5-50-500…Let’s GROW and GO! Building Bigger Teams with Evangeline Weiss

By Hope Horton, with illustrations by Evangeline Weiss

A group of 20 LUCKY FOLKS showed up for the March Last Saturday event with the dynamic activist and organizer, Evangeline Weiss of Beyond Conflict.  Evangeline has decades of experience building volunteer teams in the thousands to make positive change in the world.  And she does it by following a few key steps which she shared with us in such an enthusiastic and interactive way that the time flew by!  She even made a cool and colorful booklet for us that walks us through each stage.  

Let’s face it: Hart’s Mill is at a stage where we need to attract more members who are aligned with our vision and mission.  It’s not unusual for a few key people to do much of the work in organizations in the beginning, but at a certain point the system needs more energy.  Evangeline outlined how starting with as few as five core leaders we can attract fifty, even five hundred more.  Sounds impossible?  Let’s see how this works!

But FIRST, a huge appreciation for the people who made this event happen: to Maria, who invited her friend Evangeline to come to Hart’s Mill (a great ASK—see below).  To amazing Evangeline for carving out some time and saying “yes” to this event.  To Nell and George who came early to clean, set up, and greet arrivals (see below under ROLES).  And to all of us who have been working so hard…for so long…  We’ve got so much going for us but need some tweaks (like engaging people in something other than a meeting!).  Intrigued? Read on. 

It all starts with…WHY do we want to build bigger teams?  What’s our purpose?  What inspires us and keeps us going at the end of a long day?  And in particular, why do we want to bring in more people  RIGHT NOW?  We called out some of the reasons why we will persevere, no matter what, until we actualize our vision. 

So, we’re having an event.  RADICAL WELCOME comes next.  How prepared are we to craft a really great experience?  Are people greeted with a smile?  Is there a warm and lively atmosphere?  Do people know where to go and what to do, right away?  Are there snacks and other comforts?  What can we do to help people to be glad they came, from the get-go?  Do our guests feel appreciated?  Be sure to treat everyone like royalty!

And how about ROLES?  Events are multi-faceted and people want to feel useful and valued.  (Just ask Nell and George, who felt really good about their event contributions.)  Are we clear about the tasks that need to get done, and how to do them?  Do people have the tools/information they need to succeed?  (BONUS FUN FACT: Do you know the #1 thing people fight about in organizations?  Answer: Lack of clarity in roles and goals.)  People like to be engaged; to do something that contributes to success.  (Note to Hart’s Mill: find ways to get people involved other than inviting them to observe meetings…at least in the early stages….)

Okay, we’re in the thick of the event.  Notice what happens.  The TALENT SCOUTING portion of the process begins with a debrief.   Who really rocked at their job, worked hard, took initiative, and followed through?  Who has appetite for the community?  What skills did people demonstrate?  Name the folks we noticed and would really like to have more involved.  Reach out to them, ONE ON ONE.  Make a phone call.  Meet for “coffee.”   Find out more about them and how to speak to their passion for what we are doing.  And then ASK, ASK, ASK for what we need.  A STRONG ASK presents a problem, gives a solution, and shows someone how they can help.  

Evangeline suggested that in these conversations we spend half the time getting really curious about our new friend and finding out what calls to them about our community.  But then we need a consistent way to describe Hart’s Mill—a SCRIPT, as it were, so that we all have a common way to describe our community.  In the last quarter, we ask our friend for something we need, that they can provide.  After they say “yes” (of course!), we CONFIRM the request and follow through until it’s done.

There’s a bit more to it, but these are the basics.  This process can be a GAME CHANGER for Hart’s Mill only if we work at it.  We need a common way to describe Hart’s Mill (the SCRIPT).  We’re so prepared for our meetings–how about being just as prepared for events?  Welcome people, assign roles, and follow-up with the stars, one-on-one.  Yes, it’s going to take time and effort, and it’ll be worth it to expand our core group and engage the people who are ready and waiting for what we have to offer.

One more huge THANK YOU to Evangeline!!!

READY?  Let’s GROW and GO!  

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Community Farming Initiative Gets Off the Ground!

by Margret Mueller

Er…on the ground? …in the ground?

However you characterize it, Saturday, March 16 was an unqualified success. Despite a last-minute panic on Friday, when it rained heavily–yet again!–Hart’s Mill’s initial foray into community involvement on the farm was full of laughter, thoughtful negotiations, and diligent work.  Neither the day nor the newly-prepared planting beds could have been more beautiful. Under the guidance of Jeffry and Margret (a.k.a. Seeing Stars Farm), nine new and seasoned Hart’s Millers set right to work, with the specific goal of raising funds to defray our Angel Donor farm loan.  

In a spirit of playfulness, both teams have whimsical names.  The Potato Heads learned how to cut up large potatoes so that each chunk had one or more eyes. Furrows were dug; three varieties of potatoes set in place and covered with soil. These spuds will be dug early, and sold as containers of tiny mixed red, white, and blue gems.

  

Meanwhile, team two, The Glad Rads, which includes the Gladiolus Gladiators and the Beet Beat, were digging furrows for gladiolus corms. We now have one 95-foot row of future glads and Asian lilies! Having flowers on the farm will be such a treat. The team’s next long row consists of multiple varieties of beets; the idea being to bring eye-catching multicolored bunches to market.

I’m seeing a theme here; color!

  

Meanwhile Jeffry and I moved on to our own work, while remaining available for any team questions. It was such fun catching snatches of distant banter and watching young John Michael rove around taking on small tasks here and there. Before long, here came Anthony, racing along the farm perimeter, pushing John Michael in a wheelbarrow! It would be hard to say which of the two was having more fun.

 

Work wrapped up around 4 p.m., with plans to meet again soon. In a week the cilantro and some Asian greens will be direct-seeded, with more greens, basil, and parsnips to follow as the season progresses.

Please stop by anytime and see what’s up on the farm!

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A Walk in the Woods: the Frog Song Musical

by Hope Horton

It’s been a wet, chilly spring but there’s plenty happening on the land.  Hart’s Mill has ten  ecosystems across its 112 acres and each one has its own character and species mix.*  When Margret Mueller and I got together to plan this nature walk, we decided to head  towards the 13-acre splay of streams, trees, and wetlands along our eastern border.  Bloodroot and Spring Beauty have been gracing the brown ground with bright white blossoms since late February.  Flowering Red Maple trees dot the canopy with sprays of magenta.  And with all the rain we’ve been having, the beaver dam displays are numerous and impressive.  

 

March 16th was a great day to take a nature walk.  The day dawned clear and breezy and seven members met up at the pump house to start heading over to McGowan Creek.  We took a detour to Hart’s Ease, where a Honey Locust festoons itself with fearsome thorns along its trunk and branches, with remnants of foot-long seed pods scattered at its feet.    From there, we headed north towards Cob Haven, pointing out 3 species of conifers nearby: Loblolly Pine, Virginia Pine, and Red Cedar.  At the top of the Far Field, we stopped for a visit with a lone Willow Oak, marveling at its tiny acorn caps and copious branches.  Then we headed into the woods.  

   

There are 22 species of deciduous trees that I’ve seen on the land so far, but many are immature, unsuccessfully competing with the Loblolly pines planted in the late 1990’s after a clear cut of several large stands.  Not so along McGowan Creek.  Due to the steep slopes and regulations protecting wetlands, this rich strip has gorgeous mixed hardwood trees around 80-100 years old, including magnificent American Beech, Tulip Tree, Red Maple, Oak, and Hickory, while Ironwood and Black Willow proliferate nearer the creek.   

I took this picture a few days later, after a a heavy rain. The dam has been breached. I wonder what it will look like in a few days after the beavers take stock?

Since trees are just starting to bud, the winding wetland expanse is still visible.  McGowan creek, thickly braided with canals and swollen with beaver ponds, is a rich refuge for birds and animals alike.  We walked up to the edge of an impressive beaver dam, the first of many dotting the stream like beads on a string.  Beavers are nocturnal, but the effects of their tireless labors are visible by day in the way that their dams gracefully sculpt the wetland and by the many pointed tree stumps their extraordinary teeth leave behind.  

As for birds, I’ve spied wood ducks, geese, herons (blue and green), and egrets in this area, but they are very skittish and easily spooked.  They steered clear of our group, but I know they’re out there for the quiet seeker.

And speaking of quiet, the wetland is anything but this time of year.  Gazillions of frogs and toads sing their hearts out in a concert that can verge on deafening.  Though they were a bit shy with an audience, we heard spring peepers, bullfrogs, tree frogs and many other amphibious utterances as we strolled down the path.  

Margret, our fungi forager, pointed out Hexagonal Polypore (Neofavolus alveolaris) clustered along a few beech tree branches.  The six-sided pores and golden color evokes a honeycomb.  Some sources say it may be edible but its taste and texture leave a lot to be desired.  Best to consume it in with your eyes only.  

 

Our group was full of questions, comments, and exclamations of wonder as we wrapped up our walk.  We all felt energized and curiously connected after sharing this attentive conversation with the natural world, together.  

Redbud blossoms

As the Spring unfolds, every precious part of our land will unwrap many flora-and-fauna gifts and surprises.  Each tree, animal, bird, flower, rock, fungus, and soil type has its  story, gifts, lore, and singular beauty, and we’ll be exploring many more as our nature walks continue through the spring and summer.  

Keep an eye out for the next offering in April.  If you have particular knowledge you’d like to share, or something you’d especially like to experience, please be in touch.  We’d love to have you join us!  

*For descriptions, see the excellent Forest Stewardship Plan prepared by the Eno River Association in 2014.

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Far Loop Trail NOW OPEN for Walkers!

By Anthony

Hart's Mill trail mapThanks to an intrepid band of Hartsmilers working through a cold misty afternoon, the Far Loop Trail in the big southeast leg of our land is now passable all the way around. Margret M and Margaret A, Jeffry, George, Paul, Hope, Nell, and Anthony all helped to clear the last segment on the farthest southeast corner of the land — in what we used to call the Forbidden Territory because it is so far out and for so long seemed so impenetrable. There is more work to be done to make the pathway more commodious and level, but is still fully walkable now. I have yet to measure the length exactly, but my guess is about 2/3 mile. — that’s after about the 1/3+ mile hike from the village area to the trailhead.

Our crew celebrated this “Golden Spike” moment when we joined both sides of the loop trail.  Lots of other people worked on this trail too at earlier workdays: I am sure I won’t remember everyone, but those I do remember include Vanessa and Lizel, Tara and Rick with their son John Michael, Virginia, John, Amy, Lisa, and Tami and Whit from Earth’s Turn.  I’ll give myself credit for routing and blazing the trail and plugging away at clearing sometimes alone or with a few others, but it’s been the workday energy of crews like today’s that really made it happen. The hot chocolate at Hart’s Nest at the close of the day was a great treat too.  Many thanks to you all!  

Next steps will be continuing upgrades along the route, and this summer we have plans to build better access on a 100-foot  boardwalk access along the downstream edge of the beaver pond (right now the access is a bit farther downstream and a bit muddy) — stay tuned, and get ready to come help build on future workdays!  

Now, everyone please come and use the trails. The best way to maintain them is to walk them often!  For a map of all the land’s trails, click here.  Enjoy!

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HOUSING WITH A TWIST: Fresh ways of thinking about ownership

by Hope Horton

Hart’s mill family home prototype

The purpose at the heart of Hart’s Mill is to help heal the brokenness in our social, economic, ecological, and cultural systems.  We are doing this at a time when the need is great but the pathways are not clear or easy.   Money and ownership matters are among the most complex and convoluted for members to face.  Yet we persist and remain determined to realize our regenerative vision and guiding principles.

In this spirit, 18 members gathered for the February Last Saturday event, hosted by the Financial & Legal Circle.  Together, we absorbed and confronted the realities, myths, and opportunities surrounding home ownership in today’s out-of-whack economy.   We also came to some clarity about how to move forward on some key issues.   

Paul began the session with a review of the limited equity housing cooperative (LEHC) model, which was consented to by the General Circle on January 28, 2016.  (Click here to view Paul’s complete presentation.)  In brief:

  • A cooperative is an enterprise formed by a group of people to meet their own self-defined goals. It is owned and run by members to serve its members (not its remote stockholders). 
  • Members buy a share in the cooperative at a price set by the members. Members also pay a portion of the monthly carrying costs to cover the blanket mortgage, insurance, maintenance fund, etc. 
  • An LEHC owns and operates housing exclusively for the benefit of its members, who voluntarily—and with a sense of purpose—agree to limit the resale value of their equity holdings (e.g. share value) to promote long-term affordability (rather than short-term, market-driven gain).

Next on the docket, Katy set about busting the myth of traditional home ownership as a great financial investment.  This model is a deeply embedded in our culture; it’s an essential promise of the American Dream.  But does it really pan out when you look more closely?  Consider the financial meltdown of 2008 when millions of people lost their homes as a result of unscrupulous lending practices.   Even setting tumultuous economic downturns aside, a good financial investment is usually defined as one that provides stable and consistent growth that exceeds the rate of inflation where assets retain value, have low maintenance costs, and are easy to buy and sell. 

While this can be the case in hot housing markets such as San Francisco (and Durham, at the moment), the data tell a different story overall.  You may be surprised that the personal finance blog, Observations, reports that the average annual home appreciation adjusted for inflation from 1900-2012 in the U.S. is only 0.1%  Moreover, treating housing as an investment has led to a widespread and unsustainable shortage of affordable housing, and ensuring long-term affordability is one of Hart’s Mill’s core values.  

So how much is a share in Hart’s Mill going to cost?  (Remember, we’re talking about a share in EVERYTHING—112 acres of land, a farm, outbuildings, low energy costs, shared resources, community support, etc.)   Paul looked at this from a lot of different angles and results have been strikingly similar: we need something like 60 shares of $40,000 each to raise enough of a down payment to secure financing to build the village.  While this is as yet preliminary and uncertain, it’s a place to start.

Here’s where we asked for help from the group.  Remember, a share is an equity investment in the entire community.  And the larger the share payments are, the lower the monthly carrying costs will be per member.  Even so, the share price will be a chunk of change.  Can we live with this?  And if so, how should we set the basis of a share?  Per adult?  Per square footage?  Per living unit?  Something else? 

We broke into small groups to wrap our heads around these questions.   People understood how this preliminary, per-share cost was calculated and generally considered it to be fair and reasonable—even a “bargain” in one member’s words.  But is this going to be affordable, particularly considering the diverse spectrum of members that we want to attract? 

As for how to set the basis for a coop share, Making it “per adult” seemed as if it had the most support overall.  Several ideas for promoting affordability were put forth, such as adding a surcharge for those who can afford it, offering a share discount or giving partners a break. How about assessing a lower basic share cost for everyone and working out how to raise the rest in some other way?  Or, could people buy more than one share to lower carrying costs?  Can we set up an internal, low-interest fund to help members purchase a share?  As you can see, it was a lively and creative discussion. 

The next question concerned the “limited equity” part of the equation.  Are members willing to put a cap on the amount of return on their investment rather than allowing the housing market to dictate price?   It was Hope’s turn to speak about why she supports a LEHC.  First of all, she stated that how we structure ourselves matters because this will dictate how our community behaves over time.  Our current economic systems are set up to maximize profit, benefit individual interests, and avoid responsibility if others are harmed.  Hart’s Mill, on the other hand, seeks to be financially self-sustaining over the long term by genuinely serving our relationships with each other and the land. 

Citing the book, Owning Our Future, by Marjorie Kelly, Hope summarized two conflicting architectures of ownership:

  • Extractive Ownership has a financial purpose: Maximize profit and minimize risk for short-term gain to benefit individual interests.  Owners are absentee, disconnected from the life of the enterprise, and trading focuses solely on price and profits controlled by capital markets on autopilot.
  • Generative Ownership has a living purpose: Create the conditions for life over the long term with ownership rooted in human hands and controlled by those who are dedicated to a social/ecological mission.  Profits are permitted but not maximized, thus balancing fairness and responsibility. 

Hart’s Mill’s values place us securely in the Generative Ownership category, and the LEHC is a generative financial model.  Hope concluded by expressing the vision that Hart’s Mill could break this ground in North Carolina and inspire other communities near and far to do the same.

We again broke into small groups to consider two more questions:

  • How committed are you to the limited-equity approach?
  • How do you feel about rentals?

Limited equity received unanimous acclamation in the group.  As one person put it, “we’re not in this for the money.”  As for rentals, people felt that this should be an option, especially for visitors checking us out, for new members who wish to get to know the community before making a commitment (and vice versa) and for others who want more mobility and flexibility.  We could generate income as a guest house.  Might it even be possible to set up a rent-to-own arrangement?

How to structure rentals was a more complex question.  Would we allow absentee ownership?  What if the co-op managed all the rentals (no landlords)?  We’d need a cap on percentage of rentals vs. owner-occupied units for financing purposes.  And what voice would tenants have in governance and decision making?    

Bob the builder

This 3-hour gathering was anything but dry!  Everyone was engaged in the topics and time flew by.  As usual, some felt that there wasn’t enough time to fully absorb the complex issues and offer useful feedback.  But overall, members reported being grateful for all the great information, the clarity of presentations, and the creativity of participants. 

The Financial & Legal Circle greatly appreciated the attention, input, and ideas received on these crucial questions.  Much acclaim was given to Paul for organizing this session, to the presenters, and to other Circle members for their support.  Want more?  The Financial & Legal Circle wants YOU!   Please contact Paul at Voss[at]hawkweed.net if you’d like to get involved.  

 

 

 

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Digging into Hart’s Mill Community Farming Initiative

By Margret Muller

Jeffry and Margret of Seeing Stars Farm (SSF), with support and assistance from the rest of the Land Stewardship Circle, held a Last Saturday event on January 26 at Hart’s Nest.  Sixteen people gathered to launch what we are calling the Community Farming Initiative (a.k.a. “Farm-Aid”, minus the famous musicians, sadly). 

Our presentation began with a brief visit to the farm to help folks picture the area we will be farming.  Back at Hart’s Nest, Anthony spoke about our agrarian mission and Paul gave us a brief history of the milestones in HM’s farm development. Jeffry then showed us Bobby Tucker’s Master Farm Plan, indicating the area currently under development for vegetable farming. He explained that Seeing Stars Farm’s existing  arrangement with HM is to farm for ourselves for now with the understanding that this will transition to community farming as soon as appropriate.
 
Margret explained the reasons and goals for our workshop:
 
Reasons:
  • Part of Hart’s Mill’s mission is to learn to feed ourselves from the land as best we can, using best practices, as spelled out in both our Mission and Aims document and Principles and Intentions document, especially P&I #3. This  will require education, practice, trial-and-error, and so on. Though doing this is challenging without a physical community in place, it seems like a good idea to make a small start on this now. SSF has been farming on our land for two years. We’ve learned a lot and can assist with this new project almost immediately. 
  • A second big motivator is that HM was given a substantial farm loan a while back, repayment of which will need to start next year. The investor would very much like this loan to be repaid BY THE FARM, to the extent feasible.
Goals:
  •  To understand the difference between farming for profit and farming to feed oneself. 
  •  To emphasize that earning money farming is NOT Hart’s Mill’s long-term goal—it is a short-term goal with the benefits of loan-repayment, gaining experience, increasing activity on the land, building the soil, learning to work together, etc.
  •  To learn about annual crops that are best-suited for this purpose, including considerations of seasonality, uniqueness, sale-ability, income-vs-labor ratios, ease of production, storage needs, and more.
  • To form break-out groups to brainstorm about ideal crops and considerations, returning to the group for discussion.
  • To have one or more teams, with thoughtful choices of crops, commit to inaugurating the project this year. Jeffry laid out what SSF would and would not do to support the members, the idea being to help and advise but not actually grow the crops(!). Sales will be through The Chapel Hill Farmers Market, and possibly also internally to HM folks.
Our last activity involved using “commitment cards” to get specific information about members’ interest in participating. We were so gratified and excited to find that every single attendee signed on for either a growing team or as backup support! We now have in place two teams, interested in such crops as specialty potatoes, Asian greens, cut flowers, beets, and herbs.
 
 These first groups are already underway; if there is growing interest (😊) we will extend the project in the coming seasons. A huge “Thank You” to the Nest for hosting us, the members of LSC for supporting participation, and the rest of you for your enthusiasm!  Contact Jeffry, seeingstarsfarm@gmail.com, if you’d like to get on board.
 
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2019: Getting to Groundbreaking!

The New Year’s Planning Party on January 13th lived up to its name, with music, dancing, food, fascinating conversation — and a solid path for getting to groundbreaking!  2019 is THE YEAR for Hart’s Mill to pull all the pieces together towards building the integrated Ecovillage of our dreams.  Plans for the community farm are well underway, forest stewardship (the Wood Wide Web) has begun, and now we’re blazing to build the village in 2020.  

The Wise Owl raises a glass

There’s so much to be grateful for and appreciate right now, and we opened the afternoon by filling  glasses with sparkling beverages to toast our achievements to-date: the wonderful people who have come together, the beauty and abundance of the land, and the critical accomplishments that have gotten us to this launching point.  Hart’s Mill is a vibrant community already, and it was wonderful to acknowledge the many ways in which we have already made a positive difference in lives and lands.

Yes, kudos for all of that…but what’s next?  We’re fortunate to have among our members a planning maven, Allie Van.  The Governance & Training Circle worked with Allie to shepherd an intensive all-Circle planning process that began in September, 2018.  Some results of that process include a timeline of critical events and a set of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) defined by our Circles to achieve these goals.  (Click here to view the PowerPoint slides.)  

The timeline lays out an ambitious and optimistic (but not delusional) path focused on getting to groundbreaking.  Katy Ansardi and others worked tirelessly with Allie to identify key benchmarks aligned across several project elements that will guide us through the year.  It’s a great education in Ecovillage development to see all that must be accomplished compressed on a single page! 

As for how we get there, each Circle has been working hard to identify what they can achieve to reach these goals.  Circle leaders presented OKRs for the first quarter that correspond with the master timeline.  A rich round of thanks goes to Allie and all who devoted their hearts and minds to forging–and to walking–this path.

It was time to take it all in and reflect on how each of us could fit into this picture.  What will Hart’s Mill look like/feel like in 5 years?  What will we be doing?  How will we be living when we are on the land, together?  It was a rich experience to go inside and visualize what Hart’s Mill has meant to us, explore the joys and challenges, and envision our lives based on the many Principles and Intentions that have moved us thus far.

After sharing with each other what we discovered, we all had an opportunity to explore what we can do during the first quarter to move this process along.  What is each of us passionate about; what are our skills; what brings us energy; what would we gladly do to realize this vision?  Participants translated their dedication into action, creating personal OKRs with specific offerings.  It was wonderful to harness and receive such generous promises of time and talent.

And now….let’s celebrate!  Turn up the music, clear the dance floor, enjoy the food and libations, and mostly–have fun with each other!  It was a great way to energize all that we have become, all that we are, and all that we will create to make this corner of the world more beautiful, more loving, more sustainable and regenerative.  And a lot less crazy.

Want to get involved?  There’s a place for YOU at Hart’s Mill Ecovillage.  Contact us and be a part of it–NOW!  

 

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You’ve heard of having a Chili Cook-off? Well, how about a CHILLY KICK-OFF?! 

by Margret Mueller
 

That’s what happened Saturday, December 8, when a few hardy souls met at Hart’s Mill (in 40-degree weather) to get started with our Forest Stewardship mandate attend to certain parcels of land.  Consider the Wood Wide Web project officially launched!  Spearheaded by Land Stewardship Circle member, Randy Dodd, over the next two years we will be working approximately monthly from fall to spring to thin several of our forest stands, managing our invasive trees, and generally appreciating and learning about Hart’s Mill’s wooded areas.  

With Randy’s thoughtful guidance, we were able to make a good start on Stand 6, respectfully removing some pines from crowded areas and less respectfully whacking every invasive privet and ailanthus sapling we could find.  For now, the logs and trimmings are in segregated piles lining the driveway, the former to be chipped for mulch, and the latter to provide habitat and weed suppression while it degrades into useful nutrients for the land.
 
While felling trees can be a bit traumatic, we were guided by our P & I number two that states, “we are abidingly loyal to the land”—we are bound to work toward forest protection, health and restoration. It was also possible to see a certain beauty in our work; the cooperation among team members, the “opening”of the woods, the smell of fresh pine in the cold air, and for me, the breathtaking up-close beauty of the most pristine, perfect pine cones I have ever seen.
 
Much gratitude to Randy, Jeffry, Hope, Nell, Virginia, and Margret for this rewarding workday.
 
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Regenerative Development at Hart’s Mill

by Leah Gibbons

Workshop 1 Activity and Outcomes*

We had an exciting time at Hart’s Nest on November 17-18 exploring and applying a development and design process called regenerative development. The aim was to discover how regenerative development might add to and enhance the work of Hart’s Mill.  Many thanks to Hope, Joe, Katy, Maria, Marilyn, Paul, and Randy for participating. 

We began the process by discussing what participants love about Hart’s Mill.  Participants love the human relationships, social and economic ideal, organizational structure, generosity, desire to transform themselves and the world, creativity, persistence, the well-defined common values and principles, opportunity for innovation, and willingness to take leadership roles and responsibility. They also love the beauty of the land, its water, its diversity of life, its gifts (like edible mushrooms), and the opportunity to become intimate with place.

I then introduced the concept of regenerative development. I explained that regenerative development is a system of methodologies that develops capacities in living systems to continually evolve to higher levels of health and well-being, from the scale of individuals to sites, neighborhoods, cities, and beyond. Regenerative development is different from other approaches in several ways. It shifts us from:

  • Focusing on problems to manifesting potential
  • Working with parts to working with wholes
  • Static ‘solutions’ to growing capacities
  • Scarcity to abundance
  • Addressing symptoms to addressing causes—worldviews and consciousness
  • A parasitic to a mutualistic relationship with nature
  • Project-focused to value-adding (i.e., being of service) to the larger context

Regenerative development charts a path for thrivability within which more specific regenerative and ecological design technologies and strategies may be used. These include biophilia, biomimicry, bioclimatic design, Permaculture, regenerative agriculture, and Living Building and Community Challenges.

I introduced the regenerative community development tools I have developed and am piloting as part of my dissertation research. These are intended to help guide communities through the regenerative development process. These may used throughout time to adjust and adapt concepts, goals, and strategies as contexts and conditions change.

Using the tools to guide us, we dove into exploring what gives life to this place. We looked at the larger communities of which Hart’s Mill is a part as well as at Hart’s Mill itself. At the next largest scale up, Hart’s Mill and adjacent neighbors form a community. At the next largest scale, this context seemed appropriate:

And then this:

We also found thinking about Hart’s Mill as part of the Upper Neuse River Basin helpful. Looking at how all of these scales relate to one another, we explored ecological and social flows, patterns, and relationships that have given, currently give, and could give your community and its surrounding landscape vitality. We looked at elements for life including water, organisms (including people), nutrients, soil, infrastructure, and information, among others. We discovered that west-east flows of humans, commerce, water, and creatures (beavers, coyotes, foxes, turtles, birds) have been and continue to be important. We found that connections, exchanges, and mutually-beneficial relationships amongst these elements are important for vitality.

We discovered the essence of Hart’s Mill—what defines it as a unique whole and gives it life and vitality—and articulated it in a short Story of Place and regenerative development concept:

Hart’s Mill is a connecting place, rooted in rich biological and cultural diversity and flows that bring forth vitality and life. At a time of great social and environmental dysfunction, we are called forth as a catalyst for collaborative transformation. We are an agrarian community of learning, inhabiting, practicing and service committed to healing our relationships to each other and the earth, within Hart’s Mill and as an integral part of our larger community.

This statement can guide regenerative development efforts, connecting past, present, and future from the scale of individuals to the region.

We began exploring potential collaborations and guild relationships. These are relationships within the larger community that would result in mutual benefits for all. Potential members include neighbors, other local communities, Minka Farms, Triangle Land Conservancy, Eno River Association, Orange County Planning Department, City of Mebane, Commission for the Environment, local universities and schools, green developers, Sally Greene (Orange County Commissioner). Participants noted some actions that can be taken right now to generate income and move towards Hart’s Mill’s vision, including on-line teaching and beginning an educational center at Hart’s Nest.

Next, we briefly explored how regenerative development enhances Hart’s Mill’s current approach and thinking. Thoughts included:

  • The inclusion of larger contexts and systems; understanding your role within those systems
  • Frameworks to guide thinking, discussion, and action in Hart’s Mill and beyond for community members and the professionals who work with you
  • A language to communicate who Hart’s Mill is at its heart
  • Help looking at the bigger picture

For our next weekend workshop, we intend to evaluate Hart’s Mill’s current principles, vision, and mission using its regenerative development concept and the regenerative community development evaluation tool. We will then use the tool to co-create regenerative development goals and strategies specific to Hart’s Mill. We will then use the tool to discuss how specific design technologies and strategies can help implement regenerative development. We will discuss potential regenerative development indicators for your community. We will also explore your role as regenerative individuals in enabling vitality in Hart’s Mill and beyond.

*If you are a Hart’s Mill member interested in attending Workshop 2 on December 22-23, please contact Hope at hopematrix@fastmail.com

 

Posted in Uncategorized, Workshops | Leave a comment

Springing into Fall: Clean-Up on the Land

 
This is the time of year for general garden clean-up and preparation for the next wave of plantings. On October 28 we had a Fence-Raising on our land, a take-off on the concept of barn-raisings, which operate on the idea that “many hands make light work”.  Jeffry plotted out a new, much larger area for the farming activities, which includes enough space to maneuver the tractor inside the fence. 60 ten-foot T-posts were pounded in to mark the perimeter, with help from Paul and Randy. Old deer fencing, chicken wire, and posts were wrestled out of the  morning-glory-vine-covered borders by Margret and  Nell, while Marsha, Paul and Jeffry started putting up the new 8-foot deer fencing. 
   

 
This plastic mesh fencing is great for many reasons including longevity/reusability, near invisibility, and the ability to be “stapled” to the ground against smaller critters.  The summer vegetables have been mowed and plowed under to contribute to next year’s soil, leaving only our current rows of cool-weather crops. Our new one-acre enclosure feels spacious and tidy, quietly awaiting Spring planting. 
 
  
 
 
 
Two weeks later, on November 10, our regular monthly workday concentrated on general clean-up around and inside the storage container and tractor shed. Three loads of trash and recycling were sorted and hauled off thanks to the efforts of  Nell, Paul, Hope, Lisa, Margret, Randy, Jeffry, Tara, Rick,  4 1/2-year-old John-Michael, and two visitors,  Terry O’Keefe  and  Mary Johnston.  By 5 o’clock the temperature had dropped into the low 40’s and we were more than ready to gather around a fire and share some yummy food. A special treat was wild mushroom soup, made from maitake mushrooms previously gathered right from our land! 
 
By far the most notable and endearing event of the whole day happened that evening thanks to John-Michael, who had been dressed up as e. coli for Halloween.( Seriously!) He treated us to a rousing rendition of his character’s theme song, “I Am a Bacteria, My name is E. Coli!”  Absolutely hysterical.
 
 
Posted in On the Land, Uncategorized | Leave a comment