A living laboratory for a sustainable human future.

The Tree Climber

by Mana Vermeulen-Mcleod


Johnny McLeod is our resident tree climber. He loves hanging out high in the canopies, often overlooking some amazing vistas here in our Blue Ridge Mountains.

He started his climbing career in Arkansas some ten years ago and brought his skills to our ecovillage. These skills are much needed around here where trees and houses sprout out of the ground side by side.

We need trees cut for so many reasons. The biggest reason is solar access. Most of our buildings have a passive solar design as well as a large photovoltaic system to support  electricity needs. Another reason to cut trees for sunlight is ever growing gardens. South facing slopes have been chosen for houses, photovoltaic systems and gardens. Of course we use wood to build structures; we aim to use as much of it from our land as we can.

Johnny also loves to cut firewood. It’s his obsession really. After a long day cutting trees he comes home in the evening to work at his hobby of cutting firewood! Luckily he got himself a hydraulic splitter some years ago and that makes it all go much faster.

The community has already been hard at work through this spring and summer to get enough firewood split and put up for our long and recently snowy winters.

So the next time you come to visit us, keep your eye out for a tree-climber. He has our one-year-old with him on some of these woodsy adventures. If only they made baby ear protection and little chainsaws!


Mana Vermeulen-Mcleod and her husband, Johnny, the Tree Climber, are raising a family at Earthaven. Mana says “Right now I’m a stay-in-the-woods mom and I’m so glad to raise my boy surrounded by all this natural beauty. When my kid(s) are a little older I’ll get back to what I love doing—creative carpentry.”

firewood, Johnny Mcleod, solar, tree climber

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Playing at the Reaching Nature Connection Conference

Reaching Nature Connection Conference

April 1-2, 2023

East Coast Outdoor Conference for Early Childhood Educators, Teachers, Counselors, Parents and Mentors.

With this year’s theme, Joyful Play, presenters Lia Grippo and Sharon Buczaczer will immerse participants in joyful singing and the freedom of play, all in the spirit of the young child.