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A living laboratory for a sustainable human future.

Orientation: Permaculture and Land Use at Earthaven…and More!

by Arjuna da Silva
We’ve known for quite a few years that new members coming into Earthaven needed a lot more coaching about our history, plans, policies and practices than they were able to get through the normal course of a Provisional Membership. We’ve required and offered trainings in Consensus Decision-Making since we were ourselves trained by “the experts,” but putting on a program about the broader scope of permaculture and land use as we interpret it has been a daunting commitment to keep. At last, this year—thanks to Diana Leafe Christian, Lee Warren, and myself, we presented the now required and first ever orientation to the background and current application of permaculture principles and land use operations at Earthaven. It was a terrific hit!
          New and prospective members who attended the day-and-a-half event were awed by the comprehensive and hard-earned expertise that has gone into the documents and decisions about running our community literally from the ground level. Pieces fell together like a jigsaw puzzle as old and newer members took the journey from macro to micro view of Earthaven. Beginning with a sunrise walk on Round Mountain led by Chris Farmer, treating us to a long, clear view of our property from several miles away, the day was filled with introductory presentations on permaculture, the Earthaven Site Plan, “multiple intelligences,” the hard work of transitional living, and the shock and awe of land development (aka destruction before construction). Breakfast and lunch were served by our culinary artists, and the day moved towards its end with an on-the-ground tour of the Village Terraces neighborhood, where the enormous task of applying our values and experience has gone so well. A brief look at our formal land use and ecological documents closed the first day.
          On Sunday, we also began outdoors, with a silent walk to Hidden Valley, led again by Chris, who offered a brief history and catalog of our forest at the end of our walk. I led a short exercise in “making love” with the tree of our choice, and we walked back to the Village Center among what may now be a more distinctly recognized community of tree beings.
          Shawn Swartz was with us on Sunday, and he gave us an awesome semester-in-an-hour review of forestry and so-called sustainable forestry practices. (Shawn is now the Forest Warden at nearby Warren Wilson College, where he lives with Holly, Rose and Eli—hurray… and we miss them!)
          We barely had enough time to complete the program with a discussion of forestry and agriculture at Earthaven and then it was time to eat our prepared lunch before the upcoming Council meeting. We did make time for an evaluation segment, and here’s a sampling of comments:
Lots of info about the meaning of living at EH. Of immense value!”
“Stimulating. Learned lots, including ideas for my garden and orchard.”
“Liked multidimensional aspects. Would love a series from our ‘experts.’”
“Inspired to do projects. Nice to integrate this after 2-1/2 years!”
“Appreciate all the work so far, the breadth of content, all the alternatives.”
 “Gratitude for so much addressed on such deep levels.”
“Very informative for here or elsewhere.”
 “Never have to be bored again! Feel motivated, but with peace of mind.”
“Best weekend I’ve had in a log time. I could handle two more weeks like this.”
“Felt particularly benefited by having already received my permaculture certification and been at EH a while, giving me a context for all this information.”
“Interested to hear about how much has changed.”
“Glad it wasn’t all documents and codes, but also spiritual and connecting.”
          Of course, our presenters have a list of potential improvements and elaborations. We will certainly plan to reserve a whole weekend for next year’s orientation!
          Diana’s presentation on ecovillage economics was held two weeks later. Her review of the global ecovillage world, what’s worked and what’s not in a variety of locations, and a look at what’s already happening at Earthaven contributed both inspiration and confidence for the continuing evolution of a “thriving local economy” here in our own extended community.
          Most segments of these events were recorded and will be available for review in a few weeks.

One final note: when the weekend was over, I left with a certain sadness, as if something very important was still missing from our offerings to new members. And then it hit me—we teach governance and land use, two essential legs of the Earthaven stool, to our incoming members, but we don’t yet have anything to say about the vast amount of experience and practice available to us in the spiritual and healing arts. As I bemoaned this fact, Lee pointed out that nothing prevents us from creating part three of our new-member orientation, and the list we’ve started gathering on this huge topic promises to turn into yet another exciting, member-led event down the road.

Chris Farmer, forestry, governance, Hidden Valley, orientation, provisional membership, round mountain, Village Terraces

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