Daniel and Amanda’s Weblog

December 12, 2009

Twelve Days of…no, just twelve updates.

Filed under: Intentional community — theburts @ 1:17 pm
  1. The last post was on chickens, and one of the chickens pictured was Nugget, who was then our smallest chicken. Well, turns out she…um, wasn’t a she. We brilliantly deduced this after watching her grow into an enormous (our largest) chicken with beautiful neck feathers, mount her fellow hens at random times, and attempt to crow often. All was well, except for the last of those, especially when it began at 4:30 a.m. just a few feet outside the Burts’ bedroom window. The poppy seed chicken casserole was most excellent, and we are very grateful for the life and sustenance of our dear Nugget. Note to self: do not name chickens until positive of chicken’s future.
  2. As an attempt to leave a legacy, Nugget did manage to thoroughly and constantly enjoy the last week of his post pubescent life, so we are currently incubating most of the eggs that were laid in the 2 weeks following his demise. (After a rooster and hen date, and you know, get to home base, the eggs will be fertile in that hen for about 2 weeks.) Below is a picture of a baby chick growing inside one of the (fertilized) eggs. Click on it to see it larger…it is truly amazing.

    A winner!

    A fertilized egg at about day seven

  3. Lastly regarding chickens, we did get a new one back in October, a beautiful white cochin pictured below that has feathers all down her legs. It was sort of a free birthday present, and that puts us still at 9 chickens, seven of which are laying quite well. We’re getting between 4 and 7 a day! Mmm fresh eggs.

    the burts

    Burts with new chicken

  4. As you know, Daniel is an optometrist. He’s currently enjoying the challenges of updating fee schedules and starting to accept medical insurances and considering new equipment for automated visual field testing and anterior segment photography. Well, he’s mostly enjoying that…but he’d rather be gardening, building a chicken coop or piece of furniture, working on home improvements, etc. It’s just that those things currently pay very poorly. However, he’s figured out a way to be more fulfilled at work…aquaponics. It’s the combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil in some sort of structure where nutrient rich water flows past the roots for food). Basically, the fish and decaying food produce ammonia, which is toxic to fish in large quantity, which bacteria turn into nitrites, which more bacteria turn into nitrates, which is plant food, which when eaten by the plants helps to filter the water for the fish, which is wicked cool. It’s a very natural and ecologically proven system that is an almost perfectly closed, cyclic system. Having already an aquarium, he built (with the help of his friend Justin) an aquaponics system that cycles the fish water to and from a growbed above the aquarium, and currently is growing kale, arugula, rhubarb chard, and radishes (not sure if radishes can grow in aquaponics, though). Those were seedlings he already had, but we’re mostly excited to start growing some tomatoes and broccoli and peppers. Many veggies do very well in aquaponics, and you can grow them year round indoors! Will post pictures soon, it’s not quite completed.
  5. March Haiti trip. It’s time to start preparing for the ol’ trip again, and the main thing we’re doing differently this time is where we’ll be staying. We talked to Daniel’s uncle David and let him know that we’ll be staying with locals this year, specifically with Derival Archange (translator from last year) and his family for at least part of the trip. We’re super excited about that, but Daniel needs to really start brushing up on his mostly nonexistent French. Archange was very excited, you could tell, on hearing the news that we’d like to stay with them. He even said something about finishing two rooms for us before our arrival…we had to let him know that wasn’t OK, that we could stay in whatever accommodations they could provide. We really like the idea of staying with our brothers and sisters there at their humble abodes instead of at their equivalent of a Hilton…has always bothered us when we’re devoting a week to help some of the poorest people in the world.
  6. Conference in Arkansas. Dave Pritchett, who we met last year at Haiti, has invited us (as a community) to come speak at the Peace by Piece Conference in Searcy, AR, this coming February. Peace by Piece Conference We’re really excited to go and meet like minded people interested in intentional communities and how many Christians have found them extremely challenging and helpful in their journey toward living in an alternative kingdom. We’ll be doing two classes, “Community Formation: Our Story,” and “Breaking Free: Exploring Alternative Economies.” You should come! There will be a lot of amazing speakers there, and we can’t wait to mingle and learn with everyone.
  7. Because we had to be listed on the list of speakers for the conference, and because “Some people who lived together in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood in Nashville” didn’t really have a great ring to it, we decided it’d be good to come up with a name for our community. One of those things we’d put off for a while because not everyone could agree on “the people’s front of Chestnut Hill” or “being intentionally together in Chestnut Hill.”  :)  So, after much deliberation and brainstorming, we finally came up with a name. One of the things that somewhat defines our community is the location of Chestnut Hill, so we wanted to incorporate that, and in the end we looked up the genus species for the Chestnut tree, which has a really rich history of restoration in America.  The Chestnut tree was nearly wiped out by a blight, but is making a comeback… obvious parallels to this neighborhood.  So, we are now officially “Castanea.”
  8. Community life has been wonderful, but also difficult. We (the Burts) went from having an entire apartment of about 700 square feet to just having one small bedroom to ourselves, and even that, with its sloped floors and slanted, drab walls, wasn’t nice enough to really feel like a place of relaxation and rest to Amanda. It produced a lot of stress within our marriage and made it difficult to fully enjoy community life. We have also had to constantly deal with the complexities of living together with others, the common chores of dish washing and cleaning, questions of commitment and responsibility, etc. We by no means have learned enough to write a book, but we are getting there. First, we realize that we need more room for at least us and also for Amber, who also has an even smaller room. Second, we realize that we’ve neglected to keep Christ at the center of our community, and that makes it tough. There has to be some self sacrifice to make communal living work, and for our Christian community that comes through the example of our Lord. To get so busy with daily chores, raising chickens, or gardening, that we don’t have enough time together to read scripture frequently, keep prayer in our personal lives and life together, I believe means that we’re relying too much on our own efforts to make community work, not enough on the sustenance, forgiveness, and grace of God. We’re making efforts and frequently discussing how to make these changes and keep these vital components at the core of our community.
  9. Community has so many draws. If you want to live in a poorer neighborhood and be a person of God next to houses of ill repute and drugs, there are safety questions, and living together in community necessarily brings some safety in numbers. There’s the daily challenge from community members to not give in to the pressures of the world, whether materialism or careless use of the environment, and accountability to see everyone as children of God. Then there’s the sharing of things and resources and getting away from the idea of ownership. Then, along with the sharing of resources, there’s the sharing of sicknesses….oh wait, that’s not a draw, but it did happen this week. Almost all of us were knocked out for a day or two by a stomach virus. Some of us had a time of bonding in the living room watching movies and being sick. So cool.
  10. Gardening has obviously slowed a bit outside since it’s getting down in the twenties frequently, but I’ve got a hoop over my outside beds so hopefully we’ll get some swiss chard and radishes yet…doubt the kale’s gonna make it to be big enough. Also have garlic going pretty well, so next year we will be ready to make tasty meals and fend off vampires.
  11. It’s been a real stretch turning this blog into 12 separate updates, but it’s too late to turn back now, so number eleven is a summary of our roomates’ lives: Josh is currently working with Hands On Nashville and 2nd Harvest, but because of his desire to be more present in our community will likely be giving up both at the first of the year in search of other meaningful work that will allow him to be around more. Amber is entirely debt-free as of a couple months ago and has a gentleman caller. Brent’s flag football team won the championship game, and he continues volunteering at the Campus for Human Development with things like drum circles with homeless people, washing their feet, etc. that are arranged (I think) through his social justice curricula at Trevecca Nazarene University.
  12. Lastly, we may be finally buying a place in the neighborhood soon. No details yet, just know that all of us are super excited and hopeful about an unbelievable possibility that’s just come up. Seriously, we’ve had an offer in on a house for over a month now and they’ve been ridiculously slow about accepting said offer…now, we’re starting to wonder if God confused their language and caused their phones to stop working or something so that we could do this other thing. :)  Peace, everyone.

April 14, 2009

We’re moving!

Filed under: Intentional community — theburts @ 7:23 pm

Having not found any houses, warehouses, old apartment buildings or other potential places for our community to begin, looks like building is more and more likely. In the meantime, though, we really wanted to get into the neighborhood, so we started looking for rental houses or apartments in the area. And now, a week later, we’re packing boxes. :)

Amanda and I, Josh and Amber move in to our rental house this Saturday, then the Adkins will follow to a rental house a block and a half away on May 15th. 11 all total, 5 being kids (not including me), will be the beginnings of our experiments in intentional Christian community.

After we move this weekend, we’ll immediately switch gears to gardening. In between our 2 houses, there’s a spot of land owned by the school there that will be our community garden space. Jason, through the neighborhood association, has already gotten 20 people from the neighborhood to sign up for a space in it. Then, as a community, we’ll have at least 1 more plot. We’ve actually already put in a small 4X8 garden in the backyard of our new rental house.

So, as we like to say quite dorky-like over and over, “we’re really doin’ it!”

We’ll update you at some point with stories and pictures and thoughts about living together in an intentional community. Until then (which, as you know, may be a while…hee!), peace be with you!

March 4, 2009

March Update

Filed under: Intentional community — theburts @ 9:51 am

Alas, our blog has turned into an update page. But that’s better than a blank page, I suppose.

We weren’t able to purchase the house on 1st Ave. There were several other things that happened in that process, but getting the house didn’t happen. So we began again looking for a home large enough to house our community in the Chestnut Hill area. It’s a very small neighborhood, and there’s not a lot of real estate activity there. So it’s been rather difficult. In fact, we’ve agreed to look into buying a lot and building. I wouldn’t call it a last resort, because building certainly has some wonderful advantages…when building for community, as opposed to buying a house and renovating it to make it work for community, more people can be fit more practically and comfortably into the same amount of space, we can also attempt to build as sustainably as possible, etc. New construction loans are difficult to get right now, but not impossible. So that’s one barrier we will have. Continue to pray with us that we will be able to move into this neighborhood soon…we’re all very eager to begin partnering with the people of the existing community to love, create, work and dream in this abandoned area.

We leave for Haiti Friday for a week of medical work there. There’s a large team of medical doctors and personnel who go every February or March. We usually see about 600 people in four days in the eye clinic alone, so by the end of that we’re spent…not to mention out of most glasses. Hopefully we can make life a little easier for some of the people there in Gonaives, and learn our yearly lesson in Haiti…namely, that wealth, entertainment and the accumulation of stuff are not prerequisites for immense joy and a beautiful life.

Amanda continues to shine as a project manager at the Army Corps of Engineers. Although overloaded a bit at times (most times, actually), she is enjoying her responsibility there and doing a great job. She goes to San Diego, CA again this July for a week of training, and found Daniel a cheap ticket…so now, for the first time since their honeymoon, they will have a mini vacation. Woot.
Daniel has noticed an increase in business, so has hired a full time assistant. They are staying pretty busy most of the time, but Daniel longs for the day when he can start getting some Saturdays off. Amanda has given him the green light, even if it means a huge cut in salary, to try and hire someone to work one or two Saturdays a month so that he can spend more time with his gorgeous wife.

Fun and games
We visited Chris Haynes (former community member, Jubilee intern, awesome person) at Jubilee Partners in Comer, GA. It was fantastic. We learned so much and just had a wonderful time there. In addition, we played for the first time Settlers of Catan, and immediately fell in love with it. So when we returned, we made our own edition of it because we were too cheap to pay $50 for it. Turns out, we had a ton of fun making it (out of wood, and hand painted) and it turned out really great. We’ll take a picture next time we play.

Our dear friends Ariah and Mindy are adopting a boy!
Josh and Daniel pulled off the most complex scavenger hunt to date, where there were 3 teams of interacting players, photo surveillance (spying), briefcases and locks and combinations and codes and real looking gold bricks
Amy Pratt is back in town!
Daniel had a chance meeting with the manager of a local grocery store, took a risk and talked to him about dumpster diving, and was met with kindness and shared concern about how much has to be wasted. He also told us the best times to go to his dumpster. Which Josh, mostly, already knew…imagine that. But it was a good, unexpected, conversation.
The truck  is finally working again (picture below)…so far I’ve had to replace (sometimes with Justin’s help) the master cylinder, glow plugs, vacuum pump, heater core, and fix the tailgate. That sounds horrible, but all of those parts only cost about $150. Several of the community members are extremely excited about making biodiesel for it, since it’s a diesel engine.

1984 Ford F250, 3/4 ton, 4WD with 6.9 diesel engine

1984 Ford F250, 3/4 ton, 4WD with 6.9 diesel engine

That’s it for now!

Peace be with you,

December 8, 2008

Still trying to buy the house

Filed under: Intentional community — theburts @ 3:44 pm

Ok, I’ve been waiting to update when we actually bought and have the keys for our new house…but that’s proving to take a bit, so here’s a quick update until that happens.  :)  

We (the future community, about 12 including kids) found a house and a duplex right next to each other, have reached a price ($65,000) that has been accepted on the house, have run into problems, and are still trying to sort all of that out and close on the house so that we can make an offer on the duplex. Problems have included but are not limited too (hee hee):

  • Finding an underwriter who will loan us the money for the house, since the house is in considerable disrepair and doesn’t appraise well
  • The title is fishy. I’ll just leave it at that, because it’s all very complicated and we’re still trying to uncover the truth and figure out whether or not we can get title insurance to protect ourselves
  • Figuring out whether we should do a conventional loan and pay for the improvements out of pocket or do a contrustional loan that includes monies for improvements on the house

Note that none of the problems have been with our goals, our relationships, or our continuing to figure out what our community is going to look and act like. We are all still very excited to get this paperwork done and move in as soon as we can. In fact, we’ve bought a stove, a table top, and a community guard dog so far….we just have to get a house to put them in. 

For right now, Jason and Stephani will be the mortgage holders on one house and Amanda and I will be on the other. We will determine each person’s rent based on what percentage of the entire community’s income they bring in, and our surplus rent will go to pay the initial investors (Jason, Steph, Amanda and me) back for our initial capital expenditures. That way, once that is all done, we will all be equal as far as what we’ve invested financially so far. (It may be, if we can get a construction loan, that there’s not much difference in what everyone invests initially.) It was going to be quite difficult to put everyone on the titles, so at a later point we plan to develop some kind of legal entity that will allow us to transfer the houses to multiple ownership. Also later, as we continue to deepen relationships with each other, we plan to constantly evaluate our community’s finances/incomes and move towards an Acts 2/4 economy.

That’s all I’ve got for right now, but I promise that as soon as we get these properties bought I will have PLENTY to say and show.  :)



October 20, 2008

Whoa!…or…just let go and enjoy the ride.

Filed under: Intentional community — theburts @ 3:55 pm

As a kid, I used “whoa” as it was created to be used…to command my horse to stop. :) It didn’t always work, like when I rode bareback and unbridled, or when I somehow lost control of the reigns and was just hanging on for dear life. But that’s what “whoa” meant to me. Now it’s just another exclamation, like “holy smokin’ metal, batman!” 

“Whoa!” could be used in both ways here. There’s been a lot of exciting things, so a big ol’ exclamatory “wow!” is definitely in order. And, things have been moving so quickly lately regarding community that an outsider might caution with “whoa!”…but we’re thinking instead of just letting go of the reigns and holding on. :) OK, now that I’m done with my cheesy little introduction (which I think was quite clever personally), I’ll proceed by updating you blogreaders with the latest on our community formation.  

Our group is still meeting every other Wednesday to discuss the book Schools for Conversion: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism. We’ve enjoyed discussing community issues, both living together and living within a neighborhood, from a theological perspective and also from a practical one. Haven’t gotten everything figured out yet, ha, but have had some great conversation! Meanwhile, we met Jason Adkins about a month ago at the new monastic conference. Since then, we’ve gotten to know him and his wonderful family of seven (that’s right, Jason and Stephani and 5 kids! and they’re my age! talk about “wow!”), and it’s looking like a good possibility that we’ll make an offer on a house together within a week or two. There are at least two among our existing group who plan to join the community. The Adkins’ vision of community life seems to align perfectly with what we’ve been discussing, only they already had a neighborhood of Nashville in mind and have thought much more about how to serve the neighborhood while living faithfully as a community of Christians.

To that end, we learned that Jason and his co-conspirators have been meeting for a long time trying to nail down a proposal called the “Oikos Project.” In the word “oikos,” evidently, there are roots in the words ecology, economy and eccumenism. So this project would work in the neighborhood to bring an alternative economy where affordable housing was built, local jobs were created, and people live together and share economic resources, working together against suburban individualism and urban gentrification; it would be eccumenical in joining people from different faith backgrounds in common service of the kingdom, promoting unity of believers; and it would attempt to be ecologically sustainable by using local building materials, growing much of its own food in urban, community gardens, and sharing common space in “designed for community” housing. All of this would be done through a non-profit organization that would allow people and organizations to donate their time and money to keep it going. That’s all in my own words, so I’m sure that it could be said a lot better and that I’ll learn more about what they want to do in the neighborhood as we go along. So, even though Jason and friends have already been meeting with neighborhood organizations, city planning officials, and others who all are extremely excited so far about their ideas, it will take some time. Like, years maybe. 

Jason and Stephani have expressed the desire to go ahead and move into the neighborhood. As soon as possible. Otherwise, they’ve told us, it seems very much like a church who goes into an area to clean up or play with the kids and then retreats to the safety of their building and homes. Good service, no doubt, and a needed one. But those of us who desire to live in intentional community often want the benefits of living in, learning from, and growing with the neighborhoods that we want to serve. 

They are very encouraged in finding others who are ready to make this move into community, and we’ve had a wonderful time spent hearing each others’ journeys. And on a lighter note, their family is just super fun to be around! After living in community with Ariah and Mindy and Dawn and Bryan and Avery and Roman and Josh and Chris, with all the laughter and joy that we shared, I wasn’t sure that community could ever be that fun again. And maybe it can’t! :) But I’m 100% convinced that, though we’ll no doubt have conflict at times, we’ll immensely enjoy the experience of living together. More than that, I get excited imagining how the grace of our Lord may be present in our community, and I’m eager to grow alongside our new and old friends as we try to practice kingdom life together. :)

So the house we’re looking at is in really poor shape. I’ve seen it from the outside only…but I’ve been told that it smells like pee. So it needs some work, a lot of work, much of which will be done by us and by our friends and churches who may come and help with renovations. It’s also fairly inexpensive, though, and is right in the area where our friends want to relocate. It’s only 1,650 sq ft with an additional 600-700 sq ft that would be finished as an attic bedroom(s). So that’s not enough space for the 12 or 13 (including children) people who are immediately interested in forming a community. So we’re considering options such as renting a place close by, buying another nearby house, etc. 

We don’t know yet what exactly the core values of our community will be. Maybe we need a short mission statement, maybe not. :) So far we’ve discussed the importance of a weekly house/community family meeting, frequent common prayer offered (but not mandatory) maybe twice a day, having open and honest conversation about community members’ role in being authority holding adults while maintaining a very limited role in discipline, some form of economic sharing between members of the community, and the need for private space both in some sort of a prayer/library area and in each family unit’s space to be alone.

Pray with us! There will be a lot of decisions to be made in the next few days/weeks. Scary, a little, and maybe a little crazy. Or a lot crazy when you look at it outside of the context of the kingdom of God! But also exhilarating to live in an alternative way that is contrary, foolish even, to what our current society offers…as exhilarating as letting go of the reigns and galloping away. (Yes, I brought the cheese back at the end!) That’s all for now, I guess, though I’m sure I’m forgetting some important details.


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