This Valhalla Project blog provides updates on the 200-acre pilot property in the Ozark mountains with information on construction, farming,
animal husbandry, and future energy programs. Valhalla has established a very special retreat and reintegration facility for post-911 combat
Soldiers and war zone civilian workers transitioning back into the civilian world; see our "Valhalla Vision" page for an overview.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Veterans Day Weekend 2013 at Valhalla

Some of the Veterans Day Weekend 2013 participants outside
the Valhalla Main House after an exciting day building a swale,
constructing the new DeToy Sheep Chalet, preparing and sharing
delicious meals from scratch, and taking care of the farm animals.
Veterans Day Weekend 2013 here at Valhalla came down to a wonderful mix of veterans working alongside dedicated and supportive civilian volunteers -- it was a weekend of permaculture, building a new Sheep Chalet, excellent chow, a wonderful new library, endlessly curious turkeys, and a completed green house roof mixed in with lots of laughter and fun at every turn! It was all made possible through generous donations by people just like you, plus many hours of effort by eager participants doing their part in making the Valhalla Vision into a reality to benefit and honor America's post-9/11 veterans for many decades to come.

Former Army helicopter pilot Debbie cutting out a
fat venison roast alongside Valhalla President
Gordon Cucullu (center) and Army Special
Forces NCO (ret.) Jimbo (far end) in preparation

for Valhalla's 2013 Veterans Day Weekend
permaculture symposium. Special thanks to Doug
and Dorothy Royston for donating the venison!
Retired Special Forces NCO Jimbo and his wife Debbie, a former Army helicopter pilot, had come over a couple of weeks ago to help butcher a deer that had been very generously donated by neighbors Doug and Dorothy Royston in preparation for Valhalla's Veterans Day luncheon. This was the first real test of the new Valhalla Park Lounge (click here to read about it) with it's long counters, oversized cutting boards, overhead task lighting, and stainless steel sink. Four of us were able to work very comfortably with plenty of elbow room while cutting up steaks and roasts, vacuum packing the meat for the freezer, and also stewing dog food using the scraps, cartilage, and bones in crock pots right on the counter. 

Kate spent many hours organizing the hundreds of books that she
brought and donated for Valhalla's library. Temporarily housed in
the Blue Room (one of the Main House guest rooms), the plan for
a more formal library will involve building massive floor-to-ceiling
bookshelves in the living room sometime this winter.
Kate then drove all the way from Illinois and arrived on Thursday evening to help out. Kate, the oldest of seven Army "brats," brought an entire library for Valhalla with hundreds of novels, how-to books, and other books covering every imaginable topic from gardening to history to plant identification and much, much more. 

Kate had first noticed the Valhalla Project just months ago on Pinterest and then Facebook. 

Retired Air Force pilot Matt meeting
King, Valhalla's lead turkey tom, for
the first time. King wasn't too sure
about Matt at first but the two
bonded pretty quickly.
Then when she saw our recent article on Valhalla's new permaculture program she alerted brother Matt, a retired Air Force pilot in Oklahoma City who is intensely interested in all homesteading topics. Matt in turn tipped off his buddy Neil, also from the Oklahoma City area, who had taken the very same online permaculture course as Valhalla Project President Gordon Cucullu did this past summer. Neil was literally champing at the bit to pitch in with an extensive permaculture effort and Valhalla's new program fit the bill perfectly. Which in turn led to Bill, their mutual friend who also works as a civilian contractor at Tinker Air Force Base, joining in.

Weeks in advance the upcoming Veterans Day Weekend then blossomed into a complete permaculture symposium event when heavy equipment operator Jim Brown suggested building a second swale at the top of Valhalla's upper pasture. Army Sergeant First Class Carola, a Master Gardener from Ft. Leonard Wood who has been studying permaculture for a few years now, immediately reserved her favorite spot in the Green Room of the Valhalla Main House for the weekend. Former Special Forces NCO Jimbo and his wife, retired Army helicopter pilot Debbie, quickly jumped on board along with retired Navy NCO Jim and his wife Cynde, who have a homestead of their own in the local area. 

Matt, Gordon, Neil and Carola standing on part of
the freshly constructed new swale that heavy
equipment operator and Valhalla Special Projects
Committee Chairman Jim Brown dug and shaped
using a bulldozer. Neil, a meteorologist by trade,
was particularly thrilled to supplement his
permaculture coursework with some unexpected
instruction and experience in operating a bulldozer.
It was much easier for everyone in attendance to visualize the desired results and related techniques involved since the first swale had already been completed (click here to see Valhalla's overall permaculture plan along with the story of constructing the first swale). Jim and Gordon gave an extensive briefing on the finer points of building a swale that will capture, hold, and slowly release rainwater while dramatically reducing erosion across large areas of land. 

Then out came the survey lasers and landscape stakes. After Matt, Neil, and Bill traced the natural contours of the land and marked them, Jim carefully removed the top soil and began forming the swale using a bulldozer.

Matt and Bill outside the new DeToy Sheep Chalet that they
designed, framed, and built in less than 24 hours using lumber
harvested and milled from Valhalla's own forests. It has a tin

roof that matches Goat Manor, which was coincidentally built
exactly one year ago during Veterans Day Weekend 2012.
And then there were the sheep. The long term forecast predicted freezing conditions just days ahead, while Inga the livestock guardian dog and two of her sheep desperately needed a warm, dry place place to hunker down in bad weather. Even with the weekend's permaculture symposium in progress, the homestead side of Valhalla's operations required building a covered structure for them right away, right now

Matt and Bill stepped up to the challenge, running back and forth between the permaculture activities and what quickly became new DeToy Sheep Chalet. In less than 24 hours they managed to design, frame, and build a wonderful mini-barn using rough-cut lumber harvested from Valhalla's own forests and five tin roofing panels that had been reserved for the task - not quite enough, but enough to finish a 12x12' section of roof for the 12x18' Chalet! 

Navy veteran Jim, permaculturist Neil, and Jim's
wife and Valhalla Transition Program civilian volunteer
Cynde spread out over different sections of the swale
while slinging rye seeds in all directions as they went.
Army SFC Carola manned the camera while snapping
these photos during her short break in the action.
Meanwhile, a race against time ensued back at the new second swale. When completed it will stretch across approximately two to three city blocks in length, a massive growing area for future food forests, although it became apparent that even with a lot of people working in concert, only 40% or so could be completed in one weekend. Everyone on scene grabbed buckets of rye and began hand-seeded the swale, throwing the very precious seeds inch-by-inch as they walked.

The tractor deciding to take the day off meant armloads of rotten
hay had to be peeled off and hand carried by the armload before
being spread over the swale. The hay will help protect the freshly

sown seeds from birds while locking in moisture to help the rye
grass grow, thus stabilizing the new swale and improving the soil.
Then came the really fun (albeit messy) part: hand-mulching the swale and the freshly sown seeds with chunks of a huge years-old round-bale of rotting hay. Unfortunately Valhalla's tractor decided to take the day off (dead battery, argh) so the hay had to be peeled off and hand carried by the armload across the new swale.

Everybody managed to find seats for Valhalla's Veterans Day
Weekend luncheon. In the future the living room couches will be
moved back to make room for several long tables so everyone
can eat together; also note that the back wall of the living room
(photo on the lower left) will have wall-to-ceiling book shelves
to hold note only the hundreds of books that Kate donated, but
also the equally extensive libraries of gardening, permaculture,
animal husbandry, and carpentry/sustainable construction books
that have been acquired over the last two years.
Kate had been very busy back at the Main House rolling out dough and making rustic apple tarts for lunch. Roasts had already been stewing in the crockpot overnight for the shredded Italian venison main course and Kate had also found a wonderful recipe for "funeral potatoes" with cheese, homemade yogurt, white sauce, onions and garlic. We made a big bowl of salad with arugula from the garden and lentil sprouts grown in the pantry tossed with a walnut oil lemon dressing; then Debbie and Jimbo arrived with apple cake, banana bread, and German chocolate cake to join the apple tarts on the dessert buffet!

Jim installing clear roofing panels for the new green house on the
upper front deck of Valhalla's Main House. When fully enclosed
with windows the green house will create a heated bubble to help
keep the Main House warm while dramatically reducing energy
consumption -- and creating a spacious area for sprouting and
growing seedlings that will be transplanted into the main gardens
next spring. Valhalla is right on target for meeting our five year
goal of producing all the dairy, meat, and organic vegetables for
up to ten veterans at a time -- yet we need your help to purchase
green house windows and other building materials. 100% of your
$5, $10, or $20 donation will go directly to Valhalla projects
just like this one so please click the donate button at the bottom

of this page to thank a veteran and help make it all happen!
It was a very successful and educational weekend for one and all, although even after everyone left the weekend certainly wasn't over. Jim Brown noted that temperatures would drop into the 20's on Tuesday night and subsequently spent many hours installing panels for the roof of the new green house on the front deck just outside the Main House living room to help trap some heat. I built a door for the new DeToy Sheep Chalet and lined the northern wall with stacks of straw bales while Gordon winterized the chicken house, the turkey palace, and the housing around Valhalla's well.

An important note: if you are a post-9/11 combat veteran interested in homesteading, permaculture, animal husbandry, and forest and wildlife management, the Valhalla Project is currently taking applications while offering comfortable accommodations and excellent chow for up to 90 days at a time. Interested veterans who are transitioning out of the military into civilian lives are invited to contact us at for more information and an application. 

* * *
Remember: the Valhalla Project needs your help and support
Just getting a project like Valhalla up and running has required a significant investment in time, money, and labor. With roughly $500,000 already invested over the last two years into the Valhalla Project for property acquisition, feeding and housing Soldier participants, infrastructure and facility improvements, animal purchases and feed, tools and building supplies, forest and pasture management expenses, and much much more, resources are running thin. We need YOUR help to keep Valhalla functioning efficiently - while at the same time expanding vitally important programs to assist post-9/11 combat Soldiers and war zone civilian workers to transition back into the civilian world. 

The Valhalla Project is a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity recognized by the IRS.
Nobody, including cadre or board members, draws a paycheck here, nor will they ever: we simply give everything we have to make Valhalla possible. 100% of your donation via Paypal will go directly to program expenses and building materials, period.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Permaculture at the Valhalla Project, Phase 1

Celebrating after hand-seeding and mulching
Valhalla's first swale, one of many permaculture
features that will protect the property from future
droughts while dramatically improving the soil over time.
The Valhalla Project is now well on the way to designing, implementing, and maintaining a comprehensive permaculture system.

Before we get to details, let's review terms. What is permaculture and how do you learn about it?

A compound word for "permanent agriculture" (a term coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren), permaculture is a system that takes into account as many factors as possible in order to transform land in a way that mimics nature -- that is, to develop a low-maintenance, perennial growing system for the benefit of human beings, farm animals, and wildlife as well.

There is a lot more to it than that, but this gives you a general concept. It's easy to find information about permaculture: books, videos, chat rooms, and blogs from around the world address the subject, either in whole or in part. This article describes the Valhalla Project's first permaculture experiences in the Ozark region of Arkansas, through projects designed to teach and otherwise benefit post-9/11 combat Soldiers, veterans, and civilian war zone workers who also served with them downrange.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

In time for hunting season: Valhalla's new multi-purpose Park Lounge

Sneak preview of Valhalla's new Park Lounge,
initially built with hunters in mind yet ultimately
became a true multipurpose workspace.
This is the story of how a simple wish for a clean sanitary counter space to cut up some venison steaks became an epic project at Valhalla during the summer of 2013. After dozens of hours, tons of materials, and some major plumbing and electrical rewiring tasks, Valhalla now has a multipurpose Park Lounge that functions as a screened-in outside kitchen with hidden
pantries, a laundry room, a mud room, a butcher shop, a food preservation workspace, and even a

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Valhalla's quick-and-easy arched cattle panel housing units

Arched cattle panel units have proven to be invaluable here at Valhalla for housing various groups of ducks, chickens, turkeys, and goats -- they can also be used as simple garden storage lockers or even as green houses when covered with plastic during the winter. They are inexpensive to construct yet still very strong; they can be predator-proofed if needed; they can be linked together into stationary rows or mounted on wheels, and; they are extremely easy for even an inexperienced individual to build all alone (without any help at all) in less than a day.

Valhalla's Hospital Row is a secured area where injured farm animals can recover in a quiet setting, and
also where chickens, turkeys, and duck hens can safely hatch and raise their young without disruptions
from their main flocks. The two units on the left are roughly 8' wide x 8' deep x 6' high. The third unit
has an additional panel to create a 12' deep interior for housing a flock of broody duck hens with their
ducklings, while the open unit on the far right was under construction when this photo was taken.

Sergeant Jen with Iraqi war veteran Francis in front of the nearly
completed the 16' long panel unit that is described in this tutorial.
A great number of people have asked us for detailed instructions on exactly how to build these inexpensive and versatile animal housing units. Sergeant Jen therefore volunteered to demonstrate how to build one for this step-by-step tutorial on how cattle panel units are built here at Valhalla, along with notes on lessons learned in the course of constructing more than a dozen units around the property. 

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: this tutorial describes how cattle panel units are built here at Valhalla without any claims that this is the very "best" way to do it! There are many different ways to approach construction of cattle panel units. This tutorial simply describes Valhalla's current approach after a lot of trial and error.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend 2013

Some Soldier visitors for Memorial Day weekend. CPT Nat and SFC Dennis - great to see these old friends from Afghanistan 2010.

Cpt. Nat (holding Valkyri the puppy), SFC Dennis, and
Valhalla Project Founders Gordon and Chris Cucullu (seated).

Nat didn't think he could cook a restaurant quality gourmet lunch by himself, but with just a little instruction he in fact cooked up the most marvelous pasta dish ever! Valhallans take turns preparing meals from scratch, with a little one-on-one coaching upon request.

Capers, garlic, parsley, lemon zest, troll-caught albacore tuna, some wine plus red pepper flakes infused in olive oil, all tossed with small-shell pasta... a very simple recipe that he's taken back to New York City along with his new confidence in the kitchen. 

Growing top quality vegetables, herbs, and flowers requires a bit of effort yet cooking up the results is certainly worth it!

SFC Dennis, who plans on earning his degree in forestry, did a bit of the watering after a introductory briefing on permaculture design

Friday, May 17, 2013

Marion County Pasture Day at Kephart Pond

Yesterday Valhalla hosted over 50 people during Marion County's Annual Pasture Day seminar and in between formal lectures Gordon stopped everyone to tell the story of Kephart Pond. 

Valhalla's first pond was named after Specialist Jonathan Kephart, who was killed during a firefight with the Mahdi Army on Route Sword in Iraq on April 8th, 2004. The farmers and ranchers who attended the seminar were spellbound as they listened and realized that

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Valhalla's future working herd dog

The missing link: Valhalla's new puppy, a six week old female Australian Shepherd / Border Collie mix, will someday be in charge of organizing and guiding the farm animals here on the property. 

Training this little beast will be a very long and intensive process, yet

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sadie the guardian on forest patrol

Here's a picture of Sadie the Great Pyrenees livestock protection dog patrolling part of Valhalla's forests over by the waterfall this weekend. That area is fairly close to the main house and used to be completely overrun with

At long last, a tractor

SFC Carola riding Valhalla's new tractor. Jim Brown just purchased it about a week ago, then offered to sell it to Valhalla at cost since "Y'all need it even more than I do, now you'll be able to

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A wonderful donation: Valhalla's first Dexter steer

Our latest arrival at Valhalla - a young Dexter steer - has adjusted well to his new home. A nice-looking black steer with newly emerging horns, the new guy has been living with an equally young red Limousine steer at our neighbor Doug and Dorothy's corral. As the photo below shows, he's very alert and friendly. Came right over to munch on a clump of hand-picked grass.

Doug will put them in with a few more and once satisfied that all are adjusted they will be integrated into the small main herd. Doug regularly grazes the cattle on Valhalla's pastures for a win-win option. With the very welcome spring rains this year we are optimistic that for the near term, at least, there will be plenty of grass for all.

We want to express great appreciation to Marian and Eric VanBeever of

Friday, May 3, 2013

Surprise frost warning

Nail-biting weather. Wow, early May - and we're looking at freeze warnings. This is a good two weeks past this area's USDA "last average freeze date." Ah, well, our friends north and west of us are catching it harder, so we won't complain.

Rushed late yesterday in a drizzling rain to get plastic covers over the Kennebec and Yukon

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Four naked chicks in a shower

Four naked chicks in the shower - that sounds pretty racy and in fact at only a day old they really are fast - so it was a challenge to finally get a shot of them in the sunshine before they dove back under mother hen.

The fiberglass shower was left over from Valhalla's bunkhouse bathroom remodel; we turned it onto

Monday, April 29, 2013

Shock: the four newcomers

SHOCK: I came rushing around the corner behind the Turkey Chalet in a mad rush to get all the evening chores done before the sun went down, and there they were.  I yelled for Gordon, he came barreling around the corner and stopping in his tracks at the sight: four tiny little itty-bitty chicks with their practically psychotic mother already on guard to defend them with her life, and Sadie the dog (famous for eating chicks) was following somewhere right behind us.

One tiny chick had already fallen into the shallow water dish and drowned, we instantly felt horrible but started racing to save the remaining four. A 3' high pet fence was already in place around the shower where they hatched but if the hen couldn't keep them out of the water bowl and already lost one,

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Valhalla riddle and mystery solved

MYSTERY SOLVED re: what has eight eyes, fangs, six testicles, eats a combination of hay and coyotes (or just about any other available predators), and certainly *doesn't* produce either eggs or milk for the supper table?? The key word from Valhalla’s riddle as posted on FaceBook was PACKAGE, and some of you were so close to guessing the full truth! Here's the final correct answer:

Valhalla's St. Croix rams with their LPD
You see, last year before Sadie arrived we had already arranged to eventually acquire another very special Livestock Protection Dog (LPD) - an Akbash puppy (the breed traces back for centuries to Turkey) - but she was being raised with a very special breed of

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Runaway goat! Sadie saves the day, thanks to SFC Kenn

Sadie the Great Pyrenees really saved the day this evening! An unexpected crisis of very serious note occurred this afternoon: Freya - Valhalla's first goat kid (who's now fully grown and apparently also pregnant) somehow escaped from the main goat compound and was seen literally leaping 5' and 6' up high in the air with pure joy while intermittently racing at full speed up and down the driveway with her very powerful legs launching her as close as she could get to the setting sun!

Freya was completely out of control although also clearly making fun of the other rather envious goats left behind the fence. During our initially controlled and very cautious rescue attempt she then very easily knocked over and threw off Gordon when he calmly and strategically pounced on her (and he's a lot bigger than me), then I came silently running as fast as I could with arms stretched out around from the outer corner of the fence while trying not to scare her, albeit without a real plan other than to somehow catch her... well... she thought the whole thing was a funny game and began darting in huge arches in unpredictable directions, but then also seemly out of the clear blue sky came this huge blob of