We’re in the Orangeville news publications!
After returning home from our first visit to Whole Village in September of 2017(link), our interest was piqued. There were many things about this community that we liked and met our own checklist. We liked the organizational structure, the farm, the people and their vision. The vibe was great. The community had mature roots and was capable of weathering storms. Julia felt great in their space, and Arthur and I did too.
We upped our interest level and committed to a two week visit. In April, 2018 we flew out to Hamilton, Ontario, rented a car and stayed in a suite in the spectacular Greenhaven. What a great trip! The community was hospitable, open and accommodating. Staying for two weeks was a great way to experience life at the community. It gave us an intense, live-in experience of what it would be like.
The two weeks gave us an idea of what the routines in the community are like. That sort of thing is hard to figure out if one is coming for a work bee or a day or two here and there. Mondays are check ins, community meals are two to three times a week, whenever someone signs up to cook. Farm routines vary and take a little getting used to.
Being there for two weeks also gave the community a better sense of who we are. It showed the community what our baseline attitudes are and how our family interacts together. Think of it as the ‘seeing each other’ phase in getting to know a potential partner. In my reading, this is an important part of the exploration phase.
It also was a two-week vacation for the family. We visited Alton Mills, an old mill converted into an art space which is barely ten minutes away. In the opposite direction, Orangeville had everything we would need. The Orangeville culture is very artsy, open and chill. I think of it as a blend between Kenora, ON and two communities in Virginia, Gordonsville and Harrisonburg. It feels like cottage country. At about 31,000 people, Orangeville is a nice size. (Just a little more than half the size of Brandon, MB.)
The very first morning on the farm Arthur discovered something he would enjoy doing every day. His exuberance collecting chicken eggs made us wonder if he wasn’t born to be a country boy.
The farm is something that the entire family can really appreciate. Both Julia and I grew up in rural settings, and we really want Arthur to experience a rural life in early childhood. We want him to grow up around animals, getting dirty and playing outside. This environment is important to us. This said, we are also keen to keep him socialized. The studies and pediatric recommendations show that our wants align with their conclusions. The structure of an ecovillage fits this brilliantly.
As well, neither of us want to run a farm on our own. It’s a lot of work, and we know it is way too much for only two people. Doing it together with others makes more sense. Once again, an ecovillage fits this.
Having other kids to play with was something the family enjoyed too. Arthur had a good time with the children. Julia and I got more time together. I found it also had an effect where we appreciated our family time more. There’s a lot of win-win with this situation.
Arthur also enjoyed playing in the rec room between Greenhaven suites. A trunk filled with costumes was an exciting discovery. At one point I pretended to be a dragon that Arthur and the other kids were trying to train. They learned it isn’t easy to train dragons, and that calming influences are better than whacking with swords.
The pond was a great draw for Arthur too. All sorts of aquatic creatures were there, from frogs to fish, bugs and salamanders. This environment to play in was great to see him enjoying.
Arthur also took to the people in the community very well. He was polite and remembered people’s names better than myself. We received many comments on how good-natured he is.
The established community environment has calming effect for Julia and me. Like most ecovillages, Whole Village is a group of people actively working together in community, doing their best to communicate and get along. When conflict and challenges arise, like they inevitably do with human community, there is the desire to work it out. Non-violent communication is one tool in their toolbox.
This attitude and orientation to mutual relationships is like a beacon. I grew up in a family where there was no displayed conflict between the adults, and these memories of quietude magnetize the values from early childhood into my later life. High conflict doesn’t move our family forwards. Both Julia and I are weary of the inundation of the dog-eat-dog message both served by the media and exampled in mainstream culture. It is only that, a message that we both feel doesn’t serve us or our family.
We want a low to no-conflict environment, and that is difficult to maintain in mainstream culture. The conflicting messages and values in the cultural melting pot does not make it easy to raise kind kids or encourage them to stay authentic.
The message we want to communicate through our choices and example through our life is one of cooperation and harmony. Ecovillages afford us that. That is a component of why we have been on this journey.
We found it deeply therapeutic to be practicing a lifestyle with others in a neighborhood who are similarly committed to living in harmony with the earth. To be living in right relationship with the planet takes a surprisingly large amount of weight off the shoulders we didn’t know was there.
There is only so much that can be accomplished as a family living in a city. The degree of garbage is overwhelming and heartbreaking. The pollution, awful.
The difference I feel going from my day job where I am always around a high degree of debris and garbage to a well-cared for piece of land is profound. It particularly bothers me seeing garbage get pushed under the ground through earthworks and landscaping at the jobsites I visit. Being in an ecovillage setting where the landscape is tended to, kept clean and receives a lot of intention creates an ease that is particularly distressing when I return to the job. This garbage creates stress that I notice more and more. It’s human laziness symbolically expressed in the environment. Unfortunately, it’s not something one person can change.
The people of Whole Village were warm and welcoming. We were the outsiders, but they opened their home to our family, treated us well and let Arthur play with their pets. We made new friends, ate meals together and felt accepted.
Journeying to different ecovillages and seeing how others live is a great way of exploring the self as well. It helped us to figure out what is comfortable to us. What works and what doesn’t. And at the end of our visit, we felt that Whole Village worked for us.
We took a few more steps in the Whole Village membership process. They had two different interviews, that we sat in for. It was intense, I got a little nervous, but it came out well. They talked for a while after we left, and then came back to us asking for character references, which was a positive sign. It is now up to the community to determine if we work for them.
Until next time!
More photos on ecovillages.ca.
In September of 2017, the Buller family visited Whole Village near Caledon, Ontario. I had originally read about it in Finding Community, but hadn’t looked too closely. It came up again when we started googling for other communities in Canada.
This time upon looking closer, the family was very interested. We visited during the community’s September 2017 orientation. We arrived a day beforehand, staying in one of their AirBnBs. In the meantime, before the orientation, we checked out Orangeville and St. Jacobs. We find this area of Ontario just gorgeous. It’s so very different from the Great Plains that both Julia and I have grown up on.
Whole Village is a community with well over a decade of establishment. Their intake process is graduated, and membership has a number of different tiers. For ten dollars a month we became Supporting Members, and are subscribed to their meeting minutes so we can start getting an idea of what is talked about in their meetings.
A lot of thought had been given to this, and I am a fan of intake procedures. A great reason why intake procedures are a good thing is when potential members ask weird questions and current members get a feeling of this person being clingy and high maintenance. An intake procedure screens people and doesn’t destabilize a carefully cultivated equilibrium in a community.
John Gagnon conducted the orientation, giving us a good idea of the community policies, why they do what they do, and their plans for the future. The fact there was an orientation was a plus for me. Seeing the community take steps to bring ecovillage aspirants up to speed is important to me, as it gets people onto the same page as the community quicker, staving off potential conflict. This is particularly helpful if people are visiting and want to get an idea of what the community is all about.
Another feature my family really appreciates is the residential building, also known as ‘Greenhaven’. With about 20,000 square feet subdivided into eleven different suites with anywhere from one to five bedrooms per suite, it affords a great balance between having our own space and shared space. Suites are spread out in multiple wings, and because it’s horizontal development, it doesn’t feel like an apartment either. Laundry is shared, and we don’t have to go outside for it. There is a playroom for kids right next to the kitchen, as well as a play area outside. There is also an office near the kitchen. The dining space is the size of a double-sized yoga room, and there is a separate library. This sort of arrangement changes the carbon footprint of multiple families, severely negating the expenditure. It’s a great blend of the dormitory-style housing found in Twin Oaks and the individual housing of say, Northern Sun Farm.
The big thing about the suites is that there are no ranges for a full stove, rather each has a kitchenette. The builders had to keep it to just one shared kitchen due to zoning restrictions. Already Julia is working out ways of cooking and baking without a full stove and oven. Electric induction elements are one option, and are about $80 at Costco. Tabletop convection ovens are also available for about $150 at Costco. The community runs a CSA farm, and residents buy shares, so there is always organic vegetables to eat.
There are shared meals during the week, giving community members the opportunity to get to know each other. The community asks for 5 to 8 hours of work a week, which is unpaid but includes things like building maintenance, gardening or other responsibilities of home ownership. As a current homeowner, this is exactly the kind of arrangement that I like, as it lets me do work that is appreciated by my neighborhood and benefits more than just me and my family. I’m at a place in my life where I’d rather my work go directly towards my community. Win-win, right?
In addition to Greenhaven is the original farm house where more people stay, as well as campers where people have their own space too.
The property was designed in the beginning by a Masters of Landscape Architecture with permaculture in mind, which is also pretty cool. It gives the layout a very organic feel. The community runs permaculture design courses on their land, which is not only a great method of living their ecological values in the world, but a potential revenue stream for them. A swimming hole can also be found on the property, as well as a fire pit. The land was beautiful and felt spacious, despite having a large facility like Greenhaven on it.
The September visit was a great time for the family, and we are headed there again on April 22, 2018. We will be there for a two week immersion, discovering more about Whole Village, the people that live there, and what life is like for them. I will post another write-up after we get back.
(Edited 4/19/2018 10:43 PM)
View the photo gallery on ecovillages.ca here:
Just over three years ago I became a father in every sense of the word. It’s been a wonderful journey with the family I hold close. I have discovered that part of being a father to me is taking seriously some of the challenges we face collectively. At thirty nine years of age today, I find myself growing into a certain degree of activism. This, to me, is a natural extension of concerns for social welfare and the environment my young son will inhabit as he grows older. I see this not only as something for us as a family, but for other families that have concern for our shared future.
Human habitation is my area of activism, and it manifests as ecovillages. It started with detailing my family’s journey towards a more ecologically responsible world on my blog. But even before that, seeds were planted when I visited Boom, a Portuguese psytrance festival in 2012. It was there that I experienced global village with 20,000 other people from 100 other countries. After that transformative experience, I wanted to bring some of that experience home and share with the larger human family.
Since last summer I have taken many steps towards this this admittedly numinous goal. It’s tough to figure out what can benefit many people without trying to run a campaign of propaganda.
Publishing the first issue of The Co-Creator, where I detailed the three main intentional communities in Manitoba was a big one. That started simply as a MailChimp email blast, and evolved into a print edition with a continually growing email list. Then, it occurred to me that it would make a lot of sense to get people from the intentional communities together and share what they do with a larger audience. That occurred on May 20th and took place in the venue of Sam’s Place, a social enterprise.
Ah! Social enterprise! Another key! The Gathering, an event of the local chapter of the Canadian Center for Economic Development had introduced me to the concepts of social enterprise this past October. All of a sudden, I was able to see ecovillages in a new light; as social enterprises. Providing healthy food, housing, jobs, quality education and more, ecovillages could help meet the Sustainable Development Goals as put forth by the UN in the Climate Accords.
NatureSummit is a convention that takes place at Camp Manitou every other year. The objective is to help early childhood educators learn how to pass on a sense of wonder in nature to their children. In response to my son’s daycare attendant looking to learn more about the philosophy behind ecovillages, I presented a workshop at NatureSummit last September, sharing what I had found. Feedback was very positive. It gave me a further sense of purpose in sharing what I know about ecovillages.
In October of 2017, I’ll be part of a team presenting a workshop about ecovillages at The Gathering. I’ll be offering a case study of Twin Oaks, an income sharing community in Virginia that has over 50 years of history and experience.
Not too long after the May 20th event, I was on CKUW talking about the newsletter and it’s corresponding website, ecovillages.ca. That gave me even more impetus and feeling that I am doing something that will result in positive action for a shared, collective future of cooperation and enlightenment.
Being a father has, I find, freed me to take action on the things that I feel are important. It lets me reach out indirectly to people I don’t see enough of, but still care for. I have many friends that I don’t see enough of, both young and old. It’s something that can benefit not only these friends that feel like distant family, but also their current families and future families, as well as people who I haven’t had the opportunity to get to know.
Meeting new people is also a component to this for me. By doing something that I feel is meaningful and reaching out into the community, I meet others who are also doing the same. It lets me share good, positive news of human cooperation during a time of great human divisions.
Integrating the father archetype (aka, being a father) lets me do things for a larger community in a way that being single never catalyzed for me. As the situation with my first son deconstructed several years ago, I found myself trying to do helpful things for him that were never received or even acknowledged. I felt I was not allowed to be a father, my treatment malevolent. Under immense pressure, I saw how many problems are simply social dysfunction. In order to emerge from a campaign of parental alienation by a narcissist, I had to let go of someone I care very deeply for. Through that I learned just how strong I am. Today as I walk a path of healing, it lets me be freer than I ever imagined. And if I ever see my first son again, I can tell him that while I wasn’t able to be with him, I was busy doing things that will benefit him, his world and his future family.
I’ve been pretty quiet for the past little while. However, as of this past week or so, a great deal of material that I’ve been working on is starting to meet major milestones. I have been designing and editing the print edition of ‘The Co-Creator’, and that has taken a great deal of concentration. It is complete and published to the ecovillages.ca website! With that being finished, I am organizing a launch party to celebrate it’s completion and publication. The people interviewed in The Co-Creator are as excited about ecovillages as I am, and they are happy to talk more about them at Sam’s Place. Sam’s Place is a terrific little coffee shop and bookstore on Henderson Highway that has been very good to me.
I have been active with the Canadian Community Economic Development Network as well, attending a session on Social Enterprise a couple weeks ago. This network is a fantastic resource for ecovillages, especially as it pertains to creating businesses with the social good as their objective. Being the second session I’ve been to, it’s the second time that I’ve come away feeling like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. What an exciting feeling!
My next focal point is going to be finishing up the advertising flyer for The Co-Creator. I will share what that looks like shortly. It should be pretty cool when it’s done. As well, a component of this launch of The Co-Creator will be an indiegogo campaign for the costs associated with the print edition. I will share more about that when it’s ready.
This past September I had the pleasure of experiencing something new for the first time. I was a little young at it, a little naïve and very hopeful.
After experience in the many fields that comprise ecovillages, I assembled a workshop based on that knowledge and wisdom. Someone had made the comment that it would be neat to see a workshop on the philosophy behind these communities. Enthused with the suggestion, I began pulling material together from the visits my family had to several different communities.
In September, I presented this workshop at NatureSummit for the very first time. While it was not my first time in front of people, or even presenting, rather it was my first time presenting my own material at a large organized event.
NatureSummit itself was beautiful. Prior to the event I had only walked through the grounds to acquaint myself with the area once before. The human presence in the woods and trails brought a vibrancy to the forest, a hopeful, bright sense of potential.
Being a presenter my attendance fees for the day that I presented were waived. I was there in the morning for Jeff Reading’s keynote speech, which was pivotal all on its own. It was very refreshing to hear someone be hard hitting and talk straight facts about climate change, even if it’s unpopular. I really enjoyed the keynote, and had a chance to talk to him afterwards. I was floored that he knew about the Gaia Trust, and had been to Findhorn in Scotland. My workshop was immediately after his keynote in the same space. After his blunt truths of problems, I felt great to be able to say Hey, here’s some solutions. There are people on their own paths that are making a difference.
I must say I was a little nervous leading up to my workshop. But when everyone was seated for it, there were nine people there. This was totally doable. I had been worried there would be twenty or more, which is a lot more intense!
The presentation went off without a hitch. The computer provided worked with my files just fine. People were engaged, asked questions, and the discussion afterward was inspiring. One of the attendants came up to me at lunch and we talked awhile about possibilities for ECEs in an ecovillage environment. Those possibilities are endless and very exciting to talk about.
After my workshop I had the opportunity to attend a workshop. I chose Earth Mandalas, and it was very relaxing. It was wonderful to reacquaint with a deeper intuition at a child-focused event.
I stayed for the day, and found myself greatly enjoying the event. It gave me a welcoming feeling of being in the right place at the right time. People were focused on something that I feel is very important; children and their interaction with nature. To me, this is a big part of the collective healing process our North American culture needs. It was revitalizing to have a direct participation in that process. I came away from it having matured in my presentation abilities, less naïve but even more hopeful. I discovered that I really like talking about the positive developments that are taking place in this world. There is so much good if we just look for it.
This past Sunday, the weather here in Manitoba was unseasonably warm. The car thermostat read 17 degrees at one point in the afternoon. Looking for something to do outdoors, the family ventured out to Fort Whyte to enjoy the incredible afternoon. Arthur is very used to getting lots of walks and outdoor time at daycare, so walking the paths at the preserve was easy with him. It just takes Mom and Dad getting used to being outside!
I recently interviewed Gerhard Decker about the Northern Sun Farm Coop ecovillage. This interview, together with photos of Northern Sun Farm, can be found in the Spring edition of the Manitoba EcoNetwork EcoJournal. He talks about what it’s like living in an ecovillage in Manitoba and the challenges of living off-grid in our climate. You can find the journal available at the EcoNetwork’s offices above Mountain Equipment Coop on Portage Ave (3-303 Portage Ave., Winnipeg, MB).
More updates are coming that include another post on Twin Oaks as well as a new ecovillage startup in Virginia called Cambia. I also have talks in the works for people who want to learn more about ecovillages. You will be able to find out more about those here on my website.
All this said, I am a Dad and my family comes first.
NatureSummit is a retreat for educators to learn about and get ideas for helping children feel a sense of wonder outdoors. Occuring every two years, it is scheduled for September 16-18, 2016 at Camp Manitou.
I’m excited to mention that they have accepted my workshop proposal. I have work to do and people to talk to, but I will presenting a workshop about ecovillages at this year’s event! Currently titled “Reinventing Ourselves: Changing the Direction of Human Effort,” it will explore the philosophy behind them and offer practical advice on introducing the ideas.
I will follow up with more shortly! You can learn more about Nature Summit on their website.