Video Portraits of Two Earthaven Members

Here are two portrait videos made by Jacki Huntington, a UNC journalism student who spent a month here last summer, then returned for a weekend this spring to wrap up her project. One focuses on Michaeljon and the other on redmoonsong.


and

Hut Hamlet Trampoline

A video by Will Rogers:

hht from will rogers on Vimeo.

Local Food All Winter

Tomatoes! Garlic! Chicken Stock!

And that’s just the beginning


Eli with cheese squash

The author, Eli, here with cheese squash.

At the Village Terraces common kitchen we haven’t stopped eating a diet based on local foods just because it’s February.  In fact, we’re practically swimming in foods from our farm, Imani, other farms and forests at Earthaven, as well as regional farms and orchards. Our winter pantry goes way beyond cabbage and potatoes.

Imagine this recent meal—sautéed beef (from an Imani steer), home canned tomato sauce (Imani) with peppers (Imani), garlic  and basil (VT garden co-op), and onions (Gateway Farm at EH) served with cornbread made from a neighbor’s homegrown and ground cornmeal and milk and eggs from our farm, and collard greens fresh from our garden. For dessert? Blackberries from a local U-pick farm (via our freezer) and homemade raw yogurt from our cow’s milk. All that hard work this past year is definitely paying off.

An inventory of our pantry: Canned tomato sauce, blackberry jam,

Boxes of stored grapefruit and apples, both from the Southeast.

strawberry jam, and chicken stock. Dried summer squash, tomatoes, strawberries, and juneberries. Onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, apples, and a large variety of winter squash. For nutritional and medicinal teas- dried nettle, raspberry leaf, dandelion, comfrey, red clover, catnip, and peppermint.  Sauerkraut, Kimchi, apple cider vinegar made from cider we pressed ourselves including some garlic and herb infused vinegars. Honey, berries preserved in honey and whiskey (ok, the whiskey came all the way from Kentucky, but we do made certain concessions), dried mushrooms and burdock. Right outside the kitchen door the rosemary, sage,  and oregano live on and about twenty feet away there are still a few surviving kale and collard plants.

Peppermint, Catnip, & Raspberry leaf, harvested to use all winter as tea.

In our freezer we keep strawberries, blackberries, juneberries, and basil as well as beef and pork from our farm and venison from the region. We daily get eggs from our chickens and milk from our cow which in addition to fresh drinking goodness we also use to make raw yogurt and cheese. And while they aren’t actually local we are devouring and loving the cases and cases of citrus I purchased at a Florida farmer’s market while I was in Gainesville visiting my grandmother in December.

I fondly remember sweating in the July heat of the tomato field, collecting

Lee stirring a pot of chicken stock made from our poultry and meat bones.

those first spring nettles in the forest garden, staying up late into the night to can stock, handing over LEAPS (our local currency) in exchange for Gateway squash,  the group work day in the fall to put in the garden co-op’s garlic crop and the most abundant fruit year I can remember.  And I am eagerly looking forward to those first wild spring greens and the strawberries I can see out my bedroom window.

I have always been passionate about food, and since I’ve been living atEarthaven ( 1 ½ years) I have been able to begin the lifelong journey and spiritual practice of being an active participant in growing, gathering and otherwise obtaining my nutrients. Finally, providing my food and living my daily life are becoming intertwined.

It Never Snows in NC

Group of mostly adults sledding after a snowstorm this week.

It never snows in North Carolina. “Or so I was told,” said Tanya Carwyn, who moved to Earthaven from Colorado two years ago. “So I sold my skis before I left.”

The other common thing you’ll hear people say about this area is that we have the “mildest temperatures on the East Coast.” While that’s probably true on a scale of averages, at least historically, the last two winters have been colder and snowier than many places much farther north.

LC the cow drinking water. We manually crack the ice on her water several times a day during cold weather.

Last year, the winter of 09/10, we had three major snowstorms of well over a foot of snow each time. This year we’re on our third snowstorm already and it’s just the middle of January.

For those of us working or tending animals in the snow, our jobs are harder. And for some, like Art Myers “being snowed in at Earthaven is tough–sledding all day and sauna all night.”

Liz Diaz

On snowy days, villagers of all ages have been gathering together to sled down the upper pasture at Village Terraces Cohousing Neighborhood.

“It’s an excuse to hoot and holler,” says Liz Diaz, a resident at Earthaven. We 12 to 15 people get together that don’t normally see each other, it’s an opportunity to connect and share in some fun.

Chai Tea at the Hut Hamlet Kitchen after a hard day of sledding.

This week, after the sledding, there was hot chocolate at Art and Karen’s and on another occasion Chai tea at the Hut Hamlet Kitchen.

Families from afar sometimes worry about us stuck here in our holler. Karen’s mom called, worried about their family. But because we are seasoned homesteaders we often survive these storms better than city people. We have stacked firewood, generate our own power, and grow and store enough of our own

Art Meyers - always ready to have fun.

food that most of us could be snowed in for weeks without worry. “I told my mother-in-law that I could even find fresh green vegetables by digging out some collards from under the snow.”

Impromptu Middle-of-the-Night Lunar Eclipse Party

Being and on-and-off-again insomniac, it is not unusual for me to wander down into our common kitchen at 3:00 am for a snack.

My insomnia is worse around the full moon or if there’s too much on my mind. And it’s almost always accompanied by hunger, which won’t let me sleep again until satisfied. So off I go, often full-on naked (trusting that the kitchen will be deserted) to search out a snack.

Before last week (and I have lived here 9 years) I can only remember one other time where someone else was awake and in the kitchen when I ventured down (and that was recently when, at 4:00 am or so, I ran into my pregnant housemate who has taken to being in the kitchen at night due to her own pregnancy-related insomnia) and I can tell you she got quite a chuckle out of my naked self foraging in the fridge.

Last week, Winter Solstice (December 21st) provided a scene that I can safely say from many middle-of-the-night wanderings was an exceptionally rare occurrence.

First though, let me say that Winter Solstice is a big deal around Earthaven. On it we celebrate the darkest night of the year, usually with a meal, ceremony, and a sunrise walk to celebrate the “return of the sun.” From Winter Solstice forward, the days will begin to lengthen. As our ancestors before us, we welcome back the sun for its warmth and heat. Unlike our ancestors, we welcome back the sun to fill our batteries via our solar panels, much needed after such short days.

This particular Winter Solstice was highly unusual in that it was a full moon as well as a lunar eclipse. This has only happened one other time in the last 2000 years (in 1638). Talk about rare!

When we realized this historical astronomical event was to take place we all agreed to meet up at 2:30 am on the deck of the 3rd floor to view the beginning of the eclipse which was set to peak at about 3:17. We’ll knock on each others doors, we offered, as a wake-up and reminder to meet and view this magnificent event.

At about 3:20 or so I heard some scurrying about and realized that no one had woken me. It also sounded quiet out there. I dragged myself up and went out to a fully cloud-covered sky and no house mates to be seen. With some guilty relief I ran back into bed. But alas, it was too late. Fully awake was I. After about a half hour of lying still and trying to sleep I wandered down to the kitchen (thankfully not naked this time) only to find five other people, not only awake, but eating, talking, rolling candles, and just having general merriment.

There they were at 4:00 am having an impromptu, middle-of-the-night eclipse get together. Every few minutes someone popped outside to see if the cloud cover had cleared yet (it never did.)

Shortly after discovering this spectacle, which was as surprising as the unseen moon, I returned to bed, only to hear some neighbors wander over with guitars and soft voices, singing in the next room. For some time, doors would open, people would wander around the deck or up and down the stairs, and sing or talk some more.

While I didn’t actually get back to sleep until 5:30, it was such a special time that I didn’t mind. I imagine it as a sort of sober, reverent, and spiritual college dorm sort of experience that can only happen in community.

3 Women & a Sugar Baby


And Other Village Terraces Cohousing Neighborhood News

Jenna, Marie, and Liz enjoy Sugar Baby Watermelon from the Village Terraces Cohousing Neighborhood garden.

 

“I never even liked watermelon before now” says Liz Diaz.

 

 

Small and sweet with a green rind, red flesh, and small seeds, Sugar Baby is a heritage variety and did well in our hot, dry, summer conditions.

 

“We must have gotten 40 watermelons from this 10’x75′ patch of garden” says Jonathan Swiftcreek, one of the neighborhood gardeners.

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Firewood Workday NOT canceled due to rain!

In other news, our firewood workday had lots of rain, which didn’t seem to stop us or the dancing. We filled our firewood shed with wood from our 2008 agricultural clearing. Our boiler system heats our hot water as well as our homes.

Pictured above: Carmen, Bob, & Steve on the top level. Matthew, Lee, & Debbie on the ground.

Pictured right: Carmen and Steve dancing in the rain.

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Creativity at Harvest-Time

In other news, our basil is going gangbusters and we’re trying to keep up with the pesto making.

And we’re able to incorporate blueberries into our lives on as many occasions as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a busy summer it has been! How did it get to be September? Now we’re into cool nights and changes afoot.

Adventures in Blackberry Abundance

Seems like everything comes at once this time of year. And as much as we ask for abundance, sometimes we forget how much it takes to manage it when it gets here.

A friend of Earthaven has a beautiful blackberry farm near to us in Old Fort. Row after row are elegantly trellised and dripping with fruit. They are such a joy to pick, triggering something in our gatherer-hunter cellular memories, as there is a sort of euphoria and focus that comes. Using that long-embedded know-how, three of us picked 12 gallons of blackberries in little over an hour.

Once at home some were frozen, others eaten fresh but one whole bucket – about 3 gallons were waiting to be “put up.”

Last week, with the help of our experienced intern, Liz Diaz, I heated up the 3 gallons, added lemon juice, and a very small amount of sugar. With Pamona’s Pectin, low sugar jam making is possible. In the canner for 10 minutes and 2 hot and sweaty women later, we have 40 cups of blackberry jam! YEAH.

We’ll no doubt be grateful come winter when we break into those!

Natural Building Family Camp, August 24-29

Natural Building CAMP!

Natural Building School Interns and Friends

Natural Building School Interns and Friends

Well, well, well! It’s been many a year since Culture’s Edge at Earthaven hosted a natural building camp. But this August (24-29), we once again are offering a full six-day adventure into the world of cob and its sophisticated cousin, compressed earth block.

Both cob and the blocks are started with the same basic ingredients—a good, clay-y soil, and sand. Cob, however, also has a significant amount of straw crushed into it and is put on quite wet in cobs, or loaves. Compressed earth blocks are made without additional water or straw, and often a small amount (ten percent) of Portland cement is used in the mix.

The other big difference is that the neat rectangular blocks are made by a big machine requiring mechanical power, and are set in place with an earthen mortar, whereas cob can be made by a pair of folks and a tarp (although it can also be mixed several other ways) and requires no mortar at all.

Block

Since cob is a basically seamless material, the way the molecules adhere to each other depends especially on the water and the straw in the mix. Ideally, the soil is soaked in water ahead of time to allow the molecules to fully absorb the water and become as sticky as possible. The straw acts like a crisscross of fibrous “nails” that interweave the cob mix and make it the most solid of natural building materials. Another similar earthen material is adobe brick, which is a hand-made version that is pressed wet into forms. Adobe brick thus takes significant drying time to use and is probably in its best setting in dry climates.

At this year’s Natural Building Camp, participants will be working on a cob and block tower for the new Village Arts Building at Earthaven. The recently built rubble trench foundation with its two-foot stacked stone base wall will take a couple of rounds of cob and then be continued with the earth blocks.

Village Arts Studio

Village Arts Building

The Camp will begin with a comprehensive tour of natural and green buildings at Earthaven, featuring a wide variety of traditional and experimental techniques. Our experienced staff and natural building interns will be on hand to demonstrate, teach and guide participants through the basics of hands-on natural building. There will be plenty of time for questions and discussion, plus all the good things about summer camp—group meals, walks in the woods, dips in the creek, and starry nights around the campfire.

As the famous cob builder, Becky Bee, explains in the documentary First Earth, there’s nothing like natural building to bring people of all skill levels together, creating the very sense of community we seek by the process we use to do it. We’re very excited to be reintroducing this delightful approach to housing ourselves and our activities to the public. Folks are welcome to sign up for the entire six day camp or to come just for the weekend. More information is available at www.culturesedge.net.

Tomato Project at Village Terraces

There is a cooperative tomato project going on at Village Terraces. Provisional members eli and Jonathan are partnering with the Imani Farm Coop (Mihaly, Lee, Martha, & Finch), along with work exchanger Liz, to grow a variety of tomatoes to be sold fresh and turned into value-added products, such as canned tomato sauce.

Many members of the ecovillage have pitched in to help at all stages of the project. We started by letting our pigs roam in the lower Imani field to root up weeds. Then came the hard work of preparing the soil, setting in posts, planting, mulching, tying up the plants, watering, etc. The Village Terraces Garden Coop lent some of its irrigation equipment to the tomato project.

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Now we are harvesting, eating, and processing! There are beefsteak tomatoes, plum tomatoes, salad tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, etc. The fresh tomatoes are available in the Village Terraces Common Kitchen. More photos below:

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Forest Garden Neighborhood, July 20

Chioke, Amakiasu, & Ayo in Forest Garden Neighborhood

On her next-to-last day at Earthaven, our Forest Children’s Collective tutor Amakiasu (center), and her kids Chioke, 17 (left) and Ayo, 13 (right), sheet-mulched the slope between Greg’s homesite and our place with cardboard and straw. You can also see one of our water-catchment tanks, the greenhouse (with a shower inside for lodgers and neighbors), and in the far left, Greg’s apartment and workshop, and his solar panels.

Chioke near the greenhouse

Another view of our cleaned-up slope. Our lodging units and greenhouse are at the top, and our row of compost bins below. Thanks to the sheet-mulching, people driving into Earthaven, our lodgers, and Greg won’t have to look at a jungly mass of pokeberries, sumacs, tiny poplar trees, blackberries-on-steroids, horse-thistle (eek!), and other assorted “please-don’t-grow-here!” plants. (For about 6 months anyway.) Someday this slope will grow berries!

Thank you, Amakiasu, Ayo, and Chioke. Goodbye . . . and . . . come back soon!