As people think about different ways of living on – or with this planet – some people decide to go off and live in their own self sustaining communities (as a traffic hating resident of the fast paced U.S. East Coast, I’ve thought about it multiple times). I was on a Pagan Facebook group the other day when I bumped into one of the founders of Desert Moon Spiritual Center, which is a self sustaining community for Pagans in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas that is currently looking for more residents. So I decided to chat with her about what life is like in this community, and she was kind enough to allow me to put this information on Metal-Gaia for anyone else who may be interested.
DISCLAIMER: I have not been to this community or met anyone there in person. If you decide to apply to this place, get references, visit first with a friend, be safe, don’t be dumb. Metal-Gaia is not responsible for your decisions. Just supplying information here.
Okay. Now that my legal butt is covered, allow me to provide the interview.
What is Desert Moon Spiritual Center?
Our motto is Live…. Play….. Follow your path…… Live here by becoming a colonist. Play here by camping or using a retreat cabin. Follow your path by using the metaphysical canter and 3 ritual areas. We are a Pagan based living colony, metaphysical and spiritual center. We also run a full animal rescue and sanctuary. We are NOT a commune, think more gated community. Located in the beautiful Rio Grande Valley near El Paso Texas. Offering gorgeous mountain views and wonderful weather. Peaceful and tranquil environment not far off the interstate. Paved roads and easy access to the property. We are limited to only 15 cabins for residency. We are a newly developed community and still growing. We will be adding meditation gardens, workshops, animal corrals, food gardens, community use kitchen and smoke house. Plus shower and laundry house with full showers and baths with flushing toilets.
What are the Spiritual Areas like?
There is a Ritual and meeting area being constructed upon a foothill overlooking the valley. Private and discreet. Can practice as you want with no fear of judgments.
Tell me about the landscape:
The land is FULL of vegetation and life. Mesquite trees take up most of the landscape. We also have desert sage and salt brush. Right after a rain the wild flowers bloom and the landscape is transformed with blotches of color. Bright yellow flowers on the mesquite trees attract countless hummingbirds. Doves and quail pass through daily. We have Javalinas on the property as well. These are small wild pigs about the size of a medium dog. Falcons buzz threw the air just over head. While turkey vultures circle way up in the sky. We have people that come from all over the world to bird watch in the area. Countless fence lizards and horny toads are everywhere. Yes we have snakes too. The majority of the snakes we have here are harmless. Bull snakes and King snakes help keep the area clear of mice, kangaroo mice and other small critters. At night you can hear the coyotes howling in the distance. The weather is beautiful. Summers are hot but no humidity. So you don’t have the health related issues from heat. Even days when it is hot around 95 degrees as long as there is a wind we could actually have a wind chill factor. Winters are mild and easy, very little snow. But when we do get it, it is gone shortly after.
What are the cabins like? How much do they cost?
We are leasing cabins for residency. All cabins will have to be outfitted with solar/wind power and composting toilets. Running water will be available for each cabin. Cabins can be customized to suit your needs. As we grow we will also be offering retreat cabins for weekend or weekly rental. Primitive camping is also available for a single night to 30 days.
Standard cabin is 12’x32’ Double lofted with a front porch for $400 a month. We have bigger and smaller cabins to suit your needs. The cabins are refabricated cabins that meet all US building and hurricane codes. The cabins come empty. This allows you to design the cabin to suit your needs and what you want your home to be. So if the tile or carpet or wood flooring is what you want. The paneling or drywall and colors are up to you., the layout can suit your specific needs. So no two cabins will be the same. There is A LOT of room in cabin this size. If you look up tiny house living you can see just how great these small houses can be! But you’re not just leasing the cabin. You will get the entire ranch and all the facilities once they are up and running.
How did Desert Moon Spiritual Center get started? What was the inspiration?
We bought our first 45 acres to accommodate the animal rescue and sanctuary we have on the property. We are a state licensed no kill nonprofit rescue. We wanted to rent out 2 cabins to homesteaders that would be willing to take care of the animals so we could after 10 years go up and visit family back north. But the only people we could find in the homesteading circles were right wing Christian nut jobs that wanted to put in a watch tower bunker and stock pile ammo to start a revolution against the government. Or people that wanted to start a missionary training camp, that is NOT the type of people we wanted here. [Side note from Metal Gaia: The fact that these kinds of people are so readily available is a little scary]
Our daughter had had suggested renting only to pagans. Since we wanted like minded people. So I posted a inquiry in a pagan Facebook group and in 24 hours I got 85 responses for information. So we were overwhelmed and not sure what to do. So I went for a walk to find the back property marker. It took me over 2 hours to find the markers over a mile back. As I climbed up the mountain foot hill in the back section of the property. I got to the top and thought, “wow this would be great for a ritual area.” It looks over the entire valley. As I turned and looked over the valley at our property the entire colony showed its self to me. I could see the cabins and gardens. The community center and workshops just appeared.
I came down and went to Marcia and talked to her about what I saw. I said the only problem was the majority of the community was not on our land. It was sprawled between three plots. But those other plots had been sold. We thought well maybe we need to find another piece of land. So we called the land developer the next day and they told us the two plots next to us where repossessed the day before. So we were the first people to know they were for sale again. So we pounced. Now we have a total of 135 acres. We were victims of gay hate crime in Iowa. So we had talked about it and wrote down our ideal place to live. Some parts we kept, others we threw out. The main goal is to create a pagan only community where pagans of different paths can come live a simpler honest life. Raise animals for food fiber and grow good. Live life and raise their families their way. To live without fear of judgment and discrimination. We are only 3 months from concept to now. So we are new and still growing. But Simpler doesn’t mean going without. We are not asking people to live like pioneers in the 1700s. We have almost all the modern day amenities just a nice country setting
Do you know if there are any other communities doing something similar?
There are other communities out there. But NONE operate the way we do. We are NOT a commune. We are NOT an “eco-village” that trains you how to be more ecofriendly. We operate off a lease. Each resident has to have an approved application (light back ground check and sex offenders’ check. But not a credit checks. We believe your more than a number) and a signed lease. So you have rights as well as we do. There are a list of Bylaws that the entire colony must follow, including ourselves. There is a system in place for what happens when a Bylaw is broken. So you cannot be kicked out just because you disagree with someone or someone doesn’t like something about you, like in any commune situation. We have full time residency cabins. We are here to help you transition to your new lifestyle. We are not here for you to take a workshop or class to go and use those skills elsewhere.
Do many of the people in the community still have jobs, or is it possible to live there without needing to work?
It depends on your situation. We people that are on disability/retired and that can make their lease payments. But for others they may need to work to ensure they can make their lease payments. The nearest city for work is El Paso Texas. Its about a 45 min drive straight down the interstate. It’s where my wife goes for work every day. So there is the option of carpooling as well.
We have arts and craft items that we make to support the colony and make improvements to the property. We currently offer bracelets with charms, key chains, prayer beads, kitchen witch items, stone necklaces and something called Desert Moonite Rock Guardians. The stone necklaces are made from stones found at the ranch and wire wrapped by hand and blessed under the full moon. The Moonites are rocks that I ask to come to me to be guardians. Think of a spiritual pet rock if you will. I look at the rocks bring out their personalities and come in various sizes. Can be put in Gardens, kitchens, desks or pockets. But as far as doing crafts and items to barter or trade for the lease no.
Does anyone cultivate food for a living?
We have just started and I am hoping next year that we can sell eggs and vegetables at the local farmers market. But by raising your own meat and growing your own food and canning your food you reduces your cost of living and expenses. Not to mention its healthier.
What is the Pagan Community like there? Is it mostly one group, or do you have more eclectic groups of Pagans such as Heathens, Wiccans, Druids, etc.
Most paths are welcome. All earth based paths are welcomed. We have Druids, Wiccans, Heathens and others that have approved applications. The only thing we have decided as a Board is we do not want any dark arts. And we believe that Satanist are a subset of Christianity so they do not qualify. I know a lot of people do not agree with this philosophy and that’s fine everyone is entitled to their opinions. I am not going to argue the decision the board has made.
Do you guys get together on the key Sabbaths and have a big celebration, or does everyone mainly do their own thing?
Even though I am ordained it is not about following my path. It’s about helping you follow yours. So those that want to gather together can and those who want to go solo can. So we are putting in 3 different ritual areas so there would be options for different paths to celebrate on the same days and times. We are however only putting in one community center. So that will be rotated threw the different paths and who needs the space. We also will be allowing Sky Clad events as long as they are scheduled and approved ahead of time. This way these events can be posted and those with children can be aware. Its all about respect.
What are some of the advantages to living in an all Pagan community?
One of the biggest things we hear is that “I can’t be myself.” “I can’t tell people I am pagan a witch or a druid. I can’t wear my pentacle and robes. No one understands me.” Well here you can wear what you want and know its okay. You’re not going to get bullied or put down because of it. There is positive reinforcement here. We will not tolerate any hate speech, writing or any kind of discrimination will be cause for removal from the colony. No not everyone is going to get along all time. But at the same time we all must learn to tolerate each other’s differences.
Would you accept an applicant who isn’t pagan, but is moving there with their pagan spouse?
At least one adult person has to be pagan. If there is a spouse or significant other who is not pagan that is fine as long as they are pagan friendly. Our biggest issue we will have is if we have a pagan and a Christian/Jew/Muslim/whatever where the other person is not supportive or is constantly trying to shove their religion in other people’s faces. That is a violation of the Bylaws and cause for removal. Trust and tolerance and safety above all.
I see that people living in this community have the freedom to grow different kinds of vegetables and raise various domestic animals. What are common vegetables people like to grow there? What are some of the domestic animals that people like to raise?
We are putting in animal corals and the colonists have the right to raise animals for food or fiber or fun. Pets are always welcome without any type of pet deposits. Livestock is encouraged. They can raise chickens and poultry for meat and eggs. Cows, goats for meat, milk and fiber and pigs are welcomed as well. They can either have animals of their own or coop animals as a group. We thought when we started this that everyone would want to raise their own animals and do their own thing. We are learning that is not the case. Many people want help with animals cooped by the colony and shared. So even if you don’t know anything about raising animals or how to harvest meat or eggs we are all here to help each other. My wife and I have over 15 yrs experience with farm animals. So we are here to help.
As far as veggies. We are putting in what’s called solar pits. It’s like a half buried green house. You take a hole in the ground and put your green house in it so only the roof is exposed. It makes the green house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter giving us a year round growning season. You can grow anything here (as long as its legal).
I see on your application that you are asking about people’s skills. If someone doesn’t have many skills, but is willing to learn and work hard, would you accept them?
Of course. We all have different skill sets and abilities. If you’re willing to learn that’s even better. One of the biggest things that people tell me is I can do anything but my spouse is disabled and not able to do construction. But that is not a problem. There are MANY ways to help,. It’s just finding a way that you can help within your abilities. We will make every accommodation to make you useful. But there are those that just do not want to find a place to help. For example I was on a phone call with a 50yr old woman on disability who wanted to move to the ranch. She told me she was not able to do construction. I was like that’s fine. Can you make sandwiches and lemonade for people that are working? OMG I don’t like to cook for myself let alone others so no. Ok…. What about watching kids? Would you be willing to babysit for people? I don’t like other peoples kids I raised my own and I don’t want to do that. Ok…. What about feeding and watering animals? I HATE animals and don’t want to be near them. Hmmmmm ook. What about gardening can you water plants and weed? I have allergies and don’t like being outside. I said well I know how badly you want to be here. What can you do to help out? Why can’t I just lease my cabin and stay to myself? Mmmmm well honestly I don’t think you will be happy here and this is not going to be a good fit. Her response was but why not? Because I believe with all my heart that everyone has something to contribute and you just don’t want to do anything to help others and that is not within our goals and what we want for our community. Everyone has something that they can do we just need to find it.
What is the camping experience like for people who just want to visit?
Camping is a primitive walk in tent camping. You come to the property and ask for a camping spot. If we have a spot available I will give you a copy of the rules and regulations for camping. You sign a camping agreement stating you know the rules and agree to pay the fee before you set up. You park your car and gather your stuff and walk in to your campsite. Fires are allowed in campfire rings only. Pets are welcome on a lease. Until we get the water lines installed and the shower house up and running. So until those are in you will need to bring a camping toilet and all the water you will need. It is true primitive camping. But in exchange for the short hike in you will get a complete starry sky. Horizon to horizon. No lights from the city to block any views. Mountains’ on 3 sides. Hawks flying over head. Humming birds darting in and out of the Mesquite trees. The sound of owls and coyotes at night. You can hike the entire 135 acres and see quail, javalinas (a type of small wild hog), bobcats and more.
If you want to come out for the day and not camp you’re welcome to do that as well. Come picnic and hike.
What is internet connectivity like there? (I would die without my internets!)
We have been in contact with a satellite internet company that offers truly unlimited sat internet. Most like wild blue or Hughes net offer internet but you cannot stream anything because you will run into overage fees. The company we are dealing with does NOT charge overage fees. They also are allowing us to connect several computers under one account. So we can network the computers and the cost will go down according to how many people are using the internet.
What is your vision for this community 5 years down the road?
Our end goal is to have 15 cabins for lease for residency. 10 cabins for retreats or vacations. 5 stall RV campgrounds and 10 primitive campsites. We want to have 5 solar pits, a community rec room and kitchen with outdoor kitchen, workshops for crafts, woodworking and library. A complete metaphysical center and 3 ritual areas.
What can outsiders do (like myself) to help the community flourish and grow?
You can support DMSC by either buying one of the various items that we make to support the colony and make improvements. We have bracelets, key chains, necklaces, kitchen witch items, T-shirts and more. Or you can make donations to the colony through PayPal or by sending Wal-Mart or Lowes gift cards or just a donation to our mail box. You can donate to pay for a bill like our radio advertising for money. We have several projects we need supplies for so can donate for those particular items we need. Just contact me directly and I can tell you what we need.
What is the biggest challenge this community currently faces?
The biggest challenge we face right now sense we are just starting out is paying our bills. We have a $900 a month land mortgage. We need to raise $1500 to get the water lines laid and installed. We have several thousand dollars in land clearing that has to be done still. We have to get the animal rescue facilities in as well. That’s about $3000 for the kennels and shelters for the dogs in rescue right now. The rescue animals alone cost over $300 a month just in food. All the money for this colony comes from my wife and I. I am on disability and my wife works. But like everyone else we struggle. But this is our mission in life and feel we are drawn to this purpose. We need people to help support this cause.
In your opinion, what is the best thing about living in this community?
The sense of extended family and approval. If I need something there is someone there I know I can call and count on. If I want or need to go somewhere I know someone is there to take care the animals and the house and I know everything is safe. You are not just leasing a cabin. This is a lifestyle. It’s a support network and a way to know you are never alone and the support is always there.
Thanks for your time and well thought out answers! I hope everything goes well in your community. In this world where people live such isolated lives (away from both the Earth and each other) it’s heartening to see people banding together to live closer with the land, and helping each other out. So for those of you who are interested in learning more, check out their website.
In the 1950’s the average family contained 3.5 people with 983 square feet of living space.
Now the family average has shrunk to 2.5, but we require an average of 2,349 square feet of living space.
Yet there is a growing sustainability movement that focuses on building smaller and smarter houses.
Sarah, an Environmental Policy and Management major, has decided to take matters into her own hands – literally. She has built a mobile, sustainable house by the sweat of her own labor as the final project in pursuit of her Master’s.
All of the electricity is solar powered and much of it is made out of recycled materials.
She is selling her house for less than the price of a car.