From Colorado Springs we took the seven hour scenic drive through the mountains to our next destination in Bayfield. We got there after dark finding the dirt road into Heartwood–thank god for Donna’s GPS system on her iphone! We let ourselves into the guest quarters of the Common House with the handwritten note on the door that read, “Welcome Donna and friend.”
Common House Front and Patio
We woke early the next morning and went to meet Scott, a former yoga teacher turned real estate investor, who moved into the community with his Belgian wife and young family over a year ago after looking at other cohousing communities in Oregon and New Mexico. He went through a “membership” process that encourages people to attend a number of meetings over a four-month long period to get a real sense of what living there involves. He said that the process is self-selecting and many people opt out.
Heartwood is located 18 miles outside of Durango, Colorado on 300 plus acres of pristine pine forest and pasture land. It is a very rural environment with lots of access to trails for hiking/biking/horses and wildlife, elk, deer, coyote, snakes etc.
There are a total of 24 homes some built with straw bale but most were production homes designed by architect Paula Baker. The architecture had a rustic European feel and the overall sense was one of a small French village in the country. The houses ranged in size from 2,000 s.f duplexes to 2,400 s.f with basements. Four of them were up for sale and Scott mentioned that Heartwood was undergoing a big transition. Only eleven of the original 24 cohousers still lived there. A number of single women over 60 were living there. The community was very aware of this change and were actively discussing it.
Scott then took us to see the inside of the place that he was renting. Despite the small size it was very nicely laid out. Afterwards he introduced us to a neighbor that was moving across the street. He showed us the geodesic greenhouse and the chicken coop. He explained that there was a farm just down the street that was not owned by the community but affiliated. Before heading down there, we went into the community store that sold some of the produce from the farm as well as some other goodies, all on an honor system. We bought some potatoes, plums and onions to support the effort and replenish our dwindling fresh produce supply.
When we got to the farm we stopped and spoke to some of the “interns” who were harvesting a tomato crop from one of the hothouses. They offered us both one and started sharing their passion for organic farming. They stay on the property in tents and work as volunteers. One 20 something intern showed me the earth ship greenhouse and spoke how passionate he is about organic farming. He would love to continue to stay there, but without some sort of stipend or permanent shelter it would be difficult.
In our travels we found that there were key people in each community who really “tilled the soil” to make that community come together and coalesce. They demonstrated such passion, perseverance and commitment. The “next generation” of cohousers such as Scott are adopting easily to this way of living without all the upfront work, bringing new energy which goes right to the heart of the matter.