Firefly Gathering 2014 at Bell's Cove, a 300-acre, private lot in Barnardsville. The Gathering will be held here for the 3rd year. Photog: Oliver Fleming.

Firefly Gathering teaches primitive skills as a culturally transforma­tive experience

This year’s Firefly Gathering, being held June 25-28 in Barnardsville, aims to take its transformation potential a step further, putting cultural transformation at the forefront. The gathering, now in its eighth year, has always been geared toward changing participants’ lives through a variety of classes based on radical ideas and concepts, but this summer, directors are working to make that goal explicit instead of implicit.

Finding something lost: A sense of serenity and a connection to others are two of the things often lost in addiction, notes Craig White of First Step Farm. But those are also the very two things this farm-based recovery program seeks to grow.

Harvesting serenity: First Step Farms uses agricultur­e to overcome addiction

First Step Farms WNC is two farmsteads, both located on historic farmland in Candler. One site grows vegetable starts for small farms; the other grows flowers for weddings and school graduations. But the farms’ primary purpose goes beyond agriculture — the two sites are home to a substance abuse recovery program that uses farming to restore self-confidence in recovering addicts.

LIMITED TIME ONLY: Asparagus are harvested at Fairview's Cane Creek Asparagus & Co. during a narrow window of time between late April and early June.

Spring spears: Fairview’s Cane Creek Asparagus & Co.

It started with a dare in the blizzard of ’93. Robert Ploeger’s father was having a hard time growing asparagus, and Robert said, “I’ll bet you I can grow it.” That winter, he and wife, Glenda Ploeger, co-owners of Cane Creek Asparagus & Co., started what would become their first three rows of asparagus in the greenhouse attached to their Fairview home.

Don't chicken out: Recent relaxing of city restrictions mean Asheville is “chickening” like never before. But many would be chicken-keeepers don’t realize the birds stop producing eggs early in their life, yet still require care and attention to survive. As the interest in backyard chicken keeping raises so do the number of abandoned and neglected animals.

Backyard chicken keeping not as easy as it’s cracked up to be

Recent relaxing of city restrictions mean Asheville is “chickening” like never before. But many would be chicken-keeepers don’t realize the birds stop producing eggs early in their life, yet still require care and attention to survive. As the interest in backyard chicken keeping raises so do the number of abandoned and neglected animals.

THE ORIGINAL MOTHERS: (left-to-right) Franklin Sides, Susan Sides, Bob Kornegay, Richard Colgan, Ned Ryan Doyle, Terry Krautwurst, Lorna Loveless (front), Jean Malmgrem (partially obscured in middle), Pat Stone (obscured in back), Kathleen Seebe (front), Beach Barrett (back), Richard Freudenberger, Marsha Drake (front), unidentified woman (obscured in back), Joanne Dufilho, Caroline Sizemore. Photo by Hannah Kincaid

Mother Earth News pioneers gather at Asheville fair

Some of Mother Earth News’ earliest “Mothers” — whose roots go back to the 1970s and 1980s — got together this past Sunday at the Mother Earth News Fair, which was held at the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher. Nearly two dozen former employees and families met for brunch and to share their recollections from the decades past. I was one of them.

Room to grow: Thanks to a grant from TD Bank and the National Arbor Day Foundation, Asheville GreenWorks has installed a production orchard and community green space in a vacant lot in Hillcrest Apartments.

A community orchard brings a new green space to Hillcrest

Over the years, Hillcrest Apartments has lost several trees leaving the neighborhood to feel a bit barren. Hillcrest residents knew that the environmental nonprofit Asheville GreenWorks had planted fruit trees in other public housing developments, and hoped to see a similar project come to their neighborhood. Turns out, planting an orchard in Hillcrest was on GreenWorks’ to do list as well.

ORCHARD PROJECT: Volunteers came out on a beautiful day to plant an orchard on a formerly vacant green space in the Hillcrest Apartment complex.

In photos: Hillcrest get an organic boost from GreenWorks

Asheville GreenWorks partnered up April 11 with volunteers to transform an empty green lot at Hillcrest Apartments into an orchard. GreenWorks received a grant to plant its sixth community orchard at Hillcrest, with 24 ball-and-burlap apple trees and 36 blueberries. The goal is to promote better access to food, greenspace, shade, community pride and jobs.