By thumb and by rail we arrived in Richmond, Virginia. We were greeted at the train station by Marielle and her friend who took us the hour's drive to Acorn Community (website). Since starting as an offshoot from Twin Oaks (website) by members who thought Twin Oaks' rules were too rigid, a constantly revolving group of people have made Acorn their home. During our visit the community consisted of eleven adults and one child (two part-time) living on the large homestead, divided between three houses, surrounded by large vegetable gardens, on 72 acres bordering the South Anna River.
We were given a nice room and were informed about the visitors 'program'. We would participate by working full-time (40 hours) in any one of their businesses and/or by doing domestic duties (cooking, cleaning, gardening, etc). (Unlike at Twin Oaks, members didn't have to record their working hours.) The community earns income from three main businesses - making hammocks for Twin Oaks, making tin lanterns (out of recycled tin cans) and selling them at craft fairs, and a seed business Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. With just a few minutes of training we could do any of those activities at any time of the day.
We often went out into the gardens to pick food for meals, or for seed saving.
Another family came to visit, which turned out to be the highlight of our stay. Diane came with her five unschooled kids (ages 8 to 16) all the way from Sacramento in their little school bus, to see if community living in Acorn was for them. Erika and Diane quickly became friends and shared their thoughts about child-led learning, communal child rearing. Her kids were very helpful, always asking what they could do. The girls often took Momo to play and Erika was able to do more work than usual. The trampoline was never alone for too long.
We (the guests) often made dinner together and always outnumbered the community members that were around.
In the end, we decided that despite the high turnover (which could be seen in the annual group photos) of members and interpersonal problems, Acorn must have something special to have made it through the years...
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