Twin Oaks Community

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Beechside Family Portrait

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Tofu business website

Hammocks business website

Since 1967, Twin Oaks has grown to over 85 adults and children on 400 acres in central Virginia. We're two hours from Washington, DC, one hour from the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our age and size mean both diversity and stability. We offer a wide range of facilities and social and cultural opportunities. Income work includes hammock-making, organic tofu production, book indexing, seed growing, and various other small cottage businesses. Other work includes our large vegetable and herb gardens, dairy cows and cheese making, and several dozen other smaller work areas.

Twin Oaks Community
138 Twin Oaks Rd.
Louisa, VA 23093
Phone: 540-894-5126

Community website www.twinoaks.org

Below are stories, blogs and articles on Twin Oaks Community.

Coffee Politics

Commune politics around coffee are complex.  For starters, coffee is addictive. Coffee is also not especially healthy for you.  It is (in the commune economy) expensive.  It is not universally desired (perhaps 1/3 of the members of Twin Oaks drink it – wild estimate).  Yet, coffee improves worker productivity.  Coffee also makes many workers happy.

coffee changes moodMy very first political controversy in the community was about coffee (i was blissfully on the sidelines of this one).  At the time the community was spending $8K a year on coffee and it is it’s own budget item.  I was my first year (1998) and the community ran it’s democratic budgeting exercise called the trade off game.  Members got to prioritize the items they wanted with the forecasted labor and money budgets.  The last item popularly chosen by the group was coffee, only it was selected when we only had $4K left in the budget.


hits the spot

So the planners at the time decided that they would solve this problem by simply having coffee for the first half of the year and then stop.  Someone forgot to inform them that coffee is a highly addictive substance.  It is not the case that half the community drinks the stuff.  But it is certainly the case that well over half the community either drinks coffee OR is intimately affected by the mood of a community coffee drinker.

His name was banned

There is only one person ever who has won the Nobel Peace Prize, Order of Lenin (the highest honor of the Soviet Union) and the US Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honor in the US).  And for over 20 years it was illegal to say his name or publish his picture in his home country.

Margret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan called him a terrorist.  Dick Cheney voted against the resolution to release Mandela from jail.  But this is unsurprising, Mandela was a Marxist.  Besides fighting for the end of he racist Apartheid regime in South Africa, he also supported labor unions, redistribution of wealth and Fidel Castro.  Conservative leaders were right to be afraid of him. 

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

The only time we believe the nuclear industry

Mycle Schneider is a clever guy.  He has been fighting reactors longer than i have and at one meeting we had a couple of decades back, someone was bemoaning an announcement that some country was planning on building many more reactors.  To which Mycle retorted

We don’t believe anything the nuclear industry says, except when they say they are going to build more reactors.

Mycle Schneider  - source wikipedia

Mycle Schneider – source wikipedia

This comment stuck in my head and as the years went by i watched to observe that it is true.  But it is not just anti-nuclear activists who fall for these lines.  The media (mainstream and alternative) loves to jump on these pronouncements as well.  Like the recent announcement that Russia plans to build 21 new reactors by 2030.  If you knew about Russia, you might know that new nuclear construction is highly dependent on oil prices.  When oil prices are high, the Russian state has more money and takes on these expensive projects.  Oil prices in Europe are currently running around US$90/barrel, which is pretty high.  And thus this announcement makes sense.

But when you dig deeper, you see that it is almost certainly not going to happen this way.  There is a strange piece of Russia which is not contiguous with the rest of the country (like Alaska does not connect to the lower 48).  It is called Kaliningrad.

My First Day at Twin Oaks

i currently live in an interesting place. It is a place where people live together cooperatively, we share things and we basically trust each other. It is a kind of place which the media likes to claim is impossible. i promise it is not.

My first day

i woke up to the sun shining fairly high in the window
i have not gotten a clock for my room
i have mixed feelings about acquiring one
but i have nothing schedule for this morning

does anyone really know what time it is?

does anyone really know what time it is?

Tycho mailed me a color xerox picture
of my head D-locked to the bottom of a bus at a Berlin action
i stuck it up on my wall along with a poem
she wrote about the real Heisenburg principals
and i wonder a bit when i will be a full-time activist again

i threw my wallet into a sticky drawer in my dresser
we don’t use money here
my left pocket felt empty

don't worry, we don't use these here

don’t worry, we don’t use these here

going thru bags and boxes for other pictures to decorate my new room
(last night, i removed the puppy pictures on my wall -
the previous resident was 6)
i found a key ring with a few keys
i threw that in the sticky drawer
another antique – no locks here

My cell and i dont agree on what is smart

i will confess, i have been acculturated to believe in science.  i start from a place of believing that my cell phone is doing what it is programmed to.  My experience says somethings else is happening.


it is for you

With my Android it was clearly the machine.  It always replaced Abigail with Gail Black, the phone number was Abigail’s but the picture, name and email were all Gail’s.  I would try to edit, the phone would toggle back.  At one point it had some strange soft ring going on. It would not stop, i turned off everything, including the phone itself.  The ringing continued.  I unplugged the battery and it finally stopped. Simply there was a ghost in that machine.

Even Fairies have cell phones these days

Even Fairies have cell phones these days

So i have gone to the dark side.  i got an iPhone.  Actually the hammocks business got me an iPhone as an upgrade to the Droid so that i could use the iPhone credit card slider for fairs.  Aubby cleverly (or perhaps obviously) got me a bumper car case for it, which has already saved my butt several times.  And i am pained to admit it, but it is a better phone.

Closed system wins

Closed system wins

Stop Shaming Black Friday Shoppers

Reblogged from Disrupting Dinner Parties:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xL8rE9DT4g&w=519&h=322]

  • Click to visit the original post

Stop shaming people who participate in Black Friday. Just stop.

Stop making jokes about the fights, the carnage, the people camped in the parking lots. Stop making comments about how you beat out "a woman with a bowl cut AND a rat tail" on your race to the boots. For the love of Cat, stop posting that fucking Onion article…

Read more… 375 more words

Instant Adventure

Karin wrote:  I am starting to feel like a person who works too much and has become no fun whatsoever… I need an adventure! A really inexpensive one… One where I won’t be too cold for too long… Anyone?

Karin as borg

Karin as borg

Lots of people wrote her back, because she is exceptionally lovely company, but my offer swayed her.

i wrote: “We would scoop you up in Boston on Friday, take you to North Hampton, Saturday NYC (and sleep no more if we can get you in), Sunday in Death City and Monday at the commune.”

And it almost went like that, except traffic and other distractions kept us out of North Hampton and we did not arrive at Acorn until after midnight on Monday.

We were collectively hypnotized by the two tiny kids.

We were collectively hypnotized by the two tiny kids.

Sleep No More sparked several communications about what the next generation of theatre.  Can we attain a high level interactivity between clients and ensemble staff.   In fact the causal dinner might have been the best part of the performance.  More soon.

Thankful for

The middle history of Thanksgiving is curious.  i am not talking about the poorly documented 1621 encounter between natives and colonists.

Sarah Josepha Hale 1788 - 1879 Relentless, prolific, infle

Sarah Josepha Hale 1788 – 1879 Relentless, prolific, infle

Thanksgiving as the holiday we know can be credited to the Christian feminist Sarah Josepha Hale.  Hale has largely been vanished by the history books, but was an editor, activist, author, autodidact and lyricist.  She helped discover and was an early promoter of several great writers including Oliver Wendall Holmes and Edgar Allen Poe.  She wrote the lyrics to Mary had a Little Lamb.  She edited a highly influence magazine at the time for 40 years (an unusual occupation for a woman at the time).  She also lobbied 5 presidents to create Thanksgiving, ultimately succeeding with Lincoln.  Her intention was to create a Christian holiday that was recognized nationally, in this she failed despite Lincoln’s highly pious speech announcing the holiday.

In light of this and a couple of days late, i wanted to laundry list a few things that i am highly thankful for.

The World Bank Says “no” to nukes. Again

As much as i don’t like them, sometimes the World Bank has it right.  In the early days of fighting reactors we often quoted the WB analysis on why reactors (especially for small countries) don’t make sense.

“Nuclear plants are thus uneconomic because at present and projected costs they are unlikely to be the least-cost alternative. There is also evidence that the cost figures usually cited by suppliers are substantially underestimated and often fail to take adequately into account waste disposal, decommissioning and other environmental costs. Furthermore, the large size of many nuclear plants relative to developing country systems leads to risk of substantial excess capacity should demand fail to increase as predicted. A nuclear investment strategy lacks flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances. The higher costs would require large increases in tariffs and could threaten the financial viability of the systems if nuclear power were a significant part of the total…”

“Operating costs must be added to capital costs to obtain final electricity costs. Even with low operating costs, the high capital costs of nuclear preclude their being selected as the least cost alternative under any reasonable assumptions concerning prices of coal and oil. “

White Elephant is a flattering description

White Elephant is a flattering description

Squatting 2.0 – Freedonia and beyond

We have lots of different types of radical friends.  And some of them are fully public in all the things they do and others have to operate slightly below the radar so they can keep doing what they do.  In my travels over the last few months i have had the good fortune to visit a couple of inspiring places i have not been before.  There exact locations are not important, what is critical is what they have learned and what they can teach others who are interested in some aspects of their work.

This mural was partial payment by a band for use of the space

This mural was partial payment by a band for use of the space

Let’s call my comrades place Freedonia.  Imagine it in anyone of the urban centers which have seen hundreds to thousands of houses abandoned over the last couple of decades.  The precise location does not matter.

Squatting 1.0, which i learned in Am*dam and Barcelona goes something like this:  You find a group of friends who need housing.  It is great if at least a couple of the friends are local to the area you are trying to move into.  Then you search – you look for the right place to move into.  The right place is one which is abandoned, unlikely to be used for residential or commercial purposes soon (perhaps because it is run down), but not in such bad shape that parts of it can not be heated (if you are in a climate that requires heat in the winter).

How to blog a lot

My friend Lotus has a blog.  She wrote recently about writing more and i gave he some advice from my experience.  Below is what i wrote.

Dearest Lotus:

Yeah! more blogging. So here are my hints.

1) Run a constant low level thread in your mind “what would be interesting about this circumstance which would make a good blog post” When you think of soemthing send yourself some type of message – write on your hand, text yourself, put it in the cloud somewhere.

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2) Create a queue of topics – separate blog ideas from full blog posts and keep a list of things you want to write about. Arguments are rich for materials, things that you see which can be made better, strongly held beliefs you see around you that are inspiring.

engaged, compelling, rich

engaged, compelling, rich

3) Dont be seduced by long. Short blog post are not only acceptable, but often exactly what your reader wants.

4) Dont be seduced by text only. What your readers may well want are interesting images from your life. I am starting a “commune snapshot” series once a month where i just put up a handful of pictures, somethings without even captions.

Penthouse and basement

It is my last couple of weeks as planner and i have quite enjoyed the communities highest executive position.  One of the last things i will be doing is running (with a great group of advisers) the communities overall budgeting process.  There are lots of different budget lines and some knowledge about almost all of them (some from the area manager, some from the member survey we have taken, and some from the significant knowledge of the perhaps 10 people in the room).

We look at whether we can raise population to cover the requests for sabbaticals and if this will create a room crunch or a labor problem from doing this fix.  We speculate on whether good managers will return or poor ones will drop the job and perhaps the community.  Are we budgeting or are we forecasting?  We need to cut $17K, we need to cut 7K hours.  It is a lively, complex and high impact discussion.

At Acorn the painters are nearly finished.  We just need to move some boxes and bookcases and we can clear the last hall for cleaning and priming.  i try to do this with a guest who is struggling with mental health problems and they are unable to follow the simplest instruction for more than 30 seconds.  Tim (pictured below) stepped in and took their place.

Guest Tim with fire and pattern

Guest Tim with fire and pattern

Seducing the boss’ secretary

My father was an unusually honorable man.  He tried to steer me this way.  He explained to me once that he would not go out and eat lunch with his secretary unescorted.  The reason was not that he was concerned any romantic or otherwise inappropriate activity might take place, but rather that someone else seeing them together might think this was happening. In the summer of 2000 i wanted to get closer to my father so i took an internship job for his architecture firm in Boston.  i did some analysis of the company website, wrote a report and was overpaid for this work (the money actually went to Twin Oaks – which was easy to do because i was living with my parents with very few costs).

Over the summer i got involved with my dad’s part-time secretary, Jaz Tupelo.  She came to visit me a few times at Twin Oaks.  And one day while she was walking through the woods to a work shift on a crisp morning, she said to herself,  ”I can go back to Boston rush-hour traffic or walking down this beautiful path could be my alternative commute.  I think i will move here.”

Paxus and Jaz circa 2001

Paxus and Jaz circa 2001

She did not arrive with the name Jaz.  It was selected at a naming party.  And as these parties sometimes go, the person who is being named does not have the same first choice as the group.  Both Jaz and i were vying for Emma, there was even a tug of war in the hammock shop between the last two names – Emma and Jaz.  We lost.

Outreach is fun!

Reblogged from Running in ZK:

One of the jobs I forget that I do is outreach/recruitment. I forget it because I do it so infrequently.  I love the energy I get from talking to folks about community though. It's always so much fun!

This past weekend, Nina and I got to speak at the first annual Jewish Intentional Communities Conference just outside of Baltimore. The folks organizing this event are trying to help kickstart the Jewish intentional communities movement in the US, and they asked Twin Oaks to send a leader/founder to speak since we've been around for a while.

Read more… 367 more words

Another view of our efforts to network for the communities movement. By Jess of Running In ZK blog

Hunting Season

Pod from East Wind and i drive down the gravel road of Indian Creek Road (where Acorn is) there are hunters lining the road, some are in their early teens.  Usually wearing camouflage and bright orange hats.

We are not like the other people on our road.   i quip

Haven’t you ever been hunting? Pod says in his best good old boy accent

i have hunted ideologues and princesses and poets and thieves here. i reply

mind bicycle

what are you looking for?

What about deer?! Pod asks

No deer

The Acorn Arson Appeal

This Acorn’s first crowd source fund raising exercise.  We started not long after the fire, but it has been hard to prioritize working on it with everything else going on.  i enjoyed working with Belladonna Took, Irena and Ira on pulling this together.  It is the first appeal i have worked on with premiums (presents you get or donating money to your cause).  And while i did almost nothing with these premiums, it is perhaps the most interesting part of the application (especially if you read this blog already and know about the fire).

you could find yourself owning so strange and exotic art.

you could find yourself owning some strange and exotic art.

Our current guests Tamer and Armand shot and edited the video which is included in the crowd source appeal.  So here it is:

Acorn’s Post Arson Appeal

So here is what would be good.  Think for a few moments about someone who really likes the idea of community, but is perhaps not very well connected to them.  Especially if this person is financially successful, you should send them this link and encourage them to check it out.

Commune Slideshow

Guests defy gravity and enjoy trampoline

Guests defy gravity and enjoy trampoline

Drywall guys pause briefly for picture

Drywall guys pause briefly for picture

Willow on way to dress up murder mystery party for Jonah

Willow on way to dress up murder mystery party for Jonah

This is part of the new seed packing robot

This is part of the new seed packing robot

Samantha with harp

Samantha with harp

 

 

 

 

Outreach is fun!

One of the jobs I forget that I do is outreach/recruitment. I forget it because I do it so infrequently.  I love the energy I get from talking to folks about community though. It’s always so much fun!

This past weekend, Nina and I got to speak at the first annual Jewish Intentional Communities Conference just outside of Baltimore. The folks organizing this event are trying to help kickstart the Jewish intentional communities movement in the US, and they asked Twin Oaks to send a leader/founder to speak since we’ve been around for a while. Apparently, my not-quite 8 years of mostly-living-here-on-and-off qualified.

I was pretty excited to get to go. I think everyone should live in community, but there aren’t enough communities, so I think lots of folks should be starting them. So, a conference that’s explicitly about encouraging folks interested in community to go start ‘em up? I’m so there. I was also excited that this was a non-secular event, as I’m personally interested in increasing the connections between the secular and non-secular communities movements.

The conference itself was awesome. I ended up co-presenting three workshops on various topics that seemed pretty well received. Folks were really interested in income sharing and how we managed to pull that off for 46 years. Also, I pointed a few folks from the west coast towards Emma Goldman’s Finishing School in Seattle, which I love doing because Emma’s is awesome and everyone should know about them. Most of the folks I talked to had never heard of Twin Oaks, the FEC, or the FIC, so I was happy to be able to introduce us to people.

PAL is Your Pal

[This is a guest post by Trout from PAL-land.]

I enjoy my life at Twin Oaks.  I’ve been living here for over 6 years now, and from the first day I arrived as a visitor, I knew that I had arrived at my home (consequently, our welcome salutation to new members is “Welcome Home”).   I could probably write a book or two on all the things that have transpired in that time just in my life, but I’ll spare you the details.  In a line, the community, the landscape, has become part me, as I have become part of it.  And as time passes, the two of us become indiscernible to my eyes, as if our fates have become intertwined.

WHAT A TIME TO GET AWAY!!

One of the beauties of our little community is that once you have served a year of membership, you are eligible for a one year, membership entitled, unpaid getaway we call PAL.  And when it’s up, you get to come back and pick up right where you left off.  As with anything at Twin Oaks, it’s a little more complicated than I would put it, but that’s the bare nuts of it.  So just when you feel like you’ve lost your identity in a sea of community, like your life has become insular and wonder if there’s anything else out beyond the line of trees past the orchard, or just want to prove to yourself that you can still make a living on your own–why not take a PAL?

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