Wouldn't it be cool to live love life together?

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List: ICs and Reading Material April 26, 2010

Filed under: Random Stream of Consciousness Post,Social Structure,Vision — indorfpf @ 4:59 pm

ICs:
Acorn (VA) http://www.acorncommunity.org/
Twin Oaks (VA) http://www.twinoaks.org/
Ecovillage of Loudon County http://www.ecovillages.com/index.php
Sandhill (MO) http://www.sandhillfarm.org/
Dancing Rabbit (MO) http://www.dancingrabbit.org/
Eastwind (MO) http://www.eastwind.org/
Oran Mor (MO) http://oranmor.freeservers.com/OMfiles/home.html
Earthaven (NC) http://www.earthaven.org
The Farm (TN) http://www.thefarm.org/lifestyle/index.html
Ithaca (NY) http://ecovillageithaca.org/evi/
Ganas (NY) http://www.ganas.org/

Rainbow Gatherings 2010
http://www.welcomehere.org/gathering_of_the_tribes/annual/

Other:
Ecovillage Network of the Americas
http://ena.ecovillage.org/eng/
Fellowship for Intentional Communities
http://www.ic.org/

Reading Material:
Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale.
Beecher, Jonathan, Bienvenu, Richard. The Utopian vision of Charles Fourier; selected texts on work, love, and passionate attraction.
Butler, Octavia. Parable of the Sower.
Fogarty, Robert S. American Utopianism.
Frank, Pat. Alas, Babylon.
Golding, William. Lord of the Flies.
Heinlein, Robert. Stranger in a Strange Land.
Hine, Robert V. California’s Utopian Colonies.
Jenkins, Joseph. The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure.
Kanter, Rosabeth Moss. Commitment and Community: Communes and Utopias in Sociological Perspective.
Kinkade, Kat. Is It Utopia Yet?: An Insider’s View of Twin Oaks Community in Its Twenty-Sixth Year.
Le Guin, Ursula. The Dispossessed.
Melville, Keith. Communes in the counter culture; origins, theories, styles of life.
Piercy , Marge. Woman on the Edge of Time.
Robinson, Kim Stanley. Red Mars.
Shute, Nevil. On the Beach.
Skinner, B. F. Walden Two.
Strieber, Whitley. War Day.
Twin Oaks Community. Journal of a Walden Two commune; the collected leaves of Twin Oaks.
Varley, John. “The Persistence of Vision.” The John Varley Reader: Thirty Years of Short Fiction.

Movies:
Kozeny, Geoph. Visions of Utopia: Experiments in Sustainable Culture.

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Californiaaaah: Golden Nectar and Beyond April 25, 2010

Let me just say this up front: I can’t believe how fortunate I am to live in this beautiful, beautiful state. Well, actually, that’s misleading. I haven’t really ventured further south than Castroville (artichokes!), or further north than Mendocino (Laurences!), but what I have seen has never failed to awe me. What is more breathtaking than the California coast? What? Maybe it is the fact that I grew up in Michigan, whose lakes though they are “Great” are a far, far cry from ocean, and whose terrain though gloriously abundant with trees is a bit topographically challenged. Vistas and views were not something I really knew existed for folks in their everydays; I thought they were relegated to special trips and rewards at the end of long hikes or just something they had in Europe. So, naturally, there is no part of rambling around Highway One and Sonoma county that is not breathtakingly gorgeous and stimulating, and our farm/coast tour was just that. The fact that there are so many farms and happy, grazing animals, the fact that people really LIVE here and work the land, and the fact that it is SO CLOSE to our  current residence is both deeply reassuring and something that makes me question why I live in an urban center.

So, Golden Nectar. Phil gave a wonderfully extensive overview of the place, so I would like to offer just a few more impressions of it. I love the fact that this “farm” is first and foremost a home. They were lucky enough to stumble into a couple of acres that were already fairly established, with an already-fruiting orchard, the infrastructure for vines and grapes, and a gorgeous A-frameish house (not so good with technical architecture terms) with a giant trellised patio (from which there is a beautiful view, of course). This brings a lot of questions to mind about the type of land you want to start out with. It is wonderfully romantic to start from scratch, be the master of your own destiny, relinquich the status quo of the built environment and create something truly new and unique. Especially when your intentions to set out on your own land in the first place is to see what a life looks like when it starts as close to zero as possible. But a place like Golden Nectar shows that this is something that would take more time, money, and effort than we may have, and could very realistically have way worse results.  Just because you built it yourself doesn’t mean it’s good, right? And if you move somewhere with already fruiting trees, well, you have fruit right away. At least for Golden Nectar, they seem to have hit the jackpot, and this layout is perfectly suited for their needs. There is enough space to grow a little bit of everything (and I mean everything), enough space to recreate, enough space for other guests and friends to come stay and work for varying stints of time, and enough room for DUCKS AND CHICKENS.  Wait, that warrants its own paragraph.

We all knew that chickens were fabulous. I personally love to cluck at them (with them?)  and chase them around. Ana (to whom Golden Nectar belongs) even referred to their little pen as Chicken TV, because you can sit around and watch those silly beauties all day, and man, do they have some splendid varieties. BUT DUCKS. I mean, I knew you could keep ducks, but I did not know they were SO AMAZING. Ana has three big, beautiful, she-ducks. They have a teeny coop that you keep them in at night, and then they lay their egg (every day!) at around 9AM or so, and you let them out. Yes, you let them out at 9AM. They roam around their WHOLE property all day, and then it is easy to round them up into their coop in the evening because that is when/where you feed them. And these three ducks happened to be the sweetest little ducks ever. They wandered around in a troop to every spot in the garden, here and there, all day. They even hang out with the chickens, because some of them were raised together! These ducks are also very communicative, and shake their little tails in unison whenever you quack at them. (The chickens were into bock-bocking as well, but no tail shaking.) And get this: the ducks don’t fly away! Ana has her chickens’ wings clipped, or at least one of their wings clipped so they fly in a circle and don’t get anywhere. But the ducks, who are actually migratory animals and quite adept at flying are so gosh-darned happy that they DON”T LEAVE.

We could also call this post “Holy Shit, I Really Love Farm Ducks.”

Golden Nectar was such a warm, inviting, and amazing place, the perfect synergy of home and farm. The layout with the garden and farm surrounding the house makes for an environment for really living in and sharing, not just production. They definitely do have a quite a yield every year and sell a lot of it at farmer’s markets. But this seems to be because it is such an abundant space; this is not a “commercial farm” in the traditional sense. It is a space for sharing. I know Ana mentioned having workshops out there, at the very least natural building workshops, which is how their strawbale guest house and earthen oven were produced. A place like this is so wonderful that you can’t keep it to yourself, and it is illuminating even to walk around in, which is why it is so amazing of Ana to open up Golden Nectar to the “public” for tours and such. This is an important aspect of intentional community, which branches to the importance of the physical space you choose to inhabit. You become an example of a way to live, and having an inviting, open space means you can share that example with others. Just how you relate to those others and the world is up to you; it can range anywhere from inviting spectators to watch your life fishbowl style to inviting collaborators and worktraders to washing your guests’ feet spiritual-style to just having open land that is free for people to wander around in. The relationship between your community and the world at large is essential in determining your vision and mission statement, even if (especially if) you decide to completely remove yourself from “society.” I like the idea of inviting and allowing for a wide spectrum of visitors, members, and friends, a non-exclusive invitation that treats all of us humans as would-be collaborators, teachers, and students.

I’ve got more to say, but Lord knows this is getting long. Suffice it to say that I feel like a lucky duck myself for living here and loving you guys. Quack quack.

 

O.A.E.C Work Day April 22, 2010

Filed under: Architecture,Energy — indorfpf @ 1:53 pm

Lily and I went to the O.A.E.C Work Day yesterday: our job was mainly the building of a compost pile. Of most import to them was the differing layers of nitrogen and carbon. *Research what can go in each level and differing compost methods.

Lily also pointed out solar thermal panels on the roofs of some of the houses there. Solar thermal panels could be an alternative or a supplement to solar cells. Solar thermal panels work similarly to solar camping showers- the panels hold water in them, get heated by the sun, and can be used in placement of your typical water heater. *It is unknown whether STP require a pump to get the water up there, which might offset the energy it saves. *Knowing how much energy is saved by pumping water to the roof and heating it as opposed to storing solar enery in cells and using the electricity to power a water heater is very important to find out whether it is worth having one more thing to worry about. There is something to be said about just having solar cells; having only one solar harvester on the roof simplifies the system and lessens the likelihood of having something break.

 

Spectrum of visitors… April 19, 2010

Filed under: Education,Random Stream of Consciousness Post,Social Structure — indorfpf @ 12:45 pm

Was talking to Ilyse the other day and we came across the idea that there is a spectrum that describes the types of person that would be nice to attract to RainbowAcre and that being able to cater to all of them is a nice ideal to strive for.

While at Golden Nectar we saw two examples of this spectrum.

A family from Reno was there that day to attend the tour with us. They were a bit older (maybe in their 40’s) and my understanding is that they were stopping at various farms on their vacation in this part of the country. They had lived the bulk of their lives in the city but were very interested in learning about the farming lifestyle and possibly moving out to the country in the near future.

After the tour the family left and Ilyse and I worked with Adam to do various chores. Adam is a WOOFer who was interning at Golden Nectar and who dreams to work in the agricultural field in the near future (good luck to him).

What we have here are two very different types of people. Namely, one type of person who is curious about the idea of the country life and one who has been living it. Both share an interest in learning but their different backgrounds require different approaches to teaching.

The bulk of the educational ideas that I have heard being passed around revolves mainly around using the classroom as a vehicle for teaching. This has been done at other places, whether pro bono or for a nice tidy source of income, to great effect. Classes could be taught about permaculture, about composting, or about how to take care of bees. Perhaps tours could be given once a month to introduce people to the land and the way of life.

Volunteers, whether they be local or WOOFers, can be a great source of cheap labor. They could learn with their hands while helping decrease our workload.

In the past I have flirted with the idea of someday opening a hostel on my property to in some way give back to all the hostels I’ve used when traveling. This or a Bed & Breakfast type setup might help lure those people who wish only to visit for a short time and capture a glimpse of something they are unaccustomed to.

Let’s keep our minds open to all the different types of people out there. If education is a goal, then I believe being able to teach in varied ways to people with different levels of commitment to the agricultural life (and different socioeconomic statuses) is important.

P.S. As a very large aside I read an article about some prisons instituting gardening classes reaching some level of success. VERY neat.

-Phil

 

Golden Nectar Farm April 16, 2010

Filed under: Animals,Architecture,Food,Garden — indorfpf @ 6:33 pm

Went to Golden Nectar Farm this past Wednesday (http://www.goldennectar.com/about.html). The experience was great. Trip started with a tour of the place, then progressed to doing some farmwork, and ended with a splendid lunch and meeting of the neighbors.

Structures
Was introduced to yomes* which are hybrids between yurts and dome-like structures. Would be nice to check out how these compare to yurts in terms of cost, space, etc. She showed an example of her henmobile which she uses to move her chicken flock around so that their droppings will be spread to where it is needed and so that they don’t irrevocably tear up any one part of the property. She had a strawbale building built over 2-2.5 years by volunteers from a local farming college. It had a living roof than was held in by pond liner… this material kept the moisture from the living roof from invading the strawbale ceiling. When choosing plants for a living roof stick to succulents and other plants that do not need a lot of nutrients or a lot of soil depth. Ana’s soil depth for her living roof is less than one inch. There was also an outdoor cob kitchen with a pizza oven. Principles of energy conservation with the oven was interesting. When starting it up you plan ahead what you will make all day, pizzas first, then breads, then roasts, etc. *Would be interesting to research cob vs. strawbale construction. Her house was ready built when she bought the property. She added solar panels to her roof which dials down her electricity costs to 300 dollars a year. When she reshingled her roof, she used shingles made from melted down vinyl which otherwise would stay in a junkyard for time indefinite. *Solar technology is also interesting as it has been applied to such things as cookers, dehydrators, and beeswax molders. Also had a playground with attached 2nd floor playhouse. Big shed made from poles and tarp is planned to be turned into a barn eventually.

Animals
She has a dozen or so hens and three ducks. While male poultry are useful for propagating the animals their aggression makes them more annoying to handle and worrisome to have around children. The necessary outdoor water for the ducks is supplied through a working fountain and a small pond no larger than a living room carpet. Chickens are of varying breeds and have no trouble cohabitating. They generally lay one egg each a day and stay enclosed by fence and coop. Their instinct to roost in trees is inhibited by clipping their flight feather on one of their wings. *I do not recall how often ducks lay eggs. They require no clipping and are allowed to roam the land as they see fit.

Landscape
The backyard is split into several sections. Nestling right next to the house is the kitchen garden which supplies readily edible food that is easily accessed. Along the connected fenceline is the receiving/storage station (for such things as mulch, manure, straw), beehive area (seems to be homemade, standard type beehive), worm bin, and plant nursery. Nursery is used both to replenish annual plant crop and to create commodities. Interesting note: the nursery used to be a greenhouse but for whatever reason was taken down. In its place still-processing compost is placed in garden boxes and pots are placed above. The heat generated from the compost serves to heat the baby plants. Specifically in this case Ana used grape vines which prefer warmer temperatures below and cooler temperatures above.

The bulk of the backyard was split among the orchard, the protected veggies, the vine area and the secret garden. The secret garden is where the pond is located and has several rows that are more or less lying fallow as there is a mint infestation. Fava beans were planted as tiller crops. Side note- all of the fava plant can be consumed and doing so while working is highly enjoyable. “Tilling” is a several stage process. First the plants are cut using a weed whacker and left where they lay (assuming there is no weed infestation otherwise that must be addressed first). Next clippers are used to cut them into pieces about 4 inches in length. A layer of straw is placed on top. Manure crests the whole operation. Also in the secret garden is one example of Ana’s specialty compost pile that requires no turning. *Unfortunately I do not recall the details regarding this low maintenance concept.

The vine area is called so as it is inhabited by similar constructs as are prevalent on wine land. Kiwis grow here and possibly grapes.

The protected veggie area is named after the netting that surrounds both the vertical perimeter and the top. The veggies here are numerous. This is also where the berries grow. The netting serves as physical protection from birds and presumably wild mammals.

Another type of preventive aid is the use of shimmery pieces of foil-like material that is wrapped around orchard branches. In addition to being a deterrent to birds, it can be quite pleasing to the eye and a healthy addition to one’s artistic visions (made me think of those Tibetan and Native American prayer flags which I find neat). The orchard was also part of the property when it was purchased and was revitalized and morphed by Ana. Fruit trees that were not doing so well were taken out and replaced. Groups of same fruit trees were diversified into different breeds. Much use of grafting.

Grafting is freaking cool! You slice off a thin branch of the parasitic plant. You find a larger stump on the mother tree and make a deep cut down the diameter of the stump. Then the branch is placed within the cut, between the bark and the trunk. Try to graft several times in multiple areas as some grafts may not take. If you are lucky, all new growth from that stump will be the same variety as the branch graft! Doing this can turn old trunk stumps into new flowering trees, can produce trees that have multiple breeds of a fruit to help cross-pollinate, or you can make a monster franken-tree that has all kinds of fruit growing on it! Freaking neat! Also apparently, farmers hold grafting conferences where they give and trade away grafts from their trees. This makes pruning season a lot more fun and interesting! P.S. Ana also prunes the tops of all her trees every year so that the fruit produced is all easily reached by hand.

The day ended with a hand picked lunch which was absolutely delectable and a meet and greet with some neighbors and friends who stopped by with some food and stories to tell. Absolutely amazing. I will never forget it!

-Phil

 

O.A.E.C. April 11, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — indorfpf @ 9:44 pm

Today I went to check out O.A.E.C. (Occidental Arts and Ecology Center) as there WAS a tour scheduled there for today. It was raining hard the whole time and the tour was cancelled. Still got a chance to look around and get some impressions so that when I go there again in two weeks it won’t be all brand new.

The surrounding land is of the rolling tree-barren hills variety. Lots of grazeland, cows. Small dozen-building drive through towns. You cross over a hill and BAM surrounding by trees, kind of feels like you are falling in a hole. The center is about a half mile up a mountain road from the closest town of Occidental. They had a garden sale the same day and they had people posted to receive visitors and guide them to the parking area. It felt weird driving in there since the whole place is fenced and gated. Very “cult compound” type of feeling. Thankfully all the people there were nice.

The area available to visitors (I.e. not back country) is quite small. Central location holds office and common building. Area north and south are gardens with mulched paths and stone steps. Northwestmost corner has simple “powwow” type area: roof held up by timbers with chairs and picnic tables underneath. Also in this corner is an open stage like area that seems to hold the triple function of theater, school, and pulpit/church. Private residences perimeter in a semicircle fashion from the north west corner to the south east corner and are easily recognizable by signs presents on the path. Designs vary from cob to wood cabin to adapted yurt. Signs also designate what plant is in each section of the gardens. Ornamental trees line paths. General use structures such as garden sheds or generic shelters are sporadically placed on the land. Water access by river, the landscape is forested. Electricity everywhere.

Will update later.

Getting local volunteers to help work on garden should be easy. Teaching classes can be easy way to make money. Selling extra plants/ animals easy.

 

Road Trip 2k10 April 5, 2010

Filed under: Question: Needs Input,Random Stuff — indorfpf @ 2:27 pm

Going on a road trip within the next three weeks to visit farms/ecovillages in NoCal. If anyone wants to come, let me know when you’re available (my unemployment leaves me quite flexible for scheduling). Don’t really plan on going to much farther north than Sebastopol. If there are any suggestions for places to check please also let me know. I haven’t really decided how long it’ll be as I want to cater somewhat to anyone who might want to come but in general I envisage a weekend jaunt. My truck can fit two others. Bring camping gear. Following are the list of places contacted and a copy of the email sent.

Green Gulch

Living Mandala

Emerald Earth

Golden Nectar

Occidental Arts and Ecology Center

Green Valley Village
___________________________________________________________

Hello! My name is Philip. I’m currently living in San Francisco and am in a part of my life where I am researching the intentional community lifestyle to see what my forebears have created to see if I can adopt some of these activities into my own life. In furthering this particular quest of mine, I came across your website and was hoping that I could come visit! I would be driving there in my truck and sleeping either in that or nestled on some nice patch of grass. In exchange for you letting me park there I would not mind at all helping out with whatever project is going on that day. My purpose is to stay there a day or two and imbibe as much information and feeling as possible. If this is something that you would not mind happening please send me a reply! Any suggestions on best times to come are appreciated! Thanks for your time and I hope you enjoy the great weather today! Philip Indorf