When I moved to New Hampshire in 2000, I remember hearing the word “community” used in many circles. The words “town”, “municipality” and “city”, which I was accustomed to hearing as a land use planner, were just not as prevalent as the word “community.” I even moved to the state to take a job as a “Community Planner” which in my previous job was the role of the “Town Planner.” The community meetings I attended always included a spirited group of volunteers who brought a homemade coffee cake to the meeting and shared updates on their kids escapades in college. They knew each other and their spouses by first name, where they lived, how they took their coffee, and what day they took their trash to the dump. It was quite refreshing and it made me realize the importance of community planning vs. town planning.
When I began my Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) Course at the Grange Hall in Ossipee a few years ago, community building was taken to another level as my fellow students arrived with fresh brewed Chaga tea that they harvested and brewed for hours for our class and others lined up jars of their homemade pickles and relishes to spread on the homemade bread their spouse made. We set up our tents in the field behind the Grange as we would camp together under the stars. We worked hard all day and at night, Josh would light an amazing bonfire and we would sip beer and cider and share stories and make deep connections. One time we started our day by visiting a local cranberry patch, taking some time to learn about the surrounding forest ecology as part of our course, and then we all stripped off our shoes and waded in to get handfuls of fresh cranberries. Another night, several of us piled into a car and drove to the Town Hall of a neighboring community to listen to the beautiful sounds of an all women folk group.
I hosted a group of friends and colleagues for the Littleton Advanced Permaculture Design Course and the eight people who stayed at my house brought eggs, granola, teas, bread and made my husband and I breakfast to thank us for providing a spot to set up their tents. We walked back and forth along the river through downtown Littleton from my house to our work site, sharing stories, taking pictures, and playing like kids. That fall I co-taught a course with my colleague Lauren in Manchester and at night, I stayed on her farm in Nottingham. After one long day of teaching and sharing, we came home to pick the last of the blueberries and raspberries by headlamp before heading into the hot tub for the evening. We told stories and laughed like to little girls at camp. It was a beautiful moment.
What I love about permaculture is there are no hard, fast rules on how to build community but everyone shows up, sharing a part of themselves and a community is formed. Permaculture reminds us to lead by example so instead of working with a group of people to help define goals and actions to build community, you break bread, share what you have, trust to take the relationship deeper and let community define itself. Some of my best friends are those I have met in Ossipee, Franklin, Littleton, Manchester, Dorchester, and Canterbury in my Permaculture Design Courses. They are the ones reading my permaculture blogs, sharing and liking my posts, inviting me to concerts and sending my holiday cards. They are the ones I buy my herbs from, where I seek life coaching advice, and the ones sitting beside me when I have a cold beer. I’m so lucky to have such a strong community and I’m so excited to be able to lead community-building experiences in the permaculture circles I’m creating.
(Photo: Of me and my friend Kerri in the cranberry bogs in Ossipee during our PDC)