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An opportunity for your dark green friend

Perhaps there is this type of person in your life, they are unusually principled, comfortable with hard work and they likely think most people are not going far enough to personally work on saving the environment.  They might have principal objections to flying, a vegan diet or live off the grid.  People and groups which adopt these reasonable, but oft seen as extreme positions i sometimes refer to as “dark green“.  I worked in a Czech dark green groups office.  It was many floors of steps to walk up, i did not know for 3 years that there was an elevator in the building.   You know the type.

Living Energy Farm is an ambitious and challenging project.  Essentially preparing for a post petroleum world, while it can still be done relatively comfortably.  However they are using a prefigurative approach, in which we model the practices which will be used in the resource-scarce future.  This means lots of things by hands, living closer to the seasons and nightfall, and thinking about how to reduce one’s impact seriously.

Below is Living Energy Farms latest Newsletter.

21st century camp fire

21st century camp fire

Living Energy Farm
July, August, September 2014 Newsletter

Living Energy Farm Needs You!

Have you ever thought about helping Living Energy Farm? Well, now we have a warm, dry place for you to stay. After the relentless cold and wet of last winter, facing the prospect that our project could come to a halt this winter, we worked with our supporters to gain the use of a house in the town of Louisa, one mile from LEF. (We call the house Magnolia, in honor of the massive Magnolia tree in the yard.) This will allow us to keep the project moving through the coming cold months. If you have any carpentry or mechanical skills, that’s great. If not, we can still use your help. Now we can offer you a warm bed. Much better than a tent in winter!

We are, in all honesty, stretched pretty thin right now. With Debbie and Alexis expecting their new baby any time now [Nikita has been born and both mom and kid are healthy – Paxus] we are trying to bring in the harvest, keep construction moving, and take care of the daily necessities of life. In our last newsletter, we put out a call for support. The response was tremendous. We have had numerous people come by and pitch in. That has been a huge help! Now with Magnolia in place, we can support more people through the winter. We have a lot to learn from each other. Consider giving us a visit! If we are slow to communicate, be patient. We have our hands pretty full.

Barn Raising, post petroleum style

Barn Raising, post petroleum style

Earthheart

Our main house at LEF, Earthheart, is coming along. We have it “dried in,” meaning the roof, windows, doors, and sheathing are done, so the building can go through the winter without damage. Thanks to some glorious volunteer crews from our local Louisa Baptist Church and the APO Service Fraternity of UVA, the first coat of exterior stucco is largely done. The interior framing is complete. Most of the wiring for our DC electrical system is done. We still need to do some plumbing, and get the ductwork in place for the solar heating system. Once those utilities are in place, we can put in the ceiling, and the strawbales, then push to completion! We will have a strawbale workshop sometime in the next few months. We will post a note to our lists when that time comes.

Seeds

Our seed harvest is almost finished for the year. This year our crops included corn, okra, watermelons, peppers, squash, and eggplant. We have “contracts” for each of these crops. These contracts are a non-binding agreements we make with the seed companies to produce a certain amount of seed. We will make almost all of our contracts this year, and we will have a significant surplus of some crops/ seeds.

Right livelihood, close to the earth

Right livelihood, close to the earth

This year we also contracted with seed companies to do variety trials of sweet corn and tomatoes. A variety trial consists of growing many different varieties (usually a few dozen) under identical conditions to compare yield, flavor, disease/insect resistance, and other factors. Our trials included many heirloom favorites, a few hybrids, and some new varieties coming from open-pollinated plant breeders across the country. Variety trials are a new and exciting line of work for us. They are the first step in the research and development of the best quality open pollinated varieties for organic conditions in our area. We are excited about pursuing this work in more depth next year, and maybe doing some breeding work as well, in cooperation with our friends at Common Wealth Seed Growers (www.commonwealthseeds.com).

Persimmons
We started picking our first cultivated fruits from trees we grafted on the land just 3 years ago. The photo is of Rosa, our youngest member, holding Yates persimmons. The Ruby persimmons also made a good handful of fruit this year, though they are not ripe yet. Yummy!

People’s Climate March — New York City

Several of us from LEF went to New York City to attend to the People’s Climate March on Sept 21. (Lovely train ride.) We tried to get near the front of the march to hand out flyers and talk to people as they marched by, but we never found the front of the march. After many hours of handing our flyers and talking to people, we never saw the end of the march. Any guesses about number of people attending can only be guesses. Manhattan was swarmed by protesters. One of our supporters in the city made us a beautiful banner and sandwich boards. (I wore one that said “I am Building a Community that Runs Without Fossil Fuel.) A LOT of people were interested in our project. We conducted more than a half dozen interviews with independent film makers, handed our flyers, and spoke to hundreds of people.

PeoplesClimateMarch-balloon.jpg.650x0_q85_crop-smart

The march was huge, diverse, impassioned — a beautiful display of the desire for a better world. As throngs of students, religious groups, and countless organizations chanting slogans about ending fossil fuel dependency passed by, I was deeply struck by how little understanding exists among the public of exactly what that means. After the march, numerous commentators have made the point that while it is was clear what the march was opposed to, it was not clear what it was in favor of. We feel like LEF is a answer to many of the problems caused by fossil fuel, and that is not a small matter. But we cannot expect important truths to magically transmit themselves. Corporations sell their products by communicating in multiple medias at the same time. We have to do something similar — keep talking about our important truths, over and over again. The most important thing you can do is to start taking your own life in the direction of fossil fuel sobriety, and talking to your friends about it. If we can help you do that, let’s see what we can teach each other. Life without fossil fuel is not hard, but we have to show people. We have to convince them. We will have to keep working on that for a long time to come.

Living Energy Farm is a project to build a demonstration farm, community, and education center in Louisa County that uses no fossil fuels. For more information see our website www.livingenergyfarm.org, or contact us at livingenergyfarm@gmail.com. Donations are tax deductible.

Community Matchmaking – Oct 18th Brooklyn

If we are honest with ourselves, we are just guessing.  Guessing what it will take to start new communities and especially what it will take to start new income sharing communities in NYC.  What we do know is that we are making lots of friends and allies and there are a bunch of people who are willing to help, or listen and consider these wild schemes.

We know that there are not many other groups who are doing the community promotional work we are doing, and the handful of events we have organized since the beginning of the year seem to have had a disproportionate effective – jump starting forming communities which were stalled in their launch, recruiting new people to existing NYC communities, deep advising and support for communities which are going through restructuring.

community-services

It is not the work we thought we were going to be doing, but it is quite satisfying and important work.  [The current Point A collective has decided not to chase the much hyped “sharing economy” as our Plan B if we can’t start new communities soon]

What we are guessing this month is Community Matchmaking is the trick.  We have not yet figured out if we are going to do a speed dating-like thing – or just stick to the more conventional “meet the communities” open market place of projects (after each gives a one minute self reflective presentation or some other format).

Speed-dating-night

We are returning to the BUZ on Saturday Oct 18th to network, educate, discuss and debate intentional communities in the New York City metro area.  We are hoping to hit at several different aspects of community life including: children/families. supporting activism, enabling sustainable living, sharing work and living space.

And we are looking for presenters (though we already have some in-city ringers lined up) for workshops.  And of course, we are especially seeking seekers.  People who do not yet have  community but are seeking it are encouraged to attend.

If you think you are going to come then please RSVP on Facebook (if you have not already dropped out of FB).

SONY DSC

The BUZ is a very big space, come share it with us.

Further Event Information:

This is a networking and educational event for people who are looking for intentional community or are forming new ones as well as residential communities seeking new members. People interested in supporting collectives in the city, but not necessarily living at one, are also welcome.

A collection of workshops and interactive events will assist participants in finding allies and guides to living more collectively. We understand how difficult it is to live cooperatively in and around the city. Yet there are important examples and opportunities for people interested in activism, sustainability, collective child care and education and shared living and working spaces.

Current Format

10 to noon Pot Luck Brunch – informal discussion and networking
12:30 to 6PM Workshops, community presentations, structured networking.

This event is hosted by the Point A project (see http://www.FromPointA.org)

Cost: Sliding Scale $5 to $10 – no one refused for lack of funds.

Facebook’s Fumble

Social media is tremendously important and Facebook is an awful primary platform.  Friendster gave way to MySpace, MySpace lost dominance to Facebook and then …

Facebook Fail

i am quick to confess i want Facebook to fail.  Not just because of their terrible privacy policies, not just because they are mining personal data to sell to all manner of annoying corporations and government agencies, not just because Facebook uses it’s users are lab rats in social experiments, not just because it bans images of mothers breastfeeding but permits images of misogynist violence, not just because Facebook enables identity theft, though these things certainly encourage my upset and frustration with the giant of social media.

The reason i want Facebook to fail is that i want popular, powerful, alternative social networking solutions which will be institutionally supportive of efforts to use social media as a positive transformative technology, rather than just another capitalist cog.

You dont want to piss these gals off, trust me.

You dont want to piss these gals off, trust me.

So i was extra pleased when i saw that Facebook undid all the positive media it had earned by including 56 gender identifications after having had just two since it’s founding. It did this by deciding everyone on Facebook had to have profiles with their legal names on them.  And then taking complaints from people who saw FB users using fictitious names, FB has taken down hundreds of drag performers’ pages and has given them the option to change their profile name or lose their profile completely.

This policy has hit drag performers especially hard.  In part because many user names are obviously not birth names, in part because someone has apparently been reporting lots of drag performers,
Read More…

Eliptigo – go go

Abigail has a new kind of bike.  And the fans are going wild.

Abigail and Eliptigo

Abigail and her mango Elliptigo

She reports that as she rides around Eugene, almost everywhere she goes people are excited and want to play .  “Take us with you” scream the teen girls on the track as she cruises by, College students call out “Nice Ride”, cars pull up next to her to inquire about the quality of the ride, and toddlers to octogenarians turn their heads and cheer their approval. The bike has universal appeal.

A funologist wobbles forward

A funologist wobbles forward

Of all the Elliptigo videos we watched the best one was French

A Mountain of Pillows

The Tarrytown NY spring craft fair is one of our best shows.  Hawina and i have been doing it for quite some years now and the commune does handsomely selling to affluent NYC suburban customers.  It is an extended family affair.  Willow comes with us, as does Corb and some years Angie and other years Feonix.  The Stars and Corb split to cost of the extra hotel room and food, so the commune is not paying for this giant entourage.

Willow and Evan in Time Square

Willow and Evan in Time Square

We decided to take a bit of a chance and try the fall craft show at Tarrytown.  This is risky because most people wont buy hammocks this late in the year.  On this trip we brought Evan from Twin Oaks with us.  We spent a day in NYC doing touristy things before the fair.  Time Square, Staten Island Ferry and based on Aurora’s suggestion the Society of Illustrators compelling Spectrum exhibit

"Morning Walk" from Spectrum Exhibition

“Morning Walk” from Spectrum Exhibition

Not far from the Society of Illustrators is my favorite part of Central Park.

Alice, Willow and Paxus in Central Park

Alice, Willow, Paxus and a neuro-atypical hatter in Central Park

When we are at the Tarrytown fair we stay at the Marriott hotel which has fancy elevators and is near to the fair site.    Like most hotels, the Marriott has room service.  In the first couple of hours we used it to get a refrigerator and fix the television.  From a young persons perspective, room service is like magic.  You pick up the phone, you describe a problem and shortly there after the right person comes to fix it and then politely vanishes.

The power of room service

The power of room service

Willow loves pillows.  And the hotel is pretty generous with them.  But none-the-less he called room service and asked them to bring 3 more for him.  Now he has 6.  Life is good.

[This post has been approved by Evan and Willow.]

PS We did acceptably well at the fair, about $5K total, we might come back next year.

The Dolphin Effect on Homelessness

One of the most surprising evolutionary tales for me was the one of dolphins.  Our best story tellers claim that cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) evolved from the seas into land mammals and then evolved back to aquatic based life.  This is either a tremendous re-adaptation to the changing climate of the seas or a fantastic U turn in habitat of preference.

sometimes it is best to beat a strategic retreat

sometimes it is best to beat a strategic retreat

Back in August we hung out with traveler kids in Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan. Point A folks helped a risk reduction outreach volunteer give out clean needles, anti-overdose medicine naloxone and clean socks.  And we heard stories.

The most striking stories were of this dolphin effect, how these kids (which is used as a diminutive, rather than some indication of age) came to their traveler lifestyle.  Usually some catastrophic event threw them into poverty, homelessness and addiction (typically alcohol, heroin or both).   After a while, pressure from outside friends, family and often they themselves got them to “clean up”.  They quit substance use and returned to a more conventional life style.  Working a straight job (some even doing outreach work with traveler kids) and living in a house or an apartment.

Then something funny happened.  They decided that they were happier as travels and living on little to nothing, but being with their friends and animals.  Now from a place of choice, rather than catastrophe they returned to this life style.

Rayenbo Acorn and Kat Traveler in Tompkins Square Park NYC

Rayenbo Acorn and Kat Traveler in Tompkins Square Park NYC

i have plans and fantasies about the traveling kids.  One of the interesting consciousnesses about this community (and it is deeply a community, where they share most of what they have with each other) is that housing is a burden.  If you have a house or flat you have to pay for it, and this generally requires a job.  So for most of the year the traveler kids are content to sleep outside, in parks when they can.  Under scaffolding when it is raining.  But in the winter, they continue the noble tradition of squatting.

My hope is we can continue working with them, introduce transparency tools to strengthen connections and hopefully learn about contemporary squatting from them.

The kid of comments i am uninterested in for this post is all the risks and warnings folks have about traveler kids.  i’ve heard them, thanks anyway.

Building Consent Culture Acorn

“… i will personally escort you off the property”  Belladonna is serious about consent. And if you don’t embrace how it is done at Acorn, your visit might be cut short.

She created this workshop (one of the very few visitor orientations) in response to a real need in community.  Perhaps one quarter of the visitors rejected for membership by Acorn over the last two years are due to failures to understand our consent culture.

Typically, these were not gross sexual assaults, but rather were mistakes by basically fine people who were not familiar with or paying attention to our culture.  Sometimes they were intoxicated, sometimes part of the problem is they come from a culture where people don’t ask others before they touch, sometimes guests misinterpret non-verbal signals,  sometimes they were fooled by parties where the consent rules appeared to be relaxed.

It looks simple, but there is a lot going on.

It looks simple at first, but there is a lot going on.

Don’t be fooled, the rules are never relaxed. The purpose of the workshop is to insure that the community is a safe place for members and guests alike and that these recent mistakes become a thing of the past.

While the topic is heavy, the form of the workshop is accessible.  Belladonna and Rejoice do short skits to demonstrate both problems and proper approaches.  There is more laughing than lecturing.

New concepts are introduced to many of the participants.  You can’t ask for Green Light Consent, it has to be offered.  Green Light means you have a prior agreement with someone about permissible physical or sexual interactions and it is delineated. “You can always hug me” someone offers.

clear messages - these might not work in the dark

clear messages – these might not work in the dark

 

A visitor asks about how shaking hands as an introduction fits into the culture, but then quickly figures out themselves that there is an effective non-verbal communication built into this ritual.  You would never grab a hand which was not offered back.

Sometimes failures are well meaning.  At the communities conference there was a blind participant who was occasionally asking for help in her process of mentally mapping the site.  A helpful person lightly turned her in the right direction, this was not what she wanted at all, because the “helpful” contact was not explicitly requested nor approved.

There is an introduction to toplessness.  Acorn tries to be a liberated zone and when it is hot, both men and women can choose to go without shirts.  This is novel to many visitors and rather than being surprised by it, this workshop both warns of it’s likelihood and encourages people to not stare nor presume there is a sexual message where there is not one.

And there is compassion for the stranger to our culture.  If you are uneasy conversing with someone who is topless, better to say something and take space than to act strangely pretending that nothing is wrong when you are uncomfortable.

i walk away from this gathering proud of us, knowing that this is the way things get better and we are building the place we want to live.

Careful language,

Careful language when understanding the state. Don’t consent to search.

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