Musical March Calendar & Newsletter

Birds singing, frogs croaking, water burbling, breezes whispering…  After Winter’s hush, the music of Spring beckons, urging us to join in the dance of life returning and inspiring us to tune into the seeds within that crave tending as the days lengthen.  Chances are you’ll see something in this Calendar of Events* that offers you nourishment, meaning, connection, joy, creativity, learning, and more. 

The vision we are cultivating here matters.  In case you haven’t heard, many CGEV members and friends helped to prevent the Texas company, Buc-ee’s, from developing the largest gas station in the world on a protected watershed in Efland just three miles down the highway from this Ecovillage.   This outcome is a victory for sustainable development in Orange County (though it leaves the call for jobs for local residents and tax revenue for schools and infrastructure unaddressed).  Our voices mattered, and thank you to all who spoke up, sent letters, contributed, or otherwise supported this process and outcome.

So catch the energy of Spring and respond to what calls to you in this Calendar.  We look forward to hearing your song!

*Here’s the link: http://www.commonground.eco/musical-march-2021-calendar-rev/

 

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Here, Birdie-Birdie-Birdie!

  by Margret Mueller

Back in January, Hope and I planned an adventure on the land to count birds.  Some of you may be familiar with the annual Great Backyard Bird Count (read more about it here: audubon.org/conservation/about-great-backyard-bird-count). This is a terrific citizen-science-type activity that takes place all over the world for four days every February.  Our best available day was February 15, the last day of the official count.

As it happened, February 15 dawned…well…it barely dawned at all. After about three days of almost non-stop rain, the earth seemed to be drowning, gasping for breath beneath a layer of slurry. The air was thick with moisture, the sky was gray, we were surrounded by fog, and it was cold. But I was ecstatic! I had logged an unprecedented number of hours inside for a few days but now was without a doubt immersed (in all senses) in the great outdoors.

We met at the barn at 9:30am and started to look and listen. There went a bluebird, straight to a small clump of leafless persimmon tree.  We had barely gotten our binoculars focused when his mate appeared.  Then, unbelievably, the branches filled in rapid succession with more bluebirds, a small flock of juncos, a pair of cardinals, and a pine warbler. Talk about instant gratification!  As I beheld this flock of the three primary colors, plus black-and-white, I wished my binoculars had been a camera.

Energized by our early success, we quietly passed through the pines and circled the left side of the far field, where we saw crows and heard a blue jay and a red-shouldered hawk. We entered the woods at the McGowan Creek Trail and headed into an otherworldly silence, the damp path absorbing the sound of our footsteps. We are both avid botanizers, so no, we did not stay on the trail. We wandered and paused for putty-root, interesting leaves, spectacular mosses and lichens, winter fungi, gnarly tree trunks…

From a rise beside McGowan Creek, we stared in wonder at the new waterways carved by the recent rains. Suddenly we heard the peculiar whistling sound of ducks in flight. More fortuitous timing—four of our resident wood ducks did a fly-over, followed by a couple of Canada geese!

As we passed through different habitats, the species changed. The brushy thickets on the South side of the far field were alive with sparrows; we eventually identified three different kinds.  Just when I thought our bird count was winding down, and we were headed toward the hartery Trail, I spied an extremely rare specimen perched on the footbridge by the treehouse—a Multicolored Bobble-bird! Take that, Mr. Audubon!

 

All in all, Hope and I identified thirteen varieties of birds, totaling more than 85 individuals in four hours. Over the years, and in different seasons, I’ve seen and heard many other varieties which sadly were not in evidence this day, including pileated woodpeckers, phoebes, hummingbirds, yellow-billed cuckoos, yellow bellied sapsuckers, yellow shafted flickers, indigo buntings, and summer tanagers. Care to join us this summer for our very own CGEV bird count?

  

And the grandmother oak saw it all…

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Flowing February Calendar & Newsletter

This is a repeat of the calendar sent on January 31 through our ListServ.  Apologies for the late posting!

February is a time to look at sobering truths together while strengthening our connections with each other and the land:

  • We’re reaching out to all members this month to come to a gathering on Saturday, February 6, 2:00-4:30 via Zoom, where we’ll discuss  the state of Common Ground.  The object is to pool our knowledge, identify gaps, and catalyze the commitment and creativity of our members to navigate through this tricky time.
  • How can we more deeply connect with and support each other?  Come to a Heart Sharing Circle on February 14th and the Meet and Greet on the 10th. 
  • Needing some open space and fresh air?  Come to the land to take walks, help out on the farm or barn, or learn to make mats out of the broom sedge on the 21st.  
  • What do you need from Common Ground Ecovillage and what are you inspired to offer?  The Last Saturday gathering on the 27th is all about YOU.

It’s all laid out and displayed here: https://www.commonground.eco/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Flowing-February-2021-calendar.pdf

February is a short month.  We invite you to get in the flow and RSVP NOW for the Circle meeting and events that interest you.  

You are welcome at Common Ground. 

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Gentle January 2021 Calendar and Retrospective

Photo by Doug Jones

Dear friends,

Amidst the danger, sorrow, and uncertainty of this past year, Common Ground Ecovillage members have found strength, solace, and meaning from engagement with the land, from the connections nourished between us through shared values and aspirations, and from a grand project–the barn–which has mobilized so many of us to create a multi-purpose community haven.  Looking back, it’s remarkable all that has transpired during a year when we met only via zoom, sprinkled with a few special occasions on the land.  The full calendar/retrospective link and a recurring NEW Google Calendar link (courtesy of Ren Enberg) can be found below. 

The calendar includes a 2020 retrospective in addition to five pages of photos celebrating sweet moments and documenting the ambitious pole barn construction process.  Though not yet quite completed, it’s already serving the community in crucial ways.  It’s amazing that it’s been built largely by a small team of men with an average age of 72!  Kudos and endless gratitude goes to George, Anthony, Paul, and Jeffry, along with invaluable help from many others who brought strong backs, winning attitudes and graceful endurance to the task. 

Have we achieved all we hoped in this past year?  Are we where we hoped to be by this time?  No.  But wherever we are, whatever has or has not happened, there is much to celebrate and commend about our efforts to grow and manifest our big vision.  We have touched many lives and made a positive mark in our local community and beyond.  As this season dissolves into the alchemical brew which births new life, know that out of our unknowing may come the most profound guidance and direction ever. 

May the silvered flickerings in our hearts join together in an ever-creative fire, sparked with love,

The Governance & Training Circle

Calendar + photo spreads: https://www.commonground.eco/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Gentle-January-2021-calendar-plus-photo-spreads_compressed.pdf
Google Calendar: https://tinyurl.com/CGEV-Calendar

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Deep December Calendar and Newsletter

Photo by Margaret Anderson

Amid the fading of Autumn and bluster of early Winter, long shadows paint strokes of dun and gray across the fields.  The crops are swathed against the cold in the hopes that all will remain verdant and rich within.  Though the season surprises with bright red berries, still-orange leaves, and flashes of blue and crimson birds, we humans gravitate to fire to keep our bodies and spirits warm and our hearts a-glowing in the growing dark.

December’s calendar and newsletter* reveals how we are keeping the flames stoked at Common Ground Ecovillage.  Come and blow on the coals together — there are many and varied  opportunities to connect, nourish, and enlighten yourself through the dimming of the days.   

See you at Common Ground

*https://www.commonground.eco/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Deep-December-calendar-2020.pdf

 

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Nourishing November Calendar and Newsletter

Friends,

Neither rain, nor hurricane Zeta, nor upcoming elections will dampen our spirits or keep this calendar out of the mail.  (Okay, it’s a day late because we lost power at the Nest.)  Here’s a link: http://www.commonground.eco/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Nourishing-November-calendar-2020.pdf Or, visit the Calendar and Newsletter page on our website. 

What a week!  The blue moon Halloween Harvest Festival, a week on natural building at the barn by students from Iowa (hoping to send a blog post soon), and a Cooperative Skills & Governance training.  Wow!  Oh, and by the way the Common Ground Ecovillage wastewater permit has finally been approved.  Whew!

You are invited to come on over to the land to restore and re-balance your energy.  Join us for a Gathering of Gratitude and Goodies on November 26.  “Dial” into the many Zoom meetings and events offered.  All of us are needed to bring more beauty and healing to this world, as we are willing and able.

With November peace, Common Ground Ecovillage

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Opulent October Calendar and Newsletter

You want to contribute to something positive in the world?  Show up at Common Ground Ecovillage.  The October Calendar lists a dazzling variety of ways to engage:

  • Develop knowledge and intimacy with the land through our *NEW* Simpler Living: Earth Skills Sundays with Gumby Montomery.  This month we’ll meet medicinal and edible plants
  • Get to know each other through a Meet and Greet Zoom evening and a Halloween Harvest Festival on the land
  • Build a barn–hammer, saw, paint, run errands, bring cookies…there’s a place for you
  • Wrap your head and heart around cooperative culture and governance skills at our semi-annual training via Zoom
  • Tend the crops and mow the fields
  • Come to Circle meetings to co-create our village, help with marketing and fundraising, plan community gatherings, and much more

Click this link and read all about it: http://www.commonground.eco/opulent-october-calendar-2020

Common Ground welcomes you.  See you in October!

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Coming to Common Ground

Lately we have received a prose poem on the subject of the name change, after an evening on the land, by a pseudonymous member to be known to us only as Change O. Heart (no relation to any Harts we know or don’t know).

 

Tonight a crystalline blazing Venus settles toward the horizon of our common ground.
By sidelong glance I can still just barely catch the outline of the fence enclosing its intensively-worked vegetable sub-plot.
Any minute now the owls and coyotes will repeat their claims too. Don’t forget us!
Common ground on all scales, from the line of tall trees that eagerly awaits the slowly down-drifting stars to the dirt under our fingernails.

There are other kinds of common ground too.
One is the common intention that grounds and unites us, the village-in-the-land we mean to build.
Our hope, our work, our great venture, the project draws us so strongly to each other.
It’s the common ground of our dreams, the place where our hearts become one.

Besides, that vision scales up. It’s not just our work. Something about it goes much farther,
it turns out, judging by the fact that it’s a common name.
It seems we are making common cause with all manner of change-projects.
No hesitation, then: we’ll rise to it. We embrace and celebrate all our compatriots on the
vast Common Ground-swelling,
While at the same time we announce ourselves as the Common Ground Ecovillage.
We are the way the Great Common-Grounding shows up here.

Come inside now, friends.
There is a fire on the great hearth and a lively circle of fellows is singing, or maybe
tomorrow’s planting is being planned.
We are re-creating for the thousandth time the commons: “The cultural and natural
resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as
air, water, and a habitable earth.” (Thanks, Wikipedia… which by the way is
itself a commons too, isn’t it?)
That is a beautiful word, friends… and portends a beautiful world besides.
Togetherness, cooperation, mutuality… community.
It’s an old story — talk about centuries of struggle!
Think of the Diggers’ creed: All Land in Common, All People One.
Don’t fall for “tragedy”. There is no “tragedy of the commons” waiting to happen.
As a social institution the Commons worked for millennia, across a vast
range of different cultures, until it was destroyed by enclosure, and monied
appropriation. That was the tragedy!
The derogation and dismissal of the Commons is exactly what a venture like ours ought to
resist and reverse.
Common Ground works.
Indeed, in the long run (thanks, Margret Mead), it’s the only social and
ecological arrangement that ever has.

Next we must sing the ground.
This Ground is the soil. What we hold in common is a living community itself,
which we propose to regeneratively join,
a million times richer than anything bequeathed us by any or all Harts,
shared with each other, with the oaks and pines and even the ailanthus, with
the hawks and otters and the winds and stars.
(Saturn rising now as Venus sets, and a cloud front is moving in. Rain soon.)
Our hands in this dirt, our food from this ground, our feet on these trails,
our dreams burbling along these creeks – that’s the grounding we ache for,
the reunion we intend.
This “ground” is no more humdrum than “commons” are tragedies.
This ground is spectacular!

It seems that in renouncing the name of a slaveholder we have led ourselves
back to the absolute basics in the end:
Beyond all human or historical names,
Beyond other-than-human particulars
(sure I liked “Kingfisher” and “Daughter Oak” and “Headwaters” too, but it
seems something bigger got hold of us),
Even beyond regional place names,
To finally name ourselves unapologetically and simply for the unadorned
Earth/soil/ground itself.
The commonest of Common Grounds.
We lift up our Common Ground as it always and forever lifts us up in turn.

So, concretely, here and now: we – you, me, us – have come together and keep
coming together around this work of Common Grounding (I like the verb).
Yeah, it’s work. It’s still possible to miss the ground entirely (so used to walking
on asphalt or floors or not walking at all) or lose ourselves in different parts
of the woods.
Our trails need way more walkers to truly settle into the land.
It needs such skill and subtlety and patience sometimes even to find the
(small-c) common (small-g) ground that we have learned to call Good Enough
for Now and Safe Enough to Try.

But we grow, and it grows on us. And likewise perhaps the hidden wisdom of the name
only opens to us slowly, like some shy trail-side flower awaiting a long and sunny
enough spring day to unfold in its own good time.

Welcome to Common Ground!

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Presenting…Common Ground Ecovillage

by the Membership & Marketing Circle

 

As many of you know, we have just completed a four-month process of choosing a new name.  🎉We are now COMMON GROUND ECOVILLAGE!🎉  This is a name that we think reflects our community valued well, and we hope it stays with us for a long time!

 Why did we change the name?

In late 2019, a community member found information suggesting that Thomas Hart who owned Hart’s Mill in the late 1700s most likely owned slaves and was involved in a transaction that attempted to dispossess Native Americans of their land in what is now Tennessee and Kentucky.  Given that this type of 18th-century colonial history is so very far from our vision of social justice and harmony with each other and the land, a new name for our community felt imperative.  

What was the process?

We embarked on an extended process that included generating names individually and also collectively in a name-changing party.  Altogether, 27 members generated over 160 names and then 33 members ranked their top ten names from this long list. Their rankings became advisory to the General Circle, who also commissioned various forms of research about the 12 top-ranked names. 

It was not easy to pick one name among several strong possibilities and even stronger preferences!

The General Circle met four times: once to determine our process; once to identify the top names; and twice to determine the final name.  In these last two meetings, we relied on the election process from sociocracy to guide us. 

In the end, it was a felt desire to reach common ground that allowed us to choose our name. Once we consented to the name, we quickly discovered its beauty and surprisingly apt fit with our community’s core purpose of finding common ground in achieving justice and harmony with each other and the land.

We also appreciate how much the name Common Ground Ecovillage encompasses who we are and what we aspire to as a community:

  • The most defining feature of our community are our 112 precious acres of virtually undeveloped forests, wetlands, pond, streams, wildlife and cultivated farmland, soon to be joined by unobtrusive dwellings for humans. We have always thought of this land as “ground” that is co-owned, held by all of us in “common.” 
  • We have always shared the ecological and social goals involving: the restoration, protection, and appropriate cultivation of the land; a shared commitment to racial, social and economic justice; a highly inclusive system of governance, an always open door. These are our bedrock beliefs, the common ground, if you will, of what we hold sacred.
  • We have always known that we were meant to become an ecovillage with all that the term implies. It points to a shared set of deeply held beliefs about regenerating relationships with each other and the land and inviting others to widen the common ground on which we stand together.

Please join us in celebrating our new name!  You will see changes soon in the website, emails, and in conversation as our new name begins to roll off our tongues with a smile reaching all the way to our eyes! 

Next steps

We hope you will join in the common work as we continue to grow our community in membership, food (the farm), and research on the most ecological, sustainable, and reasonably costing homes. 

There is a lot to be done, but less to do when we work together — contact Marilyn (MarilynGrubbs@gmail.com) to volunteer for membership development, or Anthony (weston@elon.edu)  to volunteer for sustainable design.

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Join this Visionary Site Design Work

by Anthony Weston

The Planning, Design, and Development (PDD) Functional Circle has just concluded schematic design for the Common House, and we are also in the midst of another key planning initiative, “Raising Sights 2020”. We also just hosted a very active Last Saturday event on that theme. Want to know more? We thought so…

 C0mmon House

There it is (click for a full-size version)!  We’re working schematically at this point – trying to capture the spirit and the function of the eventual building; actual features may somewhat differ – but we are delighted to offer a worked-out visualization for the first time. This is a view of the building as it could look approached on the ground from the south (main community path) side. You can go here for many more images and details.

PDD has been developing the Common House design for since January 2019. Many other members have been involved through Noodling Groups that advised us on the overall design program, while another, partly-overlapping group thought through the Common House kitchen in detail.  Sustained back and forth with our architect, Jonathan Lucas of Asheville’s What on Earth Architecture, consolidated and evolved the plans, as we also consulted with County regulators and other advisors. It was an involved process for this central and complex building! Just last week we were finally able to roll out the designs for a first and very enthusiastic look by General Circle.

Again, you can find out much more by going to the “Common House” page under the “Village Design” tab on the community website (or again, just click here). Do note, while you are on the website, that there are other pages relating to village design as well; specifically you might want to revisit the Residences page also to get a sense of how Common House and residence styles coordinate.

Oh and maybe you are wondering what is that spiral structure on the roof? It’s a vertical axis windmill. Think of it as a sculptural but moving and functional element, merrily spinning away as you approach the building, flashing a bit in the sun and powering some of the building’s lights inside when needed. Indeed, we’re an ecovillage!

Here is the floor plan (click for a full-size version):

Again, there is much more detail here.

We are thrilled to share these designs with the community and to finally be able to concretely envision this building that will be so central to the life of the community both functionally, physically, and in spirit as well!

Raising Sights 2020

As we consolidate architectural visions, we are approaching a point at which we want to be able to launch into detailed design development – making decisions about materials, methods, finishes, etc. – as well as undertaking detailed design for village site engineering – making decisions about basic infrastructure, siting, etc. This poses our next big set of challenges and opportunities.

Many of these design decisions will be difficult or costly to change later. At the same time, we are also aware that in the run-up to this moment we have also gradually and unintentionally made some accommodations to more standard (sometimes called “realistic”) ways of doing things, as we deal with outside professionals as well as try to come to terms with persistent trade-offs such as cost issues. Meantime new technologies are constantly emerging that offer unexpected and potentially wonderful new paths to some of our most ambitious goals (so what exactly is “realistic” isn’t always so clear). Both the urgency of our ecovillage project, and the methods and technologies that might support and further it, have only increased since we began this work together, and we want to be sure we are doing the very best we can now as we move toward specific, on-the-ground design commitments. 

Accordingly PDD has decided that before proceeding any farther we need to take a critical pause and revisit our basic values and goals, return to our highest ambitions, and raise our sights wherever possible, while remaining practical at the same time. Our new initiative is therefore called “Raising Sights 2020”. It’s developed into a look at four of the most basic objectives of our overall project – which we’ve articulated as Self-reliance, Climate action, and building a Healthy and Happy community within a Thriving Living System – and trying to specify how it might play out across four key sectors for our engineering and architectural planning: Energy, Water, Materials, and the Land. What does self-reliance specifically mean when we are thinking about materials? What does climate-change adaptation mean when we are thinking about water use? – those kinds of questions.

We shared our answers so far at the Last Saturday event on February 29th (which just happened to be Leap Day also – a fine occasion for a leap forward together!)  Here’s what we offered (click for a full-sized version).

                                                                

This is very schematic too, of course, and still in process. By design we are sharing our “sight-raising” right in the midst of undertaking it. It’s a project for all of us! Community members offered many useful questions and feedback at the Last Saturday event, and are welcome to continue to do so by emailing PDD through me at weston@elon.edu.

But we are also poised to take a further step now. Within the framework of this matrix, we want now to undertake RESEARCH on specific objectives to determine just how practical our goals are. Are they realistic? Can we go farther? Specifically, how? What are the best current practices and the most ambitious achievable goals in these areas?

PDD is organizing to carry out some of this research ourselves. We also expect that we’ll need to consult and hire experts in some of these areas to advise us in some technical matters, as well as contacting other communities and projects that have taken innovative and ambitious steps in some of these directions (e.g. DC electrical grids; alternatives to community-wide wireless; actually applied permacultural methods; etc.).

AND – WE NEED YOU! We are hereby calling for any and all interested community member to also join this research work. We called for volunteers at the Last Saturday session and will soon be in touch with those who did about beginning the work. But every member and friend of the community is welcome and indeed urged to join as well. In fact you can email me to that effect right now. We are preparing a guide for the research work and will begin setting out specific assignments shortly. Please jump in! (Again: weston@elon.edu.) Exciting and urgent work for all!

 

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