by Nisargo Troy
Just last week I began to feel it, the shift. It snuck up on me and seemingly all of a sudden I woke to cool mountain air drifting into my room. I had almost given up hope that this time would ever come. The slight breeze of the early morning even warranted a light jacket, and I felt the impulse to close the windows left open throughout the night to help bring in the cooler air after the heat of the day before. Soon we will close our windows instead in order to preserve the warmth inside. Summer is slowly coming to an end, but as we know there are plenty of warm days still ahead of us!
We had experienced weeks and weeks of heat throughout which we had moaned and groaned, so much hotter than normal. Loose dresses, shirts, shorts and fans, anything that allows some airflow, most of us spent our days indoors, where it stayed cool thanks to our well insulated homes. But in the early mornings, when the air was still lovely and cool at our elevation, people could be seen on the trails, on the tennis court or on the pastures for irrigation. How lucky we are to live where it cools down considerably at night!
Thanks to a very snowy winter and plenty of early rains bringing a lot of moisture to southwest Colorado, plants and trees have been flourishing and the neighborhood has been graced by gardens rich with a multitude of colors. Everything seems to have shot up in height at a great rate and fruit trees are heavy with their sweet gifts.
One of our newest members, Mary Ellen, has been capturing the abundant beauty in the gardens around Heartwood. It has been hard to pick just a few from her gorgeous photos!
Our greenhouse is providing a multitude of vegetables year around and and continues to flourish with the help of many members on the team.
Fruit was and will be abundant this year around the cluster as well.
Many events throughout the summer are worth noting. Dance parties in the common house, an outdoor movie night, family picnics on the village green, tea parties on front porches as well as kiddie pool events. Of course there was a 4th of July parade followed with games. Many members ventured into the high country to hike, camp or just hang out by a stream or lake for the day in the cooler air.
Once a month though, despite the heat, members continued to go out during work parties to take care of structures that needed fixing, fields that needed mowing, tools that needed mending or beds that needed weeding, usually being awarded by a hearty lunch as well as the satisfaction of having contributed to the ongoing work it takes to run our small village.
We added a very successful “Taco Tuesday” to our existing shared meals schedule. Every participant brings an item to share that fits with the theme and their own dishes so that no clean up crew is required. It has been a big success! Now we have the opportunity to share meals as a community three times per week: Taco Tuesdays, a community meal prepared by two cooks on Wednesdays and a general potluck on Fridays. These events are always well attended.
This year we are celebrating several big birthdays in our community. Three members are turning 80 years old and are celebrating in style, inviting the entire community plus friends and family, offering food, music and good company.
Throughout the year we regularly welcome visitors who come to check out Heartwood as their possible next home. We have young families, individuals and couples staying for a night or a week in one of our guest rooms, tour the premises, participate in one of the shared meal times and chat with members while they are here. If you might be interested in visiting Heartwood, check out our Plan a Visit webpage.
It is a rare occurrence but currently we do have two room rentals available and a short term rental for next May. Details are listed below. But most visitors are interested in buying a house which currently we do not have available. The last lucky move-ins arrived in July. Welcome Sasha, David and their cats Jake, Butch and Zorro!
But good news is on the rise for those waiting. Recently we were able to celebrate a big milestone in the development of Heartwood Phase Two, the long planned and much awaited addition of 14 more homes. After overcoming many obstacles and jumping through many hoops, the preliminary plat application with La Plata County has been finally accepted for consideration and the next phase of the process of expanding our community is on the way! To celebrate this step Mac Thomson, as the developer of the project, was presented with a golden hoop in honor of the astounding number of “hoops” he had to jump through to get the project to this point.
As the temperatures are dropping and summer is slowly shifting to fall I again feel blessed to live in a place with so much beauty, friendship and grace.
by Nisargo Troy
Just this past week spring has finally arrived at Heartwood. After a very long and very snowy winter, forsythias are spreading their joyful color where not long ago piles of snow made one wonder what lay buried beneath. Dandelions are popping up en masse (to the chagrin of many a gardener, even though they ARE good for the bees…), apple and apricot trees are covered with blossoms and everywhere the ground is exploding with new growth. What a delightful time of year!
And with the temperatures quickly rising, Heardwoodians are getting busy! People are coming out of the woodwork from everywhere! There are impromptu gatherings on the paths, teatimes on front porches, the sounds of power tools and hammers can be heard, people are working on all kinds of projects, cleaning up yards, clearing flowerbeds to make room for the budding plants to be able to stretch out.
Dead trees are not only an eyesore, but also a huge fire hazard. Fire protection is a year around activity on our land. We want to be in the best position possible should a fire ever get close to us. We try to be diligent, especially around the cluster of homes, and take down and trim everything that is dead or could ignite easily.
Many other projects are being taken on. The first crop was planted in the high tunnel, managed this year by a good-sized group of members, promising an abundance of vegetables at our free farmers markets in the fall. A fence was built. A new culvert was put into a road above the cluster to help manage future storm runoff, keeping water away from our homes. Boxes were carried to help new neighbors move in.
But of course there is more than work! There has got to be time for play too!
We opened the season at the “Heartwood Lounge and Racquet Club” with our annual tennis & pickleball brunch. Much fun, food and drinks, were had.
And it would not be spring if we did not have our first meal outside! The monthly Sunday Brunch was again a big success, held this past weekend on the common house terrace under a beautiful blue sky. Roasted potatoes, scrambled eggs, asparagus, ham, muffins, coffee and mimosas were served to everyone’s delight.
And, as nature is getting ready for major growth and expansion so are we, here at Heartwood. We have welcomed several new “members”!
Two new donkeys recently joined Alana’s herd. Lois and Lewis, saved from a kill pen in Texas, arrived to live with the other three, Willow, Traveler and Mabel. Alana, the donkey whisperer, is masterful at getting these two to gradually trust her! And we love seeing all of these gentle animals in our pastures.
Speaking of new, within a little over a week we will have had two families move in! On April 28th, Mary Ellen and Paul with their dog Bowser arrived at #18 and on May 6th Becky with her dog Amber is returning to Heartwood, this time as homeowner of #19! So good to have you back!
As this is just the beginning of summer! We are getting ready for many more opportunities to work and play. There is the annual 4th of July festivities with parade and all and the second annual SummerFest is in preparation where we come together with our future neighbors, those who are eagerly waiting for Heartwood Phase 2 to be built. We look forward to a summer full of shared meals outside, monthly dances, outside movies and backyard gatherings. Should you be interested in checking out our little village, we do have guest rooms available!
A happy summer to all!
by Nisargo Troy
Greetings and a happy, healthy, peaceful and gentle New Year to you All!
Where do I start? It has been less than three months since I wrote last, but we have had so many beautiful events here at Heartwood since then that it is hard to not tell you about them all. So I will attempt to give you a little peak.
But first I want to share something else. I often get asked when people come to visit Heartwood, how much time it really requires of each member to keep the community running. When we become members we commit to 25 hours of our time per quarter. Yes, there are meetings. Yes, there are work parties. There are special responsibilities one takes on, which take time. We are grateful for the snow plowers, the accountants, the cooks, those who keep the pastures green, the tractor working, the greenhouse producing, the common house clean. The list goes on. And those hours are needed indeed.
But then there are those hours spent preparing for special celebrations, the dances, the parties, the Happy Hour food contributions, the planning of the many fun events. These hours spent on the community are just as important and they can be so fulfilling. Yes, it takes time to keep Heartwood’s heartbeat beating. But in the end, it is so worth it!
So read on in this issue about the many ways we love to celebrate!
As always, I am fond of doing my “show and tell” accompanied by photos. This edition will have even more than the usual. We will start with Halloween and end with New Years. Here we go!
In early November, a very cold, but still stunningly, beautiful camping trip to Canyonlands did not only provide many opportunities for hiking the multitude of trails, but also meals around the fire and the making of s’mores accompanied by spellbinding stories, read out loud. It was also a great opportunity to reconnect and get to know some friends from our Phase 2 project better who hope to live soon at Heartwood and who came to join us there.
Not much later the community prepared for the always greatly anticipated Thanksgiving celebration. The day began with the customary turkey trot, different groups of people walking the trails on our property, completed with coffee and sweets at the common house. There the set up crew had already decorated the tables and delicious smells were wafting from the oven in the kitchen.
Now, we don’t only join in connection and fun with others around food. Helping each other with bigger projects is sometimes just as much fun!
At our monthly work party in November we worked alongside each other as usual on outdoor projects.
Solstice, the return of the light, is important to many of Heartwood’s members.
And then there was Christmas, which at Heartwood is always celebrated with a Posada on Christmas Eve. In this Mexican Christmas tradition a certain couple is remembered who, a very long time ago, knocked on many doors, trying to find shelter. So here we walk through the community, stopping at specific houses where we are treated royally by some of our members. The first stop was for appetizers and drinks at #22, then soup and bread at #1 and then coffee and desserts with some music and caroling to finish up at the common house.
Then came the snow. And it kept on snowing! The world outside today is still a magic wonderland. Our little Kubota with the attached blade for snow removal is being used everyday, clearing the pathways. Lucy the tractor is busy keeping Heartwood Lane open. We continue to be grateful to those who are willing to be out there making sure we can get around!
We celebrated New Year’s Eve with another lovely dance party, enjoyed many delicious food contributions and a game or two.
by Nisargo Troy
Like in so many parts of the country, we have been blessed this year with some extra special foliage colors. It is customary for locals and tourists alike to drive into the mountains and admire the “new dress” nature puts on every year. And like every year, I could not stop taking pictures on our hikes and drives, even though I probably have about half a million of Colorado fall colors already!
In order to not be overwhelming I am sharing only my favorite:
But then there also is work to be done, especially near the end of the warmer season. So on October 15th, on the regular day for our monthly “community work party”, people grabbed their work gloves, spades, rakes, shovels or loppers and headed out to meet at the common house to then split up into groups to tackle the necessary jobs, teams had requested to be attended to.
It was a stunning day with perfect temperatures for working outside and a gorgeous blue sky that accompanied the high spirits shown by all.
Our biggest group was working at the high tunnel. There was the last harvesting to be done of corn and squash, and the beds “put to sleep”, i.e. all the growth that had supported various vegetable throughout the summer had to be removed and hauled off. Many people worked hard the entire morning!
A little out of sight to the left a crew is fixing the east side of the structure. Years of sun and wind had mostly destroyed the southeast side of the high tunnel, which, as the main entrance, needed to be entirely redone. A strong windstorm had given the plastic cover its final blow and soon a brand new sheet will again cover the entire building so that in spring a new crop can be planted and grow under its protection. A relatively short growing season at 7000 feet can be extended considerably like this.
Here, Jack and Ronda are digging the trench for a new culvert on one of our roads. The major amounts of rain we have been getting this year reeked some serious havoc in several places on the property and this effort will definitely help prevent further erosion.
Another area that suffered from all the heavy the rains are the trenches that were dug many years ago when during another heavy rainy season some basements in the community got flooded. Here, a retaining wall is being built so that excess water can find its way once again “down the hill” to where it is safe to run off.
We have so many talented people here! When the Common House team announced that it has been dealing with a leak in the roof, we actually had two guys who were willing to get up on the roof and see what they could do. And they fixed the leak!
Next project: fire mitigation, an ongoing project around here. Even though we had a relatively wet summer, fire danger is a big issue. Last year we received a huge grant from the local fire department to help with mitigation. We are surrounded by gamble oak brush that would easily create ladder fuel for the pinions near them, which we have plenty of as well. The fire fighters who came made big headway in thinning and limbing trees and clearing brush along the roads and around the cluster. But the gamble oak keeps growing back so fast, it is hard to keep up with. Here, the brush hog eats away at the new growth in order to keep our village as safe as possible.
But this does not eliminate the work done by hands and loppers in the areas where the brush hog can’t go!
And when all was finished, we shared a meal as usual, told stories of the day and admired all we can accomplish when we work together!
That night, to celebrate just a bit more, a dance party was the perfect ending to a wonderful day in a wonderful community.
Our next adventures will be the upcoming camping trip to Canyonlands, the grand Heartwood Thanksgiving festivities and much more. Stay tuned!
by Nisargo Troy
Greetings from our growing little community in southwest Colorado!
After a long, hot and dry early summer, the monsoons have finally arrived. And with gusto! It is unbelievably green, and all the plants and the people are flourishing. All the gardeners and their admirers are happy.
Camping can be a bit challenging though. Hikes require mud resistant foot wear, poles, strong legs and good rain gear. Common meals are more often indoors, and not because of the heat! But everyone is rejoicing in the plentiful moisture we are receiving!
We have been graced with three new, outstanding members in the past three months. In May Nancy moved into Number 1, taking over for Zach, the previous owner.
In June, Sandhya and Dylan moved into the apartment at Number 18. They are still holding their spot in Phase Two, but claimed the apartment as soon as it became available so that they can be here as community members now. The move-in happened right before a big party here at Heartwood that Sandhya and Dylan had previously planned to celebrate with their local friends their upcoming wedding in California. Here is what they Dylan has to say about that:
Sandhya and I love cooking - usually it's just for the two of us or a small group of friends. Before leaving for the summer, we decided to throw a "wedding send off party" here at Heartwood. Sandhya and I agreed that we wanted to cook the food. As the party day got closer, the number of people we were cooking for increased. The final number...120. In my estimation, about 110 more than we've ever cooked for. Luckily for us, living in community means support. We had so many folks help us with every aspect of the party: from de-seeding hundreds of chilies and chopping mounds of vegetables, to assembling hundreds of enchiladas and organizing one of the biggest parties at Heartwood, what seemed like an insurmountable task became an incredible realization of the power of what is possible in community. We can't thank everyone enough for all the help, love, and support. We couldn't have done it without you.
Another highlight of the summer has been a big beautiful gathering in July. It was the first time we came together as the larger community, envisioned so many years ago. One day soon we will be a community of 38 homes comprised of the 24 existing and the 14 new ones in the active planning stages now. A great number of our committed future Phase Two members were able to attend, coming from many parts of the country. It was an exiting event to have everyone together for the first time!
I hope the enclosed photos give you a bit of an impression about our three fun days. There were group events geared toward integrating the “old” and the “new”, games to help get to know each other in smaller groups for more intimate experiences, guided site walks of the future building area and planning and discussion sessions regarding the new homes. Our regular monthly work party happened during the big gathering and included drainage ditch repairs, weeding in the high tunnel between the vegetables, fixing eroded trails and so much more. There were group hikes on the land and nearby, a time to get to know the donkeys, games, a movie on the village green, a talent show, a parade and of course, lots of shared meals!
Here is what some people had to say about the event:
Heartwood is starting to feel like home, and I can’t wait to get back.
- Terri (P2)
Such a rich and totally worthwhile event to interact with future and existing Heartwood members; very grateful for the provision to do so. It was fun and connections were made!
- Kristi (P2)
My favorite part of the SummerFest were the small groups. What a great way to get to know our future community members better!
- Beth (P1)
I appreciated people’s honesty and fully showing up in sharing their unique sides in order to get to know my neighbors, both old and new. This gathering has put us more on equal footing as we continue to create community together.
- KJ (P1)
We are diligently working toward the expansion of our village. There will be more news and more parties for sure.The next time many of us will be together again is at our yearly campout at Canyonlands, Utah in November. We can count on good company and good food as usual, spending a few days together, outside, just a few hours drive from Heartwood. I will keep you posted!
by Nisargo Troy
When the daffodils and crocuses are announcing their arrival with their vibrant colors in the otherwise still brown surroundings, the trees are budding, and people are seen in their yards with rakes in their hands and big smiles on their faces, we know that Easter is also just around the corner. This year we were graced with a gorgeous day on Easter Sunday which was duly celebrated.
Changes tend to arrive with the shift from winter months into spring. So it is not surprising that we have had a few here at Heartwood as well. One of those involved saying good-bye to one of Heartwood’s longtime residents, Laurie Lauer. It was with much sadness that we heard of her plans to leave. Laurie has been a vital part of Heartwood’s life, a strong member of the community, involved in so many important positions over the years. Her contributions will always be cherished, her laughter fondly remembered and she is sorely missed. But life called for a bigger change in her life and she is on a new adventure in her new home on four wheels.
The Friday potluck before her departure got turned into a grand party, topped by a wonderful slideshow put together by Sandy and presented to Laurie on a thumb drive so she had memories of her many years at Heartwood to keep in a format suitable for van-life. We were all so busy celebrating that nobody thought to take pictures!
As much as it was sad to see Laurie go, we are super exited about the family she sold her house to! Erika, Liam and their daughter Bexley arrived 3 weeks ago and I will let Erika speak about the experience herself.
by Erika Douglass
Nine months ago our family had the opportunity to spend one month living at Heartwood taking care of the farm animals and irrigating the fields while Jack and Ronda were traveling. We had already loved the idea of Heartwood from reading the website. We signed up to be on the P2 list, the list of potential homebuyers in the Phase 2 of Heartwood’s development, and hoped we would be lucky enough to get to buy one of the new houses. While we were here, we fell in love with everything about Heartwood. Most of all, though, the community and the people. We knew very quickly that Heartwood was where we wanted to live and raise our daughter Bexley. These are the people we want to be in community with and have be part of Bexley’s life as she grows up. There were other benefits too, the climate, living in nature, all the outdoor activities in the Durango area (Liam missed skiing a lot) and more. However, it was the people of Heartwood, more than anything else, that were what made it feel so right. We felt so at home that we were planning to come back to visit again before we even left, knowing it would probably be a few years before the new houses were ready for residents.
However, the universe decided that we would be moving to Heartwood sooner than we thought. We had become friends with Laurie while visiting and she mentioned to us that she had been considering for a while if it was time for her to move and start the next chapter of her life, but it had never felt quite right. Luckily for us, selling her home to us so we and Bexley could live here at Heartwood felt right to both her and her daughter. For those of you who don’t know, they built (by hand) the house that we now live in. Yes, we now own it, but it will always feel like Laurie’s house to us, and we feel like we will never be able to fully repay her for entrusting us with the home she built and allowing us to join Heartwood. We feel so fortunate that she gifted us this opportunity, but are also sad that we won’t get to live in community with her. Thank you, Laurie, we hope you fully enjoy the next chapter of your life, but also hope you come back to visit often.
The last nine months have been a hectic, stressful, crazy roller coaster. Between selling our house, buying Laurie’s house, moving, being in transition for a few months, and still working and raising Bexley. It’s been exhausting. But when we moved into our new home at Heartwood three weeks ago, everything just felt right and we knew it was worth it. We are still getting unpacked and settled, but have also jumped right into life at here with common meals, work parties, pickleball, working in the high tunnel and greenhouse, and going for hikes. We have said many times that we are so happy to be here and that we can already see that the life we had envisioned for our family is really coming together and happening. We look forward to our new life here and welcoming all the P2 members when they get to move in. Thank you to everyone for welcoming us to the community with open arms. We look forward to everything we will share together.
I hope your spring is filled with many positive developments, promising adventures and joyful connections!
by Nisargo Troy
Until just a few days ago you would have never thought we are only a few weeks away from Christmas. The weather was balmy enough to play pickleball on our beautiful tennis court, in shorts and T-shirts! The 7 miles of trails were still firm and dry enough for hiking and people were found gathering on front porches for coffee in the mornings. That all changed abruptly on December 7th, when the first snowstorm of the season touched down in the area and brought 7 inches of snow to Heartwood. What a beautiful sight to see after a long stretch of dry weather!
The past two months brought many opportunities to enjoy living in community. We had a lively Thanksgiving with many attending. The day began with the annual Turkey Trot, a hike around Heartwood land followed by coffee and baked goods in the common house. Much laughter, inspiring conversation and above all so much gratitude was felt by all.
As we are moving toward the upcoming holidays, individual households will be celebrating in their own unique and individual ways in their homes, honoring traditions of old and new. Candles are being lit on menorahs and advent wreaths, houses are beautified with colorful lights, and family and friends come to visit.
On solstice we are invited as a community to a fire ceremony by Tom, a wonderful tradition he has offered for many years. Bright and early at 6:30 am on December 21, we will gather at the beautiful community fire circle located on our land to celebrate the return of the sun and the shortest day of the year. This is what Tom has to say about the event:
"This time for ceremony and ritual grounds us; a time of drawing inward and grounding or anchoring our intentions. This is also a time of renewal. We can make some kind of change in our physical environment to honor the change of season and the power of the Solstice.
"We also have cause for another Celebration: raising the Totem Pole over Heartwood. It was a long time in coming, but we finally did it! Thanks Barry and Jack for setting the foundation and for Tom’s friends, Matt and Dan, who helped take it down, bring it over, and put it back up.
"The Totem Pole stands as an acknowledgement of the Spirit of the land and comes as a symbol of our deep and abiding gratitude for all that Mother Earth provides and for all that we have received."
Our celebration team has been busy planning as well!
Mimi is baking sheets of ginger bread that will be transformed into a replica of the cluster of buildings at Heartwood and then decorated by members. This has been a beloved event in the past and many are looking forward to its return. Stay posted for pictures!
On Christmas Eve we will hold our annual Posada. La posada, in Spanish literally means “the inn,” but when it refers to this Christmas tradition, it entails the reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to rest. In this year’s Posada at Heartwood we will begin with caroling around the Christmas tree on the common house terrace and then proceed to visit, and rest at, designated front porches and backyards, enjoying libations and food offerings, warming ourselves by fires along the way. A cookie and gift exchange will wrap it all up in the common house. So much fun!
We hope this letter finds you healthy and well. We wish you the best of the Holidays and a very Happy New Year!
by Nisargo Troy
Recently I went with Mimi, one of our elders at Heartwood and an exceptional cook, to our gardens to harvest some beans for the common meal she was preparing. Finding bean after bean after bean in the bushes until there was enough to feed those who had signed up for the meal was such a joy to both of us! As we slowly filled our bag, I noticed happily a few red tomatoes on the huge tomato vines. “Soon” I thought, "we will have many tomatoes to harvest. What a glorious feast that will be.”
Two days later, Sandy, an experienced gardener, who I had shared this discovery with, was sitting in front of one of those huge tomato vines turned bushes, held up by wire cages, and said, grinning, “Want to see some tomatoes?” And as I bent down I saw them, hidden from sight, deep inside the dark green cave, glowing like gems, red, juicy and beckoning to be picked and eaten. She filled a huge bowl, which was the first of many, to bring up from the garden.
I am not a gardener. I was never drawn to the bent back, sore hips and knees, sweating in the heat kind of thing that gardening was to me. Not until a pandemic slowed me down enough and gave me time to reflect upon the gift of having land available, right where I live, to grow food for and with my friends. So I joined a group of experienced growers and have become a believer! Look at that spread during our 'free famers market' at the common house! And look at the many ways the produce grown here, either in the community garden or in people's back yards, is being used. Phenomenal! I just wish I could share images of everything members have been making, but that would make this newsletter way too long.
So, here it is: a walk through Heartwood’s kitchens if you will. Enjoy!
On a recent Sunday, we celebrated the apple harvest with a large cider pressing party. Some members went out to harvest the day before, within the cluster and along county roads. The next day everyone could partake in working the press and then bottling the delicious fresh cider. Our newest members, the Madranos, are promising fermented apple cider at a common meal in a few weeks. Yum! Here are from the left: Adrian, Henry, Alana, Lincoln, Jason and Acer enjoying the fun!
The truth is, we have more than we can use of almost everything. So we share. We definitely share with each other, and we use what we can for our common meals. All of the nice, fresh produce we cannot use at Heartwood, we take to the local food share program, Pine River Shares. The damaged produce goes to the pigs, the wilted or tougher greens go to the chickens, and the skins, stems, and cores go into our compost bins.
And in winter we get to open all those jars and enjoy the taste of summer once again!
“And when you crush an apple with your teeth, say to it in your heart:
Your seeds shall live in my body,
And the buds of your tomorrow shall blossom in my heart,
And your fragrance shall be my breath,
And together we shall rejoice through all the seasons.”
― Khalil Gibran
by Nisargo Troy
Summer is a busy time here at Heartwood. People are working in their gardens, out hiking or camping or both, or sitting on the common house terrace after a meal, chatting and enjoying the cooler evening temperatures. We have been blessed with steady afternoon rains so everything is blossoming, plants and people alike. There is a steady stream of visitors, some of them finding ways of staying a little longer and having their own experiences here. Here is some of what happened at Heartwood this July.
by Sandy Thomson
This Fourth of a July we decided to celebrate Heartwood’s 21st birthday. It was just another example of “many hands make light work”. Sarah, Mimi, Gail and Maria did most of the planning. We had a big sign up chart for all the little things that needed to be done. Then each of us just took on a job or two.
Two long tables were filled with bowl after bowl of delicious food while burgers were prepared on the common house grills.
There were decorators, grill masters, beverage cooler stockers, clean up, set up, recycling and garbage crews, and games! Nancy Krebs made it to Heartwood in time to pull together some fun lawn games! We had bubble making, running with an egg on a spoon, crafts, and the ever popular egg toss.
Nisargo and Gabi were the winners of the egg toss with a 18 foot toss caught on the top level of the SS Ponderosa! But we all were winners that day because together we created something special, a fun community event with lots of laughter and connection.
by Nancy Krebs
The other day my soul was shaken to its core when walking the lower pasture I stepped into a depression and fractured my left acetabulum in two places (the socket of the hipbone). On my belly-crawling journey across the pasture to access help, I paused every few minutes to smell the alfalfa/sage/pinon-pine scents, look at the clouds, appreciate the rolling hills and watch horses graze. This beautiful land supported me in the midst of a trauma.
Ilyria, a teen trained in first aid, came running after hearing my calls for help. Her calm, professional, focused attention initiated the loving emergency response of the Heartwood community. And so began the kaleidoscope of care from Heartwood residents of all ages. Through a four hour ER visit Lyn patiently supported me until nearly midnight. A common house guest room was prepared for me as a short-term recovery room. Toddler Bexley delivered flowers. Six year-old Lincoln visited. An offer of temporary lodging sans stairs provided a longer-term safe-haven. Adults brought dinners for six nights, visited, drove me to watch pickleball and follow-up appointments, and shopped for me.
For six to eight weeks post injury I cannot drive nor walk without crutches. Absent the Heartwood community, the initial trauma and subsequent weeks of recovery would have been debilitating. Because of the Heartwood community ethos, I am supported, connected and healing.
Receiving and asking for help has been overwhelming and somewhat stressful. But the grace of residents and their consistent loving kindness, has helped me walk across the bridge of self-reliance to see the peace that one can experience – even in times of trauma – by practicing the humility of relying on others. The Heartwood community has a gargantuan amount of experience supporting folks in life’s big events. Thank you ALL!!
Pigs, Cows and Little Girls
by Erika Douglass
Thanks to Jack and Ronda’s vacation plans, our family (Liam, Erika and Bexley age 2) have had the opportunity to live in their home while taking on their role at Heartwood of caring for the animals and irrigating some of the fields. Bexley has had a wonderful time interacting with the pigs, cows, and llamas and picking bouquet after bouquet of wildflowers in the gorgeous fields while Mama and Papsie are left to do the hard work. 😉 Being able to experience living at Heartwood has made us even more excited about Phase 2 (we are on the list – fingers crossed). We’ve been able to join the happy hours, community dinners, potlucks, pickleball, hikes, and a work party and have had great stimulating conversations. While there aren’t any kids Bexley’s age, the older kids have played with her happily and everyone had been great with suggestions on activities and places to check out (like the Powerhouse Museum in Durango). It’s been a wonderful experience (except for almost stepping on a rattlesnake and cleaning up after the pigs 😉) and we hope we will be able to join the community as residents of Phase 2 (or sooner is someone wants to sell us their house 😉). Thank you to everyone here for being so welcoming and the wonderful experience. We will miss all of you when we have to leave.
By Nisargo Tro
Hello to all from a bustling, budding, greening, blooming Heartwood in full swing!
In anticipation of the approaching spring, Heartwood was ready at the end of March for a big work party after the winter. Beds were cleared of leaves, dead brush material burned to reduce the fire danger, wood gathered for fires in the fire pit on the common house porch for our weekly outdoor Happy Hours, compost turned, and the greenhouse attended to. It was a beautiful day and many hands made it fun and a lot got accomplished.
With spring in full swing, the “Garden Gaggle” with old timers from last year’s very successful growing season in the high tunnel and new members joining in, met at the end of April to plan and start the new crop for this summer. The first seeds are sprouting, tiny plants are poking their heads out, most of the beds are planted, being tended and watched over in anticipation of another year of an abundance of fresh lettuce mix, arugula, kale, chard, beets, squashes, peas, beans, kohlrabis, onions, and eventually those beautiful big and small tomatoes. We will be able to enjoy, once again, our free farmers market on the common house terrace, with donations and the overflow of veggies not utilized by members going to Pine River Shares, our local community program for those in need. The automatic watering system, which is fed by the irrigation ditch, has been turned on by now and is supplying us with ample water coming down from the mountains to keep the gardens well fed.
Also in the past month, Heartwood was blessed with receiving a huge grant for fire mitigation. Living amidst junipers, pine forests, and gamble oaks makes us vulnerable to wildfires. Heartwood members have been working diligently throughout the years around the housing cluster to reduce this danger by thinning and cutting back the highly flammable materials and growing gardens and planting deciduous trees instead. But beyond our housing cluster, we own over 350 acres of beautiful, mostly forested land, which needs fire mitigation work to create a defensible buffer around our homes. With the grant, our forests are now receiving a huge new round of mitigation work. This past week the crew, consisting of young men who sooner or later will be called to fight wildfires as well, began in the first area along Heartwood Lane. It looks amazing. The crew is selectively thinning to create safety, but are always mindful of forest health and aesthetics. It will make Heartwood so much safer once it is all done.
One family in particular is in anticipation of a very special kind. Here is what Alana Madrano wrote about her family’s journey:
As a family, we have been working tirelessly every day of the week for a couple of months to prepare our house for sale in anticipation of our move to Heartwood. While this work has been exhausting, each night as we lay our kids down to bed ,we spend time talking with them about the things we are looking forward to in our next home and community. We talk of the shared meals, the effort together in the gardens and greenhouse, the friendships we will make, the opportunity to be of service, to grow our own food, and to exist in a place of quiet peace. We talk of the stars, nighttime dips in the hot tub, and what it will mean for our family to join the Heartwood community. We talk about the greater La Plata County area and about the opportunities to adventure and see places for the first time. And as a family, we also talk about our shared belief that happiness is a choice, not a destination or situation. We don't move to Heartwood in search of our happiness, but rather to bring our happiness into a community where it can be shared and multiplied. We are very honored to be joining the Heartwood community and we live in daily anticipation of the day we move into our new home and community.
And last but not least, this past week, Southwest Colorado has been graced by beautiful continuous rains lasting for two straight days. So unusual here and so much appreciated! Now the Colorado sun is helping everything explode!
Stories collected by Sandy Thomson and Nisargo Troy
As we are moving closer and closer to the time when 14 new households will join our community, we asked a couple of Heartwood Phase 2 Associate Members and a couple current Heartwood members to reflect on their excitement about the imminent expansion of Heartwood. Here is what they wrote!
Last summer, Todd stumbled upon an article about intentional living and we went down rabbit hole of Cohousing. We spoke with a few different cohousing communities and we were blown away by the concept of living in Heartwood. For us, Heartwood is an amazing opportunity to live in for 3 main reasons: it provides social relationships for us and our children, there are chances to learn new skills, and there is an escape into nature every day.
We want to know our neighbors and make strong relationships with the people who live close to us. This is especially important for our children’s friendships so they can easily go out and play at any given time.
There are multiple opportunities to learn within the community from gardening to livestock to land management. We want to gain vital skills and to be able to give our service to the community and learn at the same time is a great way to expand our knowledge.
We also love the location of Heartwood. Not only is the community on beautiful land that can give easy hikes and adventures, but there are several amazing destinations within a few hours of Heartwood to explore.
We are excited to start our new life in Heartwood and to become a part of its community.
Todd and Jame Bushman under the tree house at Heartwood
I started to browse cohousing listings on a fairly regular basis around 2017. I narrowed my focus mainly to Colorado and the Pacific Northwest, and I can recall looking quite intently at all the pinpoints on that cohousing map in Colorado particularly those outside of Denver. In the fall of 2018, I went to Longmont to visit and hear about the developing cohousing community of Bohn, advertised as a farm and art community. It remains in development. It was useful for me to stay in that area because I got a sense of the energy and was reminded of the energy that I was seeking to leave behind in Atlanta, a bit frenzied.
As time has marched on, my desire to move away from the city and live in a cohousing situation has not abated. I became an Associate Member of Heartwood in Oct 2020.
When I visited Heartwood in early December ‘20, I was so touched by the quality of the people I met; particularly my Heartwood host, Heartwood buddy, and, really everyone. The conversations were wonderful, and maybe the word 'amazing' is appropriate. I felt very at ease, comfortable and welcomed. I can tell the relationships there are deep and familiar, like family. It was great to meet other people interested in learning things that I study, e.g., personal growth. All this is drawing me very much to live at Heartwood, including to be located in a beautiful nature filled area that offers many ways to play in the outdoors.
My creative imagination is filled with visions, such as eating in that dining room with everyone, conversations buzzing, faces animated; making a fire in the outdoor pit, laughing, hiking and skiing in snow, setting up my camera for night photography. I imagine gardening and learning from others when to plant and how to make plants happy in that mountain desert; wondering if I can learn some woodworking and to make natural wooden tables and benches; figuring out how to have studio space for art and pottery making; maybe taking care of a child or the livestock!, petting and playing with the many dogs, sitting on my back porch and looking over the quiet land with natural sounds from insects and animals.
Kristi Eide on top of the world
I’ve been asked to write 2 paragraphs about why I’m excited about P2. First, I would say I’m excited to welcome new Heartwood Members because it is good to have fresh energy, bringing aspects to Heartwood that we haven’t considered before. I’m excited to have more members here to share “the work.” To have a community that functions as well as our does, it takes work. Most of that work is wrapped up in things that I really enjoy, such as team meetings, where we share our ideas and have conversations about the topics of that team. It is important to join those teams that interest us so we have the opportunity to share our knowledge and energy and add to the deepening of what we create here. I’m very excited to share community with others that seek their own growth through learning about themselves via the reflection of their neighbors. I want to know more people that are open to exploring how we can contribute in a good way to the larger whole by seeking to connect in community.
I can’t write about what excites me without also expressing being a bit leery. Having 14 households join us all at once also brings concerns of how do we incorporate so many people at one time? We have our trials and tribulations at Heartwood along with the joys. Those exist today. In my opinion, the trials are pathways to growth and they do not overpower the immense gifts of living here. Do these new potential members understand that living the way we do here is “The most expensive, longest, self-improvement workshop,” available at this time on the planet? This is a fact. I so look forward to sharing what we have created here at Heartwood with those that want inner growth. And from one who was a co-creator of Heartwood, there is absolutely no way of understanding what this means until you’ve lived here for a time. How do we keep the essence of Heartwood and incorporate a plethora of new energy?
I’m believing that those currently in the Phase 2 queue also have the deepest desire to connect. That outweighs the trepidation and has me looking forward to the time when we are all Heartwood and Phase 1 and Phase 2 no longer define our relationship.
One of our Happy Hours on the Heartwood terrace. Lyn is in front on the right.
I am sitting in my living room early on a Sunday morning sipping my coffee as I watch the sun create light on the pinions and scrub oaks at the back of the property. The sky is a clear deep blue, and I enjoy the colors and shadows that play off each of my neighbors homes as the day begins. There is so much beauty to behold right out my window, and I am so grateful to be here. I have been asked to reflect on what excites me about the next phase of Heartwood, also known as Phase 2, and to me that includes sharing a bit about my own recent experience.
When I think about the expansion of Heartwood, I love the idea of discovery that others will experience. Some come in with a good idea of what it means to live in and co-create community and to others, like me, it is new. What seems to be in common is the desire for something more meaningful or different in their lives and a connection to others that only intentionally choosing to live in community can bring. I know that looks different for each person. Everyone brings their own talents, abilities, desires, hopes and fears. That is exciting to me.
In my own choosing to live in community, it has been a journey into deeper understanding of myself and given me opportunities to gain an understanding of my judgements, reactions, and learning new ways of being in the world. My intention is to grow in my ability to take a step back, listen more carefully, try to understand others and equally bring what I have to offer forward. For me, living at Heartwood allows me to experience growth on a daily basis, and to be honest, some of it isn’t easy. I am blown away so often by the depth and the ability of my neighbors to have hard conversations, go to a deeper level and share the wisdom they bring and enrich my life. I am excited for others to join the community and how we can learn from each other.
One of the things that I am very grateful for is the shift in priorities that I have experienced in choosing to live at Heartwood. Before moving here I lived in a beautiful home in the mountains west of Boulder, Colorado. It was my dream home and spent 20 years redoing the entire house. I thought that I would be never leave there and even thought I would be buried in the yard along with the various pets. But that has shifted for me. I really like the house we are in, but it is not my dream house, and I just don’t need that anymore. What has become more important to me is living in community, greeting my neighbors who say 'welcome home' as I pull my cart of groceries to the front door or return from a trip. I am excited to have new neighbors to greet at the common house or when getting the mail or out on a trail. I often say to myself how lucky I am, and I can’t believe I get to live here, I am excited for others to have that feeling too
Proud work party participants - before Covid. KJ is standing, third from the right.
What's Currently Available at Heartwood?
We don't currently have any homes available for sale or rent, but we are moving ever closer to building 14 new homes in Phase 2. We plan to break ground in the spring of 2022 with move-ins by the end of the year. Click here to learn more about Heartwood's Phase 2. Click here to learn about becoming a Phase 2 Associate Member.
by Mac Thomson
Every spring we gather for our annual retreat in a spirit of celebration, renewing and deepening connection, and growth. Like everyone else, we had to modify our plans this year and held our retreat on Zoom this past weekend. Even though the setting was different, the results were the same – lots of laughter, some tears, and an ever deeper appreciation for each other and the special community that we share.
We always kick off our retreat with a slideshow of the past year's community highlights. I found myself so pleasantly surprised as I watched the slideshow on Friday night to see so much joy and connection even though we've had to curtail many of our most cherished community events: common meals, potluck dinners, Sunday brunches, Heartwood's 20th anniversary party, Thanksgiving dinner, New Year's Eve party, and so much more. And yet, community members rallied to come up with new Covid-compliant gatherings or reinvent our traditional gatherings.
Click here to go to Heartwood's homepage where you'll find our 2020 Slideshow: Connection in the Time of Covid. (Look in the right sidebar just below the Covid update.)
Sarah, Beth, Renee, and Tom sharing a laugh during one of our breakout sessions at our annual retreat this past weekend.
During one of our sessions, we were invited to remember back to when we were each on the verge of moving into Heartwood and then write and share a short haiku-like poem describing our vision of our soon-to-be life in Heartwood. Here's a small sampling..
Safe place for our children to grow
The best kind of life
For me and my wife and son
If we get there we won
Looking for and finding a Home
harried mother of two,
needing sleep and desperate for community,
for some kind of tribe,
for a place to belong,
a place to grow
Big sky, simple life
Looking for a home to grow
You are home
Spring arrived just in time for our retreat. Thanks to temps in the 50's and plenty of sunshine, we were able to enjoy outdoor meals together. We also took advantage of our long lunch break to go for a trail walk with a neighbor as another opportunity for connection and friendship.
Stories collected by Sandy Thomson
The holidays this year are going to look a little different around here at Heartwood! Normally we have lots of fun get-togethers (see our previous holiday newsletters: Happy 2019! from January 2019 and Ringing in the New Year! from January 2020). This year will be more private, more personal. I thought it would be fun to talk to a few people and find out what they are doing to make the holidays special.
Maria, Clint, and Lincoln
For Maria, Clint, and Lincoln, the holidays started with the harvesting of their first Christmas tree from Heartwood land.
From Lincoln - 5 years old
We started looking for a Christmas Tree in the Heartwood forest. I was with my Mommy and my Dada and we brought a saw. We decided to split up and I got a little lost, but I could still hear Dada’s voice so it was ok. We went all the way to the top of the mountain but we didn’t find the right kind of tree up there - just other kinds of trees and cactuses. I took a break and laid down on a rock, but I got a little cactus stuck in my shirt. I got it out all by myself. It didn’t even hurt! Then we went down the mountain and that’s when Mommy found the perfect tree! It was stuck between two other trees that needed room to grow and it was as tall as Dada’s hand when he reaches up high. I mostly cut it down all by myself with just a little bit of help!
It was fun and it made me feel so happy. But then, at home, we found out Mommy was allergic to the tree! She put on the lights and then got all itchy and her arms were covered in dots. Me and Dada finished decorating the tree while Mommy watched and drank some wine. I put on my favorite ornament - a star piñata. That was such an awesome tree adventure!
Julie & Scott
For their family, the holiday season begins tonight, the first night of Chanukah.
As a child, Chanukah was always a very simple holiday, but filled with warmth and love. We would light the candles each night for eight nights and sing the Hebrew prayer.
We then opened one gift for each night. These gifts were small items or tokens, but on the last night we usually got a more substantial gift. I wanted to pass on this holiday and tradition to our girls. I was gifted the menorah we had as I grew up and each year lit the candles of the menorah that was placed on the windowsill. The girls would open their present and we’d play games they loved. Some years we played dreidel. I would also sometimes make latkes (potato pancakes) or matzo ball soup. I’ve enjoyed picking out special gifts for the girls. Although we were not a religious family and my girls don’t really identify as Jewish, either spiritually or culturally, I wanted them to have some connection to the traditions and hold a deep respect for their ancestors.
Nisargo and KJ
For Nisargo and KJ Christmas Eve is a special night.
In our house we follow a German custom I brought with me from my country of origin. We put up our tree just shortly before Christmas, keep it up until January 6th (Epiphany) and light real candles on it. They sit in specially designed candle holders which are balanced on the branches by a weight below each one and are burning while we sit by the tree watching the light create magic in the otherwise dark room. Traditionally they are lit the first time on Christmas Eve. When the kids were all bathed and in their new PJ's, we would sit around the tree and tell or read stories until bedtime. Upon successful tucking in, we, the parents, would immediately disappear into the basement and wrap the last presents (or all, depending on the year) and stuff them under the tree, trying to make no noises in the dark.
I do believe that Christmas Eve has a special place in all our hearts because of the ritual of the first lighting of the candles on our tree.
As you can see, the holidays are a special time here. A time to reflect, carry on traditions, and gather with close family. This year especially, it is a time to remember what is important and what brings us joy and gratitude. So stay home for the holidays and be with your loved ones. Sometimes slowing down and enjoying the simple things is the best gift of all.
Ho ho, ha ha, have a happy Holiday!
Stories of how we are growing, collected by Nisargo Troy
Clint and Maria Miller
We have taken our time in our journey to Heartwood. Ten years ago, Maria taught students at Animas High School in Durango that piqued her curiosity. These young ladies were articulate, fun, bright, outdoorsy, confident, and just… really special. Maria knew their sparkle had a lot to do with where they came from - Heartwood Cohousing. As we grew in our lives, moved about, and finally grew our family, we found ourselves eager to experience cohousing as an alternative to the same ol' Anytown lifestyle. Luckily, two years back, we were able to dip our toes in the waters here by subletting the basement apartment of the house we now call home! What we thought would take two months of consideration took two days. We said YES, to cohousing, YES, to Heartwood! Friendly folks, smiles, the great outdoors, sharing food, and conversation made for a great connection that we missed for the following years as we saved up and strategized on how to get back where we belong. The stars aligned and somehow everything worked out so that our family's dream of raising our 5-year-old son, Lincoln, here was realized. We feel like Heartwood's multigenerational cohousing dream to once again have young children romp the paths and command the SS Ponderosa playground was realized too. It fills our hearts to the tippy-top to watch this “new crop” of kiddos build the next generation of Heartwood kid culture. Grateful, thankful, lucky, blessed, we are so happy to be here!
Megan and Eric Sanctuary
Eric and I had an “idea” about cohousing before we even had children. The only problem was that we didn’t know exactly what we were looking for. We knew we wanted a community, close friends that we could rely on, and a sense of belonging. After we had twins, we realized that this was more than a want. We needed support, advice, wisdom, and cooperation. We needed a safe place where our kids could run free without worry or helicoptering. We needed them to grow up surrounded by people who care about them. Driving up the gravel road, seeing the lush pastures, and smelling the sweet air, we knew that we found someplace special. After talking with the people and getting to know the property, we were fairly certain that this was where we needed to be.
But really, it was our two-year-olds who made the decision. They have been so happy since we arrived here that we couldn’t bear to leave! They have other kids of all ages to play with. They can learn from the wisdom of multiple generations of cohousers. They will gain an appreciation of nature and where their food comes from. They will have so many more opportunities than we could possibly provide for them on our own.
At the end of the day, we will put down roots here and experience the ups and downs of life in community. This is the way people are meant to live: together. We finally found what we were looking for. It takes a village, and now we have one. But our journey to Heartwood doesn’t end here. In fact, it’s just beginning.
Jammy Sebree and Adrian Tillery
On June 30th six new people, one dog and one cat came to #17 – Heartwood. We are a loud, loving, constantly on-the-go bunch. Sometimes the house has all of us at once, sometimes there are a couple kids and a mom during the day and just the adults at night and other times (the most fun….) we have all six humans talking, laughing, needing each other’s attention and affection or trying to find a place to read or just be.
Adrian is our most outgoing and social soul. He loves to help people and has made a career out of just that. He listens to all of us and offers his insight, humor, kindness and his opinions…..whether we ask for them or not. We all agree, life is just better when he is around.
Savanna’s smile brings joy to our world. She is smart and sarcastic with a biting wit, she loves fiercely and is a wonderful, loyal daughter, sister and friend. She is an artist with wonderful talent sketching, painting playing the piano and now a new cello. She spends most of the days with her mom during the pandemic, but she and her sister Harper split their time between mom Jammy and dad Rob who lives in Durango.
Harper exudes personality and changes her accent on a weekly basis. She is an actress and enjoys singing and making everyone laugh. Harper pushes her sister Savanna and mom Jammy to be more social….if there is a gathering or party, she wants to be there!
Josephine is the little empath, dancer and singer. She also loves animals very much, she is so excited to be part of Heartwood. She will probably offer to watch your kiddos or your animals!
Henry is the youngest and only boy around 3 other girls. He likes to be with other kids or is just as at home playing with animals (he loves to sing to Nelly our cat), as building legos and jumping on the trampoline. He has a lot of energy, but can seem shy at first. Once you get to know him, he opens up and has a fun sense of humor.
And last is Jammy. According to Adrian, “I can’t describe how much Jammy is our rock. She keeps us all going, motivated and having fun. She cares so much and is one of the best listeners alive. She is lively and her eyes light up every time she smiles. “
So there we are….the newbies at #17 Heartwood. We are so excited to be together and to join a safe and inclusive community where people are allowed to shine in their own way.
Covid and Heartwood's Plans to Reopen
Like everyone else, we've sadly had to curtail most of our social activities because of Covid. At this time we have begun our slow, staged reopening. We are currently receiving daytime visitors, and our two guests rooms are available for overnight visitors, with clear sanitation guidelines. Our indoor community meals are suspended, but social gatherings on the common house porch with social distancing, including a potluck on Wednesdays and Happy Hour on Fridays, are in full swing again. Since the unfolding of this pandemic is still so fluid, please contact us and/or see our Plan a Visit page for the latest updates, should you want to come see us!
by Zoe Curzi
When my partner Varvara and I arrived at Heartwood on March 1st this year, we expected to spend four weeks on a work/housing exchange feeding llamas and cows, hanging out in Number 4 while its inhabitants went on vacation, and maybe taking a dip or two in the hot tub before jaunting off to Europe for the warm season.
You might be able to predict that our plans were disrupted.
Neither my partner nor I currently have a stable home. She and I are (between us) filmmakers, actors, writers, musicians, and travelers. We came to Heartwood because I mentioned to a friend that I was craving nature and animals, and he knew a guy who knew a guy. We live frugally, shrug a lot, and take what comes.
As the world began shutting down in late March and our departure date approached, we didn’t quite know what we would do with ourselves. My twenty-seventh birthday saw me serving cake with a mask and gloves to one person at a time on the porch as folks hurried home again, full of regrets at our inability to party (and, amazingly, though they’d only known me for three weeks at this point, flowers, cards, and small gifts).
But within a week of this, the Heartwood community had mobilized to propose an exchange for our continued stay as Heartwood’s very own pandemic refugees; we would continue caretaking Jack and Ronda’s llamas and cattle where necessary, contribute our youthful vigor to the individuals’ gardens and community work days of Heartwood, and, in exchange, stay in the guest room, doing our best to keep the Common House sanitized for whatever minimal community use it still might hold.
The degree of exchange that has actually happened, given the simplicity of this arrangement, is pretty amazing to me.
We found ourselves rapidly involved in the community here, participating regularly in llama packing training, irrigating the pastures, watering the high tunnel’s wonderful vegetable gardens, and work parties and odd jobs for different community members.
I came here after a tough couple years in a fairly toxic community, and it’s not an understatement to say Heartwood renewed my faith in humans. Between the sacred Fire Circles Tom holds, early morning Wisdom Circles, and surprise in-depth encounters in the mailroom, I found myself engaged in a stream of amazingly meaningful and thought-provoking conversations. The energy, spirituality, practicality, generosity and wisdom of the community completely took my breath away. Not to mention that encountering such healthy, engaged, awake older adults—seventy- and eighty-year-olds pondering “what is next in my life?” just like I am-- is relieving and somehow wonderful.
I was gratified to see traces of the work – both practical/logistical and interpersonal/intrapersonal – that undergirds a place of such flourishing and intention. These people are people, just like people everywhere – but they are people with an unusual commitment to working out conflict, discussing power structures, navigating complex systems in order to accomplish ambitious tasks, and above all, manifesting what they want. I’m sure, like in any community, folks have their gripes and struggles. But I’m not sure those at Heartwood are even totally aware of how unusual and astonishing it is for a group of people to commit and succeed with such a broad set of variables – social, physical, environmental, individual, spiritual, and so on.
It’s turned out to be healing and delightful to stay at Heartwood, and to watch the community adapt to these bizarre times. I’m looking forward to the next few months before we finally do push off on our next adventure, and am already anticipating wonderful visits in the future.
Covid and Heartwood's Plans to Reopen
Like everyone else, we've sadly had to curtail most of our social activities because of Covid. But we are now beginning to plan our staged reopening. We are currently receiving daytime visitors, but no overnight guests in the common house. Our community meals are suspended, but outdoor social gatherings with physical distancing are happening. We hope to begin welcoming use of our guest rooms in July. In the meantime, you can find accommodations in Durango and Bayfield if you'd like to visit before our guest rooms reopen. Because this is all so fluid, please contact us and/or see our Plan a Visit page for the latest updates.
Two months ago, our last newsletter ended with this quote:
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
- Marcel Proust
Little did we know, that we would get the chance to practice just that within a few weeks of this post. When news of the coronavirus became more and more serious and its progression across the country and into our quiet corner of Colorado not only likely but a sure thing, Heartwood Community made the decision to cease all gatherings in the Common House. Following the guidelines suggested by health officials to keep a 6 foot distance between everyone not belonging to the same household went without saying. Shortly after that, on March 25th, Governor Polis announced the “shelter-at-home” order for Coloradans. By then many of us had already restricted travel into town to cover only the essential needs of every day life.
So how does life look and feel like in these strange times in a cohousing community, where people live in order to be in close proximity with others, share laughter, food, hugs and so much more?
We get creative!
It is no big surprise that one of our monthly “Work Parties” during which we take care of projects on the land, drew many more out of their homes than usual, despite the cold temperatures. It was so wonderful to be able to see each other not only in passing! And we discovered that the Common House porch is big enough to host quite a few of us - at 6 feet apart!
Without being able to attend meetings in person we are getting familiar with Zoom, Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts and what not. Together with the rest of the world we try and stay connected and get work done - from our living rooms. Admittedly, it feels awkward to meet with a next door neighbor on a screen. But even during a pandemic there are decisions to be made in a cohousing community and there are lots of practical things to communicate about. So we meet online. But hey, we were also able to attend one of our famous Friday Happy Hours, usually held in the Common House, via ZOOM. A great time was had by all, good conversations and plenty of laughter!
A great turn out also received the recent first meeting of the parties enlisted in the planned expansion of Heartwood, Phase 2. Thanks to Zoom, those eager to move forward with joining the Heartwood community were able to connect with each other across the country, talk about details regarding the building of new homes here and have questions answered. Yeah, technology!
This has been going around the internet lately:
Introverts, please take care of your extrovert friends during these strange times. They don’t know how to do this!
People drawn to cohousing often identify themselves as introverts. So for many of us the invitation to spend more time at home has not been much of a hardship, but a continuation of what we have been doing all along already! But with the many new opportunities we discover to connect, we hope our friends, the extroverts among us, feel also taken care of, as we continue to try and stay safe by following the orders to “shelter-at-home”. Even with physical distancing being the norm now, we are "in touch" never the less and are not "socially" distancing. We share resources via email about free streaming of theater, museums, etc, gather lists of recommended movies for each other, pick up items at the grocery store for others and share hand sanitizer and even, yes, toilet paper! And not to forget the Happy Hours on the paths between the houses. We truly feel blessed to live in community, especially at a time like this!
In addition to sharing resources with each other we are also able to offer shelter to two guests who joined us just before the outbreak of the pandemic, only to find themselves stranded when their continuing traveling plans got canceled. Fortunate indeed for all of us, V and Zoe help out wherever they can now and we are grateful too!
In the meantime, we are glad to say that all here at Heartwood are healthy. We can walk the 7 miles of trails we have access to right from our front doors, alone or with a friend, 6 feet apart of course. We might even look “with new eyes” as we pass the many familiar landmarks of our beautiful Southwestern landscape. We tend to our gardens, we sit in the sun with cups of tea and listen to the birds singing their songs, as beautiful as ever.
We hope this newsletter finds you in good health and can't wait to be able to open our doors to visitors again in the future!
We hope everyone had a happy holiday season out there. Heartwoodians (aka Heartwoodies) celebrated near and far with the usual flair--some traveled to family and friends, while others stayed put in the pines, sipping a nog or two. The year's end is a time for celebration, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, or something else.
At Heartwood, one of our most anticipated events is the Posada when we travel from house to house for one dish of the holiday meal: the appetizer, the main meal, and the dessert. The "kids" are home from school or jobs, guests have come to visit, and it's a time to dress up, give out hugs, and be grateful for food, home, good neighbors, and loved ones.
Neighbors enjoying the Christmas Eve Posada's first stop: appetizers and cocktails. Next up is the entree of chili and cornbread, served just across the pathway. Not a bad commute, eh?
We capped the Posada evening at the Common House, with the dessert course. Neighbors brought their cakes, pies, cookies, and candies for a potluck of delicacies to meet every dietary consideration. Gluten-free? No problem? Not eating sugar? Not a big deal. Thank you, amazing high-altitude cooks and bakers at Heartwood.
For Solstice, one of our neighbors led a meditative class in the magical setting of the yurt. Solstice fires of sweet-smelling pinion and oak blazed at Raven's Ridge circle and in the woodstoves of our homes as Heartwoodians visited with old and new friends, their paths lit by colorful holiday lights strung on the homes. If only we could capture and share with you an image of our December starry nights--but some things are best seen in person. (That's a hint.)
New Year's Eve saw many of our neighbors celebrating afar with friends and family, so this year we held our parties in individual homes, managing to shake a leg or two, play a game or three, and, of course, nosh on goodies. When more of us are at home, we hold New Year dance parties at the Common House. Such a versatile space! We party, we exercise, we eat, we meet--she's got open arms, that building does, for anything we dream up.
So now we're ready to turn another page in the day planner to February. The sun is elbowing the darkness out of his way and Heartwood is preparing for the annual community retreat, scheduled for the end of this leap-year month. And, there's something special to focus on this year: we celebrate the twentieth year of our community's inception. Twenty years ago a core group of folks at Heartwood put their vision into action, searching for the right property across the Southwest and finding it here, amid the hills, forests, and grasslands of La Plata County that we call home. We've sustained and matured and kept celebrating the victories.
One of those achievements is the growing realization of Heartwood's Phase 2 -- the addition of some 14 new homes. In April, we'll host our future neighbors who have already signed up to join our community. So excited to meet everyone!
As always, our guest rooms await any of you who wish to visit us, and we hope you will. In the meantime, may the new year and decade bring you and yours dreams come true.
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
What's Currently Available at Heartwood?
From time to time homes become available for sale or rent here at Heartwood. Right now, units 10, 17, 18, and 21 are for sale. Visit the Heartwood Cohousing website for more information about what is for sale and rent.
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One week plus some change until Thanksgiving—are you ready? Here at Heartwood, families are preparing for their holidays: some are traveling to join loved ones; some are staying home to welcome loved ones; and others still are joining with neighbors and guests at the spectacular Heartwood Common House dinner, a perfectly orchestrated potluck of delicious fare, often featuring our very own home-raised/grown produce and meat.
Thankful thoughts are top-of-mind just now, and certainly we have much to be grateful for at Heartwood: a caring community, breathtaking natural beauty, cozy and charming homes, and truly great neighbors in Bayfield. What a gift it is to know your neighbors, to be part of a community like Bayfield, “where the stars shine bright.”
This fall we celebrated at two events with our extended neighbors. At Halloween, a friend to the east, invited all of Heartwood to his home situated high on the ridge overlooking the Los Pinos River. It was a great Halloween bash. We met more Bayfield folks and got to show off our costume-designing skills. (Woot!)
In October, Heartwood threw a BBQ bash for the firemen and women of the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District, in thanks for their service to this corner of the U.S. Southwest we get to call home. Led by Chief Bruce Evans, the fire-protection crews arrived in (naturally) the red fire truck and emergency rescue vehicles. They were welcomed by the aroma of Heartwood burgers on the grill (supplied by our resident ranchers Ronda Ramsier and Jack McGroder (thanks, R&J). Inside the Common House, a few of us had channeled our inner Girl Scout to create tissue-paper “campfires” as table centerpieces, while many more prepared enough side dishes and salads to feed a few more fire districts. What a buffet of plenty!
Chief Evans explains the intricacies of mitigating natural forests like Heartwood's.
We also had a fine bar set-up, but our fire protectors in blue and white were on duty, so they enjoyed the fresh apple cider being pressed outside on the village green. Now, if you’ve never pressed cider before, you’re in for a treat if you’re lucky enough to visit Heartwood in autumn. We used Heartwood apples, of course, picked fresh from the orchard down at “the hub” on Heartwood Lane and also from trees in our backyards.
The press requires solid physical labor in a team effort, and the results are fantastic—some say it’s the best cider they’ve tasted, and that’s the word even from a few Midwest-bred folks, a good testament, you have to admit.
Neighbors pitch in for cider pressing.
And now it’s time to say thanks to you for your interest in and support of Heartwood across the years and the miles. Harvest season is over, and it’s time to enjoy the goods with people you care about. From our houses and hearths to yours: Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
Every close of summer at Heartwood is bountiful, but there's bounty and then there's BOUNTY: 2019 was deliciously productive! Our two youngest farmers created a luscious vegetable garden in the high tunnel, located in the area known as The Farm, south of the 24-home cluster, on Heartwood Lane. One look at Sarah's happy face and her armload of produce tells you it was a good season, especially wonderful because it was Sarah and Pat's first "go" at farming. Well done, neighbors!
Further north, the Greenhouse and Garden team didn't let the grass grow under their feet (or in the raised beds), as winter delicacies such as tatsoi and kale moved aside to make space for tomatoes, lettuce, basil, cucumbers, green peppers, and more inside the grow dome. And then there were grapes! Every year, we wait for the melt-in-your-mouth grapes growing on the vine that weaves her way across the upper reaches of the grow dome.
The outside beds, between the dome and the hen palace, thrived this year, thanks to plenty of moisture and a secure deer fence. We harvested zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, beans, carrots, cabbage, eggplant, and peppers--and we're still growing more! With all that produce finding its way to family tables, the team decided it was time to build a new set of compost bins, keeping up our tradition of full-circle sustainability at Heartwood. Here's a snap of our new 3-bin composting system! And, scraps and produce that don't make their way to the bins are delivered to our chickens, ducks, pigs, llamas, cows, (and Missy the horse) who enjoy the fruits of our labor right along with us, munching on garden treats mixed in with their feed.
Most of Heartwood's homes feature fruit trees--apricots, plums, peaches, and apples. Here, Beth takes advantage of the community's solar dehydrator at the common house to preserve her apricot harvest for colder days ahead. Soon, the community will be lining up at the cider press, loading up fall apples and capturing the juice in jugs.
We're still savoring our Colorado sunny days, but the temps are chilling in the mornings and evenings. The kids are back in school, and before too long, it will be time to turn under the veggie beds. In the meantime, there's plenty of picking, preserving and pickling to do. Autumn is a glorious time to visit us...and, if you do, bring your cider jug.
With Warm Wishes to You and Yours!
My husband, Frank, and I are new residents here at Heartwood—into our seventh month as happy homeowners. I’m a writer by trade and happy to be your new correspondent for Heartwood Happenings. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at Heartwood with any questions you might have about our neighborhood nestled in the woods and mountains of Southwest Colorado.
Yours in Community,
One of the many benefits of living in community is the freedom to practice—and share—your hobbies, your creative side(s), your passions and interests. Not only do cohousing communities generally offer a large Common House (Heartwood’s is 4,000-square feet) for activities, but you often find specialized and dedicated spaces generated through one or more members’ efforts and interest.
Here at Heartwood, we’re an inspired bunch, if we don’t say so ourselves. And one person’s idea of fun can be infectious, bringing us together to share in the fun as well as in the organizing effort. That’s what happened with the case of our first-rate woodworking shop. We’re talking a craftsman’s oasis here, complete with state-of-the-art table saw, planer, jointer, miter saw, drill press, shaper, and band saw. The shop was the inspiration of a few of our residents who had a lot of tools and decided to share them with others who were properly trained or ready to learn. Soon, the building was up and a woodworking guild created. Are you a fix-it person? A DIY-er? Then, this is for you. One of our residents, for example, uses the shop each November to create massive pine-bough Christmas wreaths for local businesses.
Some of us stretch ourselves in other ways—literally. Our morning Yoga group in the Common House is taught by a respected local instructor from Durango who provides hands-on attention to each individual, ensuring prevention of injury and appropriate challenge. Another of our Heartwood neighbors heads up a regional organization called Seniors Outdoors, convening seniors from the region for weekly outdoor activities such as hikes, snowshoeing and skiing.
Each of us at Heartwood have our own unique networks, and we love to share a good find with our neighbors. We have a Ukulele teacher teaching once a month and various experts who share their presentations with us over dinner. Hearing about the local library’s book sale/fundraiser drive, our neighbors Becky and Gay thought of holding a community-wide yard sale and donating the proceeds, as just one example. And how about our llama-packing folks? They live here along with the furry friends housed in the pastures south of our cluster of homes, and they regularly take packing trips into the spectacular wilderness areas all around us -- some of the largest in the country.
If you have an idea, you’ll likely find a receptive audience here at Heartwood. From book clubs to fire circles, from raising chickens to building a soccer field for the kids, our neighbors have seeded Heartwood with their skills, and the results are pretty fabulous.
Two weeks ago today we were just wrapping up our annual retreat. For me each year, it is one of our sweetest times of coming together. Some years we focus more on community visioning, other years on sharing and getting to know each other better, and this year we focused on learning to own our reactions to events and people in our lives and in the process improve our relationships and become happier.
That may sound pretty intense, but it's interwoven with having fun and sharing meals. We kicked off our retreat with a potluck on Friday evening followed by the 2018 Heartwood Movie, which is a compilation of fun community photos and video clips from the prior year. It always feels good to look back and savor the good times together.
On Saturday night, as is our custom, we held our zany Gong Show. Members performed skits, music, dance, poetry, parody, jokes – you name it. So much laughter and fun.
Our retreats are kind of a work hard, play hard weekend together. They never fail to bring me closer to my neighbors, more knowledgeable about myself, and just generally feeling good about being here in community at Heartwood.
Members reflect on the retreat...
"I loved all the educational pieces and the experiential learning."
"I like that one of the main focuses of the retreat was about each of us taking personal responsibility for our stories, thoughts, and actions. I found that empowering."
"I liked that it was another confirmation of what a wonderful, caring community we have."
"My favorite was the Victim, Blamer, Rescuer exercise. I'm a kinesthetic learner and get impatient with too much talking. I got the most from it in the doing!"
"Curiosity is the key to managing anger and fear. You have a choice in the moment of heat — so, how are you going to stop, make space for yourself to make the choice how to behave?”
"I liked how much emphasis the facilitator placed on personal responsibility for our own individual experience. And I liked how many different dyads we used to learn new skills. I loved all the skill building."
"I love our Heartwood Retreats. Many people say to me it's really not a retreat if you don’t go anywhere, but to me, it is clearly a retreat. We retreat into ourselves, our community. The purpose is always to find ways to more deeply connect. I love that so many of our members respect this time and come together. I often have more hope after spending time with my neighbors. This year was a good example of that.
Yours in Community,
I can't remember another 75 year-old with as much energy as my neighbor Gail. She is the president of the Durango Seniors Outdoors Club. In her own words, she's full of the dickens, 24/7. So when, following some bone graft dental work in her jaw, she suddenly found herself with zero energy, not even enough energy to read a book or watch Netflix, she was scared. She described it as the fear of her aging body giving out and not being able to handle the dental work and who knows what else. To me it seemed like the ultimate core fear of mortality.
Word quickly got out in the neighborhood. As Gail says, "When somebody's in need here, the grapevine is fast and strong." Before she knew it, she had people coming over with all sorts of soup, especially chicken soup, and it was all delicious. Someone created a daily sign-up sheet for bringing meals, but because everyone tended to bring much more than Gail could eat in one day, she ended up with a freezer full of soup that lasted a month past when she had recovered.
Listening to Gail talk about it, I could hear the joy in her voice. She said that of course she enjoyed the delicious meals, but much more than that, she feels gratitude. Gratitude for how the community rallied. Gratitude that as a single, older woman, she has neighbors who love her for who she is and are there to take care of her. Gratitude in knowing that it's OK to ask for and receive help. Gratitude for the genuine gifts with no expectations of being paid back. Gratitude for a sense of belonging.
Gail has four adult sons with whom she is very close, but who live far away. She told me, "I have four boys who are so happy that I live in this community because they know their mom is loved and cared for in a friendship loving way. They don't have to worry about me eating dinner alone. They know I'm safe and cared for, emotionally and physically, in a really neighborly, friendly way, that's not that common in our culture anymore."
Yours in Community,
The neighborhood has quieted down this week with the kids back in school and the adults back at work. Before I get caught up in all the activity that a long break and a new year brings, I wanted to share with you some of the Heartwood holiday events from the past few weeks.
Heartwood embraces the celebration of all spiritual beliefs so, as you can imagine, there was lots of celebrating around here during the holiday season. The season usually kicks off in mid-December with the lighting of a menora at a common meal to celebrate Hanukkah.
Throughout the year we hold sacred fire circles. The Winter Solstice Fire Circle is one of my favorites.
Then on Christmas Eve is our big Posada celebration, a holiday theme loosely borrowed from Latin America. Our Posada is a progressive party during which we roam from house to house enjoying drinks and appetizers and finally end up at the common house for dessert and caroling.
Christmas Day is for small gatherings. Our family, with all our kids back from college, spent the day together at home and taking a walk on the land. Many smaller households got together for shared Christmas dinners at someone's home.
We got some big snow storms over the holidays, which we love. Not only is it great for skiing and snowshoeing, it also replenishes our water table. A big herd of elk took up residence in our pasture for a couple of days during one of the storms.
The final event of our holiday season was our big New Years Eve party at the common house. We had a nice dinner and then turned on the party lights, cranked up the music, and danced until midnight – well, some of the younger ones did; some of us others snuck away a bit early.
Yours in Community,
Our local newspaper, the Durango Herald, just published a nice little article about Phase 2. Click here to read the article.
Yours in Community,
When we discovered that the main timbers of our kids play structure, the SS Ponderosa, were badly rotting out, we weren't sure if we could pull together the money and work hours needed to get her rebuilt. Through the years the SS Ponderosa has been incredibly popular with the Heartwood kids so we were committed to seeing her sail again.
Long story, short, after hundreds of volunteer work hours and thousands of dollars, we recently celebrated the rebirth of the SS Ponderosa.
It was a story of renewal. In today's throwaway culture, it felt great to reuse many of the materials from the original SS Ponderosa, clean them up, give them a fresh coat of paint, and incorporate them into the new SS Ponderosa.
And it was a story of working together. Some community members put in just a few hours and others put in hundreds. Some folks are skilled carpenters and others no-so-much, but no matter, everyone found a place and made a significant contribution. Not one of us could have done it alone, but we were able to do it together.
Mostly rebuilding our SS Ponderosa was a story about investing in our kids. We value our kids being able to play outdoors. A beautiful new SS Ponderosa draws kids away from their screens for fresh air, exercise, and Colorado sunshine with their friends.
Yours in Community,
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