The Common Unity Project – Spring/Summer 2017

by sweetgum

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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TCUP17SS14And 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.

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Greenhouses:

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 🙂

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Another greenhouse project that is close to home for us, the earthship in Sik-e-Dakh (Glen Vowell) is finally done.

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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.

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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.

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The Common Unity Project – Spring/Summer 2017

A Diversity of Communities

by Raven

Last week, we published a piece on two income sharing systems called “Allowance Versus Box of Money” (which I’ve also heard called Dual and Unitary income sharing systems). Although I thought it was a really interesting article, I had a couple of difficulties with it.

One was that it seemed to claim that all income sharing came in “in two broad flavors”. I know of a couple of communities in dialogue in the FEC (the Possibility Alliance/Stillwater Sanctuary and Rainforest Lab) that are exploring using a gift economy exchange system, which involves neither an allowance or a box of money. The article also suggested that the box of money approach was the “more radical solution”. As someone who helped create an income sharing community, I found the allowance method an elegant solution to what we were trying to achieve. Instead of trying to figure out which is the ‘more radical’ approach, I think that it’s useful to know that there are at least three different ways to share income–probably more. (I heard someone talk about ‘punk income sharing’ where it’s not hard to share income if there isn’t any to share.)

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I think one of the main reasons for creating new communes, is (as I also heard someone say) to create ‘new flavors’ of communal living. This is why there are five different income sharing communities in Louisa County, VA.

I think it’s important that there are many options for income sharing, that some communes are high structure (say Twin Oaks) and some communes are low Diverse3structure (say Acorn), that there are communities that approach a middle class lifestyle and communities (like Living Energy Farm and the Stillwater Sanctuary) that are already preparing for life beyond fossil fuels. I’ve heard some folks talking recently about communities of people of color. I’m not threatened by this, any more than I’m threatened by women’s communities. And as much as I’m an advocate for egalitarian, income sharing communities, I’m well aware and even happy that this is only a small percentage of all the communities out there–there are co-operative houses, cohousing communities, ecovillages, hybrid communities of all kinds, and many varieties of spiritual communities, to name the most common ones in the Communities Directory.

Again, we’re creating more options for people, not less. And I’m well aware that not everyone wants to live in community. The point is that I think there should be all kinds of communities (and particularly income sharing communities) for those that are looking for them, because different people will do better in different communities, just like the ‘box of money’ approach will work better for some communities, and the ‘allowance’ approach for others, and using a ‘gift economy’ for still others.

As David from las Indias said, in an article on diversity that we published a year ago, “The kind of diversity many of you are concerned about … will come by itself, but probably not to every community, but to the network we must build together.” While diversity within communities is important, I think diversity among communities is crucial.

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A Diversity of Communities

Ira Wallace: A Seed With A Story

from the Acorn Community Blog  May 1, 2017

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Ira Wallace: A Seed With A Story

Allowance versus Box of Money

There are not very many places that do secular income sharing.  But those that do come in two broad flavors.  For those of us who spend a lot of time talking about income sharing, these two different approaches are sometimes given the shorthand “Box of Money” and “Allowance”.

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All full income sharing systems are in agreement about communalizing the vast majority of expenses:  Medical expenses, food, housing, clothing, education, transportation, costs connected with children, pets, various emergencies – these are all covered.  Everything that falls solidly onto the “needs” side of the sometimes vague needs vs wants divide is covered. It is the small things and the things at the needs/wants margin where we struggle.

Should i be paying for your beer (especially when i don’t drink)?  Should i be paying for your vacation to the beach?  At Twin Oaks we have “solved” this problem by giving our members an allowance which is typically around $100 per month.  You want to smoke cigarettes, you can have up to a $100 habit.  You have to be at the premier of the latest Marvel superhero movie, that is your discretionary call.  By giving people allowances, the commune avoids having to agree on a whole bunch of small, and oft divisive issues.

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The more radical solution is the infamous “box of money”.  In a number of European communes, including some of the larger ones, there is a physical box of money and when you need some, you go take it.  Sometimes you need to write down what you took it for, in other places there is less concern about this.  But if you are using this approach, you are agreeing to have whatever conversations and consensus is necessary for everyone to trust each other enough to let them spend the money they need to spend to live the life they want to lead.

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In the US, the existing “box of money” communes are smaller.  Compersia in DC, Sandhill in Missouri.  Allowance based communes include Twin Oaks, East Wind and Acorn, the largest three members of the FEC.  Although Acorn, with its anarchist orientation, straddles the boundary by empowering any member to spend up to $50 on anything for the community that they think is a good deal.  In the three years i lived there i did not hear anyone complain at a meeting that someone had misused this privilege.

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Some of the trade offs between the “allowance” and “box of money” systems are obvious, but many we are still exploring. We know that using an “allowance” system makes room for differences of opinion to exist without being resolved or even seriously addressed. Is that a good thing because it saves time and preserves privacy or a bad thing because it doesn’t drive us towards mutual understanding and critical reflection? We know that using “box of money” system allows for a greater diversity of spending patterns and priorities among members. Is that a good thing because it more easily makes room for people from diverse backgrounds and in diverse situations or a bad thing because it doesn’t drive us always back into the communal economy, looking for ways to meet our needs with each other rather than with money? As more examples are created here in the States and as we build better bridges of communication across the Atlantic our understanding of the dynamics of egalitarian, cooperative economies can only flourish.

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Commune Dads Episode 06: The Blessings and Curses of Grandparents

from Commune Dads,  March 27, 2017

Keegan Dunn and adder Oaks ponder the pros and cons of having their kids’ grandparents in their lives. Grandparents are often sources of unconditional love and care, not to mention sugar and TV. Do grandparents create openings for our kids to become obsessed Disney consumers or beat-em-up superhero devotees? How can one deal with influence of commercial media generally? Also, a look at the BBC Dad viral video, for which our hosts are joined by special guest, fellow communard, loving partner, and co-parent Megan Lebda.

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Opening music: Commune Dads Theme – Nick Paoletti

Closing music: Nowhere Land – Kevin Macleod

 

 

Commune Dads Episode 06: The Blessings and Curses of Grandparents