To begin, we take a look at what brought us here.
A view of the ridges to the South of Four Quarters, from the Labyrinth.
And your Welcome Home.
The South side of our Farm House, as always, under construction. Probably built around 1890 and abandoned in the 1960's, then returned to use in 1994. At that time driving to the Farmhouse was an adventure, and getting stuck in the dirt lane was part of the fun. Since then we have put in over a mile and a half of graveled roads, well and septic in the camp, and planted over 100 trees around the Farmhouse and its gardens. The grape vine wrapping its' way around the front porch is as old as the house.
We live here tied to the seasons and rhythm of The Land. Heating with wood, and working hard to minimize the amount of "stuff" in our lives. We are very "Peak Oil Aware," and believe lifeways of group sharing and ecological living are the best way to prepare for the looming Age of Limits.
Turns out that's easy, because we also live as a monastery, an Earth Spirited Community of Service that shares a common treasury. Means that none of us receive a wage or salary for our work here. The people here are either living under professed vows of poverty and service to their community; or under simple room and board arraignments. But we are not living in want, we are rich indeed.
We live out of three buildings here on the land, two of which are church owned. We refer to our lifeways as "commutarian," meaning we share everything that it makes practical sense to share, and that's a lot! All of our food is processed, stored and shared out of the common kitchen in the Farmhouse, and our everyday 8:00AM morning meeting (and Farmhouse coffee) is the stuff of legend for the summer interns who have lived with us. Our vehicles are church owned and we make do with just three registered vehicles for the use of our live-in staff; try that to reduce your carbon footprint!
In every decision we make about what to buy and use we ask: Will it last? Will it reduce our resource footprint? Does it increase our commitment to each other and to our Community of Service?
We have been planting and digging and building since 1995; always with the view of minimizing our ecological footprint and maximizing our ability to sustain the way we live. The picture to the left is just a part of our new orchards, berries and grapes; planted with a mix of new dwarf and traditional slow growth varieties. And cuttings from our 100 year old Concord grapes. Every year we plant more.
We call this real wealth! Makes us smile!
We raise a large part of our food in the gardens, and it's preservation and storage are a large part of our fall routine. In 2007 we put up about 1,200 quart jars of garden produce, cases of jams and jellies and mounds of root crops. Our beef and poultry are raised here on the land as well, and our pork is local. It is a huge job putting up all this food, much work and ends in the satisfaction of cases of food tucked away in every corner of the Farmhouse through the winter months.
And during the summer, much of our garden produce is served up in the camps' "Starvin' Artist Cafe." Fresh tomatoes from our garden, fresh Basil in the Pesto and beef from our own pastures. Our Honey Butter is made with our own Honey, perhaps some day with our own butter too. What we cannot supply ourselves we purchase from "Shoe String Acres," our nieghbors organic produce farm.
Raising and sharing our own local food is the most radical social statement of spiritual ecology that we know how to make.
And we are (we believe) the only church in Pennsylvania to have a winery license. We cottage craft our wines with our own labor, and it is a labor of love. We use supplies sourced as locally as we can, which does literally mean that we go to our local cider press in the fall for the cider used in our "Harvest Fruit Cyser," and the Concord grape juice in our "Dusky Vine" was pressed right here in Bedford county, as examples.Our winery is a big part of our economic "Localization" efforts, made locally and distributed locally by ourselves. Along with our wood and machine shop services, the winery is a key component of localized economics for sustainable living in the "Post Peak Oil World.
Happiness is a full woodpile. And it heats you three times, when you cut it, stack it and burn it! We heat all of our buildings solely with wood, much of which we harvest from the land or as cast offs from our local mill. Our permanent buildings have been constructed to take advantage of wood heat and the light of our southern exposure. New construction incorporates earth berm and "thermal envelope" design, as well as attention paid to natural interior air circulation, with the result that they are cool in summer and naturally warm in winter. As we build, we lay in provisions for the future addition of active solar thermal and photovoltaic collectors. Building to live sustainably is a process that is never finished.
We are pretty good with a hammer and saw, a required skill if you intend to resurrect a long abandoned homestead for a multi adult community. Even more so if you intend to live there sustainably, because that does mean you are doing what has rarely been done before. Designing and building from the ground up for a very long-term view of the future and your place in it.
With this in mind we broke ground for our first completely new building in the summer of 2007. Our shop and sleeping dorm. The lower shop is of course essential for our operations and contains our equipment repair, a small machine shop and a complete woodworking shop. We build our own doors, can mill moldings and tongue + groove plank. The southern exposure gives it plenty of light and most of the foundation is earth bermed. Upstairs is the sleeping and meeting area. Built with 16 foot sloped ceilings, an R-5 sealed thermal envelope on the outside skin covering the framing and R-20 inside the walls, natural West-East ventilation and exposed beams and braces; it will be an inviting open space.
Update: As of 2010 the loft and shop are in full use and we are very pleased with the space and the thermal dynamics. Heating and cooling loads are minimal, winter heat being supplied by one wood stove in the shop space for the entire 3,500 sq ft space. Although the roof line is constructed to support solar thrermal and PV arrays, frankly, we dont need them.
We complete the Farmhouse tour with a view of our newest project, "The Lifeboat."
This addition to the Farmhouse is designed from the ground up to support 8-10 adult living as a commutarian community. The foundation level will accommodate an eight-fold increase in space for the Four Quarters Winery and a doubling of our office space. The large room off to the right is a root cellar, sized to hold two years worth of stored food. Unseen is the foundation for a three story Scandinavian style masonry wood heater, far more efficient than conventional wood stoves. And on the south side are the vaults for a built in, two story composting toilet system. Can't let that waste go to waste!
The first floor of this addition is focused on food. It will house a huge kitchen, mud room, community living and dining space. 10 foot ceilings, passive East-West ventilation and a generous southern exposure in winter; should make this space friendly and comfortable year round. The second and third floors will be given over to shared living spaces, private rooms for our live-ins, and guest quarters.
With the use of the shop/dorm, we hope to be able to accommodate 30 people in comfort for weekend intensives; offering our city dwelling friends a taste of the compromises and joys of sustainable living. We do not pretend to have found the "answer," but we think we are good at asking the right questions. Consider us to be a test tube experiment in finding good questions and answers for the "Age of Limits" that we are now entering into, together.