Thursday, August 19, 2021

Two Grand Openings

The Grand Opening of Ugly Plant

I have a very unusual plant, affectionately called “Ugly Plant” but in truth, a Night Blooming Cereus.

This plant has limited qualities, shall we say, as plants go. It’s loaded with prickers, gets spindly and takes over window space.  

And a little more background here.

This clipping originally came from my parents. Once a year, for one night only in the middle of summer, Ugly Plant would put on a spectacular show! On this occasion, my parents would invite family and friends to join in and watch the Grand Opening. 

So when I moved to Elderberry, I decided to continue this tradition!

Towards the end of June, my plant started to produce fuzzy nobs. Over the course of ten days, these nobs began to lengthen and develop.

Finally, one evening around 7:30 pm, the ends begin to “ripen”. 

Tonight will be the Grand Opening!

I sent out an email to the community inviting everyone to come by and watch. The late-night dog-walkers arrived with flashlights (though some people forgot and only saw the sad remains the next morning). 

My photographer friend Scottee has shot this plant for three years and has won awards with her images. On the other hand, I simply use my dependable Ipad!

At 8 pm, the interior of the blossoms start to show.

By 9 pm, the blossoms are fully open.

The Grand Opening!

The blossoms stay open throughout the night. However, by morning, they have closed and wilted. Party definitely over!

Maybe you might join us next year for our bloom-viewing event?

The Grand Opening! Introducing Sambuco,
a Fine Dining Experience in the Elderberry Hive


Last year our Culture Team, comprised of Mary, Vonda, Linda and Joyce, organized a community retreat and check-in to gauge how well members of our community were relating with each other. 

One of the comments received was that people wanted more opportunity to socialize around smaller and more intimate dinners. 

Also during this check-in, we presented an exercise called a spectrum, where everyone stands along an imaginary line to indicate how they might answer a particular question. We discovered most of us like to be invited to events, but are less inclined to initiate social interactions. Yes, we have a fair number of introverts!

With this feedback the Culture Team created Sambuco, Elderberry’s own version of an elegant, sit-down restaurant with limited seating, and reservation only. 

The catch? Members need to invite each other!

The Culture Team transformed the meeting area within our Common House into an elegant dining room with white table clothes, fresh flowers, soft jazz and beautifully printed menus.

Four volunteers who are fabulous cooks prepared and served a four-course dinner for three tables, with all the finishing touches you’d expect from elegant dining.

Lemon Cloud was the finishing touch for dessert, garnished with raspberries, and powdered sugar. And the final detail? Sambuco-inscribed doggie bags for the delicious leftovers!

Opening night was a huge success, with many requests for another evening at “our restaurant". Sambuco is scheduled again for October.

The Dream Team, our gourmet chefs and servers.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Summertime Holidays!

 Memorial Day, the Big Kick-off! 

Classic Elderberry events combine family and friends, spectacular potluck dishes, lots of grilling, musical soundtracks, and outdoor games! 

So far this summer, skilled teams competed for fame and fortune with corn hole, Jenga, and our newest addition, miniature golf — entertainment for participants and peanut gallery alike!

With several tables of food, we mingled and overate, another honored Elderberry tradition.

Mary and Karolyn are a formidible team. We think they go into training off-season.

Marjorie and Mike made up for skill with lots of good-natured ribbing — always a crowd favorite.

The spectator gallery never broke a sweat.

My personal favorite was an impromptu duet with Mary Kay and Stewart singing "Oh Lord It's Hard to Be Humble", Mary Kay's personal theme song!

Fourth of July Trifecta!

This year’s Fourth of July involved three great events: Our traditional Independence Day potluck; celebration of one members’ 87th birthday; and a new lawn game addition, the inauguration of Elderberry’s first ever Miniature Golf Course!

Besides knowing how to have fun, Elderberry obviously has some outside-the-box thinkers that come up with some pretty amazing ideas! It’s not every community that has its own mini-golf course. 

Mike had been working on the details for several months — what material to use for the greens, the holes, the bumpers? And most of all, for the obstacles!

In the end, he used turf fabric for the greens, PVC pipe caps as holes, and landscape edging as bumpers.  

And for the obstacles? Mike asked for volunteers to “adopt” each hole. And members definitely stepped up to the challenge!  

The first hole had a moving pendulum painted by Mary’s 5 and 6-year-old grandkids. Karen and Stewart created a dramatic Scottish scene complete with a homemade castle.

 Joyce and Mary Kay assembled the “animal hole” with every manner of creative creature obstacle. Next, there was a deceptively difficult hole on Mike’s front porch.

 A big crew at the moose hole (you’d have to see it!), contributed by Diane.  

And the final hole, courtesy of Karolyn — three 5 gallon buckets and no easy bank shots! 

After several rounds of play, there ended up being three hole-in-ones and lots of groaning and cheering from players and spectators alike.

 Mary and Joyce surpassed last year's Jenga record, although we lost exact count when it unexpectedly toppled! We had to rely on a photo finish to count the final number of rows. How many? I'm still not sure!

Diane was the organizing powerhouse for fabulous food. Richard set up the grill so folks could prepare anything from vegan hot dogs to delicious, spicy, local sausage burgers. 

There was one entire table of potluck side dishes and another table of desserts, a particularily popular spot. Karolyn prepared her famous gingerbread cookies with personalized limericks, all with a 4th of July theme. Desserts ranged from ice cream, peach pie, chocolate brownies, blackberry cobbler (using our own blackberry’s from our garden) and blueberry crisp.  

July 4th is Nancy’s birthday. Upon request, Karolyn made Nancy’s favorite dessert, an amazing carrot cake (a community favorite with a great background story).

As the evening finale, Stewart, with his amazing tenor voice, sang I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen. Nancy requested this song because it was her mother’s favorite, and the reason that Nancy’s middle name is Kathleen.

Story and photos by Joyce Hopkins

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Wildflowers of our Woods

Woodland Blueberry

by Mary Bennett, April 2021

Over the past month, I started taking photos of wildflowers along our trails. Here is a record of some of the spring flowers I found during these hikes! 

At Elderberry we are so fortunate to share, with our sister community Potluck Community Farm, 130+ acres of gorgeous woods, fields and streams. I love our woods in the winter­ — there is still so much green through the cold months, including lush mosses, carpets of creeping cedar, several varieties of ferns and prickly holly.

Winter view from Little Creek Top Trail 

But as spring approaches the woods are transformed to that short-lived spring green that literally shines in the sunlight. And following on the heels of that, the spring wildflowers. Our woods have an amazing abundance and variety of wildflowers.

This year several people in the community were on the lookout for the first flower that appears, the trout lily. It bows its little yellow head and spreads its lovely green wings and proclaims spring to be here. Often within days of the trout lilies making an appearance, the spring beauties begin popping out, and then the bluets, which soon are blanketing the banks of our streams. It’s difficult to get a photo that shows the beauty of that perfusion of these tiny blue flowers. 

Then, within a few short weeks, we have trillium, violets, ginger, green-and-gold, irises, star chickweed, and toothwort.


Toadshade Trillium

Bashful Wakerobin Trillium

Wild Ginger

Green and Gold

Wild Iris

We are lucky to have a few rare wildflowers in our woods, and one is bloodroot. It is lovely and fleeting, generally sharing its white bloom in April, only in the relative warmth of mid-day, and only for a few short weeks. Hepatica’s delicate purple flower is not really rare, but it can be hard to find in our woods. We know where it likes to live, so we search it out to admire it.

I almost wrote this blog a few weeks ago when my favorite spring flower arrived­ — the wild azalea. There are few flowers as intricately beautiful as this spidery pink bloom. They thrive on our stream banks, and stand out boldly against the backdrop of the dark water.

But today, I was glad I waited a while to write the blog, because I was surprised by another of our rare wildflowers — the pink lady-slipper orchid. We know of a few patches of them in our woods, and some years there are only a very few. Last year I was a bit worried that we were losing them, but today I found them in abundance. I must admit that the flower always looks more like a scrotum than a slipper to me (just being honest), but it’s pretty awesome just the same. 


Wild Azalea

Pink Lady Slipper Orchid

Lady Slipper Orchid

Also recently, I saw my first lyre-leaf sage, jack-in-the-pulpit and southern blueberry. Along one of our trails near a wetland, we get many dozens of atamasco lilies. Today there were about fifteen to twenty, but in the next week or two the wetland will be teaming with them. 

And lastly, I went looking for the mountain laurel, having seen some in bud in a nearby park this week. Our buds were still just tiny, but in another week they will look like little sugar confections before they pop wide open.

Atamasco Lily


Mountain Laurel

There really is no perfect time to write a wildflower blog, because we continue to get amazing flowers here throughout the spring and fall. Some of my favorites are the foam flower, May apple, wood sorrel, rue anemone, skullcap, cardinal flower, blue-eyed grass and pickerel weed.

Foam Flower

May Apple

To help our community members learn the wildflowers of our woods, a few of us worked together to enlarge our trail map and create a wall poster in our common house. 

The trail map is surrounded by photos of most of our wildflowers, along with references to where they can be found on our trails. We don’t have photos of all of the wildflowers, but we have captured 68 of them on this poster!

Each wildflower close-up is identified with the common name, the scientific name, preferred soil conditions, location on the Potluck Trail and time of year it blooms. A convenient source of information for our trail hikers!

Readers, wherever you are, I hope you are enjoying the beauty of spring, and the surprise and awe of coming across wildflowers, wherever they may be!

Written by Mary Bennett; Posted by Joyce Hopkins

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

National Cohousing Open House Saturday April 24th 2 to 4 pm

How long has it been since you were invited to an Open House when you didn't see 'in-person' and certainly not 'virtual'?

On April 24, you’re invited (in person!) to join Elderberry and seven other cohousing communities in this area of North Carolina. When you visit we’ll introduce you to our members and show you what it’s like to live in our particular community.

What will you see at Elderberry?

You will visit our Common House, the central hub of our community, and stroll around our eighteen townhomes.

You can visit the gardens and woodshop, walk the trails, and sit on the cabin porch – talking with the men and women who live here.

With sustainably-built homes and buildings, our community values being energy conscious

And by visiting the other cohousing communities in this area, you will have a unique opportunity to see how they differ.

Compared to other communities...

Elderberry is the most rural — 

out under the stars and surrounded by woods. But though we’re country, we’re connected by an easy and scenic drive to all the attractions of Durham and Raleigh.

Elderberry has the fewest homes —

at 18 homes clustered in duplexes and quadraplexes, we are a close-knit community who work, play and talk together with ease.

Elderberry has the largest acreage to enjoy — 

we have 10 acres of our own for recreation and gardens, but we share well over 100 acres of woodland trails with our sister community Potluck Farms next door.

Elderberry is totally self-developed and governed —

and we enjoy working on a variety of projects and doing most of the maintenance ourselves at our twice-monthly work days.

What do you have to do?

Let us know if you’d like to come on Saturday, April 24 between 2 and 4.*

E-mail Karolyn at or call 336-364-0056, or go to the “Contact Us” page on this website.*

Observe our Covid guidelines. 
Of our 20 members here, 16 are happily vaccinated. However for everyone’s protection, we still prefer masks and spatial distancing with visitors, and we continue to adhere to current CDC and NC guidelines for Covid-19.

Plan to ask us as many questions as you can think of about life in cohousing!

*And if you can’t make it on 4/24, contact us to arrange a Zoom or in-person visit at a convenient time.

We do look forward to seeing you on April 24 or at a time that's good for you!