The Evans Four

blogging about our life as a family

Long Overdue Update December 15, 2009

Filed under: camphill soltane,christmas,friends,fun,holidays,pennsylvania,work — aarontori @ 12:32 PM

Greetings from Pennsylvania!

These past few months here at Camphill Soltane have been great. After living in one house for the first 3 months, we have moved to another house giving us a new perspective on life in this community. Our first house was on the residential side, as opposed to our current home on the college side. Here we live with 2 students, 1 resident (all three of whom have a developmental disability) , 1 other couple, their son who is a sailor but had to come home due to pneumonia, and an older woman who has lived in Camphill communities for many years. The atmosphere here makes us feel much more like we are living in a home than a house.

Tori is working in Soltane’s textile enterprise called “in good company” (Their store website is There are four residents that work there full time (two of whom we lived with at our first house) and four student interns that work there half days Monday through Friday. They research a theme called an “inspiration” (currently they are working on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table). Then they design fabrics and different textile products to make with the fabrics. After that, they weave their own fabric, cut, and sew it into a unique product to sell at craft fairs, online, or for special orders. All of the weaving and creation of images is the work of the residents and students with disabilities. The coworkers support them and do much of the sewing. Tori enjoys the work and is proud of the products they make. The etsy shop is still just getting started, but we hope to have our bags and t-shirts listed soon!

Aaron is working in Soltane’s community services and with Soltane’s land work group. In community services, they do everything from collecting and sorting recycling from Soltane and the surrounding community to taking on odd jobs that people don’t have time for (cleaning up property lines, chopping firewood, shoveling snow & de-icing sidewalks, etc.). The land work group takes care of several things around campus from collecting and processing compost, raking leaves, trimming trees, and taking care of various fruit patches and orchards (raspberries, blackberries, apples, peaches, black walnuts, etc.). The land group even makes products with the community’s produce such as apple cider, apple butter, fruit leather, etc.

Working at Soltane has definitely been a growth experience for both of us. It is taxing at times both physically and emotionally, but also very rewarding. Soltane allows us to use our talents, learn new skills, and provides us with a sense of great satisfaction in that we are directly contributing to the growth of the students and residents we work with. We have also made new friends here that we are sure will be lifelong connections.

We hope all is well with you! Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Aaron and Tori

P.S. I hope to upload MANY pictures and a few videos during our Christmas break which starts on the 20th.


I’m a Bad Blogger April 15, 2009

Sorry for not posting anything new in about….3 weeks. It’s been crazy around here. I will eventually finish posting about our vacation I swear.

I really want to update everyone (or the 5 people that read this regularly) on how we’re doing.


We had a slight scare that Aaron wasn’t going to be able to walk at his graduation. He found out about 4 weeks into the semester that he is missing a Psychology credit he needs for his degree. To make a VERY long story short: he took the CLEP exam, missed it by one point (according to TCU’s standards, he was well above the college board standards), made an appeal, it was denied, he is now enrolled for a may-mester (3 week mini semester in May) course in general psych. He was told he could not walk at graduation, but appealed and is walking on May 10th with everyone else (if we can pay the summer tuition by the 1st of May).

Other than that school is going well for Aaron. He is very much enjoying his time as a crisis counselor at the high school and is by all accounts doing great there. He finished his honors project for the honors program and presented it on Monday and will present his departmental honors project today/thursday at their research symposium. He just needs to tweak his final paper and submit it by May 5th.

As for me, things are going well. I and a friend were selected by our department as Outstanding Undergraduate Students of the Year, which is pretty cool. We were presented with a certificate and what looks like two ashtrays (but is actually a trinket box/candy dish) at the UNT honors convocation. As a result of my award, I have decided to go ahead and walk at the UNT graduation on May 16th. I’ve got two big projects to finish before the end of the semester (one is due the 30th and the other during finals week). I feel good about them both and am so looking forward to graduation day(s).


After graduation, it’s going to be pretty hectic while we pack up/sell our things in preparation to move out of our apartment. We’re going to move our stuff to Aaron’s grandmother’s house. She agreed to let us store our stuff if we clean out the garage and make room (such an awesome deal!). We also need to go to the doctor and dentist to get checkups and have them fill out medical/dental histories for us to present to Camphill so we can get on their insurance. For the month of June we will be working and house sitting in the Fort Worth area.

We’re going to a family reunion on July 4th and then on the 6th we’re headed to Colorado to visit some friends we haven’t seen in a of couple years. After that we’ll visit my mom in Oklahoma, a short stop back in Fort Worth, Del Rio to see my dad and Phyllis, Houston to see Aaron’s parents, then a stop back in Louisiana for our one year anniversary (we’re staying at the Oak Alley Plantation B&B), then Alabama to visit my sisters and their families. After that a very long drive up to SW New York to visit my grandmother, then finally to Pennsylvania where we’ll stay with Aaron’s best friend’s family for a couple of days before starting at Camphill Soltane.

It’s going to be a very busy and wonderful summer, I can tell. Lots of time with family and friends. I’m very excited to see my grandmother. I haven’t seen her since I graduated from high school and this will be the first time she and Aaron will meet. I’m also excited to visit Salamanca again (where I lived from age 3-13); from what I saw on google maps street view it hasn’t changed much.

We’ve got a lot going on right now, but I’ll do my best to keep this thing up to date. I’ll get to the vacation stuff eventually (hopefully before I forget what all we did) 🙂


The Scoop on Camphill…Finale March 7, 2009

Filed under: camphill soltane,family,holidays,plans,school,travels,work — aarontori @ 2:30 AM

It’s been a while since the last post. Sorry, but we’ve been pretty busy around here. We just got back from Spring Break (post on that to come later) and before that we had midterms.

Here it is, the third and final installment of our blogs on Camphill

I’ll just go ahead and do the last one because Aaron has been a bit busy/stressed out lately (more on that later t00).

So, onto the final few questions:

“What about grad school?!”
Well, we’re obviously not going right now. I hope to eventually get my Master’s degree in Speech Language Pathology. I will have to take a few prerequisite undergraduate courses (4 or 5) prior to enrolling in a graduate program so it might take a little while. As for Aaron, he hasn’t really decided what he’s going to do next. He has really enjoyed working at the high school so far this semester and maybe will someday work as a crisis counselor. That’s completely up to him. Our plans for the near future (other than Camphill) are a little bit up in the air at the moment. We’ve decided to keep our stay at Camphill open-ended. If we love it and they love us, we might stay for a second year (you can qualify for the Americorps grant twice so if we do decide to stay a second year we’ll get the same grant again).

“Why aren’t you getting a ‘real job’?”
Prior to getting married I decided that I wanted to give back in some way. I applied for and was accepted to go on a summer-long mission trip to India last summer. However, I ended up staying due to my financial situation. I had a really nice-paying job that was helping me to also pay for school, and they definitely wouldn’t hold my position for me over the summer. So I stayed and we moved the wedding up. We had discussed it and Aaron also wanted to serve others in some capacity, although he definitely had a desire to serve more locally. He’s the home-body type and holds to the idea that we should serve here in our own country.

So when we weren’t really sure what we were going to do after graduation and felt sick at the idea of starting more school up right away, we began searching for service opportunities. We found Americorps, but didn’t see anything in their listings that caught our eye. Then I found which is basically an awesome search engine for service opportunities and news. We found the Camphill Soltane listing and it sounded perfect for us. We immediately loved the philosophy they have and decided to apply. It may not pay like a “real job” but it most definitely will be an amazing experience that cannot be duplicated in any other sort of setting. It’s a way for us to serve others and grow (and it doesn’t look bad on a resume by any means). There’s plenty of time for “real” jobs in the future anyway.

“Will you be able to come back for _______?”
Honestly, unless it will somehow miraculously take place in Pennsylvania or during one of our holiday breaks, probably not. It’s not that we don’t care or that we want to miss out on things like graduations, weddings, birthdays, holidays, etc but we have made a committment to work 6 days a week, every week. We do recieve time off for holidays but even then it’s not cheap to travel from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma and Texas. We’ll definitely do what we can to visit, but it will most likely be on a long break and only a short visit with each part of the family. You’re more than welcome to come visit us though! According to what I’ve read Camphill loves visitors, but be warned: if you plan on staying more than a day or two they’ll put you to work 🙂

“What are you going to do after Camphill?”
Good question! That means we’re not really sure yet. We’re going to use our time at Camphill to figure that out for ourselves. Don’t worry though, we’ll let you know once we know.

I hope that this has answered most if not all of your questions. If you have any others or just want to know more about it, give us a call or shoot us an email.


The Scoop on Camphill…Part Two February 27, 2009

Filed under: camphill soltane,plans,school,travels — aarontori @ 2:53 PM

Onto part two of our series on questions we receive about Camphill

“That’s awfully far away, are you sure you want to go?”

In short, yes. We understand that it is in Pennsylvania and that yes, Pennsylvania is rather far away from Texas/Oklahoma. However, we wanted to get away from this area for a while. We’re not saying it to be mean. We’re not going away from anyONE, just craving a change of scenery. We actually decided that Camphill Soltane sounded amazing and wonderful and we wanted more information about it even before we knew that it was in Pennsylvania.

“Won’t you be cold?”

Well, probably. Especially in the winter. However, I do have some experience with the winter up there (I lived pretty close to the Penn border in New York from ages 3 to 13). We’ll have good warm winter coats, boots, gloves, earmuffs/hats, and scarves. It’s all about layers. Promise we’ll use our brains on this one 😉

“Are you crazy?”

I believe that this question was less a question about the sanity of our decision and more about the idea of willingly going to a climate that has snow. The answer, by the way, is no.

“How much does it pay?”

This is a VERY popular question from family. We aren’t doing this for the money. With that said, we won’t be left penniless afterward either. We have free housing and food the entire time we’re there, plus after 3 months we’ll have fully paid-for health insurance. We get a monthly stipend of $170 each. We won’t have any bills to pay so we can save pretty much all of that each month.

We are actually going to be enrolled at Camphill as Americorps workers (Americorps is the same concept as Peacecorps, only you stay and work in the U.S. instead of going to another country). At the end of our time at Camphill we will have qualified for a full Americorps grant of $4,725.00 each for our year of full-time service. That grant can be used either to pay off student loans or toward tuition at an approved institution (there are lots of colleges and universities that accept Americorps grants). We have 7 years from the end of our service to use those funds.

Aaron doesn’t have much in the way of federal student loans, but he can pay off what he does have and then use the rest toward his master’s degree if he wants. I on the other hand have almost all federal student loans so I’ll use mine toward those. Also, since we will be working in an Americorps program, our student loans will go into deferment just as if we were still in school which means we won’t have to make payments on them and any time left in our grace period will still be there when we finish at Camphill. Most loans have a 6 month grace period after graduation and so since we’re starting at the end of August we’ll still have 3 months left once we leave Camphill before we’ll need to make any payments.

I am very meticulous about money (I actually keep a hand-written ledger and budget). I’m also a good bargain hunter (not to brag or anything), and Aaron is a tightwad. Between the two of us we’ll have plenty of money saved up before we ever leave for Pennsylvania.

We’re so very excited about Camphill. We received our paperwork in the mail last week and I filled mine out the next day, but Aaron has been seriously swamped with school and work stuff, but already has a reminder set on his phone to fill his out on Sunday so we can mail them on Monday.

The next set of questions that I (or maybe Aaron) will answer are: “What about grad school?!”, “Why aren’t you getting a ‘real job’?”, “Will you be able to come back for _______?”, and finally “What are you going to do after Camphill?”


The Scoop on Camphill…Part One February 25, 2009

Filed under: camphill soltane,plans,travels — aarontori @ 4:15 PM

Here are the two most common questions we’re asked about Camphill Soltane.

What is Camphill Soltane?

From their letterhead: “A life-sharing educational community for and with individuals with developmental disabilities”

Basically, it is a community for adults with developmental disabilities unlike any that we had ever heard of. There are two programs housed on the campus, the first is the Learning for Life program which is modeled after a liberal arts college experience. Students live on campus in large home settings and take classes (academic, fine arts, pre-vocational, life skills, and vocational) for 5 years. The other program is available to graduates of the Learning for Life program and it is the Community Resident program. This program is available for those that wish to continue on at/return to Camphill. It provides vocational training and a job either on or off campus. Residents also receive continuing education in life skills and are involved in planning events for the entire Camphill community (and they live in large home settings same as the students). Areas that they can work on campus include a bakery, weavery, a small store, and landscaping and gardening (they have an orchard, a garden, and lots of berry bushes).

It’s not at all what you would imagine a residential community for individuals with developmental disabilities would be like. It’s not a “institution” or “facility.” It’s truly a home and community for these people where they learn valuable life skills in an environment that meets them where they are. Everyone contributes to the community as they are able. There is nothing institutional about it. Each home really is a house and not a building. Each person is a respected individual and is encouraged to grow in their abilities. I cannot believe that I had never heard of a Camphill community before. It’s absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to become a part of it.

What Will You Do There?

Aaron and I will be working together and also seperately. We will live in one of the houses with about 3 other coworkers and 10 students or residents. Everyone in the house is responsible for helping to keep it clean and prepare meals (cooking, setting the table, cleaning up, doing dishes, etc.). Our job will not be to do everything, but to help others do. It might be instructing, demonstrating, assisting where needed, but the end goal is to provide the students and residents at Camphill with learning experiences that will enable them to become as independent as possible. We are there to instruct and help only as needed (as well as chipping in our fair share).

Aaron has applied for a position doing land and estate care. Camphill has 50 acres of land on which are a large garden, an apple orchard, lots of berry bushes, pear trees, and of course lots and lots of grass. He’ll not only tend to the land, but he will be working along side residents whose job is land and estate care. Every now and then he’ll also have some students that rotate through the different jobs on campus during the pre-vocational portion of their studies. He’ll have lots to do all year round. He’ll chop firewood and shovel walks during the winter and till, plant, weed, mow, compost, fertilize, and harvest the rest of the year. I know he’ll enjoy it and hopefully he’ll learn a lot that he can teach me so we can have our own garden someday.

I couldn’t choose one program over another so I will be assigned to either the Learning for Life or Community Resident program. I will help out either during activities and classes for the academic program or I will assist in a work area on campus for the community resident program. I’ll basically be there to help as needed. It may be that I learn to use the loom and teach/help others to use it as well or I may assist during a class if anyone needs help. I will also take turns cooking lunch during the morning for my house. Everyone that stays on campus eats all three meals family-style in their house. If a resident has a job off campus, they eat lunch at work on their break.

Coworkers are on a lunch rotation and so during the morning while everyone is either at work or in class, a couple will stay behind and prepare lunch. Breakfast and dinner prep is most likely also on a rotation, but will probably depend on which house you live in. In the evenings, there is free time until 9 for the students and residents. Sometimes there are planned community events and sometimes everyone just hangs out at home. We will kind of help to organize some fun stuff during this time for those that want it. T.V. isn’t a pasttime at Camphill. Instead they play games, tell stories, read, or just talk and hang out with the people in their houses. Starting at 9 it is free time for the coworkers.

That is (in a nutshell) what we’ll do each day.

Tune in next time when I answer questions like “That’s awfully far away, are you sure you want to go?”, “Won’t you be cold?”, “Are you crazy?”, and the ever popular “How much does it pay?”


The Scoop on Camphill Soltane…coming soon February 23, 2009

Filed under: camphill soltane,plans,work — aarontori @ 2:50 PM

Over the next few days/weeks (however often I can find some spare time to write) I am going to post the most common questions (with answers) that we get about Camphill Soltane, our positions there next year, plans in between then and now, and plans for afterward. Hopefully it will help us all in that you will get the information you crave and we won’t have to relay all of this information over and over again.

Right now I need to leave for work so the first post will have to wait until later. Here’s a picture of a couple of the buildings at Camphill (courtesy of their website)


Hello February! February 2, 2009

Filed under: camphill soltane,celebration,football — aarontori @ 2:23 PM

Wow, I cannot believe that it’s already February. January seemed to move both very fast and very slow (if that makes any sense).

First things first: WOOO STEELERS! -victory dance- Such an amazing game. I believe that I was the ONLY person rooting for the steelers at the watching party we went to at our church. If there were others they were certainly quiet about it. I had my terrible towel with me and waved it proudly.

Now onto other, even MORE exciting news:


We have been in the process of applying for over a month now, we each had our own individual interviews, and then a joint interview. We got an email back today stating that we had been accepted! I am so very excited and so is Aaron. I believe that we will really enjoy and benefit from the program as well as grow in our time there.

It’s getting late and we really need to go to bed as our day starts early tomorrow. I’ll write more later


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