The Harts Mill Forest….

Four years and seven months ago, one of our matriarchs brought forth for this land, a new Forest Stewardship Plan, conceived in Great Wisdom, and dedicated to the proposition that all forests are worth caring for……

While this noble plan is a testimony to the eightyish acres of forest on the site, it also pays homage to the stark reality of living in a time and place where land and money are “part and parcel” (pun intended). One way this reality is etched into law and local government administration is through the ability of private  landowners of 20 acres or more of forest to enter their forested land into “Present Use Value” status.  Doing so hugely reduces their property tax burden.  So it is with the Harts Mill forest.  The Forest Stewardship Plan is the document that lays out the road map for what needs to be done from a forest management perspective to keep the land in “PUV” status.

Plan implementation has been on our collective radar over the past several years, but the myriad of other activities to launch this ecovillage enterprise has, at least to date, made it a bit difficult to stay on track.  We have managed to check a few items off the list, like building trails and a worthy if not entirely successful foray into helping the Tree of Heaven gene pool understand that this is not the right place to further evolve.  But, on the big ticket items related to making sure that this is, societally speaking, a “productive” forest (i.e., for timber, pulp and paper, other valuable manifestations of cellulose, and spin offs such as edible mushrooms), there is more to be done.  So, a 2018  conception that has been gestating in the Land Stewardship Circle is to catch up on a few of the plan’s action items.

The plan identifies 10 or so different parts of the forest, known as “stands”, that each have their own requisite implementation actions.  A careful read of these has led to the decision to move forward with some actions in the coming months for Stands 6 and 8a.  Namely, we’re planning to cut down some trees (a very high majority being pine and sweet gum) and turn them into some combination of timber,  mulch, mushrooms, perhaps horse stable shavings or pulp and paper.  This will dovetail with village and farmstead development plans, as clearing will be required in both of these stands as part of preparing to build, and our farm soils need more organic matter. The “thinning”, as spelled out in the plan, will also help the trees that remain thrive. There will be workday opportunities in the coming months, so stay tuned, and check out the Plan to learn more.  Volunteers are also being recruited to adopt and take leadership with invasive plant management areas.  If potentially interested, please contact Randy.

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Last-Saturday Event—Land Stewardship presents!

by Margret Muller

Saturday, February 24, 3-6 p.m., Hart’s Nest

Spring is coming fast, and the Land Stewardship Circle (LSC) offered an educational presentation to any and all interested folks for the purpose of clarifying its Mission and Aims, tasks going forward, 2018 priorities, 2017 leaps forward.  The gathering was well attended by 17 members and friends:  Anthony, Paul, Hope, Jeffry, Margret, Randy, Rita Joe & daughter Mia, Tain, Marilyn, Virginia, Bailey, Sarah, Allie and Jae, and Earth’s Turn Community member, Doug.

 Jeffry (Operational Leader of LSC) gave a brief overview of the circle’s Domains, Aims, and Priorities.   With the help of Powerpoint and oversized paper copies of our land and farm master plan (created by Bobby Tucker of Bodhi Land and Design), Jeffry explained how Hart’s Mill’s  village, roads, forests, pond, farm-able areas, and more are laid out on the land. 

There are five Domain subdivisions: forest, pond, farm,  infrastructure, and education. This gathering concentrated on the first three.  Here is a brief summary–stay tuned for more!

The Pond (report by Virginia)

It is uncertain how old the pond is, but since we know the dam was made in 1962, it is more than 56 years old. Soundings made from a kayak show the deepest areas to be only around 5’, with most of the rest between 3 and 4’. The sides are too sloped and the edges show much erosion, exposed tree roots, and ingress of storm water run-off from Frazier Road.  In Virginia’s opinion, major work on pond restoration can certainly wait a few years, but she recommends creating a storm water run-off elimination plan soon, as that water is almost surely polluted.

The Forest (report by Randy)

When Hart’s Mill bought the property from Alana Ennis in January of 2017, an excellent  Forest Stewardship Plan was already in place.   Created for us by the Eno River Association in 2013, this report spells out in great detail a plan to keep our forest healthy and to meet the requirements of our Present Use Value (PUV) tax assessment.  Various discrete land parcels are slated for thinning as they mature, and we are already somewhat behind in addressing the first parcel. Randy stressed the need to develop a timeline and to explore creative ways to meet our PUV requirements. Our land also has many burgeoning exotic invasive species (notably Ailanthus, or Tree of Heaven) which need some attention very soon.

The Farm (report by Jeffry and Margret)

Last year, General Circle consented to a Mission and Aims document for the Farm which allowed us to move forward. So far, about ½ acre is dedicated to vegetable production, and other substantial portions of the land are becoming productive in other ways.  Jeffry and Margret, as Seeing Stars Farm (SSF), are currently doing the bulk of the work, paying all expenses, and selling what we grow at a farmer’s market. This benefits both Seeing Stars (financially) and HM (meeting the PUV, beginning soil improvement,  establishing a presence on the land, and involving members to fulfill our mission as an agrarian intentional community).  This arrangement will be revisited periodically, and eventually it will convert to being an all-Hart’s Mill enterprise.

Last year we had some successes (sweet potatoes, white potatoes, cabbage, onions, bok choy) and some failures (tomatoes, peppers), which was not unexpected for a first crop on new soil. Paul was elected to be a liaison person between SSF and HM to ensure transparency and transmit questions and concerns. In our first year we grossed $1,450.00, which is more than needed to qualify for the agriculture portion of the PUV. Hooray!

This year we are planning to have farm work-days, to be scheduled as needs arise. We will have a list of tasks large and small, for anyone interested in helping out. Stay tuned!

Joyful tidings

Two acts of generosity will enable to farm to make significant progress this year: 1) Margret and Jeffry are underwriting the dropping of a WELL on the land. This will happen in early March.  2) An Angel Investor has made a substantial financial contribution to be used to further our farming efforts going forward.  We are so grateful for and uplifted by this support and encourage other Angel Investors to step forward, as the needs are many. 

And the star of the show: The Land

The final portion of the meeting was a walk-and-talk on the land itself. The weather could not have been more cooperative; it was 70, breezy, and sunny. This walk made it possible to point out all the major areas we had addressed—the pond, its dam, tree stands in need of thinning, the general area for village construction, and the current farm activities. Folks had an opportunity to ask questions, some of which we could answer and some of which will need some research. This is the concept of “it takes a village” in action!

We returned to Hart’s Nest feeling nourished and uplifted by the riches of our precious land and devoted community. 

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Walkabout on the Land With a Forest Expert

By Margret Mueller

Several of us (Paul, Hope, Tain, Jeffry, and I) were privileged to explore our land on February 16th with Ken Moore and his wife, Kathy Buck. Ken is the former long-time assistant director of the North Carolina Botanical Garden and clearly knows and loves the woods. We proceeded from Hart’s Nest in balmy weather and made our way to the relatively unexplored “South 40” where the latest trail-building is being done. It soon became apparent that the down-side of walking with an expert is that so much excites them; it can be difficult to make much forward progress!

Here is a sample of some of the interesting facts Ken and Kathy imparted:

  • A rather unexpected piece of lore is that Poison Ivy is an important wildlife food plant and should not be cut down unless it is “in the way”, such as in the garden. Wildlife is not affected by P.I.’s toxins. Its flowers are frequented by bees, numerous birds eat the berries, and deer and rabbits browse the twigs.
  • We have two types of large trees that have shaggy bark. White Oak has long strips of bark that can be pulled down and off, while Shagbark Hickory’s bark is attached in the middle of each strip and is loose on either end.
  • Raspberry canes (yes, we have wild raspberry!) can be easily distinguished from our ubiquitous blackberries because they are round instead of square, are reddish and have a “bloom” (white film) that can be rubbed off, and have fewer, sharper thorns.

Ken’s enthusiasm is contagious and his knowledge prodigious; his contributions to our species inventory are invaluable. Many new tree identification tags have been placed, as well as temporary labeled popsicle sticks and surveyor’s tape. If you come across any of these, take a moment to note what’s alive and well on our land.

 Some of my favorite discoveries were a lovely hazelnut bush right beside the new trail, and a copse of young dogwood trees.

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What is Hart’s Mill Trying to Become?

Thoughts by founder Anthony Weston

It seems the Engaging with our Vision Retreat (January 27-28, 2018) did us the great service of bringing questions to the fore — issues that are fundamental, not easy, but that need to be articulated and addressed as we carry on and ramp up this work together. 

I cannot speak for everyone (and do need to note that “founders” is not a defined or in any way decision-making group in our governance or organization) but here at least is my take. 

Fundamentally we want to be an agrarian ecovillage.  This does mean that our primary endeavor is ecological — it has to do with how we relate to the larger living world and consequently as a human community within the more-than-human world. It would be a radical thing to create a community that simply modeled and realized a “regenerative” kind of ecology in the most concrete way — in terms of what kinds of buildings and physical village we build and how we feed and power ourselves, how the land fares under our stewardship. Yes. Indeed this would be itself an act of “social activism” in the world as it stands. 

But: we (meaning me and I believe others who share this way of thinking) also hold that “ecology” or “sustainability” or “regeneration” do not stop there. Human communities also are situated within the larger human world, so there is an  ecology of human relations situated with the more-than-human ecology too. Very specifically: if we form an all-white community in the midst of a racially mixed area, moreover with all the history of race-based exclusion and dis-empowerment (even in the ownership history of our very land), etc. etc. we would be failing to acknowledge and regenerate the human ecology that we and others also live within, and that is actually continuous with the land, the larger ecology, too. After all, traditional southern agrarian society was also deeply racist. We are after a new kind of agrarianism in those terms too. So the project of outreach and diversity so viewed is not an “add on” or something that might just be taken up as a personal, outside-the-community commitment (though it certainly can be that too), but is essential to the constitution of the community itself. 

At least we must seriously try, and continue to try, to create a racially diverse and responsive community that does not just re-inscribe the old social relations. For my part I am willing to go ahead with financing, design, and construction work even if these efforts have not yet borne much fruit — as long as we do not let go of them but truly intensify our efforts. (I am not sure this is true for everyone, though I think it probably is.) I think this provides a pretty clear way forward for most members, including most or even all of those who spoke up on this issue at the retreat. This will remain a place where members have varied views, but I think we can still readily head in broadly the same direction. 

There are major decisions to be made, for sure; there are major obstacles; we are attempting something wonderful and at the same time multi-faceted and difficult and there are no guarantees. At the same time, though, I have such a sense of a  huge  project taking major steps forward all the time – beyond any one person’s capacity even to sum it up. And very little of this is seriously controversial to anyone. We may want a different balance or focus between the various parts… we may worry about where the money is coming from, etc. etc. — again, all  valid for sure — but the fact is that we have an  energetic, stable, almost stately project going here that I believe does not warrant dismay and is not particularly confused about itself or consumed by some sort of internal conflict. 

Of course it may be that the ambition and range of the HM project are not for everyone. I know, not everyone can wait for the village proper. None of us want to wait. Still, what we have going is fairly clear-sighted, and I think that project was basically reaffirmed and even somewhat further clarified at the retreat.  It’s that very clarity that is leading some people to re-evaluate their commitment to HM — and again, that certainly can make sense. But the project itself remains strong and dynamic. Hope gave voice to this at the Retreat (I am tempted to be cute and say that Voice gave hope to this at the Retreat too) when she said that this project has gotten to be bigger than any of us. Long live Hart’s Mill!

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Viewing Racial Equity with New Eyes

By Geri LaPlaca

The past few years of political, cultural and social upheaval have challenged me to examine my own thoughts, emotions, language and behaviors around issues of racism, classism, ageism, sexism, and many of the other ‘isms’.   I read, I listened and I engaged mostly with my friends, both in and outside of the HM Community, on these topics .  Gratefully, I found many others were also ready to participate in this dialogue.

I was referred several times over the last few years to an organization called Organizing Against Racism (OAR).  The OAR Alliance is a network of anti-racism groups based in and around the Triangle area.  OAR Alliance offers Racial Equity Institute’s (REI) two-day workshops entitled Phase I and Phase II.  The anti-racism workshops are designed to bring together participants who want to support each other while deepening our understanding of how to be effective anti-racists.   But first, there is a lot to uncover and learn.

Originally, I thought two days seemed like a lot of time to devote to this topic.  After all, I think of myself (a mature, white woman) as a fairly aware individual who likes to delve into topics rather than turn away from those I don’t know much about or understand.   However,  the REI workshop alumni continually reinforced that the time I would invest attending, would be “time well spent”.      

I followed the workshop schedule online for about 6 months wondering when would be best for me to sign up.   I noticed that the ticketed training slots seemed to fill up rather quickly and was encouraged to see that a lot of folks were continually attending.   So in line with my strong intention to know better, do better, be better  (that’s an Oprah quote that I like), in November, I decided to jump in and sign up for the first Phase I workshop of the 2018 New Year.   

Off I went, notebook in hand, on Monday, January 8, ready to immerse myself in this subject matter.  Now that I am an alumni of Phase I, I find it difficult to summarize the two days because it was not at all what I thought it would be.  It was much, much more.

The Racial Equity Workshop Phase I moves the focus from individual bigotry and bias by presenting a thorough historical, cultural, structural and institutional analysis of racial and ethnic disparities.  With a clear understanding of how institutions and systems are producing unjust and inequitable outcomes, participants begin a journey toward social transformation and racial justice.   Even 50 years after significant civil rights’ gains, the impact of race continues to shape the outcomes of all institutions in which we are affiliated.

Our three facilitators were a dynamic team; all with very different perspectives and stories to share.  They were: a 60-year-old African American woman (she told us her age), who was a seasoned REI trainer; a middle-aged, Jewish man with years invested as a community activist; and a mixed-race, male millennial, just starting his career as a facilitator.   They warned us that they would ‘prick’ our collective consciousness over the next two days….and they did.  We would be challenged to examine individual bias, stereotyping, assumptions and unconscious responses we have been conditioned to think, believe and say throughout our lifetime. 

Their expectations of the 48 attendees in the audience were: to get proximate to the issues of race and racism; listen and be open to learning the narrative; commit and engage; be willing to be uncomfortable; recognize there is no quick fix, yet maintain hope in the process. 

By mid morning on the first day, having only heard the opening presentations, I realized this would be my new confession, an examination of conscience.   I used my breath to calm myself throughout the day when participants were asked to consider questions such as:  Why it is important to end racism? How are race and poverty related? How does our present system exploit, exclude and oppress the underserved in healthcare, education and criminal justice system?

After a good nights’ sleep, I reviewed my notes and was ready for day two. Our trainers focused on the disparities within our community institutions, provoking discussions about poverty, class, affirmative action, racial oppression, white privilege, conditioning, neighborhoods and home ownership, to name a few.  I left the two-day workshop exhausted, concerned, in disbelief of my lack of knowledge and awareness …… yet grateful, uplifted, hopeful, and committed to a more extensive study of these topics.     

For anyone interested in attending an REI Workshop, trainings are offered frequently and in a variety of locations in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.   The workshop facilitators are highly trained and continually rotate, so there is always an element of surprise in the leadership. 

I was pleased to learn that after completing the training, alumni are invited to come together and participate in monthly caucusing meetings.  It is here that you can continue to dialog with others about how racism lives in each of us and in our institutions.  In doing so, we can become strong, organized and clear in our efforts to dismantle racism.

Alumni may return and attend Phase I or Phase II workshops, as observers, as many times as they like.   Why would you want to do that?  Because the material is rich in content and complex to think about, I felt quite overwhelmed with all the new information.   I can only imagine that I would be listening much differently and benefit more deeply the second time around.   

Hart’s Mill strongly encourages members to attend this workshop as we  work towards embracing and including diversity in its many forms.  For information on dates and cost (sliding scale available), visit the OAR Alliance web site.  



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Regenerative Sustainability–A Path for Hart’s Mill?

by Joe Cole

(Click here to read the case study report described below)

In October, I completed the ten-month Design for Sustainability course through the Global Ecovillage Network and Gaia Education.  The Gaia Education Design for Sustainability (GEDS) course is a 10-month certification program that presents a “comprehensive overview of the necessary components for sustainable community design,” and is “based in the experiences of hundreds of ecovillages acting as living laboratories over many decades.”

The final phase of the course involves a Design Studio where teams of students explore a real case study around the four Dimensions of Sustainability–Ecological, Economic, Social, and Worldview.  My four-member Design Team–Leah Gibbons, Hamish Thomson, Thumbs Dijgraff, and me—worked on Hart’s Mill for our Case Study.  It was a joy working with and learning from these experienced, insightful, and wonderful people, and together we generated an 80-page report on Hart’s Mill’s status as a sustainable ecovillage, with recommendations on how the community could expand and deepen its commitments to sustainability.

In our work, we observed that Hart’s Mill is at a critical time in its development, and still has key decisions to make concerning the nature of the community.  Our Design Team took seriously Hart’s Mill’s stated goal of creating an Ecovillage (versus a more conventional development).  We utilized the GEDS model of four dimensions of sustainability, giving attention to Ecological, Economic, Social and Worldview dimensions and the ways they synergistically interact for systemic sustainability.  

Based on our training in the GEDS course, we concluded that Regenerative Design values and strategies offer the best current guidance for creating an Ecovillage.  Our main recommendations are for Hart’s Mill to adopt a Regenerative Sustainability framework to guide its vision, mission, aims, and practical projects.  Our intention was not to supplant Hart’s Mill’s current plans, but rather to help manifest the latent potential of Hart’s Mill as an intentional community and as an ecovillage.

So what is Regenerative Sustainability?  Regenerative Sustainability aims to re-weave human and natural communities into a co-evolutionary whole, where humans exist in symbiotic relationship with the living lands they inhabit.  Regenerative communities strive to create the conditions and capacities for a thriving and abundant future for all life.  This means continually evolving as a project, working across scales (microscopic to macroscopic, local to international), and developing care and commitment for the land, ecosystems, social systems, and larger wholes of which we are a part. 

One specific example for how this could apply to Hart’s Mill would be to reorient our project to caring for our local and regional watershed.  Hart’s Mill is near the headwaters of McGowan Creek, leading to the Eno River, Falls Lake, the Neuse River, Pamlico Sound, and the Atlantic Ocean. This location gives Hart’s Mill an important role to play in creating a healthy and thriving watershed through regenerative development.  If Hart’s Mill recognizes that it is part of larger living systems and that it has a unique role to play in helping those systems manifest their highest potential, health, and vitality, then the community can become a catalyst for regeneration of the larger living systems of which it is a part.

Many of Hart’s Mill’s Principles and Intentions already reflect a Regenerative Sustainability paradigm. These include: “an abiding commitment to each others’ and the lands’ well-being” (PI-1); “embracing the larger web of life” (PI-2); “integrate harmoniously with the land and each other” (PI-11); “deepening connections with one another and with the land” (PI-15); facilitating “sustainable relationships, growth, and trust” with neighbors (PI-30); “enabling the creation and sustenance of other eco-villages” (PI-33); and “continual reassessment” (PI-36).  When applied more consciously, the Regenerative Sustainability paradigm and Regenerative Development can guide Hart’s Mill in achieving its goals and playing a valuable role in helping its larger community of life transform to regenerative sustainability.

To this end, our Design Team recommended the following revision of the Hart’s Mill Vision:

“Hart’s Mill ecovillage lives our interconnectedness with all of life, living as nature. Through this interconnectedness, and through fulfilling our unique value-adding role in our larger whole, we reweave all of life and create systemic perpetuating vitality and health in place and in the living systems of which we are a part.”

Our Design Team also recommended the following revision of the Hart’s Mill Mission:

“Hart’s Mill is a regional center for regenerative agriculture and living, adding value to and catalyzing transformation to regenerative sustainability of our larger community and bioregion while providing our inhabitants with a cooperative, celebratory, and co-creative social and work life. Hart’s Mill uses regenerative agriculture, building, economic, and living technologies to continually increase the health and vitality of the entire living system.”

By enhancing the community’s Mission and Vision, Hart’s Mill can become the US East Coast Center for Regenerative Living.  Hart’s Mill would be a transformational project not just locally, but in its bioregion and throughout the US, elevating the conversation from sustainability to regeneration so that Earth can thrive again and be a place where life flourishes.

In addition to our Design Team’s main recommendations around adopting a Regenerative Sustainability framework, the report is also full of specific ideas and suggestions for each of the four dimensions of sustainability.

For the Worldview Dimension, our team recommends that the community develop a holistic worldview that lives the reality of interdependence and interbeing.  This spiritual framework is a foundation for the commitment to Regenerative Sustainability.  Creating a community such as Hart’s Mill is inherently spiritual, and nurturing this aspect of community life will greatly enrich Hart’s Mill members and its endeavors.

For the Social Dimension, we observed that many members would benefit from deepening collaborative skills and avenues of participation in community governance.  Hart’s Mill members express a great deal of appreciation for the community’s leaders, while also revealing a spectrum of views on the effectiveness of leadership at Hart’s Mill.  The community has needs for feedback systems, younger leaders, more effective decision-making, and improved communication, as well as the need to address power and conflict more proactively.  Our Team also recommends that Hart’s Mill create an Educational Center for Regenerative Sustainability, Cooperative Governance, and Social and Environmental Justice as a top, near-term priority.

For the Economic Dimension, we recommend that Hart’s Mill develop an internship program for youth to work and learn on the land, beginning with scheduling five workshops in 2018, including workshops to build an outdoor kitchen and classroom using natural building techniques.  Hiring a volunteer manager and marketing specialist would be crucial for the success of such programs.  We also recommend innovative strategies for attracting farmers and rewarding them for co-creating farm and community infrastructure.  Hart’s Mill can then purchase any upgrades and investments from the farmer when and if they leave.  Finally, while financing the development of Hart’s Mill is an ongoing area of concern, by deepening the community’s commitment to Regenerative Sustainability, Hart’s Mill will stand out and attract members, allies, donors, financers who are inspired by its sustainable mission. 

For the Ecological Dimension, Hart’s Mill can become a leader in regenerative agriculture, green building, and renewable energy.  The community can grow food in a way that increases the health and functioning of the surrounding ecosystems.  Regenerative design can guide water use, reuse, and wastewater treatment through rainwater catchment, living gray water systems, composting toilets, and constructed wetlands.  Hart’s Mill can become an inspiring model in renewable energy through building for Net Plus renewable energy generation, maximizing energy efficiency, and collaborating with local and regional groups working for a renewable energy economy.

That is a sampling of highlights from the Case Study. 

On December 3rd, about ten community members gathered to hear a presentation on the Case Study and discuss the recommendations.  There was broad agreement that more conversation is needed, so hopefully we will continue to explore how our community might benefit from the results of the Design Team’s work in the coming months and years.

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Cutting Through It–Late Autumn Work Day

A small group of six stalwart Hart’s Millers and  two guests showed up on a cold dreary afternoon for our December 2nd workday. Many thanks to Doug Jones, of neighboring community Earth’s Turn, for coming out and working with us! We aim to return this generous gesture. 

He and Jeffry spruced up the perimeters of our small garden, then Jeffry led the second of our tractor workshops. Hope and her niece Clare are our newest able mowers!

Paul, Anthony, Margret, and Tain,  soon joined by Doug, Hope, and Clare, tackled clearing the overgrown field east of the pavilion. Small saplings had to be removed by hand in order to safely bush-hog there. 
Margret collected some sinewy Indian Hemp to adorn her winter wreaths.  Honorary canine member, Eya, alternated chilling nearby with dragging her leash through the underbrush to check on us.
Mid-afternoon there was a tour of the land, led by Hope. Exploratory member Link, with Hannah, and their small daughter Fern, got to see what we Hart’s Millers have been up to.   Walking on the new pond trail, we hopscotched through the creeping cedar on wooden stepping “stones” cut and placed by Jeffry and Margret.
On the way back to the Nest, we we were startled by a colorful, snake-like shape off to the side.  This is Margret’s newest painterly gift to the land.  Wait until it peers out of the undergrowth come spring. 
Around 5:00 we retired to Hart’s Nest for camaraderie and a cold beer.
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Thanksgiving Weekend–A Feast of Events

Thanksgiving weekend was full, varied, and enriching at Hart’s Mill! 

The previous weekend, Hart’s Mill had a presence at the Emerson Waldorf School’s Children’s Faire and Artisan Marketplace. Christina, Marilyn, Rita, Virginia, Charles, Anthony, and Paul greeted visitors and engaged in conversation about our community.  Christhome.  All agreed that it was a beautiful event.  Thanks to Bailey and Gaius for opening this door for Hart’s Mill.

We began a new tradition of Thanksgiving at Hart’s Nest.  Beautiful weather, amazing food, delightful guests, a lengthy walk on the trails after the main meal followed by fantastic strumming and singing all evening by Tain were enjoyed by all.  It was a wonderful day!  


On Thanksgiving Saturday, Randy, María, and Hope began to walk, assess, and partially clear the North-to-Northeast boundary line as the next phase of preparing for the Land Dome Ceremony. It’s going to be a big and joyful job to clear the entire perimeter and volunteers are very welcome to step up and help!  If you are interested in this service, please contact María at

Later in the day, on the last Saturday of the month, Our NEW Governance and Training Circle offered the second conversation and learning opportunity related to sociocracy and cooperative skills. With María’s guidance, we had a rich and enlightening discussion of power dynamics in communities in November, followed by a delicious meal with chili made from a home-grown pumpkin and cooked up by Bailey.  In December, we’ll be preparing to greet the New Year with practices for reflective listening.  Let’s begin the year in the spirit of cooperation.

On Thanksgiving Sunday, Randy, Tain, Greg, and Matt worked on building the rocket stove for Cob Haven. Read all about this involved endeavor in the previous post.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this time all about community, gratitude, generosity, and creativity! 

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Cob project update

While there’s been somewhat of a lull in the activity out at Cob Haven, things have nevertheless been puttering along the last few months, so it seems like a good time to provide an update.

The main emphasis has been on installing a “rocket mass heater”.  It’s the cob enthusiast’s version of an integrated wood heater and furniture dynamic duo.  For a few decades, those interested in this somewhat enigmatic creation turned to Ianto Evans, the founder of Cob Cottage out in Oregon, and a more recent collaboration between Ianto and Laura Jackson.  I went ahead and got the third edition of their book to prepare for this part of the project, which is a worthwhile read.  Greg shortly thereafter passed on “The Rocket Mass Heater Builder’s Guide: Complete Step-by-Step Construction, Maintenance and Troubleshooting” by Erica and Ernie Weisner which was my inspiring evening reading for a week or two, and resulted in a more detailed plan and shopping list and some additional details and practical/expert advice on how to pull this invention off.  I’ll spare you the many details, other than to say assembling the parts and tools is rather more involved than a trip to Lowes or Home Depot (although a few items did come from each).   It also seems that building the RMH requires a decent dose of on-the-fly learning and improvisation.

First up was a couple barrels found on Craigslist.  The barrels basically serve as the shell around the heater, which is made of fire brick.  They need to be free of paint so the paint doesn’t off gas when the heater is fired; a non-trivial amount of head scratching and effort has been pursued in figuring out the best way to achieve this.  As a result, I have less hair, shorter fingernails, and a new torch.  Here they are after their first torching. To date, there have been three torchings and an hour or two of mechanical abrasion, and there is still a bit of paint to remove.  So next up is engulfing the barrels in a bonfire.

This photo shows a mock up of the guts of the mass heater.  The part of the fire brick in front is where small pieces of wood are fed and the tall part in the back is the “heat riser”. The pile of brick and pipe to the left is the beginning of what will be a bench that will provide much of the mass for storing the heat generated.



Here’s what it looks like a bit further along as the combustion unit is being set with clay slip.




A key part of the whole system is called the “manifold” which is the transition between the wood burning part and the mass heater/ furniture part.  Here’s Greg working on the custom fabrication.




Eya took special interest in the lunch part of  the day, but for the most part, saw it as an opportunity for a nice long nap in the sun.



When all is said and done with the mass heater, it will look (and feel) something like this.

 rocket mass heater

Randy, Greg, Matt, and Tain all pitched in this past weekend on to make this happen.  Kudos to all for the many collaborative elements that came together, including good humor, flexibility, masonry and steel cutting expertise, and perseverance, dedication, and willpower.


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Garlic Planting Day at Hart’s Mill

by Margret Mueller

This bright, cool afternoon was perfect for planting our first crop of garlic on the land. Jeffry and Tain, encouraged by Eya, planted about 900 garlic cloves (one 100-foot bed, with 3 rows, approximately 3 cloves per foot).

Here’s how it works:
Garlic planting is generally done in the fall so that shoots have time to emerge but not grow too tall before we have any hard freezes. The largest heads of saved garlic from last year’s crop are separated into individual cloves (thanks, Tain!) and pushed into loose prepared (amended and tilled) soil. A layer of soil is raked over them, and pine straw mulch is scattered over the row. The mulch helps retain moisture and suppress weeds. (Since HM’s soil is already too acidic, we will rake off the pine needles at harvest and pile them up somewhere to rot instead of letting them deteriorate in place.)

Illustration from

As soon as the soil warms in the spring, the shoots will, well, shoot up! Nitrogen fertilizer is applied during the growing season. Garlic is mature by late May, signaled by the tops starting to yellow and fall over. It is then pulled, allowed to dry, cleaned up, and Voila!  Ready for market.


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