Life in the FEC

You are what you eat

Occasionally, I go to a gourmet restaurant - with friends and as a treat. It is interesting to see how chefs work at presenting food - to make it taste good (and to make the eating experience attractive & enjoyable).

It is a constant reminder of why I choose to live on a farm where we grow our own food: we eat gourmet, top quality food all the time. Nothing compares with fresh picked produce - grown by loving hands in soil tended with care by all of us living here. The veggies & fruits “present” themselves - better than any chefs in a gourmet restaurant. This is the time when we are eating a lot of our own fresh produce; some of my current favorites:

radishes i ate today*crisp tangy radishes - first thing in the morning

*asparagus - raw or lightly steamed

*strawberries - juicy & bursting with flavor

*salads: several different lettuces, spinach, violets, kale, radishes

*steamed: kale, lamb’s quarters, spinach

*rhubarb - as in krisp, pie, etc. (my favorite: rhubarb wine)

Since we also use up a lot of carbs in our daily life here, we complement it with homegrown black beans & tortillas with our own freshly ground cornmeal and wheat flour.

Now - how do you reconcile that kinda living with the fact that according to guv’ment data, we live below the official “poverty line”?

In any case, i’ve often heard the title: “you are what you eat”. We eat fresh, wholesome, organic, & mostly homegrown food; that means that we are part of the earth and our environment. Ah! that’s why we find it hard to get off the farm! Come and visit - will it work on you??

Emma Goldman's Finishing School in YES Mag

Check out this article in YES Magazine:
http://www.yesmagazine.org/article.asp?ID=2098

A Taste of Freedom at Home

by Adam & Kibby MacKinnon

“I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things.”

Emma Goldman (1869-1940)
WRITER AND ACTIVIST

Let's say you're a typical wage-slave: you work a 40-hour week—at least 160 hours a month—on top of which you've got a nasty, desensitizing commute. What little time you have left you spend feeding yourself, and then collapse in front of a DVD.

Sandhill Farm Article In Sauce Magazine

Sweet sorghum syrup from Sandhill Farm, organically grown and processed
near Rutledge, Mo., is ready for seasonal shoppers just in time for the
holidays. Today, it’s an unusual ingredient for most American cooks,
but in the 1880s it was a common, inexpensive sweetener.

“A hundred years ago most rural communities would have sorghum
processors every five or 10 miles,” said Stan Hildebrand, a member of
the Sandhill Farm community. “Each farm would grow a patch of sorghum,
take it to the processor and have their sweetener for the whole year.”
In fact, Sandhill’s sorghum production began just that way. “There was
an old-time couple in the area near Sandhill in the ’70s who cooked the
syrup,” said Hildebrand. “At first, we just grew some sorghum
cane and processed it with the older couple. Then we started cooking
our own.” The members of the Sandhill community work each fall with
interns, friends and other cooperatives to process the sorghum cane
into syrup.

Sandhill intern Heather Osborn of Ottawa, Canada, worked her first
sorghum harvest this fall. Her internship in the simple life began
high-tech with an Internet search for organic farming communities. “I
didn’t even know what sorghum was when I came,” said Osborn. “The
social scene was always morphing here as people came and went to help
with the sorghum. I counted about 45 people working, visiting. Lots of
work, but it was fun, too.”

Bust magazine article - Ecovillage People

Thirty-six years ago, one woman dreamed of creating an independent society. Today, her dream is a thriving community that's creating its own feminist culture.


By Emily Rems

Most people have never chucked a trash can through the window of a Starbucks or done time for revolutionary antics aimed at the WTO, but who among us hasn't felt the urge to throw off the shackles of global corporate culture in favor of a simpler, more independent life? If you've ever longed to be free of sexism and materialism, to live off of home-grown and homemade food, or to work in a place where your tasks are meaningful and your financial needs are minimal, you may have dismissed such ideas as being no more than a pipe dream. But for the residents of Twin Oaks, a feminist ecovillage tucked away on 465 acres of farmland in central Virginia, these dreams are a tangible reality.

Established in 1967 on a former tobacco plantation 35 miles south of Charlottesville, Virginia, Twin Oaks is part of what is known as the "Intentional Communities" movement, Intentional Communities include everything from rural farming communes like Twin Oaks to those group-house hotbeds of punk rock ON activism that tend to crop up in more urban areas. And while they numbered in the thousands at the peak of their popularity during the heady '6Os, you might be surprised to learn that there are over 600 such organizations still operating in North America alone.

Back in '67, the entire population of Twin Oaks numbered only eight people. They were all there because of Walden Two, a novel written by Harvard psychologist B.F. Skinner, which Kat Kinkade-a self-described "bored secretary"-had read in a night school class. The book inspired Kinkade to look for other folks who might be interested in putting Skinner's blueprint for a new kind of peaceful, egalitarian society into practice.

A Bird's Eye View of a Visitor Period

by Jillian Downey

Twin Oaks is an egalitarian, income-sharing community, founded 30 years ago. They have 450 or so acres of land, and an adult population of oh maybe 80, and 15 or so kids, from 2 to 16 years of age. The overall average age is I think 44. All their buildings are all named after former communities. The standard of living here is quite nice, even though the actual cash income of each member, if you try to divide it up, is low. Sharing resources really helps! TO has a 501d tax status, which is actually what monasteries are - its the closest thing to what TO is,legal and tax-wise, even though it's secular.

Their main income source continues to be the hammocks they make by hand, although they have a rapidly-growing organic tofu business and also do book indexing. It's a fascinating place to visit, to take part in the day to day life and also learn about the systems they have in place that help the community run so well. Some people call TO the "school of community", because so many people come here to learn, along with people who come to visit with an eye to joining.

Twin Oaks' Planner/Manager System

by Kat Kinkade

I have thought for some years that any government system will work, provided only that the group being governed is reasonably contented with it and expects it to work. For groups that like Consensus Process, that procedure makes them happy and proud of themselves for reaching agreement. For impatient groups that prefer a straightforward majority vote, simple democracy works just fine. As to Twin Oaks, where I live, we have long used the Planner/Manager system, and most of us agree that it serves us better than most other suggested systems would. So as I describe Planner/Manager government, I am not necessarily recommending it for other communities. I am just explaining it for the curious and for anybody else who might want to try it.

There is a superficial impression that the Planner/Manager system gives that is quite mistaken. That is the assumption that we are a hierarchy, with the citizenry reporting to the managers and managers reporting to the planners. This is not true. There is no 'reporting' relationship in our system at all. There are levels of authority coupled with responsibility, and it is true that the planners can overrule a manager, but this rare occurrence does not constitute a hierarchical arrangement on a day-to-day basis. It is merely something that can be done to get a disagreement settled if necessary.

Sustainability at Twin Oaks: The Wave of the Present


by Valerie Renwick-Porter

As one of the communities in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, Twin Oaks has a commitment to “acting to conserve natural resources for present and future generations, while striving continually to improve ecological awareness and practice”. Although this part of our mission statement was crafted before the word became popular, today this might be called “sustainability”.

Like most communities, Twin Oaks is a mix of radical/progressive ideas and practices, and leftover-from-the-mainstream, habitual, perhaps-less-healthy ideas and practices. We value each move we make towards becoming a more sustainable community, and the process is ever-evolving. Our “Go Greener” group meets regularly to work on developing more ecological approaches to various aspects of life at Twin Oaks. One of our longest term members (28 years) has been an ardent supporter and builder of alternative energy systems in the community, including some of the systems featured here.

Our practice of income-sharing includes cooperative ownership of various resources including a fleet of 18 vehicles for use by our 85 adult members. No one has a private car. When a member needs a vehicle, they head straight for our vehicle board and sign-out logbook. Each night one member looks at the requests for the following day, and assigns each person one of our vehicles for use during the time they have requested. We encourage carpooling with financial rewards. We have our own community mechanic, who keeps the cars in good shape so they emit a minimum of pollution.

Where i live

by Paxus

Environmentalists seem to talk endlessly about sustainability. On one hand it makes sense, using natural resources sparingly so they can replenish themselves is wise practice. But is anyone doing this, or is it all just talk?

While it is far from Utopia, the community where i now live comes closer to actually doing something about sustainability than anyplace i have ever been. It starts with the practical stuff. We live on a farm, we grow well over half of our own food, all organic polycultures with relatively little heavy machine use. One of my great sadness' living in Brno was seeing the ever increasing amount of EU produced food arriving at the farmers market, covered with pesticides, having traveled often thousands of kilometers from giant monoculture fields. One of the on-going debates in the community is about vegetarianism, we have cows and will soon have chickens which are used for milk and eggs, but are also eaten. Brushing aside the ethical issue of treatment of animals, my original reason for not eating meat was that the whole world could not live as i did. But done as it is here, my carnivorous desires are gnawing at my objections.

The great success of the western marketing culture has been convincing people that greed is good and that everyone should own all of the things that they use. This is the road to ecocide. For me it is definitional that people in communities share things. There are personal possessions at Twin Oaks, but the vast majority of what we have is collectively owned and maintained. One of my favorite parts is "Community Clothes" where large racks of garments are available for people to take from, wear as long as they like and return to the collective laundry, where they get returned to the racks clean and fixed if necessary. People have private cloths if they like, but many people choose this simpler shared approach.

The experience of a lesbian member

by Rita <rita@twinoaks.org>

Twin Oaks is an intentional community of 100 people, with values of cooperation, non-violence and feminism. Each summer we host our annual Women’s Gathering, and we also invite people to spend time here throughout the year, or to consider living here full-time. We support ourselves by working in one of several community-owned businesses (hammock-making, tofu-making, book-indexing). Here is the experience of one lesbian member of Twin Oaks.

You might ask how a sane 50 -year-old dyke came to travel 600 miles south in a 15-foot rental truck from Lesbianville, USA (Northampton, MA) to live in a rural commune of 100 people in central Virginia with a lesbian population of two! No, I am not crazy … Let me tell you the story.

Northampton is a great place to live. There's a thriving lesbian community and the local colleges and businesses provide a solid infrastructure. I felt at home in the community and had a busy network of friends, acquaintances and socializing as well as meaningful work. However, through the years I continued to feel a calling to explore what I believe to be a saner way of life. I was searching for a way to integrate my work life with the rest of my life “ emotionally, physically, spiritually and intellectually with folks who by-and-large share similar values to those I carry close to my heart. Those values include non-violent communication, cooperation, income sharing, diversity, feminism and egalitarianism. I wanted to be able to practice my own spiritual tradition without being part of a “religious” community.

My first day as a member of Twin Oaks

by Paxus.

i have not gotten a clock for my room
i have mixed feelings about acquiring one
but i have nothing schedule for this morning

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

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

i thought i would weave hammocks for my first work since we do a lot of that here the shop was empty most people had taken the jigs outside to work in the sun but i wanted to listen to an old Bruce Cockburn CD from the large hammock shop library so i slipped one of the many headphones and did almost an hours work shuffling my feet to "lovers in a dangerous time"

i e-mailed for the rest of my first official morning as a member not creditable, of course E. Europe & New England nuke stuff, fundraising, love letters, the usual

i grabbed one of the many "free bikes" and pedal to lunch (basically the Am*dam white bike idea, only here it continues) there is fresh lettuce and strawberries from our garden (i had forgotten that strawberries actually do taste like something) i choose the cuscus with broccoli and black beans grab a glass of milk from our happy cows i leave the bread and tofu (both of which we make) behind

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