The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Intentional Community

A mile or two up the road and down a steep driveway live some of our favorite neighbors.  The farm is home to two couples, a movie star, and sometimes other folks who stay variable amounts of time in this intentional community, this farm land trust.  Due in part to our proximity and common ideals, but also because Mark's aunt and my parents moved in similar circles twenty or thirty years ago, they've taken us under their wing and often include us in their community events.

The neighbor's lemon tree
Our neighbor's lemon tree, which he told us is currently loaded down with 91 lemons.  We hope our tree will reach this stature someday!

PotatoesToday Mark and I played hookie in order to help the movie star harvest his sweet potatoes, setting me off on a mental tangent about community.  I asked him today what it was like to live on the farm, and he first told me it was "a pain in the ass" --- he is after all a movie star and thrives on making people laugh.

More seriously, though, he compared the intentional community to a marriage or business venture.  When two or more people work closely together in enforced proximity, he explained, they each have to compromise a little.  Living in a community helps you grow and become a more interesting person.

winesap applesIn the two years Mark and I have lived on the farm, we've started to put down roots, to build our own community.  Yesterday, I traded my unwanted potatoes (which turned out to be Kinnebecs --- I was confused about which variety we like and which we dislike) to my co-worker for a mass of winesap apples.  Today, we collected some honey from the movie star in exchange for helping with his bees a few months ago, and some Yukon Gold potatoes (the kind we actually like) in exchange for helping with his sweet potato harvest. 

In the farm world, it seems like communities are built on trades --- trades of labor, produce, or advice.  And despite the delicious tang of those winesap apples, it's not so much about what you get as about what you give.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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So, what is this intentional community that is near you? Or is it a secret? I wonder how the movie star manages to juggle farm life with making movies. Maybe other community members fill in for him when he's not around?
Comment by Jenifer Quinn Sun Nov 29 14:58:10 2015

I too have become an active participant in informal trading with neighbors and community contacts. A couple I met shortly after moving here converted my old camper to a chicken coop in exchange for an old above-ground pool and gazebo they wanted. I've also exchanged chestnuts for tomatoes and grapes, and given out winter squashes and jam to neighbors who have helped me.

One neighbor always offers me venison when he shoots a deer, and this year I asked what I could do for him. Turned out he had a lot of blackberries in the freezer he hadn't had time to put up, so I volunteered to make jam for him. I also offered to help cut up the meat, and came home with 30 or 40 pounds of venison!

And when I had two cockerels to process and needed help because it was my first time, I prevailed on a friend to instruct me, offering her one of the birds in return.

Comment by Jennifer Quinn Sun Nov 29 15:09:52 2015

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