“The design concept was just to stack them like they would be in a container yard," architect and designer Douglas Hecker says of the Smoky Park Supper Club. “We wanted that association between the containers and the industrial past of the River Arts District.”

City building blocks: Shipping container structures are stacking up in Asheville

Shipping containers seem to be the new architectural craze, and with the construction of the Smoky Park Supper Club — Asheville’s first commercial structure built from containers (19 of them, to be exact) — city residents and visitors will soon get to explore one of these buildings up close. But what is it about the look of these large steel boxes that has so captured our imagination?

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.

Cleaner is cheaper

Taking a hard look: WNC’s sustainabi­lity report card

As we celebrate Earth Day 2015, we take a look at the status of the sustainability movement in WNC. How far have we come, and how far do we have to go? We asked local nonprofits and regulatory agencies to take us to school by examining our environmental efforts — from our air to our water, from our successes to our failures — and giving us an honest assessment of how we’re doing.

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.

The Appalachian Studies Association held its 38th Annual Appalachian Studies Conference last weekend at Eastern Tennessee University. Photo by Max Hunt.

Mountain medley: Reflection­s on the 2015 Appalachia­n Studies Conference

In an ongoing effort to connect those dispersed communities, the Appalachian Studies Association held its 38th annual conference last month in Johnson City, Tenn. The one-of-a-kind event unites scholars and musicians, activists and academics, to celebrate the often misunderstood region’s distinctive heritage, culture and physical landscape.

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.

Philip Ackerman-Leist

Interview with author of Rebuilding the Foodshed, Philip Ackerman-Leist

Author Philip Ackerman-Leist is among the presenters recruited from around the country to conduct workshops at the Mother Earth News Fair coming to Western North Carolina Agricultural Center on April 11 and 12, 2015. Ackerman-Leist is the Program Director for Green Mountain College’s Master of Science in Sustainable Food Systems.