Earthaven Ecovillage Newsletter
We had a wonderful forum workshop with Achim and Ina (in photo) from ZEGG community in Germany. We've been using the forum process for a few years and it was great to have some refresher training!
Suchi, Kimchi, and Gaspar have been facilitating forum at Earthaven for the past couple years. Arjuna, Debbie, Mana, Steve, Clark, and Red Moon Song are joining them as a forum facilitation team with community forums scheduled twice a month.
Our abundant spring rains have turned into hot summer sun, and our gardens are growing! We harvested garlic, squash, beans, greens, and lots of berries, and even our first few tomatoes.
We celebrated the summer solstice with yoga, meditation, a ceremony at Hidden Valley, and a work day to deepen our swimming hole!
Earthaven hosted our third group of college students over summer solstice weekend. This group, from Wake Forest University, was on days 19-21 of a 27-day field trip throughout the Southeast. During a break from their studies they built a grape trellis and mulched paths in the Forest Garden.
Our teachers have been busy preparing for their summer programs. Andrew Goodheart and friends are hosting a permaculture certification course at Earthaven in August (see article later in the newsletter), Corinna is preparing for her August Wise Women Immersion course, and the women at Red Moon Herbs are preparing for the fifth annual Southeast Women's Herbal Conference.
Diana has had a busy spring and summer traveling around the world teaching and speaking about intentional communities and ecovillages. Her travels so far include teaching the Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) course of GEN's Gaia Education program in the Philippines (see photo), being a keynote presenter at Portland's Village Building Convergence, and participating in the International Cohousing Summit as one of the few Americans invited. Between speaking engagements she edits the Ecovillages Newsletter.
||Council Hall Completion Campaign – Moving Ahead to Phase Three
We Need Your Help!
This fall we want to complete the Council Hall. We have a plan and most of the funding, but need to raise a little more money.
We are all into the wisdom of ecological sustainability and
intentional community, and creating a partnership culture — but it takes a
lot of hard work and cash to get there. Right now, it’s time to complete the
Earthaven Council Hall, at the heart of our ecovillage, creating a fully functional meeting hall alongside our long-awaited, future “community building.” When both are complete, we will have our “community
center.” And as we prepare to complete the Council Hall and design the community building, we hope you will pitch in a donation to help
meet the goal of a completed Council Hall by winter.
Council Hall Design
The ten-year-old Council Hall is Earthaven’s true hearth
space. It’s one of the most
impressive buildings at Earthaven, with a central diameter of thirty-five feet
and a rear “skirt” of twelve-foot-wide bays—a visual feast - featured in several natural building books.
Phase One: More than half the timber-framed
Hall’s thirteen sides are made of straw bales. Designed by Paul Caron, the
central posts and beams were put up in the summer of 1999. (All 500-and-some
joints connecting them were chiseled by Earthaven members — everyone got to
make at least a few.)
Next, the load-bearing straw bale walls were constructed,
primarily by amateur, volunteer labor. Then the lower roof that covers the bays
was installed. Before the central roof could be erected, however, the ring-beam
that focuses the yurt-shaped ceiling had to be in place. The ring-beam is at
the very top and provides the necessary compression to balance the tension
borne by a ring of thirteen beams, reinforced by two steel cables in the
outside ring. This system of rings supports the upper roof and half the lower
Phase Two: We
began using the much-needed facility as soon as the roof was up, and once the
walls were built, mud in the front and straw in the back, we carried on as if
we were already close to completion. It took some time to focus on the
interior, while other, more pressing developments demanded our attention and
available capital, but little by little we installed the floors, painted and trimmed,
and developed a viable maintenance schedule.
Not to be Forestalled, the Intrepid Earthaven Pioneers Partied On!
Despite its unfinished and imperfect condition, we’ve made extensive use of the Council Hall
over the years. We’ve held Council meetings twice a month, our many
committees use the space for meetings and special events, we celebrate birthdays, Equinoxes,
Solstices and other important holidays here, serve fabulous Thanksgiving and
exotic feasts, attend original plays
by the Forest Children, put on costume parties
and free spirit dances, concerts and fundraisers; hold permaculture trainings
and other classes; have visioning retreats and community “threshings”;
come together for meditation, qigong and yoga; show movies;
experience visiting teachers and other talents; and, of course, host the home school enrichment program for our
own and neighbors’ children. We’ve been able to host other progressive groups’
events as well.
Beautiful, but Incomplete
Everyone who worked on the building has stories to tell. The beautiful maple floor has walnut trim in metaphysical configurations with
buried treasure below. The rear mosaic stone floor is one of the world’s
wonders! But the building is not complete: it still needs a metal roof with new gutters. And it needs a small addition to
house a standard low-water flush toilet, a sink with running hot water, and
several staging functions for serving food and beverages when doubling as a
ballroom or hosting an event.
The roof was planned as a living roof of
drought-tolerant plants over an EPDM membrane, but it has since become clear that repairing tears or split seams in the EPDM would be extremely difficult, so
Council decided that a metal roof will be
more practical. It will facilitate installing insulation and a more effective
guttering system. (Right now, the gutters are stressed by the shape of the
roof edge - a compromise between a circle and a thirteen-sided figure.)
Because of the current gutters, water has been gushing to the ground, then
splashing up on the mud-plastered walls, where the vapor barrier over the
concrete foundation has not been able to keep all the moisture out of the straw
bales. The damage seems to be incipient and reparable, but will mean taking off
the exterior mud-plaster so we can inspect and repair the bales in a future project.
Until then, installing the metal roof and improved gutters will avoid further damage to the
A Stacked Solution
Phase Three: In addition to the metal roof and new gutters, Council has approved a neatly stacked project
for the Council Hall addition that includes a flush toilet (with leach field),
service kitchen, and hot water from the Taylor water stove to heat the
floor and the addition, and for dishwashing. The addition will serve many functions:
- A toilet that meets the State code for visitors.
This is a major step towards completing the Rutherford County Health Department
requirements in order to conform to North Carolina regulations. It will enable
us to serve visitors more fully and get rid of the Port-a-Potty.
- A service kitchen that will facilitate community events in the Council Hall.
At the moment, we have no place to
store plates or wash them when we’re having an event in the Council Hall.
Minimal kitchen facilities will free up
space in the reception area and free us up to spend more time socializing than carrying supplies back and forth.
- Floor heating that will make wintertime use more cozy and comfortable.
The Council Hall floors have
several zones of radiant heat pipe in them, just waiting to be hooked up.
Connecting the Taylor stove will heat the floors, the kitchen, and the water,
and bring us close to the finish line for “completing
the Council Hall.”
Here’s where you can
help. Although membership continues to grow, siteholding lease purchases
(our major source of capital funds) were slowest this past year and are likely
to go slowly for a while longer. While Earthaven allocated what funds are
available towards “completing the Council Hall,” we need a bit more than what
we’ve earmarked. Of the $39,000 budgeted for the remainder of Phase Two and for
Phase Three, we’ve been able to set aside $30,000. We are in search of the
other nine thousand.
You are one of over four thousand subscribers who currently
receive this newsletter. If you donate $10, we can complete this project before winter. If you’ve
hesitated, if half of the subscribers hesitate, then we hope you will send $20!
How many of us made small donations to the recent
Presidential campaign? Painless and rewarding, right? Now, here’s an
opportunity to donate to something even
more personal to you that will reward us all! We are looking forward to entertaining you in our completed and
well-equipped Council Hall, so please
plan to visit us as soon as you hear that it’s done. (Or, come sooner and
join us in the doing.) Stay tuned for your invitation to a donor appreciation celebration just as soon as the paint is dry.
Please Take a Moment to Feel Your “Yes!”
Before you write the check (or go online and use your PayPal
account), please take a moment to feel
how good the “Yes, I can help” mantra feels in your bones! We hope that good
feeling will carry you through a blessed and happy summer, and find you at
Earthaven soon. (Check the Earthaven website - www.earthaven.org - for upcoming events.) Checks
can be sent to Earthaven at 1025 Camp Elliott Road, Black Mountain, NC 28711.
Alice, Arjuna, and Mana
information about Culture's Edge and a copy of its license are available from
the NC State Solicitation Licensing Branch at 1-888-830-4989 or www.secretary.state.nc.us/csl/.
The license is not an endorsement by the State.
|Permaculture Education at its Finest!
|This August 14 – 22, Culture’s Edge is sponsoring a
residential Permaculture Fundamentals intensive featuring international
permaculturist Andrew Goodheart Brown, assisted by local talents Zev Friedman,
Monica Williams, Winn Mallard, and Bill Whipple. The intensive comprises the
first half of the Permaculture Design Course and is required for design
certification, but even more significantly it traditionally serves as a
life-changing and direction-enhancing episode in people’s lives.
From ethics and principles that motivate this design system
for healthy integration of the human community into the whole natural world, to
the picks and shovels of sheet mulch gardening and water management, to the
evening programs that focus on story and song and more personal sharing, the
experience of a permaculture course is unforgettable.
And what makes this course at Earthaven so special is that
it’s happening right in the middle of a dynamic ecovillage where most of the
principles under discussion are being enacted right in front of students’ eyes.
While one side of the brain is taking in information intellectually, the other
side is being fed through live participation in the lifestyle practices that
make sustainable community possible.
Registration is going on right now, so we encourage you to
consider signing up today. There’ll be great food, nourishing time in nature,
and the educational adventure of a lifetime. Please share this announcement
with friends and family who might also want to know about this opportunity, and
if you’re part of a group that’s in a position to sponsor someone who can bring
back the course highlights to you, please consider rallying that support as
||A Visit With Useful Plants Nursery
|Alice Henry and Matt Kolosky (Southern Connecticut State University) interviewed Useful Plants Nursery Manager Bruce Johnston. Bruce took us on a tour of the nursery, pointing out
plants and answering questions as we went.
We began our tour by visiting some of the medicinal and edible
shrubs that are the specialty of Useful Plants Nursery. For example, there is
Vitex, an attractive shrub with purple flowers which has berries useful for
hormonal regulation, particularly for menopausal or menstruating women.
Crampbark is another shrub used medicinally. People steep the bark to make tea
which can serve as a muscle relaxant. It too is a viburnum, a highbush
cranberry native to Europe and Africa. We went
on to look at service berry, apples, Nanking
cherries – all edible, and handsome. They raise seven varieties of figs, all
equally cold resistant. They also stock Flying Dragon, a hardy citrus with
spines, good for hedges. It was stressed that this was just a small selection of
what was available. Bruce says “there is immense diversity here – at least 200
varieties and 150 species on less than half an acre of growing space.” The
nursery’s web site, www.usefulplants.org,
features a complete stock listing.
The benefits of
The diversity helps ward off both disease and financial
catastrophe. For example phytophthora
infestans (the root rot mold that caused the Irish potato famine) thrives
in a monoculture and is a perennial bane of plant nurseries and many root crop
farmers, but UPN had only 8 deaths this year from this mold. Considering that all
phytophthoras thrive in wet conditions and how rainy this spring has been,
that’s not too bad at all. However, even if the molds had killed a group of
plants or two, the nursery would have absorbed the shock and continued to
thrive, because it doesn’t specialize in any one set of plants. The diversity
also works wonders for pest management. The nursery doesn’t use any chemical
sprays on its plants and will as often as not tolerate the presence of pests
like aphids because they do little permanent harm and sometimes indicate soil
Staying in business
UPN faces the same challenges that all businesses in our
neck of the woods face – they’re far from their markets, have little access to
formal financial institutions, and are technologically unsophisticated relative
to their larger competition, putting limits on their speed of production and
ease of marketing. Bruce has a lot to say about these issues “Four people work
at this nursery; nothing is mechanized. This is simultaneously wonderful and
economically backward. I love the people who work here and wouldn’t trade them
for the nicest greenhouses in the world. However, the fact is that if we had
the equipment, a nursery this size could easily be run by one or two people
with seasonal help, improving the per-person returns immensely.”
“We do hope to mechanize to some degree, for example
bringing in a soil mixer and some small vehicles to haul larger quantities of
plants around our new field. Mixing sixty gallons of soil by hand every time
you want to pot something gets pretty tiring, as does hauling them around, and
it’s an inefficient use of time to boot. That said we have no aspirations to
become a huge, totally tractor-driven operation. It’s not who we are. We don’t
do the ‘pile it high, sell it cheap’ approach, but we’ve got to find a way to
lower our prices all the same, at least in some areas. You can’t do anything in
McDowell County selling a $16 goji plant in a 2
gallon pot. People laugh you out of the store, if they’ve even heard of a goji
berry in the first place. To say nothing of lower-income folks in Asheville or Statesville,
of whom there are more and more these days. Partial mechanization and increased
propagation space will help with a lot of that, and that’s why we’re going to
pursue it in some form.”
As for advertising and marketing, the internet is UPN’s way
of getting around the fact that they are far from most of their customers. They
publish a monthly newsletter online which has over 600 subscribers, and the
number increases each month. Many people who have never bought a plant from
them sign up on their website, and they have readers from California,
Eastern Europe, and Singapore.
Recognizing this potential, UPN is investing in this medium by hiring a
part-time writer to handle the newsletter in a more professional manner and tie
it more directly to sales. Even so, it may be difficult to capitalize on this
new development, because mail order at the present time is an unattractive
option. Their pots are large and cost a lot to ship. They depend on farmers’
markets, conferences such as the Organic Growers’ School, and big events for a
great deal of their income. However, a promising development for more intensive
exports has UPN’s growing connections with projects with similar views such as
Bountiful Backyards in Durham
and the Philadelphia Orchard Project.
Being who they are, the folks who run UPN care a lot about environmental
issues in general, and two large ones they face as nurserypeople are the
encouragement of genetic diversity and preserving native species. Most nursery
production is done vegetatively, meaning that a particular plant is ‘cloned’
many times for sale purposes. On top of that, most popular edible and medicinal
plants in this day and age aren’t native to the Americas. However, the nursery’s essential
mission is providing a “hedge” against likely food insecurity in the coming
years, and climate change is pretty much a given in their calculations.
Therefore, it’s sometimes anybody’s guess whether a particular species, native
or not, will be well suited for food production in this region in twenty years.
There are of course large ecological issues that may come with replacement of
native food-producing vegetation with other sorts – inability of native insect
populations to digest them, consequent drops in the populations of
insectivorous birds, loss of genetic stock, et cetera – but Bruce thinks that
the situation we’re in demands using genetic resources from elsewhere if they
work. ‘People desperate for food are a lot more dangerous to everyone –
including nonhumans – than ones who aren’t. The real test for us, therefore, is
whether we think a plant can meet people’s demand for food effectively now and
in the future, unless it poses a clear danger to an endangered species in the
region.’ All the same, a conscious effort is made to stock hardy, adaptable native
species like American hazelnuts, plums, groundnuts, blackberries, and
elderberries, and UPN also carries relatively unknown native trees like paw
paws and blackheart cherries.
This year UPN cleared a field, slightly under an acre, by Taylor Creek.
They have been leveling the field gradually and currently have about 500 or so
fruit and nut trees on it. They will have four or five greenhouses on the field
eventually and almost 2/3 of an acre of growing space. Other structures to be
built include a shed for pest control solutions, and one for vehicles, such as
pushcarts and a small ATV or truck.
Levelling and controlling runoff down newly created steep
slopes has been a challenge. They have put in ditches, seeded the banks with
grasses. The silty run-off is not entirely controlled, but they are working
hard on solving the problems. Bruce stresses that things are moving along.
“This spring’s weather has made grading very difficult and erosion plentiful.
Given that, we’re doing quite well. I know that a lot of folks wanted to see a
beautiful, finished field by June – I know I did. Well, it hasn’t worked out
that way. That beautiful, finished field is
coming. Once the grading is done it can come pretty quickly. But that’s the
essential logjam. We do have many plans for beautification, et cetera. We are
planning on bringing customers here, after all! But the first priority is
making sure that the grading is done and done right, irrigation is in, and our
plants are resting on that field comfortably.”
For further information on Useful Plants Nursery, call Bruce
Johnston (828-669-6517) or Chuck Marsh (828-669-1759). The nursery’s website is