…we have been on the land: listening, looking, walking, marking. And working. We started planting first, in the previous family’s kitchen garden, raking the leaf mulch up and hauling our seedlings out of our old home garden, some from Southside Community Land Trust’s plant sale, and flats prepared for just this exciting day after the closing. We plopped the plants in the loamy soil, each with a little scoop of worm castings. A deer visited that second night for some minor mayhem, so the next day’s project was slapping together a quick fence.
Jim and I slept in a tent by the pond, and that weekend Bridget and we moved our stuff into the house, with the help of friends and families. Phil pitched his tent out in the woods, and began marking the way there by dangling peace cranes and swan feathers, which glowed in the moonlight, making his way to bed visible at night.
A permaculture consultant, Carter Tracy, came by and walked with us: taught us to walk the perimeter with soft eyes, to observe for the first year before doing anything.
As much as I love and prefer being, not doing—well let’s just say I failed that first assignment.
We had seen a buck stand and look at us, the first night we were here, from right in the middle of the kitchen garden we were about to plant. It was almost as if he said, I heard you folks are planting a garden here! Cool!
If we’d observed that observation, we might have thought, okay, so let’s build a fence, then plant the garden. It was June 12th already, though, and we were very excited to finally be landing on our earth.
Two years, one season, and one moon later, the days are getting shorter, the garden is in its profligate decline, and the lengthening nights are ripening for storytelling.
The item on the top of the co-op’s winter to-do list was for the soil to sleep. Finally it can: 15 inches of snow Thursday (February 9) and another couple last night. I harvested a month’s worth of carrots just as the snow began, just in case, and because I could. We put up deer fence the day before because the ground was completely unfrozen, so we could.
I got a laugh out of a forester last week, when I said we wanted to tag some trees to cut before mud season. “It’s been mud season all winter!” he guffawed. True that. I meant March, but I’m still learning how to live according to nature-as-it-shows up vs. the Julian calendar. Add to that the vagaries of the Anthropocene and the shift is on.
With systems as unstable as these, it seems anything can happen.
So far, the core group of founders of Listening Tree Coop is made of “white” people and with that comes a legacy of colonialism, which we discuss openly and challenge in ourselves and society. We hope to be inclusive and not oppressive, and welcome challenges to our privilege and assumptions.
We are feminists and egalitarians, and welcome queer and women’s leadership and participation (one of us identifies as queer). The men renounce the privilege of their gender and appreciate the freedom for other genders and themselves created by the egalitarian structure of our decision making and ownership. The two of us with materially privileged backgrounds recognize and seek dialogue to transform the ramifications of that privilege, which made the purchase of Listening Tree feasible, while rooted in systems of domination and oppression. We are actively anti-racist, internally and in the world.
The co-op is also kid-friendly and hopes to attract and will select for an intergenerational membership because we find the peer-group segregation in this culture (as in schools and day and senior care) to be one of the unspoken structural problems in the broader community.
We are mixed-income and mixed-class, and are working to make financing available to people who want to buy shares. The shared-house-plus-individual-outbuildings design makes the community more affordable than single family, cohousing, and even multifamily units. Utilities are virtually prepaid in the form of the solar array; heat will be by wood collected from the property; food will be grown by members for members, reducing living costs. Three of us have worked in affordable housing or energy and are deeply committed to innovating affordability methods.
Hocus Pocus members are getting shares of the farm’s bounty each week.
The three farms at Listening Tree Coop–The Lee family’s farm, Hocus Pocus CSA, and our homestead farm, are fecund-o-rama as we approach August. Roosters crow, bunnies burrow into the coolth of soil, and veggies pour into the kitchen for feast after feast.
The weeds call to us a little louder than the blog, but we just wanted to post a few pictures of the farms and feasts to keep you posted.
Let me just say the yuck factor for me is the opposite of the cultural norm. To me, the most disgusting thing that can happen in an ordinary day is splash back of toilet water on my butt. Seriously, is there an amount of toilet paper you can put down first that ensures no splash back and doesn’t clog the toilet? I spent 57 years trying to find the right balance. But those days are officially over at Listening Tree Coop!
I know, I also went to camp and got latrine duty more than once. So I get it why people think it’s a lifestyle change for the worse to recycle the nutrients in your pee and poop for the good of the soil, the water, and humanity.
However, a compost toilet is not, I repeat not, a smelly old outhouse. The Full Circle design Ben Goldberg and Conor Lally just put in at Listening Tree Coop is a gem of appropriate technology. Like most indoor composting toilets, it has a 4W fan that ensures a negative pressure in the toilet, and pulls the odors out through a special plumbing stack. The Full Circle also uses elegant engineering to make the most of the knowledge gained by decades of design and maintenance of various models since the first composting toilet came on the scene in 1973. It simplifies maintenance through modular and interchangeable collection and resting units.
And it’s a urine diverting system–which separates out the urine from the feces, etc.
But before I get too techie, which you can do at BuildingGreen, I want to outline why it’s so important to move away from flush toilets. They pollute water. No way out of that. It takes tons of energy, chemicals, and work to pump and purify water to be drinkable. Then to use most of our household clean water to flush our toilets is just ecologically insane. Sewage treatment plants spend tons more energy, chemicals, and work to clean water. As we slide down Hubbert’s curve off peak oil, we can’t afford to waste energy like that. And the effluent from sewage treatment is still not completely clean, so we rely on ecosystems to do the rest of the work, which they can’t always handle. Septic systems are worse: all leach and many fail, which pollutes ground water and water bodies. With the global water crisis increasing, we can’t afford to defile any more water with insufficiently treated waste.
Which brings us to the most important piece. Flush toilets turn resources into waste. Poop and pee are actually resources, if handled the right way. We close the circle if we return them to soil as nutrients. Because urine is so high in nitrogen, peecyling avoids the need for natural gas-based fertilizers. To learn more about cutting edge research on peecycling for farming, check out the Rich Earth Institute. To see (and pee in) our compost toilet, come to our next potluck and/or farm workday, April 30. I promise, no splash backs.