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I wrote about this in July when it happened, but at Twin Oaks a tree fell on Llano kitchen and destroyed it. This kitchen served the courtyard area of Twin Oaks (four houses) and by now they are well into the process of trying to come back.
First, they needed to come up with a replacement kitchen, at least temporarily. As I wrote in a recent Commune Life Facebook post: “After the destruction of the Llano kitchen in midJuly, Twin Oaks has had to be creative to have a kitchen that services their courtyard area.” What Twin Oaks wrote was: “TEMPORARY KITCHEN. While repairs are progressing on Llano, we’re using TaChai living room as a temporary kitchen.” TaChai Living Room (often abbreviated TCLR) is a major meeting space in the courtyard area–or it was. Now it is functioning as the courtyard kitchen while they are doing repairs to Llano.
And they are well into doing Llano repairs. Twin Oaks did a recent Facebook post where they wrote: “LLANO REPAIRS. Putting it all back together. We hired the excellent Jason Taylor to lead the repair work (red shirt in one photo.) The bathroom wall was destroyed – we decided to remove the tub permanently.” Here are pictures of the work:
Hopefully, that replacement kitchen in TCLR will be very temporary and there will be a new Llano kitchen functioning soon. I do know Oakers who actually felt that Llano kitchen was no longer servicing the courtyard well and are looking forward to having a lovely new addition there.
Here is the final, wrap up video of Sumner’s series about wildlife at East Wind Community. While most of the early footage is of ants, there’s also some bird shots and some stills of flowers plus electronic music made by a friend of Sumners. What may be most important is Sumner’s evaluation of this series and his acknowledgements of assistance with it, which is at the beginning of the video.
There are some evolutionary marvels out there. Designs so stable that they make the dinosaurs look like the new kids on the block. I am speaking specifically of dragonflies, jellyfish and cow sharks.
Say you have an event where you have brought together 200 participants and perhaps 100 of them are hunting for a new community (the others are from communities or are just community-curious). Let’s say there are 40 communities represented. How do you get the key information to the right hunters so they can make good choices?
I don’t know exactly who developed the Meet the Communities format that the Twin Oaks Communities Conference has used for decades, but it is an evolutionarily stable format, because it works so well.
You could say it is basically formatted around the controversial propagandist axiom “there is no such thing as a long story”. You line up all your communities and say “you have 1 minute to present yourself and then people who like you will come for more personal and longer talks after all the communities present themselves”. Yes, the communities movement basically invented speed dating.
After these introductions community presenters spread out to picnic tables and put up their signs and hunters who were intrigued at the short presentation come and have a longer, more personal and more focused conversation.
There are some organizational pieces you have to include to make it work. You need someone who is watching the clock and when people hit their 1 minute mark gently moves them off the stage. Ira did this for many years. [Which resulted in Pat Therrian intentionally running over her time so Ira would have to grab her, which Pat quite liked.] And you have to explain to the sustainability network guy how, while his project is important, he can not get up and present himself as a place based residential community.
Another proof of evolutionary stability is imitation. The West Coast Communities Conference (when it was happening before the pandemic) also used this format as does the QuinkFair event happening Oct 1, 2, 3, and 4 in Mineral Virginia. These are the communities who have been invited to present themselves during MtC (most of whom have confirmed and/or said they are likely to attend) on October 2 in the morning.
Sadly, there is no Twin Oaks Communities Conference (TOCC) this year and QuinkFair is quite a different type of event. Nevertheless, this long held tradition will be repeated in an undisclosed location in Mineral VA on October 2.
Here’s someone who lived at East Wind in the mid-eighties and talks about life in community back then: the kitchen, the start of the nut butter business, and problems with the dairy, among other things. Some real communal history!
Let me start by admitting that I am a conflict avoider. I’m scared of conflict and would rather that it didn’t happen. But the reality is it does happen, and often, and it needs to be dealt with or it can destroy a community.
A community that I helped build in the nineteen-nineties fell apart and it was partly due to ongoing and poorly dealt with conflict. Years later, I was talking with one of the folks I built the community with and he said to me, “Didn’t you see all the conflicts happening?”
I said, “Yes, I did but I thought that if I ignored them, they would go away.” Here’s the first thing you need to know about dealing with conflict: ignoring it or denying that it’s happening, doesn’t work and often makes things worse.
A better way of putting this is that the first thing you need to do to deal with conflict in community is to point it out (if no one is talking about it) and say that it needs to be addressed by the group. Even if it seems like a private thing between two people, if they are not able to resolve it, it will affect the whole community.
I don’t have all the answers about how to deal with conflict. I know that there are numerous seminars on how to make conflict a constructive force. I haven’t taken any of them. I just know that I’ve learned a few things in the years since that first community collapsed and I will share what I’ve learned here in case other folks in community can benefit.
The first, again, is to point out and address the conflict as a group. The second is something that folks need to do, hopefully before conflict happens.
What I’ve seen is that groups where members have made serious commitments to each other, do better when conflict arises. Ganas, which is not an egalitarian community but I lived in and has an interesting approach to conflict, almost attracts conflict. More than occasionally in the morning meetings that I attended, arguments erupted and were encouraged. I’m not saying this approach works, but what was most interesting is that often folks that were literally screaming at each other in the meeting were later working together. Ganas has been doing this for more than forty years and it is still continuing on. I am convinced that the reason that they survive is that the core group has made long-term commitments to each other that holds them together in spite of serious disagreements.
At Glomus Commune, where I now live, we have gone through some fairly strong disagreements, particularly during the height of COVID, where folks had very different ideas about how to keep the community safe. What was impressive to me was to see people who argued intensively during meetings, getting close with each other afterwards and making it clear that they really cared about each other even if they disagreed.
A third thing that can be useful in situations of conflict is getting a mediator involved. If the situation is simply between two people in the community, if there is someone else in the community, skilled in mediation, they can be very helpful. If the situation involves more people or there is no one skilled within the group, bringing in an outside mediator may be what’s required. I know that after that first community collapsed, one of the people I lived with suggested that if we had brought in a mediator, the community might have survived.
I’m sure that there are more useful tools for dealing with communal conflicts and, if you know of some, I’d love to hear about it, but I wanted to at least put out what I know in the hopes that it might help some other communities that find themselves in conflict and at a loss for what to do.
Ira is a community treasure. She is the lynchpin holding Acorn Community together and the driving force behind Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. On Thursday, September 23rd, she will be the key speaker at a gardening conference. https://www.facebook.com/events/269598428038675/
Here’s the writeup:
SESE’s Ira Wallace will be a keynote speaker for this year’s American Community Garden Association Conference.Seed Keeping: An Act of Everyday Resistance.
“Black and brown people are integral to the story of food and farming in this country. Learn how including them in our gardens through seed saving, storytelling about seeds, the traditions they represent, the taste they evoke, and the people who created great varieties can be an everyday act of resistance.” – Ira Wallace
Ira will be talking about the importance of seed keeping to preserving cultural heritage with examples of historic varieties as well as the wealth of heirloom varieties from the African Diaspora especially in the US and Caribbean.She’ll also touch on her work with our cooperative community and seed company. She said, “although I am proud of co-founding the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello I think of my cooperative work developing Acorn Community Farm and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange as my legacy to young farmers looking for ways to do well doing good work.”