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


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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.
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May the Forest be With You (and You with the Forest)

Last month, Paul loaned me this book, which has provided the latest fodder for a many month long contemplation on how to best serve the Harts Mill forest (and people).  It’s a great read and a helpful guide for me as I embark on a couple year effort that will mostly entail, in the forestry profession’s lingo, a “thinning” of parts of the forest.  While it’s beyond the scope of this post to delve too deeply into either my own contemplation or the nitty gritty of what the Land Stewardship Circle has been chewing on, there is a previous post that has some additional background and details. Most importantly, there will be ample opportunity for any and all to a) help care for the forest; b) spend time on the land; and            c) support Harts Mill’s agrarian vision.  The work/play will start on the afternoons of November 17th and 18th.  Stay tuned, come on out, and contact Land Stewardship to learn more.

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Starting to see homes!

By Anthony Weston

At our October 27th Last Saturday event, the Planning, Design, and Development Circle presented the Schematic Designs for two prototype HM residences to an appreciative crowd of about eighteen members plus a few toddlers.

To set the context, Hope led us in a review of the key values that are guiding the development of our architectural plans.  It’s a wonder that there are more than 50 of them!  Using a large Wheel of Sustainability taped to the wall, participants selected pre-marked post-its and placed each value in the most appropriate category.  Here’s a sample:  Social values in play include shared spaces and resources, shared dwellings, supporting diversity, a balance of public and private spaces, accessibility for all ages and abilities, and connected flow between homes.  Ecological values include compact village layout, orientation to sun and wind, low energy demands, natural, local, and recycled/able materials, attractive outdoor spaces, kitchen gardens.  Culture/Worldview values include intimacy with the natural world, a movement from “I” to “We”, inspiration, beauty and creativity.  Economic values include economic viability, small homes, fewer possessions and more sharing, affordable housing and low building costs, self-build options, multi-use spaces, cooperative ownership model, flexible housing to meet different needs, and fairly comparable dwellings — no built-in inequality.

Next, I came forward (electronically, from Chile…) to briefly review the last six months of intensive planning work that have brought us to this point and that informs the plans we were about to unveil.

The “Building Block” plan is one: people who need a refresher (which us probably most people: it’s a complex thing) please refer back to this blog post from the Spring. and be sure to review Katy’s excellent slideshow linked to it.

I went on to explain how we came to be working with Jonathan Lucas of Asheville’s What on Earth Architecture. Under Jonathan’s guidance, PDD this spring worked out a set of “Design Goals and Considerations” to define the schematic design work that is now nearing completion. Among other things, we decided to move forward with two prototype designs: what we are now calling the Shared House (common living/dining/cooking/porch area with four 1-room suites that may or may not be lived in independently) and the Small Family Flex House (one-story 2 bedroom house with a 2-room attached suite, ditto).

Again a previous blog post reviews this in more detail.  Key takeaways for now are: 1) These designs are only schematic in the sense that they are just first sketches. We’ve taken a long step toward specificity – we can now see what some of the residences might actually look like – but these designs are certainly not “set in stone”.  We want feedback!  And 2) There will be other residential options. We chose these two for our first designs because they are quite different from each other and therefore help define a range of possibilities and also set some general features of layout and style, but there will be others: next up is probably a two-story and duplexable 2 bedroom family house.

Katy then unveiled the floorplans and elevations for the two prototypes. She walked us through each of them in turn. You can find them here and here. Please take the time to review them carefully, notice that both have multiple pages and quite a bit of detail. The elevations are several pages in.

The Last Saturday session continued with break-out groups to explain the plans in more detail, and to gather reactions, suggestions, and general feedback, which they then brought  back to the whole group for a debrief.

The general reaction was overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic!  People repeatedly pointed to the thoughtfulness of the layouts, the flow of the spaces, the prospect of well-lit interiors, many outdoor spaces, and the earthiness of the colors and finishes as very attractive features. In fact the biggest complaint we got was a general dislike of the wet bar in the bedroom of the two-room suite, which is easily changeable with a few strokes at the architect´s keyboard.  Those of us who have had our noses to this particular grindstone for months (OK, actually, it´s really fun sometimes too, but still a long haul) are gratified and grateful all around – to the community, to Jonathan Lucas, and to each other – for a job done well. And now, onward!

Any HM member who did not have a chance to attend the Last Saturday meeting is also welcome to come by Hart’s Nest (with notice!) and review all of the attached documents including larger printouts of the plans.  Email inquires are also more than welcome to me at or Katy at

Please do take the time to respond – this is the moment when things can be readily changed, and we need to hear everyone´s thoughts and suggestions before taking more definitive responses and suggestions back to Jonathan.

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Michael Comes to Hart’s Mill

by Margret Mueller

Hurricane Michael, that is!
Compared with the indescribable suffering farther south, of course, we have absolutely nothing to complain about. Still, many of us were affected by this storm—too much water (on the heels of Hurricane Florence’s six inches!), too much wind (yards covered with nature’s debris), and power outages. Several of us went to the land the morning after with some trepidation. I was prepared to see damage to our Grandmother Oak, as predicted by Jake Presley two years ago. Remarkably, not a branch was lost!  
Hope and Paul walked the trails and did some minor clearing. They reported that a large dead pine came down between the tractor shed and the pump house, thankfully missing both structures as well as the trailer holding our two precious solar panels. I was also pleased to see that this was not the dead pine the Pileated woodpeckers had chosen for a home!
The positive side of a hurricane blowing through is that it tends to suck the humidity out of the air, so Saturday’s planned workday dawned clear, bright, and cool. The major workday plan was for trail maintenance.  Hope and Maria tackled our newest wetland trail while Jeffry, Margret, Lisa, George, Vanessa and Lizel worked on the McGowan Creek trail. We met Paul and visitor Jamie coming from the opposite direction, and we all converged on the cob house to admire Joe and Randy lime-coating the nearly-completed structure. Randy was called upon to give an impromptu explanation of this project. 
It was not until Jeffry backed the tractor out of the shed so I could mow, that we noticed Michael’s more extensive effect. A large pine tree had fallen onto the roof of the tractor shed from behind, crushing a portion of the metal roof and cracking three rafters! With Vanessa’s “seize the moment” attitude, a team was assembled to tackle the repair on the spot. With George acting as foreman, he, Vanessa, Jeffry, Paul and Lizel utilized our hydraulic jack and existing scrap lumber and nails, and Voila! The shed was repaired. Spontaneous cooperation in action!
Since building things is not my field of expertise, I went off to address a different “field”–one with way-too-tall grass and saplings, and made a good start on mowing. At 5:30 those of us who could stay gathered at the pavilion to enjoy refreshments and a fine campfire. 
See what you’re missing? Come join us on our next scheduled workday, Saturday November 10th. Details to be sent out soon.
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What a Concept! Update on Architecture

by Anthony Weston
Our Architect, Jonathan Lucas of What On Earth Architecture, has taken PDD – the Planning, Design, and Development Circle – through a systematic process to develop the designs for our residences. it’s time for a progress report on developments so far. 
With Jonathan’s guidance, we worked out specific Design Goals for the village generally and for two types of residences in particular. We chose to work first with a 2-bedroom house with an attached 2-room suite and also a Shared house with 4, 1-room suites. (if you need a reminder about the “Building Block” plan with suites, check out this blog post from April.) There will be other types of residence as well – these two may not even be the most common types – but we picked these two as prototypes because they are fairly different in a variety of ways but between them should allow us to sort out basic design issues for all of the residences.
The next step was Concept Design for those two types of residences: not all the way to an actual floor plan, but a layout of the relative sizes and interconnections of the rooms, to insure that everything works and flows as hoped. So… below are the Concept Designs we are working with.   Comments and questions are welcome to Anthony at 
The really exciting bit comes next: Schematic Design — actual floor plans and elevations (drawings of the buildings as they will look from the outside). Indeed PDD is now working through the first Schematic Designs for the Shared House, and will circulate these shortly too. Speaking of which… all members interested in architecture should also take note of the October Last Saturday event, October 27th 3-6 pm, where we will share our architectural program and progress in detail. Please come!  RSVP to Anthony:
Start imagining living in these spaces!  KEY: Blue codes for private areas; yellow for common areas; brown is transitional space; green is attached outdoor space (porches).
2-bedroom with 2-room suite.  Click here for larger image.
Shared house with 4, 1-bedroom suites.  Click here for larger image.
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Pumphouse Drama

By Anthony Weston

As all assiduous readers of this blog will know, in early September we had a dedicated workday/workshop to raise the slipstraw walls of the pumphouse. Terry, Joe, Randy, Amy, Sean, and me, all of us led by NC’s cob guru and HM advisor, Greg Allen, got ourselves thoroughly clay-covered and all literally had a hand in the building of walls between the frame structure that I have been patiently assembling with the help of others — most recently George. You can see the first steps — some cob beginnings, and some of the forms for the first layer of slipstraw, basically straw coated with a thin film of clay — in the first photo. 

But then did the wall go up! By the end of the day, Greg had begun plastering and the walls were close to the top. Check out the second photo. It’s going to be beautiful! 

We quit just in time for Anthony and Amy to finish packing up before rains came — in fact we just slipped in this workday before a run of rainy days. And then things really got serious, when the forecasts for Hurricane Florence called for possibly 60 mph winds and days and days of heavy rain. What to do? Slipstraw should not get very wet. Normally it’s protected by the plaster that encases it, but we’d just started and the plaster was partial and itself not yet dry. The answer you can see in there third photo: I wrapped the whole thing up and put on a layer of serious tarps, thoroughly strapped down. Greg’s good advice!

In the event, Florence was not so bad. I have been able to take off the tarps and the wrapping, let it start drying out again, and am resuming work again before I head off to join Amy in Chile. In fact if anyone wants to join — helping put on the roof especially — I expect to be at it all weekend (29 and 30 September) and would welcome the help — just let me know. Regardless, though, stop by and have a look next time you are on the land. The stone bench built into the front is meant for sitting — give it a try!

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 SWE-E-E-E-E-E-T! !

 By Margret Mueller

Wednesday, September 19, was sweet-potato-digging day at Hart’s Mill. What began in June as    3 1/2  orderly rows of sweet-potato slips  had become a solid  blanket of tangled purple-blossomed green vines.   Here and there “volunteer” watermelon and tomato vines popped out of the mass, and bees buzzed happily around the flowers.


You may have noticed that we did not send out an announcement or a plea for help. It is an unfortunate aspect of small farms that many tasks occur on a “seize-the-moment” basis. We knew they needed harvesting soon, but the 6-plus inches of hurricane rain we got Sunday and Monday moved the task to the front of the line. Prospects of wet, rotting roots were all the motivation we needed!

There was no question of taking the tractor  into the muddy bed. Jeffry and I spent a good part of the very hot day using clippers (to cut vines), spading forks, and our own two hands to pull the potatoes out of the wet soil.  We spread them onto a tarp as they came out, to get a start on drying. Most of the potatoes were beautifully-shaped thanks to having an unusually sandy clay soil. 

Next we crated up the potatoes and toted all three hundred pounds of them to the container shed for curing (consisting of a week or so in dark, very warm conditions), which will be followed by cooler storage at home.


We grew 5 varieties.  Top-to-bottom in the photo they are Hernandez, Purple, Carolina Ruby, Mahon and a mystery variety moved from Anthony’s plot in the former community garden.  If all goes well they will eventually find themselves gently washed and for sale at the Chapel Hill Farmer’s Market!

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Splendid September Calendar and August Highlights

We realize that a blog post is not the ideal place to list a long calendar of events!  So to view/download a September calendar pdf, click here.   


  • Amid the rain and multiplying mushrooms, work on the land and the farm continued apace in August. We’re looking forward to a Labor Day Work Camp and Fence Raising this weekend – see below for details.  Better yet, SHOW UP!  Every person who comes is a gift. 
  • You’ve been following the pumphouse progress since the well was drilled last spring. It’s now got good stone boots, a wood-frame body & hat, and we’re aiming to fill in the walls with slipstraw on September 8th, making this the second earthen-building project on the land.  This is a great opportunity for a lucky few to learn from a master – Greg Allen of the Mud Dauber school.  See below for details and registration.
  • We had a sweet Last Saturday afternoon with new members at Hart’s Nest. Leaders from all of our Circles were on hand to answer questions and share our vision, accomplishments, and challenges to come.  We welcome our new friend Jessica and new visiting member Barbara!

See you in September!

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Workday Wonders

by Margret Mueller

After a very rainy week, Sunday August 5th dawned clear and bright. Our main task for this day was to spruce up our entry from Frazier Road all the way to the tractor shed. Jeffry (weed whacker and riding mower) and Margret (push mower, hand weeding tool, and clippers) tackled the sadly-overgrown roadside entrance. A couple dozen small invasive Ailanthus trees had sprouted up along the ditches, our small decorative planting was subsumed by weeds, the shrubs and Redbud tree needed pruning, and the grassy areas were knee-high.
Wonder #1:  See before and after pictures!
Next, a team comprised of Amy, Mir, Randy, Jeffry, Margret, and Lisa progressed down the drive with loppers, clippers, and weed whacker, widening and making more welcoming the whole length. 
Wonder #2:  The constant rains had popped out a world of mushrooms, beautiful and various. Margret identified several as edible, bearing such marvelous names as Shaggy-stalked bolete, Indigo Milky, Gem-studded puffball, and Meadow mushroom. 
Meanwhile, back at the pump-house, Anthony and his friend Nate, plus our summer intern Jess, were adding supports to the roof and painting the door of what is proving to be a very cool multipurpose structure: Wonder #3:  
Around 1 p.m. we convened at the pavilion for lunch and camaraderie. Margret encouraged folks to please (please!) take home some of Wonder #4–Hart’s Mill’s very own “generously-proportioned” zucchini and yellow squash. [attach photo]
Land Stewardship’s OL and ER thank our willing helping hands  and encourages YOU to be a part of our next workday! (See August calendar).
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