We are a multigenerational community that cares about living sustainably and as good neighbors. We hold frequent social gatherings that bring us together as a community, such as potluck dinners, game nights and celebrations.
In addition to our private homes and lots, we share common lands for which we provide stewardship. Set among rolling hills, our lands encompass walking trails, streams, open fields, woods, pond, playground, community garden and historic farmstead. Our EcoVillage is also certified as a monarch waystation and a wildlife sanctuary.
Our location provides the benefits of living in a beautiful natural setting surrounded by local farms and vineyards. Yet, we are near historic Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia towns, and the nation’s capital is only an hour’s drive away. For commuters, the Marc train station is located four miles from our community.
Much of our land and infrastructure upkeep are accomplished through community service. We are an HOA community that is still in the development phase, and we do not yet have a common house.
Our individual lots range in size from about a quarter to two thirds of an acre. Because we do not have fences (except for disappearing deer fencing for our gardens), one lot merges into the next. So even a smaller lot feels open and spacious. Most homes average 2,000-3,000 square feet of finished living space. Several of our homes have solar panels, but no one has a net-zero house or lives off the grid. Several homes are SIP-built, and one is a straw-bale house with a gray water system. Our homes have wells that provide fresh water, and each home has a septic system.
All homes built at EcoVillage need to meet our green building guidelines and require prior approval. When our community was founded in the 1990s, architects with experience in green design prepared a selection of house plans that were available free to people building homes here. At the time, these home designs were considered green, energy efficient and highly innovative. While these house plans remain available and can be modified, people can also use their own house plan or architect to design a home to meet their needs.
At this time, EcoVillage is considering a shift to green building standards that have gained national recognition in recent years. The goal is to update our building guidelines to more current high performance green construction. We are looking at LEED, EarthCraft and Passive House and hope to adopt one or more of these standards during 2015. In the meantime, we follow the original building guidelines of the founding members.
We share and provide stewardship for nearly 50 acres of land that is organically managed. This land was previously a farm with extensive pastureland for livestock. Our community is committed to reforestation through natural succession along with the planting of trees. But we also maintain meadows for the benefit of wildlife. We strive to remove plants and trees that are invasive, and we are committed to planting only native species. While native plantings are encouraged on our individual lots, favorite non-native plants that are not invasive may be grown.
For information on the benefits of native plants, list of Virginia native species and list of invasive plant species found in Virginia, here is a link to the Virginia Native Plant Society: http://vnps.org/
“SECRET HIDING PLACES IN THE WOODS”
Our EcoVillage children have the freedom to explore and discover the natural world around them. Our common lands provide the opportunity for an abundance of unstructured play. One of our youth told a visitor that what he liked best about living here was “all the secret hiding places in the woods.”
For us, this says it all about how EcoVillage children experience the joy and wonder of the great outdoors. For more information about the benefits of connecting children with nature, see this link to the website of the author of the book, Last Child in the Woods: http://richardlouv.com/
Our common lands provide a Wildlife Sanctuary certified through the Audubon at Home program of the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia. Some of the wildlife we have the joy of seeing includes native bees, fireflies, birds, wild turkeys, bats, turtles, frogs, rabbits, groundhogs, skunks, deer and coyotes. The high-pitched calls of peepers are frequently heard during spring. In the summer, we often have the thrill of hearing the yips, barks and howls of coyotes. We occasionally hear the distant cry of a resident bobcat on nearby Furnace Mountain.
Here is a link for more information about the Audubon at Home program: http://www.audubonva.org/index.php/audubon-at-home-v15-121
Our common lands serve as a Monarch Waystation that is certified by Monarch Watch. The yards of four residents are also certified as Monarch Waystations. For the past two years, several community members have raised and released monarch butterflies, as part of a program with the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.
Here is a link for more information about monarch butterflies: http://www.monarchwatch.org/
In 2012 we received a $28,000 grant of money to plant trees along our riparian areas. Our community members provided nearly all the labor to plant more than 800 native trees and shrubs. Many of the smaller trees remain caged to protect them from deer. We continue to provide ongoing care to these growing trees. As you walk the creek trails off Hickory Shade Lane, you will see these plantings.
Here is a link for more information on riparian areas: http://www.extension.org/pages/62490/what-is-a-riparian-area#.VQ98jpPF8y8
DARK SKY COMMUNITY
For enjoyment of the natural night sky and protection of nocturnal habitat, we are a dark sky community. Recent studies have shown how light pollution impairs health and circadian rhythms. For more information, here is a link to the International Dark Sky Association: http://www.darksky.org/
This historic farmstead is located on our common lands and dates to the colonial period. What remains of the farmstead today is a farmhouse, bank barn, chicken coop, foundation to a springhouse and cedar lane located on the edge of the EcoVillage neighborhood.
One community member is seeking a source of funding to restore it. Here is a link for more information: http://www.stoutsenbergerfarmstead.org/