Serenity: Potluck and Crew

by Raven Glomus

The Serenity Community for Justice and Peace is one of the newest, most ambitious, and, I think, most exciting of the Louisa communities. (I’ve written about them in terms of the Louisa Community Cluster and Paxus has written about them as being “the Right Allies”.)

Last week, I posted on Facebook pictures from a potluck they had last summer (which I got from their Facebook page).

As you can see, it reached 174 people. More importantly, fourteen people liked or loved it and it had 65 engagements. I’m happy with this because I would like them to be better known. As I said in my summary of them on the Louisa Community Cluster post, I am hoping to become more involved with them. I think that they are a very important resource in the communities movement. Here’s the rest of the pictures from the potluck:

Today, on Facebook, I am posting another Serenity picture from their Facebook page, with the caption: “Here’s part of the team creating the Serenity Community for Justice and Peace. I love Paxus’ comment–I think they truly are heroes.”

Here’s the picture of them:

And the comment Paxus made:

Serenity: Potluck and Crew

Toasters and Sheets

by Paxus Calta

from Your Passport to Complaining

I had a long time crush on Kat Kinkade.  Our time at Twin Oaks overlapped for the first couple years of my membership and we were involved in several projects together and generally appreciated each other.  In a configuration that would be impossible today, Kat, Keenan, Pam, and i were in a group which meet weekly that i called “the shadow planners” (Twin Oaks highest executive office is the plannership and all 4 of us had served as planners, though i had not been selected when this group started).  We talked about the different problems the community faced and what we thought were clever solutions to them.  

Kat with NYT reporter circa 1970

Kat had been married in her younger life, but had definitely moved on from romance being a focus; she was doing other things and happy with them.  So i was not surprised at her hesitancy around my proposal.

“We should get married.” I proposed one day while visiting her.

“Why on earth would we do that?” Kat asked, more curious than surprised.

“Because we could throw a large party …”

“And we both know a lot of people who care for us and the commune …”

“…yes…” Kat was waiting

“And we could ask them all to give us only sheets and toasters.”  I concluded.

My friends wouldhave sent these.

Kat cracked up laughing and never seriously responded to my offer.  We had spoken several times about the ephemeral nature of both sheets and toasters in the commune context. These are two of the things the commune burns through at a pretty stunning rate.  We are hard on toasters and they don’t last long in our busy kitchens.  And apparently we have some combination of sheet flight/hoarding or rough sleepers because we are regularly in need of sheets.

Kat cofounded Twin Oaks, East Wind and Acorn communities.  She also wrote the books Walden Two Experiment and Is it Utopia, yet?

Kat was interviewed by Tamara Jones of the Washington Post Magazine in 1999.

This is why we can’t have nice things

Toasters and Sheets

What does equality mean to you?

by Raven Glomus

I was trying to think of a Facebook question and I realized, in spite of constantly talking about egalitarian communities, I hadn’t asked what other folks definitions of equality (or egalitarian or equity) was. So I posted this:

After I posted it, I realized that I had reposted a piece from the blog here on Facebook, just a little over a week before, where I directly asked the question, What’s Egalitarian?

Still, I was interested in what other folks thought the words meant. (Also, this is Facebook–people seldom remember what you posted the week before.) It did get a good reach–as you can see, 225 people saw it. Unfortunately, there were only three comments, and one of them was from me. Here’s the comments:

Please feel free to comment if you read this. I really am interested in knowing what different people mean by equality. (And I was surprised that no one got into the ‘equality vs equity’ debate.)

What does equality mean to you?

The Prize

I often describe Living Energy Farm as the research wing of the commune movement. They are a vibrant part of the Louisa Community Cluster. They have done a lot of good work getting solar electric to folks in Navajo and Hopi reservations and Jamaica who would not otherwise have power. In their most recent newsletter they included this piece about their long term goal.

(For those unfamiliar with alternative energy jargon, PV means ‘photovoltaic’ or solar electric, and DC is direct current, a different way of distributing electricity from the alternating current that goes to most homes from the grid.)

– Raven

from the Living Energy Farm August – September 2021 Newsletter

If you imagine sitting in a farmhouse in the 1930s with no electricity, then the arrival of grid power must have seemed like a miracle. Instead of smelly, smoky lanterns kerosene lanterns that were a constant fire hazard, you get to have bright light, and the bill was small. There were no PV panels back then, so grid power had to be based on centralized boilers. (There were, in fact, some nickel iron battery kits made by Thomas Edison specifically for farms, but lacking PV power or daylight drive, they had to be charged with a generator.) Before PV power, grid power was the only convenient, effective way to have reliable lights. Soon after grid power arrived, so did a host of useful, and useless but entertaining, electrical devices.


With the advent of PV panels and the arrival of a new environmental movement in the 1970s and 1980s, there was an off-grid revival. But there was no daylight drive, everyone got suckered into big battery banks and inverters, and DC appliances were impossible to find.


That’s all changed now. The reason we continue to use the power grid is because of habit, and maintaining the value of our “fixed investments.” For ordinary Americans to transition to the lifestyle we have at LEF would be a big change. We are told over and over again what martyrs we are in enduring such “sacrifice.” It’s a rationalization for people so they don’t have to think too hard about why they don’t change their own lifestyle. So it goes.


The price of modern, grid-powered consumerism is immeasurable. Poorly insulated housing is the norm, and it all sells for a handsome price regardless of abysmal energy performance. That housing is only habitable given our willingness to extract massive amounts of coal and natural gas. And now the solar strip mines have arrived — tens of thousands of acres of forest in our area being cut, stumps burned, land paved, to put up solar panel farms that we do not need. The deforestation rate in the Southeastern USA is five times faster than the Amazon rainforest.


It is clear that no amount of ideology or doomsaying — no matter how justified — is going to reverse these trends. But what if entire regions started shutting down their grid power and using DC Microgrids instead? DC Microgrids are not a magic bullet. They do not in themselves reverse ecological callousness or inequality, but they do a lot to make a locally empowered, sustainable communities possible. We are not expecting people in Jamaica to convert to solar for ideological reasons (necessarily). And the work itself feels rewarding. Even if Living Energy Solutions doesn’t take off quickly, we will still be putting useful, durable solar powered equipment in the hands of working class Jamaicans. And the big prize is the possibility of this technology spreading. Buying a bunch of LED light bulbs and fans in China is very different than marching in the street and petitioning the powers that be. But the best (worst?) our American environmental movement is politically empowered to enact is electric cars (that 1% of humanity will ever be able to afford?) and solar strip mines. If regions in Jamaica and elsewhere cease to use grid power by choice, the movement will spread across the Global South, and then north from there. Then we shut down the global grid, the coal mines, the frack gas wells, and the nuke plants. We want to see DC Microgrids spread. The prize is huge if we win. Please help us if you can.


The Prize

The Louisa County Community Cluster

by Raven Glomus

Louisa County is a 511 square mile county in central Virginia with a population of over thirty-three thousand folks.  It is also home to ten communities, including Twin Oaks, the oldest secular income-sharing community in the United States.

I had not realized how many communities there were in the county, until Paxus published his post on Meet the Communities and I counted the communities listed that were in Louisa, Mineral, and Cuckoo (all locations in the county).  There are nine in the table Paxus included and I am adding a tenth that I know of. Here’s my summary of the communities in the county.  (I want to thank Jules from Twin Oaks who went over all the communities with me and knows a lot more about them since they actually live in the county.)

Twin Oaks

Twin Oaks, as I said, is the oldest of the communes, having been established way back  in 1967.  It has a population capacity of 93 adults and 15 children but currently has around seventy members.  It has a lot of industries, from making hammocks to making tofu and from indexing books to growing ornamental flowers to changing the flooring of an auditorium in Charlottesville to managing the Seed Racks portion of Acorn’s seed business .  Right now, given their low population, they are actively seeking new members. They ask interested folks to begin the membership process through their visitor program.

Acorn

Acorn Community has been around for around twenty-eight years now (established in 1993). Traditionally, they kept their numbers low–to around thirty full members.  Recently they began talking about expanding to closer to forty full members, however, there has been some major disagreements among members resulting in a lot of folks leaving and their population has plummeted to currently about fifteen folks.  They have one, very successful business, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.  They are actively looking for folks now.

Living Energy Farm

Living Energy Farm is a community dedicated to the idea that it is possible to live a fulfilling life without the use of fossil fuels.  Although they started planning the community in 2010, they began living together in 2012.  They originally started with the idea of being an egalitarian, income-sharing community, but they have changed their status with the FEC to being an ‘Ally Community’, mostly to focus on their work of developing sustainable living situations.  I sometimes refer to them as being the research arm of the communes in Virginia. They run Living Energy Lights as a way to make some of their solar energy systems available to the public.  They have done projects to help underdeveloped areas use these systems, like their work in Arizona with the Navajo and Hopi reservations and in Jamaica.  They are currently looking for both volunteers and members.

Magnolia House

Magnolia House is a house in the town area of Louisa that Living Energy Farm owns and has retrofitted it to be “off-grid.”  In his table of communities, Paxus lists it as an ‘LEF Affiliate’.  My understanding is that the people who are living there would like it to become a community in its own right.  Unfortunately, beyond this I have little information and no pictures–I have never seen the place and know little about it other than what I have heard.

Cambia

Cambia is a quirky, creative little commune with a high degree of playfulness and whimsy.  Founded in 2015, they see themselves as trying “to create human habitat that emulates the beauty and complexity of living systems.”  They run an educational program that they call “Rustling Roots” and do a variety of work for other communities and outside programs.  I’m not clear whether they are currently looking for folks or not, but they do write a bit about visiting and joining them on their website.

Little Flower

Little Flower describe themselves as a small Catholic Worker homestead.My understanding is that it is primarily a couple who grow food, practice radical hospitality, and engage in political activism.  They welcome visitors.

Community of Peace

Community of Peace describes itself as “an ecumenical Christ-centered community of welcome, sung prayer, dialogue, and solidarity” and claims to be inspired by the Taize Community in France.  I know little about this community, other than it’s in Louisa, it was listed on Paxus’ table of communities that might be coming to the Meet the Communities at the Quink Fest, and what I could get from the website.  Honestly, it looks like the efforts of one person at this point.  It’s not clear whether the community is looking for members right now but the website talks about what they do and how to connect with Brother Stephan Andre.

The Cuckoo Compound

The Cuckoo Compound is in a village that is part of Mineral, Virginia, and is actually called Cuckoo.  They say that they are “a loose collective that anticipates hosting lowkey events like potlucks, craft nights, and shows!”  I know of some of the folks there and they seem pretty cool but I’m not sure that they are looking for new members.  They look like they have some fun events there, though.

Serenity Community for Justice and Peace

The Serenity Community is one of the newest, forming communities in Louisa.  It’s an ambitious project to start a BIPOC led community and, as far as I know, they do not even have land yet. They do have support from the other communities around them.  I am hoping to have more about them on this blog as the community develops and I, personally, am hoping to become more involved with them.  I don’t think they have a membership process yet but, particularly if you are a person of color who has been disappointed in how BIPOC folks have been treated in most communities, you can probably contact them through their Facebook page.  (Also, for those interested in understanding the experience of BIPOC folks in community, the Foundation for Intentional Communities is sponsoring a panel on Zoom called BIPOC Members Speak: A Conversation About Community. Follow the link for more information.)

Bakers Branch

I have been hearing about these folks for years but have little information about them other than they are an association of ex Twin Oakers and others that have formed a land trust on a road halfway between Twin Oaks and Acorn.  I doubt that they are looking for new folks (they were not even listed in Paxus’ Meet the Communities event) but I just think that it’s good to know that they’re there, one more part of the conglomeration of communities in Louisa County.

The Louisa County Community Cluster

The Importance of the Right Allies–Serenity Community

by Paxus Calta

from Your Passport to Complaining

When the nation was exploding in protests over the murder of George Floyd, some skeptics, perhaps tired of the nations inability to hold Trump for any of his many crimes, said “these protests won’t change anything”.  They were wrong.

Viewers of mainstream news could be forgiven for thinking the big effects were removal of confederate statues and the confederate symbol from the flag of Mississippi and NASCAR races.  And i fear the biggest effect of the Trump presidency is that many news sources now focus more on telling us what we will get upset about, rather than what is actually important.  

The Floyd uprising changed policing in America.

However this short list misses most critical reforms and changes, many of which took place shortly after Floyd was murdered.  Some terrible laws were cancelled, including A 50 in New York which protected criminal bad cops by hiding their disciplinary records and complaints filed against them.  Colorado stripped cops of qualified immunity. LA cut over $150 million from the police budget and redirected it to other community services.  Over a dozen police chiefs were forced to resign, including in large cities like Atlanta, Tucson, Richmond and Louisville.  Police chiefs almost never resign suddenly or are fired.  Letitia James, the Attorney General of NY State made history by being the first AG to sue their own police department for use of excessive force.  At one point, i started to track all the things which had actually changed because of this uprising, it ended up being overwhelming by it and i quit.

Serenity Community – circa summer 2021

The communes also changed.  There were disruptive internal protests at these intentional communities about systemic racism and there was a lot of education of white communards about how despite their best intentions they were maintaining racist systems.  And in part because of these internal  protests POC members of communes started more seriously considering options which had only been discussed before.  Importantly, a number of BIPOC community members realized there was a need for a  BIPOC led income sharing community near the cluster of communes in Louisa county.  And so Serenity Community was born.  

OG Serenity

While Serenity (taken for the name for the starship in the Firefly TV series) is still forming, it is already making good things happen.  One of the things we are especially excited about is that Serenity has taken on the difficult task of dispersing scholarship (discount) tickets for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folks who need economic assistance to come to QuinkFair.  Recently, has also agreed to take on the granting of scholarship tickets to other economically disadvantaged participants.  

And while they have been actively dispersing scholarship tickets, there are still more people who want to come to this event than can afford it. If you could help grow these scholarship funds it would be quite helpful.  If you are on Facebook, you can donate at this fundraiser or you can venmo 541-505-0803, be sure to include a note “QuinkFair Scholarships”

George Floyds death forced America to admit it had a systemic racism problem and while these important changes are to be lauded, we know the real work lies in front of us, but i am glad and excited to have the talented and energetic Serenity folks help in crafting a more fair and equitable world.

The Importance of the Right Allies–Serenity Community