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Who We Are & What We Are About

Acorn Community Farm is an anarchist, secular, egalitarian community of about 35 people founded in 1993 and located in Louisa County, Virginia. We are committed to non-hierarchical, voluntary associations among people that are free of coercion and based in respect & consideration for others (both within our community as well as within the larger community in which we find ourselves). We are also committed to income-sharing, sustainable and modest living.
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Being secular, community folks are free to believe whatever they want. We are intolerant of intolerance. And consistent with our anarchist structure, we have a policy of very little policy preferring to make decisions on a case-by-case basis balancing the needs of the individual with the needs of the community.
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We are members of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, which means that we hold in common our land, labor, resources, and income, and that we use this for the good of our community as a whole as well as our members as individuals. We make sure everyone has healthy food, decent shelter and full health, dental and vision care; as well as all other basic amenities with some luxuries.
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Being a thriving anarchist, farm-based community (and consequently not having any owners, bosses, supervisors, schedules or time sheets) we are necessarily committed to a culture of personal responsibility; effective and healthy communication; and being serious about getting done what needs to get done on our farm. 
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We enjoy the work that we do because it is our livelihood and occupation (that which provides us with healthy, cruelty & exploitation free food that we grow and nurture together; as well as our shelter which we build together) rather than a job which has no meaningful connection to that which we truly value in life and only provides money to buy things which we have no insight into from people we don't know or have any connection to.   That difference is the difference between making a living and making a life. 
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We thrive because we choose folks who understand this difference and seek to live the difference.  We choose folks who are excited about and derive pleasure and meaning from doing the things that need to get done in a farm based community, rather than choosing folks who discharge their minimum responsibilities on the farm, which they are not really into and then pursue other activities which they really prefer to do.  If you understand the deep gratification that comes from living and meaningfully participating in a fully integrated life close to the land, you understand why we don't need any supervisors or managers. But its not all about work at Acorn.  We are also committed to having a Fun (with a capital F), enriching, stimulating social environment (its actually a budgeted item).
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In keeping with the ethos of living one's values, we own and operate an heirloom and organic seed business, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (SESE) southernexposure.com which is very successful and growing rapidly.  We are very proud of and deeply satisfied with our business and livelihood because SESE is part of an exciting movement and growing network of farmers, gardeners and seed savers dedicated to organic and heritage agriculture; as well as independence & freedom from the genetically modified, toxically processed, governmentally propagandized & enforced, corporately delivered “food” paradigm.
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In addition to supporting us, SESE is also our engine of community. We intend to have our little corner of the world have the most income sharing communities in the world. In pursuit of that SESE supports newly formed Living Energy Farm (“LEF”) (www.livingenergyfarm.org ) with outright cash grants, unlimited creditable labor from Acorn members; as well as providing income by purchasing seeds which conform to SESE Standards. Additionally, Acorn has recently (2014) formed a new community called Sapling ((www.saplingcommunity.org) just down the road from us, populated it with Acornistas and provides support to it similar to the support given LEF. We are truly walking the walk!
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We are looking for folks to live and grow with us. Folks who share our vision of a vibrant, supportive, environmentally appropriate, self-sufficient community and have skills that are helpful in getting us to where we want to get to. Skills such as: vehicle & farm implement maintenance, repair & construction of our infrastructure, agriculture, livestock care, IT, business management, customer service, healthy cooking, seed saving, organic gardening. Or if you lack specific skills but are enthusiastic about what we do and like to work hard, get things done, and are willing to learn and take on responsibility, we would like to talk to you.
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Remember, this stuff is hard! Living and working together, trying to have fun while we run our business, making decisions together and sharing income, are all challenging every day. So in addition to the above mentioned skills, we are interested in meeting people experienced in community-building, communication and facilitation, who are interested in building a healthy, dynamic, supportive social culture.
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If you are interested in visiting us, interning in our seed business and garden or in other areas of our farm based livelihood, e-mail us at acorncommunity@gmail.com for more information.

Third Rails at Acorn (or one example of how not to get to be a member)

by BB

(Ed: this is a partial repost from Paxus’s blog> funologist.org)

Éric is from Québec and speaks English as a second language.  He was very excited about income sharing community as an alternative to the previous IT jobs he had had in the main stream.  Hard working, handy and politically progressive the early money was on Acorn enthusiastically accepting him as a member.  Turns out that would have been a losing bet.

It started with touching.  In Montréal and other parts of Québec people put their hands lightly on other peoples shoulders when they talk to them.  Acorn is very clear in our  printed orientation package which we give to visitors that there is a very strong consent culture here and you can’t just touch people without asking them first, even in this seemingly simple and harmless way.  We are generally extra stress this in our introductory tour of the community as well, but it appears Éric never got this tour.

So as he did in his country, Éric held peoples shoulders when he was talking to them, until someone told him that he needed to stop this.  At first he did not understand why, this is quite different from where he comes from, and he even made a couple of mistakes after being told.  But when one member got really upset with him for this, he realized that he needed to change his behavior to match our cultural agreements.

if-im-not-huggin-ya-dont-stand-close-enough-for-me-to-hug-ya

Then there was the issue of rooms.  Éric was helping with the electrical repairs connected to the Heartwood rehab.  We were just about to buy the final supplies to complete the electrical work.  Éric asked if he could go into one member’s room and they replied “Fuliano is sleeping in there, don’t waked them up.”  He thought this meant he should avoid waking the person in the room and gather the timely information in a very quiet way.  Only to walk in on someone very surprised about his presence there.

Éric appreciates the strong culture of trust.  What he missed is that part of creating this culture here is that there is rigid cultural zoning.  You can’t go into someone’s room unless they give permission explicitly.  He thought he was being helpful.  Here again it took a couple of mistakes before he realized that this was actually quite a big deal to people here.

Commune life is dense.  Even in a relatively small place like Acorn (with 30 members and a dozen guests and interns) there are people in public space almost all the time.   I am often surprised at the 5am  rush hour which takes place in Heartwood, with some folks getting up for morning chores, others going to bed after a long night of partying and still other sleep anarchists who might be in the middle of their temporally shifted day.

One of the most frequently cited reasons for leaving community is wanting to have more privacy and more independent control of your things.  We try to accommodate these needs by having exclusive norms around people’s rooms.  Mala tells a story of playing tag with a bunch of small Twin Oaks kids.  It was quite a lively game with running around everywhere and yelling.  Mala ran into her room to escape being tagged and every kid ran and then stopped abruptly at the threshold to her room.  They each asks “Can i come in?”

There were other small problems with Éric  which ultimately derailed his application.  Acorn uses the selection algorithm “If it is not a clear ‘yes’, then it is not a ‘yes’”.  Most people were confident that Eric would learn from these mistakes and not repeat them.  But the collection of them combined with other discomforts made him joining not a clear yes.  Some members were frustrated, because they felt like we were not clear enough.  But in the end it was Éric‘s choice to leave, he did not want anyone to feel uncomfortable about him being there.  Most people would not have seen this and pushed for what they wanted.  It is another thing i appreciate about Eric.

Acorn for it’s part is putting together a list of these cultural third rails (as in “you touch, you die’), so that others can learn from both ours and Éric‘s mistakes.

Building trust is very tricky work.  Strong agreements around receiving consent for any type of touching and clearly defined personal space is a very important part of feeling safe in a dense place without locks.  Adding to this confusion is that we are a very physical group with people touching each other all the time and breezing into each others rooms.  What Éric (and others before him) could not see is that these behaviors had been negotiated before he arrived, they can’t be presumed.

 

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by BB

Luna - our new tractor driver

Luna – our new tractor driver

The Fungal kind of Fruit

by Darla

 

Almost ready to harvest!

Shiitake logs fruiting

Last summer, dreaming of low-maintenance, cruelty free, perennial food sources, we inoculated 27 mushroom logs with Shiitake spawn plugs. We’ve patiently kept watch since then, keeping them in the shade and making sure they don’t dry out. Now, a whole year later, our efforts are finally coming to fruition.

We soaked the logs in cold water for a day to bring on a flush, and much to the pride and joy of their care takers, a few days later, many round speckled heads of Shiitakes begun to emerge. All in all, we harvested about bushel of mushrooms from this batch, just in time for my dinner plan of mushroom fajitas!photo 2 (2)

Just when I thought I couldn’t be more pleased with my mycelium friends, we happened upon a beautiful head of Chicken of the Woods, a wild mushroom that, true to it’s name, bears surprising resemblance in taste to chicken.

Chicken of the Woods

Chicken of the Woods

Now I was able to prepare a zesty lemon Chicken of the Woods as well as a spicy “Beef of the Woods” (Shiitake) for a        full taco bar, complete with homemade tortillas (thanks Mac!) and fresh pico de gallo from heirloom tomatoes and yellow potato onions from the garden.

Chicken Tractor

by Jason

Joel Salatin is the self-proclaimed “lunatic farmer” who has been struggling against industrial farming methods and the government regulations which favor them to create a set of holistic agricultural practices.  Inspired by his pasture raised chicken system, we’ve been raising our broilers in so-called chicken tractors.  The basic idea is a bottomless moveable coop that gives the chickens access to fresh greens and bugs, while their waste returns nutrients to the soil. This is the second of this kind of tractor we have built, and we have improved on the design in several ways.

Here is the frame that we built.  The dimensions of the tractor are 8’ X 8’ X 2’. For materials we went with 2”X2” lumber, partly because we had a bunch lying around, but also because it will result in a very light frame that will be easy to pull around.

IMAG0120

 

IMAG0131  The triangly corner bits are made out of plywood, and serve to provide cross bracing, as well as  increased surface area to screw things together.

IMAG0121

“Triangly corner bits” is the technical term

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hatch doors were built in place to assure a good fit.  The pieces were cut and clamped in place with some shim material to leave a gap with the frame, then the cross bracing corner pieces were screwed on from underneath. We went with hatches on opposing corners to give us greater access when it comes time to get the chickens out of the tractor. With two hatches on the same side they have a tendency to hide in the back.IMAG0123

 

We also installed some support pieces in each quadrant to prevent pooling of water.IMAG0133

 

The feeder hangs from the hatch in such a way that opening it raises the feeder out of the tractor.  This allows us to move the tractor without removing the feeder. An additional benefit is that we can pour the feed in without having to contend with a chicken feeding frenzy.IMAG0134

 

The waterer is a bucket with 6 horizontal chicken nipples screwed into it.  We’ve found this setup to be vastly superior to any other watering system.  It’s simple, effective, and low maintenance.  The horizontal nipples do not have the leaking issues that the vertical ones are known for. The bucket rests on support beams and is attached to the side of the tractor with a bungee cord, again allowing us to move the tractor without needing to remove it. We also installed a piece that the hatch can be propped up with to allow one person to refill the water on their own.

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Instead of using a hand truck to move the tractor like some designs call for, we opted to install wheels on the back.  The frame lays flat on the ground when not in motion, but when the front is raised up to pull the tractor, the back also raises up several inches, to prevent slow chickens from getting their feet caught under it.IMAG0125

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the final result. We used EPDM (pond liner) instead of sheet metal for the covered sections because it is lighter, easier to work with, weather-proof, and again we had a bunch lying around. The back half is completely covered to provide shelter from wind, rain, and sun. The front half is mostly open to allow for good ventilation and access to the sun, and it is covered with chicken wire.

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And here are the chickens, checking out their new digs.IMAG0148

 

 

 

Puffballs

by BB

our insulation crew removes puffballs of insulation that expanded out of cracks that were filled.

End of the day where our crack insulation crew proudly displays the puffballs of insulation that they removed from our new building. The puffballs happen when expanding insulating foam is squirted into voids.

IT’S FRIDAY @ 5:01pm

by BB

dragball

Land Day Celebration 2014

by BB

Our annual Land Day Celebration was much fun. The weather was very cooperative, the food & drink were delish, the guests were delightful, the music (with not 1 but 2! very rockin’ bands) was fabulous.  Some pics of the day are below. Thanks to all who made it possible.

the party monster stage

the party monster stage ready to go day before the big event

 

Acornistas Mardock & Belladonna Doing a Duet

Acornistas Mardock & Belladonna Doing a Duet

 

the crowd gettin into it

the crowd gettin into it

 

The joy of live music made by your friends and fellow communards makes itself evident

The joy of live music made by your friends and fellow communards makes itself evident

 

Acornistas & Oakers perform as The All Request Dance Band

Acornistas & Oakers perform as The All Request Dance Band

 

River & Finley enjoying the music

River & Finley enjoying the music

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The view from the 2nd story deck of the Seed Palace

The view from the 2nd story deck of the Seed Palace (the pile of loose material is for the to be living roof)

BBQ!

BBQ!

 

our little calf (Pandora Midfield Fieldmouse Skeeter Acorn) wandered onto the dance floor to check out the TAPL (totally awesome party light)

As twilight approaches, the dance floor lights begin to make their presence known. Our little calf (Pandora Midfield Fieldmouse Skeeter Acorn) wanders onto the dance floor to check out the TAPL (totally awesome party light)

 

OK. Now that its dark the dance floor lights are really showing their stuff!

OK. Now that its dark the dance floor lights are really showing their stuff!

Quite the light show, isn't it!?

Quite the light show, isn’t it!?

 

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acorn_01

acorn_01

 

some folks did dress-up for ambiance enhancement

some folks did dress-up for ambiance enhancement

 

Acornista Samantha

Acornista Samantha

When the night arrives its time for the bonfire

When the night arrives its time for the bonfire

 

our bonfire

our bonfire

 

 

The world famous Acorn Goat Circus performing death defying acts of goatness

The world famous Acorn Goat Circus (>featuring select members of the Independent Goat Nation of Acorn<) performing death defying acts of goatness

 

Acornistas Dragon & Luna

Acornistas Dragon & Luna

 

Visitor Grace & our newest kid

Visitor Grace & our newest kid (and youngest member of the Goat Circus)

East Wind to the Rescue – Thank you !

by BB

(Editor’s note: This is a repost from Paxus’s blog. Check it out  http://funologist.org/ )

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Part of what is exciting about living in the central Virginia communities these days is the network is actually growing.  After almost two decades of there being only two income sharing communities in the region (Twin Oaks and Acorn), three years back Living Energy Farm popped up nearby.  Last week Acorn moved members into Sapling (aka Tranquility Base) which is the house we bought in late August. It is starting out as a simple residence for Acorn, but we have already agreed that it will ultimately become a new income sharing community.

Part of what is so exciting about this is that often times communards don’t find the right community to start with.  Sometimes this is resolved relatively quickly, like with my dear friend Belladonna Took who was rejected by Twin Oaks and is now a happy member of Acorn (she is referred to as Abby in this post   http://funologist.org/2013/01/24/pocket-dramas/ about her rejection).  Other times it takes one or more memberships at “the wrong community” before the person finds their place.  With three, soon to be four affiliated but independent communities all in the same county there are lots of possibilities for synergy including clever membership solutions.  [And a more fertile soil for my own Chubby Squirrels dreams.]

belladonna-took-at-acorn
~Belladonna Took was a bit too wild for Twin Oaks, but                                                   fits perfectly at Acorn~

Communities have their own personalities.  Twin Oaks is what i call a clockwork community, where there is a more regular procedure for things to happen.  Hundreds of work shifts are scheduled, meals show up on time and reliably, you better not be late for your tofu shift – because people are depending on you.  Acorn is somewhat more chaotic.  Things happen when people get inspired to make them happen, very little is scheduled (small dozens of jobs, mostly related to cooking and cleaning, contrasted with hundreds to perhaps a thousand jobs weekly at Twin Oaks).

East Wind is a thousand miles away in the Ozarks of Missouri and i have always thought of it as the “wild wild west of the communities movement” (despite there being important income sharing communities further geographically west).  East Wind is physically more rugged, without indoor plumbing in many buildings and more demanding physical work than Twin Oaks (but not Living Energy Farm).  East Wind has huge tracks of beautiful land, over 1000 acres that they control and neighboring state parks which are even larger.  Their decision making system is a strange anarchist-democratic model which is more flexible and volatile that either Acorns or Twin Oaks.

But what has inspired this post is a cultural difference between East Wind and all her sister communities, in my never humble opinion.  East Wind is the community you can depend on if you are in a jam.  East Wind will send out a group of members to help out almost any of the FEC communities when they really need it.  Got a sorghum harvest beyond your capacity?  East Wind will send a van load of people. Need some willing kids to help with a barn raising?  East Winders are there. Arsonist burns one of your buildings?  East Wind can be relied upon to dispatch a crew, even if it is a thousand miles away.

It is this generosity of spirit and willingness to help that makes me (and the rest of Acorn) especially happy to welcome the 7 East Winders who traveled far to help out with the fire recovery, straw bale work and dozens of other tasks we need help with going into winter and the busy season.  Viva East Wind!

 

east winders help destruct heartwood

~East Winders help tear out the damged floor in Heartwood at Acorn~

Winter gardening and baby goats

by Rejoice

And now, for a happy blog post about how awesome our winter is going this year.  Our busy season for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange is kicking in, but there’s plenty of outdoor things to do. Because of a hard freeze on Jan. 7th, we had to cover the gardens with double layers of remay and harvest anything that we hoped to have in the future. Fingers crossed on how well our plants survived the freeze.

Dragon harvests some winter kale.

Dragon harvests some winter kale.

Luna harvests carrots from our winter garden.

Luna harvests carrots from our winter garden.

On January 6th, we harvested kale, collards, mustard greens, arugula, beets, and carrots (not pictured).

On January 6th, we harvested kale, collards, mustard greens, arugula, beets, and carrots (not pictured).

Our three kiko meat goats are scheduled to kid in January.  Radiator Charlie gave birth on Jan. 3rd, and Sweet Chocolate had her babies on Jan. 5th.  Despite being fat as anything, Grandma Nellie still hasn’t produced any children.  Every morning at milking time, I remind her to work on it, but she doesn’t seem to care.

Only one of our dairy goats is producing milk, but Mamma, our best producer, gives us half a gallon of milk a day.  We’re giving Lark, one of our dairy ladies, a rest because this summer she was sick for several months and still hasn’t gained back all the weight we’d hope. Lottie, Julie’s little favorite, hasn’t put on enough weight yet to breed, but Dancer, Sage, Calypso, and Beans are set to give birth in early spring, with Mamma a little later than the rest.  (We had planned on giving her a break but the buck broke into her pen…)

Lottie, the friendliest of our young goats, comes up to get chin scratches from Dragon.

Lottie, the friendliest of our young goats, comes up to get chin scratches from Dragon.  Lark hangs out in the background.

Radiator Charlie, one of our Kiko meat goats, shows off one of her two identical three-day old kids.

Radiator Charlie, one of our Kiko meat goats, shows off one of her two identical three-day old kids.

Intern Raynebo holds her garlic/ginger/roselle tea while being mobbed by the dairy herd, who hope futilely that she is carrying grain.

Intern Raynebo holds her garlic/ginger/roselle tea while being mobbed by the dairy herd, who hope futilely that she is carrying grain.  Goats from closest front to furthest back:  Dancer, Sage, Calypso, Lottie (almost hidden by Raynebo) and Lark.

Horus the black lab waits patiently at the edge of the goat fence.

Horus the black lab waits patiently at the edge of the goat fence.

Rejoice shows off Sweet Chocolate and Mr. Buckles' day-old baby.

Rejoice shows off Sweet Chocolate and Mr. Buckles’ day-old baby.

One day old, Sweet Chocolate's babies are already up, running around, and nursing well.

One day old, Sweet Chocolate’s babies are already up, running around, and nursing well.

Fire Recovery Efforts

by Darla

With yet another fire to hit us this year, this time in Heartwood, our main community building, we’re pulling together to put our infrastructure (and lives) back in order. Luckily, we are able to save the house, but need to raise money for the repairs. Please take a look at our indiegogo fundraising campaign:

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/acorn-community-s-post-arson-repairs?show_todos=true