Interested in experiencing life off-grid?

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Trees at Solar Spring Lodge

Trees at Solar Spring Lodge

Description: Lovely, artistic, practical and inspiring hand crafted lodge. Construction is mostly local timber frame and natural building (earth bag, cob, cob wood, adobe and other earthen techniques). Completely off-grid!

Location: Hohenwald, TN (Lewis County)

Sites Nearby: Gray Bear Holistic Retreat Center (2 miles), Buffalo River (3 miles), Natural Bridge Spa (10 miles), Dunmire Hollow Intentional Community (12 miles), The Elephant Sanctuary (12 miles), and The Farm Intentional Community (30 miles). There are also 3 awesome wineries just outside of Hohenwald.

Specifications: 2500 sq ft lodge. 3-4 bedrooms, 1 bath, 2-3 offices, 3 porches, living room, dining room, kitchen w/ large walk-in pantry, outdoor kitchen, 2 greenhouses. 0.5 acre established garden. 1 acre established orchard/forest garden. 20,000 gallons of rain water catchment. 100% off grid with 1 kw of solar. Back up wind mill and generator. On-demand propane. Optional solar or wood fired hot water. Solar cooker. Wood stove and wood fired cooker. 1 barn, 1 storage shed and 1 workshop.

Photos: Check out Solar Springs Lodge and Permaculture Gardens

Rental Agreement: Contact Jennifer at 931-796-4874 for information. Price will be customized based on access/need (there are 3 open rooms). Full utilities, phone and high-speed internet included. Use of gardens encouraged.

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Cumberland Green  Bioregional Council
Sonnenschein Spring Gathering and Skillshare
May 4-6, 2012
Location: Solar Springs Permaculture Farm, Hohenwald
(Rain or Shine)

Event Description:
Event focuses on strategically and powerfully engaging in the shifting world—helping people discover their purpose and passions, while accessing the resources, skills, and tools needed to be effective at manifesting change. The event will be facilitated using OPEN SPACE. Event organizers will be creating space for dynamic skillshare exchanges. Optional Hike to waterfall or field trips an exciting option.  Canoe trip on Buffalo River available for a rental fee.

Possible skillshare workshop offerings proposed so far include: Bird Language, Wildlife Tracking, Edible and Medicinal Plants, Wine Making, Blacksmithing and Coppice Craft Demonstrations, Primitive Permaculture, Orchard Care, Herbal Crafts and Vegetarian Cooking, Project Mentoring, Project and Time Management, Social Networking, Emergency Preparedness, Writing from the Soul, Documentation and Cultural Exchange. We’ll be sending out a poll for folks to make suggested offerings and to select workshop preferences.

You can participate in the workshop poll here: The poll closes Monday April 30th. A follow-up schedule will be posted based on poll results.

Event Fees
~ Meals – bring your own meals and beverages (own coolers and utensils) – or pay $20/day (3-meals a day) Friday-Sunday (must register and pay for meals in advance).
~ Camping – $10/day (waived only if you are a CGBC or SGI member, if registered in advance by no later than April 30th.)
~ Course Fee – $75/person fee for Fri-Sun (waived only if you are a CGBC or SGI member if registered in advance by no later than April 30th.)
~ Optional Fee: Canoe Trip about $15/person

These events are free to CGBC and SGI members with registration. Due to our site logistics, we really need to know how many people are attending. We ask that you register by April 27th.

To register simply contact Jennifer or Eric (Jennifer: 931-796-4874/e-mail and Eric: 615-646-6266/e-mail You may also visit, Cumberland Green for further information.


Tentative Schedule (Please arrive only during designated arrival times. If this is not possible you must contact us.)

Friday, May 4th:

7-9 am Nature Connection, Movement and Meditation
9-10 am Morning Check-In and Welcome
10 am – 2 pm Canoe Trip and BYO lunch on the Buffalo River
4-6 pm Skillshare Workshops Session 1, TBA
6-7 pm Potluck Dinner
7-9 pm Skillshare Workshops Session 2, TBA
9 pm Cultural Sharing and Celebration, TBA


Saturday May 5th:

7-9 am Nature Connection, Movement and Meditation
9-10 am Morning Check-In and Open Space
10 am – 12 pm Skillshare Workshops Session 3, TBA
12-4 pm Hike to Waterfall with BYO picnic lunch
4-6 pm Skillshare Workshops Session 4, TBA
6-7 pm Potluck Dinner
7 pm Cultural Sharing and Celebration, TBA


Sunday, May 6th:

7-9 am Nature Connection, Movement and Meditation
9-10 am Morning Check-In and Open Space
10 am – 12 pm Skillshare Workshops Session 5, TBA
12-1:30 pm Potluck Lunch, Community Building Discussion and Closing Circle
2-4 pm Clean-Up for those who can stick around

Site Considerations
** No dogs or other animals allowed (site already has 3 dogs, cats, goats and chickens and can”t have people bringing more animals)
** No drugs or alcohol allowed – family event (only homemade wines, beers or meads allowed during Friday and Saturday evenings for sampling)
** No fires outside of designated fire pits allowed
** No hiking or driving off of designated trails

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Clay Slip, Lath and Plaster

This weekend at Solar Springs three walls of the new project received some attention. Carl covered the new kitchens west wall with local milled pine. The walls insulation was 6″ of clay slip (straw, clay and sand mixture). The clay slip dried fully after two full months. The outer wall is also pine, with a plastic seal, then the slip. It was important that we did not use a plastic seal on the inner wall to allow the clay to breathe. We have two more exterior walls in the dinning/teaching room that also have clay slip, which will get covered by pine later this week.

Two interior walls of that room were covered with bamboo lath and earthen plastered by Matthew, Dan and Nathan. It took them two days. Each morning the ground was frozen enough that they had to wait until mid-morning to sift clay. The plaster is smooth enough that it only needs one more coat. This coat can be a thick earthen paint, or a light plaster and then a thin paint. It will likely be ready for the second application in 2-5 more days. It’s already started to dry.

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Questions from Morning Sit Spot

Lots of questions arising this morning. Hopefully I’ll find time to follow-up with some research.

Very warm for December 13, close to 40 degrees at 6 am. Foggy. Frost only in small patches and very scanty. It just can’t be tree frogs  zeiiiiiiip zeiiiiiip’ing in December? I’ve been noticing them all month, even on colder mornings and evenings. On those colder days, I only here one, maybe two locations of calls. They come out at dusk and dawn. Today though I heard one calling for about every 200-300 foot radius. So based on how far I walked I heard about 5 individuals in total. At about 6-6:20 am these mysterious callers and 2 bird species were the only noises. I’m uncertain about identifying any of these calls, yet hope to discover their names soon, as they’re regulars greeting me each morning. (I’ve done just a bit of research and they may be a Common Nighthawk or an American Woodcock.)

At about 6:30 am all three of these critters seemed to stop calling, and an array of new critters took the stage calling out their voices, like a roll call. Either the original early risers changed calls or they became quite. At 6:45 and 6:50 today the 3 flocks of black birds flew over my spot, 5 and 10 minutes later then the past three days, perhaps the fog? On my wonder back to the house, I saw 5 squirrels racing around multiple trees and occasionally on the ground. I don’t think its mating season, so maybe they were playing, or perhaps one squirrel team invaded a secret stash of another groups. Do squirrels nest together or separate? I think possibly the later, because I’ve come to know two squirrels that live right near my sit spot, and they seem to get along just fine. I can only see one nest, yet perhaps they’re neighbors.

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An Icy Trail

Walking in the icy morning to my sit spot, I knew certainly that any animal or bird would hear me pass. The frozen raised ground crunched beneath my feet even with my slow gait. Looking back I saw too that I was leaving a clear mark of my passage. On the chirt driveway, icy sculptures rouse up from tracks from during the recent rainy days, now joined and some squished by my journey.

I’m amazed at how easier it is to see animal tracks and trails when there’s rain, snow or ice. It makes it worth getting up early and going out into the cold. The ice especially makes it much easier to also hear the sounds of critters. This morning I’m certain I heard a deer and a few squirles.

As I arrived at my favorite spot, through the woods and over the field, I saw common Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) flying overhead towards north-northwest. I hadn’t seen them in a month. Back in October and November I saw them every day early in the morning flying over the same field in multiple flocks. Then flying back East-Southeast in the later day. I thought they left for warmer areas. Yet now I realize that it was me who left, finding comfort in a warm house as the days grew darker and colder. Now I know that these very communal birds winter in the Southern United States and Central America. I thought they wintered further south, as last year I saw tens of thousands of them migrating south-southeast in a steady flock of probably 100 feet wide and many miles long. The flocks I saw here this Autumn had about a few hundred birds in each flock. I’d daily see about 3-5 flocks. This morning I saw two flocks of less than likely 50 birds each.

Over the noise of these routine travelers, I’m also reminded once again that 6:30 am is not nearly early enough to avoid the noise of cars Monday-Friday as they move towards places of work. Noise that shakes and shutters through the icy sleepy valley. An earlier start still may be needed.


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Forest Garden Design Intensive

Edible Ecosystems Emerging: Food Forestry for the 21st Century

A 9-Day Forest Garden Design Intensive

With Dave Jacke, Matthew English, and Friends.

At Spiral Ridge Permaculture Gardens
and The Farm Community Center
Summertown, Tennessee
September 23-October 2, 2011

Forest ecosystems exhibit many beneficial properties we humans would be wise to emulate in our culture, agriculture and horticulture: they maintain, renew, fertilize and propagate themselves without human inputs; they build, store, and conserve clean air, clean water, nutrients, soil quality, and biodiversity; and they exhibit stability, resilience, and adaptability.  These qualities emerge from the dynamics of the forest as a whole system, not from any one or more of the elements that comprise the forest alone.  To design productive edible ecosystems that express these same qualities, we must understand forest structures, functions, patterns, and processes and use this knowledge wisely.

In this nine-day intensive course, you will dive deeply into the vision, theory, and practice of designing wholesome, dynamic, and resilient edible ecosystems using temperate deciduous forests as models.  Dave Jacke and his teaching team will offer lectures, site walks, and experiential exercises to help you understand how the architecture, social structure, underground economics, and successional processes of natural forests apply in the design of edible ecosystems of all kinds.  You’ll learn a variety of ecological design processes while designing a range of food-producing ecologies at our host farm.  We’ll also engage with issues of garden management, economics, and the deep paradigmatic shifts required to succeed at cocreating “humanatural” landscapes and cultures.  You will leave inspired and empowered to design food forests at home for yourself, and your friends, neighbors and clients.

Sliding scale (covers tuition and food): $1,100-$1,400.  Amounts paid over $1,100 will go into the scholarship fund.  Partial scholarships will likely be available.  Contact the below for lodging information (some options on site, some off).

Sponsored by: Spiral Ridge Permaculture Gardens
Location: Spiral Ridge Permaculture Gardens and
The Farm Community Center, Summertown, TN.
To register or for info: 931-964-2375

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Mischievous Mint

Today at Solar Springs I harvested a huge basket full of spearmint, a perennial plant that comes back in my garden each year with no effort on my part.  All of the harvest was collected from where the mint was growing inside the paths of my herb spiral. I find that I hardly ever need to harvest the mint in the garden because I’m always having to dig it out of my paths! Left alone mints spread and can become invasive. They have a mischievous nature. To contain the mints underground creeping root system many people use pots.  I find though that as long as I harvest the mint from my paths once a month, I can keep up with its roaming intent, plus I get enough mint this way to use fresh, dry and to give away as root stock to friends. Since I pull them up by the roots, I am able to stick these roots in water for a week and then pot them up to give away.

My favorite uses for mints:

Mint tea; Mint Salad; Mint Fruit Salad; Mint and Pineapple Juice;

My Favorite Mint Chutney


  • 1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 2 cups fresh mint leaves
  • 1 green jalapeno pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup plain whole milk yogurt

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a food processor or powerful blender like a vitamix. Process until it’s a fine paste,  to make a thick sauce. You can add more of any ingredient to make it thicker or thinner. I love serving mint chutney with sweet potato pakoras!!

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