Earthaven Ecovillage Newsletter
Autumn 2009

News Notes
Enjoying the third bridgeEarthaven celebrated our 15th anniversary on September 11. See the article in this newsletter for information on the celebration.

Marie Reilly jumped the candle to become a new provisional member.

The third bridge over the stream crossing near the Hut Hamlet is finished! In the photo, Founding Day parade marchers rest on the sturdy rails made from white oak from the Useful Plants Nursery clearing.

Thanks to Paul Caron, Lynn Armstrong, Mihaly Bartalos, Tom Moestl, Reed Murphy, Art Myers, Andy Bosley, Jack Fermoil, Clark Goslee, and Ishmael for their work on the bridge.

Frank's last plant walk
Many Earthaven members and friends walked the last plant walk with herbalist Frank Cook at the Summer Permaculture Gathering this past August 7th. In its sixteenth year (still on the Arthur Morgan School site in Celo—two years in a row a while back, we hosted it at Earthaven) there have been at last that many plant walks with Frank in this bioregion. And now we’ve unexpectedly said good-bye, since August 18th when he succumbed to some unnamed (so far) opportunistic infection. Memorials must have been going on everywhere—redmoonsong saw an obit for Frank in the Washington Post!—there have been accolades and remembered stories and the positive aspects of sharing grief community style. Frank's was a long, lanky link to the biosphere of the whole planet, as he walked and sampled the bounty on the paths that cross a million cultures’ lives, then brought together in an ambling rap as lyrical as a hip-hop opera, the simple, empowering, self-revealing gifts of planet Earth. He was daring, thoughtful, and…our brother.

We're looking for someone experienced with video editing who is interested in and  somewhat familiar with ideas around sustainability to help us edit video for our upcoming film series. You would work from home (wherever that is) and collaborate with a director and team based at Earthaven. Compensation: fun, cooperation, and a good cause. Leaps (Earthaven currency also available). Contact Lee Warren or Debbie Lienhart at if you are interested.

Earthaven Celebrates 15th Anniversary
Earthaven's 15th anniversary celebration began with the Founders' Dinner on Thursday, September 10, and continued with a parade and ceremony Friday afternoon, September 11.
Founders Paul Caron, Chuck Marsh, Lillah & Gary Schwartz, Michaeljon Druin, Sally & Randy Fraser, Bonita Luz, Gangotri, and Arjuna da Silver were honored guests for the dinner. Earthaven members, residents, and neighbors listened to their stories of the founding of Earthaven while enjoying a meal featuring food grown at Earthaven and prepared by Carmen Lescher and friends.
Giant bird puppetThe Founding Day parade and celebration used the analogy of our community as a flock of birds, each of us carrying part of the load and trading off leadership. Puppeteers from the Elkland Arts Center in Virginia helped create a large bird puppet, which led the parade.
During the parade, marchers visited and blessed the Forest Garden Learning Center, Horn of Plenty field, Geoff and Debbie's orchard, and the new bridge.
After the parade we gathered at the Village Green for a ceremonial hack circle and recommitment ceremony. During the finale, 15 white homing pigeons were released from the center of the circle. The celebration ended with singing happy birthday songs to Earthaven and a trio of birthday cakes baked by Eli Swiftcreek.

Second Annual Village Harvest Festival, Sunday, October 11
Village harvest festivalJoin us for the second annual Village Harvest Festival on Sunday, October 11, at Earthaven Ecovillage. We plan to have music, local food and crafts, kids' activities, special farm and natural building tours, and a chance to meet and greet our neighbors.
If you are coming from out of town, mid-October is a beautiful time to visit Earthaven and camp for the weekend. Expect colorful fall foliage, and generally pleasant weather.
For details and a slideshow, see the Earthaven website.

The Wise Women of the Blue Ridge Are At It Again
If you plan to visit Earthaven the weekend of October 2-4, don’t expect to see many women. Not only do Earthaven and neighbor women organize the conference, but it has become such a draw that Earthaven is virtually “men-only” when the Earthaven and neighbor women head down the mountain to the beautiful conference site at Camp Rockmont (home of the LEAF festival). Many have volunteer or work trade roles with the conference, which gives them both an opportunity to help “behind the scenes” as well as the ability to attend the classes. Others simply attend. All come home with large smiles, relaxed bodies, inspired minds, and hearts that are connected to each other, long after leaving.
Conference staffThe Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference is the sister company of Red Moon Herbs -  sharing the same mother, owner and director, Corinna Wood. Corinna, a long-time Earthaven member, runs these two businesses here at Earthaven, employing not only herself but other local women, bringing much-needed income to families in our economically depressed Appalachian region.
Two Earthaven women, Corinna and Lee Warren, as well as a neighbor, Ema Carmona, work year round to organize The Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference, which offers hundreds of women the opportunity to learn, connect, and deepen in to the Wise Woman Tradition. This year marks the 5th anniversary of the conference which will take place in Black Mountain on October 2-4
The Wise Woman Tradition is very close to many of the values embodied at Earthaven. In brief, it means simple living, earth-based healing, and local plants. It encourages connection to place, honoring of cycles, nourishment of the body–of the human and of the earth, and community with each other. The conference is an opportunity to introduce these ideas to women from many different walks of life in a format and style that is empowering and deeply transformative.
Circle at SEWHCThe conference draws hundreds of women (expected participation this year is 500) from around the Southeast coming for classes taught by more than 30 teachers, herbalists, wise women elders, and gifted healers. They will teach more than 50 classes on topics such as: Herb Walks, Tea Blending Secrets, Herbal Skin Care, Herbal Baths, Menstrual Health, Menopause, Women’s Wellness, Nutrition, Phytochemicals, HPV, Shamanic Breathwork, Talking Stick, Self Esteem, as well as art, dance, yoga, poetry, and more.
Susun Weed, the voice of the Wise Woman Tradition, and an internationally renowned herbalist, author, and teacher, will be the special guest teacher at this 5th anniversary conference, as she was the first year. A very strong bond of friendship exists between Susun and Corinna, which was formed during Corinna’s days as Susun’s apprentice at the Wise Woman Center in Woodstock, NY, nearly 15 years ago. Susun’s teachings have helped shape Corinna’s life work.
To find out more about the conference, visit

Village Arts Building - It's a Sign!
Growing a community from the forest forward happens on so many levels. Creating decision-making protocols and gaining skill with them; discovering the lay of the land and working out site plans; developing infrastructure and sources of funding. Living with each other and deepening our connections. On and on it goes.
Now, in our fifteenth year, we can say we’ve done quite a bit of groundwork, and still the process continues. Today, and for the foreseeable tomorrows, long-term economic needs are getting extra attention. As a group, we’re looking into ways to help support individual entrepreneurial ventures, including building a code-approved kitchen in which to prepare foods for market, perhaps through a member co-op. The kitchen is likely to be housed in the new community building we’ve sited next to the Council Hall. The building could also contain start-up space for office and retail ventures. Expanding our hospitality potential with ample indoor accommodations could soon turn into both private and community-owned projects.
Another economically promising endeavor ready to jump off the drawing board is Paul Caron’s dream of an artists and craftspeople co-op, envisioned as an amalgamation of individual studios housed in one wing of the woodshop compound, where artists and artisans ply their trades independently (and also cooperatively on some projects), enjoying the camaraderie and reduced costs that co-ops provide.
New Village Arts Coop Sign and paintersPaul’s natural building work exchange and apprentice program officially began this year, and its first project—building a big shed roof adjacent to the woodshop—yielded much-needed storage space and a place for a wildly colorful sign dedicating the expansion of the shop into the future Village Arts Building, “a studio co-op.” (Pictured in the photo are sign painters Kimchi Rylander, Paul, Ian Snesrud, Flora Checknoff, and Dylan McBridewood.)
Paul is a master woodworker and “furniture magician,” and the designer of our Council Hall and the peeled, round-pole post and beam timber frame construction technique used on many buildings at Earthaven. His comprehensive woodshop is already well used by pro and amateur woodworkers for community projects, prototypes for market, and other woodworking needs. The existing shop is planned to contain the dustiest aspects of woodworking, while the ground floor of the wing will be devoted more to assembly and the cleaner aspects of the work. The second floor of the wing will house the free-style studios, and a third floor is envisioned for potential co-op member housing and social space.
To thrive in community, we need places and spaces that encourage us to build economic foundations we can rely on. The studio co-op idea has successfully supported the needs of artists and crafters throughout the world. If you are interested in Earthaven as a long-term adventure and think your art or craft could thrive in this kind of setting, or if you feel attracted to a natural building apprenticeship, please let us know, either by calling Paul at 828-669-4625 or emailing Arjuna at

Neighbor Profile: Leon Birstein and Geni Stephenson, of Full Circle Family Farm
Leon and Geni with fig treeJust outside Earthaven’s main entrance lies the homestead farm of Geni Stephenson and Leon Birstein. Like many of our neighbors, Geni and Leon used to be Earthaven members. They lived at Earthaven in the early days, helping to carve out a space in the forest. They helped build some of the very first infrastructure—roads, water systems, the Hut Hamlet kitchen—and the first permanent residence in the Hamlet, the “Zen Hut,” which was built entirely without power tools.
When they decided that community living, complete with meetings, long processes, conflicts, and joint land ownership was not quite their style, they decided to buy into our neighbor community to create their own vision of permaculture. And did they ever!
Kayla and friends with dwarf Nigerian goatsFull Circle Family Farm is a permaculture site that’s got to be seen to be believed! Alive with experiments, it hosts bees (now up to 30 hives), Nigerian dwarf goats (three milking nannies, a buck, four others who will someday be milked), fruit trees galore, lotus flowers floating atop greywater ponds, and gardens abounding with everything from heritage corn and rows of greens to alfalfa hay for the livestock.
Their projects are a seedbed of ideas and inspiration, and they themselves are a wealth of information to many of us whenever we visit, purchase food, and seek knowledge about life lived close to the earth. On a recent visit, we were introduced to their weeping mulberry tree, whose branches grow “down,” allowing the harvester to “step inside” and pick the fruit without having to use a ladder.
Geni feeding goatsGeni, Leon, and their ten-year-old daughter Kayla, who is homeschooled in this mountain paradise, have created a home-based life that many would envy. Once an electrician, plumber, and all around engineering type, Leon uses his skill and intelligence to develop their homestead and continue perfecting his husbandry skills. Geni, a potter, mom, gardener and cheese maker, sells their abundance at the Black Mountain Farmers Market and “puts up” food for the family. They supplement their income from three rental apartments on their site, which often house Earthaven members and residents.
Both practitioners of Zen meditation, Geni and Leon have built a Zendo, a quiet, elegant edifice used for sitting meditation and contemplation. In the final stages of completion, the Zendo looks out over a small but lovely pasture edged with multiple varieties of bamboo (another of Leon’s passions), and will serve as a retreat center for local meditators who want to practice the art of being present. Geni and Leon meditate daily with occasional visits from neighbors who hear the meditation bell and walk over.
ZendoDuring the years we’ve been building Earthaven, it’s been painful for us when folks we know and love leave the community, whatever the reason. We inevitably go through a process of grief, guilt, and loss. Was it us? Was it them? What could we have done differently? Although these changes are natural parts of the process of our becoming, there’s always some regret when people decide not to stay. Yet, we’ve come to look at our community through a new lens that shows how this whole valley is part of our ecovillage: not only the intentional community called Earthaven, but members who have left and now live nearby, new folks who move into the area, and folks that were here before we came. As we learn what being neighbors is about, we find we need to draw less distinctions between “members” and “non-members.”
Geni and Leon are our esteemed and valued neighbors, permaculturists, and members of the larger “ecovillage” that is growing itself in this valley. We sure are glad they didn’t go far.

Earthaven Ecovillage • 1025 Camp Elliott Road • Black Mountain • NC • 28711

Subscribe | Unsubscribe | Preferences | Send to a Friend | Report Spam