Earthaven Ecovillage Newsletter
Spring 2009

News notes

Ecovillagers at Gateway farmIt's been nearly a year since our last newsletter.  Much has been going on at Earthaven despite our silence!

Bruce, Rudy, Alice, Eva, Julie, Johnny, and Mana have become full members!

Culture's Edge hosted a wonderful Village Harvest Festival last fall and are looking forward to the second annual festival on October 12, 2009.

Arjuna's beautiful Leela house is nearing completion and is getting its final coat of interior plaster this summer.

Ivy and MichaelIvy and Michael celebrated their wedding at Earthaven!

Useful Plants Nursery cleared an area in the old campground for a nursery expansion. The fruit trees have moved in, with many more plants to come.

The Forest Children took their spring play, Fantasia, on the road this spring, performing at the Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF).

The Pokeberry building at Village Terraces is complete, with Bob, Debbie, and their two fuzzy house cats in residence. (see article)

Geoff and Debbie cleared a site for an orchard near the new campground and are busy planting apple trees and ground cover crops.

LC - Imani farm's new milk cowImani farm has a new Jersey cow named LC (Large Cow), who produces most of the milk for Earthaven. Imani and Yellowroot farms are raising pigs, and three neighborhoods have new bee hives.

At Gateway farm, the five Shetland ewes had nine new lambs, and after completing the Pokeberry building, Brian and Farmer are building new homes for themselves in the Gateway neighborhood.

Forest children seedlings

by Tanya Carwyn

The Seedlings Program is the early childhood part of the Forest Children Parents' Cooperative. It is inspired by Waldorf education, a way of teaching and being with children devised by turn-of-the-last-century scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner (who is also the father of bio-dynamic agriculture among other things).

During the first stage of childhood, from birth until around the age of six or seven, children are learning and experiencing the world primarily through physical activity. The Seedlings Program, for children ages three and a half to six, provides plenty of opportunity for learning and meaningful engagement through exploration, creative play, and purposeful work.

Day to day

Seedlings' daily scheduleEach day in the Seedlings Program follows a gentle rhythm that the children look forward to and that provides them with a sense of security. The day begins with creative free play; an opportunity for children to exercise healthy fantasy. This is also the time for crafts, art, and cooking projects. This time is followed by circle time, during which the children sing and recite verses. Finger plays and rhymes inspire a love of language and develop children’s fine and gross motor skills. Midmorning brings the time for our snack and the children help set the table with beeswax candles and cloth napkins.

After our snack time the children take turns washing the dishes and sweeping the floor. Our work is accompanied by “working songs.” Next we go outside to explore and learn about nature. Sometimes we simply play at the new play ground, other times we go on “wild hunts” through the forest. We often go out to collect things, such as herbs for tea, leaves for crafts, wild greens for salads or hickory nuts for drying. This spring we started a small school vegetable garden and are looking forward to making a scarlet runner bean tipi for playing in (and eating!).

Fiber dollSoon it is time for our lunch and after that the morning draws to a close with me telling a story or fairy tale. This is a time for listening and quiet reflection. Stories are told from memory, and special attention is paid to the words chosen and pronunciation, in an effort to engage the children’s imaginations fully and allow them to develop their language skills. Every day of the week includes artistic activity such as water color painting, beeswax modeling, drawing with beeswax crayons or other crafts, and dance and movement. Here process is emphasized over product.

Throughout the morning, the children and I engage in purposeful work such as carding wool, shucking corn, doing dishes, creating useful or beautiful objects, and cleaning up. Practical work provides children with meaningful actions to imitate, and it is through imitation that a child learns.

Our toys are created from natural, simple materials, such as wood, colorful silks, shells and smooth stones so as to be open ended (they can be more than one thing) and beautiful.

YarnThrough out the year we focused on a different theme each month. We learned about farms by visiting Gateway farm and Yellowroot Farm as well as other farms in the area. We learned all about sheep and wool with our “Sheep to Shawl” theme. We visited the sheep and farmers at Gateway Farm. The children helped wash raw wool, then carded it (a coveted activity!) and helped spin it. While some of the older kids are learning to work with a drop spindle (fantastic for small motor skills that are needed for learning to write), I do most of the spinning. We are working with our wool in other ways as well, such as wet felting and weaving. Other themes we have explored include the Autumn Harvest, Winter Holidays, and finally Spring.

The children have now graduated to the Saplings Program for 5-10 year olds. Thank you all for your support and welcoming the Seedlings into your day-to-day lives.

Tanya Carwyn has been an exploring member at Earthaven for nearly a year and was the program coordinator of the Seedlings program.

Spring wild flowers

by Rae Jean

Spring of 2009 blessed us with many rain showers and a few wet snow flurries. These rain showers have been sorely missed the past few years by numerous beings, including the plants. After a few years of below normal precipitation, the woods at Earthaven came alive with an abundance of woodland flowering plants.

The last few years I located numerous rare and endangered plants. This year many of the usual places where they live have expanded with the emergence of numerous smaller plants. The rain helped spread their wealth, and hence, ours too.

Pink trilliumFirst out, in March the Bloodroot pops up her lovely white flower. No leaf, this she curls around her stalk. You may find her with the flower open for only a few days, and then her leaf unfurls and becomes a wonderful wide hand of green waving at you in the brown duff.

Once the Bloodroot shows, the search begins for others, for the emergence of the Bloodroot is truly a rite of spring in these Appalachian woods.

Next come the Trilliums. They, for some reason, always find their way to the middle of a trail each spring. I spent a few years marking them with rocks or sticks, but have succumbed to moving them to another off-trail place nearby. Of course, not all end up in the trail and there are numerous gatherings of these beauties. The red flowered ones are called Wake-robin. Beth root or Birthroot are other names for the white and pink flowered varieties. They tend not to mix but rather to find their own separate patches. Many have increased the size of their patch.

Trout lillyThen the Trout Lilly’s leaves appear, with a low-growing variegated leaf that shimmers in the sun. Its speckled greens pop up in large patches that actually do look like a school of little brook trout swimming on the banks of the creek. Not all the leaves or patches bloom. This year the yellow orange blossom appeared in many more of the patches. A delicate little Lilly that is best appreciated lying on the ground and looking up into the bell of her flower - exquisite. Once these three announce that spring has arrived, Dogwoods and Carolina silver bell trees dot the woods with white while the Poplar trees peek green and the Maples show red.

In a the heat of the summer, many of these woodland flowers will disappear into the earth, and with them, our wishes for a long rest with dreams of Spring showers.

Rae Jean is a full member at Earthaven, and is developing a homestead in the Hawk Hollar neighborhood.

Natural building profile: Pokeberry

(Talk by Chris Farmer to a visitors’ tour, describing the upstairs of the new building at Village Terraces)

Pokeberry buildingChris Farmer and Brian Love are the two main builders of Pokeberry Hill, a two story dwelling built using ecological principles.

Farmer started by noting that many innovative building techniques are used at Earthaven, including a house at Bella Via using cob, adobe brick, and plaster, and the  Medicine Wheel house that uses lots of recycled materials – plywood from pallets, metal beams from railroads, and recycled flooring.

Stud framing

“Brian and I are fans of stud framing. We used 2x6 low-quality poplar felled here at Earthaven for the framing. Studs are the basis of the cheapest, easiest walls and are especially efficient for a complex building with plumbing, electrics, closets, and cabinets. This is a complex building, but the studs went up in a week.”

Q. What about using recycled plastic for framing?

Farmer: Recycled plastic beats treated lumber, and it’s certainly rot resistant. But we have lots of timber at Earthaven. Here, we air dry the wood then treat it with Boracare, which is low toxicity, to make the wood resistant to termites, powder post beetle, and other boring insects.


For insulation, we spray cellulose (paper) into the walls – the thermal index of the ceilings is around R23 –to R25, and the walls, R50. The walls are finished with earthern plaster – clay and lime. We used natural finishes – plant waxes and oils.

Inside the upstairs of the Pokeberry buildingWe put in concrete countertops. We don’t like Portland because it takes so much energy to make it, but we wanted this second story room to have lots of mass to store heat from the sun.

The building design maximizes passive solar heat. The south facing windows get no direct sun in the summer due to the overhang. But in winter the sun is lower and floods through the windows. The heat from the sun is absorbed by the floor (a floating concrete slab) and the countertop.

On the north, there is wood flooring, and on the south, cement. Underneath the floor, there is the potential for radiant heat. Also, insulated pipes bring hot water to heat the floor. In the winter, on sunny days, it’s warm enough to warrant cracking the windows.

Q What about noise?

The building is not as noise proof as we hoped. We’ve been running band saws which does disturb the folks downstairs. Ah well, the music lovers will have to curb their taste for loud.

Q What are your power sources?

Earthaven is entirely off the grid, relying on a small hydro-electric plant and solar panels for current while maximizing passive solar for heat. Pokeberry shares solar panels with the Village Terraces building. Most appliances run on 24V DC, including the lights, the refrigerator, and ventilation. There is a huge battery back up, storing the power. There are also AC outlets, powered by DC current run through an inverter, but the inverter is susceptible to lightning.

Q. Would you build elsewhere?

We prefer to build in and around Earthaven, but if there is work further away, we can go there. We have a box truck with solar panels (name of truck) and a storage battery. There is also a 200 amp fire truck battery. The truck runs on bio diesel.

Our goal is to improve our cash flow to the point that we can retire to farming and raise turkeys, sheep, and vegetables. This year we are growing a lot of squash and melon, and raising Icelandic sheep and turkeys.

Inside the upstairs of the Pokeberry buildingQ. How many rooms are there?

There is the big open room, including a kitchen alcove, that runs practically all the way across the southern exposure, a bedroom, two small offices, and a bathroom. It’s basically a 1,000 sq foot, three bedroom house.


Building on ecological principles, everything takes longer. And it is all hand done – all the wood panels are joined as is the carpentry. The building itself costs $125 per square foot. About half of cost is labor.

The downstairs tenant comments, “It’s beautiful, and it is so quiet here.” The notetaker responds, “At least when the band saws are off and the building is done.”

Chris Farmer is a full member at Earthaven, a builder, and a farmer at Gateway farm.

New yome for the tribal condo

by Suchi

YomeA yome is a variation on the concept of a yurt. It has eight sides while a yurt is round. It is 18 feet across, has canvas sides and roof, and is completely insulated, with four windows and a wooden door. And… it is locally made by Peter Belt’s Red Sky Shelters.

We installed the used yome on a high deck behind the Tribal Condo, which is home to Suchi, Kimchi, and Marie.

The 24’ by 24’ deck was built by Robert, Darren, and Robin. Thank you! It was quite a project. It is high enough to hang a wooden swing made by our very own Greg Geis, who produces them in his wood shop on the land.

Since we began using the yome three months ago, we have had yoga once a week, hands on healing and shamanic journeying classes, movies, planning sessions, and just plain retreat time. In the future we are interested in having book discussions and small group retreats. It is wonderful to feel that the space meets so many needs.

Alter inside the yomeIn addition, our personal guests will have a private place to stay that is airy, dry, and roomy. They will, however, hear the music of the frogs, squawking of the chickens, and the drumming of an occasional piliated woodpecker, as well as a multiplicity of human sounds.

Suchi is a full member at Earthaven with a passion for hospitality and community.

Sharing roses with bees

by Arjuna da Silva

Rosa rugosa at Yellowroot FarmI walked out to the farm at 7:30 to collect the petals, even though the instructions said to wait till the dew had evaporated. But Andy needed some ice for a few hours’ storage of the day’s harvest, and I figured it would only take another half hour for the sun to capture the dew. Once there, I saw that there was no way the sun’s rays of light or heat were going to reach those roses so soon. I would have to give them at least another hour.

An hour later, of course, I’m in the thick of a focused conversation with a young neighbor who is probably in need of more support for the enormous project he’s taken on than he realizes. (Aren’t we all?!) Then there are two intense phone calls, one after the other — the first from a friend whose husband is almost ready to discard his cancer-wracked body, the second from a neighbor I’ve been trying to get together with for weeks.

RoseThe roses! The roses! my thoughts chirp at me in between concentration on the words I’m hearing and saying.

Though it’s almost ten-thirty by the time I get back to the roses, I’m relieved to find it’s still not too hot at the farm. The roses are intensely more fragrant than they were shortly after sunrise! I start at the northeast corner and navigate the rugosas climbing along the fence, looking for the dropped petals that show me which blossoms are ready to focus on their hips and have their petals fully removed.

While gathering petals into my basket, I notice chubby black-and-yellow bees buzzing and hopping from flower to flower, doing their bobbing bee-dance among the pollen-rich pistils and seeming to be especially drawn to the darker pink blooms. Occasionally, my fingers brush their furry backs as I reach over the stems they’ve chosen to reach the ones calling to my harvest-lust. They are totally undisturbed by me, and suddenly I’m aware that we are companions in the same field, doing our modest parts among the fruits of abundance, each participating in the gifts of the rose in our own way. The sun is our companion, too, as are the whistlers and peepers in nature’s symphony that carry on all around us.

Bee on roseWorking harmoniously at our own paces, we enjoy the blessings of non-competition: I’m not interested in their pollen, and they don’t seem to need the falling petals.

My intention, not nearly as grand as theirs, is to learn to make rosewater, and then rose oil. A quick Internet search told me there are nutrients in roses which, when applied to the skin or used internally in the right way, have powerful if subtle affects that are not just aromatic. I remember that decades ago I drank rose wine with a friend who got it from her landlady, who made it from the roses that grew in their street garden on a city block in San Franciso. It was delicate and deliciously fragrant.

Today I’ve chosen the simplest of rosewater recipes, seeking to understand the basics of rose processing before I think about how to embellish them. My harvest fills half my largest heat-loving bowl with fresh blossoms that press down to a cup’s worth, and then I pour two cups of boiled springwater over them, teasing the petals under the water with a hand made bamboo spoon. That done, I place a white china plate over the bowl, which sits for twenty or thirty minutes while I start this story. Then it’s time to get a whiff.

Oh, wow — I have two cups of pale raspberry pink rosewater to share and use. Refrigerated, it will keep a week without additives, and a dropperful of good vodka would preserve it for a month. I decide to keep this first batch unadulterated, touching, feeling, sniffing, tasting and rubbing it on my skin, with the intention of using it up within seven days. I fill two half-cup jam jars with it — one for Julie (who, with Andy, consented to let me have the petals), and one to sprinkle on my dying friend.

Another bee on another roseNext time I go to work among the bees and roses, I will follow instructions for making rose oil, which requires an elementary distilling operation. Using ice and the boiling water to distill the rosewater, the process is supposed to float a fraction of an ounce of rose oil on the rosewater’s surface. Now that’s alchemy! Mixing rosewater and rose oil with other oils and creams that moisturize and nourish could become a regular homemade blessing for those of us enamored of the roses, thanks to Andy and Julie and those friendly, pollinating bees!

Arjuna da Silva is a founding member of Earthaven and of Culture’s Edge. She is a consensus and group process trainer and facilitator, and offers counseling and Alchemical Hypnotherapy to neighbors and friends. Her earth-and-straw building, Leela House, is nearing completion. You can visit it at

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

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