First impressions of Lost Valley

I see Lost Valley as a three-fold enterprise: a conference-hosting business, a land-development operation, and a housing co-op. All three projects are hosted on the same land and run by the same people, who live together 24 hours a day. Running this enterprise is by no means a small feat.

When we arrived on Wednesday the 15th, Dianne Brause, co-founder of Lost-Valley, greeted our group and led a tour of the land. We had dinner with the community and then hung out for a bit in the “lodge,” the main gathering building. After dinner, a couple people had a banjo and a guitar and they jammed out while the rest of us did our best to sing on-key.

We slept in one bedroom in one of the four “apartments” in the “Solplex.” The room was heated and carpeted, and we had a bathroom right outside the door, so it was awesome.

In the morning, we had breakfast (cook your own) in the main kitchen and joined the community for the weekly cleaning party. After lunch, we interviewed Dianne and took some photos before we left.

The land occupies 87 acres, of which, I’d say around 10-15 are heavily used for buildings and gardens. Most of the buildings were inherited from the previous land owners, and they (LV) have installed several yurts in addition. There are all sorts of neat permaculture projects going on. They’ve created some ponds in strategic places to collect extra water during heavy rains and prevent the muddy pathways and marshes they used to get. They have several natural building experiments: papercrete, earthship (tires and packed earth), strawbale, and a couple really cool cob constructions including a phone booth with stained glass! They also have many, many useful wild plants growing on their property, and are using some of the regenerative tree branches for woven fences.

The Lost Valley Education Center is less than 20 miles from Eugene in a small rural community called Dexter. There are several other homes on the same city road, so the community is not altogether isolated from other people. However, while at Lost Valley, I saw the most stars that I’ve seen anywhere on our trip. Who knew Orion had so many!

Our meals were prepared by the community members as part of their regular work shifts - two people for dinner and one for lunch. Before each meal, we held hands and sang a song. Well, really it was just 2 or 3 people singing the song and the rest of us just nodding and humming. April thought it was a “kumbaya” moment, but I thought it was a great way to share the gratitude for the meal without having to invoke a specific deity. It sort of reminded me of my experience in Youth of Unity - a shared spiritual expression, but still respectful of each individual’s independent path. Each person washed his/her own dishes after the meal.

The main lodge is split into a large dining room and an industrial kitchen. It has a big stereo with speakers in both rooms, and a wood-burning stove for warmth, but no TV (although I’m told that some community members have movie-watching facilities in their apartments). During the morning cleaning party, we listened to Simon and Garfunkel and Nick Drake.

After one of the meals, some of the community members were called into the kitchen for a re-orientation. The kitchen coordinator gave a brief overview of some issues they had been having recently and what they could do about it going forward. I’ve never lived in a housing co-op, but I imagine that it would be something like this - one person in charge of the kitchen, but everyone pitching in to help run it.

I can remember names for about 8 full-time residents, and 4 other interns or work-traders, and probably met 4-5 additional people. There were 4-6 kids running around between the ages of 2-12(?), under the supervision of several adults at any given time.

It was nice to be in a place where small sustainability things like compost bins and “let it mellow” are so common they could be taken for granted, when in the city it’s a struggle even to get people to recycle.

We came out thinking that we would only be able to stay the one night, since we had not gotten any offers for work-trade, but while we were there, we managed to find a sponsor and will be heading back to live/work at Lost Valley from Mar. 6-20th. April and I will work 6 hours/day in exchange for room and board. I’m looking forward to spending some more time at Lost Valley, getting to know some of it’s members, and finding out a little bit more about how they do it!

Expect to see pictures and the interview with Dianne within the next few days.

One Response to “First impressions of Lost Valley”

  1. Dad Says:

    Here’s the link to the Lost Valley website for anybody who is interested:

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