The Spirit of Verkenvalden Re-kindled

by Jeremy Roth with excerpts from The Spirit of Verkenvalden
by Josh Fattal

Troweling the clay mixture onto the floor

As I sit here taking a breather from day two of our Earthen Floor installation work party,I can’t help but think about Josh Fattal and a term he coined during his time here at Aprovecho: Verkenvalden. That isn’t really a word but as Josh put it is a “Germanic sounding equivilent to the world of work”. Josh wrote a short paper on the concept of Verkenvalden, which I recently found in a long forgotten folder on an antiquated hard drive.

According to Josh, the concept is simple: “Getting stuff done—putting a concerted effort into physically manifesting what we want—is rewarding; feeds on itself; is ethical; creates community; and inspires others.” That is exactly what I have witnessed here over the course of the past few days. We needed a new floor to replace the tired and worn out floor of Aprovecho’s dormitory. All we needed to make that happen was clay, sand, straw and a whole lot of willing and able hands to help. We didn’t hesitate, we didn’t deliberate, we didn’t really even do too much work to prepare. We simply and collectively set an intention, a date, and put the word out to others who might want to co-manifest this exciting project.

Previously Josh and others used the moniker of Verkenvaleden to address an entire laundry list of unfinished, forgotten, and inspired projects around the campus. “We cleaned up a huge mess that has been complained about for 9 months, we rebuilt pathways and steps, we set up an outdoor kitchen and plumbing, we fixed innumerable small jobs we’ve put off for months, finished a gate that had been a year in the making, we pruned heaps of raspberries, and the list continues. We used considerably less fossil fuels. We enjoyed each other’s company. Some members got tired and ill, others felt constrained by their “job responsibilities”. Three meals a day together was a lot. The collective barely made it the whole week, and the ideals were modified in practice. While the kinks of practice need to be hammered out, I loved the spirit of Verkanvalden. The spirit of in-spirit-ation and collective energy: these are the reasons for being at Aprovecho and working outdoors, in a collective, towards a visionary mission statement.”

The crew breaking for lunchIn response to our open invitation to join us in actualizing this long-considered projectwe have seen many familiar faces come out to help, as well as some folks who have never been to Aprovecho before. Together we dug clay, chopped straw, shoveled sand, stomped it all together and expertly (for most of us being novices) spread it evenly across 1000 sq. feet of warped and cupped wooden sub-flooring. We laughed, we ate, we inhaled plenty of straw dust, and got really really muddy. Flocks of kids ran around, helped with cooking, and occasionally jumped into the mixing trough to stomp around with the adults.

Dakota, Rachel, and Shealynn take a break from mixing

To me, this is the kind of experience that fuels the energetic magic of Aprovecho. You don’t need to be an expert to understand and utilize the simple and natural technologies and techniques that we make use of here at Aprovecho . The learning curve is low. As Bill Mollison once said: “Though the problems of the world become increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.”

That is why I live here and I am continually inspired by the work we do. That is why Aprovecho’s programs have drawn amazing people from all around the world for more than 30 years. Aprovecho provides an opportunity to get your hands dirty and transform learning from conceptual and occasionally vague, into skills that will develop and harden over time, much as the fabulous clay floor is doing as I write this.

Josh wrote in conclusion: “After Verkanvalden, the “get stuff done”, teamwork attitude set its seed. The bonds created by those doing Verkanvalden have only strengthened. We are still trying to figure out how to inspire more people into this vision, and make the practice of it sustainable for extended period of time. Verkanvalden as a one-week experiment is much different from a Verkanvalden lifestyle. But living and working collectively seems useless unless it’s got the spirit of Verkanvalden.”

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