Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The First Half of August

So I know I have been remiss in my posting (sorry, Dad), but I am still alive and actually doing quite marvelously. Thanks for your patience, and I am proud to present... The first half of my August.


Monday, August 1, 2011

A new month, a new datebook! I am getting to be so busy that I think I might need a bigger one. Or maybe that is a bad idea, unless it comes complete with more hours in each day!

I worked for three hours on the fence in the morning. Lyndon asked me to teach Joe and Taylor how to weave on the mountain laurel. Apparently I did a good job, because Lyndon took me aside later and asked me to take stewardship of fence management so that he could focus his energy on other things, specifically the greenhouse. Essentially, I will need to make sure that everyone knows what needs to get done and how to do it, and I should be prompting people to put some time in on the fence when they have a chance.

This whole management thing is new and strange to me. Now, the conceptualization and practice of “management” at Earthaven is much healthier and more effective than in mainstream society. In fact, the preferred term is “focalize,” which implies that one provides organization for the project and those working on it, “holds energy” for the project (makes sure that the necessary steps happen and in a timely manner), and is simply the “go to” person – the one who knows what is going on with a certain project. I think that these are all necessary functions and that having a focalizer for projects does not necessarily bring in the hierarchical structure of “management.” That said, I still feel a little out of my comfort zone being the one that everyone looks to for direction and, sometimes, the one who must give direction even when certain people are not seeking it. Luckily, I have plenty of excellent role models and people that I can ask for tips. In the meantime, I have asked everyone to bear with me while I figure out how to provide organization and hold energy gracefully (that is, without being bossy or passive-aggressive).

In the evening, I met with Arjuna, Melissa, and Pía (my nickname for Patricia) regarding Culture’s Edge, Earthaven’s educational non-profit organization. We are not for sure yet, but if we can bring back an active educational program at Earthaven, I may have a job in organization and promotion for events. I am really excited that I might just be able to make ends meet by helping educators at Earthaven get their message of sustainability and resilience to the world. Hooray for Right Livelihood!


Tuesday, August 2, 2011


This morning, I continued clearing in the garden. Geeze! By the time I clear to the other side of the garden, it will be time to start on the first side again! I worked on the asparagus patch and surrounding paths today, which were quite possibly the most overgrown areas. Bed was indistinguishable from path, and the shortest weeds were waist high. Yikes! I am also discovering the tenacity of honeysuckle. Praise it for holding the topsoil in disturbed areas, but when it is time to allow for succession, it does not make a graceful exit!

When we were done in the garden, we came inside and had a garden meeting. Right now, the garden team is Patricia and I, with some help from Lyndon when he is around and aware. We had a slight disagreement about seedlings. Lyndon wants to get a whole ton started and then sell the excess. Personally, I think it will be all we can do, with two and a half people, to get some food out of the garden for Medicine Wheel. Next year, if we spend all winter planning and prepping and have enough human energy, we might begin to think about having excess. I ended up telling him that he could do whatever he wanted, but I was only taking stewardship of my three flats. I am overcommitted as it is without throwing in 500 more baby plants…


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

So, I was starting to feel a bit stressed out today. You see, I have recently made some sizable commitments, and I was a bit worried that I might have been over-committing. I was already feeling overwhelmed and half of my commitments have not even begun! So I sat down to assess my commitments and make a plan to be able to satisfy them all, and now I feel a lot better.

My Commitments

Education: In addition to finishing off my AST, this coming semester I will be taking two classes online for UIS, Intro to Self-Directed Learning and Intro to Metaphysics and Epistemology. (I am really excited about the latter; nothing like a good philosophy course to get me all excited about learning!) Also, I will be taking the permaculture design practicum, for which I will be committing to four hours of classes every Thursday morning in September and November plus 40-60 hours worth of “homework” for the design project.

Work: I will still be working 15 hours a week as a work exchanger for Medicine Wheel, 4 hours a week in the garden (for a cheaper food bill), and 4 hours a week of community service for Earthaven. This will include my responsibilities as kitchen manager and as half the garden team. Also, I have no idea how much I will be working for the Culture’s Edge team, but I suspect that it will take a good chunk of time in the initial organization.

My Plan

Since I have so many commitments, I decided that solidifying a routine would be really helpful in mitigating my stress levels. Personally, I find the structure and reliability of a routine schedule helpful and comforting.

Thus, based on my experience of how things tend to go already, I drew up a weekly schedule for myself in which each commitment is allotted a sufficient time on specific days.





WEX project

WEX project / Leaps

Culture’s Edge



WEX project / Leaps


Chores / Kitchen ass’t

Day clean / Cook


House/WEX meeting

(Practicum classes)

(Practicum classes)





WEX project / Leaps







Rest / (Council)

[Note: ( ) indicate non-permanent aspects. The permaculture practicum will be Thursdays in September and November, and council is second and fourth Sundays.]

I am going to go over that general schedule with Patricia and Lyndon and see if that works well for everyone. Even if I need to change it a bit, I do need to establish a routine. And I need to establish it NOW, before everything gets too crazy. Whew! But I do actually feel significantly better having planned and organized. I think it goes back to control. I have now reestablished the comforting illusion of having some control over the chaos and craziness of life.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Today was one of those days where I just got a lot accomplished. We had a productive house meeting in the morning, which is always good. I cleaned the bathrooms (my house chore), and got a carbon trash container in both, which was something I have been meaning to do for a while.

My big project today was cleaning and organizing the root cellar, which took three hours. I started with actual cleaning – scrubbing the mold off of every exposed surface, composting several containers of what might have been considered food several years ago, and sweeping out the dirt and dust and mouse nests. Then I moved into organizing, because the root cellar was as disorganized as it was dirty. There were more buckets strewn across the floor than were actually on the shelves, which actually turned out to be a blessing because I had to pull everything off of the shelves anyway. While there were plenty of labels to go around, it was surprisingly often the case that the label on the lid didn’t match the label on the side which didn’t match what was actually in the container. So for two methodical hours, I opened each bin, correctly re-labelled it, found a suitable place on the shelf for it, and changed the label on the shelf. Now, it looks great, and it is going to stay that way… or else!

Joshua, who has a habit of walking in during those really bizarre tangents in otherwise normal conversations, came through the door just as I was saying, “… so the first person to leave a bucket on the floor is going to get punched in the face!” and, of course, a thorough razzing ensued. My dear housemates never pass up an opportunity to give me hard time, so they are (of course) determined to never let me forget that I “threatened horrific violence” against them. But I endure the good-natured abuse, as I will admit that it is true – my uncontrollably indignant reactions are actually pretty funny. I am glad I have finally learned to lighten up and laugh at myself. It makes life a lot more fun.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Today was my very first “real” Day Off since I have been here. I did not make myself do anything. I did not let anyone else ask me to do anything. My mantra was, “Today is my Day Off. I will see to it tomorrow.” So I did not have to do a damn thing that I did not want to do. It was FANTASTIC. It is SO necessary to have a real, widely known and recognized Day Off in order to remain sane amidst the sea of activities and responsibilities. I am really glad that I have reserved Sundays as my Day Off, and I am going to protect and defend them with my life.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tuesday was really lovely. Steven, Nathaniel, and I drove to a little organic farm somewhere north of Asheville to work trade for some food. The weather was absolutely perfect – warm and very breezy with periods of sun and clouds – and the farm was in a flat, clear cut valley with a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains.

It was a pretty relaxed day overall. We started the day canning green beans. That involved cleaning up the screened-in outdoor kitchen, washing the beans three times, snapping them, blanching them, and canning them. Each step unfolded at a fairly relaxed pace and with much indulging in the abundance. Then, later in the afternoon, we went out into the field to harvest cucumbers, corn, and purple beans. My shade hat and the strong breezes made being out in the field really pleasant.

All in all, it was a really good day, and did we bring home the produce! We got three paper grocery bags full of green beans, a sack of yellah squash, two dozen ears of sweet corn, a huge box of cukes, and seven quarts of canned beans as a bonus prize!

I was pretty wiped when I got home, but I managed to make it to the potluck since I had a date with Kimchi afterwards to tour her humanure system.

You see, Medicine Wheel is in the midst of a transition in how we deal with our shit. Essentially, we are going from a “dry mouldering” system to a “hot composting” system. (For further explanation, see the entry for July 5th; for further, further explanation, see The Humanure Handbook, free .pdf available online.) What I am trying to do is to make sure that we do it right.

From what I have been told and from my personal experience, things at Medicine Wheel tend to happen gradually, evolving as people have time and resources to put into it. Sometimes this means that things end up a little half-assed, not through any fault of the people working on the project, but through the lack of clear design and consistent implementation. When we are dealing with the smell and disease vector of piles of poop, that plan just isn’t going to cut it for me.

Therefore, I have taken stewardship of the Great Humanure Transition, and I have divided it into four discrete steps. First, I am researching humanure system designs in use at Earthaven that already work well for people ’round these parts. Everyone is always talking about how nice Kimchi’s toilet is and how well she maintains her “worm bin” (humanure pile), so I decided to start with her. I really like her system a lot, so I may or may not seek out other examples. It will depend on how much energy I feel like putting into it.

The next step will be to design all aspects of the infrastructural and systematic changes that we will need to make. We will need to retrofit the two outhouses for a 20-gallon bucket rather than a 55-gallon drum and decided where 5-gallon poopers will be placed. We will have to determine the location and the structural design for the compost piles. (Structural design for a compost pile, you wonder? They must be rat-proof. Really, really, really rat-proof.) We also must make sure that there are clear routes from the poopers to the piles. (Hauling a bucket of shit is enough of a task without throwing in an obstacle course.) We will need to come up with a humanure toilet management system that is effective (well regulated and maintained) yet does not place too much burden on any one household member (ahem).

Then, we will need to complete all the construction, ideally within the span of a few days. Once we switch systems, I want us to have switched systems. I want one, tight, solid, functioning humanure system, not two different half-assed piles of shit.

Finally, once the entire infrastructure is in place, the entire household will be well educated (and signage will be hung prominently for visitors and guests) on how to responsibly deal with our waste.

Maybe then our shit won’t stink. ;P


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Today, I spent a couple early hours in the garden and the rest of the day doing day clean, my house chore, and cooking, as per my schedule. I did not get myself signed up in time to wash towels at Shangri-Laundry (the on-land, off-grid Laundromat), so I did not get my kitchen chore done today. I am, however, scheduled to do it tomorrow, and it is on my ToDo list to sign up for Wednesday next week.

Speaking of my schedule, it has been a week and implementation has been gradual, but overall I feel really good about it. Having a weekly routine gives me structure, which makes me feel secure. I know I have allotted time to fulfill each of my obligations. I know generally when I will be doing what. I have grouped together certain activities on certain days to maximize efficiency. I have worked within the boundaries of what usually happens when so that I will be available for house projects when work parties are likely to be taking place. I have established boundaries so that I can feel secure about saying, “No, not right now. On Blankday, I do X, but right now is my time for doing Y. I am fulfilling my obligations, but I am not participating in this project this time.” I can feel good about what I am doing while I am doing it, rather than worrying if I should be doing this or feeling guilty for not doing that. I feel more clear and present, and I like it.

Also, I think I am going to like Wednesdays. They are pretty chill. Get up, do a little gardening, go wash towels, come home and clean bathrooms, do a day clean, cook dinner, and hang out after supper because the kitchen is already clean. I like having an “indoor day” to cook and clean (and be slightly neurotic) and do chores. That is all stuff that comes pretty naturally and isn’t too taxing; I’m just good at it. Once I get into “cleaning mode,” I really enjoy being able to get the place sparkling and get my all chores taken care of (out of the way) at the same time. The sense of accomplishment is satisfying.

After a week of observation, I am also realizing something else. I think I am spreading myself too thin trying to work on all of the projects – the garden, the fence, the water line, the humanure system, the greenhouse, etc. Especially with school starting soon and my schedule becoming more cramped, I think I am going to have to concentrate my energy on certain projects. I think I will focus hard on the garden (since the garden team is just Pía and I and I am naturally inclined to want to garden) and the humanure system (because I have taken stewardship of that project and no one else is likely to pick it up if I put it down). I will lend a hand on the fence and perhaps on the waterline and greenhouse if need be, but I am coming to a place where my time, my energy, and the capacity of my working memory are at a premium. Like I said yesterday about the humanure system, I want to concentrate my energy into “doing it right.” I want to obtain positive and tangible results from a select few projects, rather than half-ass a dozen of them. This will mean holding some boundaries, but I think that I will be able to do that in a manner that everyone finds fair and justifiable.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Yesterday was quite the day, quite the day indeed.

I spent four hours in the garden in the morning. Patricia led a work party with Steven, Joe, and Nathaniel in the orchard, but I had other things to do in the garden, watering seedlings and weeding productive beds and the like. I ended up rescuing some pole beans that were having the life choked out of them by morning glories. I could have sworn I got all the morning glory seedlings out of that bed last week, but they are stubborn critters. And beautiful. But not when they are killing baby beans.

In the afternoon, Chynna and I went to Shangri-Laundry to wash the Medicine Wheel kitchen towels, and we caught up on a lot of girl talk.

She is planning to move to Asheville, and really soon, too. She thinks that she will be out of here by the end of the month. Plus, she is leaving on the 23rd to go back to New Jersey for her cousin’s wedding, so really she only has a week and a half left here. I am going to miss her. Despite the fact that we are complete opposites personality-wise and that I am several times as mature as she is (which she openly admits), we have become really close friends. She, Cate, and Patricia are the only other women in the house. Patricia is awesome and I love her, but she’s not so much a girlfriend as she is a mentor, and Cate is so busy I rarely see her. Chynna really has become my close girlfriend here, the one I confide in and giggle with. I’m going to miss her. Saralin and Nicole need to move here. Then my life will be complete. At least, as far as girlfriends go.

When the laundry was done, we came home, and I retired to my room to read Spectacular Capitalism. However, my background in political philosophy is sadly lacking, so I have been having a hard time catching all the philosophical references and understanding what exactly Richard Gilman-Opalsky is saying. When I went back downstairs to get a dictionary, I ran into Joshua and asked if he had a dictionary of philosophical terms and people. He just pointed to his head. From that ensued a long evening of philosophical discussions, with various people popping in and out, ranging from pre-Socratic philosophy and its historical context to ancient astronomy and why we have minutes to global warming and the Earth’s magnetic poles to Baudrillard and simulacra… and everywhere in between. It was pretty intense, but there is nothing like an evening of intense intellectual stimulation to get me all hot and bothered about philosophy.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Today was my second weekly Day Off. I celebrated by doing absolutely nothing that I didn’t want to, including and especially interacting with other people.

I did go to Council, but only because I wanted to. It was fascinating. It is my observation that self-governance is a great deal more work than simply allowing oneself to be dominated. However, I believe it to also be the case that it is worth it.

For the most part, everyone was pretty civil. However, there was a great deal of arguing over some fairly petty details, and it could have been better facilitated, as there was a great deal of switching back and forth between topics.

At the end, Arjuna expressed frustration regarding how few people attend Council. I had noticed that (with the exception of one younger man who was required to be at Council as part of the membership process), every single person in Council had gray hair. They were all at least over fifty. Also, out of 50 full members, only a dozen or so were there. That is about as dismal as America’s voter turn out rate! Having 50 people in the room with the process as it is would be nigh unto impossible, but it is strange that so very few even make the effort to show up. Part of Arjuna’s frustration is that she, then, has to carry all of these huge projects with very little if any help. I am both excited and nervous to become a member – I cannot wait to dive in and pick up some slack… on a project or two. I intend to set good boundaries so that I do not get overwhelmed and burnt out. I really hope that I am able to strike a good balance.


Monday, August 15, 2011


It was autumn in the mountains until at least 1pm today, and it was so wonderful! I was downright cold when I woke up in the morning, and I was wishing I had a flannel or something for the first couple of hours that I was outside working. It was just warm enough not to call for my hoodie, especially since I was going to be working, and I do not have anything lighter to wear over a T-shirt. At least, nothing I am willing to build a fence in. Time for a trip to the Free Store! I love the Free Store.

Have I told y’all about the Free Store? Well, essentially, it is an old shiner’s cabin – the only pre-Earthaven building on the land – converted into a thrift store where everything is free. Drop off your junk, pick up some treasure. I have scored so much awesome stuff at the Free Store. I LOVE it!

Anyway, I spent seven and a half hours working on the fence today, and I finished the north side! Woo-hoo! I love how comfortable I am becoming with power tools and how good my mountain laurel weaving looks. I spent almost all of my time weaving mountain laurel, although I did paint a little bit and take a couple of walks to drop off and fetch power tool batteries from the charger at Alice’s. It is such a beautiful walk that I never mind going, especially with such fantastic weather! Seriously, today was gorgeous. I was able to work through the “heat of the day,” no sweat. Well, maybe a little sweat, but not much compared to two weeks ago! Some of the trees are even beginning to turn and drops leaves. Autumn starts in August around these parts? I could get used to this!

Also, I have been working with my schedule the past week or so, and it seems to be working out for me. We will just have to see how I fair when school starts. Plus, I sort of just came to the realization that, since I will only be working for WEX hours and Leaps on three out of seven days, it means that I will have to be putting in some long days. It will be okay. I’ve been playing with it. If I spend 8 hours on a WEX project on Monday, 4 hours in the garden on Tuesday and Friday mornings, and 1 hour in the garden Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings, that will cover my WEX hours. That leaves Tuesday and Friday afternoons for me to earn Leaps, a task that I can also squeeze in other places as well. Obviously, I am not going to be overly rigid about it, but for the sake of my sanity, I need to know what to expect on certain days, and expecting to put in 8 hours makes scheduling much easier.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Last Lil Bit of July

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 – Girl’s Night Out

Girls’ night out was really, really awesome in so many ways. Chynna took us to a really nice restaurant off of the Blue Ridge Parkway called Knife and Fork. They served incredibly delicious local, seasonal food and provided a really pleasant enjoyable atmosphere. I really like that Knife and Fork provided “fancy-restaurant” quality of food and atmosphere without being too… fancy.

Oh, and was the food incredible! I do not think that I have ever really experienced food like that. Every dish had such a variety of flavors and textures! I could tell that the chef had really taken the time to create high-quality dishes from high-quality ingredients.

Plus, I really enjoyed spending a fairly low-key evening out with the ladies. We shared dishes and stories, and we laughed so hard! By the time dessert came around (there are no words… there are just no words), we were completely “food drunk” and having a blast and a half. Awesome!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Today was a crazy, intense, busy day.

After house meeting at 8:30, I checked in with Patricia about my responsibilities as kitchen manager. My responsibilities are as follows:

- Monitor order & cleanliness of Root Cellar, Kitchen, & Dining Room
- Represent kitchen needs at House meeting re: deep cleaning, fridge cleaning, shopping, food money, etc.
- Orientation of new people to kitchen
- Inventory bulk food and produce for ordering
- Maintain rotation of frozen foods & bulk
- Oversee bulk food and personal food storage in the root cellar
- Liaison with food providers (local food sources and bulk purchase)

It seems like a lot, but I do not believe that it will end up being too much. As a “manager,” my responsibility is to keep an eye on the kitchen, see what needs to happen, and make sure that it does. This involves a great deal of recruiting help and delegating tasks to others (although I am not entirely sure that I have what it takes to be a “boss”… I guess we will find out.) Also, all of the time that I spend on these task will count for my work exchange hours, so I would already be working for those hours anyway. Everything will be fine. (And yes, I am going to keep telling myself that.)

Then I went out and worked on the fence for several hours, stripping locust posts and then dragging mountain laurel down to the orchard. All in a day’s work. ;)

At some point I realized that Nathaniel, who was supposed to be cooking tonight, had left a day early for his weeklong vacation with his son without finding someone to cook for him. So, in the spirit of household cooperation, I decided to pull dinner together. Unfortunately, for some reason my housemates were feeling particularly slobbish today, so by the time dinner was over, I was feeling pretty grouchy from having to clean up several people’s messes when it was not my responsibility in the first place.

So right after dinner, I ducked out the door with the pretense of closing the gates (a post-dinner chore) and simply took off for the Red Tent after completing that task. The Moon Lodge was a really fabulous experience, as usual, and within a few minutes of being in that space, I felt as right as rain. I am so glad that the women of this tribe have that space and that time to share with each other.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

This morning I was in the garden by 8, still weeding beds and paths. Then, when Lyndon and Steven headed up the hill to work on the water line, which I had previously committed to, I dropped my work in the garden and headed with them. I think that working on the water line with the guys is earning me some real credit and respect from them. When I first started working with them, they seemed to regard me as being there to “help out” rather than as one of the core workers. They gave me the relatively minor job of scooping out loose dirt and measuring depth. However, when they set down the 10lb mattock to take a break, I started just picking it up and going to town. I do not get nearly as much accomplished, blow for blow, as the guys, but between my willingness to try and my perseverance in finishing the sections that I start, I am now treated like a member of the team rather than someone along for moral support.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

I had a really incredible experience in the garden this morning! I was bent over pulling up some weeds out of a path when I heard this really loud buzzing approaching me. At first, I figured it was a bee, but as it got louder, I thought to myself, “Geeze! That bee has got to be the size of my fist!” When I looked up, though, I was face to face with a hummingbird, not two yards away from me. To my amazement, she kept coming closer and closer until I could have almost reached out and touched her. She hovered there for a long moment, holding my gaze! Then, as quickly as she came, she flitted off. WOW! Later, Patricia told me that in some Eastern tradition the hummingbird is the bearer of good omens. She came out of the east, too, which symbolizes new beginnings. Wow. Just wow.

Today has been really good. I have been working in the garden on and off all day. I got up early-ish and was out there clearing paths, weeding beds, pruning the blighted branches off of tomato plants, and watering for a good two and a half hours before the sun came out. I took a break about 10:30, and ended up taking a nap. I felt very refreshed and rejuvenated after my nap, so I decided to start some more seedlings in trays, as we have had very little luck getting seeds to make plants direct seeding them into the garden. When I had finished that, I planted out some sugar snap peas in the spiral trellis bed, making this the third time that bed has been planted this year. We just cannot seem to give up on it!

Something I think I really learned today was the value of taking breaks. If I had forced myself to continue working in the morning even though I knew I needed a break, I probably would have exhausted myself within an hour, and I would have lost the rest of the day. However, by taking a well-placed break, I was able to spend more time in the garden and I was more motivated and productive during that time.

I just got done with my second class with Joshua, and I am getting really, really excited about it! We talked about the pre-Socratic philosophers of the Mediterranean (who all have really awesome names that I have absolutely no hope of being able to spell until I see them written down). Basically, these were the first recorded discussions on the nature of matter and the nature of reality outside the context of mythologies, divine decrees, and anthropomorphized deities. Joshua also mentioned that he hopes to turn me on to “real magic” (magick?), but that we “do not yet have the language to begin discussing the nature of reality.” Was that just a hook to get my psyched for the next class? Knowing Joshua, he is entirely serious.