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A living laboratory for a sustainable human future.

The Toe Bone & the Tooth

an Interview of Zev Friedman by Lee Walker Warren

On May 7th a very special gathering took place at Earthaven, with members and friends come from near and far.  Zev Friedman was one of the main creators. 

Lee: What is the Toe Bone & the Tooth?

Zev: It is an ancient Mayan epic myth as told by Martín Prechtel in a book of the same name (later renamed Stealing Benefacio’s Roses).  My studies with him over the last seven years have given me the tools and inspiration to help create this kind of cultural gathering.

Lee: What was the intention of the gathering?

Zev: It was a ritualized story reading which was intended to be the very beginning of a multi-generational accumulation of cultural topsoil.

Participants inoculate hemlock logs with reishi mushroom spore.

We use a combination of our grief, our understanding of the ecological cycles that we live inside of, as well as the different mythologies that we come from to slowly grow a culture that knows how to take care of that which feeds it.

Lee: What did the day consist of?

Zev: First of all it’s been a long process that started months ago. With not only planning but a ‘courting’ process where every guest was visited, given appreciations, and presented with a verbal and written invitation.

The day itself consisted of an introduction, a land-based activity, and a ritualized reading of the story, The Toe Bone and the Tooth, which took about six hours and lasted until 2:30 in the morning.

Lee: What was the land-based activity?

Sacred corn planted in the Horn of Plenty field during the day of ritual and story.

Zev: One group inoculated hemlock logs. The hemlocks are dying from the effects of human activity, and that is cause for much personal and bioregional grief. We inoculated these trees with reishi mushrooms, which will help break them down into topsoil while growing a medicinal mushroom for use by our people.

The other activity was the planting of a special type of ancient corn that I received with the story from Martín. It was planted with crushed charcoal from the fire of every person at the gathering.

The metaphor of compost ran through the weekend. If we can compost the grief of the things that are happening to our people and the planet, this is then the best material for growing the next cycle of life out of.

Lee: What’s next?

Zev: This is just the beginning. There will be a follow-up gathering soon. And we hope this cultural healing will last far beyond us.


Zev Friedman is a wild food vagabond with a B.S. in Human Ecology from UNCA.  He owns Urban Paradise Gardening, a permaculture design and installation business, and co-owns Living Systems Design, along with Chuck Marsh and others. Zev grows, gathers, processes, and cooks much of his own food in tandem with a group of similarly obsessed friends.  He makes shoes, baskets, nets, bags, tools, cook pots, and furniture from wildcrafted and cultivated materials. In his spare time he writes, teaches, plays banjo, and makes up stories.



Compost, corn, grief, Martín Prechtel, Mayan, myth, Toe Bone & the Tooth, zev friedman

Lee Warren

Lee Warren is reclaiming wisdom through conscious relating with self, land, and others. She has 25 years of experience envisioning, designing, and living innovative solutions to mutually empowered relationships, land-based food systems, residential community, non-violent communication, and sustainability education. She is the principal and founder of Reclaiming Wisdom, a co-founder of SOIL, School of Integrated Living, and a proponent of regenerative systems, consent culture, and authentic living. Lee is a writer, teacher, and activist, with a passion for embodiment practices, rural wisdom, sustainable economics, conscious dying, and community of all kinds.

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