Harvest Time Photo Tour

August is a busy harvest month at Earthaven. Abundance (and labor) abounds.

 

 

 

Equinox and Eggs

Happy Spring Equinox! At Earthaven we are singing and drumming at sunrise, and holding a children’s ritual and egg hunt. There are two equinoxes each year, when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the center of the Sun being in the same plane as the Earth’s equator.

A few years ago, our interns at Imani Farm, NikiAnne and Drew, told us about a rumor that at the equinox, eggs would balance perfectly upright when put on end on a flat surface, because of the tilt of the earth at that time.

egg at equinox

Well, Lee and the interns got down on the floor in the Village Terraces Common Kitchen and, after some effort, balanced the egg! The only thing is, we never tried it when it wasn’t equinox, so for all we know, we could balance an egg like this any day of the year.
🙂

Imani Farm chickens are pastured and receive soy-free, organic feed. A limited number of their eggs are available in Asheville. No GMOs! When you go to the farmer’s market, please check with your local egg farmer to see if they are using conventional feed (GMO) and, if so, tell them you want to pay more for GMO-free eggs. Let’s use our consumer buying power to support organic feed rather than Monsanto GMOs!

Try this at home!

Try this at home!

Farmer presents his dream for an Appalachian Machu Picchu

One of the ways Earthaven honors longtime members is with Member Appreciation evenings – where the person tells their life story. In this clip from his story, Chris Farmer presents his vision for creating an Appalachian version of Machu Picchu in our village.

Ancona Ducklings at Hawk Holler

Raising heritage fowl off the grid challenges us on how to increase the flock. Not enough power for a typical incubator. Difficulties providing consistent heat for babies when they hatch or come from mail order. We have been experimenting in using the old fashioned way…..a broody hen. Simple so you say…let the mama do it. Well there are some points to consider.

You are at the whim of nature. This plays out in several ways. The sex of your hatch is up in the air. Not just pullets (females), guaranteed a few or most will be roosters. Are the eggs fertile and will they take?  Candling is an art to figure out. The learning curve is accelerated by the first rotten egg you experience. Will the broody hen be a good mama or will she abandon the nest  for some reason. And with ducks, all domesticated ones except the muscovy came from the mallards, and have had the broody instinct bred out.                                     

Fortunately for us we were able to convince the sort of broody duck hen to sit for 28 days on her nest. So now we have 4 ducklings. They escaped the black snake by the savvy mother getting them out of the nest when they were less then 1 day old. She did abandon the 4 other eggs.  One was actually hatching, so some quick thinking, a hot water bottle, and wool sweater sleeve allowed the duckling to survive.  All are doing well and growing so fast.  Still don’t know if they are hens or drakes, that will take awhile to figure out. And the black snake…it got away. Let’s just hope it’s pulling double duty on the voles and mice!

 

Top Ten Uses for a Gateway Sheep

A new lamb with protective mom looking on.

1-Aesthetics: Let’s face it. Little baby lambs are cute. There is nothing quite like walking by a big beautiful pasture full of lush green grass and mama sheep with tiny new lambs.

2-Wool: The Gateway sheep are sheared twice a year, in the spring and fall, and the wool is available for sale to Earthaven residents and friends. Just imagine wearing a hat knit by one friend from yarn spun by another friend with wool that was grown right in your own back yard!

3-Pasture Fertilization/Integrated System: Gateway is one of several farms at Earthaven and the sheep are one piece of a farm system working towards sustainability (while realizing that we have a long way to go.) Sheep, chickens, turkeys, winter storage vegetables, bio-fuel, house building, solar energy and human connection are some of the many pieces involved. Poop makes great fertilizer.

4-Education and Radical Responsibility: Two Earthaveners slaughtered one of the Gateway lambs to serve for the Thanksgiving dinner served in the Council Hall. One had experience with animal slaughter and the other was excited to learn. Both were taking radical responsibility for their food by being a part of the death that gives them life.

5-Meat: The lamb meat was roasted in the oven at the Village Terraces common kitchen while we listened to food songs on WNCW, drank wine, and prepared stuffing and gallons of gravy. The meal was a sort of pre-arranged potluck and folks could choose to purchase (at cost) turkey and/or lamb. YUM!

6-Haggis: “Made from all the parts of the sheep the English won’t eat” read the sign in front of this dish that many of us have only heard about in old stories. This version was made by one of our Dutch members using the organs to create a surprisingly (to me) tasty treat.

7-Head Cheese: No it’s not cheese, and Yes it is made from the head. A molded gelatinous ring making good use of even more parts of this animal that would often be discarded.

8-Fiddle Strings: A friend heard that a sheep was being slaughters on the land and called to ask if he could have the intestines to make fiddle strings. The request was of course honored and perhaps he will honor us with some of his music in the future.

9-Testicles/Stretching Our Comfort Zone: The testicles, batter dipped and fried, were served as an appetizer before our incredible dinner. My mind was a bit squeamish (ok, repulsed) at the thought of eating testicles, but I certainly wasn’t going to pass up this rare opportunity. I pushed through the discomfort and was rewarded with a superior taste sensation. I mean really, batter dipped and fried? You can’t go wrong.

10-Stock: After dinner the lamb bones came back to the VT kitchen where they spent 24 hours simmering on the stove to create a rich delicious nutrient dense stock. We love to use this for soup, cooking grains, or mix it with miso and drink it. We also pressure canned a round of it to use in next Thanksgivings’ gravy.

One more

11-Hide: The lamb hide is currently undergoing the tanning process. You just might see it as apparel at next years’ dinner.

Doing the Forest Inventory, by Alice Henry

It’s a dance of sorts. It starts in a circle, holding hands. There’s a break, for talking. Then there are the reels through the woods, discovering the way the forest grows. It’s also a future legend that starts like this. Sustainable Forestry at Earthaven Ecovillage

Once upon a time Earthaven hired a forester, Shawn Swartz (who used to be a Full Member and live here with his family), to guide us towards a forest plan. The plan is designed to inform, instruct and guide us in making choices about how to (or not to) relate to the various forest species we live with.

The first step is to agree on priorities. What’s most important—protection, product, aesthetics, wild life or education? If we manage for protection, will we also get enough firewood? If we manage for product, can we also prioritize restoration? Or the health of one product over others? a footbridge through the sustainably managed forest at Earthaven

“Keep in mind,” Shawn advised, “no management—meaning the elimination of human intervention—is also a management strategy. Leaving a healthy stand alone might be the best choice, but letting the forest take care of itself can also mean letting nut-bearing hardwoods die off, while rhododendron and red maple take over.” We decided protection and product are equally “most important”; if we manage for product, we intend to do so in ways that maximize forest health.

To do a forest inventory, you have to literally take one. The idea is to get a “snapshot” of the forest, a picture of which species are doing well. How tall are the trees? How much timber is there? Are the stands of mixed age and species? What’s in the understory?

Autumn forest beauty as we took our forest inventory at EarthavenTo get a fair inventory of the species in our forest, we worked with samples: one “point” for every six acres. With 240 acres designated to remain forested, we had 40 points to march to. March? More like crawl and beat a way through the thickets! And a whole lot of up and down as well, from ridge to ridge, across slopes and gullies. We’d note the parameters of all trees within range of a point: diameter, height, species, regeneration on forest floor, snags, and presence or absence of invasive species. At one point there were sizable trees, the biggest a northern red oak, diameter 17.9 inches. The understory included pipcissiwa, magnolia, silverbell and cat briar.

And so it went—eleven species in all (chestnut oak, scarlet oak, northern red oak, maple, tulip poplar, sourwood, birch, pine, hemlock, locust and black gum in various groupings) plus thickets of rhododendron and/or mountain laurel. Diameters ranged from 1.2 to 38 inches. Except for a point where there were quite a few two-and three-trunk chestnut oaks (trees that grew together and became one tree at about breast height), Shawn said no doubt this place was logged about 80 years ago.

At the last point, Shawn did a site index, an index of productivity based on age and height. He had record sheets and knowledge of what to record and why. If a tree might have logs, he would ask someone to “get the logs of that tree Marie (or Darren or Gaspar) is on.” Someone would pace off the 66 feet and measure with a special tool called a Biltmore Stick. Sometimes an experienced eye was used to estimate logs, especially where it was impossible to sight the base or if the tree had kinks, bends and flaws. Thanks to a leading teacher, or a teaching leader, we learned by doing.

Pumpkin Carvin’

 

 

A cold and rainy day didn’t keep the pumpkin carvers away. There is a full week of activities at Earthaven Ecovillage to celebrate Halloween and one of my favorites is the annual pumpkin carving.

I went over to the Council Hall with my eight-month-old, Oakley, inside my rain jacket. I wasn’t sure how much I would be able to participate with him there but wanted to hang out anyway. I always loved pumpkin carving as a kid and was excited to introduce the tradition to him on his very first Halloween.

Before I even got in the building I noticed a small group of musicians standing in the middle of the room. It hadn’t been pre-planned, but what a treat to have live bluegrass music at this event.

A happy group of kids and their parents, along with a few witches, were already elbow deep in pumpkin guts when I got there. Some people were also hollowing out huge turnips and I learned that turnips where the original jack-o-lanterns. Legend has it that there was once a man named Jack who was so bad that when he died even the devil wouldn’t take him into the underworld and he was left to eternally wander the earth with his lantern. When European people came to America they brought their vegetable lantern carving tradition with them. I can only imagine how excited they were to learn about pumpkins, which I can tell you from direct observation, are a lot easier to carve than turnips. The challenge, however, did not stop Earthaveners from giving it a try and several beautiful turnip jack-o-lanterns sat next to the pumpkin ones decorating our Council Hall for the Samhian Ancestor Feast a few days later.

I saw a pumpkin getting carved with a pretty intricate face, one with a moon and stars, and one being cut into many curved ring layers. There were still pumpkins available so I thought I would give it a try and see how far I could get on a carving project of my own. I put Oakley on the floor and to my surprise he was perfectly happy playing with and tasting the pumpkin guts while I cut out super basic, classic triangle features.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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!

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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