Sunflower River is a small sustainable spiritual intentional community in the Rio Grande Valley. We are five full-time Stewards (land owners). We have one child, three cats, a dog, and a fluctuating number of chickens, turkeys, peacocks, and bees, as well as an unspecified number of fish (and one formerly-feral turtle) in the aquaponics system. We have good intentions about adding goats at some point.
If you are interested in being a part of our community, please consider interning with us (see the Internship information linked below). This is the best way to get to know us and see what it is we’re doing in a hands-on way. We are a small, close-knit community, best described as an intentional family, and while we are open to the idea of new members, we are not actively seeking members.
Kat is a poet, sometime artist, and a queer, polyamorous, ecofeminist pagan. Her ideal life includes living in this intentional community, gardening, reading a lot, laughing with friends, enjoying the ceremonies of daily living, playing circus arts whenever possible, and seeing the stars at night. She reads voraciously and is largely responsible for the household’s little book problem. She lives in a yurt that she helped build. Kat has been involved in efforts to build a better world through the combination of pagan intentional community efforts and organic gardening since 2001. She’s a Taurus, Aries moon, Virgo rising. Kat’s poetry can be found (and purchased!) here.
Alan is a hacker (in the ‘enthusiastic tinkerer’ sense) and permaculturalist. In his professional life, he works as a software developer, most notably in the financial and medical industries. In these fields he has focused on data processing, quantitative modeling, and systems analysis.
As a Steward of Sunflower River he maintains the wiki as reference to the creatures, places, and events that occur here. He is Sunflower River’s resident permaculturalist, where he specializes in water infrastructure. In 2012, Alan and Rev Tsolwizar built the pond, a 1,500 gallon aquaponics system. A video introduction to that system is available.
His work as a systems analyst has led to modeling the infrastructure of Sunflower River using Simple Critical Infrastructure Maps (SCIM) and integrating disparate systems according to the Agro-Industrial Autocatalysis (AIAC) model. He is actively involved in permaculture research, both applying existing tools to Sunflower River and developing new ones when the need arises.
Jenny always had a desire to be a homesteader, so was very excited to help create Sunflower River. Over the course of becoming a farmer, she has spent many hours developing her skills at carpentry, hole digging, butchering, troubleshooting, canning, heavy thing-carrying, and generally becoming in sync with the cycles of the year. Now she’s introduced a child into the farm, which brings a vast amount of new skills to learn. She was working in biomedical research until her maternity leave. Since then, she has become a full time parent, farmer, and homeschooler.
Tristan is a steward, farmer, nurse, father and witch, the order of importance depending on the moment. Tristan explores each of these as both art and science. As a steward of Sunflower River Tristan has a special interest in the workings of the community as a whole with a particular focus on the consensus decision making process. Living in community as a chosen family is the reason Tristan is part of this project.
Billy is a supportive Sunflower Riparian, a nearby set of hands when the Stewards are otherwise occupied. He loves having the opportunity to play “farmer” and occasionally get his hands dirty while avoiding the more laborious elements of farm life. He lives at Caer Aisling, a house just ½ mile away from Sunflower River, where he takes great care and pride in maintaining the large labyrinth. The labyrinth poses an existential challenge to Billy, as it is a project that can never be finished; always a reminder to live in the journey. He and his pug, Gaspar, spend most of the year in Brownsville, TX, where they teach and study sociology at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
Gawain, Jenny and Tristan’s son, was born July 25th, 2011. He’s a charming, talkative, endlessly dramatic Leo, who is made of potential, and changes every day.
We host an ever-revolving crew of interns. They stay here for anything from a week to four months, to learn about organic farming (and sometimes also to learn about community living, or paganism), and do a work-trade for their room and board while they are at Sunflower River. We host interns through the WWOOF program, please see our profile there for internship details. read more…
Is a small, spring-loaded tortoiseshell cat. She’s secretly extremely sweet and loving, but mostly shows herself as a wild creature, haunting the tops of the cottonwood trees and the rooflines of various farm buildings. She lives life on her own terms.
Tybalt is both an absolute love bug, and an absolute brat. He moved to Sunflower River in February 2013, and found himself right at home and owning the place within a day. There is very little he won’t sleep on. He’s quick to cuddle, purr, and head-butt everybody, and always accepts affection. He also insists on staying out late, waking up early, and getting into everything. His favorite question is “are you gonna eat that?”
Furdre is a formerly feral cat who lived the first several years of her life in Mahazda house garage. Her name, Furdre, is Lojban for Compost, because that’s where we used to find her. It also echoes the Greek Phaedra, which means Bright. She is a chocolate point Siamese. We caught her for the Humane Society’s trap-neuter-release program in 2011, after the kittens from her latest litter mostly vanished. Kat seduced her with kibble and the promise of soft things to sleep on during the summer of 2013, and she became a somewhat jumpy but fully domestic cat, making up for lost time on the lovin’s.
Furdre passed away, rather suddenly but quite gently, of kidney disease in May 2018, after five years of very happy, loving, contented life as a domestic cat living in the yurt with her devoted human Kat.
Mackenzie came to Sunflower River in June 2018. He is an active, energetic four-year-old Maine Coon. His shelter name was “Snickers — because he’s sweet and nutty!” and while we have not kept the name, the description is apt. He’ll chew your fingers, jump up to bump your hand for pets, and lick your face if you let him. He also runs around the farm like he’s spring-loaded, and on cool nights, is an excellent cuddler.
Thistle was our Great Pyrenees, a working dog whose job is to protect the livestock from predators. She was a very sweet, sociable dog who loved bellyrubs. Thistle passed away in late October, Fall 2014. She was apparently struck by a car while roaming near Isleta Blvd. She is buried in the small ritual ground with Lucille and Tattersall, and is much missed.
Cora joined us in fall of 2016. She was a young energetic red heeler, who Tristan adopted from an animal shelter. Cora enjoyed the company of humans and other dogs, and learned not to chase the cats. She figured out how to herd chickens in her first couple weeks on the farm. Unfortuantely, Cora escaped through the gate and onto Isleta Blvd in Spring 2018 and was hit by a car and killed. She is remembered fondly.
Jasper (shown here with Gawain in the baby bird brooders) joined the farm in Summer of 2018. He’s a pittie mix with a tragic history as a street dog, and since being adopted, has become devoted to Jenny. He’s calm, quiet and friendly, and all around good company.
We keep approximately 25-30 laying hens at any given time, and we raise meat chickens in batches of 25, usually 2-3 batches per year. For layers, we are presently keeping Black Australorps, Barred Rocks, Americaunas, a few silver-laced Wyandottes, and a few Buff Orpingtons. For meat birds, we raise Dark Cornish Rocks. Our meat birds live in chicken tractors on pasture, and are moved to fresh pasture every night. The layers live in a large coop in the barnyard, and are allowed to roam free during days when someone is around to keep an eye on them.
We raise 40 cage free Thanksgiving turkeys each year. They are responsive, humorous birds, who prefer to be all together in a flock, and who will fly up to the highest branches of the cottonwoods, or the roof of the barn, when they have play days outside the coop. In 2014 we are experimenting with a mixed flock of heritage and standard breed turkeys.
In 2012-13, we raised a small flock of completely free-range guinea hens, as part of our integrated pest management strategy — that is, they were to eat bugs. They are exactly as noisy as everybody says, and they’re also exceedingly cute, running around the property in a mad dash at all hours of the day, and shedding speckled feathers. Their noise-to-benefit ratio ended the day they decided to nest in the seedling tomatoes and thereby destroyed most of a bed of our best crop. We ate them the following month. We still have some of their beautiful feathers available for trade or sale.
In Summer 2014, we adopted a peacock. His previous owner was unable to keep him because the neighbor was so upset that Elliott (the peacock) kept preening himself in her plate glass bathroom window. Rather than spend eternity arguing with the neighbor that the bird was not actually watching her, but was just vain (what with being a peacock), the owner elected to rehome him, and called Wildlife Rescue NM. They don’t usually rescue barnyard fowl, but we have friends who work there, and they called us. We adore Elliott. He’s sweet and somewhat coy and quiet, and eats grasshoppers. He was free-range until we acquired four girlfriends for him, and they spent too much time eating our neighbor’s garden — so now they’re all in a large pen, which we’re upgrading to an even larger pen this spring. We’re hoping they have babies we can sell, which will justify the investment.
Grigsby is a rescue turtle. She was found in someone’s yard, badly mauled by a dog, and surrendered to a group that rescues turtles, who placed her with us. She disappeared within a week or so of being introduced to the pond, and we thought she was dead, but actually it was just very early hiberation, and she reappeared this spring. She is very cagey and distrusts humans, cats, and dogs, but Kat is slowly winning her over with food and patience, the time-honored method for domesticating wild creatures. She will now eat food out of Kat’s hand most evenings, though startles and dives if anybody moves too fast.
We raised meat rabbits for a couple of years when we were first starting out. At the moment, we are rabbitless, but in the past we have raised Californias & New Zealands. We found housing and caring for them to be extremely challenging, and processing them even more so, so we are unlikely to resume raising rabbits.
In Spring 2012, we got our first beehive! And promptly lost them to a very cold winter. This year, our friend Terra is setting up to manage a new hive bees on our property. Once this experiment proves successful, we’ll expand to several hives.
This cottonwood tree is estimated by an arborist friend to be between 150 – 200 years old. It grew from a wild seed when the Rio Grande was still a deep, wild, braided river, lacing over these floodplains in irregular and changing patterns from year to year. The tree is a spirit of this land, whom we are honored to share our lives with. Our main ritual ground is located beneath the spreading arms of the great tree.