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.





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



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



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.


Pretty bell peppers. They are my favorite.


Meat Dish!


Vegan Stir-fry!




Eggplant, Squash, Tomatoes! YUM!



People eating meals I cooked! This person is Aster!


Birddog and Fox eating dinner!



Rejoice on tractor!


Chicken coop from far away!


I went to feed my chicken friends after dinner.






The chicken coop!


Some eggs!


Lots of eggs! Yay for being nice to chickens!


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.


The stage set for the band I am in!


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

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!

photo 2 (2)

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.

Chicken Tractor

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.



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.


“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.












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.



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