It’s ages since I wrote a newsletter from Yarrow Ecovillage. It’s about time, I would say! How are you going to know what’s going on here, unless someone tells you?? And I like it to be me, because that way I can say whatever I like (… and you can delete it, if that suits.)
New neighbors moving in--- Oh, frabjous day!
Our two latest buildings are finished and five families are moving into their very own spiffy, new homes. And beautiful they are! As well, some have moved out of temporary quarters, and others have moved into those vacated spaces. The intricacy of these maneuverings could look daunting to the uninitiated. I heard one child ask his mum which home he’d left his shoes in--- # 4, his old home? or #12, the Quad -his temporary home? or #2 , his new one? I’m not downplaying the disruption that has been happening for many families as they settle in here. But it is also true that the nature of cohousing means that no-one bears the stress and pain of moving here, without the support and care of their neighbours.
The kids are scampering in and out of each other’s homes as much as they ever did. There’re always willing hands ready to lift heavy boxes. And neighbours who will clean and sweep at the drop of a hat.
I love to look out my windows at night and see the new houses lit with families for the first time. Figures moving around in rooms full of piled boxes. I see Linda unpacking, putting glasses? mugs? into kitchen cupboards.
My new neighbours, my new friends, already so dear and familiar, they seem like old ones, too.
Our two farms – Ohm and Osprey Organics --Both farms report great successes this year.
I pop down to the gardens see for myself, what’s doing today. Nevin is weeding pathways with a wheel hoe. We stand together in the sun, warm by the greenhouse and looking over the rows of vegetables, still going strong. White cabbage moths flit and land, disappearing into the white arugula flowers to become them, for a moment.
Nevin’s face beams with pride when he tells me what’s gone so well this year---- Having happy customers who’ve shared this year’s vegies with friends and family, and now those folks too, wanting to sign up for their own vegetable box programme. It’ll have to be next year’s, now. He reaches into the arugula to pull out a seedpod and strokes and opens it with his thumb, to show me the seeds inside. “I hope for some dry weather to finish these off. “ he says.
He and the other farmers are expanding into bigger fields on the other side of the creek; it’s already plowed and ready for cover-crops. Nevin tells me that he designs it all on the computer… 128 small beds are plotted Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough; GM Hopkins with soil conditions noted, succession crops planned, successes and failures recorded. With my own new expertise on the computer, I’m guessing all he has to do to expand his operations from his current ½ acre to next year’s 2 ½ acres, is push the keyboard buttons ‘zoom’ and ‘save’. Farming has become so much easier now, farmers hardly have to go outside :>)
Nevin finishes me off, by taking me into the greenhouse for a gourmet cherry tomato taste-testing. Hmmm! Which are the best? The ‘Black Cherry’ are sweet, juicy bursting nuggets of flavour… the next, ‘Solid Gold’ yellow grape tomatoes are too… and little red ‘Apero’, as well.
That was easy!
So, all is well on the farm, and will be better even, next year.
Waste Water treatment --- Let’s all flush!
I could tell you a lot about the inner workings of our wastewater treatment system. I know details of the new tanks, pumps and pipes. I know how magnificently it’ll serve the village--- for a total of 50 households, and more shops than we have room for. And I could describe the current ugliness, noise and odour of the tanks … soon to be landscaped with bushes and little boys playing, sound-proofed and with the smell buried and eliminated.
But really, I couldn’t care less--- I just want to flush.
Hang on! The constructed marsh we’ll have next summer in the back pasture… there’s the exception to my lack of septic-enthusiasm. Finishing off our wastewater in natural-looking pond with bulrushes, reeds and ducks. It won’t be perfect. That really does make my heart sing!
Whatever else is happening, there is a happy coming-together on the evenings when we break bread and have dinner as a group. We’re dying for our common house, but lacking one, doesn’t stop us from creating that same sense of place and belonging in other manifestations. If anyone had told me ahead, that some of my best community sharing times would be in a building called the ‘bunker silo’ I’d have been amazed. It was used to store haybales in the hay-heyday of the old dairy farm. Now it is humble, (clean), and has a warmth of charm you’ll have to come and experience for yourself. Come soon for dinner! In the cooler, wetter weather we’ll move into homes for smaller gatherings. But either way, you’re just as welcome.
Compassionate Communication Workshop and the Return of Chuck- our cohousing guru
If you’re a friend of the ecovillage, or a warm acquaintance, you’re invited to learn Non-Violent Communication ( NVC) along with us at a workshop spanning two Sundays --- Oct 16th and 23rd , taught by Raj Gill from SFU.
Some of us are practiced at NVC and others are total beginners, but for all of us, it is our commitment to better communication. It works in all sorts of aspects in life, not just intentional community life. (I’m planning to inflict it on both my mother and my daughters… check in with me later to see how I’m improving :>). Perhaps I need to rethink the word ‘inflict’?
And Chuck Durrett is coming back in November for another of his workshops to get us ship-shape and tuned up for the next building phase. You could come to that, too. We’re nothing if not welcoming and open. All you need is time (a rare commodity, that’s true!) But a well-functioning ecovillage with room to grow, is rare too! Think about that!
Write back for more details.
Earlier this year, we embarked on a rehabilitation project with the Dept. of Fisheries and other willing partners, to remove blackberries and restore native habitat along the north side of the creek. And it’s working just fine … as long as you remember there’re canes coming back, that‘ll need removing. (We can do that… softer ground after rain, will help.)
In a conspiracy of good fortune, the City of Chilliwack has also stepped in (literally, stepped into the creek). The verges along the creek have been trimmed and cleared. And the water course has been mucked out, to clear the central channel, freeing it of choking canary grass.
It was interesting how they did the muck-raking. I stopped the workers and asked them. They cleared all the water creatures bigger than my little fingernail, out of a stretch of creek, using two electrically-charged paddles. The paddles started together, and then as they moved apart, they herded the creatures out of that section of creek. Then the digger pulled out the mud and beer bottles in a long strip, but leaving an untouched strip too, so that when the fish and critters were released back in there, there would be food and hiding habitat for them.
One of the workers showed me a picture on his phone of a cutthroat trout he’d netted, hanging head and tail over two palms held side by side. Precious beauty, held. I can’t decide whether I’d be pleased if, after it’s happy return to the creek, our resident herons caught it for dinner, or I’d be upset. What’s to be done with inconsistent and conflicting values? Sit on the bridge to dangle one’s legs and consider them, I suppose.
Snakes in the Village --- (every village has ‘em) (the snakes and ladders of outrageous fortune)
Internet Explanation: From Hamlet -"The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" and it just means all the stuff life has to throw at you.
(I actually like snakes and their use for metaphors is legion.)
Snakes are the worries and concerns we all have, that live and hide in holes and slither out at night, only to be gone in the morning. But you know they’re still there. The worries I’m referring to, are about financial security, the (un)predictability of outcomes, conflicts of fairness and a possible inability to connect and be heard, when it would seem to be most important.
We don’t kid ourselves that we don’t have snakes in this village. And I know you don’t kid yourselves that there’s any other place you can go to be guaranteed safe from them, either. We live in a world that seems more fraught with uncertainty than ever. And we are human. And a developing village has extra uncertainties than your average suburb does, until it settles down.
And that is happening. These new neighbours arriving now, are the settling forces. They bring strengths and talents and renewing energy. And with that support, we’re now able to turn our attention and care to the specific concerns we’ve been harbouring, in unintended secrecy, that somehow this village won’t be able to hold all together and progress onwards, in a shared vision of an eco-community.
In recent constructive times of building and moving in, we’ve focused necessary attention on ‘getting it built’. We’ve made lots of decisions in a rapid, progressive, but sometimes confusing way.
Right now, we are going through a deliberate exercise of exorcising. Slowing down. Paying careful attention. Pulling out those confusions and uncertainties in order to examine, understand, honour and then diminish them. Revisiting our agreements from the past- how to reinforce their strength? Poring through financial statements --- what do choices do they offer us? Hearing the stories of those who came before- what can we learn? Making space for newcomers – how do we best incorporate their capacities? Listening to those we’ve been closed to- gaining new appreciation and insight.
It’s hard to do, but harder not to. It’s like the creek-clearing. The muck from the bottom is piled along the banks … it’s rich and dark and full of nutrients and goodness. The creek needs the clearing and the new trees need the fertilising.
There’s an inherent irony … it takes a certain base of security from which to examine and draw out the forces of insecurity. And I believe that courage to live in uncertainty builds trust, and that allows beauty, and beauty is the door to mindfulness, which brings peace and security.
That’s what I believe. And a light is shining.
There’s lots of welcome for you here, should you like to visit. We won’t be trying to convince you of anything.
Poem(s) of the Day – I’m sharing you favourites , this time.
The moon in the water;
Broken and broken again,
Still it is there.
A Warning to My Readers
Do not think me gentle
because I speak in praise
because I honour the grace
that keeps this world. I am
a man as crude as any,
gross of speech, intolerant,
stubborn, angry, full
of fits, and furies. That I
may have spoken well,
at times, is not natural.
A wonder is what it is.