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Ecovillage Design – An experts perspective

We are lucky to have some very talented folks presenting at this years Communities Conference.  In the coming days there will be several workshop highlighted on this blog.

If we are going to change the way relate to our environment, we are going to need to build new types of buildings and entire ecovillages.  Fred Oesch has been doing exactly this for years now.

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Charlottesville Ecovillage Design Proposal

 

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Acorn/SESE Seed Office design

This is the workshop Fred is offering at this years Communities Conference.

Ecovillage Design – Principles and Practices

Presented by Fred Oesch of Oesch Environmental Designs and Openworld Villages

We now have significant experience designing ecovillages both in rural and urban settings and this workshop will take stock of what has been learned over the last 30 years.  There are sustainability elements, aesthetic aspects and design components connected with high degrees of sharing which all go into making a high functioning ecovillage. In many cases these are not elements which are taught in architecture school.  We will explore conversions of existing non-ecovillages as well as designed from scratch solutions. The workshop will start with presentation and then go into question and answer.

Fred Oesch Head shot

Fred Oesch – Architect/Ecovillage Designer

Fred Oesch is a licensed architect who designed the seed building at Acorn and lives in Schuyler VA.  He has also been involved in several ecovillage projects, both urban and rural as well as new builds and conversions.  He serves on the Ecovillage Charlottesville Board and throws a mean quarry party.

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Site of ecological design and excellent parties

Some of what is covered in the workshop is Principles of Regenerative Environmental Design:

1] Design as a Way of Life.

2] Reflection of Evolving Regional Society, Tradition, Culture, and Religion

3] Utilization of Indigenous Technology, Materials, and Labor Skills

4] Direct Response to Microclimate / Seamless Site Integration

5] Minimum Inventory / Maximum Diversity Systems

6] Direct Designer / Builder / Inhabitant Participation

7] Net Resource and Energy Production

8] Self-Regenerating ‘Living’ Systems

 

It is still possible to come and participate in the Twin Oaks Communities Conference on August 31st thru Sept 2.  You can RSVP here in Facebook.  Or simply register for the Communities Conference

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Acorn/SESE Seed Office Actual

 

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

Love Letters to Strangers

One of the most pressing questions facing event organizers these days is “How important is Facebook in bringing people to events?”

social media is changing everything

But how and how much?

I asked an experienced promoter “If you have 100 people saying they are ‘interested’ in my event (as opposed to ‘going’) how many can I expect will actually come?” They replied “Zero”.  Which begs the question “Why bother working with Facebook at all?”

The answer for the team working on the Twin Oaks Communities Conference is that we can reach out to people who say they are considering the event and encourage them to come.  Or in other words, we are writing a bunch of encouraging letters to strangers.

love letters bundle

For this event which is happening over the Labor Day weekend, it is still possible for many people to make plans to attend.   Rather than crossing our fingers and hoping those who are interested might come, we are using all the information which we have from Facebook to try to engage and encourage unsure possible attendees to come.

Even if we are not friends, the public information about you on your Facebook profile will help me assure you that this might be a good event for you to attend.  If there is a picture of you with your children on your wall, we can point out we have a great childcare program at this years event

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Child Care at the Communities Conference

If your Facebook timeline shows you are interested in inclusion and racial justice, then we can alert you to the thread (sequential related workshops) on this topic, including the workshop by returning presenter Crystal Farmer

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Crystal explores implicit bias & how to build diverse communities

If it is clear you are interested in renewable energy or electricity independence, then we are happy to announce that Alexis Ziegler of Living Energy Farm is presenting on “How to make your community 100% energy self sufficient

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Rainbows over Living Energy Farm

Turns out even strangers like love letters.  People are writing back. We are coordinating transportation for organic farmers with families in Michigan.  Racial Justice activists from Baltimore are asking us questions about work exchange to make it be possible to attend.  Folks from various egalitarian communities are saying they are interested in our panel discussion on the advantages of income sharing and the Federation.

What about you?  Is your community looking for new members?  Are you looking to change your life and join an intentional community? If so, then this might be the right event for you to be at over the labor day weekend.

If so come visit www.communitiesconference.org or show up at our Facebook event.

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.

 

Don’t Buy Land First

I am one of the moderators on an interesting Facebook group called the “Intentional Community Discussion Group“.  A very typical posting is “I just bought X beautiful acres, and I want to start an intentional community.  What should I do next?”

My answer is “Find a time machine and unbuy the land.”

Time-Machine

Generic Time Machine – Available on EBay

This feels deeply counter intuitive to many.  If you want to start a community and you have the capacity to buy land for your potential group, won’t it help the process along if you start by acquiring the land and then offer it to the group?

Sometimes it does, mostly it does not.    The deal with starting a community, lots of people think they want to do it, but they don’t have all the friends and allies they want to do it with, so the accessible starting place looks like buying land.  But as soon as you buy the land it stops being “We are starting community” and it becomes for everyone else “Should we join this existing project?”

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Starting community is a fragile time.  Some huge fraction (perhaps over 90%) of new communities fail.  Most forming communities never get passed the “We are talking about it” stage.  People want different things from community.  And many people have huge hopes that community will solve a myriad of problems for them.  “I will find my tribe.”  “I won’t have to cook every meal myself.” “I will be able to live off the grid.”  “I’ll have less stress.” “I’ll live with people who care for me.” “I will reduce my carbon footprint.”  And dozens more.  Starting community is an anti-gravity project.

The process of harmonizing the different needs and desires of prospective communards is the most important conversation you will have in your forming community.  If one of the desires of a member you love is ” I want to reduce my time commuting”, then you have almost certainly chosen the wrong place if you have already purchased land.  If their need/desire is “I want swim everyday” then your lack of stream or pond in your land purchase might be a deal breaker.  If someone needs for their cat to roam free outside and you have chosen a beautiful piece of land near a coyote refuge, then you have already scuttled their participation.

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beware the deal breakers

The key point here is when you are starting up a community the most important thing is to build the group.  And one of the most important decision for the group is which piece of land/buildings should you start with.  If you make this decision for the group, the forming community loses one of it’s most important identity forming choices.

 

Why you need to watch Fox News

Paul Manafort is in jail.  He was out on bail and had already violated the terms of his home confinement once.  So when he was caught witness tampering (a crime especially agitating to judges) he was remanded to prison.

Manafort and trator poster

Legal titan Alan Dershowitz argues Manafort should not be imprisoned.  “The government says he did it, he says no he didn’t do it.  He didn’t know they were witnesses, and his conversation’s entirely innocent. Why does the government get to win without a hearing or trial?” Dershowitz recently told Fox and Friends.

Dershowitz knows thousands of mostly poor US americans are in prison having never been tried or convicted, in situations like Manafort’s.  And while he decries the status quo, he gets media attention when it is the president’s rich white campaign manager being mistreated.   He is a civil libertarian and “Trump whisperer” because of his frequent and legally compelling criticisms of the Mueller Investigation.

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But Fox News is not just important because this lawyer who helped get O. J. Simpson off is critical of the special counsel’s investigation.  Fox is the mouthpiece for Trump’s base and they rely on this story telling network for the talking points needed to justify his criminal and unethical behavior.  After Fox News insufferable Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson perhaps the most important apologist for Trump.  Carlson has been called Fox News’s “Master of Misdirection” by the Washington Post.

Please only listen to the first 3 minutes of this video

I don’t want to be responsible for your mental health if you take a larger dose.

Faced with the prospect of Manafort flipping on the president who Fox News loves, Carlson is pulling out all the stops in the above audio broadcast.   The first moments of this Carlson monologue quotes one of the presidents better written tweets.

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Then Tucker builds an amazing story in which Manafort crime become the crime of all politicians – that he did not register as an agent of foreign governments. Tucker falsely claims that this is Manafort’s core crime.  Manafort has been indicted for many other more important offenses including: conspiracy against the US, money laundering, tax evasion, failing to report foreign bank accounts, lying to the FBI as well as witness tampering.

[For a much more amusing treatment of exactly this problem you should watch this funny episode of John Olivers Last Week Tonight’s building the case against Fox News https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3XTzVzaHQEd30rQbuvCtTQ]

You need to, very occasionally, in measured doses, watch Fox News, because so many people are being poisoned by it and believing it.  With millions of dedicated viewers, you may well find yourself in an argument with one of the Fox News fans. If these deceptive stories are left unchecked, then we are well down the highway to authoritarianism and war.

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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:

An Empire of Vacant Lots

“All the trash comes here” Wolvie replied when i asked why they wanted to be in New Orleans. As a scavenger and builder from free materials, this is the carpenters equivalent of having a free lumber yard. But they went on to explain the much richer and complex relationship between the punks of this town and material wealth. It caught my ear because it centered around sharing.

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Wet chairs in a stylish vacant lot

The informal collection of people living in conventional housing and shacks and vehicles functions in many ways like the intentional communities i am more used to. Cars are lent for long periods, instead of buying or renting tools a distributed informal library provides for these needs, and friends are invited to move in. Wolvie comments that it provides access to the culture and services of intentional community, but they can still retreat to their own private space at the end of the day.

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The art and propaganda above Ruby’s desk

I visit a collection of punk homesteads where different “rent” models comfortably co-exist. Some folks are squatting, others renting, some residents are paying back taxes on abandoned properties in hopes of securing ownership of them eventually, still others have succeeded in owning places. The people i am introduced to flow between these housing options as luck, circumstance and employment permit. Work seems often to be gig based, to fit in with peoples needs for traveling or activism.

The names of collective properties make me smile: Kitty Meow Town, Liability Park and Squatopotomus. This flat rainy city is ideal for bikes and i have several offers for bikes to borrow in my first couple of hours in town.

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Over a decade after hurricane Katrina, the effects of the disaster are often visible. “We have moved from shock capitalism to disaster tourism” Catrina tells me, referring to Naomi Klein’s brilliant book Shock Doctrine. Construction is everywhere.
“I am becoming a boat punk.” Wolvie confesses. And within an hour of this confession we are off rescuing abandoned barges of the St John’s bayou.  Credit goes to Ruby for convincing the nay-saying boys that we could get these barges out of the water and loaded onto the truck.

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Ruby surveys our success.

With the help of a passing runner we landed this barge which had been built for a recent raft race and left behind. We are particularly excited by the US american flag paint job and make shift paddles.

Wolvie and Ruby on barge

“It is battery powered” jokes Wolvie.

NOLA is a party town. We stop at a Melba’s a laundromat/restaurant/bar which serves inexpensive frozen daiquiris and i find myself slightly smashed in the late afternoon. Mardi Gras is not just for tourists, the whole city celebrates for weeks with parades and musical performances and pub crawls. The colorful fabric of this place is woven by mixing diverse cultures and taking it to the streets.

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The piano has been drinking, and it is on fire.

All this begs the question, “Can we mimic the benefits of intentional residential community in scattered punk microvillages?” The New Orleans punk scene with its generous material cooperation, low cost and no cost housing, binding festivals and cultural events, and inexpensive social lubricants makes a compelling case.

Possible Themes for Communities Conference

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