Cambia Spring/Summer 2020


from their newsletter:

Here’s what’s been going on.

It was a strange spring and summer has been no less.

Grey days, April snow, May frost…and lest we forget, there’s a global pandemic going on.

But even under clouds and quarantine, life at Cambia continues much the same as ever. A nice benefit of creating a self-sustaining community-based infrastructure–the more you are able to rely on yourself, the less the outside world can shake you (self, in this case, is the extended communal self of Cambia). We are quarantined, but we have enough space and systems in place that life feels rich and varied.

Speaking of relying on self–Cambia has gone solar! We have long made use of passive solar systems, but the arrival of brilliant intern Charlotte and her extensive electronic knowledge has enabled Cambia to create a very functional system with twelve solar panels set up in the field next door. This setup provides enough energy for almost all of Cambia during the day and hopefully, with new battery storage we just obtained, we won’t need any grid power at all. We have great fun plugging our devices into the inverter and proudly announcing everything from “solar hair straighteners” to “solar chainsaws”.  Gil has been busy tracking our usage and production  of energy. In an effort to combat the “duck curve” (the high demand of solar energy in the morning and evening), we are testing various lifestyle changes and technologies to better sync our power usage with its availability. 

Another word about Charlotte: This is no ordinary intern. In her day job programs autonomous race cars as part of her academic career. She is taking a bit of the break of the rat race (which has yet to become autonomous) and is sharing her knowledge and her passion towards our technology goals and still getting course credit! Sadly, she will someday go back to the academic race track, but not without establishing an internship connection with her university, UNC Chapel Hill, and furthering Rustling Roots as an education and an internship center. Her stay here has been incredibly mutually enriching, not to mention a bit of a culture shock for both parties…

An ongoing conversation that’s happening at  Cambia, is how to find a harmonious balance between nature and technology.  In stark contrast to the way large corporations sacrifice the environment for efficiency, we are exploring sensors and automated systems to make life more graceful and less impactful. Charlotte created a device that rings a bell when the well pump turns on, making us more aware of our water usage. Now we can notice leaks or bursts, irrigation that’s left on as well as estimate the water depth and therefore pumping efficiency to optimize timing of water usage. 

Charlotte has also been doing research on how to implement an IOT sensor system to gather information around Cambia for a more comfortable and management of our experimental technology. As it stands, our level of experimental technology is now a far cry from any notion of the “simple life”, and is more of a human-machine interface laboratory,  where gauges, alarms, and LCD displays blend in with dry medicinal herbs and quacking of ducks.

We are documenting our experimentation and designs through blog posts and youtube videos. We’ll be adding these to the website with the hopes that others can learn from our successes (and failures). 

The solar shower has gotten an upgrade too we found used evacuated tubes on Craigslist and a free water heating tank from the nearby plumbing store–on sunny days, we now have more hot water than we know what to do with and even on chilly mornings we can bask and bathe in  comfort without carbon.

Over at Bruce Academy, Avni and Anthony are happily playing with fractions and orders of magnitude, pondering the origins of the universe, listening to stories of pirates and conquistadors, and running around with cries of “fair Helena!” “good Lysander!” as they make their way through Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. Maybe the biggest success of our homeschool is how often one or both of them express gratitude towards it as a highlight of their day–hooray for Bruce the teacher, hooray for the ability to learn in a personalized, idyllic setting.

We are grateful too, in these times of shut-downedness, to have work opportunities to keep the Cambia economy alive and healthy. At Acorn, we have just succeeded in taking down a large, tired greenhouse–now we work on putting it up again, further down the field. Here, Gil and Ella combined their unique and creative minds to create systems that work well and get the job done–like building a 15-foot tripod of trees and belaying the wire frames down as a team. When Jason is not building a deck at Cherry Hill, he and Charlotte tackle Acorn’s robot, troubleshooting the finicky seed-packing machine and sorting the seeds as orders come flying in (hooray for the abundance of work of Acorn–both that it means we are able to play a part and work together with them, and also that it means more people than ever are starting their own little gardens). A wonderful benefit to this job is that we get to take home the robot’s mistakes–meaning twenty packets worth of sunflowers will soon be bursting forth all up and down the field next door.

Speaking of the field next door–we have been planting hundreds of tomatoes and pepper plants with Mimosa, and there are other plantings to come. Stay tuned for the summer edition, where we happily harvest, preserve, and eat the best food money can’t buy. As for now, there are still foods from the wild that make it into our meals–plantains, chickweed, wild onions and thinned turnip greens make for good salads and cooked greens, and our exploding catnip, peppermint, and lemon balm are being dried and stocking our tea shelves.

Charlotte and Nomi gathered inspiration and unused clothes and items to create the Cambia Free Shop, a place where lonely clothes seek happy homes. Now whenever long-term members or short-term guests are in want or need, they will be able to sift through creative clothing, colorful fabrics and knitted scarves–hopefully finding that which their heart most desires, or at least having a good time exploring opportunities (Who will take on the Indiana Jones hat? The jar of dead bugs? The handcuffs?)

And once our members are creatively clad, should there not be a space where they can make creations themselves? Hickory, once two bedrooms, then an apartment for baby chickens and mealworms, is now a workshop. All of Cambia’s tools have made their way inside a luxurious wooden shed with the high ceilings and skylights–a place filled to the brim with creative and cozy potential. There are hopes of further development to this workspace, too–Nomi builds a kiln on the south side of hickory, with possible plans to build a glass house around it and open it up to Hickory, so that it can be solar/kiln-heated in the winter.

Did you catch the baby chicken reference? Cambia welcomes fourteen new members–four ducks and ten chicks (pakeeksters, in Cambia vernacular). They came as helpless squirming babies in early April, and are now boldly walking the lawns, uncontainable, wild and free. Thankfully, our cat friends Schmutz and Turtle have little to no interest in them. There is joy to be found in watching a gang of ducks waddle as a team, making laps around the house and mowing the lawn as they go. We can only aspire to their level of cohesiveness. 

So there you have it–a small picture into the current life of Cambia. The scene here is extensive, the work is never-ending. And yet you can still find Cambians, more than every once in a while, sitting together in the clover, idly creating little pieces of beauty, lying with our heads in each other’s laps and our hands draping over purring cats, murmuring or laughing in conversation as dusk falls around us and the first stars come out…

Cambia Spring/Summer 2020

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