Friday, November 28, 2008

Community Development and New Urbanism

"We are really about community development," Frank Stoner said to me when I began asking him more questions about his world. I do think that Stonehaus is not your typical "developer." I am very new to this idea of building infrastructure. Most of my training in community development is about supporting a culture that supports optimal development and therefore health for human beings, especially children. I almost cried when I listened to introduction of Malcolm Gladwell's new book Outliers when he described how the health of a community in Pennsylvania stumped researchers. This very close knit community with Italian ancestry did not have heart disease. After thorough and strenuous analysis, the researchers decided it was the community design that supported their health: houses close together, three generations under one roof, constant social interaction from the front porches and in the streets. This community design supported the health of that community. I wanted to telephone somebody at Stonehaus and say, Read That Introduction! I have been telling Stonehaus from the beginning they have something special. Yet, New Urbanism is not exactly a real estate success story, at least not yet. Why Not?

I am in North Carolina as I write this. This morning I ran around a New Urbanist project called Southern Village. It is remarkably like Belvedere except for the landscape; it is too hilly for people I think to really interact on the street. Not as comfortable to preamble about. Its town center seems to be thriving with a natural food store, cinema, and many little restaurants, shops and services. There is a public school there and now a big park next to it with a soccer field. Fabulous. There are nature trails and I see children in the forest as I run past making dens and playing in the creek. Ah, this is great! Tiny little pocket parks sport small but very interesting play equipment. This is what is possible and I dwell in that. This development is about 10 years old.

Back at the house where I am staying I make remarks about Southern Village. Out come the criticisms. It's Boring. The people there are all the same, white upper middle class. There is no diversity. So, I start to clean and pack to get ready to go home to Belvedere, I begin to sort out how to make communities more diverse. We talk about this in Children In Nature Design Symposiums. How do we design to decrease the culture of fear we live in, the fear of difference? There is no common watering hole where we all come to get water and mingle. Another criticism: The community did not develop until it had programs that attracted people. In other words: The infrastructure was nothing without the people. So, how to build it so they will come (to paraphrase a line from Field of Dreams)?

I am very hopeful and also very aware of the edge upon which Belvedere sits. Somehow, there is something unkown and very important that sits just beyond the edge of my awareness at the moment. I need more information then I put it all inside me and turn it around like a tumbler on a lock. I know I can find the right combination. I just need all the information. Can you help me? Post a comment and tell me what you think I need to know. Belvedere is not like Southern Village in many ways. I just need time, input, and the co-creation of others to find the right mix.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


A Wilderness Skills Class

Offered by Earth Connection School of Wilderness Survival and Ancient Skills

Learn The Way of Making Fire Without Matches!

3:30 – 6 pm
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
At the Fairview Swim Club grounds
Belvedere Boulevard and Free State Rd.
Charlottesville, VA 22901

This class will cover a little bit of the history of making fire from rubbing sticks together. We will also use the Bow and Drill technique in teams to actually make fire. Different Native stories about the origin of fire and a firm talk about fire safety will conclude the class.

A parent or guardian must attend for each family and be responsible for the kids that they have brought. All ages are welcome! 5 and under is Free! All materials provided by us. Hot dogs provided (you may also want to bring a snack).

Fees: 1 person $35; 1 parent + 1 child = $45; each additional child $15

For information in the Charlottesville area contact Kate White: 434-996-2002,

To attend this class: Visit our website at and read though our information, then click on our Family Course Application, fill out the form and mail it to us with the tuition. We need to receive your applications and tuition at least 7 days before the class. Once we receive an application, we then send out class information and detailed driving directions.

Earth Connection is a school of primitive skills, wilderness survival and self sufficiency offering weekend courses and custom weekday courses throughout the year in Northern Virginia. Earth Connection is now in the twelfth year of continuous operation. Our specialties are Friction Fire Making and Wild Edible Plants. We also teach a variety of other subjects such as Tracks and Sign, Basketry, Primitive Tool Making, Hide Tanning, Wilderness Survival, Organic Gardening and much more!

Earth Connection School of Wilderness Survival and Ancient Skills

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Belvedere Updates (the poop and scoop)

Too much is happening in my life to spend time sitting at the computer, so I apologize for not writing much. We have lived here 3 and half months now. Somehow, I want to feel more settled than I do. It takes a long time to feel "at home." Here is the news as far as I know:

The Neighborhood
We are going to get two new neighbors this month! The house behind us went under contract, and the house two doors down. I have heard that one more townhome needs to be sold and then the townhome row will be finished. Yay! I am so tired of looking at the unfinished homes. Hauser has lowered the price of the homes in Belvedere so if there are readers out there lurking and looking for good prices on homes, have a look.

The Construction
The home across from my house and the one next door are almost complete. Great, I am so glad. I have not liked living with all the construction although I knew that I would be living with all this. The guys are totally friendly and it is lovely to see the homes completed. The one next door to me is huge, definitely a party house, with a wet bar next to the kitchen. I walked in there the other day to see what the workers have been doing. They had finished installing a most gorgeous kitchen with this little room off of it that had places for glasses and wine bottles above a little sink. My grandparents had one of those. But to be honest, the construction noises and mess are really grinding. Bret and I agree that it causes constant "low level stress." Sorry Stonehaus. Luckily it doesn't last long in the scheme of things (like the rest of our lives), so for families considering buying into Belvedere, it isn't that bad. Just prepare yourself and you can always come over here and be comforted.

From listening to my neighbors, I would say Eagle is doing a great job supporting the Church Hill homes that have punch lists. I have not heard where they are going to build next although I know they are discussing that.

I have been following Stonehaus's efforts to find funding for the Town Center. Apparently there is interest in that project because of the apartments that are projected to be built. This is something we all want here in the neighborhood so that is one of my biggest concerns besides getting more neighbors! It seems to me that Belvedere is still unfolding in a good way, only slower because of the credit crunch and recession. The carriage house units with apartments above them are a big interest to people who want to work out of their homes.

The Land and other Ambiance
The other day, three hot air balloons made their way directly overtop our house, and many have chosen to land in our neighborhood. I love this. Those balloons are really amazing. I often sit outside with the birds, too. The bluebirds are really wonderful. This last month, flocks of starlings were here although I think they have moved on. The trail system is continually being worked on. The other day I popped out of a trail only to find a interesting group of workers starting up a strange type of riding mower machine that is good at cutting trails. "Hey," one guy yelled to me, "are you Kate?" "Yes!" I said back, pleasantly surprised. This guy read my blog! Thanks Sean. It is fun to be a land steward. "Is this the Zone?" he asked. "No, the Zone is over that way!" I said, pointing north and west. I gave them an overall orientation right there on the spot. There are still areas of trash that need to be cleaned up, too.

The overall vision is still holding, at least as far as I can tell. There is playground planned for across the street from me on the green lot that is part of Fairview. The swimming club and Stonehaus have some agreements that I am not clear on, so I can't speak to them. I am looking forward to having more children here. We are not using the Village Green much except for kite flying and dog walking. Several four wheel vehicles decided it would be fun to tear up the land behind the village green one night and one truck got stuck. I also see evidence of fourwheeling on the flood plain, and we have heard hunters, too, shooting. I would like Stonehaus to look into these things and impose fines on people if they are caught. I am often down on the flood plain, and hearing the gun shots is not encouraging.

The trail system is lovely. I often run down to the fields next to Dunlora and back. This is called the greenway on the Belvedere trail map. Every time I am out on the land I encounter deer and sometimes other animals, too. I always find a nature treasure to bring back home. I just wish I had more time to explore.

That's all for now. I have started working out of my carriage house. I am massage and craniosacral therapist and specialize in the perinatal period. I will post separately about my work as a therapist and an educator. I have a lot going on in my work life and I want Belvedere to benefit from that.