Monday, May 30, 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011


The Gemini party was a great time. It was so much fun to get all dressed up with everyone. A lot of the costumes were VERY humorous. There was a cop, several crossdressers (Lyndon went as his alter-ego, “Splenda.” In his words, “She’s a little bitter and a little sweet.”), an emo couple, a dominatrix… Steven dressed up in tie-dyed long underwear and went as “Steven and the Technicolor Dreamsuit.” Joe went as his ego’s brother, Bo, from Arkansas, who wears nothing but a red bathrobe and works at Hollywood video. Kane went as a southern-style redneck, complete with a “the South will rise again” confederate flag and a 12-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon. They had me absolutely rolling in laughter all evening!

“Slept in” this morning, until 8:30, and I was still up before most people. (Ah, the revelry.)

Went on a tour of Earthaven with Patricia, Cate and Joshua, and some of Patricia’s personal friends at 10am. It was fun and interesting. I’m starting to get my bearings with respect to knowing where I am and where I’m going.

Apparently I’ve found my new totem – the frog. Not only have I been reveling in their lovely sounds outside my window, but today makes three sightings in two days. I actually saw this teeny tiny frog in the grass and almost stepped on him, so I stopped to pick him up and look at him. Cate got a couple of good pictures of it, and I let it go. Not fifteen minutes later, I pointed out another, larger frog that had hopped into a woodpile.

“I think you found your totem,” Patricia said to me.

“Well,” I replied, “I have always liked the word ‘polliwog.’ Isn’t it a great word?”

“Yeah,” a friend of hers said, “and it goes really well with your name – Molly Polliwog.”

“I’m a Mollywog!”

After a moment of reflection, I realized and expressed that it fits perfectly. “I’m not a tadpole anymore,” I said, “but I’m definitely not a frog yet either. I am a Mollywog.” A creature beautiful and awesome in its own right, but growing, developing – in transition to a different, more mature state.

Then later, when I was talking to Cate, she told me that the frog I picked up was a peeper frog. Cousin to the poison dart frog, the peeper frog is an inhabitant of the temperate rainforest. As tiny as he was, the peeper frog was full-grown, and apparently he makes a huge noise for his tiny size. Most interestingly, it is extremely rare to even see one, much less be able to catch and hold one. “I was shocked that it stayed sitting on your hand,” Cate told me. “I thought I would have to take a picture really quickly, but I was actually able to stop and get a great shot… My sister is 27 and she has been trying unsuccessfully to catch a peeper frog her entire life. You don’t just stumble across them… I was like ‘Who are you.?” Whoa, intense. I am a Mollywog.

Anyway, this afternoon I went to work for Eli, a new mom, for LEAPs (the local currency earned through community service). Her baby, Oakley, is a very cute two-month-old blue-eyed baby boy. He smiled at me. Twice. <3 Anyway, I cleaned out her refrigerator (it needed it pretty badly!), did a TON of dishes, vacuumed the entire apartment, and scrubbed out her tub. Nothing I haven’t done before.

More interestingly, I got to talk to Eli and her partner (whose name I’ve forgotten… but in general I am actually doing really well learning names). They presented an entirely different point of view on a lot of things. It turns out Eli and her partner had started out living at Medicine Wheel, and they (especially the partner) had a couple of sharp, and actually very valid, criticisms of Medicine Wheel. The house and the garden are very unfinished, and without more commitment from Patricia, Lyndon, and more permanent residents than summer work exchangers, both are in danger of remaining that way.

We also got into what I like to call “food persuasions,” because some people can be as dogmatic about their choice of diet as their choice of religion. In stark opposition to Medicine Wheel, which is a no-meat, no-dairy house, the whole of Village Terraces (where they live) is highly carnivorous. They are generally followers of Sally Fallon and her Nourishing Traditions, a book on nutrition (with recipes) that I really respect. Considering their close relationship with the semi-connected Imani Farms, that seems to work out well for them. They pointed out a few things that I hadn’t known, and I think I’m going to make a point of incorporating some good quality meat into my diet as a supplement.

On the other hand, while I don’t generally have a problem with their persuasion (other than that a heavily carnivorous diet does take up significantly more resources than a plant-based diet), I do have a problem with the fact that they push their food choices on others. I understand that they believe that optimal health can only be maintained by consuming animal products. I think it is okay to disagree with the vegetarians, and it’s fine to present arguments to try to persuade vegetarians to make different food choices in the interest of their health. However, many of the people in Village Terraces seem hostile to vegetarians, which to me crosses the line. Personally, I believe that different people have different nutritional requirements that can be satisfied in different ways depending on ethnic heritage, genetic expression, etc. (something I took away from my reading of Sally Fallon). However, I believe that as independent adults, we are all free to make informed decisions about their own diet choices and those choices should be respected. Some people in Village Terraces are just plain disrespectful. This is evidently not just my opinion because one woman who lives there, Selene, chooses to eat at Medicine Wheel because she did not feel like those with whom she was sharing the communal kitchen space were respecting her choices. To me, that is where things go south.

However, it was very interesting to get some different perspectives, and I am coming to a more balanced understanding of many aspects of Earthaven. Ever since I arrive here, everyone has assured me that not everything is perfect but that everyone is budging along pretty well. Apparently, the situation was very problematic in 2008 and 2009, but things have improved significantly since then. Patricia also said that coming to Earthaven is like being in a new relationship; there is the honeymoon phase, a reality check, and then a break up or true love. I feel like I may be trying to rush myself through it, but I am simultaneously experiencing the delight of a honeymooner and the down-to-earth realism of the reality check.

Well, it’s about time for bed.



Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Adventures of Friday and Saturday

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Wow! Another full day!

I was too sleepy last night to write about yesterday (Friday) so, I’ll start with that.

It was cloudy and rainy so I “slept in” until 8:30. When I got up, Lyndon was waiting to do the house orientation with me. He went through a lot of the policies and procedures, but I get the sense that just living there for a while will be (and has been) a much better orientation. Kane, being a relatively “new kid” himself, has taken me under his wing and given me a bunch of insider tips, which has been greatly appreciated! (He and Joe definitely know the best local microbrews, too! Mmmm!)

Anyway, during the orientation, I signed all the appropriate waivers and got all the necessary paperwork in order. Lyndon and I got squared away financially. I’m still not entirely sure how I would make it work financially if I decide to live here long-term, but I’m trying not to worry about it too much just yet. (And kinda failing, but whatever…)

Then, in the afternoon, Joe and Kane decided to go for a hike on the Hidden Valley trail and invited me to come along. It was so incredible! The forested mountain was so scenic from every angle. We saw tons of rhododendron trees, and at one point had to climb our way through a grove of blooming mountain laurel. The mountain laurel trees have beautiful white flowers and thin, spiraling, twisting, branching trunks. The whole effect of the low canopy of flowers and the long grove of hundreds of twining trunks was breathtaking. (If difficult to hike through!)

When we got home, I helped Lyndon cook supper. We had steamed greens, curried beans, and toasted quinoa, and everyone agreed it was pretty yummy. My first time cooking for 14 people (with a LOT of help from Lyndon) seemed to be a success!

After dinner, Patricia, Steven, Joe, and I sat down to play Spades. I won! By a lot! (Dumb luck… really, dumb, dumb, dumb luck!) Then I introduced Patricia and Nathan (a late night visitor from another neighborhood, come to talk to Patricia) to Bananagrams. They seemed to enjoy it. At least, I hope so! It is one of my favorite games, so I’ll want to have people to play with me!

Even though I didn’t get to bed until almost 10:30 (kinda late at MW), I got up at 7:30 again. I guess I’m an early riser now. I actually really like it. I’ve noticed that going to bed and getting up with the sun (generally) has been giving me more energy and has made me feel better all around. Also, the misty morning mountains are really beautiful and definitely worth waking up early to see. Since we are nested in a valley of tall trees, I can’t see the mountain range, but if I could, I don’t doubt that the mist would give them that classic “Blue Ridge” look.

At about 9:45, I walked to the Hut Hamlet to meet with Kaitlin (who lives there) to join her “work party” (when people get together to work on a project and socialize) for setting up the Red Tent. The Red Tent is a space for women (pardon me, womyn) to go, in Kailin’s words, “anytime, really, but especially when they are bleeding.” Womyn can go there to be alone or together, to soak in the creek or relax in the tent. Kim-Chi told me, “You can cry here, or wail… or laugh.” It is a beautiful, fantastic space! And very close to Medicine Wheel, actually. A path goes off the road into the woods half a block from our doorstep and winds its way beside Taylor creek to a temporary Red Tent and a space for the permanent Red Tent. A short path leads down to the creek. After clearing the overgrown path and some poison ivy, stretching a tarp over the tent to keep it dry-ish, making curtain rods out of bamboo (I sawed it all myself!) and hanging red curtains, and moving in some books and outdoor recliners, the Red Tent has been transformed into a comfortable, peaceful, and sacred place. I look forward to going there to honor my own moon time.

I stopped back at Medicine Wheel to clean myself up. I’m so glad I brought extra clothes because I’m going through them fast! You would not believe how quickly clothes get dirty, sweaty, soaked, and covered in poison ivy! Then I packed up and headed to the office to do internet stuff. Between getting ready to start my AST on Monday, my online course next Monday, and keeping up with you all, I actually have had a fair amount to do. I’ve finished all of my homework, and it’s about time to wrap up this entry!

I'm going to a "Gemini party" tonight – a birthday celebration for all the Gemini people here. Apparently there are a lot of them. It’s a costume party with the theme of “alter ego” (‘cause their Geminis, get it?). All I could think of to wear is my little black dress and some fancy jewelry! Close enough to an alter ego when I normally wear tank tops and jeans and get all dirty and sweaty. It should be fun. Joe even picked up a 12 pack of Highlander for us to split. Woohoo, alter ego! (DISCLAIMER: I will more than likely max out at two beers – to appease the ulcer-god, who has the power to make me suffer mightily – and be in bed by 10:30 again!)



Thursday, May 26, 2011

My First Day!

Disclaimer: I don't plan to be posting everyday like this for the whole six months, but there is SO MUCH here that I'll probably have a lot to talk about for a while!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Well, I just went to the internet spot to post my blog entry from last night and found that there was too much going on there to concentrated on a blog entry for today. So I came back to my room to write.

I am lost for words to describe how incredible this place is. Out my window, I can hear the rushing of all the little creeks and the wind in the trees. I hear the birds singing and the bees buzzing. I’ve seen all sorts of life – pollinators of every variety including too many butterflies to count, frogs (as well as some tadpoles in the pond!), and even a small, spotted lizard! Maybe I’ve just never lived in the wilderness before, but it really seems like this place is a Garden of Eden.

I slept like a rock last night and woke up fairly early this morning. I didn’t used to be an early riser, but getting up more or less with the sun is much more natural here. Between going to bed early to save on lighting energy and the gentle early greetings of the sun and the birds, I found I was ready to be awake by 7am.

After breakfast – eggs from the neighbors and spinach from the garden, mmm! – Patricia took me on a tour of the gardens. She describes them as a “constant evolution.” The gardens are vibrant, filled with fruit and nut trees (including THE largest, healthiest, most vigorous elder I’ve ever seen!), an herb spiral (as well as medicinal and culinary herbs scattered throughout), some really cool perennial vegetables that I’ve only ever read about in Perennial Vegetables like air potato and hardy kiwi, volunteer spring bulbs like daffodils and day lily (from before Earthaven owned the property), blueberry bushes, all varieties of seasonal annuals – spring greens, broccoli, radishes, turnips, peas... I can’t even remember all of it!

One challenge in this area is that monocropping in the 30’s and 40’s destroyed most of the natural topsoil. A great deal of the soil here is solid red clay. However, as Patricia gestured to the lush forest of 100-foot trees and all varieties of plant matter, she told me, “This was all corn fields sixty, seventy years ago, but look what the Great Mother can do with a few seeds and solid bedrock.” The idea now is that with good, sound permaculture techniques, we can recreate a layer of topsoil. Then we, too, can make lush garden where there was once nothing but clay.

On the other hand, one of the beauties of this area is that it has been described to me as a “temperate rainforest.” One of the other people living at Medicine Wheel, a fellow work-exchanger named Kane, told me that here is more biodiversity here than almost any other place on earth, apart from the Amazon. When I landed in Asheville it was hot, but once we drove up into the mountains, it got much more mild. Unlike the mountains in Peru (where there was very little air, much less air with water in it), it is fairly humid in these mountains. Luckily, I’m told it doesn’t usually get over 90 degrees where we are and the humidity doesn’t get too overwhelming. The forest, they say, keeps it fairly constant at a “medium” humidity.

I haven’t gotten the official tour yet, but Patricia showed me around a little. There is a swimming hole and a sauna not far from the house. I dipped my feet in the water, but it will have to get a LOT hotter before I’ll swim in it because it is ICY cold! She’s also introduced me to some of the local flora and fauna. Still digesting all of it, but it’s beautiful and interesting.

I cut some garlic scapes and mixed them with rice for lunch. Yum! I ended up with a lot more than I could eat, so I shared with a bunch of other people. Apparently, that happens a lot in the community house. Imagine that! Technically, we are “on our own” for breakfast and lunch, but it is much more efficient to find someone to make lunch with. One person to cook, one person to clean… and a few people to free load. J

I’m still learning names and faces, but I think I at least recognize all my housemates. There are Patricia and Lyndon, who own and run the house, and then people renting and work exchanging (still working out who is doing what, where they are from, how long they’ve been here, how long they are staying, etc.). Let’s see, there are:

- Ivy and Michael, and their daughter Ayden, a small family getting ready to move to another habitation in Earthaven.

- Kane, who has been a really big help by giving me advice and letting me know how things work in the house.

- Joe, who I haven’t seen much but is apparently working on a bicycle-powered laundry machine, which I can totally get behind. He also was playing guitar last night, and I am thrilled that there is going to be regular live music here!

- Steven, who I take to be the resident intellectual and who shared a taste of raw lamb heart with me this morning (the sea salt and raw butter made it fairly palatable, but I don’t think it will become a regular part of my diet).

- Bruce, who I haven’t really gotten to know yet.

- Terry, aka “the mythical Terry” because, although he technically lives at MW, he works in Asheville so much that no one ever sees him.


- Chynna, who is supposed to be arriving today.

I think that’s everyone, at least for right now.

Well, I better get going. Lots more to see and do!


Chynna didn't end up showing up today. I’m kinda disappointed, because Patricia said I would love her and the rest of the house is all guys. It would be nice to have another female to relate to. Caitlin, who I hope will be my friend, as she seems pretty cool, doesn’t live at Medicine Wheel, but she seems to visit fairly frequently.

Other than that, I helped Patricia plant some tomatoes and lettuce today, which involved whacking down a TON of comfrey with the machete (a VERY fun tool...), sifting and amending some soil, and digging a bunch of holes with a bent trowel. It was SO GOOD to get my hands back in the dirt! Also, Patricia seems like she is going to be an awesome friend and mentor.

Well, I think that’s all for me for tonight.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My First Night!

May 24th, 2011 9:23pm

Hello friends and family!

Tonight is my first night at Earthaven! So much has happened and I’m SO excited!

My flights were uneventful. I had no trouble navigating O’Hare. Pretty quick and painless, actually.

As I was flying Chicago to Asheville, I watched out the window as flat monoculture gave way to forested mountains, and I had the overwhelming sense that I was coming home.

Lyndon, one of the two people who run the Medicine Wheel community house, happened to have a dentist appointment this afternoon in Asheville and was able to pick me up with no problem. He was very friendly and told me all about the area, Earthaven, and Medicine Wheel on the drive back. Lyndon has been studying and practicing permaculture since 1986, and he has grand plans for Medicine Wheel. I look forward to living and working with him.

Earthaven is incredible! I admit I haven’t seen much of it, but it is lush, green, biodiverse forested mountain. The structures are rustic but charming. It reminds me a lot of the camp I went to every summer as a child, but better. And I always wanted to live at camp!

Medicine Wheel is fabulous, too. Patricia warned me that it was “unfinished,” and that it is. But again, somehow it has a charming feel rather than seeming "rundown" or "under construction." I can’t WAIT until the morning so that I can take a picture of the INCREDIBLE view from my window. I have a smallish room on the third floor overlooking the pond and the garden. I’m listening to the chorus of frogs and crickets right now. It’s peaceful. My room is unfinished – bare plywood floor, walls, and ceiling – but I have plans to start making it feel homey.

The whole house is solar powered, which is really impressive given the size of the house, so conserving energy is key. The water is from Earthaven springs and rainwater catchment, and from what Lyndon told me, there are plans to improve the cistern and plumbing. There are two bathrooms for bathing, but the toilet is an outdoor composting toilet system. Again, I think it’ll be kinda like camping, but all the time!

Everyone I’ve met so far has been very friendly and welcoming. There was a potluck dinner tonight. The food was fantastic, and I had several excellent discussions with a few different people. I’m still learning names and faces (and I will be for a while!), but I’ve met a lot of people that I can tell are going to become good friends.

Well, I’d better get to sleep for tonight. I have a lot more meeting and orienting to do in the morning.



The view out my window! It's SO BEAUTIFUL!!!

P.S. As I suspected, the closest point for cell reception is about a mile east of here. I’ll make calls on the house phone when I can. Also, I have to walk to “The Office” to get internet, which means I’m not going to post this until tomorrow. G’night all!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Gearing Up to GO

Only 5 days until I leave! (Well, 4 days and 15 hours, to be exact...) It seems so surreal. May 24th was so far away when I bought the plane tickets! I'm not sure I'm ready!

At least I'm mostly finished packing.

Since I decided to fly, I'll only be able to take two 50 lb bags. Let me tell you, it was quite a project to determine what stays and what goes. Going through stuff, I ended up purging a great many things at the Salvation Army, lending out things that would be better used than stored, and giving things away that I don't anticipate needing in the future. Oh, and I am very happy that my babies, er, I mean plants, found loving parents - some as foster kids and others given up for adoption.

Then, the rest of my stuff got divided into "will need in the next six months" and "will need... eventually." The latter category got boxed up and went into storage. (Hooray for free storage at mama's house! Thanks mama!) The former I've been packing and re-packing to try to fit everything safely into two 50 lb suitcases, which has been a chore. Since I'll be in North Carolina for six months, I decided to go ahead and ship a box to myself with my winter clothes (which take up a surprising amount of room!) as well as some breakable stuff that I didn't trust the airline to handle with appropriate care. With the vast majority of stuff (the few exceptions being my toothbrush, etc) packed and ready to go, I'm feeling much calmer.

However, my ToDo list is a mile long and my social calender is booked solid until I leave! It's kinda funny how popular you get when you are leaving for six months. :) Between spending quality time with all my loved ones, my brother's graduation (Congrats Jake!), working as much as I could at Prairie Archives (today was my last day), getting my ducks in a row with regards to classes for this summer and fall, and running various errands to get ready for my trip, I have been a very busy lady. My new mantra is "Everything will get done. It always does." Plus, my priority is spending time with family and friends. I can pick up stuff I forgot in Black Mountain and get school stuff taken care of over phone and email, but I only have a few more days to spend with the people I love.

So, I am ready. Everything will get done. It always does. (Another of my favorites, from Robert Anton Wilson's Prometheus Rising, "Everything will turn out better than I plan.") Still, I'd been both excited and nervous, happy to be going and sad to be leaving. However, I decided to take the advice of Rob Brezsny. In his wonderful volume Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia, Brezsny suggests giving in to negative emotions, letting fear and pain do their work, but only for an hour. Well, I've had my hour. (Actually, significantly more than an hour. Whoops...) Now it is time for optimism and confidence. I'm very excited for my adventure!

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Beginning of an Adventure

So, as promised, I am starting this blog to keep all of my dear family and friends up to date regarding my adventure in North Carolina. Oh, right. For those of you who are not already aware, I am leaving in approximately 18 days for an internship in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains! For about six months (June to December), I will be interning at an ecovillage called Earthaven.

Earthaven is located outside of Black Mountain, NC (a town about 45 minutes east of Asheville). Although Black Mountain is Earthaven's official address, it seems to me that many winding mountain roads lie between them, which makes me very happy that I outgrew my tendency toward car sickness!

Wait! An ecowhatnow? To pull an excellent quote from the Earthaven website:

"Ecovillages are human-scale, full-featured settlements in which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world in a way that is supportive of healthy human development, and which can be successfully continued into the indefinite future."
—Robert and Diane Gilman, Ecovillages and Sustainable Commuities, 1991

The basic idea is to create an ecologically sustainable intentional community. For more information on Earthaven and its ideals and goals, feel free to peruse their website at:

At Earthaven, I'll be living and working at a community house called Medicine Wheel. For the "living" part, I'll have my own room in the house and share the kitchen, bathroom, and living spaces with the other residents. I have no idea who I'm going to be living with, but I am excited to meet them. I can at least be assured that we will have some common interests. (Hooray intentional community!) I imagine it will be rather like going away to college, except not. I'll be sure to include profiles on my housemates in future updates.

For the "working" part, my job description is as follows: "Work includes gardens, orchards, natural building, greenhouses, ponds, rainwater catchment, animal care – and sometimes just plain housework, or hauling trash, or chopping firewood or putting up fencing for days." Aside from that, I honestly have no idea what I'll actually be doing. However, it seems I'll have plenty of fascinating stuff to do and a great deal to learn from doing it! Again, I plan to use this blog to keep you all updated on what exactly ends up happening...

So, I am very excited to begin my adventure! I can't WAIT to see the 320 acres of forested mountains. I'm looking forward to experiencing life in a community living arrangement. I love that I'll be learning and practicing permaculture ( daily in a hands-on, face-to-face environment.

I promise to try to take time at least once a week from experiencing these things in order to keep you all updated about them, but please bear with me if I don't get around to it quite that often.