Growing through the Winter

I called the first community meeting on the second Saturday of this last December.  It was time to open this place up and really start building the community.  While I trusted everyone I invited, it was still nerve-racking to let everything out of my sole control.  I’ve poured all of my money, work, and heart into this place and want to make sure it turns into a place that I’m proud and excited to call home.

After the first meeting I was relieved.  After the second I’m growing confident and looking forward to our third meeting.  There’s a feeling and an energy during the meetings that is incredibly exciting and empowering.  I’m sure that there will be times when we won’t be able to decide on something, but at least with the group we have now it’s hard to see us not being able to work something out that is acceptable to everyone.

As far as the winter goes, the rocket stove is keeping me toasty in the straw bale common house.  I don’t know the exact amount of snow we have on the ground, but this last blizzard hit the property square on and we supposedly got somewhere in the neighborhood of 16-20″ on top of the couple inches already on the ground.  I’ve calculated that I lose about 8 degrees fahrenheit every day while the highs are sub-freezing.  I gain roughly 2 degrees for every hour of rocket stove burn time, so I end up burning the stove for about 8 hours every other day.  The temperature fluctuates between the mid-70’s after the burn, and the mid-60’s right before I burn it again.

While I’m burning the rocket stove I’ve also been heating up water on it to brew wine and beer.  I now have something like 230 bottles of various kinds of fruit wine fermenting, and 150 bottles of beer.  The beer only takes about a month from grinding the grains to being able to drink it, while the wine takes something like 6 months.  The wine is significantly easier to make, but takes up  more space in the meantime so there’s a trade-off.

The wine has already come in handy.  After the first snow of about 8 inches one of my neighbors came by and plowed the driveway and I gave him a bottle of wine.  A few weeks later I slid off the driveway backing out one night and got stuck and another neighbor saw me the next morning and came over with chains and pulled me out so I gave him a bottle of wine as well.  The same neighbor who pulled me out graciously plowed the driveway after this last blizzard, but told me he didn’t want me to give him a bottle of wine… perhaps a 6-pack next time?

Before this last snow I did some exploring around the property.  Winter time is the best because all of the foliage is dead and you can see a lot further. I’ve got a much better grasp of the whole property than I did before.  I also didn’t hurt that I bought a handheld GPS to get my bearings.  I discovered that it’s exactly a 1 mile hike from the visitor common house to the future ecovillage site.  The GPS will be handy when we finish marking the property lines as well as when we do more planning on the ecovillage layout itself.  I’ve started making GPS markers for things like the Paw Paw patch, patches of gooseberries and blackberries, and other points of significance like the giant granite boulder and Justin’s tipi.  The cool thing is that I can import them into Google Earth and get a good feel for where everything is, the built in map on the GPS only has roads on it so it’s pretty worthless.

For me personally this winter has led to a lot of personal growth.  I’ve read books on relationships, communication, philosophy, and buddhism among others.  I’ve had a number of revelations and many of my relationships with people have improved because of them.

As Spring approaches though my attention is turning back to more tactile topics.  I’ll be taking a permaculture design course in mid-March, which I’ve begun doing the coursework for.  I’ve also worked out some of the details for what I need to do on the visitor common house this coming year and so I’ll be researching and reading up on those soon.

I feel like I’m finding a natural rhythm with the seasons.  Physical growth in the form of infrastructure, hands-on knowledge, and just generally getting in good shape during the warm half of the year.  Personal growth in the form of interpersonal relationships and community, book knowledge, attention and focus training, as well as psychological introspection and awareness during the cold half.  The quiet of the woods in winter has done my soul good.

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