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MUTANT CORN : A Dacha Art Project

March 31, 2015 by lilygpad

We’re collaborating on an art and agriculture project! And we’d love your help to make it awesome. Check out the details below and get in touch if you’d like to get in on it.


For Summer 2015, The Dacha Project (Freevile, NY) and ArtCodex (Brooklyn, NY) are collaborating on “Mutant Corn,” a project inspired by the genetic and economic history of corn. Essentially an experiment in cross-breeding corn, it is also an experiment in crossing the social boundaries of agriculture, science and art. We will be executing this project in the region surrounding Ithaca, New York. The long history of agriculture mixed with alternative living initiatives makes this city a perfect venue for an experiment such as this.

The Project

In front of the main house at The Dacha Project, we will grow a small field of different colored corn to see how, at the end of the season, the corn will cross-pollinate. The structure of this field will be triangular, divided into three smaller triangles that meet together to form the boundaries of a fourth triangle in the center.

The three outer triangles will each be planted with different, brightly colored corn: red, blue, pink. In the center triangle, we will plant a commercially produced genetically modified maize (GMM). This will be a pale yellow or white corn. This central corn will be our neutral test subject, growing ears that will display a mosaic of color reflecting the genetic influence of its neighbors.  Unlike the rest of the corn, it will be de-tasseled (stripped of its pollen producing flowers) to prevent both cross- and self-pollination.

An important aspect of this project is social. During its development, we have worked with scientists, artists, and agriculturalists, and will be seeking many other collaborators for the physical growing projects. Work parties – much like an amish barn raising, will be a very important part of this process. This will include building the raised beds, planting the seeds, de-tasseling the GMM corn, and harvest. In addition to gathering interested minds and hands together for this necessary work, we would like to program cultural events such as film screenings and performances.

Around harvest time, we will have a gallery exhibit at The Dacha Project that explores the cultural landmarks that have grown up around corn. This will include a simultaneous screening of the classic horror movie “Children of the Corn”, with the agricultural documentary “King Corn”. There will also be a collaborative mapping project reflecting the results of the cross-pollination, as well as photographic and video documentation of the process.

Get Involved

We are looking for collaborators on all different levels for the project. Though the basic project has been fleshed out, we would like to invite artists and other creative people to bring their own ideas into the mix.  We will be programming events throughout the growing season where interested folks can bring music, discussions, performance that converges around the topics of agriculture, commodity and community.  We will also be hosting an art exhibition in the autumn to coincide with the harvest.

Also, we will definitely be needing lots of help with the physical tasks of the project- lining the pond for irrigation, creating the raised beds and filling them with soil, planting, weeding, and harvesting.  One of the greatest parts of this is that it’s been designed with long-term results in mind, and both the pond and the raised beds will benefit Dacha’s gardens for some years to come.

If you would like to be involved, please contact us.

How to lime plaster…

February 6, 2015 by juliasjuice

Here is a short tutorial on how to lime plaster a cement wall.

Green Building Tour 2014

September 10, 2014 by lilygpad

Hey friends,

Another year of Dacha-ing and now we have new things to show off at the Green Building Tour. New  pond, a lovely new garden area and much more. Join us on Sunday Oct 5 from 10am – 4pm and see for yourself. We’re looking forward to it.

Find more information here. Thanks to Cornell Cooperative Extension for putting all this together!

A Walk About the Dacha

August 26, 2014 by juliasjuice

Project Pond

August 17, 2014 by juliasjuice

There are a lot of changes in landscape going on at the Dacha Project. A new pond has been dug at the bottom of the property. The area that was cleared away used to be farmland that was overrun by shrubs and a few trees. There is a small stream trickling through the area and there were many boggy spots where water was right beneath the surface of the soil. The Dacha project residents felt that using this source of water for a pond would be beneficial for both the land and the people living on it. It can provide a place to swim during the hot summer months and create a more diverse ecosystem for fish, frogs and birds.




Another big change at the Dacha was the decision to connect to the public electrical grid. A large trench was dug from the house to the road to allow for the cables needed for the operation. The decision was a difficult one but ultimately has more benefits than drawbacks in the long term. Joe provided a short explanation.



Day at the Dacha

July 30, 2014 by Emma

by Emma, Dacha Intern
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On Sunday, July 12 the The Dacha Project, with the help of IthaCan, invited folks of the community to take a tour of the homestead. Guests were welcomed to come throughout the afternoon, and each tour was tailored to the specific interests of the group. One family enjoyed exploring the garlic patch, and other groups were interested in the construction projects. Lily, was the primary hostess explaining the various projects such as the outside shower and solar panels.
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The outside shower, pictured above, is a project developed this summer to solve an on-going issue. The Dacha is something called an earth bermed home, meaning the earth is incorporated in the construction of the structure.Due to the participants of the Dacha being homestead beginners, moisture issues have developed after the construction that were not anticipated. The outside shower is a way to reduce these issues because less moisture will be created inside the house if more people shower outside. As an added bonus, the beautiful summer scenery makes for a relaxing time!

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As the tour concluded, guests were treated to fresh black raspberries, and red and black currants picked from the north garden. Since The Dacha is interested in biodiversity, every plant is chosen for a specific reason. In the case of berries, having a wide selection allows exploration of the nuances of different species, such as flavor, texture, and nutritional value. For example, did you know that black raspberries are different from blackberries? Blackberries, or Rubus allegheniensis, leave a differently shaped receptacle than the black raspberry, or  Rubus occidentalis.  When plucked, the blackberry leaves a flat receptacle rather than the cone shaped receptacle that the black raspberry leaves.

The Dacha Project hopes to invite more guests to the homestead for discovery and exploration. Stay tuned for information!

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!

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