Ten Stones Community: “A Neighborhood with Soul”

Today, I was lucky enough to get to visit Ten Stones Community, an eco-village in Charlotte, Vermont. While there, I got to speak to Cami Davis (one of the residents) and Ted Montgomery (the last of the community founders still living there). When I first arrived, I met Cami in the garden: her and a few of her neighbors were working on planting tree saplings because they want to add more native plant diversity to the forest on their property. Some of the trees they were included were black cherry, witch hazel, and balsam fir. After working with them for about half-an-hour, Cami took me on a tour of the entire property and gave me the low-down on what the eco-village was all about and the kinds of things that happen there. The Ten Stone’s Community boasts a beautiful, community garden which they have made a CSA program (available to people in and out of the village), they also have people doing beekeeping, large-scale composting, and chicken husbandry among other projects. Each member of the community must work thirty-hours a year to ensure all of the jobs get done, but they get to pick between these projects and many more. After getting the grand tour, Cami invited me into her house for some hot tea-complete with honey harvested from Ten Stones bees! The two of us carried on conversation for a while about what it was like to live in an ecovillage, before I moved on to Ted’s house.

Speaking of, Ted has the most beautiful house I have ever seen. He is an architect, and designed his house and nearly all of his furniture with his wife. As one of the original founders of Ten Stones Community, Ted had a lot of information to share that was new to me. In terms of the origination of the village, it all started when he, his wife, and another couple sat down at his kitchen table and made lists describing their perfect place to live. From there, the idea of the ecovillage evolved, and in the early nineties the plan was put into action (with 13 more families at this point).
Ted commented on the fact that at times, it can be extremely difficult to make an ecovillage work because in practice, creating one takes a lot of effort, trust, and patience. Along the way, a lot of interested people left the project due to conflict, which existed within the community until most of the infrastructure had been built. Cami noted that one of the problems is that some people wanted to make everyone do the same amount of community work, whereas others had a looser perspective and only wanted people to work out of joy. Considering all the work it takes to build a community like this, it is no surprise that conflict would arise time to time.

Because the community owns the land as a single property (with further allotments within), unlike other neighborhoods in Charlotte they are responsible for making sure their power lines work, their roads are always graveled, and often they have to deal with a lot of maintenance stuff that the average neighborhood would leave to the town. In this way, living at Ten Stones requires people to really take pride in their community and accept that in return for the close-knit community and advantages, often a little extra work is expected.

Because of this, Ted believes that Ten Stones, though a wonderful fit for many, is not the best fit for everyone. He doesn’t like calling his site an ecovillage: he prefers “intentional community” or “neighborhood with soul”. In this sense, to be a happy member of the community, your goals and dreams must really coincide with those already living there. Ted mentioned this does not by any means mean that change should not happen (in fact, they are adding new projects all the time), but because they need to problem-solve in a unique way, it is important that everyone agrees with the mission of the area.

A fun-fact about the community is that it was named after the Jimi Hendrix song “Three Stones from the Sun”. When Ted was back in school, he named his ecological-design related thesis “Ten Stones from the Sun”, after that song which reflects upon nature, and that name has stuck through the years! Below, I have included some photos I took during my visit to Ten Stones. Enjoy!

 

Chickens at Ten Stones

Chickens at Ten Stones

Ten Stones Community Garden

Ten Stones Community Garden

Solar-Panels power the whole house and the electric car pictured here

Solar-Panels power the whole house and the electric car pictured here

Tea Time with Cami - complete with Ten Stones honey!

Tea Time with Cami – complete with Ten Stones honey!

Ted Montgomery's home: the roof addition is a grassy area where you can sit and view the Adirondacks

Ted Montgomery’s home: the roof addition is a grassy area where you can sit and view the Adirondacks

Inside Ted's house he has a "greenhouse room" with a pond and an Ash tree that goes through the ceiling. Outside you can see his outdoor pond as well.

Inside Ted’s house he has a “greenhouse room” with a pond and an Ash tree that goes through the ceiling. Outside you can see his outdoor pond as well.

Ted is working on more ecological design projects: this is actually a model for a solar-paneled community centered around a wind turbine, designed to look like a flower and have cohousing. He hopes to bring this community to the Caribbean.

Ted is working on more ecological design projects: this is actually a model for a solar-paneled community centered around a wind turbine, designed to look like a flower and have cohousing. He hopes to bring this community to the Caribbean.

Because I spent an entire afternoon at Ten Stones, I chose to informally talk to Cami and Ted. Due to this, I do not have an official transcript of our conversations. At the beginning of this post I highlighted some stories I heard from them, and if you would like to know more please comment on this blog post and I will be sure to answer any questions!

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Ecovillages Around the World

http://www.ecorazzi.com/2012/05/19/eco-villages-and-beyond-10-communities-across-the-world/

Here is a really awesome article about ten beautiful ecovillages around the world. Some of these we have written about in more detail (see below), but if you are interested in exploring ecovillages or just looking at beautiful pictures of ecovillages, this article is for you! Although they all differ, they have the common theme of caring about sustainability and community.

Some ecovillages are based around specific themes, such as yoga or art, yet some are simply based around gardening or permaculture. I would definitely recommend reading this article, it sparks my interest to travel the world and meet people who are also interested in sustainable living. Enjoy!

Below are a few pictures from the article, but in order to fully explore the ecovillages in all their beauty, I would recommend reading the whole article and looking through all the pictures:

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Finca-Bellavista-Treehouse-Community

eco-truly-ashram

-AR

Sources:

Ecosalon. “Eco Villages and Beyond: 10 Communities Across the World – Ecorazzi.” Ecorazzi. Ecorazzi, 19 May 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2014.

Sustainable Living Project- Tampa, Florida

“Working to end hunger in our community.”

The Sustainable Living Project is happening in Tampa, Florida, where a group is working to provide fresh food to local food pantries. The project is run by the organization Tampa Bay Harvest. The organization has started a garden that provides fresh vegetables to the Salvation Army downtown. The project has been active for just over a year, and produces hundreds of pounds of fresh food for the needy in the neighborhood.

The garden has an aquaculture component, and is a closed loop system, making it very sustainable and a model for any ecovillage. It is a community based project located in an urban environment, demonstrating that ecovillages can occur anywhere. Neighbors close to the project often bring their food scraps to provide compost for the garden. By creating a community initiative, the garden has created a strong neighborhood bonded through a sense of purpose. Furthermore, the Tampa Bay Harvest organization has started to teach classes about sustainable garden practices and is using education to spread sustainable living ideals.

This effort is a great example for ecovillages throughout the world. Through education and creating a strong community, sustainable living practices are demonstrated through the Sustainable Living Project.

 

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To learn more about the project, read this news article: http://tbo.com/central-tampa/sustainable-living-project-marks-one-year-anniversary-on-earth-day-20140421/

or visit their website: http://tampabayharvest.org/

-AR

Sources:

Hammett, Yvette C. “Sustainable Living Project Marks One-year Anniversary on Earth Day.” TBO.com. Tampa Media Group, 21 Apr. 2014. Web. 26 Apr. 2014.

Tampa Bay Harvest. “Tampa Bay Harvest.” Tampa Bay Harvest. Tampa Bay Harvest, 2013. Web. 26 Apr. 2014.

 

The Ecovillage at Currumbin – An Ecological Success in Landscape Design – Plus: Maps!

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John Mongard Landscape Design, located in Queensland, Australia, specializes in sustainable and ecologically conscious landscaping. The company’s designs are focused on everything from urban commons to a “living classroom”. But while browsing their website, the design that caught my eye the most was what they did for the Ecovillage at Currumbin. This award winning sustainable community, nestled in 271 acres the rolling hills of south-east Queensland, barely inland from beautiful beaches, houses over 200 people. Currumbin is a relatively new ecovillage, founded in the late 1990s, but not settled until 2006.

The residents came to the community from diverse backgrounds, for their own reasons, yet they all agree that living a sustainable life is very important. The people aren’t connected in any other way, as in they aren’t religiously motivated, a cult, or anything like that. When they build their houses, the building must be up to a strict code to ensure the lowest amount of waste and emissions. There is almost no electricity. Currumbin is also very focused on restoring natural habitats and ecosystems. There is a no dog or cat policy, as to protect local animal and plant populations. The area itself has some incredible biological diversity, for example residents have spotted over 160 different species of birds alone.

A large reason for the large number of bird species is Currumbin itself. The land it is located on used to be a large farm, which wiped out any indigenous plants, forcing animals to look elsewhere to get their grub on. Because of the restoration and preservation of the natural plants by the Ecovillage, the return of animal populations has been observed over the past few years. To me, the fact that a community of people can directly influence animal and plant populations in a positive way shows how incredible ecovillages actually are. When living at an ecovillage like Currumbin, not only are you lowering your emissions, living sustainably, and becoming a healthier person, you are also helping the wildlife around you. It is amazing what happens when humans can live in harmony with an ecosystem.

Now back to John Mongard Landscape Design. Below I am posting a group of photos from their website of the maps and designs created for Currumbin. The maps include the concept, as well as “open space strategy” plans, along with two blueprints with corresponding pictures of the areas today. From the pictures you can tell how beautiful the area is, and how smartly they were able to work the buildings and structures into the landscape. By utilizing the creek and ponds for sustainable agriculture, and equipping the residents with open spaces, housing, as well as multipurpose buildings, they really have created a beautiful, natural working community.

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Sources:

Ecovillage at Currumbin website: http://theecovillage.com.au

John Mongard Landscape Design Currumbin Photos: http://mongard.com.au/key-projects-currumbin-ecovillage.php

BONUS: Cool video about the Ecovillage at Currumbin

-DJ

 

Ndanifor Permaculture Eco Village: Cameroon, Africa

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7vVZhQE2Cc

“Together we share our knowledge to create the future for a better world”

In Cameroon, Africa, people have joined together to start planning an ecovillage that will hopefully be established by 2020. The ecovillage would be located on a five acre plot of land in Bafut, Cameroon. Currently, the ecovillage is still in its preliminary stages and is being planned by community members along with an organization called Better World Cameroon.

The ecovillage will consist of a few simple buildings, including a dining hall, a learning center, and an eco-lodge. Community members recently built a composting toilet on the land, which will serve as a preliminary step to a hopefully thriving community. The emphasis in the ecovillage will be placed on caring for each other and the land and creating an inclusive community.

The ecovillage members have many amazing ideas for the future of their land. They want to use the power of their ecovillage to reconnect people to their roots. This focus will be particularly on young people, who have started to view farming in a negative lens. The ecovillage members believe that young people need to be reminded of the benefits and beauty of farming, and have confidence that their ecovillage can accomplish this. Some other positive benefits of an ecovillage in Bafut would be to promote ecotourism in the area, to stop the deforestation that is currently happening throughout Cameroon, and to manage environmental resources. The ecovillage will also have a strong emphasis on education, and will teach people about the issues above as well as solutions such as permaculture and community. Another extremely important problem that the ecovillage will attempt to address is the issue of food sovereignty. The members of the ecovillage believe that Cameroonians have lost their ability to be food secure, and will try to regain food sovereignty while educating people about this very important issue.

I believe that this ecovillage plan is not only important, but truly inspirational. The Ndanifor ecovillage demonstrates that permaculture can be done anywhere and that it is a universal concept.

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Sources:

Better World Cameroon. “Ndanifor Permaculture Eco Village – Better World Cameroon.” Better World Cameroon. Better World Cameroon, 2014. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.

Ndanifor Permaculture Eco Village: Permaculture the African Way. Better World Cameroon, 2013. Youtube. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7vVZhQE2Cc&gt;.

(photos taken from above website)

-AR

Metta Earth Institute: Interview

The Metta Earth Institute is a contemplative ecology center located in Lincoln, VT. Last summer, I spent 15 days at Metta Earth for an experience called the Metta Earth Leadership Training Program. It was a truly life-changing experience, and Metta Earth continues to have a profound and lasting impact on my life. On Sunday, April 6th, I had the pleasure of returning to Metta Earth to interview Gillian Kapteyn Comstock, Co-Director of Metta Earth and one of my most valued mentors. Gillian and I walked around the land, visiting the yurts, house, garden, and animals I had lived with and cared for during my time there. We discussed a wide variety of topics, from homesteading to animal care to ecovillages.

Gillian’s background involves teaching and living close to nature. She has practiced yoga for over 30 years, and takes time out of each day to meditate and focus on her practice. She is a certified yoga teacher and an original founder of the Green Yoga Association. Gillian received her bachelor’s degree in Counseling Psychology, which has led her to practice holistic psychotherapy for over 20 years. She also holds a masters in Human Ecology, which has enabled her to live a life of connection to nature while also teaching and working with others.

As we walked through the woods, we took a moment of quietude, and as I looked at the mountains that surround the valley in which Metta Earth sits, I realized how truly incredible this place is. Gillian’s warmth and wisdom only adds to the mindfulness and beauty of the location. As we walked down to the barn, Gillian explained the plans that she and her husband, Russell Comstock, have for the land. They hope to one day have an ecovillage on the property, and have already started this process by building one house that Russell’s parents currently live in. The house is a net-zero, carbon neutral home powered by renewable energy. Gillian explained that they hope to build more net-zero homes and start a community that is centered around homesteading, ecological practices, and mindfulness. They believe that an effective community will be centered around cooperation, permaculture, and gardening.

Finally, we reached the barn, where newborn lambs greeted us with loving and inviting eyes. Just 24 hours before my visit, these lambs were born. As I held one of them in my arms, I realized that I wanted to be a part of this contemplative community and create an ecovillage around the values that Metta Earth holds so dear.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

-A.R.

(photos taken by Amelie Rey at the Metta Earth Institute and are not to be used without permission from the photographer)