From last summer’s activities:
From last summer’s activities:
We have taken some leaps this year towards our goal of a permaculture food forest and perennial plant nursery, thanks to a generous donation from The Cassandra Trust. What we are designing and building here on our property, we hope to be able to teach, inspire, and supply the means to do elsewhere.
Step One: Water.
Since we live without ties to the grid or water lines, and we chose to build our home in a sandy field relatively far from the river, ponds was our chosen method of water catchment and storage. We have one pond that was dug in 2015 and has been supplying our water needs since, supplemented by the tank that catches rain from the roof of the earthship.
Last year we upgraded with a solar powered pump that pumps water from the pond to a tank on the hill supplying gravity fed water for the garden.
Now this year we dug a pond next to the tank, to supply water for the hugelbeds we planted in the fall. The hugelkultur is on contour around the hill and will be flood irrigated via a swale above it. So far even without the swale, the trees and shrubs we’ve planted below the hugelkultur seem to be doing well (those that survived the winter anyway), as well as the annual crops we planted on top.
The pond, being on top of a hill, won’t hold water right away, but the excavator operator, Taylor, smeared the sub-soil with a heavier clay content up on the sides to facilitate sealing. The next step for us is to get pigs and have them live in the pond until fall. Pigs are great pond sealers, they stomp and compact the ground, and love to wallow in the muck. The idea is to keep running water into the bottom of the pond, which alone helps bring the finer clay particles to the surface, and start a small pond that will expand as the pigs seal it. So far we have the electric fence charger and poles in the ground, now we just need a pig shelter and some pigs.
Next came a lower pond, or crater garden, between the chickens and the bees. This was a naturally low lying area that held water in the early spring. Water slowly trickled in as it was being dug, and now it is about half-full. The peninsula in the middle was our compromise for a duck island, since we would like to have ducks live there in the future. We will watch and observe it over the year as we build up the soil around it for future gardens.
And last but not least, a shallow well. We stuck a ten foot culvert, drilled with holes in the bottom 6 feet, in a hole by the pond and piled gravel around it. It was a battle to get the pipe in and the gravel around before the silt caved in, but we did a fair job and so far its holding water three feet from the top. We will pump it out until the water runs clear, and hopefully it will be a source of future drinking water and winter irrigation.
This year we constructed two greenhouses in the field, as well as a mini-one attached to the cabin on the hill. They will act as nurseries for propagated plants and winter storage for perennials. We also get to grow some heat loving crops like tomatoes and peppers in them now 🙂
Another greenhouse project that is close to home for us, the earthship in Sik-e-Dakh (Glen Vowell) is finally done.
The project has gone from a deconstruction zone of the old hall, to a one month long dusty tire pounding party, to a more traditional construction workplace with roofing and painting, to cob and plaster fest.
The greenhouse is now complete with grow beds planted with tomatoes and peppers. Much thanks to Caylin Holland for all his hard work on the project, as well as all the volunteers from Sik-e-Dakh and elsewhere who helped out. It is certainly a beautiful greenhouse built for generations to come.
Pictures of most of the communities featured in Commune Life over the last year. (All communes are in US states unless otherwise noted.)
Acorn, Mineral, VA:
Baltimore Free Farm, Baltimore, MD:
Cambia, Louisa, VA:
Compersia, Washington, DC:
East Wind, Tecumseh, MO:
las Indias, Madrid, Spain:
Living Energy Farm, Louisa, VA:
Oran Mór, Squires, MO:
Quercus (disbanded), Richmond, VA:
Rainforest Lab, Forks, WA:
Sandhill Farm, Rutledge, MO:
Sycamore Farm, Arcadia, VA:
The Common Unity Project (TCUP), Gitxsan Territory, Hazelton, BC (Canada):
Twin Oaks, Louisa, VA:
TCUP is a community in British Columbia.
Comparison photo. The inside of the plastic “roof” over the first story of the pentagon last year.
And a brief recap of some of what we’ve been doing over the summer and fall:
Rocketmass heater showing where to put the wood.
The Common Unity Project or TCUP is an communal farm/homestead in Gitxsan Territory, Hazelton, BC. It began as two friends who bought 160 acres in 2011 with the help of an interest free loan from a relative. Since then, it has expanded to seven adults, contracted from four kids to none, and has since receded again to four or so members. Our goal is to sustain ourselves from our region as best as we are able, and we employ permaculture styles of agriculture, urban and wild foraging, hunting, and trade. For us a lot of that revolves around a mutual aid connection with local indigenous peoples and others.
Currently we are income-sharing, which means we pull our resources together, monetary and otherwise. Ideally all money earned goes into the collective pot, and time worked for an income is valued equally to time worked on the collective project, which is sometimes difficult to define. We don’t record hours and our evaluation of whether things are working is based on whether we are making enough money to sustain ourselves and whether all community members are satisfied with how things are going.
We live in tents, campers, and buses most of the time. There is a cabin that has been on the property for awhile that we will be staying in this winter. The communal house, a two-story hybrid strawbale-earthship, will hopefully be finished within the next year or two.
We cook in an outdoor kitchen, sauna and jump in the pond for showers, and watch movies on the big screen TV occasionally. A typical day involves starting the woodstove for breakfast, organizing the freegan food boxes, checking on the chickens, watering the greenhouse, and then working on whatever project needs done that day – wood framing, cob, pounding tires for a community greenhouse in the reserve, mulching the plants, picking berries, canning salmon, harvesting rotten wood for huegelbeds, planting trees, going to the dump to search for materials, etc.
The last two summers we have hosted volunteer camps of 10-20 people, mainly to help with construction on the building. We are planning on lowering the numbers of volunteers in the future, but want to continue to be a place where people can come and experience a different way of living, learn about permaculture and alternative building, and develop themselves.
We are looking for like-minded people who want to live in a rural/town setting, individuals who are willing to communicate openly about conflicts, and those who want to live a simpler lifestyle in community with others. We are open to all ages, genders, races, orientations, and people of various physical abilities and spiritual beliefs. If you have an interest or are part of a similar community and want to connect, contact us!