Members Wanted: The Real Reason to come to the Communities Conference

For more than 30 years Twin Oaks has been organizing a communities conference, which this year is over the Labor Day weekend. We have a great organizing team, there is an excellent program, great workshops, and the whole thing is reasonably priced. But the reason to go this year is the opportunities.

By my count there are over half a dozen communities coming to this year’s event which are seriously looking for new members. No long waiting lists, new possibilities right now. You could come to this year’s event and have your life changed forever to a future in community.

Quercus is Latin for Oak (following the theme of Twin Oaks => Acorn => Sapling.) It is also the name of a newly forming (move in October 1st) permaculture-based urban homestead near the center of Richmond, VA. Quercus is a community based in social justice activism and ecological conservation. It is also income sharing and aspires to be a full member of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. This house is designed to be a radical space for public presentations, workshops, and performances.  Four fantastic folks are already together and they are looking for a few more pioneers.

A Quercuser and friends dress up

A Quercuser and friends dress up


Here’s the article about us that just came out.  Valerie sent around an email a few months ago asking if anyone would like to host this journalist from Yahoo! Parenting, and I agreed.  It was an out of character move for me, as I usually steer clear from reporter-types who come through, but I figured parenting at Twin Oaks was something I could probably be articulate about.

All of my interactions with Beth, the journalist who came out here, rewarded my decision.  Over email, she was pleasant and helpful in preparing to come to Twin Oaks.   Her presence around the farm was unobtrusive.  I felt like I was asked fair questions.  She helped do the dishes on my kshift and hung out with my crew  in the Bijou afterward.  We talked about our daughters, just a month apart in age.  And after the article was published,  she opened herself up to feedback and made several alterations at the request of me and others here.

My daughter and my butt

I think it’s a pretty good article.  The comments thread (which Beth cautioned me to avoid, but I ignored her) seems to show that either people get it, or they’re just being unthinking.

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.

Winter Storm Pax pounds Virginia

I took my current name (without all the crazy additions) back in 1984.  I did not know it at the time, but it would turn out that it was fairly important that i chose a name which had fairly unique first and last components.  This would prove important years later when internet search engines would check to see if there were things more famous than me which had the same words in it (nothing really has for a decade – Paxus was the name of some programming environment which is now largely out of use, best i can tell).  My friend Will Forest has a much more difficult time finding the work he does using search tools.

Pax is messing stuff up - no one is surprised

Pax is messing stuff up – no one is surprised

Tom Farrell’s nuclear fantasy


Missing from this otherwise fine opinion piece is that Dominion just closed the Kewaunee reactor – which had no problems other than a poor performance record. See

Originally posted on Power for the People VA:

Tom Farrell doesnâ??t get it. Dominion Power, the utility of which he is CEO, has been all about building natural gas plants for the past couple of years, as it rushes to take advantage of cheap fracked gas. Out with the aging coal plants that had been its first love, in with the next cheap thing, and never mind the pollution! Then suddenly two weeks ago, faced with a question about climate change, Farrell told reporters

the answer is more nuclear plants


Mother Earth to Tom Farrell: The correct answer is â??renewable energy.â?

Moment of fear

Back in 2010, I had just finished defending myself in a court case for trespassing at the information center for the North Anna Nuclear Power plant.  The county prosecutor had suggested I be sentenced to as long as half a year in prison for this misdemeanor offense.  I had requested a much shorter sentence.  We did not disagree on the facts of the case.  We did have a disagreement about whether MLK broke laws to make political change.  The county prosecutor was quite sure King had not been involved in breaking the law.

MLK jr successfully avoiding arrest

MLK jr successfully avoiding arrest

Almost two years before my trial,  a dozen activists (including myself) had taken over the public tours which were being given at the  Nuclear Information Center and started giving our own tours.  The center management had called the police from the moment we arrived.  The police were very polite and gentle with us, perhaps because there was lots of media around.  Perhaps because it was clear we were not a real danger to the safety of the plant.  Likely some of both was at play.

...i was not so lucky

…i was not so lucky

BFF – Nothing Short of Amazing

Occasionally, some intellectually leaning person will try to make the case against hope.  They will tell you things are bad and that it is important to be realistic and the cards are terribly stacked against us and you should not delude yourself and you should prepare for things getting worse and really this is the reasonable and prudent thing to do.  Nonsense, i say.

For if you were reasonable, you might well just give up on Baltimore.  The city has seen a 30% decrease in population since 1950, collapse of infrastructure, a high violence crime level, a spike in heroin use, food deserts and more.  The folks at the Baltimore Free Farm (BFF) are nothing like discouraged, taking every piece of abandoned property as the possibility for a guerrilla urban garden or more.

Welcome Sign to the garden - classic anarchist suggestion

Welcome Sign to the garden – classic anarchist suggestion

When you arrive at the Ash Street community gardens you are met with the above sign.  It is the only “security” the garden has, asking people to be respectful and only to pick things if they have been involved in planting there.  Our enthusiastic tour guide Billy says it seems to work pretty well.

bounty of riches - mural beside the Free Farm gardens

bounty of riches – mural beside the Free Farm gardens

Westinghouse ditches small reactors

The nuclear industry is often referred to as a priesthood, by critics and supporters alike.  The thought is that the followers of the belief in nuclear power have to have a strong faith in the technology and a willingness to sacrifice themselves to advance the ideology.  Some of the hardest working people I have ever met, promote nuclear power.

And what are these nuclear holy books?

And what are these nuclear holy books?

Part of the understandings within the priesthood is that you try to never harm the position of others in the industry when you change your plans.  So it was with special interest i read the recent news that Westinghouse had dropped out of the small reactor market.  In this news story the Westinghouse spokes people (who are always very careful what they say to the press) tell us that the only reason they are dropping out of this technology is “there are no customers”.  They go on to elaborate that the only way they can actually make money on small reactors is by selling a bunch of them.  The Westinghouse CEO confessed ”Unless you’re going to build 30 to 50 of them, you’re not going to make your money back.”

Farming Conferences

Over the last 30+ years, I have attended a lot of farming conferences and been a presenter at a few; most were organic, sustainable, etc. They are generally held during the winter – when farmers have time and are looking for ideas and inspiration. Over the years, I have noted that my interest in them has waned.

I used to get excited about the presentations and workshops: there were many to choose from: soil fertility, seed saving, weed and pest management, fertility inputs, vegetable and fruit crops, marketing, organic standards, etc. Now I don’t seem to get excited anymore. Why not?

I listed the topis above: they are the same topics that appear at all the conferences. What is new? Yes, there is new research, techniques, standards, etc. But they are not that different. Further, I have to attend organic workshops/upgrades at least once every 2 years – to maintain my organic inspector status. Sounds like i’m jaded, eh? Been there, done that. However, recently (Jan 27), I went to another workshop on Soil Health.

Why this one?
- it was close to home (20 miles)
- soil health: i still have a lot to learn on that topic
- It is organized by Univ of MO: it appears that it is oriented primarily to conventional farmers: I want to know what our esteemed academic establishments are telling conventional farmers.

I have low expectations for this workshop: like I said, I’ve been attending these types of meeting for years; further, this one appears to be oriented toward conventional folks. In my circle (organic farmers), we feel that we are way ahead of the conventional folks re soil health, cover crops, etc. What can they tell me that is new to me? And I wonder: will I meet anyone here that I know? Even though it is in my area, I don’t know that many conventional farmers.

Dominion wants money for their mistakes at North Anna 3

The Virginia State Legislature is rushing thru legislation that would give Dominion half a billion dollars for the money they have already spent on third reactor at North Anna.


Dominion wants to be reimbursed $570,000,000 by ratepayers for a project unlikely to be built. Dominion last year abandoned its Wisconsin nuke as “uneconomic”, yet wants Virginia customers to pay even if this uneconomic new dinosaur never produces one kilowatt (exactly what happened in the 1980s with the first North Anna 3).


SB 459 sponsored by Sen. Stosch – Henrico  for Dominion Virginia Power is currently making its way through the General Assembly. It has already passed the Senate 40 -0 and will likely pass the House. (Dominion is the largest contributor to Virginia legislative campaigns and does not discriminate between Democrats and Republicans.)

Dominion will be authorized to recoup up to 70% of  $570,000,000 it has already spent to obtain licensing and construct North Anna Nuclear Unit 3 by passing on costs in ratepayers’ monthly bills.  The bill will also permit Dominion to pass on future construction costs to Virginia ratepayers.

cash for nukes

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)

Community Conversation and Conspiracy – Feb 11 Brooklyn NYC

Community Conversations and Conspiracies – Existing and New Communities

Tuesday February 11th, 2014 at 482 Kosciuszko St, Brooklyn NY - Myrtle/Broadway subway stop on the JM and Z lines

An evening of discussion and opening possibilities.  You are cordially invited, this event is free – and please bring food if you are coming for the pot luck.  Please RSVP on the Facebook Event Page.

Potluck 6 to 8 PM:  Demonstrating the power of sharing by doing it.  Dinner and conversation on income and resource sharing communities in general and the Twin Oaks and Acorn communes specifically.  Minimal dish coordination online before the event, all welcome.  Perhaps 30 minutes of presentation and the rest Q&A about what is (in the field of highly intentional community and sharing systems) and why it is important.

artists conception of one eco-village design

artists conception of one eco-village design

3 Income Sharing Models

We had the second Point A meeting at the Keep, which was a bit smaller yet felt stronger.  We spent a fair amount of time describing some of the more important income sharing models which are being used in the intentional communities movement.  It felt desirable to describe them here.

Twin Oaks:

Twin Oaks

Twin Oaks intentionally has the simplest of income sharing models with regard to membership.  You are either a member, and thus part of the income sharing group or you are not part of it.  There are some minor (but important) differences between provisional members (who have not yet been in the community for 6 months) and full members (who have been thru their full member poll, have been in the community for over 6 months and basically have tenure), the most significant of these is health insurance and dental care.

All these model compress down to this

All these model compress down to this

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.

East Wind to the Rescue – Thank you !

(Editor’s note: This is a repost from Paxus’s blog. Check it out )


Part of what is exciting about living in the central Virginia communities these days is the network is actually growing.  After almost two decades of there being only two income sharing communities in the region (Twin Oaks and Acorn), three years back Living Energy Farm popped up nearby.  Last week Acorn moved members into Sapling (aka Tranquility Base) which is the house we bought in late August. It is starting out as a simple residence for Acorn, but we have already agreed that it will ultimately become a new income sharing community.

Part of what is so exciting about this is that often times communards don’t find the right community to start with.  Sometimes this is resolved relatively quickly, like with my dear friend Belladonna Took who was rejected by Twin Oaks and is now a happy member of Acorn (she is referred to as Abby in this post about her rejection).  Other times it takes one or more memberships at “the wrong community” before the person finds their place.  With three, soon to be four affiliated but independent communities all in the same county there are lots of possibilities for synergy including clever membership solutions.  [And a more fertile soil for my own Chubby Squirrels dreams.]

The Twerking of Paxus Calta-Star

You may know Paxus Calta-Star from his anti-nuclear activism and his  fervent promotion of the communities movement. You may even know a great deal about his romances and personal life from reading this actively updated blog.

However, there is a thing you do not know about Mr. Calta.

I suggest you sit down ladies, gentlemen, co’s and [please insert your preferred pronoun or title here]. The fact I am about to unveil may frighten or shock you, so even if you are the most unfazed radical faerie out there you may want to prepare yourself.

The truth has been kept a secret for sometime now, with the exception of those who pay attention to facebook carefully.

For those of you who do not follow such madness, I,  Miss Belladonna Took will give you the madness of Paxus Calta.

Paxus Calta-Star..


Paxus is a Twerk Fanatic

Paxus is a Twerk Fanatic

He’s a Miley Cyrus wannabe with a flair for letting it all hang-out.

If you’ve read his statuses lately you’ve see updates like:

“i be twerkin all night i be twerkin all day i be twerkin YAY”

“I will be giving twerking lessons at M* 5:30pm today till 7:00?

Apparently there are two masterminds behind Mr.Calta’s obsession with the most controversial dance craze of the season.

Was Miley Cyrus the inspiration for Paxus's obsession?

Was Miley Cyrus the inspiration for Paxus’s obsession?

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