Sunday, September 23, 2012

Update 3: Life on the Farm

I'm now finishing up my time at Acorn. (See my last post, Update 2: The Acorn Community, for more about Acorn.) Here I want to focus on what it's been like living here.

I'm a city boy. For example, I always thought of morning glory as a pretty flower that grows on people's fences. Here at Acorn I've been trying to wipe it out because the vines were taking over and strangling the melons and squash that are being grown. And onions have always been just onions to me and garlic just garlic. Here I have been packaging 'Alliums' and I've been learning about many different varieties of onions, garlic, shallots, and leeks. (My favorite are 'Egyptian Walking Onion' and a variety of garlic called 'Music'.) And packaging seeds has taught me about many heirloom varieties of vegetables, beans, and grains.

(Incidentally, correction from my last post. I was told by another Acorn member that we don't actually buy produce from local farmers--almost every vegetable served here is grown here--or dumpster dived. They spend very little money on food here--at least according to someone who works in the gardens.)

The land here is beautiful--fields and woods and old farm buildings. At night I go out and look at all the stars (many more than you can see in Boston). I've been living in a tent for over three weeks and it's been fine--it's been kind of nice to be outdoors so much. (Although I suspect I'll enjoy being indoors in a real bed once again.) I've also been making friends with the dogs and the goats that live here--and and harvesting beans and okra and watermelons. Pretty heady stuff for someone who has never really lived on a farm before.

Today a group of us went out to Living Energy Farm, a community that's starting up about ten miles from here--it's really wild and green out there. The land is recovering from being clear-cut and they've started building some simple structures on it, as well as growing lots of vegetables there. They have been very slowly building on the land since they bought it about two years ago and the buildings are still pretty primitive. I'm not sure anyone lives there full time and the LEF community is really only a couple of people and a bunch of volunteer help. Very much a work in progress. I intend to visit them again when I'm at Twin Oaks in November.

 And I don't think I've flushed a toilet since I've been out in Virginia. We're encouraged to pee in the woods here and they have composting toilets for creating 'humanure'. When I have used a regular toilet, I've followed the 'mellow yellow' rule. Truly we can live fairly simply here on the farm.

Quote of the Day: "Acorn Community is a rural community of people living on the same plot of land and managing business together. ... We will share our land, labor, income, and other resources equally or according to need. ... The members of Acorn Community will strive to live our lives in a way that supports the basic human rights of people here and in the rest of the world. ... The members of Acorn Community will attempt to live in a way that is gentle on the environment, attempting to show an example of how this can practically be done." - from Acorn's Mission Statement

Friday, September 14, 2012

Update 2: The Acorn Community

Acorn is at least three different things: an egalitarian community, a farm, and a business (Southern Exposure Seed Exchange).

As a community it is an outgrowth of and sister to the Twin Oaks community (which I will visit in November) and they compare themselves to Twin Oaks a lot.  Some differences which were pointed out to me in my orientation here are that Acorn operates by consensus  (whereas Twin Oaks has a complicated Planner/Manager system) and Acorn members don't need to fill out labor sheets--although visitors like me do.  Both Twin Oaks and Acorn require members and visitors to work 42 hours a week.

Here at Acorn work can be farm work in the gardens or with the animals (I've been doing some weeding), office work (I've spent a lot of time packing seeds for SESE), or house work (I've been doing some clean up after the meals and did the dishes once--which is a lot of dishes when it covers breakfast and lunch for around forty people).

As a farm, it has extensive plantings--plus chickens, rabbits, and goats.  However, most of the plantings are in support of the seed business--food is usually grown for the seeds rather than as food. Someone said that what was left after the plant reached the seed stage and had the seeds taken out was not thrilling food.  They buy most of their food from local farmers (and occasionally dumpster dive some).

The seed business is what keeps Acorn going--it's the community's work and they're very serious about it.  Most of their seed is organic, as well as adapted to the area, and much of it is heirloom varieties.  They see this as righteous work, something they believe it, and it also makes quite a bit of money for the community.  They feel lucky to have something that can support them well that they also feel so good about.

Acorn is a spinoff from the Twin Oaks community (see my post on Communities of Communities, 6/9/12, for details) and has been around for nineteen years now.  At the moment they are so full that all the visitors are staying in tents in the woods on their property.  They tell folks that even if they are accepted for membership it may be at least six months before there could be an opening that allow moving in.  The place is full, the waiting list is long, and the people here work hard.  This is a community that's working.

Quote of the Day:  " Our community encourages personal responsibility, supports queer and alternative lifestyles, and strives to create a stimulating social, political, feminist and intellectual environment....
"Remember, this stuff is hard! Living and working together, having fun and running a business, making decisions together and sharing income, are all challenging every day." - from the Acorn Website

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Update 1: The Twin Oaks Community Conference

The Communities Conference was an amazing three day combination of workshops, activities (a dance at Twin Oaks, dinner and a bonfire at Acorn), and many opportunities to network.  I found out about a forming community in Pennsylvania that I intend to explore--along with being able to be part of the formation of Chubby Squirrels.

I also got to be in a workshop on Economic Leveraging throug Income Sharing hosted by Laird Schaub,  two workshops with Debby Sugarman on Conscious Connection and a process called Heart of Now, and Paxus Calta's unexpected, apologetic, and totally brilliant workshop on Radical Transparency.

I am thrilled that I was able to be part of the biggest conference in years and one that people are still raving about.  It was a great start to my fall journey in search of community.

Quote of the Day:  "It is more important than ever that we find alternatives to the mainstream system....
"Intentional community... is one answer.... At Twin Oaks and Acorn Communities, for instance, our ability to share cars, houses, businesses, farm work and more reduces our financial dependence on 'the system' and lowers the amount of electricity and fossil fuels that we as individuals consume by as much as 80% when compared to the average Virginian.
"...How can all of us who see the need for change in modern America work together and learn from each other?  What can we do to shift the culture away from one of isolation and greed towards one of sharing?" - Janel, Conference Manager