Mountain Gardens
Mountian_Gardens_Photo_Credit_By_Lauren_Lightbody (36 of 68).jpg




The 2019 Apprenticeship Program is full.  You may inquire for Apprenticeships in 2020, or schedule a short term (1-2 week) visit this year.


Apprentices are expected to have the equivalent of a year (9 months) of gardening experience.

If you are interested in applying, please email or post a letter describing yourself, educational, employment and relevant life experience, skills and interests, and objectives / goals in working here (some possibilities are listed below), as well as any dietary requirements or food avoidances.  Our diet is generally vegetarian by default, although we enjoy wild game when occasionally available.

A visit prior to making a commitment is best for both of us and required except in unusual circumstances. Sorry, no dogs.

Additionally, we always welcome WWOOFers and other short term visitors – especially those who are considering applying for the following year. Please contact us in advance to let us know when and for how long you would like to visit.  WWOOFers and other visitors generally stay for a maximum of 1 - 2 weeks.

We have openings (housing) for 6 full-time, live-in apprentices, from early-March to late October. Those coming for shorter stays (WWOOFers, college students on break, etc.) may have to bring a tent to sleep in. (Part-time apprenticeships are discussed below)

Full time means 30 hours / week, plus a share of the chores (like cooking, cleaning up, firewood).  Room and board are provided – basic staples, mostly from our neighborhood food coop, plus what we grow & gather. Sorry, no stipend.

The work is extremely varied and creative, including herb growing, seed saving, medicinal preparations, vegetable gardening, food preservation, rough carpentry, cob, bamboo and rock-work, maintaining and upgrading photovoltaic and irrigation systems, wildcrafting, library research, mapping and record-keeping and all the varied tasks which compose a ‘simple’ lifestyle.  

The botanic garden, research library & apothecary, and adjacent natural environments add up to a unique educational opportunity, which I created for myself but delight in sharing.

Part-time apprenticeships: I am very open to people who live in the area (we are about 1 hour from Asheville) and would like to apprentice one (or more) days / week, but not live here. Housing is limited, but interesting work is not. Most of the time, it should be possible to accommodate particular interests (garden-making, medicinal herb cultivation, herbal preparations, etc).


The ‘School of Paradise Gardening’ – a utopian fantasy.

Once upon a time there was, or will be, a small community of persons who shared a goal: to create a Paradise Garden, develop it, maintain it, live in it, enjoy it.

It is an anarchist garden community; there are areas of responsibility: vegetable, herb and fruit gardens, structures, water system, nursery & seed collecting, kitchen & food preservation, bees, mushrooms and many more.  The fellows know what they are responsible for.  Whatever they need is provided, including help (apprentices) and guidance (elders), tools, materials, texts.

On a typical morning, everyone (apprentices, fellows, elders) will be working together in one part of the garden: planting, weeding, harvesting, pruning, propagating, fertilizing, grubbing, labeling, terracing, mulching, etc.  On a typical afternoon, the fellows and elders are engaged with projects in their own domains; the apprentices assist where needed.

The apprentices rotate between helping in all the sectors, and in the course of a year come to understand how it all works, learn where everything is kept, how to anticipate and deal with the usual problems, how to distinguish the garden plants and the weeds, and what to do with each, etc.  Apprentices are provided room & board (board means groceries – everyone shares in the food preparation); at the end of the year, apprentices may be invited to return as fellows.
Fellows receive room & board, a modest monthly subsidy, and the opportunity to earn income either by taking on a pre-existing ‘business’ or by starting a new (garden-related) one. Examples would include: selling seeds, seedlings, plants, produce or value-added products, marketing information, landscaping, promoting workshops & tours, etc.  Fellows may also, if they wish, construct their own shelter (using primarily materials available on the land -clay, stone, wood – other materials are provided), or improve an existing one.

The garden has its own income stream, which provides whatever food we (thus far) can’t grow ourselves, tools, materials, books, utilities (phone & internet), truck, etc. as well as the subsidy to fellows. Everyone pitches in to help the garden earn money; that’s part of the morning shared work.  But the garden also affords an almost infinite number of other opportunities to generate a modest income (and how much do you really need, if your shelter, food, medicine, lights, music, internet, phone, shower / hot tub, companionship, transportation, etc. are provided?), and it is these opportunities which fellows are encouraged to explore.  An expected outcome of this program is that participants will leave with not only a thorough knowledge of how to develop and maintain a Paradise Garden, but with a specific ‘product’ and indeed an established ‘business’ (website) to generate the unavoidable amount of $ needed to survive (and hopefully a little extra to thrive).

A prerequisite for apprentices is ‘basic gardening knowledge / experience’.  Meaning a full season gardening apprenticeship or the equivalent.  Fellows are expected to have considerably more experience.  The best and most natural way to become a fellow is to be an apprentice here for a year and then, by mutual agreement, move up to become a fellow the following year(s).  As indicated above, fellows will choose (or be assigned) areas of responsibility (veg gdn, fruit gdn, herb gdn, kitchen, apothecary, structures, water system, etc.) Individuals with considerable garden experience plus the necessary specialized knowledge and experience may move directly to fellowship.

This is a small community, say six to twelve adults.  There is much interaction and camaraderie. There is a shared interest in Paradise Gardening, i.e. the development of a way of living on earth that is sustainable, democratic and satisfying. Sustainable means beneficial, or at least not injurious to Gaia, the planetary ecosystem.  Democratic means beneficial, or at least not stealing from, our fellow humans (which requires considerable restraint since, as Americans,  we are born with a license and it sometimes seems even a mandate to steal).  Satisfying means beneficial to our health and happiness, and herein lies the crux of the matter: it is above all essential that we consider our lifestyle, with its implied limitations on, say, gasoline (use as little as possible, ideally none), or purchased food (use as little as possible, ideally none), etc., not as ‘self-sacrifice’ but as liberation.

Beyond health and happiness, the personal goals of Paradise Gardening are ataraxy and enthusiasm. Ataraxy means calmness, or tranquility; more specifically, the peace and contentment which follows from having a certain knowledge of the world and one’s place and role in it.  Ataraxy was the main goal of the School of Epicurus (a rival of Plato’s Academy in ancient Athens), and this utopian community is partly based on his ‘garden school.’.  John Lennon’s lyric ‘Imagine’ hints at the pleasures of ataraxy, and at how quickly the world could change if we could change our worldview.

Enthusiasm (latin ‘inspiration’) refers to freeing the ‘God within’ to act.  Not just at occasional periods of creativity, in the studio, or worship, in church – we seek to infuse our lives with enthusiasm: to wake in the morning, the God within eager to engage with the world, the God without.

To live in a Paradise garden, in the company of enthusiastic gardeners….