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What’s Happening: December 2012

Winter Solstice & ArtmasEast Winders celebrated the winter solstice together on December 21st.  Twenty-five people participated in this year’s artmas exchange, an East Wind tradition celebrated by exchanging unique homemade gifts. Though the shortest day of the year was fun, most of us look forward to the days growing longer.  The winter has been mild so far, but the cold air and grey landscape leave many of us yearning for spring.

What’s Happening: December 2012

Winter Solstice & ArtmasEast Winders celebrated the winter solstice together on December 21st.  Twenty-five people participated in this year’s artmas exchange, an East Wind tradition celebrated by exchanging unique homemade gifts. Though the shortest day of the year was fun, most of us look forward to the days growing longer.  The winter has been mild so far, but the cold air and grey landscape leave many of us yearning for spring.

What's Happening: November 2012

ThanksgivingEast Winders celebrated Thanksgiving with homegrown food, drink, and entertainment.  In 2011, we began a tradition of celebrating this holiday with food from our own land.  Thanksgiving cooks were encouraged to focus on foods that come directly from our farm, and many dishes were from the land entirely (though we also traded nutbutter locally for some ingredients).  This year’s feast included mashed potatoes, stuffing, baked apples, sweet potato bread, turkey, gravy, ham, venison, stir fried greens, and a salad.  We also enjoyed homebrewed wine and beer, and homemade wild grape juice.
There was entertainment to be enjoyed after dinner, and a crowd gathered to appreciate art, music, poetry, and puppetry.  The Thanksgiving coffeehouse started off with a puppet show, which was greatly enjoyed by adults and children alike.  The puppet show was followed by ten more talented acts ranging from poets to singers to musicians.  

Virginia, one year, four months

It's winter again. Or is it fall? I get confused about the season this time of year.  It feels like winter to me because I have bundled up so much, piled covers on my bed, and often sit by the fire in the evening and drink tea.
Thanksgiving is this week. There will be a large feast and a gratitude circle, although I can't remember much of how the holiday is celebrated here at Twin Oaks because I went home to Missouri last Thanksgiving. I will be going home for Christmas instead this year. Cold weather is difficult for me. I often feel like I am lacking in sunlight and warmth in general. Time seems to pass so quickly though, and soon it will be spring again, although that is hard to imagine right now.
The work in the garden has slowed down a lot, and in a couple weeks I will only be doing garden work once a week, as opposed to almost every day of the week. When there's no more garden work outside, I will be working in the greenhouse, doing seed inventory, and processing seeds.
Most of my other work involves Health Team stuff. The health team is a group of people responsible for making sure members' physical health is taken care of. We supply vitamins and supplements, first aid, help people address chronic health conditions, find resources for health care, and make sure people are taken care of when they are sick. Most of my work is confidential. I really like taking care of people, and I am learning a lot about medicine and health care (alternative and conventional) There is a feeling of joy, I think that is natural, and maybe instinctual, that occurs when I take care of others.

What's Happening: October 2012

Halloween & Day of the DeadEast Winders enjoyed one last hoorah down by our creek this Halloween, where there was fun to be had by all.  Kids and adults enjoyed a haunted hayride to the party, bobbing for apples, pumpkin carving, and a costume contest.  East Winders built a bonfire around the maypole that we erected on May Day (six months earlier), and set it aflame at dusk.  Costumed East Winders celebrated throughout the day, and craziness ensued late into the night.

What's Happening: September 2012

Population Capacity

East Wind reached population capacity this month, meaning that there are now more people who want to live here than the number of bedrooms available.  The September visitor period was an exceptionally large one, with ten visitors completing a three-week stay and eight of them wanting to continue living at East Wind. Unfortunately, there was only one available bedroom (out of seventy in all), so seven individuals are currently on a waiting list for rooms.  These seven individuals have chosen to stay regardless, and will either be camping or bunking up with friends.  East Wind has reached population capacity a good number of times in the past, but this is the longest waiting list that we have had in at least five years.  Another group of visitors will be arriving in October, though available housing space may not open up for a number of weeks. Some of our fellow FEC communities have recently reached population capacity as well.

What's Happening: August 2012

Canning & Food Processing

East Winders have been diligent about preserving our abundant garden harvests to enjoy throughout the colder months of the year.  We have already canned nearly 100 gallons of tomato products this season, including tomato sauce, salsa, hot sauce, whole tomatoes, tomato wine, and more.  We deep cleaned and renovated our root cellar this month, and it is now well stocked with delicious homegrown food of all sorts.  Dozens of jars of pickled garlic, dill pickles, pickled okra, dilly beans, pickled beets, applesauce, pickled eggs, pepper relish, and pickled peppers are stacked tidily on our clean new shelves. Our wine cellar is also being cleaned and renovated, and wine racks are being built to accommodate our aging wines.
Our walk-in fridge has been amply stocked with fresh garden produce all summer long, which all of us have been able to greatly enjoy. East Wind is also producing more of our own cow and goat milk than we have in years.  In addition to fresh milk, homemade cheeses and yogurts have been readily available.  
Garden produce for pickling

Nearly 200 jars of canned tomato products (all from our garden this summer)

The Geometry of Community

I was recently consulting with a forming group that's considering rehabbing a school to house an intentional community and they wanted my advice about optimum size and concentration. Although the school has five stories and they were open to the possibility of using the entire space for the community I advised against it—both because it gets proportionately harder to maintain group cohesion as the population increases, and because it gets geometrically harder to establish and maintain group identity as the number of floors increases. I suggested they try to contain the community on three floors.

While creating and sustaining community is mainly a social challenge, that doesn't mean that design and spatial relationships don't have something to say about the outcome.

For example, when community houses are clustered, the people tend to be more involved in each others' lives; when the housing is diffused, so are the social interactions (think about the relative isolation of people who live in the suburban sprawl of one house per acre—where you have to put on sun block in order to borrow a cup of sugar). If the houses are laid out in a circle, the differences are less pronounced. When the housing is strung out in a line, the end folks are simply not in the social flow as much as others and that affects relationships. If there's a common house and that's the epicenter of community action, then the key is how close a given house is from the common house—even if the common house is on the edge of the community.

To be clear, location is not destiny. It also makes a difference how much you hang out on your porch, attend potlucks, throw card parties, and/or have a reputation as a grouch who eats small children. In short, behavior is also a big factor. With a nod in that direction, today I want to focus on the predictable challenges associated with different physical layouts.

What's Happening: July 2012

East Winders Visit Sister Communities
A group of East Winders spent two weeks living and working at two of our sister communities, Twin Oaks and Acorn.  Twin Oaks, Acorn, and East Wind Communities are all proud members of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.  All FEC communities have the option to participate in a labor exchange program (called LEXing), which allows members from one community to temporarily live and work at another.  Members are able to report the hours they've worked at one of our sister communities and receive credit the same as they would for work done in their home community. 

A trip from East Wind to visit the east coast FEC communities is typically arranged once per year, and gives many East Winders the opportunity to explore other communities for the first time.  East Winders had a good stay during their LEX trip, and are thankful to Twin Oaks and Acorn for hosting them.  East Winders also arrange a LEX trip to Sandhill, another FEC community, every fall to help with their sorghum harvest.  Nearby Dancing Rabbit and Red Earth Farm are usually visited during this trip as well.  Many of us believe that a strong network of communities is essential to maintain and share our way of life, and we hope to see even more communities join us in the future.


Breaking ground: the seed office construction finally under way!

After years of collaborative design and research, we’ve finally broken ground for the Seed Office Headquarters.   Here 7-year resident and master mind of the project GPaul meets with concrete contractor Kevin to review the floor plans one more time before bringing in excavation machines.

Just beyond the meeting of the minds you can see the building site, the lull and quiet imminently to be replaced by the head-spinning change and activity of construction.

Looks like our frenetic anticipation might be rubbing off – here’s Sean, concrete worker, laying out the building footprint.

After coming to an understanding about the foundation plan and execution thereof, we gave the okay to get the machines rolling.

As the default project coordinator, this is both a terrifying and triumphant day for me, as witnessed below.

What’s Happening: June 2012

National Rainbow Gathering
A dozen East Winders spent nearly two weeks in the Cherokee National Forest in northeastern Tennessee during the National Rainbow Gathering this year.  East Wind donated over 1,000 pounds of organic peanut butter, cashew butter, and almond butter to help feed thousands of people free of charge.  East Winders also set up a free kitchen in the woods, and cooked and served delicious free food to the masses day and night.  East Wind Community Kitchen offered a free 24-7 self-serve peanut butter & jelly bar and handed out sweet gooey nutbutter treats after dark, in addition to serving wholesome, tasty, mostly vegan meals throughout the day.  The East Winders in attendence already understood what communal living is about, and everyone lent a hand by helping to build our earthern kitchen, haul water and supplies, wash pots, tend to the fire, and cook food to share with our larger human family.  This year, East Wind teamed up with a neighboring kitchen, Green & Purple, to serve dinner at Main Circle, where hundreds to thousands of people gather to share a meal every evening.

Humans: sharing resources for over two million years!

By Janel
I happened to be at the Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. last week, passing through an exhibit on human evolution, when the bold words “sharing resources” caught my eye. I wandered over to the display, where I learned–to my amusement, as the 2012 conference theme is resource-sharing–that humans have been sharing food and tools to build “stronger social bonds” and increase their chances of survival for 2.6 million years.

Sure, our ancestors shared resources because their lives depended on it. But why should now be any different? With peak oil and environmental devastation come real threats to the survival of our species. Living communally and sharing stuff such as cars and land are the best gift we can give to our children’s children–not only because of the resource preservation that sharing entails, but also because of the model of cooperation it preserves!

What’s Happening: May 2012

Land DayEast Winders celebrated May and the 38thanniversary of purchasing our land on the 1st of this month.  Our Land Day celebration was complete with a maypole, bonfire, mud pit, drumming, and musical talent on our stage and around the fire.  Nature smiled on us by giving us a beautiful sunny day for our celebration, and a good time was had by all.

Natural Building Opportunity

An exciting opportunity is opening up this season at Acorn—we’re building an office building for our community business, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.  We’ve done our best to design the Seed Office Headquarters in line with our values: a strong commitment to efficiency and non-toxicity in systems and materials, responsible and ethical stewardship to the land, preserving our diverse, beautiful, and unique heritage, and providing an educational platform in which to pass on the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve these goals.

The Seed Office HQ is a passive solar building with many elements of passive heating, cooling, lighting, and ventilation incorporated.   The frame will be modified post-and-beam, insulated with straw bale and blown cellulose (with a high content of recycled paper), and finished with earthen and lime plaster.  Solar thermal panels and a high efficiency wood boiler will supply heat to our radiant floors, and will preheat our domestic hot water.

If you’re interested in building with natural and local materials, and if you’re like to learn about efficient and sustainable systems and design, you’re welcome to join us.  Experienced builders are certainly welcome, however we want this to be an educational opportunity, and will work with whatever ability you’re at.  As a feminist community, we want to specifically encourage non-male identified folks to join us, seeing as a disproportionate percentage of males are represented in the mainstream building sector.

Construction will begin the end of April, and last through fall.  Contact darla@acorncommunity for more information.

What’s Happening: April 2012

First Aid TrainingThis spring we began offering first aid training for East Winders interested in learning these important skills.  This month East Winders learned CPR, how to move injured or unconscious persons, choking care, as well as how to  react in various medical emergencies such as heart attack, stroke, shock, anaphylaxis, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hypothermia, frostbite, poisoning, and diabetic emergencies.  We plan to continue these workshops and to include wilderness first aid, drowning care, and giving sutures, among other relevant topics. East Wind is located in a very rural setting (an ambulance can take thirty minutes or more to reach our community), so knowing how to properly respond to an emergency situation is of the utmost importance.  By learning this knowledge, we are more able to help ourselves, our loved ones, and anyone in need.

The Leaves of Twin Oaks #112

What’s Happening: March 2012

Spring!It’s spring in the Ozarks, and all of us are loving it.  The days have been sunny and warm (warm enough to jump in the creek for many of us), and winter is far behind us. The Ozarks are vibrant and alive with plant and animal life.  Chickweed, toothwort, trout lily, plantain, wood sorrel, dandelion, cress, wild grape, and violet are just a few favorite wild edibles popping up in abundance this time of year.  Many trees and smaller plants have already begun to flower, with our many dogwoods and red buds putting on a brilliant show of spring color.

What’s Happening: February 2012

An Early Spring

A very mild winter transitioned into a very early spring as daffodils bloomed all over East Wind starting in the second week of February.  Later this February, elms and elderberries began to leaf out as an abundance of wild dandelions, chickweed, toothwort, and trout lilies began to flower along path sides and out from beneath the dead leaves that still carpet the forest floor.  We are just beginning to see the first sunburns and barefeet of the year, along with the first wild-harvested greens in our salads. 
Our greenhouse is up and running, filled with warm earthy smells and trays upon trays of veggies and herbs.  In our herb gardens, peppermint, tarragon, and other perennials are beginning to arise under the soft spring light.  We will soon be planting our spring potatoes, carrots, and onions in our vegetable gardens. The first signs of the spring and the start of the garden season have many East Winders in high spirits.

The Schwag Play RB

What’s Happening: January 2012

Winter Festivities

East Winders celebrated the winter solstice on December 21st, many of us enjoying the shortest day of the year but eagerly awaiting longer days and warmer weather.  Solstices and equinoxes never go without celebration at East Wind, as the change of the seasons profoundly affects our lives on this land. Over a dozen East Winders participated in this year’s Artmas celebration by exchanging homemade gifts, songs, and works of art. East Winders greeted the New Year with another party, this time with a homemade bonfire-heated hot tub.

Generosity Shown in Response to Showerhouse Fire

What's New: December 2011

Showerhouse FireIn the early morning hours on Friday, December 16, a fire broke out in our shower, laundry, and community clothes building. We are extremely happy and lucky to be able to report that no one was injured. One of our members, Yellow Sun, had been living in the building, recuperating from a serious fall while doing some forestry work. He was able to detect smoke and yell for help, and three of our own worked to get him out through the window of his room.While the building isn't a total loss, the damage was severe. The northern side of the building, where we kept our clothes, medical supplies, towels, bedding, and sewing room, was destroyed. The southern side of the building, where our laundry and shower facilities are, is intact but currently unusable. We don't know at this point if the building is structurally sound, and if we will be able to rebuild using any of what remains.Over the last few days we have been able to pull together to find enough clothes and bedding to get everyone by, and a team of East Winders have worked hard and fast to revamp our old showerhouse and make it usable again. We are not currently accepting any cash donations, but we are accepting donations of clothes, bedding, towels and medical supplies. We want to sincerely thank everyone for all the generous donations we have already received.

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