The Value of Community – Mennonite Perspective

From a distance, I have admired Amish and Mennonite communities. Our Friday project tradition is loosely borrowed from the iconic Amish barn raising. I have admired them when they occasionally hit the news with a story where the community has pulled together to publicly forgive the perpetrator of some horrific crime against them.

In Paul Born’s article, Deepening Community: The Joy of Togetherness, I was interested to read the perspective of one Mennonite leader on the importance of community, what it is, how it benefits us, and how it is built. I was drawn into the article by his description of how difficult community can be and why a part of us finds community inconvenient, invasive and unwelcome. Life is often about finding a balance and that balance point is dynamic and different for everyone. That’s why, in building the Village, I have tried to attract people who have a desire for close community. We cultivate that desire through our traditions of regular social and shared work events, but avoid any and all coercion to participate. This establishes a baseline culture of voluntary community and cooperation, but allows each person the freedom to seek their own balance without social pressure. We govern ourselves by broad principles, but few rules. While consensus is desireable, there is room for differences because of the importance we place on private ownership and control of private property.

Recently the topic of “like-mindedness” was raised again in our community bulletin board. Some of us acknowledged our discomfort with the term. But an underlying set of shared values is fundamental to a cohesive community. In many “intentional communities” those values are provided by religious faith in a codified set of doctrines provided by a charismatic leader. My observation is that when broad principles are distilled into ever finer sets of rules by which members are expected to live, the overwhelming social tendency is to judge one another harshly. Rules meant to perfect us, chafe and bind. Soon, the burden is more than we are willing to bear. The ties that bind, bind us down into socially unbearable servitude. One of the central messages of the New Testament is about Jesus’ struggle against the Pharisees and Saducees who had reduced the law of Moses to a state of hypocrisy and judgementalism based on rules for virtually every action, every choice. We see the same impulses in today’s freedom movement, rejecting “nanny state” government’s exponentially growing body of law that attempts to regulate everything.

Over time, a culture of the Village on Sewanee Creek has emerged with identifiable characteristics. I will attempt to describe what I see. People who “fit” in the Village, have a strong sense of self but are unselfish. They desire to give unselfishly, but expect others to reciprocate in kind. Because they want to be generous, they are long-suffering and forgiving. But over the long term, if generosity is not reciprocated, they do not feel an obligation to give disproportionately. Takers are not encouraged. They gradually find themselves isolated by their choices. All must give in proportion to what they receive. This is a principle of human nature, perhaps a part of natural law.

Villagers have an independent streak and enjoy their private space. They enjoy the company of others, but they are not offended or feel excluded if not invited to participate in a private dinner or a project initiated by other members of the community.

Villagers are interested in being creative. They like to make and build things. Often, we start out lacking the skills or esthetic sense necessary to build masterpieces, but we want to become better.

A sense of humility seems to be a necessary characteristic. Working in community affords each of us an opportunity to learn from others and improve our practical skills. In our Friday projects, I have observed a great deal of patience for those who have little in the way of practical skills, but humbly seek to learn and improve. Patience stretches thin for people who are self-centered, arrogant, pushy or argumentative. It is most obvious when one who lacks skills arrogantly refuses to accept advice from those who have mastered those skills. It is a path that can lead to isolation even within communities with the best intentions. But, our approach provides flexibility and openness to natural resolution. If the owner/leader of a project finds it difficult to work with a particular volunteer, (s)he is ok to invite that individual to spend their time more productively on other, more satisfying work. If that happens with a lot of people, that leader may realize that they need to work on their leadership skills. It is the same freedom that is exercised by individuals to not participate in any given project.

But all benefit from mutual service. All desire to be part of our community traditions. It’s the reason we are here. Because each choice brings it’s natural consequences, people are motivated to follow scriptural counsel to repent, change, improve. To the extent that the majority of people in the community focus on humbly recognizing and improving their own weaknesses based on the true principles taught by Jesus, unwelcome behaviors are self-correcting. Individuals improve personal competence and self-reliance. The community grows in strength and cohesiveness.

I began writing this post as a short introduction to Born’s article for our Village Bulletin Board, but it grew into something more. An online discussion, internal to “Friends of Sewanee Creek” followed. Please feel free to share your own perspectives on this blog.

If you are interested in access to our more private community discussions or think you might fit in our community, send me a request Request FOSC Membership. Our process of inclusion starts with a friendly phone chat, so be sure to include your phone number.

Survivalism in an Honor Culture

I dislike the term “survivalist”. Too much attached baggage that doesn’t fit me or the Village. I have gravitated more to the term, “prepper”, but with all the History Channel and other mass media extremist hype around that word it seems that it is also taking on the same extremist connotations. Maybe it’s time to find another word that is less tainted. Difficult. People who think even a little differently from the masses are always branded as extreme.

Nevertheless, if you strip out the extremist connotations, survivalist will have to do for now. I doubt that many people would reject the notion that survival

Human brain parts during a fear amygdala hijac...

is a primal instinct of not only the human species, but all life. I recently saw research that suggests strong memory recall is largely associated with experiences where the most primitive portion of the brain, the amygdala, is alerted to a sense of danger and there’s an extra shot of adrenalin. That causes a large number of synapses to fire and indelibly records the event in memory.
So, efficient memory is connected to danger and survival instinct? Cut to the chase. Everyone is a survivalist at multiple levels, even the mental/intellectual level.

OK, so maybe it’s a bit of a jump, but to read my stuff, you’ll have to get used to it. While I don’t have a great memory, I do connect seemingly unrelated things to come up with unusual conclusions.

I’m currently reading Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s a book about counter-intuitive success models. Sort of a cross between the massively popular Freakonomics and traditional Horatio Alger success stories. In it are several chapters that have caused me to think about the Village, self-sufficiency and survival in a different light. One chapter deals with the Culture of Honor found in Appalachia.  This honor culture is at the root of inter-family feuds (Hatfield-McCoy) and intra-family violence. After discussing the historical roots of Appalachian culture, one particular paragraph stands out.

Survival isn't necessarily about guns.

“The triumph of a culture of honor helps to explain why the pattern of criminality in the American South has always been so distinctive. Murder rates are higher than in the rest of the country. But crimes of property and “stranger” crimes – like muggings are lower. As the sociologist John Shelton Reed has written, “The homicides in which the South seems to specialize are those in which someone is being killed by someone he (or often she) knows, for reasons both killer and victim understand.”

Murder rates higher than the rest of the country?! For someone with a strong survival instinct, that might put one on notice that this is a dangerous place to live. But, finishing the rest of the paragraph,

“The statistics show that the Southerner who can avoid arguments and adultery is as safe as any other American, and probably safer.”

Interesting conclusion. In a community like the Village on Sewanee Creek that embraces good family values (anti-adultery) and seeks harmony between neighbors, people should have the disposition and capacity to “avoid arguments”. If you don’t, you should probably re-think coming to live here, as your survival rate outside Village borders might be statistically impaired.

This observation feels intuitively correct to me, as a transplant to Appalachia.  Having struggled to understand and adapt to the local culture, I feel very safe here, safer than I have felt in many of the places I have lived. Part of that has to do with the fact that my indigenous neighbors are less affluent country folk who have lived off the land for generations and still have the old-time skills that are lost to most of modern society. But, on another level, it’s a place that actually makes sense from a personal security standpoint. Random violence, typical of urban environments is rare here. Be nice and people are nice right back to you.

For people who think a lot about survival, as in getting out of the big cities, storing food and ammo for if/when TSHTF, I suggest there is a much more important consideration. Cultural Survivalism, especially in an honor culture suggests you need to make yourself part of the community and avoid inappropriate behaviors that put you at risk. Stated more positively, follow Biblical advice such as the golden rule and “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him”  Matthew 5:25

All that comes back to building a strong sense of harmonious community whether within the Village or the larger indigenous community.

The Christian Prepper’s Dilemma

Once again sharing portions of a dialog from the Village’s private board, “Friends of Sewanee Creek”.  Commenter, John (name changed), is a friend of the Village, but not yet a Villager.

Grant Miller shared an article on 01/31/2012 10:57:49 am.
I don’t like labels, but I guess I’m a prepper. My parents were preppers before there was such a word. Back then, they just called it frugal, hard-working, forward thinking and innovative. I’ve been a prepper all of my life, but really got intense about it 6 years ago when I started this project. Being intense always risks burnout, so this blog hit home. You can read the original here.

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Avoiding Prepper Burnout

Ever look at your efforts in preparedness and think to yourself – “Self, is this all just a waste of time?” Ever think about the hours spent reading blogs, visiting preparedness forums, and making plans and consider that all of that time could have been spent doing something more “important?” I mean – that awesome AR-15 that you finally got off of layaway could have afforded the family a nice vacation to the beach.

Is it really worth it?
If you think this way, guess what? Your human and not alone. It’s OK. It’s called “prepper burnout” and it happens to the best of us.

Prepper Burnout can arrive for several reasons:
1st – Nothing happens. That’s right – all your planning and food storage and the world around you just seems to not collapse. Of course that is good. It is absolutely fortunate however it gives non-preppers a lot of ammunition to poke fun and insinuate that your preps are a waste of time.

2nd – Money. Maybe would better stated as “Not enough money”. So many of us are struggling to not just pay bills, put food on our plates and gas in our cars – but we are also trying to stock up on preparedness supplies at the same time. When times are especially tough it is easy to redirect priorities and the corresponding funds to other things and say, “screw preparedness”.

3rd – Lack of Time. In many peoples lives so many activities and distractions take up valuable time and challenge many to find more time to spend on “prepping”. For many of us – prepping is easy to push to the bottom of the priority list and sweep under the rug.

There are many more reasons why some people just get sick (and tired) of prepping.

So what can be done about it? Take a break!! Yes – just take a break from prepping for a week or two – the world won’t come to an end (at least we hope not). Spend time with the family. Do something fun like bowling or go to a couple movies. If you have a hobby that maybe you have not had done in a while – go for it. If possible, have a family meeting and ask everyone else what they would like to do. Money does not have to be spent to relax and have a good time. Visit a park and bring a picnic lunch. Make Saturday a “vegetable day” – meaning that you will become a couch potato and watch movies all day. Invite some friends over and have a cookout. Whatever is chosen – have fun and forget about prepping for a bit.

Preparedness Goals?

Often while taking a break from prepping your mind will start to come back around and preparedness goals will begin to come into sight. It is at that time to throw in your favorite apocalyptic movie – get out a pad of paper – and write. Write some preparedness goals that you want to accomplish. Possibly you may think about getting ready for spring gardening. Start a list of gardening “things to do” to start in early spring. Get it out of your head and on paper.

If money is short do some things that are inexpensive or free. Go to your local dollar store and stock up on some really inexpensive but valuable preparedness supplies. Spend a day scouring the Internet for good info and maybe print some out to place in a “survival information binder”. Ask a friend who has a particular skill that you want to have teach you. Maybe even perform a complete inventory of your stockpile and enter everything in a spreadsheet.

We all get burnt out sometimes. Just realize that it is OK and take steps to refresh, reload, and regenerate. Often you will come back re-energized and better focused on your preparedness goals.

Take care all –
Rourke

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John – 01/31/2012 10:04:35 pm

Prepping is a bit like subscribing to same type of logic that underlies Pascal’s wager on the existence of God. From what I have read on this forum though, prepping has become an opportunity for exploration and discovery. Sounds exciting to me…not a reason for burnout.

I have seen a lot of prepper shows on TV as well as websites and I wanted to ask a question related to something you wrote above, Grant.

“that awesome AR-15 that you finally got off of layaway could have afforded the family a nice vacation to the beach. ”

A large proportion of preppers seem to be people of faith. On this site I have come across Christian references so I assume that many in the community take Jesus as their lord and savior. I also have noticed that the majority of preppers are well armed and are prepared to protect themselves and their families from any potential dangers that might confront them.

But, what is the plan if a prepper community is not confronted by a band of marauding ne’er do wells, but rather a large group of starving families? Would these Christian preppers unleash the hounds and machine guns on a refugee population of starving children to save their food stores? What would Jesus or the values of the New Testament suggest the appropriate plan of action be?

There is a concerning amount of violent undercurrent which pervades many prepper networks and communities that is of great concern to me. There is almost a perverse desire in certain cases to welcome the coming of the apocalypse, or so called cleansing.

In my opinion, what many prepper communities are doing (especially the undertakings that I read about on this blog) should be a model for the greater country as I believe that they are directly confronting the issues of sustainability which in my mind will be the most pressing issues of our lifetime. The image of preppers should be more open arms and smiles and less AK-47’s and land mines.

At the end of the day, I don’t know if I would be able to reply to a legitimate and honest cry for help with the cold response of a machine gun round.

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Grant Miller – 02/01/2012 07:31:24 am

John, as usual, you go to the heart of the matter.

First, let me clarify. I didn’t write this piece. I shared it from another blog, so I don’t own it. Having said that, I would be dishonest if I did not admit to having invested in self-defense measures.

But, underlying a genuine and realistic need to be prepared to defend oneself against evil forces, there is, as you say, a deeper need to prepare to be a part of the solution for those who are genuinely in need. The answers to this dilemma are not easy.

On one hand, no amount of preparation and industriousness (putting back food and water, growing food, becoming energy self-sufficient, etc) would be adequate if the community is over-run by people in need. Years of work and preparation to feed one’s own family could potentially be wiped out in a day, as would one’s ability to assist others in need through a desire to lovingly share.

On the other hand, there is no indication that Christ was a “prepper”. He lived day-to-day, grateful for His daily bread. Having little in the way of material goods, He and his disciples gave what they could to the poor, which was probably also very little even though it was much relative to what they had. The Bible says that Judas was the keeper of the purse and there are a few references to discussions about giving to the poor. One such comes to mind when the controversy arose about Christ being anointed with expensive ointment prior to his crucifixion. Jesus, in defense of this extravagance replied, the poor are always with you.   Mark 14  It would seem from this that Christ recognized that there are inexhaustible physical needs that are beyond our ability to satisfy and that one must choose wisely how to allocate physical resources. But the allocation of physical resources was not at the core of Christ’s teachings. He repeatedly stated that His Kingdom was not of this world, not physical in nature. The abundance of what He had to offer was spiritual and far more important than the physical. It was the healing of the spirit and the body.

It is difficult to visualize all scenarios a prepper or a Christian might be faced with. I certainly want to be among those who would generously share with those in need. From discussions I have had, I am confident that all others who are invested in the Village feel the same. But I also want to protect and provide for the ones I love most. So, I suppose that, in a dooms day scenario where there is mass starvation, I would try to carefully choose between those who are non-violent and in need and those who are out to pillage. An armed mob bent on taking what I have diligently put back would be met with the best defense I could muster. But I would do my best to “give this day, of our daily bread” to the extent that I do not endanger the welfare of those in my personal stewardship.

My favorite play is Les Miserable, based on Victor Hugo’s monumental novel. The pivotal moment that sets the stage for everything else in the story is when the Priest gives all of the Church’s silver to Jean Valjean who has stolen a portion of it. Through this singular act of charity, the convict Valjean is transformed to a Christian life of giving. This example of Christian charity would seem to contradict my rationale of distinguishing beneficiaries by their intent or level of violence. But there are differences. Silver is not sustenance. It was ornamentation for the Church. It could be yielded up without threatening starvation to the priests and nuns. More importantly, the priest had spent the prior evening feeding and, one could assume, plumbing the depths of Valjean’s soul in conversation. I would imagine that the priest gave the silver for a higher cause than feeding Valjean a few more meals. He sensed the goodness there and that giving the silver would be a wise investment in the well-being of many. How many others had visited the convent prior to Valjean in similar circumstances? How many others had depleted all the silver in the Church? Apparently, Valjean was a special case.

Similarly, it is difficult to say what should be the appropriate response to all future scenarios that we face in life.

Being armed and prepared allows me to make that difficult choice in the moment and under real and specific circumstances. I am not Christ and don’t share His mission nor His ability to lay down my life as a Savior for all mankind. I may be called upon to lay down my life for some within my sphere of influence, though. If such difficult choices must be made, I just pray that I will be spiritually prepared to discern and choose as Christ would have.  Like Him, I hope that my choices will transcend the physical and the consequences of those choices will yield spiritual and therefore eternal benefits.

This is why, for preppers, the most important preparation is spiritual.

Matthew 16
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

26  For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

I would love to hear more thoughts on this topic from friends and members of the Village.

Our Intentional Community Works Together

I’ve been exchanging emails with some nice folks who went to Italy to set up a ministry, ended up staying for an extended period, but are soon ready to return to America.  Laurel asks some great questions.  As I summarized what’s happening in the Village, I felt pleased with our progress and decided to share it.  The names were changed for their privacy.
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Hi Laurel,
I’ll do my best to answer your questions within the text of your letter below.

From: Tom & Laurel Fitzgerald
Sent: Sunday, December 04, 2011 3:07 PM
Subject: Greetings from Italy

Hello,

We are seriously considering purchasing two lots at the Village. I believe my mother would be happier on her own lot.

I’ve spent many hours looking over modular home floor plans and trying to familiarize myself with the whole building process. We’ve never had a home built before – let alone considered trying it from overseas.  I am the kind of person to research and understand before moving forward – but then I am ready to move quickly as I’ve already spent all that time organizing all the steps and making the decisions ahead of time.

I’ve given some thought to your question about job/income.  Because we couldn’t think of actually living there earlier than 24 or even 30 months from now, it is a difficult question to answer.  However, Tom has agreed that a really neat goal would be to create a job/income via a joint-venture with others at the Village who want to create a business.  How or what this would look like, we are uncertain.

There are others here who are interested in working together to create income.  That could take any of a number of different forms including a partnership/joint venture with joint ownership or separate, yet synergistic businesses, leveraging different skills.  I have found from experience that with the best intent and integrity, partnerships are almost always problematic and tend to create friction.  So, personally, I prefer the latter option.  Some ideas and opportunities might include:

  • The Ensigns (lot 2) are deeply into the “maker movement”.  Fred plans to start an alternative energy company that builds hybrid solar systems (passive heat and PV).  He is an amazingly innovative guy with a tremendous work ethic.  He will do well no matter what he attempts.
  • George Jones recently purchased a very expensive training program that he has generously offered to share with anyone in the Village.  It teaches one how to set up an online retail/wholesale business starting simply with eBay, then graduating to building a website and social media, etc.  He is a bio-chemist and also plans to build a still for ethanol fuel production.
  • Ted Thomas (lot 12) is retired, but he has a PhD in plant genetics and really knows his stuff.  Some time ago he developed a strain of grass used on golf courses that has some wonderful characteristics.  He has indicated an interest in growing turf on plastic sheets for commercial applications.
  • Michael Stevens (lot 11) has had his own business from before he moved here developing websites that attract a lot of visitors and paid advertising.  He continues to do well with that business.  His wife, Sherry, recently got a position teaching at nearby University of the South and loves it.
  • The Fords plan to be here in the spring.  They are accomplished musicians and currently operate a recording studio that they plan to re-open after they move here.  Being close to Nashville will be good for them.  You can listen to their music on  their website.  Proximity of the Ford’s new home to the amphitheater will also be excellent. They are excited about spearheading the community performing theater effort with Village children and whoever else wants to join in.  I’m also excited about finally putting together a Village band so I can enjoy jamming together on my sax.
  • I continue to put time into developing the Village, but in this economy, real estate isn’t profitable.  So, I’m developing other sources of income too.  Recently, my wife and I discovered a health supplement that has made a big difference in our health.  We were so impressed that we have decided to take it on as distributors.  I’m also looking at a couple of other opportunities.  My escrow/title agent tells me there is still opportunity at the low end to buy and flip houses.  The key to success is buying them right and she has an inside track that she is willing to share.  Also, I have a small invention I’m working on that I will test market soon.
  • The cost developing the Sewanee Creek logo, website, blog and brand can be put to better use as the community develops.  Our combined output from gardens or other cottage industry projects can be marketed under the Sewanee Creek brand.  My wife is an expert quilter.  She has put her skill to good use recently making handbags.  She markets them at local markets and on her Facebook page.  I have experience in brand development from a career in chain retailing.  Michael’s website building expertise and George’s training program could be valuable there as well.
  • One of the most critical pieces of any business is human capital.  We have managed to attract some of the best.  There are more that I haven’t mentioned who own property here, but haven’t relocated yet.  I think we are already well positioned to thrive, not only as a self-sufficient community, but one that continues to attract talent and business innovation.

I’ve seriously been looking into the bed n’ breakfast idea and have already decided to go the short-term rental route which requires paying tourist taxes and registering a LLC. I believe we could generate a lot of interest in the location by Europeans, even if it is not a typical tourist stop in the US.

Marketing is always a big challenge, so your connections in Europe would be a BIG plus.

My one concern is that with all of my searching to read the covenants, I could only find a file speaking of it being updated with a Word file attached, but it didn’t show up on my browser. Would you be willing to send a copy of that to us? It would be very helpful during this stage in which we are exploring, dreaming, and researching.

I’m sending a copy of the covenants that were registered with the county several years ago.  You need to know, however, that I intend to make some revisions to them, in the direction of fewer restrictions.  I used a neighboring development’s covenants as a model early on because I was an inexperienced developer.  As I learned and fine-tuned the philosophy of the Village, I decided to opt in favor of greater personal freedom for private property.  That’s why I removed copies of the existing covenants from my website.  The only rules for house construction that will remain are the requirements for a large covered porch and restriction against permanent trailers.  I think porches are important to encourage interaction between families.  We don’t want the village to be a low-end trailer park littered with junk.  As written, the covenants on tree-cutting require my approval to cut trees over a certain size.  Those covenants will disappear for land outside the natural preserve.  I have lived in suburban developments before where the covenants were onerous and ridiculous, especially for a rural environment like ours where we want to encourage mini-farms with animals and technological innovation.  The intent of the changes will be to avoid excess regulation.

I’ve also been kicking around that idea Becky has about starting a retreat. That could be a very interesting idea and if she is looking for collaborators, combined efforts might prove more profitable. Tom and I have experience in organizing church retreats and mission team retreats. We’ve also worked at a Christian retreat center and between us have experience in the areas of housekeeping, laundering, food prep/service and preparing an inventory database for the maintenance crew. If this is something she is interested in dialoguing about, I would welcome that.

We would be all over that idea, except that the nest egg we started this project with has hatched and flown off. 🙂  Not enough left to build a nice retreat with right now.  Working together to service such a retreat would be fabulous, spread some of the work and a lot of fun, I think.  We look forward to a better day when we have some extra cash to invest with no more debt.

Completely changing the subject, we used electric golf carts at that retreat center for dropping off dirty laundry, delivering clean laundry to the various linen rooms, moving cleaning supplies between buildings, moving food from the storage shed to the dining room, for answer maintenance calls and bring supplies, and for carting flowers from the greenhouse to the various flower beds.

I like that!  We have a bling golf cart that could be used for that if we build the retreat.

And speaking of flower beds, I’m interested in understanding how the community garden works? Can anyone participate? Does one sign up? Is there a rotation? How does it all work, exactly? Does the community garden include a small orchard? What about the greenhouse? Is that your personal endeavor, or is that a community project?

Right now, the community garden is wide open.  Those who live here now have all opted to spend their time and energies building their own gardens.  As each lot has plenty of room, it’s just more convenient to tend a garden closer to the house.  The primary purpose of the community garden has always been more for socialization and learning than for production.  We have solved for socialization and learning by rotating every week between families on our private plots.  Each week, usually Thursday, we all get together to work on a project designated for and by the Village owner on that weeks rotation.  Last Friday was our turn.  We had four (4’X10′) cold frames made of PVC and 5-year greenhouse plastic sheeting. They weren’t being used and had been left outside the big greenhouse and damaged in the wind.  We repaired them and since Becky and I aren’t using them this year, lent two to George and two to Michael.  I think Michael is actually going to use them as shelter for his pigmy goats.  We put the two for George on the raised bed garden that we all built a few weeks ago on his property.  Hopefully by next week, the seedlings that we planted a few weeks ago in our greenhouse will be mature enough to transplant to George’s cold frames.  As for the greenhouse, it is our personal property, but it is larger than we can use in winter (2,000 square feet) and we are happy to share it with Villagers in exchange for help in it.  It’s working out great.  While the men worked on the cold frames on Friday, the women worked cleaning out the remnants of our tomato, pepper and peanut crops.  So, even sharing it with others we still have a lot of empty beds that need planting right now.  Everyone is really enjoying working together and sharing.
Back to the community garden.  I built some raised beds in the Commons early on with improved top soil from the local worm farm.  George has planted and tended some herbs there, but other than that, it hasn’t been used much.  The Lewis family, who are building their house now and aren’t here yet have volunteered to take it over and raise a crop this spring.  It will be good to see it being put to good use, as George will no longer need it.  As demand increases in the future, there is plenty of room to add more raised beds in the community garden.  But it’s interesting how things have evolved with people helping each other on their private land.  I think that’s even better than the common area garden.

I hope this answers your questions.  Don’t hesitate to call or write again if you have more.

Happy day of rest,
Laurel

Best place to survive East of the Mississippi

My wife and I have always thought that our location is optimal for living through difficult times.

Our intuitive sense was recently validated by the foremost expert in the field.   His name is Joel Skousen and you can read all about him, his analysis of world conditions and his consulting business on his website.

The third edition of his book, “Strategic Relocation” was released for sale this year.  It includes:
* 200 new pages with detailed analysis of every state and province in the US and Canada
* All new color maps for regions, provinces, and US States, showing threats, private and public land use, population densities, roads and terrain
This book can be purchased here.

A few months ago, I received an email from Joel.   He said,

“You’ll be pleased to know that the Cumberland Plateau received the highest rating for any area in the East in the new 3rd Edition of Strategic Relocation.”

In a follow-up conversation with Joel, I validated that his rationale matched mine.  If you would like to know what and why, you can buy his book or you can drop me an email, call (931) 442-1444 or send me a message from my website.

Preppers might also be interested in one of my older posts on the ten best places to survive in America.

On a side note, Mr. Skousen recently pointed out that Atlanta has the largest disparity of wealth of any large city in North America.  Thankfully, we are several hours drive from Atlanta, but that’s also fortunate for Atlanta residents looking for a safe haven within a reasonable driving distance.

2011 Preparedness Workshop becomes Semi-Annual at the Village on Sewanee Creek

Feedback from our Preparedness fair last July was excellent but with plenty of room for improvement.

On breadth of content, we received high marks.  But because there was so much going on, a lot of folks struggled to get involved in all the activities they wanted to, even with repetition over two days.  Things were tightly scheduled, so people were rushed getting from one venue to the next.  This resulted in the most consistent piece of feedback, the desire to have more focus and depth at the expense of variety of topics.  Incidentally, the fair happened to fall on the hottest day of 2010.

In response to experience and feedback, this year we will have two one-day events, one in the Spring and one in the fall to correspond with planting and harvest seasons.   That should assure comfortable temperatures and it leaves room on the calendar for the Village’s traditional Independence Day celebration.  The name is being changed from Fair to Workshop to reflect the increased focus on fewer activities, but by having two events this year we can compensate for fewer varieties at each workshop.

I am especially thankful that this year, the burden of coordinating, setting up and preparing for the Fair won’t fall on me.  Last year, I spent three full months getting ready.  This year, coordination and most of the planning is being handled by our newest Villager with the help of the Provident Living meetup group out of Nashville.  If you plan to come, please register with the Provident Living meetup group at http://www.meetup.com/providentliving/ Make sure you RSVP and add a comment if you plan to camp on Friday night.

That should be enough background on the main changes.  So, here’s what to expect for our Spring Preparedness Workshop.

To see info about last year’s July Preparedness Fair, click

https://1stvillager.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/hands-on-preparedness-fair-workshops/

or

https://1stvillager.wordpress.com/2010/07/01/preparedness-fair-the-village-permaculture/

or

https://1stvillager.wordpress.com/2010/05/21/preparedness-fair-at-the-village-on-sewanee-creek/

We have extra land. Anybody want to farm it?

Food security is the ultimate liberty.  If you can do it in  urban NYC, you can do it anywhere.  For some more inspiration, watch this YouTube video.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDxBEUOImjI

The Village on Sewanee Creek is about 750 rural acres on Tennessee’s lush Cumberland Plateau.  Of that, about 80 acres is cleared land that could be farmed.  Some of it is.  (The balance is either in deep woods or in a deep rugged canyon nature preserve) We have already built a community raised bed garden.  But there’s more.  Either on lots currently owned by Villagers, but as yet unfarmed or on unsold lots.

Want to farm but need land?  We have it and we can help you learn to farm.  Call us at (931) 442-1444.