largest city, hosts the airport and a new food co-op, 35 miles away.

        Our bioregion boasts numerous ancient forests, wild rivers, wilderness areas, Crater Lake and  Redwood National Parks, Oregon Caves and Cascade-Siskiyou National Monuments, towering Mount Shasta with its glaciers, vast deserts east of the Cascade Range, and the wild mountainous coast of southern Oregon and northern California.  We take our interns on several field trips and hikes to local and regional power spots for inspiration and soaking up the sublime energies of our favorite places.

Summer intern field trip to the wilderness rim of Crater Lake National Park.

Sustainable Living Intern Application

To begin your application process for a Birch Creek Sustainable Living Internship, please provide us with a detailed letter of intent, using the Community Questionnaire as a guide for providing us with a clear description of who you are and why you would like to participate in an internship at this time.

Community Questionnaire:

Please answer these questions in your letter of introduction:

  •       Where do you hail from?

  •       Who is your family? Parents? Siblings? What are the qualities of these relationships?

  •       Describe your other primary relationships?

  •       What experiences and/or learning opportunities are you seeking at Trillium Farm?

  •       What is your previous experience living and working closely with other people?

  •       What is your working style?

  •       Describe your work ethic.

  •       What previous physical labor have you done?

  •       What farming/gardening/homesteading tools are you already familiar with?

  •       Do you have any training certifications, e.g. CPR, first aid, chain saw use, wildland firefighting?

  •       What is your previous experience in the wilderness?

  •       What are your long-term goals?

  •       What are your personal habits? How tidy do you tend to keep your environment?

  •       Are you vegetarian? (Why or why not).

  •       Do you consider yourself easy to live with?

  •       How well do you work with others? 

  •       How well do you learn new things? Are you able to follow instructions? 

  •       Do you prefer to learn from others, or to teach?

  •       What are your passions and devotions?  Do you have a spiritual path?

  •       What do you consider to be some of your greatest gifts to offer as an Intern?

  •       What have you identified to be some of your issues and/or challenges at this time?

  •       Do you have any allergies or physical ailments?

  •       Are you comfortable in clothing optional settings?

  •       Who would we contact in case of emergency?


Birch Creek Arts & Ecology Center Agreement

As a Sustainable Living Intern with Birch Creek Arts & Ecology Center I agree to the following:

  •       To honor and abide by the agreements as written in the Orientation Guide.

  •       To fully participate in the Sustainable Living Internship Program with integrity & enthusiasm.

  •       To fully participate in councils and discussions with feedback and questions.

  •       To actively participate in my relationships with other community members and the Land.

  •       To be present for service activities, family dinners and councils.

  •       To honor every community member as a sacred and beautiful being.

  •       To honor and maintain every community space as a sacred space.

  •       To respect otherís privacy and living spaces.

  •       To not bring meat, guns or illegal drugs to Trillium

            We expect Sustainable Living Interns to practice a vegetarian diet focused on natural organic foods & to leave behind unhealthy habits (i.e. junk food, excessive use of alcohol, tobacco or substance abuse) that would interfere with community and natural life-way processes.

Submitting the Application:

        When you are satisfied with your letter, simply e-mail (or "snail" mail) it to us with "Application: Internship" in the subject heading and we will get back to you as soon as possible.  Please provide a photograph of you, two letters of recommendation, ideally from a previous employer (longer than 6 months) and mentor or peer that knows you well. You can mail them along with your application or have them either e-mailed or snail mailed directly to us.

        After we review your application, we will contact you to further explore the possibilities of your joining us for a Sustainable Living Internship. 

We look forward to reading your letter!

In gratitude and service we thank you very much.
Please write "Internship Inquiry" in e-mail subject line.

Birch Creek Arts & Ecology Center
Attn: Sustainable Living Internship
PO Box 1330
Jacksonville, OR 97530

(541) 899-1696


Internship Facilitators

Chant Thomas, MS, founder of Trillium Farm Community, is a renowned environmental activist, botanist, forester, naturalist, and creator of Dakubetede Environmental Education Programs.  Chant works with interns teaching plant identification, homesteading skills, pond and waterway maintenance, compost making, fire ecology, ecosystem restoration, firewood skills, local and natural history, environmental ethics and sustainable community living, and shares his passion for environmental activism.  Chant's arts include nature photography, storytelling and rustic woodworking.  Chant leads weekly hikes into the surrounding wilderness where he draws inspiration from the landscape he has inhabited and protected for 40 years.

Susanna Bahaar Thomas, BFA, BA, MEd, master gardener, herbalist, ceramic artist and landscape painter, has lived at Trillium Farm since 1997 stewarding the gardens, gatherings, events, and creating sacred space for healing. Susanna works with interns to teach all aspects of growing food and herbs and caring for a garden beginning with greenhouse propagation, to bed preparation, companion planting techniques, watering strategies, making herbal products, and finally the harvest, food preparation and preservation.  A former educator in the mainstream, Susanna brings her passion for learning and teaching to all activities, especially for connecting deeply with nature, environmental ethics and sustainable community living.  As a sufi cheraga, Susanna has facilitated weddings and other spiritual gatherings on the Land, and immerses herself in the spiritual dimension of living in the wilderness.


  As a team, Chant and Susanna steward Trillium Farm Community, and have taught courses and
programs accredited through Antioch University, Prescott College and Southern Oregon University.
Together they bring a passion for sustainable wilderness homesteading, environmental activism,
education, and sharing this beautiful, healing place with people from all over the world.

DEEP Wild    Birch Creek Arts & Ecology Center   Trillium Farm
Dakubetede Environmental Education Programs    Threatened & Endangered Little Applegate Valley