Of Farming and Fellowship: Musings of a Farm Intern at CGEV

by Lara Struckman

Entry 1: June 4 2021

Being on this land for the past two weeks, I feel as though I have inhaled for the first time. “Ahh, this is what community is like,” my sweet breath says.  These first few weeks of living and working as part of Common Ground Ecovillage have in many ways been a dream. I  was met upon arrival with a warm and hearty welcome.   Walking into the bustling barn that would become my new residence was intimidating at first but quickly became familiar and communal. Surrounded by a stunning array of green textures and hues, a guardian persimmon tree, and a sprightly pair of Carolina wren who visit me daily, beaks full, on my personal observation perch. I have been finding fulfillment both in simplicity and solitude as well as in the vibrant communal gatherings and passing conversations. I have been welcomed into the Nest for nourishing dinners and throughout the first week I was struck by the generosity of this community through the ways so many checked in on me, made sure I had what I needed, and were willing to chip in what they could to make here feel like home.

I worked long days in the garden until the burning sun kissed the western horizon and I loved it. I relished in the way we kept time only by the amount of daylight left and not by watch or clock. I enjoyed using my body in service to that which is meaningful, getting to meet the crops and sing songs of praise and gratitude for their abundance and their thriving. On the more technical side of things, the first pages of my notebook are already filled with rememberings and teachings from Doug, Caleb, Margaret, and Jeffry. I am inspired by the way all of them work so diligently and calmly even amidst the trials and hinderences inherently present in this type of work.

The climax of community this week was surely the Memorial Day workday and moving up ceremony celebration on Saturday. Never have I been swept up in such a swell of sincerity, generosity, and loving workfullness. The connections were abundant, the food nourishing, and the gratitude palpable. My heart was touched through witnessing the outpouring of love and admiration towards Jeffry and Margaret in their moving up ceremony, recognizing their new level of engagement and commitment to the community. This was an excellent entry point into not only the grit and dedication of the community, but also the heart and soul.

I tucked all these moments and more into my back pocket to save them for the times of less serendipity that will undoubtedly ensue. I was surprised however, that one of those moments happened very soon after. When I felt the culture shock of venturing out to Food Lion for groceries after only a week in an intentional community, I realized both the richness of these experiences and how strongly I yearn for them to be the norm in our society rather than reserved only for those few who seek it out.

As I embark on the next 6 months here, it feels important to spend some time reflecting on why it is I am here and respond to what many have asked me so far which is what I hope to learn or receive from this experience.  I said “yes” to this internship in part because I knew it would push me not only to grow both in my knowledge and experience of farming but also as a whole person. This intention has already been supported by the fact that in just 10 days I already feel in many ways changed. It is as if layers of noise are beginning to peel away to reveal an innate sense of belonging. Belonging to life, to myself, to others, and to land.

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Jammy June Calendar & Newsletter

It was a chilly, rainy Memorial Day weekend, but our spirits soared as we gathered to work on finishing our magnificent barn.  Today’s main project was prepping and applying slip straw insulation to some remaining walls.  Some, like Theresa, pitched in to the elbows and got busy.  Others went to the far corners of the land to work on clearing some trails and forging others.  Still others worked in the garden and helped prep farmer Doug’s weekly CSA.  And it all came to a close with a fabulous potluck and a music jam at the fire drum circle…

Though the Calendar* highlights this event with photo spreads at the end, there is some really terrific news about financing our pre-development costs.  There are myriad ways to get to know each other, in person and via zoom.  We’re offering THREE WAYS TO PLAY on Summer Solstice Sunday, and many other activities continue as we draw closer to actualizing our agrarian ecovillage. 

There’s a whole lotta good going on and we have a long way to go on many diverse and complex fronts. There’s something for everyone. We hope you’ll be moved to bring your gifts, dive in and get into the swim.

See you at Common Ground Ecovillage!

*http://www.commonground.eco/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Jammy-June-2021-Calendar.pdf

http://www.commonground.eco/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Jammy-June-2021-Calendar.pdf

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Beauty, Nourishment, Abundance–Doug’s CSA delivers it all

By Theresa Jensen

Mother’s Day morning.  I woke gently with the early morning light breaking through the window shades – even before the alarm!  Aha, the melatonin had worked and I had slept through the night.  Blessed be.  This was my morning to show up around 8:30 at the farm and help Doug with the last of the harvest, before the weekly distribution to the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members. 

I landed here in North Carolina (are you kidding? I still can’t believe I’m here) on Earth Day, April 22nd, just two weeks and three days ago.  Whew!!  I’m the west coast transplant – most recently from northern California, but really from Oregon:  from 1983 to 2018 I made Oregon my home, and raised my son there.  What brought me here is a story, or book, in itself.  Ask me about it some day.

 

I’ve made my home at The Nest, and I love being right next door to the community land.  Stepping from the lawn into the forest always takes my breath away, and I like to pause, consciously taking the first step, as if crossing a threshold into a magical place of wildness.

It takes me about 10 minutes to arrive at the outskirts of the farm, at least it does when  my walking is focused on reaching a destination at an agreed upon time, like this morning.  I arrived a bit ahead of Doug, so perched atop an overturned bucket with a short piece of wood across the top, to take in my surroundings.  I closed my eyes and let the sounds of birds and breeze moving through the trees wash through me, noticing my breath softening in widening circles.  

 After a few minutes Doug called to me and waved, so I made my way to the barn to see what I could help with.  He pushed a garden cart and I followed with a wheelbarrow down to the rows that we would be harvesting.  I was assigned the broccolini for starters.  Doug found me a sharp blade and demonstrated how to select the tender shoots with miniature broccoli “heads” and how far to cut them down.  It reminded me of pruning roses: make the cut just above the branch below that held the beginning of another tiny sprout.  I had always assumed that “broccolini” was an early cutting of broccoli.  What I learned was that regular broccoli sends out smaller side shoots after the main, larger head is cut.  Broccolini, however, is a separate variety that only sends out the smaller “side shoots” with teeny broccoli “heads”.   They’re lovely to munch on raw, and cut up for stir-frys or for steaming, only very light cooking is needed as they’re so tender.  So I got to work.  I had brought my trusty wooden stool in case I needed it, but held off as long as possible just because.  I guess I wanted to wait and see how my back did.  Well, about a quarter way down the row my lower back was starting to communicate with me rather vociferously, so I resigned myself to fetching the wooden stool.  Ahh, much better!  Doug and I chatted a bit, but it was clear that we were both working quickly in order to get in the harvest before he had to leave around 11:30 or so.  There were two types of broccolini in the row, a green variety and a dark purple variety.  I filled up the first 5 gallon bucket and about 1/3 of a second bucket, covering two sides of a single row.

Next came the sugar snap peas.  I love sugar snap peas, and Doug told me that I could much away while picking, which I did of course.  Picking them is done without a knife, just using the hands.  Two hands actually, as you need to hold on to the plant while tugging just above the end of each pea.  The tug is stronger than you would think, that’s why you need to hold down the plant to create some resistance, or you would pull the whole plant out.  Doug showed me how the peas mature from the ground up, so the chubbiest peas, which are also the sweetest, are the ones near the bottom of the plant.  It doesn’t really matter how long the pea is, but how chubby it is, and he showed me the minimum chubbieness to go for.   

It reminded me of a treasure hunt. Some plants were densely clumped, and Doug showed me how to pull apart the tendrils to separate the denseness, while looking inside for the pea-treasures.  You think you’ve gotten them all, then you fold the entire plant forward gently and  viola!  tons more were waiting on the back side.  Sometimes I would have moved on to my next station, only to glance back and see several fat ones I had missed.  It was time for me to be going but I had a hard time tearing myself away.  Just one more plant, one more!  The peas were sooo abundant and just begging to be picked.  I had only finished one side of the row, and had about a third of a 5-gallon bucket to show for it.  Doug said that they’d be picking again in a couple of days.

 I learned that the farm is prolifically producing, but unfortunately there are not enough CSA members to keep up with the abundance.  So spread the word, and sign up yourselves!  The produce is AMAZINGinly wonderful.  I especially like that each week Doug sends you a list of what’s available, and you check off what you want and how many “units” of each.  Then your order is available at a nearby pick-up spot.

Doug needs more volunteers.  One of the gaps is Sunday mornings, when he REALLY needs help to finish off the harvesting.  Come and join us!!  It felt so good to be getting to know the plants and learning from Doug, and I left feeling even more excited about living in this community and growing our own food.

 

 

 

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Magnetic May Calendar & Call to Action!

Dear friends, 

We greet this May with tremendous excitement to be proceeding full steam ahead with Village development!  It is HUGELY gratifying to be at this point.  And, the tasks ahead will take a village to achieve.  CGEV is now clanging the bell, calling all who wish to live here—and can contribute to make it possible—to come on in. 

This calendar/newsletter* is packed with information and events that will open doors for you to engage and build this community on all levels.  STEP ONE is to fill out and return by May 15 a pre-reservation survey** letting us know your intentions and situation.  If you missed the Last Saturday on April 24 and want to get up to speed with new developments, click here*** for a recording. 

Above all, be in touch. Contact our leaders with both your queries and your offerings. Village development is a vital—but not the only—stage in building community, by far. It’s so essential and life-giving to get to know each other and the land; to grow the skills we’ll need to live together in justice and harmony; to be a part of a cooperative culture cultivating a regenerative future.

We hope you’ll step in and help bring us all home,

CGEV Community

LINKS:
*Calendar/newsletter: http://www.commonground.eco/magnetic-may-2021-calendar/
**Pre-reservation survey: http://www.commonground.eco/cgev-pre-reservation-survey/
*** April 24 Last Saturday recording: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ytrj42OoA795dzhGd4yTfI2eSVYpKjHhZQQL-mnwuXA/edit?usp=sharing

Photo above of Seeing Stars Farm Strawberries by Margret
 

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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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