Common Ground, as mentioned in a recent post, is a community which has been in existence since 1980, and the families and individuals who live there have created a sanctuary for those who wish to live close to the land and in close proximity with like-minded people of good heart and intention.
Using passive solar, solar panels, composting toilets, and alternative construction techniques like straw bale and double envelope homes, the community also offers many acres of beautiful wooded land, a pond for swimming and a stocked trout pond for fishing. There is also a schoolhouse originally used as a center for local home-schoolers, and a pavilion and outdoor kitchen for summer adventure camps for children and teenagers. There are plans to improve and expand the schoolhouse for further development of educational programs and activities, and Common Ground is excited to welcome new families with children to join the community.
We felt wonderfully at home while visiting Common Ground, and our hosts, Tony and Kari, went out of their way to welcome us for meals with them and their beautiful children. We even had a movie night, watching the film "Commune" about Black Bear Ranch, one of the original hippie communes in the 1970s. We played games with the kids, had time alone in our rig, and were generously offered the use of one of the community's lovely straw bale homes while two kind residents were on a meditation retreat. With hot baths, clean laundry, a woodstove and an expansive home to stretch out in, we were seriously happy campers!
On day two at Common Ground, we were blessed with almost four inches of snow, which challenged us to feel safe being in such a cold environment with our poorly insulated and non-winterized rig. Luckily, with the furnace running round the clock and only one night of temperatures in the 20s, we experienced no ill effects from the cold. The snow was resplendent, and we actually enjoyed trekking up and down the hill between our rig and the other homes.
Our final night at Common Ground was marked by a memorable meal with the community's founders, Peggy and Glen Leasure. Glen is a shoemaker who is about to leave for the West African country of Sierra Leone on a project geared towards teaching the women of Sierra Leone the craft of shoemaking. The women will be given micro-loans to enable them to start their own shoemaking businesses and teach others to do the same. Meanwhile, community members will also be taught how to build and use composting toilets, a green technology that will vastly improve sanitation and hygiene while also providing a means of economic and business development. Glen is fired up about the project and is pleased to accept donations from anyone moved to send him a check, and we were quick to buy raffle tickets to support this worthwhile and exciting venture! Even local churches are holding gatherings, potlucks, concerts and other events to raise money for the project.
When leaving Common Ground today, we made it not more than a mile down the road before coming across a downed tree partially blocking the road. Keith had to scramble up a tree with his handy saw in order to take down branches that could have sheared off the air conditioner or solar panels, and Mary deftly maneuvered the rig under the low-lying limbs.
Following that adventure, we made our longest drive in a day---299 miles---since leaving Western Massachusetts, arriving in Old Fort, North Carolina just after sunset. Ensconced in a cozy campground next to a rushing stream (and with awesomely fast Wifi!), we are poised for a visit to Earthaven Ecovillage tomorrow, which will be followed by visits to several other Asheville-area communities in the coming week.
We are grateful to our new friends at Common Ground for such a wonderful visit, and we want them to know that we felt so taken care of and welcome while staying in their midst. Common Ground wins an A+ for hospitality, kindness, warmth---and natural beauty---and we truly hope to visit again (perhaps when there's no snow and the pond is open for swimming!)
Meanwhile, stay tuned for more updates, some personal entries from both Mary and Keith, and maybe even an update from Tina the Dog! Thanks for reading, and please keep those comments and emails coming!
With love from Mary and Keith.