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Camping with Rachel

You get to make some choices about how you grow old.  If you work a soulless job, don’t get much exercise because you are either commuting to work or sitting in front of a computer all day, and are not excited about the people you spend your free time with – you will, i am guessing, age hard and fast.

Alternatively, if you love what you do, if you are active – running around doing errands or construction or child care, if you love the people who you are spending time with and they inspire you, then you run a better chance of aging gracefully.

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Another one of my reckless theories is that if you are living ruggedly your body will adapt and be stronger longer.  And that if you create a comfortable easy situation, you will become accustomed to comfortable circumstances and then require them.

I spend most nights at Cambia rather than Twin Oaks.  Cambia is still working on its winterization and my room in the main house is heated at night by space heaters and electric blankets.

Or it isn’t.

For the last few weeks (when i have not been in Florida) i have been sleeping in my room without the aid of heating equipment.  It is a bit brisk, i have heaps of quilts and blankets, and it is fine.

Most weekday evenings i watch youtube recordings of Rachel Maddow’s storytelling on the big screen in my Cambia room.  I think she is very clever and i am quite excited about the current national news.

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When i was explaining my peculiar anti–heater stance to my Cambia clan, Mar responded “It is like you are camping out with Rachel Maddow.”

 

GivingTuesday – Rustling Roots

First things first, we are running a crowdfunding campaign for Rustling Roots, which is the sustainability education project of my favorite small community and part time home Cambia Community.  Please donate generously if you can.  And so we know it came from this source please donate a dollar amount with a single penny added (so $35.01 and the like).  Here is the link.

This is the lovely promotional video for the project which was made with some of my favorite kids (From Twin Oaks, Cambia and Mimosa communities).

These communities are all different and important models of sustainability.  They have tiny carbon footprints, home schooling programs and a vision of a better world.  In an often insane world, these places and projects are a ray of hope.

Please support us if you are able.

 

 

Mega development in Louisa

A couple of months back I learned of the shadowy plan in which the Louisa county supervisors had purchased options for several large tracks of land within the county for a proposed mega development.

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Over 1000 acres of proposed development – now stopped

Local citizens from across the county (not just the ones from the affected areas) started organizing, specifically bringing people to the supervisors meeting and demanding public input on this proposed plan.  It was clear that the supervisors were expecting this proposal to not get much public attention and that they could simply pass it while no one was paying much attention.  The supervisors, who normally have little public interest in their work, were surprised to find over 100 locals at their meeting upset about their proposal and decision making.

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Louisa Board of Supervisors – Photo Credit: CBS19 – News

When pressed about why they were advancing this proposal, the answers the supervisors gave were contradictory and thin.  They promised jobs, they promised the $50 million city funded water and sewage system would not raise taxes, they promised this would not be like the several other Louisa industrial park development projects.

These contradictory promises hurt the case for this development and the locals continued to organize and opposition to the development grew.  At the same time the supervisor position on it seemed to harden.  At the first vote on the project, 3 of the 7 supervisors voted in favor of the development and 3 against, and one was not in attendance that evening, but appeared to be in favor of the plan.

 

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Cambia and some of the other local communities got involved.  Cambia set up the Facebook page and made calls to the supervisors.  One supervisor got 347 different people calling them and only 7 were in favor of the project.

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Protesters at Louisa Supervisor Meeting – Nov 20 – Photo Credit: Me

This time, despite the odds, the good guys won.  The county supervisors hearing for the fourth straight meeting how locals were furious about this proposal reversed themselves and voted unanimously to kill their own project.  Now it is time to get locals together to talk about what type of development we do want, to help the supervisors do the right thing.

 

7000 Doors

Bringing 10 people, all from out of state to Florida, to work on an ambitious political campaign for 3 weeks is a rich logistical tapestry.  On the day after the election, GPaul (who was the flawless finance minster for the team) reminded me by text that I needed to send thank-you letters to our donors.

Shortly after this my cell phone started buzzing like crazy.  “We are heading for a recount. We need to contact all the people who submitted votes by mail or provisional ballots and confirm these were received,” was the message we got from Organize Florida, the organization for which we had been volunteering.

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Now it was not just Senator Nelson facing a close election needing a recount, but the Gillum/DeSantes governor’s race as well.  And we were back to phone-banking.  Our team, now spread across the country, were phone-banking from airports in California and collectives in Oregon, and folks at the Virginia communes also started calling.  We helped burn through two lists of over 7,000 people in a few hours.

Normally, one would not know who had voted by mail, because one would not have their phone numbers.   Hard Knocks was the group we canvassed with and it was set up by the very politically active labor-union SEIU.  In the Tampa Bay area our canvass knocked on over 1.5 million doors.  We helped thousands of people get their vote by mail ballots.  We brought people to the polls for early voting and educated  them on a number of down-ballot items, including those for the State Senator Janet Cruz and the initiative to restore felon voting rights.  In the end our 10 volunteers, mostly from income sharing intentional communities, hit more than 7000 doors.

At each door that answered, we gathered information about whom they were planning to vote for, including what method they would use.  When the recall became imminent that same database gathered in the months leading up to the midterms could now be employed to reach back to those voters and see if they were actually being counted.

At this writing both the Senate and Governor elections are being recounted.   There is some chance that either of these Democrats will win, and if either does it will be further proof that we made the right choice to go to Florida to work on these elections.  A couple of my anarchist comrades have written long essays about how it is wrong to be involved in these or any elections.  Most of the crew in Florida self identifies as anarchists and is doing this work because the threat of staying on the sidelines is too large.

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Titanium Feather

What of course would be grand would be for us to be the titanium feather which tips the balance.  But even if we don’t I certainly feel good about trying.

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Communards to Florida for Voter Rights

“You live in a bubble, I could never do it.  I need to be more connected to the real world.”  People visiting the communes often say things like this.  Often with praise for what they perceive as our prosaic and even idyllic life style.  It is a completely understandable criticism and it still rubs me the wrong way.

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But communards are often quite connected to the “real world” and some are working actively to influence local and national politics.  I am proud to say many more communards have stepped up during the time of Trump.

I am happy to be traveling with a group of capable organizers all of who hail from intentional communities from across the country which are supporting this campaign to restore ex-con voting rights in Florida, to help maintain the Democratic Senate seat and elect the states first black Governor.  Here is some of the key information:second chances banner florida.png

If Florida Amendment 4 passes, it will restore voting rights to 1.5 million Florida residents.  This represents over 10% of the states total population and over 20% of the African American voters.  As a voting group, ex-cons are most commonly Democratic, African American voters are overwhelmingly Democratic voters.  If this amendment passes it becomes extremely difficult for Trump to take Florida in the 2020 election. Without Florida, it is extremely difficult for the Republicans to win the Electoral College. Florida is one of only 4 states which basically permanently restricts ex-cons from voting.

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 (1) Dark Green–convicted felons always retained the right to vote; (2) Medium Green–right to vote after prison term completed; (3) Light Green–right to vote after prison term and parole completed; (4) Light Red–right to vote after prison, parole, and probation completed; (5) Medium Red–certain felons never regain right to vote; (6) Dark Red–no felons regain right to vote

If you want to support such an effort, please visit our GoFundMe page and donate to help cover our travel and living costs.  Stay tuned to this blog for regular reports from Tampa and Orlando.

Nomadic Communitarians

I have written here about Shooting Stars, members of community who come through for a while on their way to other adventures.  The trick with shooting stars, is that you need to appreciate them when you have them close, and let them go gracefully, because you never really could hold them anywhere.

It was just this last winter that Thumbs joined Cambia and updated our notions of astrophysics.  Thumbs is a peripatetic communard.  A person with a mission (in his case the promotion and construction of yurts) who travels from place to place educating and demonstrating.  When i told him he was a shooting star, he corrected me and said he was more like a comet, swinging back to the places he loves.

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Thumbs is a person you can stand on

And he is coming back.  To do two workshops for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference and the Cambia Labor Day workshops.  At the Twin Oaks event, he is presenting on being a traveling communard and the sacred economics of it.  Here is a description of that workshop:

I live a vibrant life of travel, adventure, and spend copious amounts of time working on my invigorating passions, yet I make almost no money and am figuring ways to move money out of my bank account. I would like to host a workshop educating others on how to use the unorthodox wealth of communities to liberate themselves from the drain of personal expenses and dedicate more of their time to their passion projects. Communities are a unique place to explore gift economics, MOU’s that don’t entail USD exchange, and alternate currencies.  In doing this people will not only benefit themselves but may serve the communities movement by connecting communities and finding out in what ways each of them are abundantly wealthy and how they are in need. Movement Games, heart shares, and intellectual discussion will be involved. 

At Cambia on Labor Day he will be doing his yurt thing, which is describe as such:

Forget everything you know about conventional western architecture, and prepare to learn the genius of ancient nomadic design.  The lifestyle of traditional peripatetic cultures demanded the invention of structures that could endure the harshest climates in the world, both barren deserts and -40 degree winters, yet still be packed up on livestock and transported thousands of miles!  The Mongol Empire, the world’s most prolific nomad culture once spanning the largest land empire in the world, designed the ingenious collapsible home known in the west as a Yurt.

This workshop is a comprehensive and experiential study of yurt building that you will walk away from with the skills needed to build beautiful yurts for any climate and out of any materials you have access to.  The skills you’ll be learning to build these artistic structures like wood bending, mortise and tenon, dynamic knotwork, and textile pattern design will also unlock new creative potential in your other building projects.  We will also be talking about how these structures are part of modern culture, from the current state of nomadic Mongolians, to how you can avoid building codes with small, collapsible yurts.

For many people in the West, who value sedentary homes that sit in place for hundreds of years and private ownership of small plots of land, the lifestyle and architecture of nomadic people is an invigorating new perspective on what it means to call a place “home”.  

There is still time to register for both of these events.  We may have lost some shooting stars, but this comet is coming back and shining bright.

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Yurt Construction in Process

 

 

Labor Day Workshops at Cambia

Immediately after the Twin Oaks Communities Conference in Central Virginia, less than 2 miles down the road is a set of three workshops at Cambia Community.  These are happening on Labor Day, September 3rd.  These workshops are:

 

  • Yurts: While these inexpensive dwellings are applicable in many settings, they are especially appropriate for intentional communities because of their DIY nature and their flexibility citing and mobility.
  • Sustainability Exhibits: Intentional Communities are by their nature demonstrations of sustainability. Cambia’s museum trail and demonstration site is an access point for the public to interact with the why and the how of communities leading the way for sustainable future.
  • Business Plans:  Intentional Communities need to make money to survive.  If you want to start your own worker coop there are known successful steps, including business plans.

 

Let’s go into some more detail about all of these Workshops

Theoretical and Applied Yurt Construction

yurt under construction

This workshop is a study of yurt building that you will walk away from with the skills needed to build beautiful yurts for any climate and out of any materials you have access to.  The skills you’ll be learning to build these artistic structures like wood bending, mortise and tenon, dynamic knot work, and textile pattern design. We will also be talking about how these structures are part of modern culture, from the current state of nomadic Mongolians, to how you can avoid building codes with small, collapsible yurts.

This single day workshop has two parts.  The shorter morning session will focus on the theoretical side of yurt history and design.  The longer late morning and afternoon session will get participants out building different aspects of a real yurt on site.

Complete description of yurt workshop and presenter bio click here

Sustainability Education Exhibits and Experiences

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This workshop harvests key accessible sustainability principles and presents them in fun and interactive exhibits. We will tour our outdoor museum trail and participate in a hands-on workshop focused on natural building, passive solar design, and alternative building technologies. You will learn key sustainability concepts, get your hands dirty mixing cob or clay plaster, balance your carbon footprint and use fun gadgets.

This workshop is for anyone interested in sustainability, but especially educators, curators of sustainability presentations, and people interested in building their own homes.

Sustainability Exhibits full workshop description and presenter bios

Worker Coop Business Plan Review & Clinic

While this workshop is designed to stand alone, it also fits into previous workshops offered during the communities conference.  

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Worker Coop Business Plan Review & Clinic.  Business plans will either be submitted in advance or developed over the previous two days at the Twin Oaks event.  This workshop will review briefly each of the business plans which are being worked on both by the facilitator/experts leading the workshop and by the other start up designers.  Based on this input a collection of recommendations will be made for how to improve the business plan, what kinds of support possibilities (financial and technical) exist and how to connect with them and what the best next steps might be.

Complete workshop description and presenter bio

You can attend these events for an additional $50 if you are going to the Twin Oaks Communities Conference.  Register for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference normally and then after you select your ticket the Cambia event will appear as an additional option.

If you want to attend these events without going to the communities conference, the stand alone ticket costs $80

Communities building Co-ops

I want you to come to this years Twin Oaks Communities Conference.  Not just because I am one of the organizers and we would love for attendance to be high, but because there is some excellent content at this years event and I would love more people to get exposure to it.

One of the threads I am most excited about is communities creating worker co-ops.  The nature of community changes dramatically when you have your own income engines.  You become more flexible.  When members of your community have to work outside jobs they are pulled away from community life everyday, their work issues are separated from the collective life.  When you build a collective business, you are working with the people you live with, your bonds deepen, your flexibility increases, your motivation for work improves.

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But starting businesses are fraught with mishaps and hazards, which is why we have brought in experts to help guide those who wish to attempt this noble quest and increase your chances of success.  Below is the description of one piece of this thread.

Communities building Cooperatives – C2C

3 interlocking workshops for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference

And the Cambia Labor Day program

 

Intentional Communities and Worker Owned Cooperatives are sister initiatives, which can certainly cooperate more.  The 2018 Twin Oaks Communities Conference (Aug 31 thru Sept 2) will have a theme of how intentional communities can initiate and expand worker coops and how collectively controlled businesses can spark and support residential communities.  The Cambia Labor Day program (Sept 3) will focus on reviewing co-op business plans with an eye towards revising or polishing them.

These different collective ventures both require building trust between members and effective group decision making and visioning.  Intentional Communities which embrace starting cooperative work environments strengthen their financial foundation and expand the options for their members.

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This three day program will develop new ideas into proposals and then format them as draft business plans.  Some of the different workshops in this theme are described below:

Sept 1:  Visioning a co-op inside your community.  You already live together, what would it take to work together?  Is it possible for your collective to agree on a shared income generating venture and what are the deal makers and breakers for your members?  What type of time frame makes sense for this venture? Who are the in house champions that are going to prioritize this venture, including shepherding it thru community process and hopefully consensus.

Sept 2: Drafting a Business Plan.  Worker co-ops are businesses.  For them to succeed they need to be economically viable and serving a real need.  Real startups require business plans and new co-ops have some special extra considerations when crafting their business plans.  This workshop uses the Business Model Canvas technique to represent the key elements in developing a new venture and directing further research.  It will also use PEST Analysis: Political, Economic, Socio/cultural and Technological  considerations in refining the draft business plan.

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Coffee will be provided, pie charts will not

Sept 3 (Cambia Labor Day program) Worker Co-op Business Plan Review & Clinic.

Business plans will either be submitted in advance or developed over the previous two days at the Twin Oaks event.  This workshop will review briefly each of the business plans which are being worked on both by the facilitator/experts leading the workshop and by the other start up designers.  Based on this input a collection of recommendations will be made for how to improve the business plan, what kinds of support possibilities (financial and technical) exist and how to connect with them and what the best next steps might be.

 

Bicyclist’s Diary

By Noah

In early April I was biking from Washington DC to my hometown of Greenville, SC, on an old mountain bike with all my belongings tied on to it with paracord from Walmart. At the end of the third day I was 150 miles into my journey, in the middle of nowhere Virginia. The sun was setting and I was loudly dying of exhaustion as I pedaled slowly past a pointed sign, ‘cyclists welcome.’

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welcome signs matter

I looked at the place, looked at the sign, looked at the road ahead, looked at myself, looked at the sign.. I was indeed a cyclist and all signs pointed to a place that I would be welcome. I didn’t even notice the giant, suspended boat with a deck built around it, or the huge wooden tricycle immediately to my right. I didn’t notice much other than an old house and a rumbling in my tummy. I hopped off the bike, walked past another welcoming sign, and knocked on the door.

I never got back on the bike.

I had arrived just in time for dinner. Gil, who had let me in, was cooking, while another dirty man, woman, and child smiled at me from the bed in the kitchen. I was sweating so much it looked like I had pissed myself. My first impression was suspicious, but after a shower and being shown the composting toilet I felt mostly safe with my new hippie friends. We laughed a lot at dinner and I decided I would stay a day to rest and see what this place was about.

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Thumbs cooking

5 weeks later I was driven to the bus stop to complete my ride into South Carolina.

Cambia is a small egalitarian community comprised of nomads and a small central family. They build everything on their property themselves, live in harmony with the natural world around them, and work as hard as they play. I have never known such immediate, unpretentious warmth and love. We lived together, worked together, and played together. I’ve probably never had so much fun, like, ever. Can’t wait to see them again.

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Noah – author of this post

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Ruby + Whimsy

Other blog posts about Cambia Community:

Stepping Stone Commune

 

Architecture shapes culture, so a guiding principle of Cambia is, if we can make it beautiful, we do.  Architecture is unique as an art form because it integrates function with form. This includes landscaping and outdoor play spaces.

Stepping stones are interesting because they have multiple functions; for example. they can protect clover, especially in the winter. The form also affects our local culture: when you walk on stepping stones, you are called to a child-like stance.

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You can walk with your hands hanging down by your sides, and what tends to happen is that your arms raise up to maintain your balance.  The stepping stones can draw you into being playful and childlike.  As your hands go up, you are more likely to skip and as you start to skip, you are more likely to smile.

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Kelpie, Sappho and some big nose guy on Trampoline with snow

Cambia also boasts a trampoline.  The trampoline draws kids from the surrounding communes.  We recently replaced our broken one, in an assembly effort which was guided by a gaggle of giggly kids.

The German modern architect Mies van der Rohe is famous for two sayings, both of which are applicable.  “Less is more” is the argument for minimalist architecture to achieve simplicity, using white elements, cold lighting, large space with minimum objects and furniture.

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One of Mies’s iconic creation.

The second aphorism is “God is in the details“, expressing the idea that whatever one does should be done thoroughly because details are important.

 

Cambia is a handcrafted commune, in sharp contrast to the grandmother commune, Twin Oaks, just down the road.  Twin Oaks is a large place which includes industrial spaces, warehouses, tofu production facilities, rope machines, gang drills, and sawmills.  All the spaces are closer and on a more human scale at Cambia.  Some of the art is tiny and temporary.

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Ella sorts seeds into a mandala

Handcrafted means focusing on details: doorknobs from twisted branches, floors of pebbles and clay, tiny signposts, salvaged redwood around the hot tub and hyacinth pool.  It is these and dozens of other tiny aspects that makes this stepping stone commune so precious.

 

Other Blog Posts about Cambia: