November 09, 2020 3 min read

There's a lot to learn when you first move to the Cobb Hill Cohousing Community.

Where to park, where NOT to park (orange stakes mean resident, green stake means visitor and Meggan gets the spot by the Garn because she has 3-6 kids- DON'T take it if you aren't me!).

How to empty your composting toilet system (With a shovel. And totes. And a literal mound of decomposing poop in the forest. I'm not kidding.).

Which houses send kids home with coveted treasures like plastic jewels and bobble head toys (Lorie's house). 

But one of the most unique things you learn is "Garn Season".

Let me explain. 

All the homes at Cobb Hill are heated via two giant wood burning stoves lovingly referred to as "the Garn". The wood burning stoves heat water which is then piped around the community into people's homes to warm them in the winter.

(Yes, we all have individual thermostats so we can control our own heat.)

The garn is a beautiful example of Vermont community living.

Many homes in Vermont continue to use wood to heat their homes in the winter, but not many heat an entire community as a team!

Much of the wood we burn is from our own forest and we all pitch in to move it around- first to the bottom of the hill to a big stacked pile to dry out. Then again back up the hill to be housed in the Garn building for winter. 

It takes LOTS of wood to heat 23 households.

We start up the Garn typically in late October and it runs until April or May and we have allllllll kinds of systems and people working hard to make it happen. 

All households  are assigned to a "team" that feeds the Garn every 3 hours around the clock (just like a newborn) on one day of the week, so we each end up with about 2 stokings on our Garn day. 

I've typically been the Friday at midnight gal, but this year with the new soap studio in the works, I'm Mondays at noon and six. 

I admit, I don't *always* love Garn duty. Like when I've accidentally fallen asleep watching The Home Edit and it is midnight and I have to go outside and its 20 degrees below zero and snowing and windy. Yeah. I don't love it then. 

But often I do.

I enjoy the peaceful, cold, crisp night air and the amazing view of the stars in the clear Vermont sky.

I sometimes just sit and soak it in: the fire burning inside the tunnel, the warm heat on my face, the smell of burning wood. I usually take a few minutes to just pause and to be mindful of the moment before going back up to my warm house.

There is something so calming about a cozy fire. 

See what I mean with a few seconds from Monday night's 6pm stoking:

We've been talking as a community about installing heat pumps which are now more eco-friendly than wood burning. I think it will be bittersweet if/when we no longer use the garn. It brings us together for an important common purpose and gets us to all to work together (we did all knowingly sign up for this!). 

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into our unique Vermont cohousing life :) 

To learn more about life at Cobb Hill, you can visit www.cobbhill.org and to get more snippets of life around the farm and info on Farmer's Body, sign up HERE

Meggan Wehmeyer
Meggan Wehmeyer


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