Acorn Community

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Visit our Heirloom Seed Business at: Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Acorn Community-WEB
1259 Indian Creek Road
Mineral VA 23117-9343
540-894-0595
web: www.acorncommunity.org

 

We are actively seeking new members to work and play with us in our small, laid-back community in central Virginia.

There are about 24 adults that live here at the moment, with ages ranging from about 20 to 60. We are an egalitarian, consensus and income-sharing community. We focus on trying to develop our community around clear and positive communication both in and out of consensus meetings. Our recreation consists of jam sessions, hot tubs, campfires, good food, playing board and card games, and going to the nearby college town for outings. We also go to our nearby sister community Twin Oaks often for parties and other fun group activities. Our income comes from our businesses on the farm.

We are very excited about our mail-order seed business, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. We specialize in heirloom varieties to conserve and distribute rare and endangered varieties of vegetables and encourage seed saving by offering open-pollinated varieties. We grow much of this seed on our 72 acres of beautiful, certified organic land, which borders on the South Anna River. We offer over 500 varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

Contact us to schedule a visit. To reach us send email to acorncommunity@gmail.com with subject "visitor", or write or call us at the contact information on the left.

Below are stories, blogs and articles on Acorn Community.

East Wind to the Rescue – Thank you !

(Editor’s note: This is a repost from Paxus’s blog. Check it out  http://funologist.org/ )

————–

Part of what is exciting about living in the central Virginia communities these days is the network is actually growing.  After almost two decades of there being only two income sharing communities in the region (Twin Oaks and Acorn), three years back Living Energy Farm popped up nearby.  Last week Acorn moved members into Sapling (aka Tranquility Base) which is the house we bought in late August. It is starting out as a simple residence for Acorn, but we have already agreed that it will ultimately become a new income sharing community.

Part of what is so exciting about this is that often times communards don’t find the right community to start with.  Sometimes this is resolved relatively quickly, like with my dear friend Belladonna Took who was rejected by Twin Oaks and is now a happy member of Acorn (she is referred to as Abby in this post   http://funologist.org/2013/01/24/pocket-dramas/ about her rejection).  Other times it takes one or more memberships at “the wrong community” before the person finds their place.  With three, soon to be four affiliated but independent communities all in the same county there are lots of possibilities for synergy including clever membership solutions.  [And a more fertile soil for my own Chubby Squirrels dreams.]

Winter gardening and baby goats

And now, for a happy blog post about how awesome our winter is going this year.  Our busy season for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange is kicking in, but there’s plenty of outdoor things to do. Because of a hard freeze on Jan. 7th, we had to cover the gardens with double layers of remay and harvest anything that we hoped to have in the future. Fingers crossed on how well our plants survived the freeze.

Dragon harvests some winter kale.

Dragon harvests some winter kale.

Luna harvests carrots from our winter garden.

Luna harvests carrots from our winter garden.

On January 6th, we harvested kale, collards, mustard greens, arugula, beets, and carrots (not pictured).

On January 6th, we harvested kale, collards, mustard greens, arugula, beets, and carrots (not pictured).

Our three kiko meat goats are scheduled to kid in January.  Radiator Charlie gave birth on Jan. 3rd, and Sweet Chocolate had her babies on Jan. 5th.  Despite being fat as anything, Grandma Nellie still hasn’t produced any children.  Every morning at milking time, I remind her to work on it, but she doesn’t seem to care.

Fire Recovery Efforts

With yet another fire to hit us this year, this time in Heartwood, our main community building, we’re pulling together to put our infrastructure (and lives) back in order. Luckily, we are able to save the house, but need to raise money for the repairs. Please take a look at our indiegogo fundraising campaign:

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/acorn-community-s-post-arson-repairs?s...

Young Farmer Mixer and Autumn Stomper Oct. 19th!!

finishedflyer2

 

On October 19th, local heirloom seed savers and worker-owned co-operative Southern Exposure Seed Exchange will be hosting a Young Farmer’s Mixer to facilitate an enriching community building experience, provide networking opportunities and have fun.  We want to provide young farmers and young farmer recruits with access to examples of financially viable business models for new farms, homesteading resources and land link organizations. We also want to facilitate connections between landowners who want their land in cultivation and land-less farmers.  There will be opportunity to link farmers with food justice organizations and illustrate how food justice activism can play into a small farm business.

The event will begin with a tour of Southern Exposure’s seed and trial gardens and a demonstrative seed-saving workshop.    The day will end with our second annual Fall Festival complete with dancing, home-grown music, apple folk tales, food, drink and  good spirit.  If interested, please RSVP to applefolktale@gmail.com to let us know what you’d like to bring for the potluck!”

4:00 – Tour of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange trial and seed gardens

5:00 – Seed saving demonstration

6:00 – Dinner, keynote speaker, young farmer networking session

7:30 – Apple folk tales and music from Diane Cluck

8:30 – Music and dancing and merriment!

Come mingle with landowners, food activists, local sustainable agricultural organizations (including Tricycle Gardens, Twin Oaks Seeds, Virginia Association for Biological Farming (VABF), Blue Ridge Permaculture Network) and of course, young, beginning and aspiring farmers!

“Bale Raising” Straw Bale Workshop

After years of planning and a frenzied summer of building, the new seed office is finally ready for the straw bales.  In accordance with our values of providing educational opportunities for sustainable living, we’re having a “Bale Raising” Straw Bale Workshop Oct. 28th and 29th.  The workshop will be lead by green and natural building architect Fred Oesch.   Straw bale is valued for utilizing a local, non-toxic agricultural by-product in the context of building to help create highly energy efficient buildings, and it’s also very user-friendly.  Bale Raising

Food Processing: Peaches and Pineapple

canned peaches pineapple acorn community

Canned peaches and pineapple.

Recently, Acorn has had an abundance of fruit—between donations and our most recent peach harvest, we’ve had more than we’ve known what to do with! Our peaches, sadly, are diseased—peach trees don’t do well in our climate—so hours were spent cutting out the diseased parts for canning.

We also canned significant amounts of pineapple, and an experiment was made making fruit leather.

making fruit leather diy

The fruit leather being placed in the oven.

In case you are unfamiliar with canning fruit (as I was at the time), here are step by step instructions:

1. Cut them into bite-size chunks, spears, or whatever works for you. We didn’t remove the skin off of our peaches because ours were very small. Be sure to remove any bad brown bits (hopefully your peaches won’t have any!) and the pits. As you cut the peaches up, they need to be placed in water with lemon juice (any type of citric acid will do) so that they don’t turn brown while you prepare for canning.

2. Before canning, it’s important to sterilize the mason jars. Put the jars in boiling bath water for five seconds.

3. Make the canning syrup. We made ours by boiling turbinado sugar and water, although you can substitute sugar for honey.

Acorn Involvement in Local Food Bank Garden

 

For the past few yPAR Signears, several Acorners have collaborated with local organizations including the Louisa County Resource Council (Low-income Food Distribution Center) and The Central Virginia Master Gardeners to start up a local food bank garden program called Plant a Row.  Plant a Row encourages gardeners to grow extra in their gardens to donate to their local food bank to help provide fresh, local, and healthy produce to economically disadvantaged people.  We expanded the program to include a garden education center at the food bank, where we grow a variety of vegetables, hold workshops on organic gardening, and have cook-offs to prepare freshly harvested veggies into delicious samples for folks to try.

kids being cute

Although this is a little outside the norms of the typical Acorn project, we think it’s important to break down oppression in all its various iterations, not just within our little community bubble.  We see access to healthy food  (that isn’t covered in pesticides!) as one of the building blocks to a healthy, productive life, which should be a right, not a privilege.  Natural food stores and farmers markets are great, but the prices can be cost prohibitive, especially for those who are suffering to make ends meet.  With this project, we aspire to bring in more fresh food to the food bank, as well as to also empower clients of the food bank with the knowledge and skills to garden, putting control over our food source back in the hands of the people.

Timber Framing: The Old with the New

The structural core of the new SESE headquarters is a timber framed skeleton. Timber framing is the traditional method for building in wood, only being replaced by modern stick framing in the early 1800?s when the development of industry made the cheap production of standard size wooden lumber and pounds of cheap nails possible. Timber framing, in a relatively well forested area such as our own, makes the use of local wood, even wood from our own land, possible. We decided to incorporate timber framing into our new office for a few reasons.

  1. We want this building, SESE’s new home, to gel with SESE’s emphasis on regional heritage and empowering people to provide for themselves and their local communities. Timber framing in this case allows us to use local wood milled by local millers to build something showcasing a bit of regional building heritage.
  2. The large posts and beams inherent in timber framing allow for large open spans between horizontal posts which works particularly well for straw bale walls. This is because the posts can be embedded within the straw bales with a minimum of notching of those bales (we only have to notch every 12 to 16 feet rather than every 16 inches as we would with a stick frame).
  3. Exposed timber framing is not only a functional part of the building’s structure but is also quite beautiful and visually impressive. And what, after all, is life without beauty?
  4. It looks like a lot of fun to build!


The timber frame in progress…

Steel Building Fire Update

Thanks to everyone for their kind words, sympathy, and offers of support.  We’re generating a list of things we’re replacing that will be up next week.  If you’d like, check the list to see if there’s anything on there you’d like to help with, and give Paxus an email to coordinate the donation: paxus.calta@gmail.com

If you’d like to make a monetary donation, we would like to encourage you to donate to the Louisa Volunteer Fire Department, as they brought a huge crew and several trucks out to contain the fire.

As storage is very limited right now, it may take us some time to be able to accept much stuff.

Thank-you again for thinking of us.

Steel Building Devastated by Fire

I was going to write about the effects of a few inches of snow in Virginia (power outage, cars grounded, no water, etc), in combination with busy season debacle of the year (hundreds of orders 2 months old held up in the database unapproved).  I even had cute little pictures of things with snow on them.  Then, the unthinkable happened:  the steel building burned.

People were milling around Heartwood eating dinner when Fox ran in, reeking of burnt plastic. “Call 911, the steel building’s on fire.”  Mutters of disbelief and questions about the severity of the fire were left unanswered.  She continued, “I tried to walk in to see how bad it was, but I couldn’t see past the black smoke.”

Fire from the West End

Fire from the West End

Overdue update on our new green office building

Sorry for the long silence on the new headquarters we’re building for our collective business, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, but we’ve been so busy building it that we completely forgot to tell you all about it. We broke ground on the recycled warehouse and mostly erected it back in 2011 (post on that coming up soon) and then broke ground on the building proper in May of 2012. The months preceding ground breaking were a flurry of design sessions, draft drafting, research, and consultation. After laying a lot of the ground work ourselves we ended up working with architect Fred Oesch, an area green architect who came highly recommended from a number of people, to bring our plans to completion. He was a great help, advising us on design elements to aid in natural lighting and ventilation, building systems for high performance and low cost, and helping us figure out what we could do ourselves and how best to do it.

The final design is a beautiful sweeping two story affair oriented invitingly to the south (how could we build a building without a grand southern exposure?) and fitting cozily into the space we prepared for it. Take a look.


The new SESE office... now the trick is getting it off the paper and onto the ground.

Foundations: researching our options

When I first joined the Design Team, there was so much to do that I had no idea where to start.  Being a literal sort of person, I decided to start from the ground up: the foundation.

Through this process, I learned some basics about concrete in general.  Between mining the raw materials, transporting them, and kilning them, concrete has relatively high embodied energy. For each ton of concrete produced, approximately one ton of CO2 is released.  Global demand for concrete is also colossal: 1.6 billion tons annually, with demand rising steadily as more and more countries incorporate concrete into industrial and residential construction.


Concrete Jungle

Since the concrete in our foundation looked like it was going to be one of the most environmentally impactful parts of our building, I decided to research our options in minimizing our concrete use.  I approached the issue from two different angles: 1) minimizing the amount of concrete used in our foundation, and 2) finding less impactful materials to create concrete with.  I started with the former of those.  What foundation would meet our needs, match our overarching design criteria, and still be as environmentally benign as possible?


Concrete use in Third World countries is on the rise.

Granola with commune-made ingredients

by Irena

Here at Acorn, I generally don’t cook much.  I tend to specialize in a few recipes, and granola tops the list.  People compliment it a lot so I decided to make a post about it.  Lately I make about 7 gallons of it at a time, eyeballing almost all the ingredients.  I use ingredients from two other communes affiliated with us – nut butter from East Wind, and sorghum from Sandhill.  I use a 6-cup or 8-cup scoop and a big, deep Hobart mixing bowl.  Unlike most granola, mine has no extracted oils, just the oil in the nut butter.  Granola sticking to the pans has never been an issue for me.  It has no refined sugars and no honey; with sorghum as the only sweetener, I think with sorghum it’s easier to make sweet granola without making it too sweet.

My Ingredients

10-12 cups nuts (I count sunflower seeds, though I find them less nutty than other nuts.)

about 45 or 50 cups of oats

about 7 cups of sorghum syrup (a sweetener made from a the stalks of sorghum, a crop related to corn; we get ours from Sandhill Farm, an FEC community in Missouri)

about 7 cups of nut butter (this can be peanut, almond, and/ or cashew butter; we get ours from East Wind, another FEC community in Missouri.)

1 Tbsp nutmeg

1 Tbsp cinnamon

about 2 cups water

My Steps

Recipes à la Acorn

A medley of foods eaten for dinner one starry night.


Dinner

Sautéed Greens in Orange Lemongrass Sauce
Ingredients, preferably organic and homegrown

Note: All ingredients proportional for one person, increase measurements proportionally for more people.

Greens (chard, cow pea leaves) 1 cup
Calabash (bottle gourds) ¾ cup
Onions ? cup
Garlic ? cup
Olive oil ½ cup
Soy sauce ? cup, or to taste
Orange and/or tangerine, 2
Lime, 2
Lemongrass syrup ¾ cup
Ginger ? cup
Basil, preferably Thai, ? cup, or to taste
Lemon pepper, ? cup
Turmeric, a spoonful
Cayenne pepper, a pinch

Directions

Place greens in boiling water until tender, but not entirely boiled. Let dry.

For bottle gourds, cut lengthwise and quarter.

Sauté an amount of onion proportional to ? and an amount of garlic ? of the amount of greens in olive oil until slightly tender.

Make sauce in separate pan.

Heat enough oil to cover the pan.

Eighth one orange/tangerine and place into pan. Squeeze juice of other orange into pan and throw in pulp. Simmer on low.

Pour soy sauce into a mixing bowl. Add lemongrass syrup. Add ginger and turmeric. Add cayenne. Mix. Add lemon pepper and lime juice. Mix again.

Put greens into pan with onion and garlic and sauté until well oiled.

Pour lemongrass sauce into saucepan with oranges. Throw in chopped basil. Mix well, until orange pulp is incorporated into sauce.

Pour sauce onto greens.

Mix and sauté.

Breaking ground: the seed office construction finally under way!

After years of collaborative design and research, we’ve finally broken ground for the Seed Office Headquarters.   Here 7-year resident and master mind of the project GPaul meets with concrete contractor Kevin to review the floor plans one more time before bringing in excavation machines.

Just beyond the meeting of the minds you can see the building site, the lull and quiet imminently to be replaced by the head-spinning change and activity of construction.

Looks like our frenetic anticipation might be rubbing off – here’s Sean, concrete worker, laying out the building footprint.

After coming to an understanding about the foundation plan and execution thereof, we gave the okay to get the machines rolling.

As the default project coordinator, this is both a terrifying and triumphant day for me, as witnessed below.

Natural Building Opportunity

An exciting opportunity is opening up this season at Acorn—we’re building an office building for our community business, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.  We’ve done our best to design the Seed Office Headquarters in line with our values: a strong commitment to efficiency and non-toxicity in systems and materials, responsible and ethical stewardship to the land, preserving our diverse, beautiful, and unique heritage, and providing an educational platform in which to pass on the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve these goals.

The Seed Office HQ is a passive solar building with many elements of passive heating, cooling, lighting, and ventilation incorporated.   The frame will be modified post-and-beam, insulated with straw bale and blown cellulose (with a high content of recycled paper), and finished with earthen and lime plaster.  Solar thermal panels and a high efficiency wood boiler will supply heat to our radiant floors, and will preheat our domestic hot water.

If you’re interested in building with natural and local materials, and if you’re like to learn about efficient and sustainable systems and design, you’re welcome to join us.  Experienced builders are certainly welcome, however we want this to be an educational opportunity, and will work with whatever ability you’re at.  As a feminist community, we want to specifically encourage non-male identified folks to join us, seeing as a disproportionate percentage of males are represented in the mainstream building sector.

Construction will begin the end of April, and last through fall.  Contact darla@acorncommunity for more information.

The Fourth Trimester Is Over

Things with a newborn are never easy. Now that Finley is 3 months old, things are much less hectic and we have been able settle into a routine. He seems to get cuter every day and loves to flirt with the ladies.

Rabbit Housing

bunny hosing south wall
finished wall

We are building shelter for the new meat rabbit herd.  The bunnies have been here a few weeks, and soon it will be too cold for their current charming & rustic tarp-based home.  Raising rabbits at Acorn is one part of making the farm more self sufficient.

This shed is made mostly from materials we found on the farm.  First we poured concrete left over from another project into rusted out buckets and used tires, embedding bent pieces of rebar in each one.  Then we cut rounds of black walnut branches (thanks craigslist), to make a level surface between the piers and provide a rot resistant layer of wood at the bottom.  The shelter is across the way from organic garden space, so pressure treated wood isn’t an option.  I would rather not use it anywhere.  The frame is made with timber from the tinnery, a small old structure we took down earlier this year, and the roof  is 5v panels from the same building, and just a little bit rusty.  New roof paint is one thing we will get through the global market.  In these pictures we’re building the south wall from two different kinds of thrown-away wood, shipping pallets and slab cuts from a saw mill.

Check back for more updates, including uses for rabbit manure.

Acorn has a baby

Finley arrived four days early on 11/30/11 and has been busy meeting everyone in the community.
He was born in the yellow living room of the Farmhouse and I had a wonderful home birth experience.
Having children in our community will be an adventure and we are fortunate because we have so much support. His godmothers Ginger and Jacqueline give him so much attention and most members of the community are eager to help with childcare. Finley is privileged to live at Acorn, where he will be raised by a village. We are expecting more children to arrive in the next 1-2 years.

A visitor’s-eye view of Acorn

Thanks to Ruth for a wonderful visit, and thanks for letting us share your perspective on the community.

My five-day visit to Acorn:

It’s great to meet a group of people – especially so many young ones – who have opted out of the capitalist rat race and are trying their best to live their values: community, sustainability, kindness. The few ramshackle buildings where people live and work are surrounded by oak, poplar and beech woods. There is both seriousness – they run a seed business that sustains the community – and playful: the path to a dance party last night was lit by a row of Christmas lights. The party took place in the “love shack” just past a collection of diverse and amazing tree houses. People mostly danced in a circle and for a while, four young women were dancing on a bouncy mattress in the corner. Daniel (ah, if I was only 40 years younger!) was walking around with a box of wine, playfully offering little cups of “the blood of Christ” to willing takers. He then put a big pillow under his shirt and asked people if they wanted to punch him, then made another round and offered well-padded hugs.

Although they joke about being a hippie commune, there actually isn’t a lot of public physical affection. People seem contained. One member described himself as being on the cusp of extrovert and introvert: he would not be comfortable talking to random strangers in a bar, but he loved living with people and was friendly with those in the community.

There is a lot of talent here: Delicious meals are routinely prepared by people who sign up ahead of time to make them. Although the booklet titled “READ ME” -  which must have been written a long time ago when there were children here – says the commune is vegetarian, that has evolved and there is meat or chicken at almost every supper and often also at lunch. People are on their own for breakfast.

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