EcoReality Co-op Newsletter
It's been a packed six weeks at EcoReality. With the end of the harvest season, I'm hoping a month will actually fit into a month again someday soon!
Land purchase fund drive launched
This left us with a difficult choice: should we back out of the deal, knowing that properties like this only come on the market every few years, or should we forge full-steam ahead, not knowing where the money would come from?
Well, you know the answer to that already. The seller graciously allowed us a year of interest-free financing following completion of the sale. This has allowed us to focus on organizational, process, and structure changes that will take us forward into an unknown future. Working out such necessities means that we haven't made our financial situation easier to solve for our friends, advisors, and all of similar mind.
Now, the sale is nearing completion, and we have one year to "fill up that thermometer." Help us get our land purchase fund drive off to a great start — here is how you can help!
Contributions of any amount will be put into "restricted funds" for the purpose of securing our commonly-held land. I feel honourably humbled each time someone helps us in this way.
As an added thanks, we'll plant a tree in your name for contributions of $500 or more -- and you can even come help us plant it!
EcoReality is not a registered charity, and contributions are not tax-advantaged.
A Loan Pledge is simply a promise to lend us money at the most generous terms you can offer as of September 2010. We will not be seeking fulfilment of loan pledges unless needed to secure the land.
Loans on as favourable terms as one can manage are a wonderful pledge of support from folks who depend on a nominal return on investment. I'm inspired by our Advisor Tree Bressen's model of the Walnut Street Co-op Community Revolving Loan Fund, a pool of individual lenders with individual contracts. Tree noted that "no bank was willing to offer us a mortgage," and that is precisely the situation in which EcoReality finds itself. It may be that the global financial meltdown is ushering us into alternatives to big-business banking.
If you meet the BC Securities rules for early stage investing, support our mission and values, and want to invest in a different way of life, possibly even living here someday, the closest involvement possible (short of Membership) is to become financial partners with EcoReality through Class A Investment Shares.
These shares are an investment in a way of life, pledged to sustainability in all its relations, our core value. The rate of return is capped by Statistics Canada's core CPI rate of inflation, because we believe clean air, clean water, taking carbon out of the air, and supplying food and energy to ourselves and the surrounding community is worth more than any dollar return on investment. We members back that up by willingly removing speculative value on our own investment in EcoReality.
Another option for shares is our land purchase trust (in process), which, like Loan Pledges, won't be used unless necessary to secure the land. If direct investment won't secure the land, but some or all of the land purchase trust would take us over the top, the trust funds go into Class A Investment Shares. If the land is secured without trust funds or (heaven forbid) EcoReality is insolvent or dissolves, the trust funds are returned.
May we contact you?
Would you be willing to have someone from EcoReality contact you regarding what would make it easiest for you to help us secure this land? If you wish, you can OPT OUT to get on a list of people we will not disturb on this issue... other than regular coverage in our newsletter. Thanks for whatever help you can offer!
We don't like to "disclaim" anything, but note that securities regulations require us to provide this information. Please note that this is not a solicitation to the general public for investment. This is going out as a newsletter to about 180 people who have asked to be on our Advisory Council, any of whom might be considered an early stage investor. If you are seeing this after November 2009, it is a copy of the newsletter sent in that month, and things may have changed since then!
EcoReality brings Starhawk to Salt Spring!
(More photos are in our gallery.)
These things take time!
My interest in Starhawk goes back to 2003, when I first listened to Wicca for Beginners, Starhawk's audiobook of general-purpose wisdom. In July 2005, Carol and I were contacted by a Reclaiming group in Missouri (Hi, Vicky & Sibyl!) who were interested in our plans for starting an ecovillage. We subsequently went and talked to their "emigration study group" in September, and learned much more.
In March 2006, I contacted Starhawk about possibly coming to Salt Spring for EcoReality, but Carol and I were in the throes of packing for our impending move, and the logistics were impossible.
After getting settled at our new site in the Fulford Valley, I queried again in September 2008, and learned that Starhawk was going to be in our neighbourhood in a year. Then finally, after six years, we had the opportunity to sponsor her visit!
Starhawk kindly structured her talk around our desires. Andrew Haigh of Salt Spring Books was willing to co-sponsor by paying for half the advertising. Andrew is also keen on seeing Salt Spring Island become an official Transition Town, a cohesive area that agrees to plan for a lower-energy and lower-carbon future.James's expertise in event planning kept everything on-track and running smoothly. I was responsible for publicity, and I'm thankful for James's patient reminders when I had a deadline approaching, despite my "Yea, I was just getting ready to do that" replies.
When some potential time conflicts came up, I was delighted and humbled to have her reply that she wanted to spend her time with EcoReality, to better understand what we were about.
So we took her on a tour of EcoReality and surrounding areas, recruiting our favourite ambassadors: Maya, Shakti, Pryia, and Tuccha. We had a great walk through the land, discussing how we could sustainably feed the people working this land, as well as many others in the greater community.
Starhawk seemed especially inspired by the contrast of the large cleared fields, begging for some higher purpose other than growing hay year after year, and the wonderfully varied wild flank of 705 metre (2,000 foot) Bruce Peak, directly behind us. Shakti and Maya seemed to agree, as they vigourously rubbed their heads on Starhawk's butt, as they do with anyone they're pleased with!
Back from the tour, we have a community potluck with Starhawk, with much of the menu coming from our land. The conversation drifted into differences between Canada and the US, and Starhawk revealed that she pays US$850 a month for her health insurance. This seemed to stun those at the table into silence, which Starhawk must have encountered more than once during her stay in Canada, as she writes of it in her blog.
Speaking of a new future...Phil Vernon singing his new song on reducing carbon emissions, Be the Change. Phil's easy folk-country way and hopeful message get the crowd wanting more, which Starhawk proceeds to deliver.
"I was inspired by the totality of what Starhawk journeyed us through during the evening," Shannon tells me, "I took away from the evening that change is the only constant and that the more we set intentions together, the more powerful and directional our changes shall be."
Starhawk speaks of a future where "sustainability" is the given, and any deviation from it must be seriously questioned and held accountable — like "economic growth" is held in regard today.
Yet the change from business-as-usual to sustainability must begin with empowerment. "She wove together a thick blanket of ideas, results and predictions that culminated in personal and collective inspiration through spiral dancing and opening to the power available to us as human beings for effecting change." Shannon continues. The "power within" that we each have becomes "power with" when we combine our efforts with others of like mind; this collective action is the only way to challenge the "power over" that is currently practised throughout much of the world. If the people will lead, the government will follow.
After the evening's happenings, we're all exhausted and turn in early. That means we were actually awake during the next morning's milking, and Starhawk helps us get the job done, with a little help from Maya and Shakti.
James and I take Starhawk to the ferry, and as we drive back, we muse at the growing sense of reverence for the earth that seems to be taking place throughout the world — among practitioners of all religions, not just earth-based ones, as practised by Starhawk. The time of great turning is here.
Welcome, new members Brenden and Susie Anne!members: Brenden Morris Lamrock and Susie Anne Bartsch!
They also compliment each other well, balancing nicely between what might be polar opposites in other relationships!
I think of Susie Anne as someone who sees the pond in early spring and runs for it and jumps in the deep end, going down deep into the cold water, then coming up, gasping for breath in the cold water, sprinting for shore, getting there, feeling more secure, then pushing back into the deep end with open eyes and a willing heart.
Then I imagine Brenden ambling down to the pond, dipping a toe in, speculating that the other side of the pond, or some other pond, might be a bit more hospitable, then looking around at the lovely dappled colours on Bruce Peak or the newly-tilled earth of the coming market garden he's proposed, and thinking, "Damn, this is a mighty fine pond!" and then steadily, methodically wading into the deep end.Work Party Steward, dealing with a big mix of availability and need. Travel schedules and weather haven't made this job any easier this fall! We have accomplished a lot of things that wouldn't have been done without Susie Anne's work party facilitation!
Brenden has sixteen years of organic market garden production experience, and was one of the founders of the Moss Street Market, in Victoria. He's too-soon off for a few months away, making money to support their involvement in agriculture, but he's vowed to be home by planting season, to help set in motion EcoReality's Permaculture vision. He has requested to be Apprenticeship Steward when he returns, which will greatly help in all our ongoing efforts here.
Although her parents are the ones becoming members, I've got to say Jessie is absolutely one of the two cutest little girls on this site, and we adore her for her vivid imagination and growing openness to possibility.
Please join me in welcoming Brenden, Susie Anne, and Jessie!
So long, but not farewellDennis Lucarelli and his partner Micael Bushby are moving out of the yellow house all of a long stone's throw away, and Dennis wants to continue his involvement with EcoReality, including his commitment to serving as facilitator for the next quarter.
They aren't going away. We know where they live. We'll have to walk past their place on the way to the mailbox.
What a great thing — to have two rooms freed up, and yet have people deeply involved with EcoReality near at hand! I'm not feeling like they've left at all, and we look forward to a continuing long mutual involvement.
She arrived with the given name China and we saw no reason to take that from her. For the first week she stayed close to home, literally indoors the whole time. When finally she ventured out, she found a world vastly different than anything she had ever experienced. And yet she followed the urge to explore. When after the first night she did not return, then the second and the third, we thought we’d lost her. Domestic cats on the edge of the boreal forest, surrounded by coyotes, often don’t live long.
On the fourth day “the cat came back.” Her walkabout complete, her ravenous hunger satiated, she settled down for the winter. (She never did divulge where she’d been).
Fast forwarding four years of lap sitting, stroking, purring, sleeping and competing for the coziest chair nearest the fire. Then we all up and moved southward, again.
It seemed to work, only it wasn’t. We had “consensus minus-one”. She spent hours at the screen door of the “white” house staring and often crying to gain entrance. She would sneak in for the odd tour only to be caught and carried out again and again.
At the three month mark she stopped eating. It seemed like a physical cause, trouble swallowing. After a week of essentially no food, she had experienced significant weight loss and unsteady walking. I succumbed to fear. Aginst her will I took her to a vet. All physical tests showed “normal”. I took her home with an expensive can of cat food and some hope.
No go, I tried all her most tender tasty treats, no go. Another week passed and I again succumbed. She had great difficulty walking now, could not climb the two steps into our trailer and she was seemingly losing the ability to speak (meow or purr). The vet did two hours of intensive tests. I had to leave the clinic as I could not bear the sounds of her discomfort. Again absolutely nothing conclusive. When I asked about a possible psychological/emotional component I was told there was a “zero percent” chance of that. I knew then that this place could not help us. I took China home.
Nearing the end of the third week without food she truly could not walk more than a few paces at a time. And still China tried greatly to follow me, this early eve to a meeting at the “yellow house.” Exhausted, grievous and near empty, I asked again for help.
And it came. The yellow house, my destination, was home to two cats and two cat loving people. A voice inside me said ask right now, if they would allow China in for the evening; just to sit on my lap during this meeting.
Again we passed the night in the trailer. She breathed throughout. When I lifted the covers I also lifted my courage to ask what felt like an enormous imposition. During their breakfast I appoached the residents of the yellow house and asked... would they consider taking China in? Anticipating my request they had already discussed it, agreed with each other and then with me. They opened their home and their hearts.
I alone could not give what was needed and wanted by my little furry friend. Others could. Within hours she began to eat. Within days her strength started to return. This little being had asked repeatedly, in the only way she knew how, to be fully a part of our lives, as in the Yukon. This social soul just simply needed to be heard and welcomed in.
And in the magic of these moments I too found myself much more present in the yellow house. Before it had been for me a place of meetings, business and busyness. Now it was becoming a place of just being. During the ensuing weeks as China fleshed, so too did my relationships with all in this space.
When everyone was included in the discussion and action, all three cats and all human residents, all found a way to create a win-win. A crisis for one cat (and cat lover) had created an opportunity for us each coming together in a consensus of all. As I write this, China is vibrant, shiny and has again found her voice. And I continue building relations with clearer vision and a softer heart, thus enjoying ever more communication in unity, community.
Happiness is our birthright...
- meetings made joyful and easy!
Learning to listen for the group voice can be perhaps more subtle than discerning the dash of nutmeg in a large cauldron of community hubbard squash soup. Does anyone know the children’s story of “Stone Soup?” In that tale, travelling soldiers teach a dysfunctional and disconnected group of townsfolk to cooperate to generate health for their community by way of sharing their sparse resources to create soup together and to be in enjoyment ad celebration of what they have, rather than what they are lacking.
Like the travelers in the story of Stone Soup, I have been inspired to serve others by facilitating listening, uplifted spirits and coordinated actions many other ways that set the foundation for my interest in this role in my current community. I’ve seen groups of people gathered to lend energy to a common goal in many other previous life pursuits – and I cannot think of a time when total chaos and lack of any facilitation and leadership has every served a group. Noticing that often there was a role to fill, either when chaos reigned or when groups consisted of very dominant or very shy participants, I’ve informally been facilitating group learning experiences for as long as I can remember including: faculty meetings, academic committees, sustainability committees, undergraduate clubs, student government, summer camp programming, sports teams, gardening crews and work parties.
In 2009, EcoReality committed to partake in the British Columbia version of a “Facilitator’s Intensive Training Series” lead at communities in BC during eight weekend sessions over two years by communitarian, consensus trainer and facilitator of 20+ years, Tree Bressen, of Eugene, Oregon, USA. I have attended two of these weekends already and have discovered a whole new perspective when I prepare for a meeting and facilitate. What an amazing gift this learning series has proven to be so far – please dip your spoon here into some of what I’ve learned!
As facilitator, I strive to be a tuning fork of the group that is gathered: an assimilator or integrator of all voices who focuses on specific contributions to the whole “soup” and who keeps tasting the soup after each addition. In tasting the soup, I hear the call to describe the flavour combination - summarizing and clarifying the meaning of each contribution as it relates to the harmonious mixture of group and inviting others to do the same. This practise begins before the meeting as well – a facilitator can make meetings easier by spending time and energy to clearly comprehend what each person thinks about agenda items in advance of the meeting – especially on topics where there is emotional charge or strong opinions and passions. When practicing this pre-listening and planning out presenters, timing and formats for discussions, facilitators “grease the pot” of the community soup and start the spices simmering slowly so there is a base container into which voices may slide together during the gathering, rather than coldly slapping together hard butter and sharp garlic in the high heat of the moment!
In preparation for each gathering, a facilitator spends a lot of time and energy requesting topics and discussion items from the group in advance and formulating a “plan of the gathering,” or agenda. Before this training with Tree, I recognized that timing of agenda items and keeping track of time in meetings was important. Ah, yet the multi-layered importance of agendas has now begun to come to light as a place where the facilitator (or even better, a small committee of facilitators or group process junkies) sets the stage for the show – including visualizing the meeting from start to finish, providing props and backup resources, music, lighting and aesthetic touches. I sense that a new level of complexity has been revealed to me in agenda-planning for more successful teamwork and energy flow when gatherings occur. This complexity is in the prioritizing of agenda items and also includes the ingredients of openers and closing rituals and practices that improve the flow, listening and cohesion of groups. During my term of service, I loved meditating on the meeting before it happened to determine what technique or format was called for. I found that I had a lot more success in easy meetings and flow and upliftment when I shared my thoughts and got feedback on meeting format with one or more other community members before the meeting.
In community meetings where I facilitate, I rarely felt like a conductor, but more like a conduit through which energy and ideas flow to transform the group into a compassionate listening and a powerful force of change and rejuvenation. If I have a personal comment to make as myself, rather than as facilitator, I actively "remove my facilitator's hat" (wearing a funky hat adds humour and lightness... the likes of which can often be lacking in intentional community business meeting environments, despite the care placed on self-expression and connection in portions of the meeting). When I "try hard" to conduct or direct, I put pressure on myself to know it all and deliver a product of learning to students, or to follow a script too closely. Group facilitation feels more like a guiding light, shining vibrantly and strengthening the group quilt that is being formed rather than spotlighting one viewpoint only. Effective facilitation requires willingness to be flexible and humbly to ask the group for feedback as you proceed.
I’m deeply aware of the intensity that is wrought by communitarians in their meetings: compared to other group work (corporations, non-residential cooperatives, clubs, sports teams, etc.), intentional communities offer a different level of learning when our jobs and livelihoods are intertwined so intensely with our dreams of effecting societal changes; where melding numerous projects, skills and ways of being together gracefully is the raison d’etre.
Join us next time for further learning on this topic of “meetings made easy” through facilitation (the root of the word comes from the latin verb “facile” or ease). Until then... may you find delicious and generous ease and simplicity in the patchwork of voices in your soup!
Recent sightingsvalues, vision, mission, and purpose.
Have you come across a link that you think might be of interest to readers of this newsletter? Send it to the editor, together with a few words about why it is important and how it relates to EcoReality, and we'll try to include it in the next newsletter.
More categorized and reviewed links are available via our reviewed links page.
- Dee Creek Farm
- Nice website for a multi-generational, ecologically self-sustaining farm in Washington State that does dairy, eggs, meat, and vegetables.
- Slow Money
- "Investment strategies appropriate to the realities of the 21st century. Think about it: A million Americans contributing to a grassroots, non-profit seed fund supporting small food enterprises and building the nurture capital industry. . . Is it typical philanthropy? No. Is it investing as we've come to know it? No. Is it achievable? Yes."
- Public Values
- "News about privatization and the fight to preserve public services, resources, spaces, and enterprise."
- Straight Goods
- "Straight Goods is a watchdog working for Canadian consumers and citizens. The purpose of Straight Goods is to help you save money, protect your rights and untangle spin with investigative reports, features, forums, archives, and links to many others who share our values."
- Salish Sea Map
- A great map of our unique bioregion, the drainage basin of the body of water between mainland BC and Washington and Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula. a 21MB high-rez version, suitable for poster-size printing, is available for downloading.
- Making Rose Hip Syrup
- All you need to know to turn a common resource found in property-line hedgerows into a winter-long source of vitamin C, bioflavonoids, and tasty syrup.
- Sep 27 Members' Meeting
- Permaculture Design Course weekend reconciliation, finance and membership goals and action plan fall 2009, meeting time/date changes, more.
- wonderful evening of magic with Starhawk at Fulford Hall.
- Oct 13 Residents' Meeting
- labour policy, inter-farm agreements, community farmland presentation, land purchase update, Burgoyne Bay park meeting representation, RV request, membership interview schedule, more.
- Oct 19 Residents' Meeting
- new monthly meeting format, to do list review, recruiting packages, building guidelines, more.
- Oct 25 Brainstorm Meeting
- new monthly meeting format, more.
- Oct 26 Members' Meeting
- 2010 programs, 2010 budget, timesheets, 2010 winter retreat, land purchase fund drive, external trade guidelines, more.
- Oct 30 Special Resolution Meeting
- membership application and member share payment from Brenden Morris Lamrock and Susie Anne Bartsch accepted. Welcome Brenden and Susie Anne!
Upcoming eventsmeetings page on our website. All activities are at EcoReality, 2152 Fulford-Ganges Road, Salt Spring Island (directions), unless otherwise noted.
- every Saturday
- 5PM farm tour: please bring footwear appropriate for soggy fields! Please call in advance during the winter months, as we may make other plans if no one is scheduled for a tour.
- every Saturday
- 6PM potluck: Please let us know you're coming, so we have enough place settings.
- every Saturday
- 7:30PM movie or program: Call or check meetings to see what's playing. If nothing is planned, bring your favourite movie! (No gratuitous violence, please.)
- every Monday
- 9:30AM: Residents' meeting, business and work around the farm. Please ask to attend; no drop-ins, please!
- every Friday
- 6:30PM: "Composting" meeting; working on composting thoughts, feelings, ideas, so as to build the soil of community. Please ask to attend; no drop-ins, please!
- Friday before the last Sunday of each month
- 9:30 AM through 4:30 PM: Work party! Lunch provided if you work all day. Please plan to arrive at either 9:30 or 1PM, as we can't stop in the middle of something to orient late-comers. Drop-ins at 9:30 or 1:00 are welcome! Please let us know in advance if you'll be having lunch, so we have enough food.
- last Monday of the month
- 9:30AM: Monthly members' meeting, more strategic and long-range than our weekly residents' meetings. Please ask to attend; no drop-ins, please!
- last weekend of the month
- monthly public activities. See our meetings page for details.
We're taking a break from events for the early winter. Watch this space for news of our second annual winter retreat and other events in the new year!
Thank you for supporting EcoReality with your interest, ideas, and good thoughts!
Want to write for this newsletter? Or want to see something written about? Contact the Communication Steward with your story ideas!
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