The Garden of Eden ecovillage lies in the midst of the of the suburban sprawl known as the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, just on the border of Arlington and Kennedale. Only minutes from the freeway, it feels like another world here.
Upon arriving, one is greeted by fresh country air blooming with the smell of soil and fresh herbs. Mature trees frame the sky, and the eye stretches out over a vast open garden that dominates the front section of the three and a half acre lot.
By day, birds and bugs sing a symphony of chirps, buzzes and calls. By night, crickets and coyotes sing their night songs, punctuated by the occasional dog barking or feline fray. Roosters from our yard and the next announce dusk and dawn.
Life in the GOE is a beautiful balance of modern technology and a sustainable lifestyle.
Computers, electronics, automobiles, and other modern devices are indeed a part of life here, and yet there are also composting toilets, wildcrafted gardens, and other creative implementations that make our day-to-day life more ecologically and energetically sustainable.
A Foundation of Food
Now home to a vibrant and vast food production system, the Garden of Eden lands are blessed with a great abundance of food.
We have native wild edibles like mulberries, hackberries, pecans, and lamb's quarters. The land is spotted with other wild plants with medicinal value like yarrow, yellow dock, dandelion, Carolina geranium, and chickweed.
We have huge cultivated gardens that are neatly planted, irrigated and trellised for growing a variety of vegetables and herbs.
Our main staple crop here is an array of salad greens grown year round in a number of raised beds made from monster truck tires and pallets.
There are also some permaculture food plants that essentially self-perpetuate--minimal attention required!--including blackberry bushes and fig, peach, and pomegranate trees.
We also have quite a few patches of herbs, greens, and vegetables that have self-seeded around the land, so called "volunteers".
As a part of a complete food production system, the Garden of Eden also keeps chickens for eggs. The animals sleep in a large sectioned shelter built out of repurposed pallets and old shutters, with carpet remnants and a discarded billboard tarp for the roof.
This is the second of two pallet structures we have for animal housing. It is designed to comfortably house up to 100 chickens, four goats and a few dozen rabbits. We do not now keep that many animals, as our community is now small and requires much less. Those numbers reflect our estimate of the maximum number of animals that would be needed to support the maximum number of inhabitants that this land could comfortably support.
We usually get between 6-12 eggs a day, varying a bit with the seasons- more in the spring, less in the winter.
Sustainable Living Quarters
Human inhabitants at the Garden of Eden have a few options of where to make their own nests.
There is one large bedroom inside the main house that is set up as a dormitory for short term inhabitants. With bunks made of pallets and a curtain divider, it is efficiently and tastefully decorated to serve its purpose of sheltering Eden's helpers.
Outside, there is a geodesic dome structure, made of wood and tarps, that was brought and built by former GOE inhabitant Christian in 2011. About 16 feet in diameter and height, it provides an open and unique dwelling space inside.
In 2012, a 30 foot RV was donated to the Garden of Eden and set towards the rear of the lot in the shade of a mature pecan tree. The trailer has since been gutted, bits at a time, and the interior has been resurfaced with lovely weathered fence panels and wood flooring all received through free, sustainable, second hand channels.
Further back on the lot there is a 1985 Chevy Suburban frame that in 2013 was gutted and buried underground up to its windows. The windows are framed in tires and the top of the frame was buried with another foot of earth. The interior has been refurbished to accommodate a queen size bed in the former seating area, with the original deck of the rear left open and carpeted. Above and around the rear end there is a pallet structure that extends back another ten feet or so creating a little room for entry and storage for the vehicle's inhabitants.
In the spring of 2014 we erected a lovely cottage of cob, reused pallets, salvaged tin roofing and donated carpet remnants. It essentially cost us no money, only the energy it took to build it. With our own bare hands and feet, we mixed literally a ton of cob and applied it, one big muddy glob at a time. About six pallets wide and four deep, it is a cozy and earthy. It offers a more private feeling as it is nestled in a dome of branches of a large mature tree at the edge of the plot,
hidden away from the sight of most angles on the lot.
In 2016 we are created a teeny tiny home village, utilizing discarded shipping containers to create single occupant housing. These sweet little homes have enough space for sleeping, meditating, and storage. We installed windows, roofs, and finished the interior with salvaged hardwood flooring for a cozy feel.
As standard American solutions for the basic needs of human life support are utterly wasteful and unsustainable, the Garden of Eden does not employ standard procedures for everyday functions like cooking and restrooms. Rather, we have other systems in place that utilize what resources we have in great abundance and also alchemize what would otherwise become waste.
We do our cooking on wood fire, either in our outdoor kitchen during warmer seasons, or inside the main house on our wood burning stove, whenever it is cold enough to warrant its use for heating. We have chosen this method not because burning wood is THE most sustainable way to generate heat, but because given the resources available to us, which include loads of free wood that would otherwise be waste, it is the most sustainable choice.
For dealing with our human waste, rather than polluting what limited fresh water there is and wasting the nutrient value that remains, we compost all solid and liquid excrement, using composting toilets and a special, long term compost section.
A Brief History
This three and a half acre plot of land was generously provided for the purpose of being an ecovillage by Shellie. After being the shepherdess to this land for sixteen years, Shellie was inspired by Quinn's vision, purpose and dedication to donate the land to further his dream of creating a sustainable ecovillage.
Sustainable evolution seems to have been an essential part of the spirit of this place from its inception as a human habitat, suggesting that this is perhaps a quality that is intrinsic to the land itself.
The large main house began as just a small one-two room home, put together of some odds and ends of building materials, things that were cheap or free, or things in great abundance like shutters and doors. It has been expanded multiple times by two subsequent owners, each incorporating some odds and ends and leaving little oddities like windows from room to room, and a view of a former exterior wall at the threshold of the attic.
The layout is a bit odd and the light switches are never where you would think they should be, yet therein lies the charm that first called to Shellie's heart. She has said that they visited dozens of homes seeking to purchase, but she knew instantly that this was Her House.
Once covered with tidy mowed grass and planted gardens, this place was lovely and artfully crafted by Shellie, yet fundamentally unsustainable and even wasteful, as standard American living generally is.
Around 2009, together Quinn and Shellie began composting and thus creating the soil that would someday nurture and grow nutritious organic food. The raised beds in the monster truck tires were the first installment of the massive gardens that now stretch out and dapple the entire plot.
In 2011 additional inhabitants began to move in, some staying for several months, and only the cream of the crop making it for a year or more.
The people that live here are full-time volunteers dedicated to building a better world for ALL!