Day in the Life – Acorn

Part of my job is to convince people that life on the commune is better than their life (if it really is, of course).  Some days this is easy.  Today was one of those days.

We have an abandoned Corolla

We have an abandoned Corolla

... so we gave it to our goats

… so we gave it to our goats

Rejoice and i chased down an uncooperative goat this morning, usually they can all be rounded up by a single person.  Today, however, this goat was being temperamental and required special handling.

It is the busy season, and everyone knows it.  There is a busy atmosphere around the place, but it is not stressed.  We are getting it done, picking, packing and shipping hundreds of orders each day.  Part of what has been making it work is that we have been blessed by a rain of wonderful East Winders.  Thirteen of them came on this trip and they have been huge in getting all manner of things done.  After the last East Wind LEX trip i think it is fair to say Acorn has a major motion picture intercommunity crush going on.

State of the Union

As i have said, i dislike Obama, but i recognize that he is very clever.  His State of the Union speech supports this thesis in my mind.  I did not listen to the entire thing and several sections were worrisomely short of specifics (like his call to “get immigration reform done” or “reform the tax code”) .  But he cleverly played a recurring them.  He will use executive power to make the first steps and if congress is willing they will go further.

The most important concrete thing i heard in the 30 minutes it took to crawl from Twin Oaks to Acorn is the gentle snow, was that Obama was increasing the federal minimum wage for $7.25 to $10.10.  He challenged both Congress and business leaders to adopt this floor, even if no legislation is passed.  Claiming that Americans are in agreement that people should not live in poverty.  This will have an especially pronounced effect on those hired to do service jobs for the military.  Obama specifically mentioned janitors and cooks.

minimum wage as fraction of average wage

Pretty Dragon

Dragons can fly

Dragons can fly

exotic faces from Dragons fingers

exotic faces from Dragons fingers

don't even try to resist

don’t even try to resist

walk in the waters fine

walk in the waters fine

The better to kiss you with my dear

The better to kiss you with my dear

She exists only in his mind

She exists only in his mind

Freegantown Video

“The dumpsters are never empty in Freegantown, Freegantown, Freegantown.” Is the refrain from the first musical number in this epic piece of Twin Oaks Children’s theater.

Freegantown cast after the second and last performance.  With dumpster dive tulips.

Freegantown cast after the second and last performance. With dumpster dive tulips.

This short gem was captured in a low resolution video.  But you can get the witty dialog (including the pitch for more bandwidth).  It should be pointed out that Rowan (Tall Guy) is playing a role inspired by me, or at least inspired by my head-achy guests (from Nero who burned part of Acorn, to Jason who drove some people a bit crazy).

Willow explains how the freegans can eat overpriced organic food from Traitor Joes.

Dark Star (Willow) explains how the freegans can eat overpriced organic food from Traitor Joes, when the dumpsters are empty.

Who decides? Three communes models

In the story i tell, at it’s inception Twin Oaks wanted a decision model which was better than simple democratic voting.  The founders thought that communards could make better decisions than what came from the “50% plus one” model which dominated elections and government process.  In the search for the elusive super majority,  they did not want to set a threshold percentage, perhaps because they wanted something more subtle and dynamic than vote counting at the core of our process.  They wanted to leave open the possibility that a small group with strongly held beliefs might be able to shift the groups outcome by carefully reasoned arguments and compelling logic.

TO and EW and Acorn Founder Kat Kinkade in front of a 3 X 5 board somewhere.

TO and EW and Acorn Founder Kat Kinkade in front of a 3 X 5 board somewhere.

An open letter to the white woman who cried "animals"

Reblogged from narcissism for the dubiously modest:

Dear Jeanne Doucette,

While others organize in protest of the Cville weekly's racist, sensationalist faux-journalism in reporting your story, I find that my upset lies primarily with you.  For while there are two very different sides of the story of what happened on the downtown mall on December 20th, what is clear based on medical evidence collected in the course of the legal investigation is that your story was wildly exaggerated.  

Read more… 600 more words

As a propagandist i am amazed at Fox News ability to create a fictitious crime (Knock out) and then get it incorrectly identified as happening in multiple places, using the nominally liberal media as part of the delivery system. This is brilliant. As a radical, the entire thing disgusts me. Thanks Sara for calling out this racist behavior.

racist brian

Wassailing Fruit Trees

I was introduced to this tradition by my friend Dan Kelly, who has a commercial apple orchard. Google notes that wassailing was a tradition in cider  trees/orchards in England. At our farm, we include all fruit trees; this is about my experience with it. We usually do in January – but have not done it yet this year.

Here is what happens:

- Dan sends out an invitation to friends; we gather at his house for a potluck dinner

- then we have a huge bonfire: Dan has amassed a large amount of wood for a bonfire – some of the wood is prunings from the orchard

- ceremony during the bonfire: Dan has a friend say something about pagan concepts re this tradition – awakening the energy/sap in the trees and wishing/urging the trees for a bountiful harvest. Dan  shares the scientific aspects: whipping the trees releases endorphins/saps/enzymes in the trees that promote healthy growth

- physical wassailing: Dan provides us with whips – 3? slendor apple branches/prunings and encourages us to run around the orchard (about 500 trees) and smack the trunk and branches of the trees and yell/holler encouragement to the trees all the while

- we do: it is dark out there – but the energy is vibrant and contagious: we hear and meet each other frequently and we holler encouragement to the trees. It seems that, among all of us, we smack most trees many times. That’s ok: it raises the overall energy, right?

-  this appears like a pagan-like ritual to folks in my generation( 50+)- right? On the other hand, the wassailing party I remember most was about 8 years ago; one of the Sandhill members here was Renay (about 9 yrs old). She brought a friend of hers, Chelsea, from school; during the bonfire, Chelsea was BORED. However, when we did the running around and whipping the trees, she was totally engaged and LOVED it!

- so which part of the tradition/ritual is the most important?? is it for thee trees? the fruit? us? Let the mystery be….

Freegantown – epic Kids Play

If you are in the area (Charlottesville/Central VA) and you feel like you have some sense as to what community life is like, you should come see the Sunday Jan 26th performance of Freegantown (if you have not already missed it, this is likely today for you).

Rowan, Kaya, Zadek, Evan, Willow and Ezra in Freegantown - Circa 2014

Rowan, Kaya, Zadek, Evan, Willow and Ezra in Freegantown – Circa 2014

Willow (who’s full name is Willow Star Falcon-Flansburgh) plays the villainous ex-communard who goes off to work for  evil corporation Traitor Joes.  His name is Dark Star in the play.  This 30 minute performance, complete with a start up song with Evan on ukulele, is the best kid theater i have seen and some of the best theater to come out of the commune.

I won’t spoil the plot which teases all manner of commune customs and practices and includes blatant calls from the kids for more bandwidth in the community.   But I will say this performance is a bit of insider ball, if you know nothing about the communes, about our pocket dramas around guests or our practices around dumpstering food, you will miss some parts of the story.    None the less i would encourage you to come.

What is not happening at Fukushima (and some of what is)

My old boss and dear friend Honza Beranek saved me a bunch of work by putting together this article on distorted media claims about Fukushima.  The original Greenpeace blog post appeared Jan 24, 2014

Yes, things are very bad at Fukushima but it’s not the Apocalypse

Blogpost by Jan Beránek

Greenpeace experts examine fish samples on the Rainbow Warrior to monitor radiation levels as the ship sails up the eastern coast of Japan on her way to Fukushima in May 2011

Greenpeace experts examine fish samples on the Rainbow Warrior to monitor radiation levels as the ship sails up the eastern coast of Japan on her way to Fukushima in May 2011

There have been a number of news stories recently about the radiation escaping into the ocean at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that have raised great concern. Some are worried about how escaping radiation  may or may not be affecting ocean eco-systems around the world.

Since Greenpeace has been working on the Fukushima nuclear crisis since it first began in March 2011, we can offer some thoughts on people’s concerns.

We have sampled sealife along the Japanese coastline, both from the Rainbow Warrior and in conjunction with local fishermen and Japan’s food cooperatives.

Remembering Steve Imhof

I just found out yesterday morning that Steve Imhof died Jan 8 of a massive heart attack. Today's blog will be a eulogy for my friend—too soon gone.

I first met Steve in 1980, when he and his then-wife Joy were living near Canton MO (only about 45 miles from Sandhill Farm) and were available as a midwife team. Ann and I wanted a home birth for the child we were expecting, they were the closest midwives willing to work with us (which was no small thing at the time—midwifery was was not legalized in Missouri until 2007). They worked with us on prenatal visits, and then Steve assisted when our son, Ceilee, was born in our bedroom on a cold, sunny morning, January 27, 1981. It was the first birth at which Steve was the primary attendant—noteworthy for a profession that's overwhelmingly filled by women.
While we were wholly satisfied with our birth experience, Steve & Joy were fundamental Christians, and there was tension about our divergence spiritual views. While it may seem strange that we'd select midwives that held such views, there were not a lot of choices. 

Missouri is an odd state in which the combination of: a) inexpensive land; b) minimal rural zoning; and c) permissive laws around homeschooling have resulted in encouraging both the religious right and the liberal left to try their hand at homesteading in the Show Me State. Both segments are interested in exploring alternate lifestyles based on values that are not popular in the mainstream and desire minimal regulatory interference. That said, while both tend to share a passion for large gardens, home births, and parental involvement in the education of their children, the political outlook of these two segments could hardly be more different—which led to some odd moments of solidarity among people you might expect wouldn't talk to each other.

Because ultimately we need sustainable education

My dearest friend Joan Jr altered me to this Indiegogo campaign for scholarships to the eco-village training course in Missouri.  As with most good crowd-sourcing pitches they have created a compelling video which i would ask you to take a couple of minutes and review.

While this is an international project, it has a strong set of local roots and a commitment to investing mostly locally.  This text from the Indiegogo project description.

Your contribution does much more than to help bring a student from the other side of the world to Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in mid-America. Your contribution has further impact by growing our local economy and local currency system. Last year, 87% of our budget was spent within five miles of our community.  EEUS and Dancing Rabbit model the power of local economy 365 days a year using our alternative local currency, ELMs. Scholarship contributions help immerse students in our community and continue to strengthen our local economy long after the students return home.

imagine a better future and then help people build it

imagine a better future and then help people build it

Please feel encouraged to help this scholarship fund crowd sourcing appeal.


Not Pretty

“Do you think i am pretty?” Bryonna asked me and my heart stopped for a second. We had started a sweet connection while she was visiting Acorn and our relationship was growing.  And i have a personal commitment to not lie to my intimates. “Actually, no. Pretty is a cultural construct and i am a product of my upbringing.  What i mostly find pretty mimics the white models and actresses from decades of advertising and films.  You have classical black features, large lips, tight curly hair.  This is not what i have been encultured to find as pretty.”

Yes, i know you think she is pretty

Yes, i know you think she is pretty

No one wants to hear that they are not pretty.  And while Bryonna appreciated my honesty, we stumbled around about this for a while. It also set me on this path of self reflection about the different aspects of attraction.  i certainly am attracted to Bryonna, who is charming and fun.  She is poly and smart enough to understand the pitfalls of being involved with me even before i brought most of them up.

Love Pikachu fans

Love Pikachu fans

processing sinew

Northern Wisconsin has reached the middle of the coldest time of the year. To know that I am halfway through feels like a bit of a relief. The sun is gradually rising earlier every morning, giving a very subtle sign of the distant spring. Right now, it's hard for me to see the beauty of winter. My hands are cold, and my face is cold, though I feel incredibly alive in the discomfort.

a photo from the ice storm in Michigan
We've been eating a lot of fish lately, which I've been enjoying, but it's nice to have a change sometimes. Yesterday, we picked up a a very young deer that got hit by a car. I spent the morning skinning and butchering the deer, outside in the cold. I cut off the backstrap for dinner-it's the most popular part of the meat because it's so tender and tastes the best. While in the process, I decided to save the sinew. Sinew is the tough piece of tissue in the meat that can be dried, pounded, and used as a really strong thread for sewing. The backstrap and the achille's tendon contain the best quality sinew.

I laid the sinew on a board to dry by the woodstove.
pounding dried sinew from an achille's tendon

Point A Mission Statement

i hate mission statements.  The business press is clear that i am a fool in this believe because virtually everything written about mission statements harps on how important they are, how they help direct and guide people in the company, how you can’t really succeed unless you have a carefully crafted mission statement.

mission statement incomprehesnible

i have been involved with well meaning board members who drafted or recrafted mission statements.  i have been involved with dozens of organizations (both for profit and non profit) which have mission statements.  i have never once seen a mission statement used to solve a problem or direct a decision.  As best i can tell, they get written (often by too many people) and then they get ignored.  They are, as best i can tell, a complete waste of time.

mission statement awkward

But people love them, including clever people who i like and work with. When we started talking about forming a new urban high achievement oriented community – which is currently called Point A – there was a call for a mission statement.  i just let go of my resistance and helped make it happen.

Point A – Mission and Commitment

To create a community that:

MLK comes to Heroes

When games masters (GM) have players who do something they don’t expect and they have to figure out how to respond, i call it “playing off the page”.  Because the GM has to make up what happens then, without the pre-designed script.  Robust games masters design elaborate worlds with many secret hatches and passage ways, so that characters who stroll off the page can gently wrap around and come back onto the page again.  Lazy GMs live off the page and just always wing it.  You can guess where i land.


In my somewhat unusual prepping today for the Heroes educational fantasy role playing game i decided i wanted to put in a bunch of questions about MLK.  The form was to get the players to identify the one thing on the long list which was something which was not a characteristic of King.  For example, i choose these quotes:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.

But the quote which spoke to me most powerfully was:

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

[From Brainy Quote]

Delay equals Death – Vietnam and beyond

I’ve waited 25 years for the map below which was just put out by the fine folks at Beyond Nuclear.  It shows the reactor sites across the US with red X’s through the 4 sites (and 5 reactors) that utilities have closed in 2013 (VT Yankee will close in 2014).  These include Crystal River 3 in Florida,  Dominion Resources Kewaune in Wisconsin, the two reactors at  San Onofre in California and Vermont Yankee.   I have a special place in my heart for Vermont Yankee as it is the reactor complex in the US which i have most frequently been arrested at.

The map we have long waited for

The map we have long waited for

And this is just the beginning, as an excellent recent report by Mark Cooper of Vermont Law School points out.  There are a ten more US reactors which are facing such serious problem that they are at high likelihood of closing in the near future.  These plants are:

Yoda in Paris – Online quizes

Clearly i don’t have enough to do in my life (not) because i have started dabbling in online quizzes.

Did you know there were nine types of Beyonce?

Did you know there were nine types of Beyonce?

The first one which grabbed my attention in a week moment was the one which asked what city you should live in.  So i should have realized right away when the first question was about coffee and the second about contemporary music – where i did not know 7 of the 9 songs or even 4 of the 9 bands.

fear of this is inversely proportional to age.

fear of this is inversely proportional to age.

There is also a section on hastags – from which you are supposed to choose one to represent you.  I took #Sorry i am not sorry – which fits my anti-apology rap.  But even i hashtag land i feel like i am from a different time space continuum.  One of which is #YOLO (that i happen to now stands for You Only Live Once) or one other option is #YOLO but only used ironically.  i am confident i cant tell the difference, i am such a third rate hipster.

Under Beyonce they offer 9 different models to choose from:

My rap on bags

“You don’t want a bag do you?”  The person at the liquor store sees me with some regularity and knows my style.

[i don't by booze at the store for myself, in that i only seem able to drink sugary blender drinks which i am unwilling to make for myself, but i do shopping for the entire community as a town tripper and thus i am in there almost every week. ]

The EU will ban single use plastic bags by 2020

The EU will ban single use plastic bags by 2020

My usual response is:

“I don’t use bags and want to store management to use the money saved to increase staff salaries.”

This warrants a couple of different responses:

Amusement – “You don’t know my store management” or

Appreciation – “That would certainly be nice.” or “What a good idea”

Either way my interaction with the person who was a nameless clerk moments before becomes more positive and more human.  And with some effort and story telling we can make single use disposable plastic bags an extinct species.

i am asking you to join the conversation.

We have moved! (300 feet) – re-post

[This is a partial repost of the SESE blog entry on the new Seed Office which will likely be called "The Ark" because it looks a lot like one.]

We’ve been building a new office on our farm for the past couple of years. It has timber framing, a radiant floor, super-insulated blown-in cellulose walls, large south-facing windows, wide eaves to make it cool in summer, a loading dock, a small warehouse, and on the cool north side, an insulated, air-conditioned, dehumidified seed room with a straw bale wall.

Construction of the second floor of the Ark (now completed) back in May

Construction of the second floor of the Ark (now completed) back in May

GPaul in the main space in the Ark, he designed most of the building and built some of the tricky systems

GPaul in the main space in the Ark, he designed most of the building and built some of the tricky systems

Willow’s only interview

My son understands the idea of labor credits.  [Twin Oaks and Acorn require people to work a quota of labor credits to maintain membership.]  He has to earn a small number of them to satisfy the communities child labor obligations (mostly the kids are responsible for their schooling efforts, but a handful of hours are requested working around the farm, the number increases slowly at the kinds get older).  His current quota is about 5 hours a week.

Willow makes his weekly labor credits cooking lunch with Sky, cleaning Tupelo with me and at the Star Family regular K shift.  He has had this labor requirement for quite a long time.  When he was 5 years old he had an obligation to the community for a single hour of work a week.  When i told him that doing interviews with the various types of reporters who come through the community were labor creditable, he decided to do one.

Willow on Paxus - Circa 2007

Willow on Paxus – Circa 2007

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