This "comment" is actually Glenn's blog post from August about his visit which we have translated (with google) from the Dutch original and edited slightly to make it make sense. Many thanks to Glenn for his work collecting and publicising Anastasia inspired communities! His website has an enormous resource library (mostly in dutch).
This is part 6 of 12 of the travel to southern Europe during the summer of 2013.
This time the story of Ravenwood , the development of a small community high in the mountains at the foot of the Italian Alps, a stone's throw from Damanhur (known by reason of the magnificent temples). A message which many a reader expectantly looking forward to because the experiences of pioneers are always inspiring and ever more conscious people are looking for a life in harmony and cooperation.
My biggest personal frustration of the last 8 years, I readily admit it, is the fact that I do not manage to realize my dream. I have had many attempts during that time, both together with a group to create an ecovillage, being alone and as a couple to start, so far without result. Family domain for me apparently it should not be. Perhaps my job on Earth is provisionally still to write and to collect and disseminate information about family domain ecovillages and related topics. But the urge to do the same in order to open up, is great. Ok, I have no money, so to buy a piece of land somewhere and just start, is virtually impossible. Join an existing community or ecovillage is not always an option, as a joining fee is required almost everywhere and often their vision is not in line with my dreams. A lot of people are excited when reading my Rivendell website and I regularly get emails asking whether there is a place to come and live. So groups of folk start interested enough, but when push comes to shove, fall apart. They almost always have the same stumbling blocks (money, vision, ego). So many beautiful and sustainable initiatives need monetary support. This is totally incomprehensible to me and proof that the masses are still unconscious and continue playing slaves. Maybe it's just not in my biography ever to live in this life on a family domain like Lex van Anastasiadorp Netherlands, who unfortunately passed far too early before his dream became reality. Or maybe it is my job somewhere else and then I let go. This desire I do not know.
There are many different ways to start an eco-community. You can take the official way and with a (larger) group of like-minded people aquire a piece of land and all necessary permits and approvals and then work can start. The larger the group, the stricter the regulations and laws in a country, the harder and longer the process will be. Lammas in Wales as an example took 5 long years of struggle and negotiating for the green light from the authorities.
Another way, applied by Ravenwood, is simpler, faster and less complex. A person or a few people together buy a piece of land, cheap and somewhat remote but surrounded by beautiful nature, ... and then just start. Cheap land can be found eg. on mountainsides like here in the Italian Alps. And because such land is often somewhat remote and isolated, there is no cock crows at what is happening here. As long as there is no nuisance or crazy things happening, one is left alone (at least here in Italy). Ravenwood has a ruin which is always useful, firstly as a future main house after renovation. The ruin is not yet finished, but it is waterproof and now serves as a common kitchen, storage room and internet point. Spread over the 2.3 hectare site is also a dome, two caravans and a large bus as temporary shelter for residents. There is an additional caravan furnished as a library. Everywhere are small organic vegetable gardens in and intertwined with the sloping landscape. A homemade shower / tomato greenhouse with water from the spring heated by the sun, brings refreshment after a day of work, play and co-creation in this beautiful place.
Annie lives high on the land in a self-built dome surrounded by trees and vegetable gardens and feels and lives a bit like Anastasia. Jeremy is the technical talent and lives somewhat lower in a caravan annex workshop and library. Liz, the official owner of the property, lives in her small home near the ruin. She is currently writing a book. All three come from England and have lived here for several years. After a search, first in Devon and later in Bulgaria, they eventually lost their hearts to this Italian mountain region and bought this beautiful land for 30,000 euros. The new family Fred, Kim,Mayi and Leo stay in the bus. Seven people are now living at Ravenwood. Kelly, also from England and an Anastasia spirit, has bought some land adjacent to Ravenwood. She is not here often as she has commitments in England. But one day she too will live here permanently. In the meantime, her land is used to grow vegetables and fruit trees. As the village expands slowly and organically, that's an easy way to ultimately achieve a sustainable and viable community for the future. More properties (ruins) located around Ravenwood are in fact for sale and offer the opportunity to join this group. Easy and self-sufficient, in this way, slowly expand the village and everyone has plenty of time to ground, to come home and get to know each other better. The strict one hectare model (where each family has an acre of land) on Ravenwood and the surrounding grounds not applicable. This is because the land is too sloping and irregular (we sit on a mountain in the middle of a forest) and no flat pieces to distribute. The solution here is that each resident chooses a private 'space of love' and creates their own place to live, and develops vegetable gardens and maintaines them, although not on 1 acre but still more than enough to provide privacy and a sense of home. Connecting more like-minded people to buy the surrounding land, then growing the community also increases the possibilities. Not only financially, but also more room for example to keep animals such as goats for milk and cheese and donkeys as beasts of burden. And more people means more knowledge and talents that will complement the group.
Money appears still often a constant challenge in our money addicted society. With some extra money and help Ravenwood can improve infrastructure, such as the common ruin refurbishing, putting in extra solar panels, decent housing for residents (one thinks initially to yurts and then later to a self-built housing). At present the residents here live fairly basic and simple and completely off-grid, on the quiet rhythms of nature and the seasons, without the comfort that many are accustomed to deem necessary, and with very little money to make ends meet. Some would describe it as primitive, others see the freedom and the connection that here is possible and present. And of course this is just the beginning, many plans and dreams will still manifest here and make the place more beautiful. A family and a community designed domain is simply a life long project. Ravenwood has made a start and that is quite something. Now the creation continues and the village is improving all the time. The lack of money is the main reason that (after 5 years)there are still no definitive residential units. Liz now receives a pension which increases the financial resources of the community. A way to save money on the rebuilding is to use the trees on the land for timber, the woodland has a large amount of chestnut trees which are ideal for building. And there are also many useful stones to recycle from the ruins that are scattered about. Stone and wood are already two fine materials from which may be created beautiful houses.
At Ravenwood no joining fee is required. If you feel Ravenwood your place, and you have Anastasia spirit at heart, then you are welcome. It seeks a balance between life in a commune or tribe and having ones own space to persue your own goals and have privacy. The commune or (matriarchal) tribal aspect is to work, eat, celebrate together, decide by concensus with equality. Unlike at Lammas, where nine families are especially busy on their own plots and less village life, at Ravenwood it is opposite. A good connection and rapport between the residents is crucial to forge true friendship, service as the norm and a strong and cohesive community. These things you can build and strengthen working together on a project. Although the site was already purchased nine years ago with the intention to create an ecovillage and although there is since five years permanent residents, you still get the impression that not much was realized here in all that time. At Lammas after two years everyone had built their own comfortable home and an extensive vegetable garden. Here the ruin is still half a ruin and the people living in temporary and inadequate shelters. There are a number of reasons. The first years traveling back and forth between England and Italy which was too little time and energy put into the project. Now some of the permanent residents are not always physically able to handle large and heavy work, and 2.3 acres of wilderness maintenance is not feasible for one person - but the main reason is probably the lack of money and help thus there is little progress. For four years the three original inhabitants had between them 150 euros per month - insufficient to purchase the various materials, tools, plants, organic food, etc. ... Also insufficient to get help because there was no money to buy the extra food for volunteers/wwoofers and the gardens do not muster enough. (Although, this is not entirely true, because you can also volunteer to come and offer some shelter without meals). Even more people will come to visit in the next few months to feel and to consider also to join and to buy adjacent properties.
By staying here a few days, I discover another reason why the 'progress' of the village is delayed. The residents attach great importance to being, enjoying and perhaps less to doing and work. On Lammas was and is quite worked through by the families because they have an agreement with the authorities. Within a certain time period they serve namely to be self-sufficient and to follow Sustainable lifestyle. There is not that obligation at Ravenwood. Time is taken to talk, to walk, to experience, to live, to meditate, to be yourself ... I'm just someone who is more inclined to get the plot and residential unit quickly in order and each day would continue to work. But the beauty of Ravenwood is that everyone can just be themselves.
The site is a densely wooded hillside where nature has for some time has been able to take its course. Many places are wild and overgrown with brambles and ferns or covered with thick, old trees. Every day everyone eats tasty blackberries as a healthy snack. There are so many they can not all be eaten or processed. A solar oven dryer would now be useful to dry and store them for the winter. It will immediately bring a bit out of the Anastasia books to life: Get up in the morning and you can easily pick berries everywhere as a vitamin rich breakfast. Nature is generous as we give her a chance. The challenges in this area are the big slopes (happily south facing) which do not make gardening evident and unused let rainwater flow into the river below and the third disadvantage of the high trees that block sunlight. The construction of terraces, digging swales and water collection systems and freeing clearings in the forest are certainly possible solutions. The plus points of the terrain are existing edible crops and trees (many chestnut, masses blackberries and blueberries, walnut, fig, apple ...) and further the untouched nature anywhere, the peace and tranquility and tasty water. In recent years, various perennial plants have been planted so that the food supply is increasing.
Of all people, I get the invitation to join Ravenwood. What a gift! Just now I wrote that my dream Rivendell is so hard to manifest and see ... now I get the chance to participate in an ecovillage here and create my own Space of love. No joining fee, no commitment, just an unconditional welcome. This feels good and this opportunity, I will definitely consider thoroughly. This is how the ecovillages of the new age may arise. The energy of love, gratitude and freedom. I say goodbye with a promise to support Ravenwood where I can and who knows ... back to return for good to the Italian mountains.
Glenn hugging a tree at Ravenwood