The early morning view behind my home.
I started creating blogs to share my experiences through images rather than words. Every morning I’m outside walking Finn (napping above) and photographing my community. Some of these images you might have seen already (favorites!) and some are new. I hope you enjoy the past year as seen through my eyes.
Elderberry has a perfect location for viewing spectacular winter sunsets on the west lawn of the Hive. Someone will send a message to the community to bring a favorite beverage, a chair and come gather. It’s a favorite winter social scene!
Our Memorial Day parties always include lots of games. Mary and Karolyn are an unbeatable team, definitely not cooperative culture!!!
Jamboween, a long standing Potluck tradition now shared with Elderberry, includes live music, dancing, pumpkin carving, hay rides, fresh cider, barbecued pig and several tables of potluck dishes. Everything happens on a big pasture at the end of Potluck Community Road!
Mike occasionally hosts a bar on his tiny house patio, where everyone really does know you name!
For one year now I’ve been heading out each morning at first light with Finn. These early mornings have changed the rhythm of my life — watching light change, clouds slide across the sky, listening as birds awaken and call to each other. If you want to change the focus of your day, follow a cat outside and experience his world at dawn.
I’d always considered myself an introvert. However I believe I’ve become more of an extrovert since living in at Elderberry. Most everything done with good friends is more fun. I spend a lot of time with my fellow gardeners weeding together (and covering/uncovering the winter garden) with laughter and lively conversation. Our roots of friendship grow along with our garden!
Joanna’s son Rees recently came to visit, and we learned that one of his passions is renovating old buildings. At Elderberry we’ve been slowly renovating several of the old farm buildings on our land, so were thrilled when he volunteered his advice, expertise and labor!
Brave souls tending our burn pile on a very cold and windless morning in December.
Over the years we’ve created numerous gravel paths around the community. Connecting the western entrance of the hive was our last path, and we thoroughly celebrated our labors!
To me, being silly is an acquired joy in life, and Elderberry has many silly moments. To follow are just a few of my favorites. Above, Saint Paddy’s Day! Being a Scotsman, Stewart definitely knows how to find a friend!
I’m still not sure what Karolyn and Richard were trying to accomplish, but whatever it was, they did it with great enthusiasm! This is also one of those perfect examples of a photo that needs a much better caption — any suggestions?
What do you do with a beautiful head of kale? Cecil had a quick answer.
Gentlemen serving for Monday Morning Coffee? What could be finer?
For Karolyn’s birthday, Mike suggested we create a photo booth (which did look a lot like an unused picture frame). It ended up being a huge hit as Karolyn and Karen demonstrate.
For the second year, Elderberry had an Exchange Table event where any reasonable item could be put on a table and picked up by anyone who had a better use for it. Marge, one of our Common Gardeners, was transformed from diamond in the dirt to the model of sophistication.
Elderberry’s ten acres used to be an old farmstead with huge old trees on a gentle rise. Everywhere I walk there is so much rural beauty. Watching as the light changes with each season, I have endless opportunity to photograph my beautiful surroundings.
Left, a small copse of trees behind my home in springtime. Right, long golden morning light on the central circle from my front porch.
Left, looking up towards the hive with the south quad on the right. Right, late afternoon light crossing Elderberry Lane as the road rises towards the garden and workshop on the left.
Left, the metal barn where tools and equipment are stored. Right, looking up the pedway from the north quad, as the sun is just breaking the horizon.
As I was working on images for this section, I realized all my images included water. Water has been a huge part of my life. Growing up we had a small boat we kept in Mystic, Connecticut. We would spend our summer weekends swimming and exploring. I find water reflections hypnotic, and sometimes feel more comfortable diving and swimming than walking on solid ground. So I need to be near the ocean and also to have some places nearby to go swimming and boating. Fortunately, the ocean is less than four hours away from Elderberry!
I spend Thanksgiving week on the outer banks in a old beach house with a group of friends from Elderberry and Potluck Farm. Around four in the afternoon a group of us usually heads to Nags Head Nature Preserve. We walk to the western shore and watch the sunset on the mainland across the bay. I was intrigued by the silhouettes created by the setting sun and the completely still water.
My favorite fresh water swimming place is the Quarry at Eno River State Park in Durham. It’s 60 feet deep, edged with craggy rocks and no easy way to enter. You simply dive in and stay afloat. In the summer I swim a mile with three laps back and forth.
Another beautiful body of water is Holt Lake. About 15 minutes from Elderberry, it’s a perfect location for kayaking and fishing, but no swimming is allowed. With the exception of two or three homes set back from the water's edge, its banks are overhung with trees. It’s a lovely spot for birdwatching as well.
Finn, my 17 pound white and orange tabby, is a familiar sight around Elderberry. I adopted him from a family in December of 2020. He adjusted quickly to leash training and now we explore throughout the community and the woods beyond.
Let’s just say Finn boldly goes where no cat has gone before, and conquers all!
Every house at Elderberry is a unique and creative expression of its owners. However, not all of us can be quite as inspired with wood, concrete and feathers as Cecil and Vonda. Their home is a delight of details to explore!
Creativity is expressed in many ways, especially food! On fortunate work days Mary orchestrates fantastic pizzas from our Elderberry brick oven. Adding generosity to creativity, on the day I moved into Elderberry (with very little in my refrigerator) Mary Kay arrived with an amazing meal and all the fixings. She continues to prepare food as gifts of love throughout the year.
As Richard said, “It is hard to imagine any community where neighbors come outside every night to say goodnight to each other.” And yet our neighbors come out of their homes every night in every kind of weather, just to say goodnight and chat with each other. It’s one of many experiences that has made 2021 a really good year, and Elderberry a warm community.
Words and images by Joyce Hopkins.