Earthaven Ecovillage Newsletter
Early Spring 2010

News Notes
Greetings from Earthaven Ecovillage! We're enjoying the first few days of spring - with daffodils blooming and long strings of toad eggs in the ponds.
 
Marie Reilly became a full member on February 28. Current provisional members Tanya Carwyn and Troy Swift will soon have company - Kaitlin Hetzner, Jonathan Swiftcreek, Eli Swiftcreek, and Karen Taylor are all scheduled for provisional member interviews and stories in the next couple months.
 
In village business news, Useful Plants Nursery was awarded a $6,000 AgOptions grant to develop a new propagation facility. The nursery plans to propagate 80% of the plants it sells within 5 years. The Southeast Wise Women have opened registration for the 2010 Southeast Women's Herbal Conference October 1-3 in Black Mountain, NC. Yellowroot farm cleared a new agricultural field and distributed its first CSA share for the season - shiitake mushrooms!
 
Snack break during the work partyIn neighborhood news: The Main Street neighborhood changed its name to the Forest Garden neighborhood, the Village Terraces neighborhood held several work parties to load firewood into the two-story firewood shed they built over the summer, and Brian Love and Chris Farmer moved into their new homes in the Gateway neighborhood.
 
After over five years stored in a shed, the last of the lumber processed by the Forestry Cooperative graces a newly remodeled summer cabin in Bat Cave.
 
Are you considering moving to Earthaven or just want to see what it would be like for a week? Join us this summer for our Introduction to Earthaven Visitor week. See the Earthaven website for details.
 
We have new addresses! We used to share a few addresses, but the e911 program now requires that each of our buildings has its own address and mailbox.  If you are sending mail to one of us, please verify that you have the new address.
mailboxes
 
Debbie LienhartDebbie Lienhart is a member of Earthaven Ecovillage living in the Village Terraces neighborhood. She is co-owner of Useful Plants Nursery, Culture's Edge secretary, and a partner in the Forest Garden Learning Center.


Remembering Snow!
The biggest snowstorm in close to forty years visited us this past December, just in time for the Solstice. Yes, it was a white Kwanzaa (hmm…that’s another story!*), and a deep one too. We received over a foot of the White Blessing, and proceeded to dwell in below-freezing temps 24/7 for almost two weeks. In the midst of it, came rain (I guess it must have gotten above freezing for an hour or two), which then froze. Trees were down all along the state-maintained roads, and there were major delays while utility trucks from as far away as Alabama worked their chain saw magic to clear them. Our own tree damage was not that severe, and our “fellas” were out on the tractor giving us the option to test our tires on our own roads pretty quickly. It probably took a week before most of us dared to venture out—the bamboo on Another Way near the Forest Garden, which always hangs low when there’s an ice storm or snow, didn’t rebound and had to be chopped to the ground for the first time ever, so we could pass.
 
enjoying a hot tub in the snowOverall, we were pretty cozy and content, and we know that the White Blessing is just what the water table and the soil need for extra nourishment. There hasn’t been much snow here in many years. Oh, but then the thawing—paths and roads as mushy as mud stew. Gravel patches to get through the worst of it are all we can expect until the roads do their own version of “mending” and are solid enough again to let repairs last.
 
Yes, water lines also froze. Folks in outlying neighborhoods on newer water systems offered showers and fill-ups, and folks hunkered down by their woodstoves, washing less and (we hope, anyway) cuddling more.
 
In January there was more snow, and the sun didn't give us a full day of brightness for the first half of the month. Generators back up valiant batteries sucking what they can from PV panels, and the micro-hydro system tunnels along merrily. Clearly, we haven’t been hit hardest by this unseasonal beginning to Winter—folks elsewhere are experiencing serious losses. Our hearts (and pennies) go out to all who are suffering from unstable weather patterns and the shifting of Earth’s underside. Stay safe, y’all, and cozy, and let us know how you’re doing this year, wherever you are.
 
* About the other seasonal celebrations, after the gala Solstice gathering at the White Owl, we gave ourselves a taste of Chanukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa during those snow-covered times. In particular, Amakiasu and Ayo made a beautiful Kwanzaa ceremony for us in the Council Hall, combining background, ritual and story, which the delightful Forest Children enacted with great aplomb (i.e., “self-confident assurance”).
 
Arjuna da SilvaArjuna da Silva is an Earthaven founder, Culture's Edge president, and former Airspinner. She is coordinating the Natural Building School and Fundamentals of Permaculture workshops at Earthaven this summer.


We Fly Through the Air with the Greatest of Ease
Earthaven founders were emphatic about naming things differently than in the world of business and bureaucracy, to take the edge off any harshness and also to bring real meaning into our administrative activities. So instead of calling our corporate officers by the usual names, we called the Weavers and gave them four elements to embody: Earth, Air, Fire, Water. Earth represents the natural and built physical infrastructure of the community, air our outreach, communications and membership-related arenas, fire is the soul of the community, from governance to process, and water refers to the flow of money, credit, community service and our alternative currency, Leaps. Not long after creating the Weavers and their elements, we discovered an African village term, "Orgbo" (or "Orbo"), for community service clans or teams, and we've been calling our four element arenas plus the fifth sacred one, Spirit, by that name ever since.
 
Earthaven office volunteersThanks to the fine volunteers who staff the Earthaven Office & Trading Post — and especially Kimchi Rylander, Earthaven’s new Administrative Coordinator — our community is becoming better organized in all the “Air” ways. Kimchi’s goal is to meet our need for ease, clarity for all of our committees with Airspinning functions. She also hopes that working in the Earthaven Office/Trading Post will offer an excellent opportunity for members, work-exchangers, and interns to contribute their gifts and talents.
 
Three milestones of her first month as Administrative Coordinator:
 
(1) All members of the Trading Post staff are well-trained and at your service four days a week. At the moment, our visitor-welcoming, office-managing, Internet-providing, snack-selling volunteers include Suchi Lathrop and Sue Stone (co-lessees of the Trading Post with Earthaven), redmoonsong, Mana, Kaitlin, Eli, and Ohbeeb. Three other volunteers — Alice, Melissa,  and River Otter — also offer valuable Airspinning help to the Earthaven Office. In the near future the Office & Trading Post will be open Saturdays too. Have you been to the Trading Post lately? The joint is jumpin’.
 
(2) The first step is already accomplished — All of Earthaven’s documents are now all in one place electronically (Earthaven’s computer) as well as physically — a historic moment! (Thank you, Kaitlin and Kimchi.)  “Our goal is to have online access for all members someday,” Kimchi says. “This will next require our researching a method that is affordable and secure, and then, creating a plan for maintaining online access of records. When that day arrives, any Earthaven member will be able to look up any community document or decision online, from ByLaws or Agricultural Guidelines to Council and committee minutes.”
 
(3) Important aspects of Earthaven’s management are getting handled like never before. Earthaven Office/Trading Post volunteers and friends are not only welcoming folks to the Trading Post — Earthaven’s unofficial social hub — and offering services from Internet to photocopying, renting videos, and buying chocolate-covered almonds, but also performing the many necessary tasks any ecovillage needs. Each function of the Earthaven Office has a focalizer who delegates the activities for each function: Earthaven’s online Calendar (Melissa), designing the new Mailroom (redmoonsong), posting Council and committee minutes in the Trading Post and Council Hall (Kaitlin), handling visitor inquiries (Mana & River Otter), and indexing minutes so Council participants can look up any past decisions (Sue and Ohbeeb). Kaitlin is organizing and archiving Earthaven’s documents electronically; Kimchi and Ohbeeb are organizing and filing the hard-copy versions. Alice and Kimchi are handling visitors’ waiver forms and keeping our visitor database current. Eli and redmoonsong are handling recycling for the Office/Trading Post, and Eli is in charge of its firewood logistics.
 
delivering mailMailroom manager redmoonsong notes that our mail is being delivered to boxes in the mailroom trailer by Nicolette, just as it was before getting our new mailboxes on Another Way. Soon we’ll see additional mailboxes in the trailer, shelves for packages, a desk for sorting mail, and a place for visitors to pickup handouts and articles about Earthaven. As weather permits, the outside of the trailer will be washed, primed, and painted so it will provide, as redmoonsong says, “a blank canvas for the next phase.” (To offer ideas and help, see redmoonsong.)  
 
The Airspinner Orbo manages the community’s communication, internal and external, which means it helps Earthaven folks find out about meetings and social events, get snail mail, use the Internet, and look up community agreements and decisions. Airspinner committees  or managers welcome visitors, offer tours, manage the campground, publish Earthaven’s newsletter, respond to media inquiries, welcome and orient work exchangers and other non-member residents, thank and orient Supporting Members, and process and train folks on the Membership Track.
 
This is so much work that the 2009 Weavers created the role of part-time Administrative Coordinator to oversee these tasks. This of course helps other Orbos too, since all Orbos’ committees have minutes and need these Airy services.
 
As Administrative Coordinator, Kimchi will soon be implementing other plans and projects to help Earthaven function better. Stay tuned  . . . more Air Reports coming in future issues.
 
Diana Leafe ChristianDiana Leafe Christian, who lives in Earthaven’s Forest Garden Neighborhood, is the community’s Airspinner for 2010.
dianaleafechristian.org http://www.EcovillageNews.org
 
Photos by Will Rogers, who is an apprentice at Useful Plants Nursery.


Journal of an Incoming Member
Entry 1:
The First Steps Towards Earthaven
 
The joint story of eli (lower case intentional) and me, our search for community, and two years later, our move to Earthaven, began in April 2007, in Asheville, NC.  We had met recently, connected through community-oriented events related to food and our lifestyles (potlucks, buyers’ clubs, Critical Mass bike rides, miso-making workshops, Asheville LETS orientation).  We began dating, and over the next few years our lives wove together completely, and our commitment to each other deepened.  Asheville had a subculture that offered us much (as above, and also local farm and food awareness, herbalism awareness and education, and alternative health practices in general). Yet, during one April discussion between the two of us, we expressed our yearning for something else to fill our lives; we ached a pain we could not describe.  We did know the source of the pain, and from my several years living on farms and having communal connections in livelihood with others, and eli her experiences, we knew what nourishment we needed.  We were looking for satisfying community and connection, especially when it came to connection with food, and with sharing the everyday life and livelihood or long term project.
 
In May, now a community of two, we strategized how to become a community of more.  We envisioned our ideal urban collective household, and crafted a document describing it.  I had a friend who owned and lived in a large Montford neighborhood house that had been a university coop house of sorts.  She wanted to move away from Asheville and sell the house.  The timing and circumstances opened the possibility, and we created an 18-month rental contract with an option to buy.  We hoped that by the time we were ready to sign a mortgage, we would have a few more people to sign with us, while the rest of the house would remain renters.
 
We spread the word through our friends, the weekly local foods potlucks we hosted, and posted flyers around Asheville.  I went to the Twin Oaks-hosted Communities Conference during a weekend in August, to learn and to seek potential members for our forming community.  A few people in Asheville expressed interest, but backed out.  It wasn’t until practically the last hour, just a few weeks before our November 1st move in date, that we managed to get seven other people to join in as renters.  Our house on Chestnut Street became Casa Castenea, Castanea being the botanical name for Chestnut.
 
The 18 months that we lived in Casa Castanea was a story all in itself (more like a book).  Holding that tale for another time, the simplified version described the deepening understanding of eli’s and my needs of a community.  What was illuminated during this time was our awareness of the importance of sharing with others a connection to the sources of life and sustenance- interpersonal relationships, food, shelter, resources, and meaningful livelihood.  Most importantly, and lacking, we needed other people as deeply committed to the project as we were, and the consequent feeling of fairly shared responsibilities.
 
How long would it take for this to happen there?  I had the sense that many people I met were not interested in committing to long-term projects and a lot of people attracted to urban collectives were transient in general.  In October 2008, we chose to seek elsewhere for a community that could better meet our needs.
Our criteria was a community that:
  • was past the early phases (having a core group and projected longevity)
  • had connections to its sources of life and sustenance
  • was rural (and thus had more connection to land-based livelihoods)
  • was populous enough to fulfill us socially   
We would fulfill our lease agreement and find new management for the house, but our focus would be on finding a new community.
 
To Be Continued…
(Please look for the continuation of the series describing my process of exploring and joining Earthaven.)
 
Jonathan SwiftcreekJonathan Swiftcreek enjoys exploring Earthaven Ecovillage as a home, and spreading awareness and enthusiasm for eco-village life.


Culture's Edge Programs at Earthaven
Oh, yeah—here come those terrific programs again!
 
Culture’s Edge, our educational arm, has gathered an exciting program of classes and workshops once again! We hope you’ll be among the folks who take advantage of them this year. Please keep your eye on the Earthaven and new Culture’s Edge (www.culturesedge.net) website for updates and new events.
 
Inoculate logs and woodchip beds in the forest garden and take home inoculated media for food and medicine. Species we’re likely to work with in class include oyster, turkeytail, maitake, and appalachian reishi (Ganoderma tsugae).
 
We begin this year with A Council of All Beings (April 24-25), the grief and empowerment workshop facilitated by Kimch Rylander. What an extraordinary way to experience Earth—through all her creatures—and to lose and then broaden the human perspective.
 
If your interest is in beekeeping, join our neighbor Leon Birstein for a one-day workshop on how to keep healthy bees and harvest honey (May 15). Leon is quite capable of keeping beginners and experienced beekeepers busy and interested all day! Later in May, Zev Friedman’s mushroom propagation workshop (May 21-23) will show participants how to inoculate logs and woodchip beds for food and medicine.
 
Two residential events are up in June. First, the Introduction to Earthaven (June 11-18) visitor program will be offered for the first time, and will be especially geared toward folks thinking about membership. Then, the week of Summer Solstice, we once again present the 8-day residential intensive, the Fundamentals of Permaculture, with Goodheart Brown and an exciting new team of co-teachers. Taking the Fundamentals is like entering the world in which Earthaven was formed…
 
You’ll be hearing more from us soon about our Natural Building School program, and a schedule of summer and fall workshops, from timber-framing to earthen plasters and all the mud and straw in between, will be available on both the Culture’s Edge and Natural Building School sites.
 
Later in the year, you can discover or brush up on an extensive list of Life Skills for living simply inside and outside the home (August 8-20), attend our 3rd annual Village Harvest Festival, learn about forest agriculture (September 24-25), and about creating abundance on an urban homestead (October 9). Once it’s cold, Leon Birstein will offer another one-day event, this time on working with bamboo.
 
We’ll send you updates and irresistible invitations over the next few months. If you’d like to sign up for or find out about any of these programs, please email culturesedge@earthaven.org or call (828) 669-3937.
 
Arjuna da SilvaArjuna da Silva is an Earthaven founder, Culture's Edge president, and former Airspinner. She is coordinating the Natural Building School and Fundamentals of Permaculture workshops at Earthaven this summer.


The Imani Ag Coop
A Food-Growing Cooperative at Earthaven
When we finished the first building at Village Terraces Cohousing Neighborhood in 2004, we had $50 in our collective checking account. As Lee and Minionone of our intentions as a group was to grow food together, we began to think of it more as a long-term goal than a current one. Aside from the fact that clearing forest to make agriculture land was expensive, building homes, relationships, income-generating activities and contributing to Earthaven’s governance and development were ambitious undertakings, leaving little time for agricultural activities.
 
Two of our five original members felt passionate about food production as a social, ecological, and important political act, however, and decided to lease an adjacent agriculture field from Earthaven, called Imani Farm. They raised chickens and ducks and began experimenting with dairy animals. They soon realized that the 1.25 acres of land they had leased from Earthaven wasn’t enough to create their ideal goal – to provide food for our neighborhood family with excess going to Earthaven members and neighbors.
 
Martha feeding ducksAlong the same time, two new members joined Earthaven and decided to build the second building in our neighborhood. What a dream come true. It meant more people to share resources and contribute to our “common pot” of funds that paid for shared systems such as heat, water, electricity, etc. These new folks also felt passionate about food growing. Being from the city, they didn’t have skills themselves, but were well versed in the looming economic crisis, peak oil, and the “long emergency” soon to be facing us. A distinct advantage of them “being from the city” was that they had life-long professional careers, unlike many of us who dropped out of the rat race early on, which meant they had some funds to make their dreams happen. Luckily their dreams coincided with ours and the Imani Ag Coop was born.
 
Our neighborhood is over four acres in size. Much of that area (a little under three acres) was designated for agriculture land in large part because we chose to live densely in cohousing units, clustered near each other. Other neighborhoods at Earthaven have chosen individual home sites, which spread out the buildings and arable land amongst the homes, with a smaller shared agriculture area.
 
MihalyThe challenge facing our dream of food production was, as always at Earthaven, turning a fairly dense, immature, degraded forest into open agriculture land. This translates to $10,000 per acre in cost and weeks, if not months, of toiling on the part of many people. But we had a once-in-a-lifetime match born out of shared vision, skill, and passion. Mihaly and Lee, the farming couple, had the experience and desire to coordinate and offer labor to the clearing and Martha and Finch, the city couple, had the money to give to the project.
 
New pastureIn January 2008, the three-acre clearing began. Two years and nearly $75,000 later (including clearing, fence, investment in lumber, firewood, amendments, etc.), we have an amazing example of cooperation and the best investment money can buy – the ability to feed ourselves. All with no debt!  Our neighborhood is beautiful in a different way than was the forest and our cleared land is fenced with a durable, handsome woven wire fence (to keep animals in and out of the area of homes and gardens as well as to keep predators out.) We’re focusing on a pasture rotation system for animals with resulting products such as eggs, duck and chicken meat, and small-scale dairy for family consumption.
 
Jonathan and EliAs most food growing enterprises go, the Ag Coop doesn’t make a profit, yet the value to our lives is immeasurable. We eat the best food in the world, gain skill and confidence as food producers, and provide nourishment for the people we love. What could be more rich and rewarding? Recently two new exploring members, who share our passion for food, are joining the Ag Coop to share in both the responsibilities and the bounty. As we take these risks to join forces, we create more opportunities for new folks to step in and find a place here. Blessed be, the community grows.
 
Lee  WarrenLee Warren is a long-time communitarian, homesteader, food activist, writer, and Earthaven member. She is a founding member of the Village Terraces Cohousing Neighborhood and a manager/owner of Imani Farm. Her current projects including co-organizing the Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference and co-creating a series of orientation films for Earthaven.


An Early Morning Tractor Tale
Diana and Mana ready to goThe morning after the February 12 unexpected snowstorm I had a rendezvous with Mana and Johnny and the tractor at 7:30. Mana, a sailor who knows knots, lashed my 2 suitcases to the front fork. Johnny got in the seat and Mana and I perched on the bumpers on either side, holding one with one hand onto the back of the seat and the other holding the handle on the bumper between our legs, my computer safely jammed between her and Johnny.
 
Given the potential warmth-factor of our vehicle -- which is the current outside temperature + the breeze you create by your speed + the breeze off the mountain --  I was wearing 3 pair of socks and Debbie's rubber boots, 3 pair of cotton long johns, jeans, my ankle-length wool knit skirt (which was hiked up so I could grab the handle between my legs), 2 turtlenecks, a sweatshirt, my black parka, my neck scarf wrapped around my neck and lower face, a wool hat and my parka hood, and a pair of gloves inside a pair of mittens. Considering I was wearing nearly all the clothes I own and the outer layer was black, I reminded myself of a chubby Inuit thrift-store Beatnik. Johnny and Mana, much more sensible, (not to mention svelte) wore Carharts, hats and sweatshirt hoods, gloves, heavy work boots. and polar-tec balaclavas. They had it down.
 
I reckon it was about 15 degrees, given the online hour-by-hour forecast (thank you, Greg) with actual temperature and wind-chill factor.
 
"Don't let your feet get tangled up in the wheel," Mana cautioned. And we were off!
 
It was a beautiful sunny morning and the sunlight glinted off the fresh dazzling white snow. The views out over the snow-covered mountains were wonderful. There was ice in the wheel ruts of previous cars, and, I suspect, black ice from the night before under the snow at the turns. But Earthaven's tractor don' care 'bout no steenk'in' ice; it just trundled over everything, impervious.  We were kings!
 
Johnny employed darn-near every gear the tractor has on various grades and slopes. The snow was only about 2", which made it easier and much less slow-going than when Johnny and Mana took Andy and Julie out three weeks earlier in about a foot of snow.
 
Every once in awhile Johnny sort of hug-patted my nearest leg, which was adjacent to his gear-shifting arm, as if to say "How're ya doin', old girl? Hanging in there?" It was exactly the way someone sitting in a chair would hug and pat a dog around its neck if it was sitting next to their knee, so I'd laugh because I felt like I was being patted like a dog. It was friendly and funny (and the momentary BTUs probably helped reduce the refrigeration factor by some fraction). Each time he did it I wanted to bark in appreciation.
 
As we chugged around the hairpin turn at Deer Rock we saw Brian's van and UPN's truck amid the many cars that had given up on getting up the hill and parked there unexpectedly. At near midnight the night before, since cars were sliding backwards down the road and there'd been an accident,  Brian, Carmen, Sarah, and Will had said, "Forget this!" and hiked on home.
 
We rumbled into the parking lot at Crooked Creek gas station at 8:54 am. Minus the time it took to lash the bags to the mizzenmast, it took about an hour. And there was Black Mountain Laundry's airport shuttle fellow waiting, so I traded vehicles, got a lot warmer real fast, and made it to the airport in plenty of time. Mana and Johnny turned that red baby around and chugged back on home, and I flew to blizzardy Iowa just fine. Where I haven't chopped kindling, lugged firewood, or checked a trimetric meter even once!
 
Thank you, Mana and Johnny!
And thank you, Earthaven and the EDO for years ago buying -- and every year maintaining -- our beautiful, massive, fabulously versatile and sometimes-Iowa-job-saving tractor!
 
Diana Leafe ChristianDiana Leafe Christian, communities expert, just returned from teaching in Iowa for a month, and is Earthaven's Airspinner.
 
dianaleafechristian.org http://www.EcovillageNews.org

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

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