Delicious December Calendar & Newsletter

Delicious December Calendar & Newsletter link

Dear friends,

This fundraising letter* from the Foundation for Intentional Communities came my way a few days ago and struck a chord.  There’s a truth spoken here; that the growing polarities in our society will not be reconciled by seeking sameness, and that intentional communities have a vital role to play in creating spaces where we can live amongst differences, to learn from each other, and to stay in relationship even when we disagree. 

If this were easy to do, our world would look very different.  In the 10 years since we’ve been developing our community, we’ve tried to lean into our conflicts and come out the other side enlarged.  There have been some wonderful hits and tragic misses.  Nonetheless, it’s a vision we continue to try to actualize as we seek to build the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.**

In this wintry time of enveloping darkness, we hope you’ll come and experience some communal warmth and genuine connection with others at Common Ground–whether in-person or from afar.  How about taking a look at the December issue and choosing just one morsel, if you like, and see how it tastes and feels to you?

We look forward to growing together,

Hope, for the Governance & Training Circle


**Thanks to Charles Eisenstein for this inspiration

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Of Farming and Fellowship: November Nurturing

by Lara Struckman

There’s something different about autumn on the land. The light is different. During the day everything is golden as if bathed in the glow of the sun’s low flame. But as the sun sets and day turns to dusk, things get dark quick. The trees that draw the horizon line turn black in silhouette. I don’t remember that about summer evenings; it seemed like there was more light even as the sun was setting. I feel myself retreating earlier as well, spending more time in reflection and coziness. Funnily enough though I also find myself reaching out more for connection. I look to the plants around me and realize I’m not so different after all. As the temperatures get colder, they begin to put precious energy into their roots rather than into new growth, flowers, or fruit. As my initial internship with Common Ground winds slowly to a close in the coming weeks I find myself desiring to put energy into setting roots here for perhaps another season, rather than buzzing off to the next new thing. Like the delectable persimmons that have been nourishing my taste buds, I am finding life keeps sweetening right where I am and the beauty of building relationship to place.

I am reminded of a seed lesson I learned from Doug earlier in the summer about stratification and scarification. Some seeds need to go through a dormancy period before they can properly germinate and ultimately sprout to their fullest potential. So, too, do we and our relationships need to pause and go inward to bring forth new life. Other seeds need to be scratched a little bit to break through the hard exterior shell in order to germinate. Only then can they break through to spread their leaves. It takes another being whether that be a human, a stone in the soil, or another animal to exfoliate or scarify the seed. So too we need each other to push through our self- and society-imposed barriers.  We need both the loving nudges and sometimes the abrasive challenges of community to blossom.

Speaking of blossoming, I continue to revel in the fullness and abundance of the garden even in the colder season. I’ve found in my time here on the farm that farming in this way is more than a job or occupation but is really a way of life. I see myself more and more reflected in the food we are growing, in the relationships we are tending, and the land we are occupying. I have really begun to love the way life on the farm has spilled out into other aspects like fostering pollinator habitat, cultivating the perennial patch, and tending to the trails and land structures. I am inspired by the passion, creativity, and ingenuity of the folks in this community I get to work with in all the above. This furthers my desire to engage in deeper more meaningful and creative ways to foster my own role in Common Ground beyond my time and title as the farm intern.

As the tendrils of time wrap around once again, we will see how well the seeds I am planting in this community come to fruition in the seasons to come!

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Noteworthy November Calendar & Newsletter

Black walnuts fallen to the ground (photo by Jessica Cudney)

As daylight diminishes and darkness draws us in, it’s a time to deepen into and nourish that which matters most.  Our community enters the month of November with a green light to apply for financing for our limited-equity housing cooperative.  Okay, so this is wonderful news!  It also means that many pieces must come together before we will succeed.  Your commitment and participation at this stage is incredibly important.  So have a look at the newsletter, read all about what this pre-development phase is going to involve, find where you fit in this picture, and pitch in as you are able.

The table is laid and the food is hot.  We’ll hope you’ll join in the feast that is Common Ground Ecovillage. 

See you in November.


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Owlish October Calendar & Newsletter

Dear friends,

Common Ground farm (photo by Doug Jones)

October is “Owl Month.”  It’s a time when they are very actively and vocally establishing their winter territories.  Owls have long been associated with wisdom and they can also see in the dark–capacities very useful for us CGEV members as we continue to manifest our most heartfelt visions, even when the way seems shrouded. 

In this season of lengthening shadows, brilliant displays of color, and growing chill, we’ll warm each other with our dreams, stories, and actions.  Click here* and be dazzled by the array of life-giving options to learn, grow, work, play, receive and embrace the unfolding mystery of it all–together.

See you at Common Ground. 

*Owlish October Calendar & Newsletter

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Of Farming and Fellowship: September Story

by Lara Struckman

As sweet September rolls in on the crisp autumnal breeze, I am beginning to reflect on the rich relationships this community has offered to me. I think about my intentions from the beginning of my internship some three and half months ago and so much has changed. My body has begun to cycle with the seasons, waking earlier with the sun, craving sleep as the darkness descends (despite continuing to stay up too late watching the stars). I survived the summer heat with no AC in the loft of the barn with no problem–I’d say I actually came to embrace and enjoy the sunshine as well as the reprieve of the nearby trails and pond. 

In between and in the midst of my farm workdays, trail meanderings, and recent bonfires beautiful threads of relationships have been cultivated. Through my role in the member bios project, I have gotten the privilege of interviewing several community members and gotten to know some of the stories and deeper layers of their lives. (If you haven’t already filled out the bio form, do so here!). Participating in community workdays, joining in on the “Bee Crew” through land stewardship circle, and teaching yoga classes at the Nest have also provided spaces to connect and weave my interests, curiosities, and passions into this community and to likewise receive the support, friendship, and guidance from others which has been invaluable in making this place feel like a home away from home.

Integrating myself into an already established (yet forever evolving) community has brought with it ample opportunity for story sharing and importantly story listening. As the seasons begin to change and we are asked to create new rhythms I am encouraged to explore more deeply the history of this land, the stories she holds of this community and the ones before it. I am urged to continue to tend both to the human and more than human relationships that have blossomed here this summer and continue seeking ways of contributing myself to the soil of Common Ground.

If anyone has stories they know from the history of this piece of land and/or resources to find more of this information I would love to compile them! Feel free to share with me in person or via email!

In what direction is Autumn spinning you this September?


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September Calendar/Newsletter, 2021

An abundance of Ringless Honey mushrooms (photo by Jessica Cudney)








Dear friends, 

This month, I’ve been braking for mushrooms.  Since the hard rain a bit ago, the steamy ground has expelled fungi, shooting up all around.  In contrast, human events were few and far between as many Common Grounders took a collective exhale to rest and recharge.  Still, there’s plenty to see and say  and know in the Calendar & Newsletter.*  We hope you’ll be inspired to take a look, save some dates, and turn out in September as you are able.
STARTING WITH…the weekend events on the land this weekend, September 4 & 5.  Want to learn about biochar?  Now’s your chance.  Better yet, come around to connect with others and turn your hand at whatever beckons.  Maybe find a quiet spot in the woods by the creek and breathe in the timeless peace all around.  Wendell Berry puts it far more lyrically:

Sabbatha VI
Sit and be still until the
time of no rain you hear
beneath the dry wind’s
commotion in the trees the
sound of flowing water
among the rocks, a stream
unheard before, and you are
where breathing is a prayer.

Wishing you beauty unfurling all around,
Hope, for Common Ground Ecovillage


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Ambling August Calendar and Newsletter

Common Ground Ecovillage is shifting into a more relaxed rhythm during the hot and steamy days of August.  There’s plenty of news, but the calendar lists fewer community events and meetings, inviting us all to take some deep breaths and reflect on all that’s come to pass and yet to emerge. 

Now is a great time to connect in other ways, getting to know each other better and spending some leisurely time on the land.  Hang out at the Open House on August 7th; join the Simpler Living: Earth Skills Sunday Club on August 18; catch up on the fantastic information coming out of Planning & Development regarding housing; volunteer on the farm…whatever calls to you.

Here’s to a sweet & savored summer.

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Collaborative Farming: the Way of the Future

Doug Jones, a professional farmer here at CGEV, says that “collaborative farming is the farming of the future, a contrast to the small family farm that necessitates a large financial outlay. This is how farming has been practiced historically, as a tribe.” And this is how it is practiced at intentional agrarian communities. Doug, a resident in intentional communities for many decades, believes this way of life to be central to promoting collaborative farming.

As he gets older, Doug sees himself becoming an elder, contributing his knowledge and experience as the legacy he wants to pass on to the next generation. His drive to recruit a new generation of farmers is part of the current CGEV mission as the community needs and wants younger people to get involved. Doug’s vision as he continues on into old age is to work alongside this new generation that he has been able to mentor and help them pass this experience on to others.

When asked what Doug looks for in interns he replied, “A desire to learn enough to be able to grow and manage their own farm or to be part of a cooperative farm in the future.” Doug is well known in the farming community for his seed saving and plant breeding and looks for those who are like minded in the interns he chooses to mentor. The internship can be a way to see how good a fit they would be for this vision of an alternative future for themselves.

Lara Struckman, the current intern at CGEV, likes to spend her first hours each day re-connecting with the land: and will walk around the crops, “getting clear on how they are doing and where the land is at.” She will check in with Doug to see what is needed and gets started on the day’s tasks; this might include hoeing, planting, weeding, watering or harvesting. You can see her on the land carrying harvested buckets of cucumbers, zucchini, lambs’ quarters, carrots, onions or beans.  Lara particularly values moving through the seasons of crops grown at CGEV and says, “being part of the plant life cycle is very rewarding.”

For Lara, being part of the community here at CGEV is another aspect of her life. She has her own apartment in the newly built barn – a kitchen is pending – and also spends time with others living at ‘The Nest’, (a cooperative living arrangement in a house on the land) preparing group meals, planning and taking part in events, and joining Zoom Circle meetings. She enjoys being part of the continuing evolution of our ‘tribe,’ enjoying interacting with a wide variety of people. Lara sees passing on the knowledge that Doug has given her, knowing that those people will then in turn, pass that knowledge on, as part of her role here at CGEV.

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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-
Seeing White: How Race Was Made
Genderbread Exercise-
Disability Visability Project-
Intent & Impact-
Crystal Byrd Farmer’s book The Token, Common Sense Ideas for Increasing Diversity in Your Organization

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