News of the Oaks

News of the Oaks

Jun 07 – Jan 08

By Ezra with assistance from Mala and Gordon

Well, it's been a while since the last News of the Oaks came out, right around the time of our 40th anniversary, and we're pleased to report that the intervening eight months have been (generally speaking), a time of relative peace, stability, and prosperity.

Despite a relatively high turn-over rate, and the departure of several long-term members, population has remained in the eighties. Among the old-timers to strike out on their own this fall were Alder, Amy, Jack, Inge, and Indigo. Jake, who we all hoped might come rushing home, is still living in Savannah with George, and writes that he doesn't even miss Twin Oaks anymore.

On the other hand, this fall has seen the return of the oldest old-timer of them all-- Kat Kinkade! At the end of 2007 Kat returned as a full-time member, after 7 years of living in Mineral, and moved back into Nashoba (see interview with Kat in this issue).

While our adult population remains stable, our child population has continued to fall, and is now at its lowest point in many years: 7 full-time kids, two half-time kids, and one kid on sabbatical. Although the child population has been shrinking, our young folks themselves have continued to grow, and thanks in part to a new child labor policy, are becoming more integrated into the community than in the past. Rowan, now 11, has thrown himself into his duties as chef, and has been helping with meals in ZK kitchen every week. Kids have also been tutoring at Reading Window, helping with road maintenance, and primarying younger kids.

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Marx once famously said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, the second time as farce. His saying held true for our most recent round of local teen hooliganism. Around Anniversary, we began to have trouble once again with petty crime: a car window was broken, and a keg of beer intended for the Anniversary festivities was stolen from Emerald City, along with some hanging chairs. Things took a turn for the bizarre, however, when on a repeat visit the teen miscreants left their car parked in a suspicious location, keys and wallet inside, and a clever Twin Oaker drove off with it. Complex negotiations (conducted by the fearless and wily Keenan) ensued. In the end, the teens got their car back, we had all of our stolen property returned (and the keg was still full!), and Twin Oaks hasn't had any problem with teen crime since.

Shortly after the previous issue of the Leaves was printed, Twin Oaks found itself in a unique governance situation-- we had no planners. Stress and community infighting had led to the resignation of all three of the planners, leaving Twin Oaks adrift and without official 'leadership.' Unsurprisingly, not many people noticed the difference. By the end of the summer, however, we decided that we might as well get some new planners, so after much processing over the process, Twin Oaks held its first ever planner election. The election gave us four fresh new planners, and a new sense of involvement in community politics. Other exciting occurrences this summer included a brief but powerful storm in June that knocked down nearly as many trees in 20 minutes as 2003's hurricane Isabel took out in a whole day, including the top third of the big sycamore in the courtyard. Speaking of falling trees, we also had to cut down the big locust tree next to Oneida, when it was discovered that it had been planted (twenty years ago) directly over the building's sewage drain pipe.

Despite Rollie's departure, we have continued to maintain - and in some cases even improve - the community's infrastructure. Daniel's honchoed the most ambitious project of the year, a much-needed re-roofing of Ta Chai, involving three new skylights, improved insulation, and a roof that (imagine that!) doesn't leak. Several Hale&White workers have assisted with this project, including Maya, who in 1973 was the first child born at Twin Oaks. Some destruction/construction was necessary in Llano office to make way for a brand-spankin'- new copier, which from the complexity of its interface, looks capable of printing, faxing, surfing the Internet, complex trigonometric functions, and reprogramming the DNA of the user. With the help of much child labor, Keenan has been building a 'kid palace' on the site of a decrepit play structure in the Degania back yard. At the time of this writing, it looks more comfortable and structurally sound than many of our SLGs! Ex-member Denny Ray has been a ubiquitous and much-appreciated presence this fall, organizing our equipment maintenance area, and keeping our washing machines, stoves, and steam table functional. And safety manager Sam has been presenting a series of "fire extinguisher training events," to help us keep it all from burning up. So far so good-- no major fires in the past six months!

2007 turned out to be a reasonably good year for Twin Oaks businesses, which have continued to pull us out of the dark days of austerity. The tofu business had another strong year, with head honcho Aubee working mightily to fill the big shoes left by Kele and Jason's PAL. Although the major upgrade/automation planned for last year never quite happened, the project remains in the works for 2008. Outside Work continues to be a solid source of income. One of our strangest and most remunerative outside work gigs involves a crew of 10 Twin Oakers going to Charlottesville once a week or so to lay down or take up the basketball floor at UVA's John Paul Jones Arena.

The good news for our hammocks business in 2007 was that the demand for our hammocks was significantly higher than we'd anticipated. The bad news is that, with our more diversified income scene, we had trouble meeting the demand and lost a lot of sales as a result. In the fall we decided to once again yoke quota to making hammocks production goals, and have been doing a better job of getting the hammocks made since. Our weirdest hammocks headache of the year (reminiscent of the difficulties of the beaded hammocks) has been trying to make hemp hammocks for a customer in France with hemp fabric imported from Romania.

Labor shortage was also a problem in the garden over the summer, but didn't prevent the successful harvesting of record garlic and onion crops. In other agricultural news, Pele's looking into relocating the orchard and Rusty's gotten a grant to reduce run-off from our cattle into the South Anna. The dairy crew is considering incorporating miniature Dexter cows into our operation; Debbie assures us it's not just because they're cute, or because they're named Dexter.

Our current roster of ongoing weekly 'extracurricular' events includes Queer Quorum, bridge night, knitting night, games night, and a new anarchist discussion group. Robert is teaching a weekly calculus class for those in need of a mental workout. And for those who prefer interpersonal communication, Wednesday night Zegg-style Forums have been popular. Ultimate Frisbee continues to be a popular past-time, with a hard-core group of 'regulars' continuing to play twice a week, undeterred even by winter's ice and snow. Many Acorn members have been coming over for games, and Twin Oaks' relationship with the 'folks down the road' is the strongest it's been in years.

Although there has been less live music at Twin Oaks in the past six months than in the recent past, we have had several contra dances, with pickin' by the Okara Mountain Jig Riggers (who also performed at the Charlottesville contra dance in January). Brenda followed up the success of last year's Validation Day Bijou concert with an evening of waltzes and an ambitious and much-rehearsed holiday show. She's organizing another Bijou concert, titled "Music of Love," for this Validation Day. Several musically inclined new members, including the electronica duo OMFG Bacon, have arrived recently, and the forecast for homemade music at TO looks good.

We've been having fun playing dress-up lately, with a drag ball hosted by Byrd a.k.a. Tristan, and a hammock shop fashion show displaying the fabulous creations of new members Sparkle and Tikvah. Puppet shows, featuring our resident puppet-master Purl, and up-and-coming puppeteer Gwen, have become an entertainment staple. And no description of cultural events would be complete without a mention of the recent appearance of Kimya Dawson (of Moldy Peaches fame), who performed for a large and enthusiastic crowd of Oakers at ZK this January. We love Kimya!

Our fall was also enlivened by even more parties than usual. A season of cookouts and get-togethers in the Kaweah back yard culminated in an October wedding reception for Robert and Thea, who got hitched at the Yanceyville church. A large part of the community was in attendance, joined by dozens of friends, relatives, and ex-members. As the weather turned colder, festivities moved indoors, centering in the Compost Cafe and newly-resurgent Tupelo. In November, the residents of upstairs Beechside hosted a well-attended multi-room hall party, their first in over two years. December gave us a wild 'Tofu Crew Appreciation Party,' with a Mexican theme, and plenty of nachos and margaritas to go around. The fall culminated with our usual New Year's bash. Along with the normal tidal wave of friends, ex-members, and total random strangers, this year's celebration had some special highlights. Countless hours of volunteer labor transformed the green room into a maze of 'fuzzy tunnels' and a mattress-lined 'ball pit' that must be seen to be believed. And a Karaoke machine loaned to Twin Oaks was an excuse for spirited Karaoke parties every night for a week straight following New Year's.

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