Friday, March 28, 2008

Shitstorm @ The Farm

And by shit I mean poop....YES DOOKIE

Sanitation: taking care of our shit, is one of the biggest issues facing the world today. As Stephen Turner, Policy Director of the NGO Water Aid says "We need to put the word shit into people's mouths.
The importance of how we take care of our waste and our water is essential to the health, safty, and happiness of us all.
This issue is hitting home here on The Farm:

There is a new neighborhood in the works here at The off the grid, permaculture neighborhood to help model sustainable living and provide a new magnet for progressive and conscious people to come live in this experiment in right livelihood.

The Farm has a long history of progressive thinking, but even in a hippie commune there are conservatives.

Although the Farm Board (The Democratically elected Governing Body) is behind the development of the new community, there are some people with reservations in the greater Farm community who have been making their voices heard. These vocal people are concerned about the planned use of composting toilets: humanure systems, a dry alternative to septic and sewage systems. If done right composting systems can kill more pathogens than a septic system, and recycle “waste” into the permaculture being established to provide fertility for fruit trees and gardens...the catch is IF DONE CORRECTLY.

unfortunately communication has not always been clear, and politics has begun to supersede heart felt communication. Feelings have been hurt and there is tension, fear and frustration in the air...

What a time for change!, what an opportunity for healing and growth.
Synchronistically as the Shit his the fan here on the Farm about the composting in new neighborhood, a representative of the Natural Building Network is here to offer support and guidance. Phone trees and emails go out, posters are printed...time for community outreach!

We are hoping to turn manure into compost, just like The Families involved in planing the new neighborhood...the metaphor runs deep.

With this kind of community strife comes the opportunity for deep transformation and healing, the opportunity for change...all we need to do is stay centered and take the small steps to assure that people are heard, educated and organized and let democracy that its course.

What Better Place Than Here?

What Better Time Than Now?

As Chris McClellan of the Natural Building Network says: its time to put on the conservative code loving inspector’s shoes, and instead of arguing or forcing things, just add moral criteria to the existing codes (put there to protect the health and safety of the community)
This is an opportunity for us to come together as a community to hear everyones needs. If we can create a space where everyone can be heard, and the people who have the knowledge and wisdom are allowed to share, the positive solutions of natural building will be embraced, and dry composting toilets can become an integral part of the Farm and serve as a model for the rest of the region, country and world as we all look for simple, low cost, low energy solutions.

Now that the state of Tennessee has become involved and inspectors are coming to inspect and assure health and safety, we have an opportunity to come forth with integrity and power, showing the cleanliness and meticulous design that has gone into the dry composting systems planned.
As a community we at The ETC along with the Natural Building Network and our friends on the Farm are ready to listen, and to share. I for one am optimistic that we can turn this shitstorm into a beautiful bed of roses...
all we need is the patience to compost.

For more information on composting toilets/humanure or buy the Humanure Handbook

For more information about The Natural Building Network

For more information about us at the ETC

For more information about The Farm Community

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Intro to Natural Building

The natural building movement is continuously gaining popularity
for many reasons. It offers affordable housing that is healthy, safe,
comfortable, beautiful, unique, and spiritually uplifting. It values
environmental and social sustainability, offering simple techniques
based on local, renewable resources thus minimizing the
environmental impact of our housing needs.
It is also fun and creative for old and young alike.

Michael G. Smith says in his book The Art of Natural Building; Design,
Construction, Resources
, "Natural Building is personally empowering
because it teaches that everyone has, or can easily acquire, the skills they
need to build their own home."

And how does one gain these skills? By working along side others on
natural building projects, reading books like The Art of Natural Building
(more listed below), and enrolling in workshops being offered all
over the world.

One of our main focuses right now at the ETC is on the Natural Building Introductory Weekend, our first workshop of the season, April 4-6, 2008.

The weekend should provide a holistic overview of natural building methods and is not intended to be an in depth exploration of any individual topic. We'll learn about straw, cob, wood, wattle and daub, adobe, earthbags, earthships, traditional Mexican styles, timber frame, domes and arches, earthen floors, earth plasters and alis, passive solar, foundations and drainage, living roofs and pole frame... Wowy cowy. Through hands on sessions each day, we will gain practical experience in integrating a number of simple and valuable technologies into one working solution.

I am excited that I will be able to take part in the workshop. I have very little experience in this stuff and only worked with cob twice. The first time was helping with a dragon-like oven and bench at Tryon Life Community Farm in Portland, OR. The other time was here at the ETC last fall, while exploring the place and deciding if I wanted to accept the Office Manager position here the following March. I helped start the creation of a masonry stove, and when I came back it was finished!

Mixing cob with my feet on left, and finished stove on right.

Some great books on the subject include:
  • THE ART OF NATURAL BUILDING; DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION, RESOURCES by Joseph F. Kennedy, Michael G. Smith, and Catherine Wanek, Editors
  • THE STRAW BALE HOUSE by Athena Swentzell Steen, Bill Steen, and David Bainbridge, with David Eisenberg

These are various natural building projects on the ETC, under construction...

A Tour Of the Ecovillage

Join us for a tour around the Ecovillage Training Center, a learning center for sustainability founded by Albert Bates. The ETC is a living workshop environment where you can learn organic food production, natural building, permaculture and how to create and live in harmony within the means of nature. This video pod is an educated walkthrough intended to create a window into some of these eco methodologies and green technologies as well as thoughts and ideas by Albert regarding the creation of an ecovillage and the need to scale down our wants and needs.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Living at The Ecovillage Training Center provides plenty of opportunity for growth and learning, and there is also a lot of work to do. Day to day things that just need to get done to keep an educational center like this running. I spend hours in the office most days emailing and coordinating, sucked into the beautiful accursed light of my electro-magnetic interface with the World Wide Web. My computer, the bane and savior of my existence. Creative outlet and creative dirge. It sucks away my time, and sometimes gives me the glimmer of hope that my productivity could soar to new, unimaginable, heights...

I'll tell you what...right now I think I am going to just go plant something in the garden and call it a day.

My First Blog

Hey everyone this is my first blog I have ever posted! For someone who sent his first e-mail a little more than a year ago this is a pretty big step for me out into the virtual world (baby steps you know). Today the heat of the season coming up is upon us, and I do not mean spring weather. Apprentices and workshops start in a week and we have all been extremely busy. I personally find myself very stimulated with this kind of environment. Keep in touch with my blog to find out what kate, others, and I are cooking up in the kitchen. Thanks for reading!
Be Well,