Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Celo Farming

Every time I see their home, Bob and Geeta put me in mind of Hansel and Gretel tucked away in the woods.This year with the increasing bad news on the financial, ecological and social fronts this place seems more like a refuge. Bob and Geeta live on very little, the home they built themselves decades ago is supplied with well water and is heated in winter with wood they cut themselves. They are growing their own fruits and vegetables and live in a valley surrounded by like minded peaceable neighbors. Unemployment, failed oil wells and falling housing markets seem a world away. At the end of a very long gravel driveway.They live in the shadow of Mount Mitchell, the highest point in the eastern United States an hour north of Asheville, the commercial hub of these Appalachian Mountains. Geeta still works from time to time as a General practice doctor, filling in for colleagues when she wants to pay for a trip while Bob ruminates on philosophy and societal collapse after a career teaching at University. This winter Geeta returns to India to work among women who don't frequently get first world medical care while bob will stay home to stoke the home fire and read and watch the frost settle on these leafless woods.The main road into Celo off State Highway 80 is a public road, county maintained but the web of gravel roads criss crossing the community lands are private and once a year the community meeting has to record that the road was closed for a day to maintain that private status. They use this saw horse to block the road as needed by law:
The community has been overrun by deer and at a meeting recently the consensus was that deer hunting should be allowed, though not with firearms. Bob shook his head, " I never thought I'd see the deer we would allow deer hunting in any form," the pacifist admitted. But the deer are doing so well they are interfering with crops. Our failing economy isn't hurting them, though they should be aware that even Geeta the vegetarian is considering the possibility of having to eat their meat if food deliveries of vegetarian proteins is ever interrupted. I never thought I'd hear those words pass her lips. The stock market my be gyrating wildly but when my sister in law treats the possibility of industrial collapse seriously I know the world as we know it is in trouble.I met a young man in a monkish robe moving this electric fence to give the sheep fresh pastures."learning as I go," he said smiling. I complemented him on his flock. they are active and healthy and alert so he can't be doing much wrong. Milk wool and ...meat, on the hoof, here sheltering in the shade from a merciless and unusual 95 degree sun. A couple of years ago the word came that all these unnamed streets had to be given names and numbers "to help emergency services locate residents needing help." It seems to most people that the sudden sprouting of silly street names across rural North Carolina has more to do with the ominous needs of Homeland Security, that Orwellian national insecurity organization, than any need for fire engines to find their way. Nevertheless the street names have sprouted obediently.
From the school's website: The Arthur Morgan School (AMS) provides a safe and loving environment where 27 day and boarding school students in grades 7, 8 and 9 learn to question and evaluate, think creatively and work cooperatively. A low student/teacher ratio ensures individualized instruction and guidance. Students and staff honor the Quaker values of simplicity, responsibility, service, personal integrity, nonviolent conflict resolution and respect for self, others and the environment.
Not a bad place to learn you'd think. And the ride to school, in summer at least, is ideal.there are two school buses as needed.
Celo is also a working farm and community member share chores in the various fields and storage areas.
Then there is summer camp for 35 youngsters. For over fifty years the Barrus family has welcomed campers to join us for the summer on the Camp Celo farm. The farm setting provides the basis for much of the camp activity with the children caring for animals and harvesting in the garden. There is hiking and camping in the surrounding forests and mountains, and swimming and tubing on the South Toe River. Activities include arts & crafts, skits, wood shop, nature appreciation and big group games. The heatwave this summer has taken everyone by surprise though a very cold winter followed by an excessively hot summer is not an impossible scenario predicted by climate change scientists. In these mountains temperatures every day around 100 degrees will take some getting used to in summer.Cows are part of the farm though they, like the sheep are looking for refreshment by late morning.
Homes in the community reflect individual tastes and though this is a backwoods world they are served by power and light. I remember when I arrived for the first time at Bob and Geeta's home late one night after a harrowing drive along dark mountain lanes, unsure of my destination and uncertain at each intersection, I stumbled out of my van and entered their little mountain hideaway. It is a measure of my confusion that I was astonished to hear a telephone ring (the same phone I had spoken with them numerous times). It seemed such an unlikely modern instrument in such a setting.
there is a waiting list to join the community these days and the enterprise, if it can be called by such a commercial title, is flourishing. City slickers are learning to go back to the land and do it cooperatively.
Food is growing...
...in scenes of rural serenity that seem stolen from a previous age.
With modern intrusions.
Some of them meet to quake in the sight of the Lord, with their Homeland approved street sign.
And the outside world hardly intrudes at all.
I miss my blue ocean waters,oil free and ready for swimming.