Community life, cooperative ownership, Events @ Listening Tree, homesteading, organic farm, permaculture, transition

Last potluck of the year *and* National Solar Tour

IMG_0712The last of our open-house potlucks for 2019 is Oct. 5, 4-8 pm. Please come if you are interested in living and/or farming here, or just to connect, stay in touch, enjoy the farms and home, and hear more about what we are doing. Please call (401)710-9784 to RSVP.

During that weekend, homes and other solar installations around the country will open their doors for people to see, get inspired, and learn more about what it takes, what it looks like, and just what it’s like to live solar. So we’ve added this open house to the National Solar Tour, so there will be more emphasis on the solar, energy efficiency & conservation, and carbon farming aspects of life at Listening Tree.

If you are interested in Listening Tree Co-op owner-membership,  but the Oct. 5 date doesn’t work for you, please call to arrange a tour at another time.

Events @ Listening Tree, organic farm, transition

Composting with worms for soil healing

A new event @ Listening Tree, Saturday, March 3, 2018 at 11 AM – 1 PM

Bow shed in the snow One of our founding associate members, Ben Goldberg built a bow shed on site for a farm-scale vermiculture project. Our soil was laced with Round-Up for decades before we bought the property, and in places it was as dead as a rock, only hosting lichens and mosses and early successional plants. The soil needs the amazing microbiological boost only worm castings can bring. So with Conor Lally, Ben launched our first social enterprise beyond the farms. The bow shed is a passive solar, wind-compatible design with plenty of room for commercial-scale worm bins. Now’s your chance to learn from Ben about his squirmy permie wormies.

Composting with worms is practical, easy, educational, and fun. Red wiggler worms efficiently convert food scraps into a dynamic soil amendment, a nutrient- and organism-rich compost. On top of that, worm ecosystems provide a remarkable glimpse into the natural world.

This workshop will cover various worm bin designs, worm ecology, care and feeding, and separating the castings for use. This will be an interactive workshop, to be held on site at Listening Tree’s vermiculture operation.

inside vermiculture shed

The presenter:

Ben Goldberg has been keeping worms and making worm bins since 1995. He has presented workshops on worm bin ecology and composting for schools, agricultural conferences, and community groups. Ben holds degrees in both Environmental Education and Ecology from College of the Atlantic and The Audubon Expedition Institute.

Ben will teach us and entertain us all at the same time! You will certainly leave with hands-on knowledge of worm farming, as well as a new appreciation for the little things in life.

Donation: $10. Please RSVP to 401-710-9784.


Community life, deep ecology, transition

Glistening Trees


The item on the top of the co-op’s winter to-do list was for the soil to sleep. Finally it can: 15 inches of snow Thursday (February 9) and another couple last night. I harvested a month’s worth of carrots just as the snow began, just in case, and because I could. We put up deer fence the day before because the ground was completely unfrozen, so we could.

I got a laugh out of a forester last week, when I said we wanted to tag some trees to cut before mud season. “It’s been mud season all winter!” he guffawed. True that. I meant March, but I’m still learning how to live according to nature-as-it-shows up vs. the Julian calendar. Add to that the vagaries of the Anthropocene and the shift is on.

With systems as unstable as these, it seems anything can happen.



Community life, deep ecology, transition

Positive Thinking in a Dark Age


Listening Tree Co-op cofounder Jim Tull has just published his book of essays, Positive Thinking in a Dark Age: Essays on the Global Transition.

Community life, transition

Our first composting toilet installed!


Let me just say the yuck factor for me is the opposite of the cultural norm. To me, the most disgusting thing that can happen in an ordinary day is splash back of toilet water on my butt. Seriously, is there an amount of toilet paper you can put down first that ensures no splash back and doesn’t clog the toilet? I spent 57 years trying to find the right balance. But those days are officially over at Listening Tree Coop!

plunger saying goodbye
Plunger looking for a new home

I know, I also went to camp and got latrine duty more than once. So I get it why people think it’s a lifestyle change for the worse to recycle the nutrients in your pee and poop for the good of the soil, the water, and humanity.

However, a compost toilet is not, I repeat not, a smelly old outhouse. The Full Circle design Ben Goldberg and Conor Lally just put in at Listening Tree Coop is a gem of appropriate technology. Like most indoor composting toilets, it has a 4W fan that ensures a negative pressure in the toilet, and pulls the odors out through a special plumbing stack. The Full Circle also uses elegant engineering to make the most of the knowledge gained by decades of design and maintenance of various models since the first composting toilet came on the scene in 1973. It simplifies maintenance through modular and interchangeable collection and resting units.

Ben, Conor, and Tony.JPG
Ben Goldberg (center) explains the compost toilet installation to apprentice Conor Lally (left) and plumber Tony Hawkes (right).

And it’s a urine diverting system–which separates out the urine from the feces, etc.

But before I get too techie, which you can do at BuildingGreen, I want to outline why it’s so important to move away from flush toilets. They pollute water. No way out of that. It takes tons of energy, chemicals, and work to pump and purify water to be drinkable. Then to use most of our household clean water to flush our toilets is just ecologically insane. Sewage treatment plants spend tons more energy, chemicals, and work to clean water. As we slide down Hubbert’s curve off peak oil, we can’t afford to waste energy like that. And the effluent from sewage treatment is still not completely clean, so we rely on ecosystems to do the rest of the work, which they can’t always handle. Septic systems are worse: all leach and many fail, which pollutes ground water and water bodies.  With the global water crisis increasing, we can’t afford to defile any more water with insufficiently treated waste.

Which brings us to the most important piece. Flush toilets turn resources into waste. Poop and pee are actually resources, if handled the right way. We close the circle if we return them to soil as nutrients. Because urine is so high in nitrogen, peecyling avoids the need for natural gas-based fertilizers. To learn more about cutting edge research on peecycling for farming, check out the Rich Earth Institute. To see (and pee in) our compost toilet, come to our next potluck and/or farm workday, April 30. I promise, no splash backs.


you poop in it

cooperative ownership, transition

A Happily Solar Solstice!

IMG_0712Winter solstice might have seen the Listening Tree shop roof covered in snow, but instead solar installers were up there installing photovoltaic (PV) panels! To add to the excitement, the crew was a RI-based co-op startup, Sol Power. One of the cooperative movement principles is for co-ops to cooperate with other co-ops, so we’re happy to support each others’ success.

The system is grid interconnected, meaning when we produce more than we need, it will feed back into the electric grid and power our neighbors, and our meter will spin backwards. When we need electricity, instead of relying on batteries, we’ll use green power coming through the grid, through People’s Power & Light, the local nonprofit green power provider.

The PV system is rated at 12 kilowatts, meaning that at maximum capacity (sunny noon on the summer solstice) that is how much power it can produce. Sol Power expects the 42 panels to produce about as much electricity as we estimate Listening Tree residents and farmers will use, including irrigation, a well pump, a couple of electric cars and a heat pump water heater.

I would be loathe to waste good champagne on christening the array, but maybe we can raise a toast at our next potluck, Saturday, Jan. 2. at 4 pm.



Trees, trees, trees!

Phil sheering Christmas tree

Listening Tree is located on a former Christmas tree farm, and there are plenty of trees remaining throughout the fields. We have sheered some for sale, and are hoping to sell them for Christmas, solstice, or just because you love having a tree in your house this time of year. We’ll be open Saturdays and Sundays through Christmas–come by then and pick or cut your own. We also have tree stands ($25 each, like the trees) and branches you can use to make wreaths. (In fact, any wreath makers out there might consider preparing some to sell here–call us to discuss.)

Please do not come outside Saturday or Sunday without an appointment (call the same number). Thank you!