Welcome to the Ecovillage Training Center. How about a little guided tour of the house and grounds here on The Farm in rural Summertown, Tennessee?
The Eco-Hostel is a renovated original Farm (communal) house. Like many during its time it started as a couple of army tents and was added to as needs and materials appeared. It's come a long way and still has quite a journey ahead! Painted a bright yellow with blue trim, our two-story hostel sits atop a forested hill, surrounded by a cluster of natural buildings and educational features.
Lush vegetation surrounds us during the warm months, birds are everywhere; frogs croak from pond to pond; thunderstorms add occasional drama to the expansive sky. Two outdoor solar showers provide wonderful luxury on a hot summer day, or on a clear starry night. Since they're located on a slope above the organic garden (with a 12' deer fence), the showers' greywater waste keeps our veggies happy. After flowing through the chicken coops and duck ponds, it eventually winds up as water hyacynths that are harvested in the fall, composted, and returned to the garden to make next year's food.
Rainwater and outdoor shower runoff flows first into a swale, with a small, hyacinth- and frog-filled pond at each end; it slowly leaches into the garden soil as it passes from stage to stage. We made all thirteen of our ponds of carpet scraps, and they are very successful little bodies of water, with more life per centimeter than you've likely seen in a while. Besides the hyacinths, we also harvest algae for compost and permacfuels, and cattails and bamboo from the lower reedbeds.
A pretty strawbale house stands nearby, plastered with mixtures of local clay, sand, and lime.
Now in progress is an addition we hope to open soon, the Green Dragon Tavern, modeled after Tolkien's vision of the Hobbiton establishment. If you are here in good weather, maybe you can help us with the plastering and turf roof.
Follow the trail down the hill, and you're at lovely Swan Creek. Soak your feet, then head back up towards the Eco-Hostel grounds, where a geodesic dome, a 20-foot octagon, a Smoky Mountain shingled cabin, and one of the Farm's original caravan school buses contribute to the complex. Near the octagon is the laying yard for our gourmet Japanese mushrooms, primarily shiitake and oysters, but also including maitake, sulphur shelf, and pom pom. The surrounding 5 square miles of conservation trust offer ample foray area for the skilled wild mushroomer and we will bring in chanterelles, boletes, and a local reishi in season.
Campers' tents dot the grounds. Inside, three dormitories and three private bedrooms provide comfortable basic accommodations for 30.
A deck next to the kitchen garden (planted in a yin-yang pattern) offers a sunny sit at a picnic table. Head inside to our great big living room, an area for relaxing, hanging out, meeting, studying, reading...
The sunny kitchen is up a few steps. Guests are generally welcome to use the kitchen to cook up their own foods; meals are usually catered (by the Farm's world-class vegetarian chefs) for workshop participants and special occasions. Meals can also sometimes be arranged at the homes of various of the Farm's excellent cooks.
Step out onto the eastern deck, sit and enjoy.
If you would like to continue this tour with a video guide, please join us on Current TV