Racial Reflection Circle at Common Ground

 by Lara Struckman

As we cross the threshold into summer we are marking both the change of seasons and a chance to check in with how Common Ground has evolved since summer of last year and where there is still much room to grow in terms of racial equity and diversity.

As many of you may know, last month Common Ground held its first racial reflection circle in order to both continue and start the conversation around race. Inspired by Juneteenth, we reflected on where the community is in terms of its racial awareness after a year of collective, national, and individual reckonings with the way race impacts our lives. The circle was facilitated by two newer members of the community- Jess Cudney and Lara Struckman as well as long time member Amy Halberstadt. We had a full circle of folks joining which demonstrated how needed and welcome this conversation was to the community. 

We began the evening with a scrumptious potluck to get the conversation flowing and to hopefully dispel some tension that may have been present for folks walking into perhaps their first conversation about race. Once the “light sprinkles” subsided and a lopsided circle was formed under the barn around a beautiful centerpiece from Jane with flowers and a beeswax candle representing corn.  Jess began by guiding us through a soft centering practice to get us grounded into our seats and to begin to settle into the process that would unfold. She followed up with a land acknowledgement of the Native Peoples who steward the land on which Common Ground resides- namely the tribes of the Occenechi, Shakori, Eno, and neighboring Lumbee. 

With some setting of the context as to why we gathered and what the expected flow of the evening would be we dove into conversation in small groups about both the challenges and stuck places in our race journeys as well as commitments we have made and upheld to further our anti-racism practice. 

After reflecting on the past we shifted into visioning work and brainstormed ideas that answer the following questions:

  • As a member of Common Ground, what is important to you when it comes to antiracism/racial equity work?
  • What skills/knowledge/experiences do you want to learn or acquire?
  • What next steps would you like to see within the community? 

Feel free to reflect on these questions and view the responses other community members generated at the event in the “Learning from Poster Sheets” tab that Amy compiled. In this way we can continue to hold ourselves and the CG community accountable for moving towards these ends. 

Lastly, we ended the circle by making commitments to ourselves wherever we are in this work to continue, whether that was through having tough conversations with friends and family, joining the racial awareness book club, or cultivating a sense of openness to other perspectives and voices different than our own. We sealed these intentions with the lighting of candles from a central flame provided by Jane Meadows reminding us of the unity and strength that comes from collective commitment to a just cause- something we are no stranger to here at Common Ground. 

The event was warmly received and there was much rich dialogue during and following the event. Our hope is that this conversation continues both within Common Ground and in all of our lives as we embark maybe for the first or the hundredth time on our lifelong journey of anti-racism work and continually walk towards our mission of living in justice and harmony with each other and the land. If you have interest in helping facilitate more conversation, action, or celebration around racial equity and diversity feel free to reach out to Amy, Jess or Lara. 

 

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Learning Every Day: A response to Crystal Farmer’s course on diversity and inclusion in communities

by Kathleen Biernat

The Foundation for Intentional Communities (FIC) offered a 5-week course in June, called Building Diversity and Inclusivity in Communities, taught by Crystal Farmer.  Crystal is an FIC board member, diversity consultant, and author of The Token: Common Sense Ideas for Increasing Diversity in Your Organization, who supports communities and non-profit organizations with diversity, equity, and inclusion.   Kathleen Biernat and Hope Horton attended (and highly recommend) this experience, which will be repeated starting on August 27.

 

I want to convey my heartfelt thanks to the members of the Common Ground Ecovillage Membership and Marketing Circle. Your sponsorship to attend this course has affected me deeply. I entered the class with eagerness to learn, grateful for the opportunity. I presumed I’d gather information and practices that might help CGEV (and myself) grow. I didn’t realize that it would uncover mental habits that have created barriers for people I love dearly and we (CGEV) wish to include. The five week course is done, the work has just begun.

Rather than try to describe all that we covered I am writing about my experience of learning in these ways:

  • to live with more understanding and congruence toward a range of genders, races, identities, abilities, disabilities, ages, ethnicities, sexualities, nationalities and appearances;
  • how to be more conscious of my biases that distort my ability to see Truth.

Our straight talking leader, Crystal Farmer, began by preparing us for the upsetting nature of the work ahead. We agreed to guidelines for a safe forum. When one of us felt hurt, angry or anxious, it was our responsibility to non-aggressively communicate. And, she assured us we would be triggered!

Crystal advised us to:

  • pay attention to our internal reactions and rising emotions
  • gather resources for processing emotions outside of the group
  • recognize that apologies are a beginning of reparation…
  • …and that backpedaling, blaming or defending are not.

What I Didn’t Know
We reviewed Six Components of Conflict Resolution from the  by Yana Ludwig and Karen Gimnig to help us to handle any disagreements or confusion. Crystal was patient and accepting while making sure we understood that unintentional harm still causes suffering. We were not patronized or coddled. We were informed that it is not fair to ask the person(s) harmed to reassure or comfort the person(s) causing harm. She defined microaggressions, cultural appropriation, subversive judgement of age, youth, disability, mental health, body size, skin color, cultural origins, sex & gender preferences, and I realized that these all exist in me.

I felt little organisms, like crusty oysters, popping open inside me. Gooey, messy emotions exposed.  What must it be like for Crystal to present this information and watch the “oh” reactions,”not me” denials, and “ouch!’s”?  Do they still hurt her? Does she feel disappointed or tired?

We went over the fact that uncovering discrimination and superiority in ourselves or fellow community members would cause stages of denial, resistance, sadness, regret and pain. But this is what growth asks of us. If I want to live the idea that we are all equal I’m going to have to look at the racist, fearful, judgemental programming inside of me.

As the land is now, we are unable to welcome people with most physical disabilities. My natural instinct is to help – open the door, remove the obstacle, assist with reaching (microaggression 🚩). Folks with physical or neural variations have worked diligently to be as functional as they can.Lesson: Asking before acting to “assist” is the best way to value someone’s autonomy.  Adults can consent; ask children, too.   

Neural and developmental disability can be mostly invisible: PTSD, autism, ADHD, depression, addictions, congenital and intellectual variations. Neurodiversity and neuroplasticity are topics I have studied and tried to implement in my own life. Someone who appears to be neurotypical may conceal a need that requires consideration, such as  help staying focused during meetings or requiring more time to respond and integrate information.  Offering reminders and outside support are ways we can adapt to compassionately include individuals with these challenges.

Crystal walked us through many other issues, such as gender identity and sexual orientations, treatment of the less mentally or physically able, examples of microaggressions, the difference between cultural appreciation vs. appropriation, the subtlety of latent discrimination, perfectionism and what people coming to Common Ground may have endured before approaching us. My heart was hurting. It’s going to take some brave souls to want to come from a ‘diverse’ culture or lifestyle and stand for their place among a mostly white community.

What I thought I Knew
I am privileged. I thought I knew that. The child of a world traveled, educated white man, I grew up witnessing my first generation Asian, Venezuelan, Dominican, Indian, Pakistani and Moroccan friends deal with language and educational disadvantages. I was taught that everyone is equal. We should give everyone the benefit of doubt; don’t take things personally.

My mom escaped from North Korea to South Korea, along with a fragment of her family. She endured things I cannot fathom; abandonment, walking through war, stepping over bodies, having the person next to her shot or lose body parts from explosion. Starvation, rape, exploitation and the suicide of her father fed her determination to find a decent way of life. She met a kind blue-eyed man while working as a waitress at the Army officer’s club. They married and conceived their first child. They began a life together in the U.S.

I watched my mother learn to drive, master a new language, upgrade her third grade education, earn a GED, run a household and raise 3 kids. She did this while Dad worked a 40+ hour week and went to college at night. We ate well, dressed well, had a nice car and home. My brothers and I were teased and called names because of the foods we ate and how we looked. My older brother learned to fight and built his body size so that he was able to defend himself. My younger brother used humor to defuse the taunting. I tried to be perfect, be invisible by being pleasing, excel in school, be everyone’s friend. For goodness sake! How could I be racist?

This course revealed how I used code switching and masking for my benefit. I did not realize it feeds white supremacy and adds barriers to the well being of many. Ack!!

How Will I Use it
The biggest takeaway for me is the importance of balancing identity, consent and the need to belong – being aware of my own filters.

  • First, identify the socialization that sets us up for prejudging. This class has helped me begin this process. Thank you!
  • Second, be willing to accept the prejudices (ouch!) hiding in me without blame.
  • Lastly, know I’m not alone and that I can change.

Crystal gave us optional homework assignments that conveyed this info aurally in podcasts, visually in videos and charts, and experientially. I’m including a few below. Please ask for more if you are curious.

Thanks again, Kathleen

The Triangle of Consent- http://blackandpoly.org/the-triangle-of-consent/
Seeing White: How Race Was Made https://www.sceneonradio.org/episode-32-how-race-was-made-seeing-white-part-2/
Genderbread Exercise- https://www.genderbread.org/resource/genderbread-person-v4-0
Disability Visability Project- https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/2017/12/10/ep-13-autonomy-and-disabled-people/
Intent & Impact- https://everydayfeminism.com/2013/07/intentions-dont-really-matter/
Crystal Byrd Farmer’s book The Token, Common Sense Ideas for Increasing Diversity in Your Organization

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Jingling July Calendar & Newsletter

Black cohosh wands float fairy-like over the forest floor

It’s summertime, and Common Ground Ecovillage is bursting with abundance!  There’s ample food for the body, mind, heart, and spirit this month–something in the calendar* for everyone.  

Here are a few of the steaming helpings on July’s platter:

  • Celebration Open House on July 3rd from 3:30-6pm followed by a potluck
  • Several member offerings from a fine arts show including Margret Mueller to yoga under the moon at the Nest
  • Opportunities to learn about building a more diverse and inclusive community
  • The latest ecovillage development news
  • Tuning into bird language on on the land

You are invited to indulge yourself in all the ways that speak to you at Common Ground.  Hope to see you in July! 

*http://www.commonground.eco/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Jingling-July-2021-Calendar.pdf

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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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