Interested in experiencing life off-grid?

House or Room for Rent!

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.

Posted in Solar Springs | Leave a comment


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

Posted in Solar Springs | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Natural Building, Solar Springs | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Sit Spot, Wildlife | Leave a comment

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.


Posted in Nature Awareness, Sit Spot, Weather, Wildlife | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Solar Springs | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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!!

Posted in Farm Products, Garden, Herb Spiral | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Free Talk on Biochar during Permaculture Design Course

Beyond Zero: The Biochar Solution

FREE TALK with Albert Bates

Location: Carothers Crossing, Nashville, TN
When: August 14, 2010
4-6:00 PM

How we can take the atmosphere from dangerously over-carbonated with greenhouse gas pollution back to safe, pre-industrial levels on decadal time scales? While conventional agriculture leads to deserts, blowing parched dirt across the oceans and melting ice caps, there is another, older style, that brings fertile soils, plant and animal diversity and birdsong. While the agriculture we use has been shifting Earth’s carbon balance from soil and living vegetation to atmosphere and ocean, an alternative style of agriculture moves carbon from sky to soil and crops. The needed shift, once embarked upon, can be profound and immediate. We could once more become a garden planet, with deep black earths and forests of fruit and nuts where deserts now stand.

Albert Bates is author of The Biochar Solution: Carbon Farming and Climate Change, The Post Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook and numerous other books, films and new media on energy, environment and history. A former environmental rights lawyer, paramedic, brick mason, flour miller, and horse trainer, he shared the Right Livelihood Award in 1980 as part of the steering committee of Plenty, working to preserve the cultures of indigenous peoples, and board of directors of The Farm, a pioneering intentional community in Tennessee for the past 35 years. A co-founder and past president of the Global Ecovillage Network, he is presently GEN’s representative to the UN climate talks. When not tinkering with fuel wringers for algae, hemp cheeses, or pyrolizing cookstoves, he teaches permaculture, ecovillage design and natural building.

Permaculture Design Course and Intro

There are two parts to the course: a 3-day intro, and the continuing 8 days of the design course. Both are described on this page. You can also download this as a printable flyer.

Register Now

3-Day Intro to Permaculture

Location: Carothers Crossing, Nashville, TN
When: August 12- 14, 2010

Local Permaculutre Design Course

This introduction, sponsored by the Financial Permaculture Institute and Design Recouse, lays the foundation for the full 72-hour design course, with introductions to ethics, principles, and tools for combining old country know how, natural patterns, and conscious design. Permaculture is a design science that takes a whole-ecosystem approach to sustainable development. The term, “Permaculture”, means “permanent agriculture” and “permanent culture”. Permaculture developed in Australia in the late 1970’s, by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, and has since spread throughout the world. Leaders of the sustainability movement are applying Permaculture principles and design methodologies to everything from gardens, home sites, village designs, businesses, and entire regional economies. Includes classes on creating healthy soils, and garden design. Check out the tentative schedule for more topics. Instructors include, Matthew English, Kevin Guenther, Cliff Davis and guests!
Price: $200 with early registration, $250 after July 23 2010
Registration: Register online at (coming on June 25)
Contact: For questions contact or 888-878-2434 ext.2
More details (in PDF format): LogisticsLocationLodgingScheduleRestaurants

Register Now

Full Permaculture Design Course

Location: Carothers Crossing, Nashville, TN
When: August 12- 24 2010 with Sundays off

Full Permaculture Design Course continues from the 3-day intro to the full 72 hour certification course.  Permaculture is a design science that takes a whole-ecosystem approach to sustainable development. The term, “Permaculture”, means “permanent agriculture” and “permanent culture”. Permaculture developed in Australia in the late 1970’s, by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, and has since spread throughout the world. Leaders of the sustainability movement are applying Permaculture principles and design methodologies to everything from gardens, home sites, village designs, businesses, and entire regional economies. Class participants will learn to use a unique tool that incorporates natural design systems into problem solving on multiple levels. This 72 hour course is vigorous and in depth. Students who complete all segments of the course and individual project assignments will receive an internationally recognized Permaculture Design Certificate. See tentative schedule for topics. Includes class lectures, interactive class participation, design exercises, field trips, and dynamic learning opportunities. Instructors include Matthew English, Kevin Guenther, Cliff Davis, and guests.

Location: Carothers Crossing
When: 9 am August 12 to 5 pm August 24, 2010, with Sundays off
Price: $700 with early registration, $800 after July 23 2010
Registration: Register online at
Contact: For questions contact or 888-878-2434 ext.2
More details (in PDF format): LogisticsLocationLodgingScheduleRestaurants

Register Now

Posted in Events, Permaculture, Tennessee | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Chickens, Roosters, Clutches and Vegetarianism

New baby chicks

I wanted to share our chicken story:

Three years a go Matthew brought home 14 hens: 5 Black Australorpes, 5 Yellow Buff Orpingtons and 4 Rhode Island Reds.  We lost 1 black to a spider?, 1 yellow to a neighbors dog, another yellow to some rot from nesting too long, 1 red to a basket, another red to a hawk and another to a bob cat. So today we have 8 of those original 14, not bad!

Two years a go he unfortunately bought 5 new chicks and 4 of them turned out as roosters.  I never wanted roosters. They’re loud, they abuse the hens and are aggressive to people and animals – not to mention fertile eggs and baby chicks!  We quickly gave three to a farmer and kept one as an experiment.

Last year we had our first clutch of 5 babes – 3 being roosters! Two of them roosters were eaten by our visiting bob cat (yes, thanks roosters for protecting the hens), which I spotted in our back yard stalking the birds a few weeks a go.  Then the third, well that’s a story in itself…

Matt and I are vegetarians, part of the reason why I NEVER wanted a rooster.  I was even vegan for awhile.  I didn’t eat eggs from 1999 through 2008 when we got these hens. I made a pact with them about just eating their eggs, and have stuck to that pretty good since then, eating less than a dozen unidentified eggs in these 3 years. I remember the first egg I ate – it made me so wired I had to run around in the yard.  Matt and I have both experimented with eating only wild game or meat we helped kill or at least process, that was years a go though, for me, maybe 1996-1999, before I even met Matthew. I haven’t eaten any animal flesh since 1999, and yes that includes fish and crustaceans.

My reasons for why I became a vegetarian and stuck with it for so long: 1. Cruelty: I’m against factory farming, 2. Spirituality: I practice non-violence and see killing an animal as a luxury that I don’t need, 3. Responsibility: If I’m going to eat something I want to know that I can process it myself, 4. Community: I’m keen on eating locally and supporting local economic development, 5. Physiologically: I’ve studied health care for 15 years and have found that a vegetarian diet is known to be healthier, and in my own experience of 14 years without red meat and 11 years without seafood or poultry, I have found a greater sense of health and wellness, 6. Diversity in the Kitchen: I absolutely love cooking gourmet and ethnic food and have gained 7 years experience as a professional vegetarian and vegan cook. I know 1000’s of delicious recipes! 7. Preference: I don’t enjoy the smell or sight of flesh and likely don’t enjoy the taste of it, but wouldn’t know since it’s been so long.

Until last week…

We decided that we only wanted 0-1 roosters. Matthew’s killed and processed poultry before and volunteered to do this to our younger rooster.  I was up until last year completely opposed to the idea of any animal being killed on our property, then changed my mind after reflecting on the options (giving it to someone else to kill?). I intended to give the meat to my dogs.  Matt decided that if he was going to kill the rooster he was also going to eat it.  Wow, I thought.

It took me three months of debating whether or not to do partake, to realize that I was completely uncertain.  On the day the deed was done, I went into a quiet place, and really took a moment to prepare myself for the possibility of eating our rooster. I finally placed the meat on my plate and went and sat by myself.  It took me about 20 minutes of connecting with and honoring the present moment to finally touch the meat.  I gently pulled away a piece of flesh and spent another 10 minutes debating whether or not I was committed to placing it in my mouth. I had to trick myself into distraction to finally get the meat to my mouth.

At first I was a bit appalled by the taste and then it triggered my more pleasant childhood memories of having the taste and texture in my mouth. They remained memories though, as my current experience became neutral in that the taste did not please or disgust me.   I then became committed to eating the entire breast of meat. Not wanting to waste one grain of flesh, I ripped every morsel from the bone and ate what I could and selected more fleshy and cartilaginous pieces for my dogs. By the end, my hands were slimmed with fatty oils, the bones were stripped clean and my stomach was full.  My mind…hmm…interestingly I was in quite a state of reflective observation. This was not a simple act. I did it with such a degree of consciousness, that I experienced all at once a pristine presence, and a jolt of energy and complex self doubt.

Days later… I’m content with my little experiment, not holding any self judgment. I don’t know that I will ever eat another creatures flesh again. I have no intention for doing so, though am I guess more open now to the possibility, where as before I was 100% against the idea.  Being open to it feels a bit more balanced.  Believing in anything so much that it colors your reality, I think can be harmful and lead to delusions or judgment over others. So if nothing else, I’ve come out the other side appreciating this sense of openness that I enjoy cultivating.

So now, over the past month these fertile roosters have mated with our hens and we now have 14 babes. We’re down to just one rooster, though I can only imagine the hen to rooster ratio as these babes grow. I’m still not sure I like the idea of Matthew killing off roosters and may decide we need to get rid of them all to stop this cycle. Only time will tell though and as of now, if that’s what he wants to do, I’m not going to stop him.  Whether or not I will partake in the flesh eating, will probably be determined after much deliberation.

Posted in Animals, Learnings, Solar Springs | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Liberation Ecology and Gaia Radio

Gaia Southeast, one of Jennifer’s main projects, just hosted Gaia Radio’s first show on Liberation Ecology.  Gaia Radio from now through September will be in trial mode.  We’ll be offering content on culture, community, business, Permaculture and eco-social design.

For now the show and pod casts will be open to just Associates.  You can check out a few of the notes from the show here.

Posted in Solar Springs | Tagged , , | Leave a comment