Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Neighborhoods at Earthaven Ecovillage

While Earthaven Ecovillage is, in fact, a single community, it is composed of multiple neighborhood clusters that distinguish themselves spatially, socially, and structurally. On the mid-May afternoon that I arrived at Earthaven, I was surprised at how few dwellings I could see standing at what was, quite obviously, the community center. Indeed, the geography and foliage of the place allow each neighborhood to hide behind riparian buffers, on top of hills, and even deep in the woods. These neighborhoods are officially recognized entities with Earthaven, and offer eating and dwelling arrangements that suit the diversity of Earthaven inhabitants. Although my research is far from making clear conclusions, my observation is that Earthaven is currently experiencing a lull in home construction. While I believe the reasons for this lull are various and multi-scalar (some economic, some social ) I believe construction has slowed, in part, because the diversity of housing at Earthaven allows for individuals and families to change housing as their life conditions change. With ample and diverse housing, a growing family (or fragmenting family) has many potential alternatives if their existing housing arrangement is less than ideal.

Below, I highlight four of Earthaven’s built neighborhoods. The community has fourteen designated neighborhoods, several of which remain in the planning/dreaming/still forested stages. To read more details about these neighborhoods and the neighborhoods I have not covered below, please visit Earthaven’s neighborhood webpage.

The “Gateway” Neighborhood

I’ll begin at the beginning—my residence for the summer—Gateway Farm. Gateway lies at what I would consider the “outskirts” of the community. In fact, on my daily walk into the community center, I actually have leave Earthaven property and re-enter the community through the front “gate” (actually, a rusted gate that is never closed). Gateway’s structures consist of three buildings: Brian Love’s (my host) home, the “Micro Hut” and the Gateway Barn. After clearing the formerly forested land and processing the timber into lumber, Brian and his business partner constructed the barn and their respective dwellings from said lumber. Today, the “house” and the Micro Hut overlook a field of sheep circumscribed by a creek and a wooded hill. Energy for all structures are provided by solar photovoltaics mounted on the south face of the Barn, and all water is fed, by gravity, from nearby springs. In later posts, I’ll describe some of the more detailed features of Love’s house.

Above: A souther view of the Gateway neighborhood. I'm currently inhabiting the attic in Brian Love's house (left). The Micro Hut (right) is a 11' x 11' home with a full kitchen, bedroom, office, and den. Yes, it can be done, and not uncomfortably.

Above: The southern face of the Gateway barn boasts an impressive PV array.

The Hut Hamlet

The Hut Hamlet is Earthaven’s oldest neighborhood and home to the community’s first built structures. In the mid-nineties when the Earthaven property was nearly all forest, the founding members began to experiment with natural building in what is currently a thriving, family-filled, and fully functional neighborhood. Originally intended to serve as temporary housing for aspiring full members of the community, the “Hamlet” has attracted several young families with every intention of staying in place as well as new young members that prefer the privacy of individual dwellings to other communal options. The Hamlet is striking in its structural diversity, consisting of straw bale cabins, a cob “mud hut”, several elevated yurts (the inhabitants of which have experimented with different permanent and semi-permanent yurt coverings), one “experimental” multi-unit structure, a wooden hexagonal cabin (the “hex hut”), and other passive-solar structures insulated by straw-clay mix. The neighborhood clusters around a shared kitchen/bathhouse, several gardens, and a playground for children.

Above: A small home and garden in the Hut Hamlet currently serves as a young family of three.

Medicine Wheel

Originally called the A&A (Armstrong & Allison) after its builders, the Medicine Wheel house is the one of the community’s communal living arrangements. The house is currently inhabited by about a dozen men and women ranging from long-time full members to young work-exchangers. The house hosts group dinners, community seminars (I just attended a community sexuality seminar), musical jams, permaculture workshops, and probably other events that I haven’t heard of or witnessed. The structure is made of—yes—recycled apple cider crates and you can still see the original industrial apple cider labels when you descend the stairs. The house is a giant permaculture experiment, and is enclosed in its own garden from which residents eat directly.

Above: A permacultural paradise! Medicine Wheel house is seen in the distance. It's an enormous, three-story, Texas style house surrounded by gardens.

Village Terrace

Village Terrace, or “VT” is a neighborhood of “common wall” structures, or what urban planners might call “multi-family” units. The neighborhood currently consists of two dwelling structures, the V.T. common house and a duplex called “Pokeberry,” one of the community’s newest homes. The buildings are powered by large solar photovoltaic arrays and irrigated by both spring water and well water. The neighborhood is home to community members of various ages and experiences: families with young children, individuals working for the businesses within VT, and some elder couples. Village Terrace also hosts several economic enterprises including a large community garden, Imani Farm, and Red Moon Herbs, one of several businesses inside Earthaven with a clientele that extends far beyond the region. Imani Farm, which lines the northern edge of VT is home to pigs, honey bees, chickens, and one of the most chill dairy cows I’ve encountered. There is one woman who apparently used to take the cow on walks around the community, and for all I know this is not uncommon.

Above: The Village Terrace buildings. The VT common house is in the foreground, Pokeberry is in the distance.

(Thanks again, Klara, for the camera!)


  1. Hi, and thanks for the post! Just to clarify a couple of things... Village Terraces (plural) uses well water and roof water that we catch (not spring water). Thanks again!

  2. At VT I believe the primary power source is microhydro, with solar as backup, at least in the main house.
    Nice job, Robby!