Clear-cuts. And the Dream of Expanding Our Local Community Network.

Yesterday morning as I was waking up, my boyfriend Ken walked in, opened my window, and told me that it was 65 degrees and that the forecast said it would reach 75.  This is great in terms of having a pleasant afternoon, but not in terms of what it indicates about global warming.

Within a few minutes, through the open window, I could hear the sound of a very large machine, punctuated by the occasional sound of a falling tree.  There were already two large clear-cuts on our road, and I could tell this new logging was close.  I took a walk.

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The newly logged area is about 3,780 feet long and starts about 1,925 feet from our property.  I measured it in my 5-foot paces and then multiplied by 5.  When I showed up, about half the trees were still standing, in contour strips across the property.  I got the tiniest smidgen of hope that the clear-cutters would log selectively, rather than clear-cut, and leave at least strips of trees, roughly on contour, thus helping natural forest regrow on the land and probably increasing its value in the meantime.  As of this afternoon, about half the trees were still standing, and the machines were at rest.  My smidgen of hope has grown into a sliver of hope.

Monday is the day we get a van-load of free pre-dumpstered produce from Relay Foods (things coming out of Relay’s inventory, that otherwise might have gone in a dumpster, had we not taken them.)  So our neighbor and ex-Twin-Oaker Jim Adams was over to claim his share of the haul.  Seeing my sadness, he suggested writing to the Central Virginian newspaper about how valuable it is to have a mostly wooded county, and that we shouldn’t give that up for a few peoples’ profits.  And I plan to write such a letter.  Jim inspired me to think that I am not powerless in the face of local clear-cutting.

But then another member inspired me more.  He told me about the frequent willingness of East Wind, a community we’re affiliated with, to sometimes go into debt to acquire land adjoining their own.  He pointed out that we could start a food forest project on a clear-cut piece of land.

The trouble with that idea is, we have very little savings, and we have debt related to our fire recovery.  Twin Oaks, Living Energy Farm, and Sapling communities are also not in great financial situations; I certainly wouldn’t expect them to buy the land.  So, unless we get both some unexpected financial support, and a good amount of enthusiasm from Acorn members, we can essentially conclude that existing commuities won’t be buying this newly logged land.

But what about our friends?  Well, that’s why I’m writing this post.

I envisioned that the three clear-cuts on our road could one day, not too many decades from now, be owned by three groups aligned with our missions – they could be allied communities, or ex-communitarians, or community-minded families.  They could be seed growers, chestnut orchardists, permaculturists, well-rounded homesteaders, or other farmers with an interest in sustainability.

Is this dream likely to become a reality?  No.  But some part of it might.

One week older in baby goat world

I put some food out to distract the meat goats so that Lanco and Tippy would hopefully do some cute things.  Herein you may see some ear-wiggling, tail-wagging, hop-skipping goat antics.

Baby goats

Our first birth for the season came a bit early. Here, they make pathetic baby goat noises and try to figure out where milk comes from while their mother consumes their amniotic sacs and tries to clean them up before it gets dark and cold.

Chickens update

Austrolorps on fresh pasture

Austrolorps on fresh pasture

We have about fifty Austrolorp laying hens and one rooster, Hans.  We just moved them onto a fallow field near the goats today.  The rest of our fields are getting limed and cover-cropped for the winter, so we need to get all the fencing and trellising off them for right now.

They’ve been laying eggs for about two months now.  Austrolorps are classified as “dual-purpose” chickens, which means that they lay eggs at a good rate but also gain weight quickly enough to be used as meat birds.  Which means, basically, you can’t have enough Austrolorps.

On Oct. 15th, we took some of the eggs and, instead of eating them for breakfast, we put them into a $40 styrofoam incubator.  Some of us were skeptical, but then one day we started hearing “peep peep!  peep peep!” from inside the eggs, and pretty soon, they were pecking through.

Freshly hatched chicks next to their incubator

Freshly hatched chicks next to their incubator

Freshly hatched chicken egg

Freshly hatched chicken egg

Day-old Austolorp chicks

Day-old Austolorp chicks

Bike tour update

Starting off at Afton, VA

Starting off at Afton, VA

The pledge drive bike tour to help raise money for the kitchen of fellow intentional community Baltimore Free Farm (BFF) has been in progress for over a week now. Pledges for the trip are at a dollar a mile, so we’re on our way to meeting our fundraising goal of $5,000.  Baltimore Free Farm has been running Food Not Bombs and Food Rescue Day out of their kitchen for years now, footing the bills for picking up food, paying the electrical bills, supplying propane for cooking, and maintaining the infrastructural space.  Food Not Bombs and Food Rescue Day divert food from the waste stream, further the decommodification of food, and redistribute food to people who experience food insecurity.

Home sweet home!

Home sweet home!

As a new community run mostly by volunteers, shouldering this finacial burden has begun to seem less feasible.  In a stroke of fundraising creativity, the bike tour pledge drive was formuled as something participants can do that is in line with values of renewable and human powered systems, while providing nearly free (minus bike parts) and ecologically conscious transportation, allowing us to explore forms of radical street performance along the way and once we get to New Orleans.

Butternuts we harvested off the ground

Butternuts we harvested off the ground

So far, our journey has found us waylaid on the stoops of abandoned homesteads and historical buildings waiting out the rain, occupying endlessly replicated convenience store landscape, in the warm embrace of hotdog laden churches, on the grass and concrete of park pavilions, under the sky in hay fields, and on the floors of the friends’ houses. It took us a very long time to get out of Virginia.  Southwest Virginia, in all its foggy mountain brilliant leaved trees, drug on forever, with spectacular elevation changes, whipping wind, rain, lugging entirely too much more stuff, and reluctant muscles all slowing us down. Finally after a few more days of rain and bike repair delays, we arrived in Knoxville, TN. Our next stop is Nashville, where we’re excited to open for Poncili Creacions with a short puppet act.  After Nashville, we’ll be headed to Memphis, then the long (but mercifully flat!) trek south following the Mississippi.

Thanks for nothing, google maps

Thanks for nothing, google maps

We all started off with a book bag each of personal belongings, but by now we’ve shed most of our belongings along the way in efforts at lightening up our loads for greater riding efficiency. Billy and I have ditched our bags completely, with the clothes we’re not wearing able to fit into our balled hands, and Brittany’s bag is mostly empty, minus a collection of puppets and other interesting found objects that we encorporate into our puppeteering endeavors on street corners along the way.  At regular intervals throughout our trip, we’ve dumped the contents of our bags and mercilessly culled any duplicates or other unnecessary objects.  Things we don’t have that might surprise you: sleeping bags, ground pads, pillows, tents, (much) spare clothing or shoes, or trailers.  Brittany and myself don’t even have saddle bags.   My few remaining belongins dwell in a mini grocery shopping bag.  When our shoes get wet and don’t dry out, we throw them in a laundry mat drier.  When it rains, we pull off and wait it out.  When it’s cold, we look for straw, leaves, or cardboard.

Brit and her puppets

Brit and her puppets

 

If you’re excited about what we’re doing and want to help BFF with their kitchen operating expenses, make a pledge!  For more regular updates and pictures, check our fundraiser event on Facebook.  Wish us luck!

Egalitarian Bike Tour: Joining forces with Baltimore Free Farm

As a resident bicycle enthusiast, I’m delighted to join an upcoming bike tour with folks from the Baltimore Free Farm, a recently formed urban homestead, with the aim of fundraising for their community kitchen.  Their kitchen currently hosts Food Not Bombs and Food Rescue Day, both projects that seek to divert food from the waste stream and decommodify food.  Our goal is to raise $3500 – hopefully enough money for the community kitchen to operate throughout the year.  We plan to spend the month of October biking down to New Orleans, about a 1500 mile trek, camping along the way and growing sprouts out of our paniers.  We’ll be taking the transcontinental bike route to the Mississippi river, then following it due south all the way to New Orleans.  Once we get to New Orleans, we’ll form a temporary autonomous art collective and infoshop, where we’ll do street performance and musical storytelling to further raise funds.  Although it’s difficult for Acorn to spare a member for this length of time, as a group, we’re passionate about supporting projects like this in the spirit of mutual aid, to further strengthen the cooperative movement.

Are you also excited and supportive about this project?  Check out what the Baltimore Free Farm as to say about the bike tour and consider making a pledge for each mile we bike – 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, or a donation of your choosing.

 

 

Belladonna Took’s “Typical” Acorn Day

The other day I decided to take photographs throughout my lovely day. If my memory is correct the day was Monday September 22, 2014

I started off by taking  a walk down one of the main paths at Acorn.

Horus, one of our dogs ran up! Then JR one of our visitors walked by. I asked for consent to take his photo and he obliged.

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This is my kitty friend, her name is Fight Club. I love her.

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One of my favorite drawings in the smokeshack. Drawn by my friend and former intern Piera.

 

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Me enthusiastically chopping potatoes. I cooked dinner today. I made some meat with bell peppers for people who like meat. I made tofu, soysauge and bellpepper stir-fry for the vegetarians/vegans. I made mashed potatoes with a cream cheese sauce on the top, I put in the oven and the top toasted- this was my favorite part of the meal. I made a couple of veggies dishes, one being roasted eggplant.

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Pretty bell peppers. They are my favorite.

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Meat Dish!

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Vegan Stir-fry!

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MASHED TATTERS!

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Eggplant, Squash, Tomatoes! YUM!

 

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People eating meals I cooked! This person is Aster!

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Birddog and Fox eating dinner!

 

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Rejoice on tractor!

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Chicken coop from far away!

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I went to feed my chicken friends after dinner.

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The chicken coop!

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Some eggs!

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Lots of eggs! Yay for being nice to chickens!

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My best friend/member of Acorn, Abraham, drove me to Twin Oaks for band practice. I am in a Led Zeppelin cover band there called Non-Violent Communication Breakdown.

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The stage set for the band I am in!

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Thanks for reading about my day! Love, Belladonna

Goat Dance

I realized that I never posted this video from February or so.  Here, a bunch of little goats and their dad explore their new toy, the old white Corolla that broke down and we never fixed, and that I eventually fenced in for them.  Someone took out the back seats and propped the door open so they could play inside of it.

Eventually we scrapped the car in order to raise money for the pig project and traded away two of those little goats for pigs.

Mr. Buckles, the big dark-colored adult, is an Alpine dairy buck, but all the mamas (the big white goats) are Kikos, which are usually raised for meat production in the United States.  We saved two of their cross-breed children (Tashkent and Mooncake) and added them with the other young ladies from our dairy herd.  Maybe they’ll become good milkers in a year or two.

Chicken Update

Golden Comet Chick

Golden Comet Chick

Our Golden Comet chicks are now one month old.  They’re starting to get feathers, enjoy running around in their outside run and eating bugs.  We hear that they are excellent layers and very friendly from both our internet research and our friends at EastWind Community.

Rooster Hanz surrounded by his ladies.

Rooster Hanz surrounded by his ladies.

Our Black Austrolorps are almost six months old now, and they’re laying eggs like, uhm, like chickens.  We have fifty of them, and they slowly started with small, ping-ping ball sized sort of eggs and are now laying more than 30 eggs a day, often with double yolks.  They’re dual-purpose chickens, for egg production and meat, and with a rooster they can start making more baby chickens for us in the future.

Future updates could include:  How soon until the Golden Comets start laying eggs?  Pictures of them in their lovely chicken tractors?  Letting you know how our new $40 craigslist incubator works out and if we have a steady stream of baby chickens?  Will the Austrolorps go broody in the spring?  Here’s hoping we don’t break/lose our camera again.

The Fungal kind of Fruit

Shiitake 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!

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Just when I thought I couldn’t be more pleased with my mycelial 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.

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