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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.

from the quiet cold woods to the warm hilly ozarks

I've been living at Teaching Drum for about 2 1/2 months now, and I'm currently in Missouri visiting friends at East Wind, and family in Kansas City.

Being away from Teaching Drum has helped me look at my life there more objectively. I spent a lot of emotional energy there trying to catch up to others, and getting down when I perceived myself falling behind.

I think that going through the yearlong makes people more adaptable, creative, and strong-emotionally and physically. I haven't done the yearlong, and most of the people I live with right now have.
I've seen my clanmates run from place to place, do push ups, climb trees, eat fish heads, canoe for miles on the lake without exhaustion, and then at the end of the day, speak their truth even when they are afraid.

To get an idea of some of the people I live with, here's a video someone at Teaching Drum just made, about running in the woods. It's called intuitive running.

I was recorded to be in it for the shadowing piece, but then wasn't put in it because apparently I'm not "very easy or fun to shadow" because I'm not very expressive when I talk.

So, the more I pushed myself to become stronger and heal my emotional wounds, the more I got victimized and closed myself off from others.
We're all a little too hard on ourselves, and I'm guilty of that. I want to remember that I can choose to be kinder to myself.

I recognize my strengths and weaknesses more clearly now. I have grown stronger from being at the Drum. I've been running a few days a week, and doing strength training on the off days. I've been eating wild caught fish and deer, and loads of veggies. I've become more assertive and confident in myself, and also more aware of my unhealthy patterns.

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.


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?

Piper’s Funeral

I sort of planned to get photos of this one when I heard they were decorating one of the farm trucks with greenery.  But I didn’t.  I wish you could have seen it.

I don’t know the details of how she died.  The story, though, is that they found her in a chair in the Nashoba addition, chocolate and hot cocoa at her side.  She was enjoying herself when she went.  No lengthy decline in health.  [Edit: She was 89.]  Partied her ass off at the Halloween party last week.  We’re all pretty sure she is/would be thrilled that this is the way it happened.  Knowing her.

Thursday night there was a sharing circle.  I didn’t attend.

Today we gathered at Nashoba.  Current members clustered together, and ex-members and friends were plenty.  Red made the coffin, simple pine boards I’m told, but with an accent of darker wood running lengthwise, produced hammock-stretcher style.  How Twin Oaks.  Piper was dressed in the glittery, glamorous gown she wore on Halloween.  The rest of us were mostly dressed in whatever.  It was cold outside, so some had dark coats and pants, while others wore their winter usual.  When it was time to process, volunteers lifted the coffin into the truck.  Carrol drove, and people, kids, and dogs followed along to the graveyard, shuffling through the thick dry leaves that lined the forest road.  They placed her atop her grave, and we all gathered around to share what we would.  Many spoke of her influence teaching children to read.  Others had stories about her sassiness, or about how difficult she could be sometimes, or about how she dreamed big and went after what she wanted.  Some shared poetry and music.  We cried, but mostly we laughed.  The day was gorgeous.

What's going on in my life these days:

I've been feeling inspired by friends and people around me to follow anything that brings me joy, despite difficulties, mental or physical, that it will take to get there. I've been running regularly; pushing myself to run up hills, speeding up, gradually increasing my distance, and listening to my body when it tells me it needs rest. I started practicing sitting meditation again. I often get caught up in a frantic energy. It feels like an inability to take a full breath, and an inability to focus. Then there's the struggle of my mind trying to control it and judge that feeling. Meditation helps me slow down, and let go of the mental judgements.

My Continuing Relationship with Town Food

I'm now more aware of the super old patterns that I have with food, and I'm learning that repeatedly breaking a pattern really brings change. I get a lot of cravings when I go into town and see "off diet" food, and then I feel stressed because I'm trying to decide if I should give into it. When I do give into it, the food (usually chocolate or a baked good) doesn't taste as good as I imagined it, and then I feel sick almost immediately afterward. Then I feel guilty and self judgmental about it.

My practice of breaking the pattern: When I catch myself craving something, instead of reaching for it, I take a deep breath, experience the feeling of craving. Then I ask myself what will come from actually eating it, and remember the past food indulgences. After that, I can watch the craving pass, and then I feel relieved.

The food in town used to be this forbidden thing for me. I would try to stay away from it for as long as I could, and then mentally punish myself when I ate it. I also felt sadness about wanting to just "fit in" with the majority of Americans who eat that stuff, and feel healthy and not stressed around it.


Last night was the Halloween party.  Halloween is not my favorite Twin Oaks holiday, but this year I really enjoyed it.  We have a new holiday manager who used to be involved in haunted houses, and she did a wonderful job transforming ZK (our dining hall) into a party space.  Many people don’t like having parties at ZK (traditionally the dance parties at Halloween, Anniversary and Validation Day happen there) because the building feels “institutional,” the dance floor is too big to ever feel “full,” and the layout of the building encourages people to section off such that one feels as though the party is less attended than it actually is.

Budding Trees

Louisa Town Relations

I put in a req for Brittany to take me into town today for some dairy/fences errands.

So, first, we stopped at the Food Lion for treats: “Donuts?  Donuts.”

But then on the way out, we passed by this couple, one of whom said “Oh look, young Twin Oakers!”  Not in a sort of “Hello!  I lived there!” sort of way, but in a “Hey, your hair is sticking up!” sort of way.

So I interrogated Brittany about our appearance, and we determined that we look a little funny.  Maybe not outlandish.  But off:

Brittany and Keegan

I’m wearing a matching red hat and scarf with a naval (?) jacket that I got out of commie last year, some torn up jeans, and poop-stained dairy boots.  Brittany says she looks “bag-lady chic.”

Later, at the hardware store, I was getting things rung up, and I said, “I think we have an account with y’all.  I’m from Twin Oaks.” And the cashier didn’t respond for a while.  Then he looked up, and said:

“What are you working on there?”

“Oh, I mean, nothing really — this is just a few things for the dairy barn.”


“Yeah.  I manage the dairy program there.”

“Huh. ”
“How did you land that job?”

“The last manager stopped, and nobody else wanted to do it.  That’s kind of how things work there. Did you know the last manager?”


His look was puzzling.


1) He was checking to see if I was legitimately from Twin Oaks or if I was trying to bill somebody else for my drain stoppers and surge protector.

2) I looked like a city boy?  “You do look very stylish from the waist up,” says Brittany.

walnut harvest

A bunch of us piled into a van, last week, for a 6-hour road trip down to southern Wisconsin, to gather black walnuts from trees that line the roadsides. We camped out in a friend's yard, and gathered walnuts all day, every day, for a week. It was an adventure that was filled with friendly farmers and small town folk. The most memorable parts of it were when a group of teenagers TP'd the trees around our tents in the middle of the night, and when we were on our way home, our trailer broke down from being old and overloaded with nuts.

I found this nut while gathering, and noticed its heart-shape.gathering
some of our nut harvestthe end result!

No Dairy, Just Dance

I know you all out there have been wondering for some time, “Would a dairy barn be a good place to throw a dance party?”  Last night I found the answer, and it is a solid YES.


     ^ This picture already existed on the internet

Clean industrial surroundings, multiple dance floor levels, electronic music, disco ball, and egg sandwiches.  Next time, a lovely refreshment bar and off-floor social space.  You’re gonna love it.

Lake Superior


The Great Gitche Gume. The largest of the great lakes.  31,700 square miles of blue. Shiny pebbles along the shore, the calming sound of the waves, and wild grapes!

September comes to a close. October brings colder weather, red leaves, people coming and going out my life, children growing and changing before my eyes, and myself changing and growing in more subtle ways.

What's Happening: September 2013

Autumn Begins
Cool nights and warm sunny days marked the beginning of fall in the Ozarks this year.  Some foliage has already begun to change colors and fall to the forest floor, though most trees are holding out for a little longer.  Ticks, chiggers, mosquitos, and fleas are abundant and flourishing as the summer comes to an end—leaving some East Winders eagerly awaiting the first frost.  During the fall and winter, East Winders are able to enjoy limitless opportunities to explore the Ozark woodlands that surround us.  Hiking, hunting, forestry, and plant and mushroom foraging are a few favorite activities. 
East Winders celebrated the autumn equinox on September 22ndthis year.  Party-goers gathered in a lovely little spot overlooking the Mulberry Garden.  The party location was once comptoil, cow pasture, and orchard space; but has begun to undergo a transformation this year.  The old orchard space is now home to three new fig trees and four new elderberry trees, and we intend to plant more trees nearby this spring.  Just south of the garden fence, our new gazebo is finally complete.  The cedar pole gazebo is partially timber framed, and houses a beautiful stone and cob table and four benches on a cobblestone floor.  Vines have already made their way up the gazebo posts and trellising, producing an abundance of nearly ripe passionfruit and hops strobiles.  East Winders enjoyed ten gallons of homebrewed IPA made with our own homegrown hops this equinox.  

Wild Plant Harvests on the Lake

A friend and I did some some exploring yesterday on Hiles Mill Lake. We were looking for a section of mountain maple trees located above a floating bog. We wanted to go out there to gather seeds for edibility tests. We paddled for about 1 1/2 miles, and then waded into the bog. What's neat about the floating bog is that it's bouncy. It reminded me of being on a moon bounce when I was a kid. What's a little scary/exciting is that it is difficult to see how far you will sink in until you step down. I fell into a deep spot a couple times when I wasn't being completely aware of where I was stepping. Once we made it through the bog, we climbed up a path of fallen trees into the mountain maple forest. It was a really beautiful day, and we collected a couple bags of seeds.

This whole area is surrounded by lakes. Almost every time we go out to gather wild edible plants, we explore a different lake. I'm enjoying the opportunities to get in a canoe. I'm getting better at canoeing, and I'm getting stronger. I really like being out in the sunlight, and on the water, with a view of all the colors of the fall trees.

Three Worlds-the new way, the old way, and the dream world

I rode one of the community bikes out to wolf lake today. It was silent there, except for the sound of the wind whipping over the water, and the fluttering of quaking aspen leaves. I felt thirsty. I stepped toward the shore, and lay onto the the small rocks with my palms down, in a push-up like stance, and my face over the water . I opened my mouth, and then a wave came and woke me up with a splash in the face. I decided to bring the water to my mouth with my hands, and then I splashed more water onto my face. Afterward, I looked up and out across the lake with a view I had never had before. It felt really good to feel so connected to this huge source of life. My source of life. Water fuels me. I need it for my very survival.

I’ve been slowly transitioning the bacteria in my stomach to wild water. I’m following a very careful protocol. I’m aware of giardia and other risks, and I don’t recommend trying it without someone very experienced and knowledgeable to guide you.

I took a walk along the lake. When I felt like I was done walking, I thought about how I didn’t want forget the feeling of the cool wind against my face, the brush of the ferns against my side, or the soft moss.

When I left Wolf Lake, I walked up to the paved road. I got on the bicycle, put my headphones in, and then rode off. The song, “The Crane Wife” by the Decemberists started playing. It reminded me of the unforgettably, loud and beautiful sound of the crane singing while flying over the wild rice a few days before.

wolf lake

Ricing Moon and the Healing Circle

Alex and I spent the whole day today canoeing and gathering wild rice from the lake. I've been ricing for about two weeks now, and it looks like today was probably the last day. The stalks are browning, and the rice falls light. The wind was coming in heavily from the north, blowing white caps on the water that chopped at the canoe. We used all our strength to paddle against it, and once we got to the shore, the wind lay low, blocked by a stand of trees. I looked around and noticed the color of the trees. Yellows and browns spotted the coast, and a few specks of red maple leaves showed their fall colors. I felt chilled. I wished I had brought an extra sweater. Fall is here already! It's beautiful...

Photos from last weeks wild rice harvest:

The long Wisconsin winter

Fall gives a reminder of the incoming white season. The snow will start falling in October, and continue until April. Sometimes it snows in May or June. In the middle of winter, the temperature will drop down to -20 at night. I’m afraid of feeling cold. I want to make peace with the cold, but I’m not sure how.
Maybe this winter will be an experiment, to see how well I can acclimate to change and discomfort.

Summer's End at Teaching Drum

It's the end of August, and the weather up here is warm during the day, with cool nights, and few mosquitoes. There's a lot going on right now.

The blackberries and bunchberries are ripe. I've never had bunchberries before until now. They are small red berries that grow in a cluster, on the floor on the woods. They taste mildly sweet, and have a creamy texture. They're fun to just grab when I'm going for a walk.

I am holding a small handful of blackberries. I'm standing still, and the mosquitoes aren't biting! I'm enjoying the weather. There's so much to look at, and I've been taking a lot of photos, as you can probably tell from this blog post.

The wildflowers are blooming, too. When I moved in, I was welcomed into my room with a bouquet of wildflowers.

Some are starting to wilt, now.

This is anicha

I finished my first vipassana course a few days ago. A vipassana course consists of ten days of silent meditation, for approximately 10 1/2 hours each day. I had the intention of doing emotional healing and developing a stable meditation practice to help me cope with chronic, and sometimes paralyzing anxiety that I've experienced ever since I was 13. I imagined the course would be difficult, but I could not have imagined how incredibly emotionally painful it would be, and the realizations I could only have by fully experiencing the pain.

I shared a piece of land, a meditation hall, a dining hall, and a dormitory with about 40 other people. At the beginning of the course, we turned in our electronic devices and reading and writing material. We agreed to not in engage in physical exercise, and we agreed to practice noble silence, except to ask questions to the teachers. Noble silence means to abstain from communicating with others through speaking, eye contact, or touch. These guidelines were set in place to make it easiest for us to clear our minds.

On the first day of the course, I rose at 4am and walked to the meditation hall to begin my sitting practice, as according to the daily schedule, and directed by the teachers.
By the afternoon, I was in the midst of a battle in my mind to stay awake, and I was failing. I was forcing my eyes to stay open, even though we were instructed to sit with them closed. My whole body ached intensely. A heat and throbbing pulsated in my head. My neck and back ached, but the most pain was in my legs. My stomach began to turn, and I felt the urge to throw up. I wanted to run out of the room screaming and crying. When I was almost to my breaking point, a gentle bell rang for a five minute break. I pulled my body up and out of the room, crying, my mind wrapped up in fearful thoughts of my possible inability to complete the course, and guilty feelings for wanting to give up so quickly.

What’s Happening: August 2013

Summer Heat The beautiful weather of spring and early summer gave way to heat & humidity this August.  Temperatures are still tolerable, reaching the 80s and 90s during the day and cooling down at night.  Plentiful rains in early August were greatly appreciated, especially in the gardens.  Many East Winders are enjoying the creek this time of year, though some are already eagerly awaiting autumn and a break from the heat.

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