Establishing a commune in the heart of the people
I was interested to see how
my mother's experience meshed with those of the people in Back from
the Land, so I gave
her my copy and quickly got a very negative reaction. "Maybe by
the 70s, the general climate was more disaffection, and just 'dropping
out,'" Mom emailed me, adding: "My own personal odyssey was...the aura
of 'peace farms' that I'd learned of thru Annie Upshure and the
Catholic Worker movement, safe places to try to work for peace."
"Our actual venture was
to establish a commune 'in the heart of the people' (as in 'swim like
fish in the heart of the people')," Mom explained. Although she
wasn't part of the Vista program, my mother came south with several
people who were and she and others considered themselves "to be sort of
'independent Vistas.' We tried to live close to our neighbors,
admittedly only a few of the poorest families, actually ones who were
not farmers with their own land, but who were sharecroppers."
Mom grew up in
Massachusetts, so her first five years in southwest Virginia were all
about "putting down roots.... Because I was politically aware, I
could see my life as part of a bigger picture. And I was helped
by [my neighbors] in believing that learning how to live in the Mendota
area was viable." She added her "own twist" by working with
others on a Helping Hand Community Center, then by opening up an old
country store that served some community center functions.
"[Our neighbors] were a real
reason we were able to hang on for the ten years we did," Mom
added. "Because we were not in a commune, we were thrown on our
own resources." One of these days, I'll edit a fascinating video
interview in which Mom tells us much more about those devices, but
that's one of those back burner projects that has yet to see the light
Our chicken waterer is one of the innovations
that makes modern homesteading so much easier than our parents' version
of the experiences.
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