The FEC is a union of egalitarian communities which have joined together in our common struggle to create a lifestyle based on equality, cooperation, and harmony with the earth.

Learn more about our member communities or start your own egalitarian commune! Review all of our communities past and present bylaws & policies in our Systems & Structures area

We want to hear from you! Contact our secretary at [email protected]

Extended FAQs – Twin Oaks Decision Making

This is the second in a series of extensions to the FAQs found on the TwinOaks.Org website.  Members, ex-members and other informed folks are encouraged to send corrections or alternative interpretations of my extensions as well as of the official FAQs themselves.

Here is what the website says about our decision making system:

Our decision-making model is based on the Walden Two Planner-Manager system combined with our egalitarian values. Managers are responsible for the day-to-day decisions for their area. For community-wide decisions and larger issues, the Planners (3 rotating members) make decisions by looking at our bylaws and policies, and by soliciting community input by posting papers for comment, holding community meetings, putting out surveys, talking with members (especially members that are closely involved in the issue or have strong feelings), etc. They don’t make decisions based on their personal preference, but rather by gathering information and determining the larger will of the community on a given issue. Any member can appeal a Planner decision they feel is unfair, although this rarely happens as Planners generally do a pretty good job at considering all the aspects of a given issue.

Occasional Update #13: August 2014

Occasional Update #13

August 2014

It’s been a pretty long stretch since our last update— and a fair amount of things have happened. We had a ridiculously cold winter that not only kept us inside, but kept the bugs at bay this summer (worth it?). Despite the frigid weather, we were able to run our wood stove hot without buying any wood (thanks scavenging, thanks networks of friends, thanks hard work). We’ve also seen above and beyond contributions to our labor budget—meaning that as the year rolls on, we’ll have even more freedom and flexibility. We’ve hosted potlucks, readings, music sharing, and celebrations. Birthdays have rolled by; bedrooms have been improved (lofts! painting! desks! cleaning!!!); meals have been shared; friends have visited—and time has passed.


{it was the kind of cold that means it took 20 min to get all the clothes on you needed to go play in the snow. brrrrr!}


Our house membership has shifted once again— Eric moved out a few months back, deciding to try to find something that was a better fit. We’re hoping he finds something that is just right. And about a month ago, Phil moved in! Phil grew up in Bowling Green, likes baking bread, and does a lot of theatrical performances around Columbus, including being part of a dance in Taking Place and playing piano in the upcoming community theater version of Hair. Not only have the people living here changed, but Cole and Molly also became full members of our community.

 Right now (summer).

Radical Resource Sharing

Announcing this years theme for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference!


Radical (Resource) Sharing:

Sharing is daring!

…or, From control to access

Sharing is no secret.  It’s well known that sharing can make your life better, whether it’s from an economic, social, or environmental perspective.  But sharing is daring. It requires trust. It requires communication. It requires a whole set of skills and attitudes not taught to us in our hyper-individualized, capitalist economy.  In the mainstream economy sharing is inconvenient, discouraged, or even illegal. Community is about sharing. It’s about changing to notion of ownership from one of control to one of access. Its about the systems and the culture that make sharing possible and make it a force that can solve the biggest problems facing the world today.

For some interesting perspectives on sharing, check out,, and Resilience Circles. We’re also interested in reaching out into the Maker Movement and Makerspaces, so if you’re tapped in let us know who to contact. There’s also the rising concept of Collaborative Consumption.

More conferences on community, cooperation, and sustainability

dome web the far

While you’re making plans to come to the Twin Oaks Communities Conference you should also plan on attending two other important events.  The Farm in Tennessee is having its conference on Community and Sustainability May 23 – 25.  The US Federation of Worker Co-operatives is hosting it’s bi-annual National Conference the next weekend, May 30 – Jun 1, in Chicago.

The Communities Conference at the Farm is a unique opportunity to tour Green Homes of all types, see Sustainable Food Production at work, over 89 KW in Solar Installations, learn about Alternative Education, Conflict Resolution, Land Trusts, Midwifery and so much more.

The Worker Co-op conference will bring together the U.S.’s leading lenders, funders, educators, and businesses supporting the cooperative economy. International guests bringing their wisdom and perspectives. As worker ownership breaks into the public consciousness on an unprecedented scale, this will be a gathering for popular education and brainstorm sessions, keynotes, and much more:

  1. logo us workershare best practices,
  2. identify (and shape) emerging trends,
  3. form relationships with allied organizations, businesses, and economic developers,
  4. have a blast building a liberatory economy!


The Leaves of Twin Oaks #116

The Leaves of Twin Oaks, Winter 2013/2014 Issue #116

Table of Contents:

News of the Oaks by Valerie
The Alternative Culture of Death by Valerie
The Twin Oaks Library by Mala
Sustainable Forestry at Twin Oaks by River

News of the Oaks Issue #116

by Valerie

The Wheel has been turning at Twin Oaks, as we've marked both birth and death in the community.

Riding on the City of New Orleans

Riding on the City of New Orleans,
Illinois Central Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders,
Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail.
All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
Rolls along past houses, farms and fields.
Passin' trains that have no names,
Freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles.

Good morning America how are you?
Don't you know me I'm your native son,
I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done.

Dealin' cards with the old men in the club car.
Penny a point ain't no one keepin' score.
Won't you pass the paper bag that holds the bottle
Feel the wheels rumblin' 'neath the floor.
And the sons of Pullman porters
And the sons of engineers
Ride their father's magic carpets made of steel.
Mothers with their babes asleep,
Are rockin' to the gentle beat
And the rhythm of the rails is all they dream.


Nighttime on The City of New Orleans,
Changing cars in Memphis, Tennessee.
Half way home, we'll be there by morning
Through the Mississippi darkness
Rolling down to the sea.
And all the towns and people seem
To fade into a bad dream
And the steel rails still ain't heard the news.
The conductor sings his song again,
The passengers will please refrain
This train's got the disappearing railroad blues.

Good night, America, how are you?
Don't you know me I'm your native son,
I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans,
I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done. 

—Steve Goodman (1971)

agriculture versus wild foraging

I've spent the past seven years building my gardening skills, and the past five years standing firmly behind permaculture as a solution to saving the earth. I love gardening. It calms my anxious mind, so it has made so much sense to me that being physically active and working outside with plants is my heart path.

Last summer, I showed up at Teaching Drum, permaculture certified, with my Newcomb's wildflower guide in hand, looking for someone to teach me something, as I've done my whole life.

But no one wanted to "teach" me anything. They wanted to create the space for me to learn more about myself, and find out what I really wanted to learn and do with my time.
I knew that I wanted to gather wild food and learn practical, primitive crafts, such as hide tanning and basketmaking, so I structured my days around that.

Even now I struggle with creating my own structure here, which means figuring out what I want to focus on, and pushing myself through the fumbles of learning something new, and then not feeding the thought that's often in the back of my head that says, "You're wasting your time. Time is money, Wren. Your input is only worthy if there's output."

Last year, we gathered hundreds of pounds of wild leeks(ramps), wild rice, black walnuts, cisco fish and sucker fish, and deer meat, and our freezer was packed full of food for the winter. Aside from this, we ate seasonal greens such as milkweed and basswood leaves, and berries here and there.

Throughout it all I wondered how wild gathering fit with gardening.I imagined having my own land in the future; hunting, gathering, and gardening.

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.

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

Group Works: Tend Relationships

This entry continues a series in which I'm exploring concepts encapsulated in a set of 91 cards called Group Works, developed by Tree Bressen, Dave Pollard, and Sue Woehrlin. The deck represents "A Pattern Language for Bringing Life to Meetings and Other Gatherings."

In each blog, I'll examine a single card and what that elicits in me as a professional who works in the field of cooperative group dynamics. My intention in this series is to share what each pattern means to me. I am not suggesting a different ordering or different patterns—I will simply reflect on what the Group Works folks have put together.

The cards have been organized into nine groupings, and I'll tackle them in the order presented in the manual that accompanies the deck:

1. Intention
2. Context
3. Relationship
4. Flow
5. Creativity
6. Perspective
7. Modeling
8. Inquiry & Synthesis
9. Faith

In the Relationship segment there are 10 cards. The keystone pattern in this segment is labeled Tend Relationships, so that's where I'll begin. Here is the image and text from that card:
We take care of each other to reach the goals we are striving—to get there in one piece, together. Balancing a focus on task and product with nurturing relations between people sustains organizations and movements for the long haul.

The pond froze! The pond froze!






Seasons at Twin Oaks– some mashup photos

Hey everyone!

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything to running in ZK, but I’m hoping that will change in the new year.  For all of 2013, I’ve been busy with a nature blog I was creating called ObserVA (,  a daily observation of nature and the change of seasons at Twin Oaks and around Central Virginia.

Anyhoo, that’s all done now, so I’ll have more time and energy to write stuff here.  As I was wrapping up my ObserVA blog, I thought I would finish it off by taking photos of various locations around Twin Oaks, and compare them to photos taken from the same locations at previous times in 2013.  It took some time, and when it was done, I was pretty happy with how they turned out.  So I posted them on the blog, and also on Facebook, but before I was totally done, I figured I’d re-post some of my favorites here on Running in ZK.  So, my apologies if you’ve seen all of these before, and if you haven’t, then enjoy!

First one shows the permaculture orchard in the Kaweah backyard, all kiwis and figs and butterfly bushes back in May, and a whole lot of nothing in January.Image

In September, these goldenrod flowers along the edge of the cow pasture were quite pretty.  In January I was able to find the dried up flowerheads.Image

Ecovillage Education Redux

I have a friend named Kurt. He and his wife Alline live with me at Dancing Rabbit, where they operate the Milkweed Mercantile—which is a unique combination of down home cafe/bar + eco-B&B + green general store. They've been open for business since 2010 and were among the first brave folks to launch an internal business in the ecovillage.

Kurt sums up there near-term profit potential with the witticism, "We're making tens of dollars."

I tell that story because my wife, Ma'ikwe has pulled together an internal DR business of her own, Ecovillage Education US, with more or less the same prospects for remuneration—which is to say, if we said we were doing it for the money you'd accuse us of not paying attention. 

Last summer I was part of the faculty that delivered EEUS' inaugural 37-day immersion course in sustainability education, most of which happened in a classroom only a three-minute walk from where we live. This year we're hoping to do it again.
Last year we had 10 students. This year we're aiming for at least 12. To help us get there we're conducting an Indiegogo campaign—going on now through February 6. Our goal is to raise $14,000, the lion's share of which will be used to create a scholarship fund to help deserving students bridge the gap between their thirst for knowledge and the limitations of their pocketbook.

What does eating a 50 cent donut really mean?

A few days ago, I made a much stronger commitment to myself than I ever have before. The commitment was about healing my relationship with food.
I went into town yesterday to take a book order to the post office. When I got there, I realized I had forgotten to bring the address with me. I asked the woman at the counter if she had a phone I could borrow to call someone back at the Drum who could tell me the address. She said, “No.” 
I felt angry at myself that I had wasted time and gas to drive into town. I stopped at the gas station to get gas, and when I went in to pay, I saw donuts sitting on the counter for 50 cents. I chose not to get the donuts after convincing myself that they were no good for me, and remembering the commitment that I had made to myself.
When I got back in the car, I felt really sad. I realized that I usually look forward to going into town so that I can get a special treat that isn’t at Teaching Drum, but I chose not to this time.  I felt sad because I didn’t want to be in town. I didn’t want to have anything to do with the individualized, broken culture of “town.” The special treat I looked forward to was just distracting me from really seeing that. 
What does the eating the 50 cent donut really mean? 
It means I’m lying to myself about my feelings, and about the reality of my participation in a sedated culture. Sugar is a drug. It gives us that high just long enough to think that we’re content in our lives; content with our 9-5 jobs, with living for the weekend, and by the clock; with our television dramas, or the obsessive hype about weather or celebrities. As if there is nothing else to talk about. Ever wonder if it’s just a distraction?  

Fun with Ezra

On New Year’s Eve, after we finished playing our dance band set, Ezra and I shared a moment of blissed-out triumph.

“You know, Summer,” he mused, “I was thinking about my top favorite fun moments, and I realized, you’re in a lot of them.”

“Do you mean your top favorite music fun moments?” asked someone sitting near us.

“Well…they’re kind of all the same thing,” we both answered.

A brief session of “remember when?” then ensued, and I realized that Ezra and I have many more overlapping fun moments.  Therefore I am starting a new “series” of posts (a la my series of posts on good notes left around Twin Oaks) with this one.

It Came From the Dumpster, 2011

Look how awesome the sign is!

Look how awesome the sign is!

Kamikaze Theater, a concept introduced to Twin Oaks by Clementine, has a set of rules and standards we didn’t exactly follow, but our version of it looked like this: whoever wants to be involved, strap on your seatbelt and drink a shitload of coffee. At 8 pm Friday night, everyone gets together at ZK to talk about what’s going to happen. What’s the play about? Who’s going to act in it? Who will write the script? What about costumes and scenery? Decide who’s doing what, then split up and do it.

In preparation, we’d put out a 10 day input box gathering ideas from anyone in the community, and on Friday evening, we decided that anything put into the box would – nay, must – go into the play. Somehow. The script people would make that happen.

Christmas 2013, for me, is...

An ice storm in Michigan.

 No electricity, in a candlelit cabin in the woods.

Lots of vegetables cooked over the fire in the woodstove, long walks, and winter craft projects.

...and warm fuzzies from the holidays this year, to keep me warm through the rest of the winter.

Winter is Here

About two weeks ago, I came up to Wisconsin from Missouri after being gone for a month. A friend from Teaching Drum picked me up in Milwaukee, and we spent the day there before heading further north.

at Lake Michigan, in MilwaukeeThe temperature was -5 once we got up to Teaching Drum, and when I stepped out of the car, I felt the hairs in my nose freeze. It was the night of a dead moon. I felt ready for a good night's rest. I made my way down the familiar, dark and narrow path to the cabin where my bed lay. When I finally lay down, I slept lightly, because I was cold. I found more blankets, and then slept well through the rest of the night. When I awoke in the morning, it was -11.

The next day I started to settle in. I put on my thick wool pants. I rendered bear fat and cleaned and cooked fish for dinner. I felt happy and at home again.

My Wife, the Rock Star

Back on October 12, Ma'ikwe was on the campus of Carleton College in Northfield MN giving a TEDx talk on "Sustainable is Possible." It was released on YouTube only last week (Dec 4), and as of just now (as I type) 2183 people have seen it. Woohoo! If it gets enough views it will be moved up to the big tent ( where the cream of the crop are posted. Only 1647 make that cut (going back to a presentation by Al Gore on "Averting the Climate Crisis" in Feb 2006, which has been viewed more than 1.7 million times).

TED started way back in 1984 (shortly after Al invented the internet), as a nonprofit dedicated to ideas worth spreading. It brought together people inspired by the themes of Technology, Education, and Design, from whence the acronym. Expanding beyond two conferences a year (the TED Conference has been held each spring in North America since 1990, and TEDGlobal has been held on another continent every year since 2005—it was in Edinburgh this year and will be in Rio de Janeiro next year), TED maintains its award-winning website where anyone can watch the best presentations. In November 2012, that site surpassed one billion in total visits.

To meet the burgeoning need, TED launched TEDx in 2009, with this mission:

Created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading,” the TEDx program is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level. TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis.

Thanksgiving Dinner

This is a guest post by Tigger, who was one of our lead cooks for Thanksgiving this year.


I’ve been doing the thanksgiving dinner for most of the 18 years I’ve lived at Twin Oaks. It has always been my favorite holiday. What can go wrong with a day of cooking and eating, which are two of my top activities. I tell new members that if there is one day to invite their families to the farm for their a visit it should thanksgiving.

1-It takes a village

For me one of the traditions of Thanksgiving is to get as many people involved as possible, whether baking deserts, prepping vegetables, or decorating the dining room. It takes a village to feast 150 people with as much homegrown produce as possible. Inclusion is one of the core values, this is our community, our meal for which we are giving thanks. The invitation is always there for people to come in and do as much as they want, to prepare a dish or dessert that has a special personal thanksgiving meaning to share.

2-dining room redone

Gender Dynamics Redux

Following my post of Nov 30 (Gender Dynamics in Cooperative Groups) I received three comments. They were so interesting that I've decided to keep the dialog going...

Anonymous wrote:
It might be interesting to look at the research about how women and men resolve arguments. Men seem, according to this research, to leave an encounter where some agreement has been reached with an ability to leave it behind; women tend to come back minutes, hours, or days later with "and this is a pattern of yours" to restart a broader discussion. It's not over for them. When I heard this I was in the car with my ex-husband, who is now in a committed relationship with a man, and he was somewhat offended because he said his husband is definitely more female in that way. Of course I recognized myself and him in the examples. We were trying to think of an evolutionary advantage to the female behavior and we could come up with only the hunter vs. gatherer advantages...being able to kill and eat something differs psychologically from growing or gathering edibles...and what roles that meant "feminine" gay men and butch lesbians did in early society. But maybe it's more about creating community and resolving issues....somebody has to say "it's done" and somebody has to remember for next time.

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