“A creative community for Life” – Elderberry Seniors Cohousing

The tour pulled up at the next community – Elderberry – ready for lunch and a change of pace.

“ “Elderberry owns two 10-acre parcels of land. One parcel, a lovely old farmstead with log house and outbuildings, will be the site for homes, pastures, common house and other community activities. The other parcel, owned jointly with adjacent Potluck Community Farm (an intentional community formed in 1990), is reachable by trail and provides a secluded and beautiful vista and the potential for additional pasture or woodlot.” ”

It’s early days at Elderberry and there is a lot of work yet to be done.
“The homes at Elderberry will be small (1200 sq ft max). They will be duplexes and quadraplexes in order to preserve land, increase energy efficiency and encourage interaction among members. Members may design and build their own home or may choose from an existing design.”

IMG_7294 constructionIMG_7295 Eldrberry Common house
It was a hot day and a dry place with various bits of construction underway. Walking into the Common House was like slipping into a different zone altogether – cool, comfortable, spacious with a beautiful kitchen, a large, eye catching and gorgeous wooden bench and a fascinating and enjoyable ceiling that begged the questions, how, why and who did this.

IMG_7297 CeilingIMG_7298 Tour lunch
It turns out the quite elderly father of one of the residents had created the amazing ceiling in the octagonal space of the Common House as a true labour of love. It involved more than two thousand individual cuts to come together. The centre-piece had gone up as a temporary solution but the community had decided it more than fit the bill and so the artwork was allowed to stay where it was appreciated more and more as time went on. They hold immense pride for their hand-crafted ceiling.

Lunch was served catering extremely well for a bus-load of hungry people including lots of vegetarians and a number of vegans and they even had beer on ice as if they knew there might be some thirsty Australians in the throng. Everyone found a place to sit and gather and, notwithstanding the buzz of conversations between passengers on the bus, this was really the first opportunity to actually talk to one another in groups without interruption and the volume indicated how much enthusiasm there was to share notes, compare experiences and get to know one-another a little.
IMG_7300 Kitchen benchTraveler DC 140

It was all brought to a perhaps premature close by our tour leader who was determined to keep us moving on time so we’d get to all the communities as scheduled. So lunch concluded and the tour continued.

IMG_7307 Resident blacksmith
We gathered around to hear what Dan had to say about Elderberry. He told us that Elderberry is determined to not be closed, to be consciously an open community and proactive about reaching out to the outer community.

“Elderberry is for those who want to live in the country but have the advantages of a village: a close community, opportunities to play, eat and work together, and support and care as we grow older. The view from homes and the common house is distinctly rural – rolling hills and fields, pastures and pastured animals, gardens, barns, a restored farmhouse, hundred-year-old trees and abundant wildlife. It is a quiet, tranquil place where the starry sky is unaffected by city lights”.

IMG_7309 elderberry planningIMG_7310 Elderberry aerial shot
Dan is a blacksmith (as well as being skilled in many areas and a vital part of the community as a result). He loves it. He maintains the body is made to be used and is determined to stay fit and active. He loves repairing things. He says, “Make repair. Make good decisions.” Interesting.

Dan explained that Elderberry is all about community members caring for each other as they all start to age in place and that a key part of this is discovering what care will people accept and that people are comfortable giving. The commitment to care for each other forms a certain test of what people can actually do ‘as not perfect beings’.
“Our vision is to create a thriving community where members work together on activities of interest (farming, gardening, food preservation, cooking, crafts, etc) and continue to contribute to one another and to our wider community/world as long as they are able.”

The Elderberry community know that as a member’s need for care increases, at a certain time the community will form a care committee. Dan said that if someone actually needs skilled care for the rest of their life this might not be the place for them. Several members are into the idea of Natural Death and Natural Burials and in North Carolina you’re allowed to have a natural burial. One member has a graveyard on her property and is excited about the ironwork involved and Dan’s looking forward to his blacksmithing role too.

Elderberry expects some attrition through some of its members having to leave for whatever reason and others not wanting to stay. Some others will inevitably die there which is the plan. Right now the spread of ages covers fifty, sixty, seventy to eighty.

The community has two guest rooms and is encouraging WwoOFers,
They of course want solar in the future but “it all comes down to economics” and so it has been postponed for now.

Traveler DC 140IMG_7294 construction

Dan said living in Elderberry is pretty labour intensive what with all the maintenance, cutting the grass, repairing plus, at this stage, construction, but as he says, they are IT.
It’s either fix it or spend money. They’re committed to being as resilient and self-reliant as possible.

Elderberry has a Library, Media Room and a Music Room with good acoustics.

They enjoy Communal meals “Eating real food as God made it.”

From their website – this beautiful Elderberry Vision and Mission and their set of great Values

Elderberry: A New Vision for the Second Half of Life
A vibrant, beautiful, community of elders committed to caring for each other, sharing and celebrating our passions and skills, creating a rural community “homestead” among gardens, farm animals, and nature, on a path toward more ecological living on earth.

Elderberry Mission
To provide a comfortable and affordable home in the country for elders, where we can make independent life choices, pursue activities of interest, follow our spiritual paths, enjoy the benefits of a rural lifestyle (animals, gardens, food production), form close and caring relationships, contribute to others and enjoy life.

Whole Hearted Living
We practice living together with kindness, generosity, empathy, compassion, and honesty, using consensus as a tool to both make decisions and to grow in our ability to see the gift in ourselves and each other.

Caring for Each Other
We relate to our community as home and to each other as family; we care for each other in times of need as a privilege and source of joy rather than an obligation.

Living in a “Beehive” of Activity
We create a rich and engaging environment for as long as we live. We eagerly share our skills and passions, learn new skills, participate in discussions, make music, create events and projects, share meals and try things we’ve never done before.

Living in Beauty
Our reverence for nature, beauty and the arts, and the gifts of this earthly place keep us amazed and grateful. We emulate nature in our use of the land, creating garden habitats for birds, butterflies, and pollinators, using methods and materials that minimize harm, providing special places of beauty for inspiration and spiritual reflection.

Physical Beings
We know that physical activity will keep our bodies working and give us joy; we create an environment that calls us to action – gardening, dancing, yoga classes, walking, laughing, and playing.

A Handmade Life
We engage in the real and productive work of growing food, raising animals, preserving food, making tools, as often as possible creating what we need rather than buying it.

“The World Outside Our Boundaries
We seek ways to contribute to and engage with our neighbors and the wider community; we are an open-hearted, welcoming community for each others’ friends and families who come to visit.”

Elderberry Cohousing Community certainly turned on a great event that was much appreciated by the lucky conference bus tourers.

IMG_7305 Elderberry residents
Thanks heaps you guys.

All this intentional work makes an important difference and everything counts.
We collectively are being challenged and it is so reassuring to see efforts to step up happening on such a scale. It’s about continual improvement towards a sustainable world and all efforts matter.

About Giselle Wilkinson - 4allsentientbeings

Environmental conservation, community and cooperatives have been enduring threads in my life. Promoting sustainable lifestyles and more lately, focussing on restoring a Safe Climate, is work expressed predominantly through organisations such as The Sustainable Living Foundation (which I co-founded in 1999 - current President) and the others listed as links below. I am some way into a professional doctorate with MIECAT on "Mobilising Whole Communities to Restore a Sustainable Environment" and have in recent years moved into MURUNDAKA – a (more) sustainable, (more) affordable co-housing community / housing cooperative in Heidelberg, Melbourne (for which I gave up my co-op house of 19 years including veggie garden and small orchard) and it's great. I'm also a mum of two grown up daughters and have five step children.
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