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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Earthaven Week 4

Merry Meet Friends!

Michelle here bringing lots of love and light.  So I’ve ended another week at Earthaven.  I spent the Easter weekend in Greensboro, NC with my friend Octavia and her family.  I had a great time. Can we say flush toilets?  Her family likes to have a good time and they can cook as well.  I’ve been used to eating all organic, non GMO food, which I was mostly doing before I left VA, so the food, while delicious wreaked havoc a little with my stomach.  Of course I didn’t want that to happen because it meant more trips to the compost toilet.  Oh well. LOL. 

I’ve been doing some planting and transplanting this week: beets, carrots, collards, arugula and other culinary herbs.  These were in the orchard.  In the greenhouse I planted melon, cantaloupe, peppers, tomatoes, leeks, and gourd seeds.  I enjoy planting seeds and transplanting seedlings.  In the orchard I also direct sowed corn seeds.  While I’m on the subject of corn, let me take a moment to write about GMO’s.  GMO= Genetically Modified Organisms.  IT IS BAD FOR YOU!  I thought it was mainly found in corn and soy but it’s more widespread than that.  There was a lecture in Asheville on Tuesday night.  Over 90% of canola oil is a GMO.  Monsantos is the company behind most of it.  If a product does NOT say non GMO, then more than likely it is.  Lab rats given GMO developed tumors in four months.  Please, please, please try to stay away from it and eat organic when you can.   I know it’s more expensive but isn’t your health worth it?

I’m ready for the next leg of my gypsy journey.  I know that I’m supposed to be here until the end of May but I’m antsy about starting another chapter.   I want to get in the car and drive without knowing exactly where I’m headed.  That’s so exciting and adventurous to me.  Oh, living with the woman in Asheville for the month of June may no longer be a go.  She was moving because her partner was going to Europe for a while and now he no longer is.  I wanted to find a place in Asheville to rent inexpensively and the Universe provided a place rent free.  Whether it actually happens or not doesn’t change the way the Universe supports us.  I had some doubts about taking the work exchange because it would have tied me to the house every night.  One of the points about this journey is the freedom to be, do, go and come as I please.  A wild woman can’t really be contained, can she? 

As much as I like the idea of Earthaven and what it stands for, I couldn’t live here.  There is no ethnic diversity and I like living around different ethnicities.   The world is made up of all types of people.  That’s one of the reasons I’m an interfaith and interspiritual minister: it takes all expressions to make up the world.   Some of the people are extreme with their views.  I don’t trust the government or large corporations either but I don’t see a conspiracy everywhere.  One woman is always passing out pamphlets about taxes and the government.  She has nothing in her name, has no running water or electricity.  She says “they” can’t find her if they tried.  Who knows, her thoughts may have validity.

On Friday night there was fish fry pot luck.  The food was more varied than Tuesday pot lucks.  It was very good and a great time was had by all.  Most of the exchangers went to Georgia for a “primitive skills” weekend so only four of us remained in the house.  Two of us went into Black Mountain on Saturday to Hillary’s (a work exchanger) job for guacamole.  We had fun.  Following this post there are pictures of some of the places I described last week.  I will have pictures of the neighborhoods next week. 

Until next Sunday, Merry part and merry meet again.

Blessed be,

Gypsi Mama Michelle


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Earthaven: Week 3

Green Acres (Earthaven) is the place to be
Farm living is the life for me
Land spreading out so far and wide
Keep Manhattan (VA) just give me that countryside!

Merry meet friends.  Michelle here sending lots of love and light.

Does anyone remember the show Green Acres from the sixties?  When I first drove up to Medicine Wheel, that song is what was playing in my head.  There are eleven (11) neighborhoods in Earthaven.  Medicine Wheel is a neighborhood but it doesn't have other homes as yet.  Medicine Wheel is a chaotic beauty.  There is a lot of potential for the house, the garden and the orchard.  It reminds me of Green Acres because it's not completed.

There is a greenhouse attached to the front of the house.  One enters through the greenhouse into the kitchen, dining and great room area.  There is a propane stove for cooking which we try not to use for dinner because of the cost of propane.  In the great room there is a wood stove for heat and further back there is a wood stove for cooking.  To the left of the wood stove is the storage area for wood and what is called the "back 40".  Appliances are stored there, along with seasonal fruits and other useful items. To the back of that is the root cellar where onions, potatoes (white and sweet), all bulk grains and extra supplies are kept.  There is a cabinet in the great room for containers of grains, raisins and corn for popping.

There is an area for coats and shoes near the front door.  To the left of that is the stair case and across from the staircase is a family room.  A door from the family room leads to three bedrooms and a bathroom which houses the shower and a sink.  On the second floor there is another family room, four bedrooms, a tool room, and a bathroom with a compost toilet and sink.  Patricia and another owner of the house have bedrooms on this floor.  A married couple and their child have the other two bedrooms.  There is a door that leads outside to the back of the house. There is another set of stairs leading to the third floor.  There is a family room where movies are watched.  There are five bedrooms and a sixth is being built.  All work exchangers live on the third floor. 

As you can see, the house is quite large.  It is however, a work in progress.  It takes money and workers to finish Medicine Wheel.  Over half a million dollars has been spent so far. Exchangers come from March - November but can choose to stay longer.  Most of the work is in the garden and orchard though, planting and preparing beds.  The house and land will be beautiful when completed.  There is a solar shower outside and two compost toilets.  They are both in the orchard and one is closer than the other.

Earthaven sits on 320 acres of land.  I don't know the names of all of the neighborhoods and I have only visited two of them.  These are the names I do know: The Hut Hamlet, Bellavia, Village Terrace, and Dancing Shiva.  There is a large house called The White Owl.  There is also the free store where people drop off unwanted items and anyone can go get them.  The Council Hall is where meetings, Coffee and Trade, Pot Luck, classes and dances are held.  Hut Hamlet was the first neighborhood.  Most of the homes look like huts and are one story.  I believe a few have lofts.

In the Hamlet, there is a unit called the Tribal Condo.  It has three stories and three families live there.  It has its own gardens and greenhouses.  The compost toilet is enclosed and not far away.  I had lunch there on Thursday.  They have internet service in the condo.  The Hut Hamlet has the Hamlet kitchen for those living in the huts and they eat communally.  Village Terrace is the most expensive neighborhood.  Chickens are raised free range there for eggs.  I have visited there.  I'm told that one of the founding members lives in Bellavia in a beautiful house.  I will visit her soon.  Before I leave I will visit all neighborhoods and take pictures.

Each person in Medicine Wheel takes a turn cooking and being sous chef.  On last Sunday I cooked.  I made an apple crisp and whipped cream from raw milk.  The best whipped cream ever!  All food in Medicine Wheel is organic and local.  Local meaning from NC down to Florida, although Patricia did let me get mushrooms from Pennsylvania for my meal of lima beans and mushrooms over polenta and a huge salad.  For the longest time I've said I wanted to eat seasonally.  This is how we eat but let me tell you, I AM TIRED of beans, grains and potatoes.  Eating seasonally is not too feasible on the east coast!  We eat what's grown and it's been a long winter.  Hurry spring weather, please!

I am learning how to live intentionally and I appreciate that. for at some point I would love to grow my own food and live off the land.  I do think, however, I will have flush toilets. (Shh, don't tell my community)  I'm all for composting and will have a compost toilet but I WILL ALSO HAVE A FLUSH TOILET!  Don't judge me until you've turned your behind to the cold! I'm just saying.

Until next Sunday, Merry part and merry meet again.
Blessed be,
Gypsi Mama Michelle

P.S. I think I like the name "A Wild Woman Gypsy Journey" as stated by my daughter, Kiya.  What do you think?  Leave me a comment. Holla!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Journey 1:Earthaven week 2

April 13, 2014

Hey City Dwellers;   Merry meet!

Michelle here, sending lots of love and light!  I’ve just ended my second week at Medicine Wheel and many things happened in the first two weeks.  In the first post I wanted to give some idea of a work exchangers (my) life and the general layout of Medicine Wheel.  Most people who now rent or buy here actually started out as exchangers at Medicine Wheel.  This neighborhood needs the most work. 

I am continuously amazed at the way Spirit directs our path even we’re not aware, especially when we’re not aware.  Every Tuesday morning, Earthaven has Coffee and Trade.  It is a gathering in which the community can buy or trade wares.  On my first Tuesday I went to Coffee and Trade.  A woman walked past me who was noticeable because of her height.  She looked at me, walked away, walked back past me and looked at me again.  I had the impression that she was lesbian. Then I thought maybe it’s because I’m African American.  It’s my understanding that there are 2 other African American women here but I haven’t seen them.  She then came over and sat down.  She said, “Hi, I’m Corinna.”  I asked, “Woods?” she said she was and I explained how I knew her name.   

I heard about Earthaven over a year ago when I began looking on line for the ways of wise women.  I was directed to The Southeast Wise Woman conference in Asheville, NC.  The host (you guessed it) is Corinna Woods who lives at Earthaven Eco village.  I read about Earthaven, Red Moon herbs and The Red Tent Movement and was intrigued, but my priority was “wise women”.  Due to the challenges I was experiencing at that time: the lumpectomy, having to leave my apartment and the radiation treatment, Earthaven and the conference was pushed to the back of my mind.  I told her that she was the reason I knew about Earthaven. 

I really had forgotten about the conference, and Corinna never comes to Coffee and Trade.  Spirit directed all of it.  I told her my story and how I got here.  And for some reason, I started crying and she had tears in her eyes as well.  She said she wanted me to apply for The Woman of Color scholarship for the Spring immersion at the end of May. I gave her my email address and she forwarded it to the person who handles it.  She hugged me and it had a healing effect.  I saw her again that night at Potluck and at a dance on Friday.   We spoke both times and I told her that I felt she had a healing touch.

I must tell you about another serendipitous happening.  There are many neighborhoods in Earthaven.  One of them is called Village Terrace (Corinna lives there).  There is a shared kitchen but the residents are responsible for their own meals and usually don’t eat together; there is no feeling of community.  One of the residents is a young woman named Hannah that I met earlier when she visited Medicine Wheel.  Because of the lack of community in VT, she now eats with us. 

On Wednesday after dinner, we talked for a while.  I told her that I was leaving Medicine Wheel at the end of May and wanted to find a room to rent in Asheville.  Hannah has many friends in Asheville and said she would ask around.  She told me about an inexpensive hostel as well.  She invited me to come see the room she rents in VT because I hadn’t seen inside any other neighborhoods.  On Thursday I went over to visit and the first thing she said to me was that her mom, who lives in Black Mountain, was moving to an intentional community 10 minutes away from Asheville.   Hannah’s mom has Parkinson’s disease and needs someone to stay with her at night in case she needs her medicine.  She also needs someone to drive her to doctor appointments and the grocery.

Now get this: She was going to pay someone to do it but has invited me to stay in the house rent free in exchange for these services.   She didn’t need anyone until July but when Hannah called to tell her about me, she asked if she could possibly use me in June.   Her mom said she now needed someone the first of June.  Hannah was so excited and said she didn’t know why she didn’t think of it the night before.  Things happen when they are meant to happen.  Hannah’s mom is part of a women’s poetry group and I too write poetry.  She is about my age and Hannah feels we will get along extremely well.  Spirit continues to amaze me daily.

Last week one of the work exchangers’ mom, dad and four brothers came to visit.  They are relocating from Iowa to Raleigh, NC.  The dad left to look for a house and the mom and four children were here for about five days.  The mom, Lisa, is 52 and has had 12 children.  She looks amazing.  The children range from 35 to 10.  There were 10 boys and 2 girls.  One of the sons died in a car accident, so there are now eleven.  The four boys with her were 16, 14, 12 and 10.  The 16 and 14 year old are still here.  These children are extremely bright, can cook and are willing and eager to help with any chore.  Lisa told me that meeting me was one of the reasons she felt she was here.  Hearing about my gypsy journey at my age, gave her hope that there was life after 12 children.  Serendipity at work again.

On Sunday, April 6, we held a memorial service for Patricia’s mom.  Patricia is one of the owners.  Her mom lived here for a while and actually invested close to $400,000 in the house.  We sang some of her mother’s favorite songs, people who knew her gave reflections and we planted an apple tree in her honor.  We all threw handfuls of dirt in the hole.  We ended with a song and a toast of wine to Fran.  It was a very moving ceremony.  Fran’s favorite color was pink.  I brought a pink orchard with me to keep in my room.  Patricia admired it when I brought it here. I told her that I would plant it in the soil around Fran’s tree.  Serendipity, it seems, is the theme for this post.  Following the inner guidance will never lead us astray.

Until next Sunday, Merry part and merry meet again.

 Blessed be!

Gypsi Mama Michelle






Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Journey One-Earthaven

Gypsy: a nomadic or free spirited person

My name is Michelle LaForest Roberts and I am a gypsy.  Spirit directed me in November of 2013 to get in the car and drive, listening to Spirit for where to go. My journey started on March 28, 2014.  I have been led to Earthaven Eco Village in Black Mountain, NC.  Earthaven is a sustainable community of intentional living.  It is made up of several neighborhoods.  I am currently living in the Medicine Wheel neighborhood as a work exchanger. I work 17 hours a week in exchange for a room. I pay a specified amount each month for food.  In addition, I work 16 hours a month for Earthaven itself and pay minimal fees to them.  There are 13 people living in Medicine Wheel, 8 are work exchangers, 2 are renters and 2 co own the house.  Each person cooks dinner once a week with an assistant who also has dinner clean, each has a weekly chore and is on day clean.  This is not a part of the 17 hours a week.  Breakfast and lunch are cooked independently and dinner is communal. All food in Medicine Wheel is vegetarian, homegrown or local.  If one eats meat, the person must purchase it and cook it in a separate pan.  So far no one has done that.  The only dairy is butter and eggs.

My 17 hours a week consist of working in the orchard and greenhouse.  I have 4 plots that I have taken stewardship of and I am reorganizing the greenhouse.  In the orchard, I have transplanted kale, and made a potato bed!  I am thinking about planting tomatoes in the empty bed and the other has garlic and onions.  For the first few days I was directed to take my urine to the potato bed, pour it in and then water it. Everything that can be composted, is.  Did I mention there are outhouses for bathrooms where matter is composted?  My bedroom is on the third floor and the outhouses are a distance away so we are directed to use a bucket at night for urine. Waste not, want not!  In the greenhouse I have planted seedlings and transplanted shoots.

Another activity I've done is called cobbing.  Cobb is made from red clay, sand, straw and water.  It is rolled together in plastic and then stomped like grapes.  Then it is made into balls and thrown on whatever structure is being built.  It is similar. I'm told, to making adobes.  We are making a chicken coop.  The owner wants to raise chickens in order to gather her own eggs and not buy them from neighbors.  We eat a lot of eggs.  As Patricia said when 9 dozen were brought in, "That should carry us through breakfast!"  We normally cobb on Tuesday and it is called, guess what, Cobb Tuesday! 

On Sunday, March 30th I went into Asheville to what is called Dance Church.  It is actually ecstatic dance based on Gabrielle Roth's Five Rhythms.  Music is played and we just dance whatever we feel.  There is no talking during dance.  We can dance with a partner if someone is doing the same movements and invites you in with a smile or their eyes.  Its fun and exercise as well.  I met some amazing women there who appeared to be kindred spirits.  Later I walked down to the Green Sage CafĂ© for brunch.  Best grits and gluten free biscuits I've ever had.  I like Asheville and may journey there next.

On Monday mornings, assignments are made for the week on a blackboard.  On Monday nights, we have check in.  Everyone gets to talk about whatever they wish without interruption and say check when they're done.  We can give feedback and ask questions if we wish.  I experienced so many emotions that I chose to go last for fear of crying, which would have been ok.

There is so much to tell but I will wait until Sunday.  I will be posting on Sundays from now on.  Thanks for reading.
Blessed Be,
Gypsi Mama Michelle