Old Salem, Bog Garden, Donkeys and Goat

We found a darling little bed and breakfast on a mini-farm at the edge of Greensboro, NC. It had two donkeys, a fat goat, and three horse-sized dogs that casually peered down upon the dinner table and attempted to sit in Joan’s lap. We even paddled kayaks around a big pond.

Greensboro has an intriguing Bog Garden and board walk that we explored, as we were chased by swamp monsters and dangerous gases. Then we stumbled upon Old Salem, a terrific miniature Williamsburg right here in our home state. Come to learn that their Moravian history is smack-dab in the center of my research into community. Check it out sometime – they have quite a story.
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Old Salem

Make Yourself at Home-Koinonia

We’ve only been here four days, but it’s still difficult saying goodbye to new friends. Yesterday evening, I had a lot of work to catch up on in the camper, but the magnetic attraction of community drew me to the playground area where both kids and adults were gathered. A handful of ninth-graders who had come to Koinonia to attend a peace and justice camp were kicking a ball around.

Joan and I sat at a picnic table chatting with Marilyn, enjoying the cooler evening. She told us about the “gnat line” that stretches across Georgia, above which gnats are not a problem. Unfortunately, Koinonia is below the gnat line. Everyone we meet here is easy to talk with.

Earlier in the day, I was in the same area when one of the parents came by with a mildly urgent tone to his voice, wondering if we’d seen his energetic toddler Judah. Nobody had, but a few people helped him take up the hunt. This is a pretty safe place for kids, apart from the highway, and that’s where Dad headed next. Not one minute later, Marilyn came sauntering up from the opposite direction with Judah in tow.

A young women here told me that one of the things she liked best at Koinonia were the children. She doesn’t have any of her own, but she can get one anytime she likes. That’s a beautiful part of community that Joan and I experienced with four kids overseas with Youth With a Mission; the beautiful interaction between kids from like-minded families, as they flowed seamlessly from home to home. Parents at Koinonia have the assurance that they are surrounded by a tribe of adults who will defend the children as fiercely as their natural parents will. Plus it’s a whole lot of fun for non-parents.
Singing

Koinonia Farm and Community

Koinonia was erasing racial barriers long before the civil rights movement started. Since the community’s founding in 1942, founder Clarence Jordan treated all people fairly, insisting that blacks and whites live, work, eat and worship together. That didn’t sit well with the Klan, who bombed their farm stands, fired shotguns into their homes and organized a massive boycott that nearly ended their existence. With support from the north, Koinonia was able to survive the boycott by building up a mail order pecan business. “Help us ship the nuts out of Georgia,” was Clarence’s slogan.

Koinonia’s ministry building houses for impoverished neighbors grew into the international non-profit known as Habitat for Humanity. Today, Koinonia is guided by a dedicated core of eight members, with the support of many longterm friends, neighbors, interns, staff and volunteers. They host many visitors with generous hospitality.

Joan and I were glad recipients of their hospitality. We feel very much at home, having more than enough private space and time. We are comfortable going on walks and enjoying the beautiful land and pecan orchards.

While taking photos near the common kitchen and eating area, I was approached by an older man named Nash. He had lived in the community for about seven years and now helped out whenever he could. He convinced me to postpone the work I had intended to do and instead ride in his van for a tour to Picnic Hill. There we walked to a mind of earth that he said was the gravesite of Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat. Nash said that Clarence Jordan’s grave and the graves of both their spouses we’re just beyond in the woods, all unmarked as they had requested.

Nash told me about the events of Millard’s death, and how Nash and a friend had sweated buckets while hand-digging his grave. Under every stone I discover another story here.
Clarence Jordan and friend
Nash on Picnic Hill

A former US President, Koinonia Community, and Wal-Mart … all in one day!

What an epic day in the Deep South! We awoke early in the Wal-Mart parking lot at Americas, Georgia (after a 6-hour drive and 5-hour sleep), boiled some instant oatmeal in our groovy Turtle van, and were thundering down the road to Plains by 6:30.

Why such an early departure? To meet with our 39th president of the United States—Jimmy Carter—who has been teaching Sunday morning Bible classes at Maranatha Baptist Church since the 1980s. I still cannot find words for my astonishment over a world leader who would teach the Bible to barely 250 people in a tiny church at a speck on the map in the middle of nowhere. No cell phone service here! But plenty of peanuts. I barely remember him serving a term in the White House, and news images of him hammering shingles on Habitat homes.

I was deeply impressed by Mr. Carter’s earnest preamble which was more political than religious, being a heartfelt cry for peace. This is something he has always valued highly. At the Jimmy Carter museum and boyhood home, we learned much about the many ways he has brought health and peace to the oppressed people of the world.

Next, we landed at Koinonia Farm, the first intentional community on our visitation list. They survived KKK bombings and boycotts back in the day when southerners didn’t take kindly to whites and blacks living, working and praying together. Hospitality has always been a high value at Koinonia, which was evident in the lack of awkward moments. We were quickly oriented and given our space to move freely. Potluck dinner and worship was perfect. Over dinner, Bren simply expressed the high value they place on connecting over food, reconnecting with God, and conveying the benefits we receive to the world in words and actions of peace and reconciliation.

Now we are looking forward to a restful sleep in our comfy camper. They have provided us with the perfect spot at the edge of wide open fields and pecan orchards. It’s been a full day, and I’m looking forward to a tour and conducting interviews tomorrow.
Jimmy Carter
Walmart Camping

My story: Why I love to tell your story

Welcome to the Fox & Fiddle! Now that you’re here, I ought to introduce myself, although I much prefer interviewing other people. Here’s a quick peek at the raw materials that contributed to the construction of Fox & Fiddle Productions.

My upbringing in the U.S. flatlands was uneventful, apart from Walter Mitty dreams of becoming a mountain man someday. My parents were quite progressive in the sense that they had international connections and were constantly entertaining people whose foreign accents and appearances were very different from our Midwestern neighborhood norm. I listened with wide eyes to their exotic stories of life in far off places like Egypt, Nigeria, New Guinea, Japan, and Scandinavia.

My itch for adventure was first satisfied when I took bicycle trips with my high school friends: Once we took a night-time ferry ride across Lake Michigan, followed by a 660-mile journey home by way of the U.P., and another time we drove to San Francisco and pedaled to the Atlantic, gathering enough stories and photos to fill a National Geographic magazine article. (We contacted them with a proposal and they invited us to submit our story, but then we chickened out. We feared that our Instamatic camera photos were not good enough). This was in 1976 when not many 17-year-old kids were bicycling from California to Delaware.

My mountain man ambitions were partially fulfilled when I spent two summers working in Yellowstone National Park. I even picked out a spot near Beartooth Pass where I hoped to build my cabin someday. Then at the age of 22, I rode my motorcycle out to Southern California and I never looked back. Earlier, I had played in a band that traveled like the Partridge Family in a converted bus, performing from coast to coast for nearly two straight years. Then in Los Angeles, I hooked up with a terrific band that opened doors for me to play some exciting outdoor festivals in the USA, Canada and Europe.

I still love playing recreational keyboards in bands, but at the age of 30 – with my awesome wife Joan and a second daughter on the way – I took a more serious look at my career. That’s when a door opened for me into talk radio. For 15 years – punctuated by a stint in graduate school at the University of Edinburgh – I created half-hour radio programs for an international audience. And I loved it. Topics covered anything related to families, relationships, child-rearing, health and more.

I won’t bore you with all the details, except to say that our journey took us to Colorado for 18 years and then to North Carolina, with bunny trails leading through places like England, Scotland (twice), Turkey and the Philippines. For more than five years, the Fox & Fiddle Inn hosted hundreds of wonderful people, and we held many music jams on our huge wraparound porch overlooking Hominy Creek (see www.foxandfiddle.net/bnb

As our kids grew up and flew the coop, Joan and I decided that our huge, historic house and farm was too big for the two of us. So we sold the farm, downsized, and gave the name to Fox & Fiddle Productions.

The silver thread throughout my life is a love for stories. I can’t even begin to estimate how many books I’ve read to my four children, and needless to say, they absolutely love stories! Truthfully, nearly everyone I know has an amazing story. I love uncovering them as much as a miner loves finding gold.

I am honored to have helped many people share their tales of laughter and tears with others, through print, web, audio and video. No matter what I write or produce, my passion is to make an emotional, tangible connection with the reader/viewer/listener. I do not speak to the “masses” through “mass media.” I connect with one person who most needs to receive a life-changing message.

So, that’s my story. Now … what’s yours?

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How “The Fox & Fiddle” got its name

My kids and I were walking beside a lake in North Carolina, brainstorming about a name for the bed and breakfast we were soon to open on a small organic farm in the Appalachian Mountains. The spacious house had real southern charm, and we looked forward to hosting music jams on the wraparound porch overlooking the creek and forest.

Kylie proposed “The Fox and Fiddle,” and everyone loved it. The name embodied our vision of warmth and hospitality and artistic beauty, as well as evoking memories of music jams and fresh pints we’d enjoyed at cozy pubs while living in Scotland (pubs with names like the Dog and Hedgehog, or the Pig and Rose).

That was in 2009, when we moved from the dramatic backdrop of the Rocky Mountains to the down-home, southern roots and old mountain culture of North Carolina.

Five years and hundreds of guests passed by in a heartbeat. The kids moved on to other interests, so Joan and I sold the farm … although the name continues with my freelance writing and production business (formerly called Peacedude Productions, LLC).

We have so many warm memories of all the friends we made at the bed and breakfast … and the awesome musicians who inspired our dreams … and the delicious home-grown greens and eggs, and the fresh-roasted coffee we shared with our amazing guests. I could write a book about all the wonderful stories from that season in our life.

That was then. Now, here at the threshold of 2015, just wait and see what breathtaking adventures are birthed in this new season of the Fox and Fiddle.

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(Here’s my daughter Kylie bicycling along the Ashby de la Zouch canal in Bosworth, U.K., not far from the Dog & Hedgehog Inn.)