Tag Archive | Living Energy Farm

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.

The Fundamental Problem: Trust

Here is a curious pair of statistics.  Louisa County Virginia has 33K people in it.  It also has four income sharing intentional communities (Twin Oaks, Acorn, Sapling and Living Energy Farm).  NYC has 8.4 million inhabitants.  NYC has only one secular partially income sharing community (Ganas) though there are rumors of another in Brooklyn, we are investigating.

a most extraordinary place

a most extraordinary place

What is going on here?

My theory, which is certainly disputed, is that the foundation of community is trust.  Here in rural Virginia we have it pretty easy at least materially.  Crime is low, we are practiced in being civilized, fair and pleasant to each other (though we don’t always succeed).  Building trust feels good, so we build it.

One of the first thing you are taught by the natives arriving in NYC is “trust no one”.  The city is dangerous and looking for suckers.  Not just financially, but emotionally and if you swing that way spiritually.  It can grind you up and spit you out if you don’t protect yourself from its wiles.

Beatrice disagrees.  Her experience is that the (non-residential) community she experiences in NYC is deeper and richer than other parts of the country.  Beatrice is part of Point A, a guest writer for this blog and is a world class networker.   She is also certainly much more experienced with the city than I am and I often defer to her wisdom.

There are other factors as well, of course.  Exceptionally high rents and real estate values means there is less room for social experimentation.  There is also in my mind a “role your own” mentality in NYC, where everyone seems to cobble together a housing/work/social situation which addresses the pressures of the city.  Generally, there is not much room for others in these ingeniously and carefully crafted arrangements.

Would you join the conversation?

Would you join the conversation?

We are having another event in NYC this very weekend.  In Prospect Park if the weather holds (back at the Brooklyn BUZ if it is raining).  If you are interested in forming community in NYC please feel invited.  Details of where it will be in the Park will show up on Facebook.  Or just email me at paxus at twin oaks dot org and I will hook you up.    Please do RSVP on the Facebook page or in the comment section of this blog post.

Catalyzing Urban Communes Potluck Picnic

Come join activists, artists, communally minded, and friends interested in sparking intentional communities inside NYC.  This lively somewhat structured conversation will explore how to form new communities in the city and what would it take for you to be part of them.  We are also welcoming of people who aren’t interested in living collectively, or who are not seeking an urban setting, but still want to help these kinds of living solutions to exist and are willing to put time into helping or advising.

Share food, share ideas, share dreams, share each other

Prospect Park (exact location TBD)

rain location: Brooklyn Urban dZong

starts 1 PM – ends 5 PM Sunday May 11

bring a picnic dish, preferably vegan

bring your own plate/bowl/flatware/drinking vessel

1:00-1:30 Opening Game and Potluck Feeding Frenzy
1:30-2:00 The Sharing and Solidarity Sermon (a focusing and inciting exercise)
2:00-3:00 Speed Dating Idea Factory: Pairs or small groups will talk to each other for a few minutes with different prompts relating to the Point A project and write down their best ideas on 3×5 cards which they leave behind when they switch partners to inspire and be added to by the next conversation.
3:00-3:30 Hot Idea Selection:  Which of these conversations do we want to develop and work on further.
3:30-4:30 A Deeper Conversation: Medium size groups will coalesce around the selected hot topics for a longer conversation.  Likely including a small group that wants to live in an income sharing community inside NYC
4:30-5:00 Sharing, Summarizing, Next Steps

The Best Name Tags Ever:  When you arrive you will be interviewed by a volunteer who will write you a descriptive name tag packed with relevant information.

The Churning:  Facilitators will be collecting the 3×5 cards and flitting between the group conversations to collect ideas and reinject them back into the discussion and the ending session.

3 Alternatives to Mainstream Life – Workshop in Brooklyn Saturday 5 to 7

Go to school.  Study hard. Get a job.  Work hard.  Make money.  Marry.  Breed. Die.

Wait a minute, aren’t there other possible life paths?  Indeed, there are radical departures from mainstream life which are available to you, and several of them will be discussed at a workshop on Saturday Feb 2 at 5 PM at the Brooklyn Urban dZong (the BUZ) located at 778 Bergen St. 2FL, Brooklyn, New York 11238 [A few blocks from Clinton-Washington Ave A or C lines and ten minute walk from the Grand Army Plaza 2, 3, and 4 lines]

There are three income-sharing intentional communities all within a few miles of each other in central Virginia.  Each of these provides fairly completely for the needs of the members who live there: housing, food, work, medical coverage, clothing, transport and more.  At the same time, these micro cultures function without police, without bosses, while enjoying basically no crime and very little oppression. Most members who join retire their watches, their wallets and their keys – image how different a life that would be.  Commune life is not for everyone and none of these places is utopia.  But the quip is that on a good day you can see it from here.

We will also be discussing how to start new communities and the tools needed to do this.  This is a DIY event teaching how-to-make-and-sustain-a-live/work-community.

If you are interested in more information about intentional egalitarian communities, come to our presentation at the BUZ.  Here is a bit more about what we will be talking about.

Twin Oaks CommunityFounded 45 years ago, Twin Oaks is a large, stable community of over 100 people (about 95 adult members and a dozen kids).  We grow a significant fraction of our own food, build our own buildings, run our own businesses, and don’t really use money on a daily basis.  The commune evaluates all work done by its members the same (an hour of business management counts the same as an hour of cleaning the dishes) and members work on average of 42 hours each week.  A complex and flexible labor system makes sure that each week dozens of meals are cooked, the cows get milked and hundreds of other meetings and jobs get covered.  Twin Oaks has developed robust resource sharing systems for cars, bikes, clothes and more.

bounty shared

bounty shared

Acorn Community: Started 20 years ago Acorn is a middle-sized community of 30 adult members with one baby and one on the way.  Unlike Twin Oaks, Acorn uses a consensus decision making model, with a more anarchist internal organizational model.  The economic engine for this community is a groovy and profitable heirloom and open-pollinated seed business called Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. For both it’s membership process and inner personal hygiene Acorn uses a clearness process which it has developed over the years.  Acorn has a largely unscheduled labor system, in which it regularly seeks volunteers to handle any of the many tasks it takes to run a farm, which is also a business and home.

Acorn Team Picture

Acorn Team Picture

Living Energy Farm (LEF): is a newly forming community designed to function in a post-fossil fuel economy.  This dark green ecovillage is off the grid, and uses Oxen instead of tractors for it’s agricultural work. Just 2 years ago, 127 acres of clear cut was purchased for this new community and now, construction of the first real residence is well underway.  LEF is in the pioneering stages, but many volunteers and the strong team in place make success seem likely.  Also, the established communities in the area are strongly supporting this initiative.  Hundreds of fruit and nut trees have already been planted and what was a clear cut will soon be an impressive orchard.

LEFers planting seeds

LEFers hoeing rows

All this and more will be discussed in the lively workshop and Q&A session at the BUZ Saturday night.  If you are in the area, please come by, admission is free.