Intentional Living

A model for sustainability makes its way from Scotland to the Berkshires



Photos by Maria Bakkalapulo and Niall Macaulay

Sustainability may be the buzzword of the decade as we struggle to balance modernity with our ability to maintain future resources. Yet 50 years ago in northeast Scotland, the Findhorn Foundation was founded on the ethos of inner spirituality and environmental care. Today, the foundation draws thousands of visitors each year, and its outreach stretches beyond country borders, across waters, even to communities right here in the Berkshires.

Home to some 400 residents, Findhorn Foundation in Moray, Scotland, began with three adults and three children. Eileen and Peter Caddy and Dorothy Maclean arrived at Findhorn Bay on November 17, 1962, on a quest. They were practical people but also acted on guidance from spirit voices, journeying by caravan to this remote, windswept spot on the coast of Scotland. Eileen was reclusive and received the most spiritual guidance, while husband Peter, a former Royal Air Force officer, put instructions into practice. Aerial photographs of Findhorn 52 years ago show a barren strip of land, with sand, gorse, and heather, between a 2,000-year-old fishing village and a major NATO airbase. The Findhorn Foundation, both ecovillage and spiritual community, has expanded to two campuses and in 2006 became the first United Nations Training Center in northern Europe for sustainable energy. Its wide concrete main street, known affectionately as the Runway, was once the airbase’s taxiway. It has 61 ecological buildings of diverse designs and produces its own electricity with four wind turbines and solar power. Its lush vegetation and thriving wildlife surrounding beautiful homes is testimony to the success of permaculture.

What is permaculture? We find one example of it close to home in Cheshire, where 30-year-old Eric Socha, a perma-culturist and visionary, surveys his family’s plot that he now shares with his mother. His grandfather was from Ukraine, a dairy farmer who chose this piece of land in the Berkshires because it reminded him of home. From Socha’s backyard, he can see Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts. “I grew up on the land. On the tractor, my grandfather held me in his arms,” Socha recounts. “Subconsciously, it seeded itself.” A beautiful landscape surrounds his greenhouse, and an old barn where his grandfather used to keep goats still stands, leaning on a weeping willow tree. “Findhorn in Scotland is the epicenter of sustainable living on a global perspective. What I am doing here is small, diversified homesteading. Creating edible landscaping—apples, some hazelnuts, blueberries, and raspberries. The concept of permaculture, once it is established, is to let nature take care of it. The human input is minimal.” 

First introduced to permaculture at Sterling College, an educational institution in Vermont with an environmental focus, Socha went on to learn more at the Sirius Community in neighboring Pioneer Valley. Bruce Davidson, one of Sirius’s founders, trained at Scotland’s Findhorn community and created Sirius, in the town of Shutesbury, to disseminate the practices in the United States. The community’s goal is spiritual while teaching people ecological practices.

 Walking through the grounds of Sirius, one sees the emphasis is clearly on community—gardening together, building together, or eating together. As gatherers join hands in a circle in the dining hall, Davidson offers thanks for the meal. This practice of giving thanks and crediting the work that brought produce to the table is age-old, but Davidson says that modern living has diluted it, leaving us largely disconnected from the origins of our food. He shares the same conviction of leading thinkers at Findhorn, that permaculture can help people live happier lives and reduce stress inflicted on the environment. Permaculture includes economic sustainability, too; Findhorn’s trading currency, called Eko, is similar in objective to BerkShares, where both currencies act as a resource exchange to encourage support of local businesses and commerce. 

Both northeast Scotland and the Berkshires enjoy a rural lifestyle, which means reliance on a major environmental drain—cars. At Findhorn, shared electric vehicles and hybrids are scattered around the village. At Sirius, members pioneered a co-op to buy biodiesel made from renewable plant sources or cooking oil. Both initiatives are now in the mainstream, where the use of electric and hybrid vehicles is growing and all gasoline used in the U.S. has bio-fuel content.

At Findhorn, which encompasses several buildings spread over 30 acres, we meet Geoff Dalglish, part of the foundation’s Living Education Apprentice Program (LEAP). A warm, articulate South African, Dalglish is himself a testimonial to changing paths in life. He was once a self-proclaimed “petrol-head,” writing about, testing, and racing cars for a living. “I’ve had about 50 cars in my life,” he says. “I kept replacing them every year. That is the way I lived.” But he experienced a transformation. “I decided to let go of everything, my house, my cars, my books.” And he started walking—really walking. He covered 25,000 miles, equivalent to the circumference of the planet. His journey informs his book, Lost and Found.

Dalglish takes us on a tour around Findhorn, explaining objectives that have become more ambitious. The waste-management system, called the Living Machine, processes waste water in a greenhouse where microorganisms and plant life are kept in a series of tanks. The last tanks in the process contain snails and fish. The resulting water is pure enough to discharge into the sea or to be recycled. 

Findhorn’s permaculture guru, Craig Gibsone, says, “We are helping nature heal.” Raised on a farm in Australia without electricity, Gibsone says working the land came naturally to him. He sweeps his arm to encompass the bucolic view. “Some people just see chaos. There’s corn, beans, pumpkins, and 20 apple trees here. Flowers bring the bees. I can eat the flowers, the petals, the chives, the apples. Practically everywhere there is something to eat, more than I could ever eat.” 

From Findhorn to the Berkshires, philosophy and methods have created solid results and bring a growing population toward sustainable living. Sheffield resident Ashley Barrett studied at the Findhorn Foundation College, and while working in the gardens and dancing in the studio there, came up with a business idea that she brought back to the Berkshires. “I developed Juice n Tonic as a way to bring my knowledge of healthy living and plants to the community,” Barrett explains about her fledgeling enterprise. “They’re fresh-pressed, herbal-infused juices and tonic shots that deliver high doses of nutrients and energy.” 

Barrett says that the phrase “growing people” came up often in conversation at Findhorn. “On a deeper level, feeling good and healthy means taking care of yourself, and that means caring about other things, like where your food comes from. In turn, that snowballs into an overall interest in all forms of sustainability.” n

The Sirius EcoVillage in Shutesbury offers a permaculture-design certification course over three weekends in March and April. A two-week intensive course is given in July.
Visit permacultureseries.org.

 

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Sponsor: Connecticut Marine Trades Association
Telephone: 860-767-2645
Contact Name: Kathleen Burns
Website »

More information

Dr. Dan Villiers, co-founder of the Anxiety Institute in Greenwich, Conn., will give a free talk titled In the Trenches: Family Impact and Parenting Strategies for Anxiety and OCD. Dr....

Cost: 0

Where:
Greenwich Town Hall
101 Field Point Road
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: NAMI Southwest CT
Telephone: 203-400-6264
Contact Name: Karen West
Website »

More information

Here’s a holiday idea for the whole family – a private tour of the Peter Parley Schoolhouse! The Ridgefield Historical Society maintains and operates the 1756 Schoolhouse, also called the...

Cost: Suggested donation $10 for adults, kids are free

Where:
Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Intersection of West Lane and CT Rte 35
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Historical Society
Telephone: 203-438-5821
Contact Name: Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Website »

More information

Robert Kalm discusses his documentary Self Make: The American Dreams of Philip Musica, about the notorious swindler Doctor Frank Donald Coster, also known as Philip Musica, who was a respected...

Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Simon Russell Beale returns to National Theatre Live screens following broadcasts of Timon of Athens and King Lear, and his recent role in the National Theatre’s critically acclaimed...

Cost: See Website

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge Road
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Telephone: 203-438-5795
Website »

More information

Join New Morning Market’s new knitting club! We’re crafting wearable items for Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury and welcome all levels to join! Instructors will be on-hand for beginners. Yarn,...

Cost: Free - registration requested

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

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Blending nature and spirituality, Connecticut artist Lori Barker explores the rhythms of life in a new collection of mixed media works on display at the Gunn Memorial Library Stairwell Gallery from...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library Stairwell Gallery
5 Wykeham Rd.
Washington, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 860-868-7586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey

More information

Idea exchange and brainstorming for entrepreneurs.  Sign up at www.martinhosueworkspace.com/event-listings.

Cost: no charge with one-day pass or membership

Where:
Martin House Workspace
69 Westchester Avenue
Pound Ridge, NY  10576
View map »


Sponsor: Martin House Workspace
Telephone: 914-764-3128
Contact Name: Erin Trostle
Website »

More information

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
Kent, CT  06757
View map »


Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Hartford Boat Show (HBS50) features the newest boats on the market including center consoles, fishing boats, luxury cruisers, deck and pontoon boats, sport and...

Cost: $12 in advance online, $14 at the door, $10 Senior/Military one day pass

Where:
Expo Center at Mohegan Sun
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd
Uncasville, CT  06382
View map »


Sponsor: Connecticut Marine Trades Association
Telephone: 860-767-2645
Contact Name: Kathleen Burns
Website »

More information

January Swing Dance w/ Chops, Sauerkraut, Krewtons Friday, January 18, 2018 Dewey Hall, 91 Main Street, Sheffield, MA 01257 Doors open at 7:30, Lesson with Jason Fenton at 8:00, Live music at...

Cost: $10-$20 sliding fee scale

Where:
Dewey Hall
91 Main Street
Sheffield, MA  01257
View map »


Sponsor: Oldtone Productions
Telephone: 413-429-1176
Contact Name: Beth Carlson
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Here’s a holiday idea for the whole family – a private tour of the Peter Parley Schoolhouse! The Ridgefield Historical Society maintains and operates the 1756 Schoolhouse, also called the...

Cost: Suggested donation $10 for adults, kids are free

Where:
Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Intersection of West Lane and CT Rte 35
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Historical Society
Telephone: 203-438-5821
Contact Name: Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Website »

More information

Do you have a startup you’re trying to get off the ground? Are you thinking about starting your own business? Are you a solopreneur who’s trying to do it all? Everyone needs a...

Cost: no charge with one-day pass or membership

Where:
Martin House Workspace
69 Westchester Avenue
Pound Ridge, NY  10576
View map »


Sponsor: Martin House Workspace
Telephone: 914-764-3128
Contact Name: Erin Trostle

More information

The much anticipated Great Trains Holiday Exhibit at the Wilton Historical Society opens the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, November 23, with Santa visiting on December 8! Decorated for the...

Cost: Members free, Non-member adults $10/ kids $5.

Where:
Wilton Historical Society
224 Danbury Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »

More information

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Blending nature and spirituality, Connecticut artist Lori Barker explores the rhythms of life in a new collection of mixed media works on display at the Gunn Memorial Library Stairwell Gallery from...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gunn Memorial Library Stairwell Gallery
5 Wykeham Rd.
Washington, CT  06793
View map »


Sponsor: Gunn Memorial Library
Telephone: 860-868-7586
Contact Name: Sharon Morrissey

More information

We invite you to join us at Dojo Fairfield on Saturday January 19, 2019 when we host the founder/CEO of C.O.B.R.A. Self-Defense, Chris Sutton, for a one-day self-defense/ASRP (Active Shooter...

Cost: $129.00

Where:
DOJO FAIRFIELD
2317 Black Rock Tpke.
FAIRFIELD, CT  06825
View map »


Sponsor: DOJO FAIRFIELD
Telephone: 203.319.9989
Contact Name: Karina Gramesty
Website »

More information

Caring for a loved one with a mental health condition can be overwhelming and stressful. Family-to-Family is a free, 12-session education program for family, friends and significant others...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Greenwich Hospital
5 Perryridge Road
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: NAMI Southwest CT
Telephone: (914) 527-2994
Contact Name: Janet
Website »

More information

Celebrate Helena Hernmarck’s materials and processes at our monthly free admission day. Work with teaching artists and Museum staff on warm wintery projects while enjoying hot cocoa and seasonal...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
258 Main Street
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Website »

More information

The much anticipated Great Trains Holiday Exhibit at the Wilton Historical Society opens the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, November 23, with Santa visiting on December 8! Decorated for the...

Cost: Members free, Non-member adults $10/ kids $5.

Where:
Wilton Historical Society
224 Danbury Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »

More information

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Hartford Boat Show (HBS50) features the newest boats on the market including center consoles, fishing boats, luxury cruisers, deck and pontoon boats, sport and...

Cost: $12 in advance online, $14 at the door, $10 Senior/Military one day pass

Where:
Expo Center at Mohegan Sun
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd
Uncasville, CT  06382
View map »


Sponsor: Connecticut Marine Trades Association
Telephone: 860-767-2645
Contact Name: Kathleen Burns
Website »

More information

Here’s a holiday idea for the whole family – a private tour of the Peter Parley Schoolhouse! The Ridgefield Historical Society maintains and operates the 1756 Schoolhouse, also called the...

Cost: Suggested donation $10 for adults, kids are free

Where:
Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Intersection of West Lane and CT Rte 35
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Sponsor: Ridgefield Historical Society
Telephone: 203-438-5821
Contact Name: Peter Parley Schoolhouse
Website »

More information

Zachary Zaitzeff is a painter living in the Hudson Valley who has incorporated his extensive world travel, including his 2011 summit of Mount Everest, into his artwork. Zachary spent 2018 studying...

Cost: free

Where:
RT Facts Gallery
8 Old Barns Rd
Kent, CT  06757
View map »


Sponsor: RT Facts
Telephone: 860-927-1700
Contact Name: Natalie Randall
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Jae Ko: 漂流 Drift,” the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.   In addition to showcasing...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Type 2 diabetes is becoming an epidemic. Dr. Shawn Carney, a naturopathic physician at Northeast Natural Medicine, LLC, will address the development of problems with blood sugar control. He will...

Cost: Free - registration requested

Where:
New Morning Market
129 Main St North
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: New Morning Market
Telephone: 203-263-4868
Website »

More information

Join artists and crafters Amelia McIsaac of Flowering Heart and Susannah White of Carapace Farm Puppetry to explore the process of felting. Work with plant-dyed wool from their small family flock...

Cost: $15; $13.50 member

Where:
The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
258 Main Street
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn some basics of a simple honest cuisine created by thousands of years of heritage, shared culture and a bit of Viking pillaging.Menu:Demo: Gravlax from Scratch, served with Mustard Dill Sauce...

Cost: 100.00

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
View map »


Telephone: 860-355-0300
Website »

More information

Comedian, actor, and impressionist Frank Caliendo has been making people laugh his entire life.  He is well known for his impressions of famous personalities: Donald Trump, Morgan Freeman, Al...

Cost: See Website

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge Road
Ridgefield, CT  06877
View map »


Telephone: 203-438-5795
Website »

More information

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