Tuesday, January 6, 2009


I wrote the following in Septemer.
For approximately a year I was looking for land in MS, and though twice I almost bought land, there was always something wrong with it, so I ended up not buying any. I then decided to join VOL, because they appeared to have similar goals and needed help. Also, I came to the conclusion (you can find the reasoning behind it in a powerpoint presentation on the yahoo group) that some isolation would be good for creating a new culture--the VOL is in the middle of a national wilderness area. Most of the time it is impossible to drive in and it takes 1-2 hours to hike down a steep mountain by foot. There are a few buildings already built, there is plentiful water both from a spring and from the Hurricane creek, there is plenty of cleared land for gardening. There is only one person (D'Coda) who has been living there full time for 10 years, and at first I thought she was a visionary. I immersed myself in fixing and pretifying the place, which was falling apart and neglected, with the help of my friend Christina. I focused on food production, planting a trial biointensive garden which would have been ramped up to produce 100% of nutritional needs for one person after 3 years. One of the main problems out there is that the deer and bear were getting into the garden before I got there and so I first put up a trelis netting fence that went 8 feet high, then an electric fence powered by a Kelvin Generator that I built and optimized (I hope to publish an article on this in Permaculture Activist-the generator is made out of scrap parts and requires no batteries, solar panels or electronics, just falling water) and then trifoliate orange which should be effective as a thorny live fence upon maturity in 5-10 years. I built rocket stoves for cooking (mostly out of scrap parts and wood ash), got a humanure system going, planted apricot trees, started producing oil with an oil press I had bought from Holland, converted our hand-cranked grain mill into a dehuller which I used on the oats I had harvested with a simple public-domain invention from someone in Colorado, and which I was hoping to use on the rice I had planted. I had hoped that by building up an infrastructure whereby all basic needs could be gotten from the land plus honest work, that people who did not have much money would be able to live there and not need a job to make money. I also carried in on my back a satellite dish and installed it so we could have internet, which might mean some income for some people, without having to commute to town, which was impractical (after hiking out for an hour there is another hour drive to the nearest reasonable sized town, Russelville). In the meantime I was buying food every 2 or so weeks and sharing it with DCoda. There was also food that other people have hiked in who have since left,unable to live with DCoda (I have been in communication with 2 of them).
>I found that I was mostly gardening by myself in the supposedly communal garden. The two times I was gone for more than a few days DCoda did not keep up with the bugs or weeding. When I got back from Oregon the sunflowers were knocked down and seem to be dying (due to wind according to DCoda's fatalistic pronouncement), a rabbit was eating the peanuts (I trapped him and released him on the other side of the creek) and a deer had gotten in through a hole in the fence (which I fixed). Christina helped a few times, but she was too busy with construction, toxic waste removal (some people have brought drums of gasoline which has gone bad, as well as standard solvents, oils and other toxics which were starting to leak on the once pristine wilderness land and go into the river) and demolition projects. D'Coda, I had found, did not seem to like to work with others, or even work much at all. She spent most of her time reading books, on the internet researching far out fringe pseudscience or end-of-civilization scenarios, puttering with herbs and her guinea hens, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee. I also found that she was lying about quite a few things, that she was lazy *(see below), that although she theoretically promoted good communication skills and methods such as NVC, she didn't practice them. I came to the conclusion that she preferred to live alone and only wanted other people to pass through in order to bring her food and other resources. From the beginning Christina noticed that there was something amiss in D'Coda's telling of what happened to the other people who have passed through: there was always something wrong with them, and she had no responsibility in their leaving. Christina guessed that something really horrible had happened to her and that she came to the woods to heal, but she couldn't trust other people and interpreted most of my actions as attacks on her. Yes, I did get angry with her a few times about lying or laziness or extravagant water or wood use (for heating) or gullibility combined with ego concerning matters scientific, or passive aggressive behaviors. Yes, I did read two of her emails about me, thus invading her privacy. Yes, I did go into her room to confirm that she was lying about doing humanure and some other trivial thing having to do with parmesan cheese that she had bought with our money the one time she was in town and pretended that it was to replenish Forest's supply. I am flawed and am sorry I did those things. I found that I was getting less generous and more paranoid. One of the last straws for me was after Christina spent at least two days rebuilding a chicken coop, and I spent a few hours finishing up, and then D'Coda told me that it was not going to be used for chickens but for her 3 unproductive guineas, who already had a coop (but this one was much better). She said we had not talked to her about putting chickens in there. I gave her the benefit of the doubt by asking her if it's possible that she forgot, and she said that she memorizes all conversations word for word after she has them going over them in her head, so it's not possible. Exploitation starts at home...
>So I think this is a case when one person can spoil a whole community at the onset. However, if there was a better system for decision making, this may not have happened. Majority vote or consensus minus one effectively means that the crazy person(s) gets to make the decisions when the crazy person is the only member or even if there are very few members (in which case if there is only one crazy person, maybe consensus minus one would work). The other members associated with the community who live in town do not get involved with decisions much. If I could have gotten competent, low ego people to come help and act as managers in different areas, we could have diluted D'Coda's incompetent, high ego influence. But none would come (except Christina)--all the people who had been interested over the internet, even my friend and co-worker Chris Greene did not step up to the plate and heed my calls for help. D'Coda told me at the membership review a few weeks ago that if I can't start respecting her that I have to leave, that our relationship is not a good seed for a community (which is true). I have been recently to a community of 12 in Oregon who live in joyful unity and love. They have a spiritual teacher and a council of elders. They have not given up their individuality or capacity to think independently, like many in cults, but their individuality is not the enemy of the community. They do not need NVC to resolve conflict because they communicate from the heart and work and play together as a way of conflict prevention. I wish we could learn from them about how to relate to one another. Unfortunately they still live an unsustainable, extravagant yuppie lifestyle (except for the resource sharing and internet business part), so I wish I could cross fertilize them with a community like Earthaven which is trying to get serious about food production and is pretty good about using resources, but still has problems with egos.

*Note on laziness: I used to believe that laziness was an epiphenomenon, like evil. That the real phenomenon was lack of motivation. Now I think that even if people are motivated, they usually choose the path of least resistance and inconvenience unless threatened, and THAT is laziness, a real phenomenon, a design flaw for us which though present in other animals besides Homo "Sapiens", is not a flaw for them because they are not at the top of the food chain and nature takes care of them with its checks and balances, or they go extinct. Wisdom (which is more general than altruism, which is present in other species as well), what is supposed to be the distinguishing characteristic of our species, and the compensatory feature that nature gave us to balance our cold intelligence, is the ability to see the bigger picture, in both time and space, and to find a path which might have us going uphill in order to get to the valley of our heart's desire, going sometimes in a direction of inconvenience and hardship for a while, a direction which may be even detrimental to our own selves or families, but beneficial for the species or the planet, over a mountainpass, instead of taking the local path of least resistance into a ditch. I would even hazard to say that wisdom is a masculine archetype, and that the imbalance of our feminized culture(as opposed to truly patriarchal cultures like the Taliban) and the root of its consumerism is no longer one of too much dominator masculine energy (as many have been telling us for a while), but insufficient masculine, protective, guiding wisdom energy, and that all genders need more of it. I do not claim to have much wisdom or to not be lazy (I'm striving)--there might be only 2 people I know well who are not lazy and have some wisdom and one of them (a balanced woman) lives in MS.
>End of rant. My plans now are to either try again, buying land in Arkansas in Murray Valley (a place where old hippies are mostly homesteading, living on SS or jobs in town and two East Wind refugees have let me park my converted veggie oil, solar paneled bus/home), to join Earthaven in NC or the LLF in Oregon. I am currently visiting my son in Atlanta, then I will head out to MS to get Christina.

1 comment:

  1. School of hard knocks. You are wiser. Hope I can see my way to visit you for a while. If not know, maybe we can look each other up in a few years for some serious discussion and intentional experimental living.