bunny rabbit saying love drawing of dacha off-grid homestead trees and hills wood and axe strawbale cottage reading in a hammock off-grid diesel generator carpentry tools beds of vegetables and flowers in a garden cattails in a natural water treatment pond

Consider Sobriety

July 28, 2014 by juliasjuice

by Julia, Dacha Project inter-at-large


One of the daily plant walks with 7song.

Utah stunned me with its dramatic landscape, the roads becoming smaller and more unkempt as we got closer to our destination. We slowed the car down to a crawl, wincing at the bounce from the potholes peppering our path. I did not mind the slow ascent,  gazing at snow capped mountains with fields of wild flowers nodding in the sun. There wasn’t a cloud in sight and the sky was consistently blue during our stay in the Rocky Mountains.  The Rainbow Gathering is always located off of back roads in the heart of national forests around the country. Everything on site is built from scratch often weeks before the masses arrive by those who enjoy truly “roughing it”. This group of brave individuals stay for several weeks after the event to clean up and break down, leaving the mountainside without a trace.  The Rainbow Gathering has been occurring for the past 25 years. They claim to be the largest non-organization creating an intentional community that has no centralized governing body. The movement was born in the early 70′s as an experiment in caring for thousands of people who want to come together in efforts to create a peaceful community dedicated to the acceptance of alternative lifestyles.

We parked in the first available location, taking the time to untangle our belongings from the tightly packed car. There were four of us prepared for nearly a month long excursion. Everyone from 7song’s Community Herbalism Intensive were required to make the trip out to the Gathering as one of three field trips. We had a week to get across the country, a week at the Rainbow Gathering and then another week following at a previously unknown location to wildcraft, and make medicine. Burdened with our backpacks, one of my car companions and I refused to wait for one of the few “shuttles” helping people to bring their belongings up the three mile hike to the main entrance. We had a desire to be capable of bringing our gear in on foot, as we had been warned to expect a hike of several miles where private vehicles could not access. Somehow the idea of being able to shoulder all our belongings added to the experience of backwoods survival.

Once inside the main entrance we started to see campsites pop up along the dirt road as people slowly started to organize themselves into little camps. The Rainbow Gathering is grounded in lore that when the world begins to crumble a new society of people from all different backgrounds (aka “a rainbow of colors”) will come together to help one another survive. This an idealistic form of socialism that created a tradition of a money-free event. The work of setting up this makeshift community is intended to be divided equally. There are groups of people who pickup trash, others dig latrines and there are many people that come together and organize their camps into “kitchens” provide food for free. Necessities like filtered watered are taken care of by these kitchens. Springs were re-routed and systems set up to provide for washing and hydration needs. Many people have to learn the hard way the difference between “live water” and “filtered water”. Working at the first aid station we experienced plenty of people who made that mistake.   Read more

Sunday, 7/20/14

July 22, 2014 by juliasjuice

Documenting the Dacha Project: 7/20/14 from Dacha Project on Vimeo.

The structure I mentioned a few weeks back is coming together beautifully. Tammie’s food truck is also near completion. A lot has changed in the few weeks since my departure. The garden is flourishing and many projects are moving along.

Homesteading Trail: Open House

July 10, 2014 by lilygpad

Curious about Homesteading?

IthaCan is partnering with Groundswell and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County for their first annual Homesteading Open House Trail.  The Dacha is taking part!

This outreach event will educate the public on the homesteading lifestyle via sites (homesteads) holding “open house” style tours. The sites will cover a range of homesteading practices and offer the attendees a look into the practical, real-life implementation of contemporary homesteading.

See here for features and open hours of the hosting homesteads. Tours are child-friendly and will take place rain or shine. Arrive anytime during open hours. There is no cost involved, although some locations will have produce/products for sale. Come enjoy the peaceful, hard-working lifestyles of our featured homesteaders!


  • The 1817 Homestead
  • The Dacha Project
  • Peasant Dreams Farm
  • The Quarry House
  • White Hawk Ecovillage

Space Utility: Vertical Strawberry Tower

June 27, 2014 by Emma

For the first article in the new series “Space Utility”, I decided to explore a seemingly simple but innovative gardening technique the Dacha Project uses in their gardening system: the vertical strawberry tower.

The idea of utility, defined as usefulness, is important when creating an egalitarian community. One of the goals of an egalitarian community is to maximize each individual’s potential into realized energy and seen consequences. In the case of the Dacha Project, the egalitarian goal is to allow each person’s everyday life to contribute to a greater collective effort.

While observing the way of everyday life for the people at the Dacha Project, I was reminded of thte reading I have done about the philosophical ideals of utilitarianism. The ideal of classical utilitarianism is orienting actions that maximize happiness while minimizing pain. What is defined as happiness is the source of debate for a lot of philosophers, however, the concept is a lot more concrete in the Dacha garden. Happiness in the garden is observed by seeing plants that are flourishing and yielding maximum output. The Dacha concept of garden happiness is also evaluated on how many pests are present in the garden and how much destruction they cause.

The extra-dimensional strawberry tower maximizes happy gardening. Through the use of vertical, as opposed to strict use of horizontal space, the number of plants can increase while also increasing the likelihood that the plants will do well. This is achieved by evaluating the proper amount of soil, nutrition, and water each individual plant will need. With the design, another beneficial aspect is that the roots grow down within the soil as opposed to having roots that are sprawling. This is nutritionally beneficial to the plant since they get more nutrients from within the deeper soil.

Using the corner of the garden was a deliberate choice because that was the area of the garden that would be the most logical to construct a vertical and triangular gardening unit. After defining the proper area of the gardens, the right materials were needed for the vertical strawberry tower. The boards are made of black locust which is naturally rot resistant wood. The strawberries are also fed with compost consisting of soil form around the homestead and local horse manure. When the strawberries send runners, they will fall over the side of the trough they are planted in so that harvesting them is easiest and efficient.

This is the first vertical strawberry tower the Dacha Project has implemented, so it is an experiment in progress. Expect updates about this project!

Adventure Utah and video short in the works: Le Intern, Julia Nelson

June 22, 2014 by juliasjuice

This is a photo I found on the internet of the mountains and desert in Utah.

I will be leaving this week on quite the adventure. The Community Herbal Intensive is going across country to offer our services at the Rainbow Gathering. It is located in Utah this year. I can’t wait to be camping in deserts and mountains. 7song, our teacher, runs the first aid station at the festival, and this is a great learning opportunity for his students. We have spent weeks preparing, but learning about a hypothetical first aid situation is nothing like the real thing. I am hoping to strengthen my skills working with actual people. We have done some role playing and I find that it’s really difficult to be quick thinking on the spot. Someone comes in with rashes, stomach ache etc. and all of a sudden my mind is flooded with medical information soup. The Rainbow Gathering attracts thousands of people for a week of complete off-the-grid living. Food is provided free or by donations and we are miles away from any civilization. Everyone has to be responsible for themselves and their impact on the environment, but in case something goes wrong that is where we come in.

After a week at the gathering, our class will head off to a currently unknown location to find plants for wildcrafting. We  will be scouting, gathering and making medicines on site. I am really excited to be going out west and experiencing these incredible landscapes. I wonder what sort of wildlife and plants are there to be discovered.

I feel like this will be an interesting experience to share with you here on the Dacha Project online community. Many common injuries such as cuts, burns and infections are difficult to deal with in an environment like the Rainbow Gathering. Providing first aid to people “roughin it” with herbal remedies inspires me by just how much can be accomplished with a DIY mentality. I also want to share my thoughts on ethical wildcrafting and on-the-go medicine making. I will be doing weekly updates on my experience.

For now please enjoy my first video project for the homestead – it is an introduction montage, to what will eventually (when I return) become a weekly video series.

Documenting the Dacha Project: Meet the Community Members!

Documenting the Dacha Project: Sunday, June 15, 2014

June 22, 2014 by juliasjuice

This past sunday, Danila and his good friend John started to put up this handsome structure that will be used to house some plants that need extra protection. The holes that the posts are going into are about a foot and a half into the ground. They decided to use cement to secure the posts in place.

The cement is a bought in powder form and then water is slowly added to get the right consistency. It takes several days to weeks to completely cure as the water slowly evaporates.



The garden is finished! All the plants have been put in the ground for the summer. The seedlings were sprouted in the greenhouse and then transplanted.


The Dacha Project residents are very excited about their new outdoor shower. The hot water is provided through the veggie oil generator’s cooling process. The generator needs water to cool down its’ engine and then the water that is heated keeps their hot water tank full. The drainage from the shower will help to water Marina’s herb garden which is located next to it. All their water comes from a natural spring on site.


Documenting Dacha: My first day on the homestead

June 13, 2014 by juliasjuice

Hello! My name is Julia Nelson. I’m one of the new Media and Communication Interns for the Dacha Project. A recent graduate from the School of Art and Design at Alfred University, I studied sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, video and sound. I found my way to Ithaca due to my enrollment in the Community Herbal Intensive at the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine.  While it is exciting to be learning about the vast world of plants and how they interact with the body, helping the Dacha Project gives me an opportunity to utilize and continue to develop my artistic skills.

I feel very lucky to be seeing first hand how a community like Dacha works. I am fascinated with process of what it  means to build sustainable living practices starting from the ground up. Even if an individual wasn’t necessarily interested living the path the members of the Dacha Project have taken, there are so many aspects to the projects they do here that can be incorporated into many lifestyles. It is the DIY aspect that intrigues me, and I am happy to help share their savvy with the world.

My weekly updates to the Dacha Project’s website will offer online followers an opportunity to learn more about building practices, gardening, and various ideas about how life unfolds here. Keep on reading for photos from Sunday, June 8th!

My first mission is to finish this fence made with saplings and branches from felled trees around the property. The saplings and branches are still “green” meaning that they haven’t completely lost their living moisture. By weaving these flexible branches and trees we can create a sturdy, tall fence to keep out those pesky deer. Another trick to keep deer out of the garden is to plant aromatic herbs like garlic around the perimeter. There are few herbivores that like the taste of these plants.

The fence will also act as an armature for some pea plants that are growing along the edge. These climbers can get to be around six feet tall! They will look beautiful intertwined with the natural wood of the woven fence.

Here is a photo of some thriving gardens next to the homestead. There are salad greens and herbs growing here. I had the pleasure of picking some for my lunch.

Marina, a resident of the homestead, is starting an herb garden on the side of the house. She is also attending the Community Herbal Intensive and my first visit to the Dacha project was at a potluck she organized for the members of the herbal class and the Dacha residents. That gravel is meant to prevent any vegetation from growing next to the house’s foundation, which can compromise its stability and keep moisture where it shouldn’t be. It will also help to catch rainwater falling from the gutter and send it to the plants. Marina built a raised bed because the soil is too clay heavy for the herbs. With some wood she found lying around, and a rich horse manure mixture to fill the cavity these herbs are set up to thrive.

It was a full Sunday familiarizing myself with the homestead, working on the fence and talking to the Dacha Project community members. I can’t wait to get back to work next week. I hope to investigate beekeeping and gather footage for a series of video shorts. Tune in next Friday for the results!


Dacha Internships: Meet Emma!

June 11, 2014 by Emma

Hello, everyone! My name is Emma, and I am proudly the new edition to the Dacha Project as the Sustainability and Media Intern. My objective is to document and articulate the lived reality of a do-it-yourself egalitarian community works and functions. I have a background in political science and philosophy with a degree in Politics Philosophy and Law from Binghamton University. I have come to work with the Dacha Project with the intent to explore how intellectual theory becomes a lived reality, specifically how living collectively with a sustainable orientation can be a successful alternative living lifestyle. I will be posting interviews, photographs, DIY explanations and philosophical musings about the Dacha Project and the people involved. IN the spirit of an interview post, I decided to interview myself about my interest in the project what I intend to do.

Question: Why are you interested in the Dacha Project?

Emma: I’m interested in the concept of taking an ideal and turning it into a lived reality. Right now our society is talking a lot about climate change and how, if at all, that should cause change to our public policy. There is a lot of controversy, a lot of uncertainty, and a lot of resistance to changing the mainstream way of life. People are upset because they do not know what this means for themselves and their families, but they are also confused because they do not know what they personally could to  contribute to the remedying of this problem.

I see the Dacha Project as a conglomerate of ideals, but one aspect of it is challenging what it is to “live” and exploring the idea of “living”, as going beyond what is commonly done. Most people wake up, go to work, living in a house, don’t talk to their neighbors, go to a grocery store. It can be like sleeping through life to an extent and not thinking about why it is significant how a person lives. I don’t believe our society has thought of “living” as a concept yet, but it will come up due to climate change. As our society is now, we’re very isolated, we don’t share, we don’t make group efforts as communities to go beyond our personal desires, and this has culminated in a lot of materialism and consumerism that has negatively impacted the environment. Instead of letting desire and materialism run rampant within a person, the people in the Dacha Project have consciously made the effort to sacrifice some luxuries and work to make an ideal of benefiting the environment real. The Dacha Project has already been exploring this concept for several years, and that makes it interesting to me.

Question: What concepts within the Dacha Project are you looking to understand?

Emma: There are two components I am looking to understand; the philosophy and the practicality. The philosophical aspect being the ideals, goals, and desired outcomes of the Dacha Project, and the practicality aspect being how those ideals, goals, and desired outcomes are formed into actions and implemented into reality. I’d like to explore the progression and evolution of the philosophy, as well as how and why those ideals may have changed.

Question: Why do you think the Dacha Project is important?

Emma: I think its important because there need to be alternative ways of living to our industrialized system. We’ve made everything into a commodity and caused dire environmental ruckus as a result, we’ve made a lot of problems and don’t have very many solutions. The Dacha Project is looking to go beyond the assertions the mainstream society has put out about how individuals should live by exploring the idea of what makes a community and way of life. I believe the Dacha Project is important because it has been successful due to a group of dedicated people, and the ideas/ideals behind it are especially relevant to the greater issues of the modern day.

Dacha Work Weekend

April 8, 2014 by lilygpad

We’re doing some Spring cleaning and projects here at the Dacha. Join us at our place as we work on some landscaping, permaculture planning, organizing, gardening and working on our earth berm to keep the house dry and warm.
We will be working from 11 am to 4 pm on Saturday and Sunday! We’ll cook up a pot of something hot and we can give you a tour if you’re new to this type of building and living! Get in touch or just show up.

Dacha Looking for Intern(s)!

April 4, 2014 by LeaLSF

Picture of Intern (a previous intern). He is very happy to do this sludgy concrete pouring work, although these days most work is a lot less concrete- y and more earthy. But still, just look at that smile! It should be noted that Intern demanded that we call him Intern, and would only answer to that, it's not that we thought of that idea.

Communications and Media Intern

We are looking for a person with exemplary writing and communication skills and a passion for, and at least a basic knowledge of, the sustainability movement and growing community.

Responsibilities Will Include:
- Regularly documenting through writing, photography and video various new projects and finished projects, as well as events at the organization
- Managing our blog, Facebook, and Twitter
- Working with us to develop new ways of engaging interested people and sharing our work
- Reaching out to other local organizations with overlapping interests in order to build a stronger network and purpose partnerships

Preferred Qualifications:
- Strong writing and communication skills
- A working knowledge of how to post and edit in WordPress or other blogging platform
- Experience with social media, primarily Facebook and Twitter
- Basic photo and video documenting and editing skills
- Overall strong web and digital skills
- A strong interest in all things sustainability: growing food, land stewardship, community building, building/water systems/heat systems design, and more.

This position is unpaid. We are a 501c3 umbrella organization, so if you had the interest in finding a grant to fund your position here you could use our sponsorship. What we have to offer is helping you develop stronger PR/communications/video/social media skills. You would work with a handful of us, all who work professionally in that relevant fields. You will also be exposed to and involved in a lot of hands-in-the-dirt type work, which is usually soul expanding. Also, we are mostly very nice, which makes for a wonderful work environment.

We are looking for someone to start as soon as possible, since the season for exciting things is getting fast underway. We require a 5-10 hour per week, with at least a three month commitment. In many ways, we are flexible and are willing to work with the right person to tailor this program to individual strong points.

Please send a resume and cover letter.

If you read this and think of someone who might be interested in this, help spread the word.

We are also looking for a gardening/building intern and will post a description for that soon. Thanks!

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