I don’t have beliefs

When people talk of spiritual and philosophical  matters (and even social, psychological, economic and political matters) we often express our thoughts and feelings within a framework of “belief”.   The first of the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, is “Be impeccable with your word.”  In practicing this first agreement, I’ve found that, in fact, I don’t have “beliefs”.


believe: (intransitive verb)

1: a :  to have a firm religious faith  b :  to accept something as true, genuine, or real <ideals we believe in> <believes in ghosts>

I make choices about my thoughts and actions based on these consciously chosen meta-choices.   I find this keeps me in a state of honest inquiry where I’m empowered and I like that better than thinking and acting by default.

What kinds of practices do you use to help you make empowered choices about your thoughts and actions?







Of Goats and Kudzu

Every year about this time someone hears from someone that I rented goats to get rid of the four decades of kudzu that covered what is now part of Patchwork Urban Farms.

I did rent goats but that is not ultimately how I got rid of the kudzu.   Read on…


Contrary to popular kudzu fear-mongering…

Kudzu can be removed and controlled with out chemicals or destroying the top soil with heavy equipment.  It’s not hard but you do have to be more persistent than the kudzu.  It helps to have help.  Hiring people to help creates a green jobs!

Who did I call about renting goats?
Wells Farm  in the Mill’s River and Tuxedo, NC area are the only folks I know about that are renting goats for invasive species management.  There may very well be others.  I hired goats from Penny and Michelle  at Got Your Goat, who don’t seem to be in business anymore .
Things I learned about goats and kudzu:
1. They love it.  Eat it up!  They’re also really fun and easy going.
2.  The neighbors loved them.  To this day when I’m a neighborhood gatherings and meetings people say, “Your the woman that had the goats.”  It’s been a great ice-breaker for me in the neighborhood that is experiencing so much transition and, let’s name it, gentrification.
3.  Goats really need variety.  So on my property, after they finished off the leaves,  they pretty much stopped.  They didn’t really do much to the vines themselves.  However, Penny said that  if there had been a variety of species they  probably would have eaten the bark off the vines as well.
4. I don’t know if they’ll eat the vines or not.  We ended up waiting until early spring to remove the vines.
5. There is no ordinance about renting goats for a few days to get rid of invasive species.  There is an ordinance for keeping  goats in the city.  No one questioned me at all.
Here’s how we removed the kudzu vines:
  1. Since I still had vines, I had to cut those away and bail them up.  This is best done with two people.  One to roll the bales (preferably down-hill) and one to cut the vines down close to the ground.  You can use loppers or a machete.
  2. Mark each of the crowns with a little flag where the vines were coming up out of the ground.  These crowns are usually about 2 -8 inches down in the soil.
  3. After you have all the vines pulled away and the crowns marked, you can go back with a trench spade and loppers or clippers and cut all those crowns off from the tap root that is connected deeper in the soil to the big kudzu root.  I had over 100 crowns on my .12 acre plot.  It took 3 of us about 3 sessions of 4 hours each to get all of them cut out. aftergoats11
  4. You’ll miss a few but you can see them easily and remove them when they start sending out shoots.
  5. It’s important to do Step #4  because you must deny the root the energy created by photosynthesis so that eventually the root will die too.
  6. Plant cover crops to compete with all the wonderful pioneer species that will come to fill the void left by what is, essentially, a clear cut.  Kudzu is a nitrogen fixer so the soil probably has a pretty healthy nitrogen content.  So maybe give it something that will add phosphorous.
My best,
Michelle Smith is a social profit cultivator who works with for-profit and non-profit businesses that are committed to contributing to vision of vitality, prosperity and peace for the whole community.  She is co-founder of Social Profit Strategies in Asheville, NC

Visionary farmer partnering with land owners & learning communities in Asheville: Patchwork Urban Farms

This Spring Peace & Fun Gardens, my little urban corner in the Southside neighborhood, is one of the plots being farmed by Sunil Patel the founder of Patchwork Urban Farms!

Cover crop at Peace & Fun Gardens in Asheville's Southside neighborhood

Cover crop of scarlet clover at Peace & Fun Gardens in Asheville’s Southside neighborhood

I’ve nurtured a dream of an urban food forest and micro-farm for about 7 years now.  I worked with Zev Friedman to develop a permaculture design.  I partnered with Zev and Dylan Ryals-Hamilton’s innovative permaculture education business, Permaculture in Action, to reclaim the side lot from kudzu invasion, build the soil, install temporary water catchment and grow a beautiful poly-culture garden (called a milpa) two years in a row.

But the truth is, much as I want to live in a community with thriving urban agriculture, and much as I want to inhabit an urban food forest and micro-farm at my home, I don’t know diddly about farming.  I’ve learned a ton from Zev and Dylan through Permaculture in Action but in no way am I ready to live a land-based lifestyle.  I’m only a passable gardner — though I will allow that I have had som success with canning and fermenting.

No problem, I thought.  Surely there must be some farmers who wanted to try growing in the city for the local markets and restaurants.   Then last December, the Universe conspired for Sunil Patel and I to meet at Appalachian Accelerator’s big event at Highland Brewing.

sunil smiling

Sunil Patel – owner/ farmer at Patchwork Urban Farms

It was love at first sight (at least for me)!  Not only is Sunil adorable inside and out, he brings a decade of farming experience to his business, Patchwork Urban Farms, including have been the main farm instructor at Ashevillage Institute for the past two years.  Patchwork Urban Farms is bringing resilience and abundance to Asheville’s urban and sub-urban landscapes with permaculture, bio-dynamics and whole systems design.

The soil building we’ve already done, proximity to downtown, River Arts District and West Asheville restaurants plus the visible location made Peace & Fun Gardens an attractive site to start up urban farming.  We collaborated on a customized agreement that laid out very specifically what each of us would be bringing to the project and the yields we would receive.

I didn’t want any rent in exchange for the use of the land to farm.  I am happy to receive a regular CSA share of the farm yield.  I’m also helping to care for the ducks and plan to help out with the market stand we’ll be setting up on Tuesdays.



The other plots in Patchwork Urban Farms are at Pearson Gardens in Montford, Hillside Garden in West Asheville and some early succession production in Swannanoa at Everbear Farm.  Sunil has partnered with Asheville Institutes Urban Farm School as well.  I’m really looking forward to connecting with all the other members and land partners in our farm community!  And I’m starting to get the hand of the ducks!


There are still a few more CSA shares available for Patchwork Urban Farms.  Pick-ups will be at the Pearson Gardens in Montford and at my house, Peace & Fun Gardens in Southside.  Contact Sunil at [email protected] to get in on this great community urban farm!

Groups and businesses in southeast are becoming more adaptive and resilient through the use of Dynamic Governance

How many awesome groups or businesses in western NC do you know that

  • Want to be inclusive of diverse perspectives but they also need to be efficient?
  • Want to empower people but they also need people to be accountable?
  • Need to be able to adapt to change quickly but they struggle to get people to make a decision and move forward together?

These do not have to be “either/or” choices.  Leaders can have “both/and” organizations.  Dynamic Governance helps groups and businesses like this become resilient, efficient, fair, creative and powerful.

In Asheville and the surrounding region, businesses, organizations and networks like Sow True Seed, YWCA and the Asheville-Buncombe Food Policy Council are seeing remarkable results as they adopt the methods and tools of Dynamic Governance at the pace and scale that works for them.

People can learn these paradigm-shifting methods and tools in bite-sized pieces and begin using them right away to see remarkable results.

Get FREE access to our Introduction to Dynamic Governance videos here.

Asheville Church of the Garden honors our spiritual connection the Earth community

I started Church of the Garden because I couldn’t quite find the spiritual community I wanted in Asheville.  There are wonderful congregations here but one of the main Banner_center_640things I needed in a Sunday service is to worship “in the round”.  Jubilee does that and they are a fabulous congregation.

But I also wanted a service that was little more contemplative and included times of quiet and meditation.

I wanted a service that makes our connection to nature and the Earth community central to the message.  And I wanted to spend at least some part of our Sunday services to be held outside.  It’s remarkable to note that this whole rainy summer we’ve been able to gather outdoors for 11 out of 12 our Sunday services!

At Church of the Garden we honor the Eternal, Divine Source as present in all Life and we celebrate our humanness as member of the Earth community.

Of course, I didn’t start Church of the Garden by myself.  Those who chose to participate help create our services collaboratively.   From the beginning we have made acts of service a part of our community.  Though these offerings of service have been small so far, it is our vision that Church of the Garden will be a community that puts our spiritual values into loving action.

We will hold our Sunday services at OM Sanctuary through September.   After that we’ll find a new home where we can have more options for colder weather.

Like our Facebook page to see updates about our services or email avlchurchofthegarden (at) gmail.com


This. Earth Day

Once today when you eat or turn on a light or put on your shoes call to mind all that came to together to bring this abundance into your experience.

All the elements, all the species, all the people.

You may experience a moment of awe.

Does this make you feel blessed?  Unworthy? Supported by Life? Vulnerable?  Stay with it all, just for 5 breathes.

Life is living now.


Greetings! I’m spring cleaning my blog and site.

And tidying up my Social Media porches and patios so I can receive guests.

But I’m easy to find.


follow me @themichelles 


follow me @avlcelebrant