Bye Cam

 

Kristen/Kelpie here: Cameron Taylor was of the Scots diaspora and a friend of mine. He and I often spoke of his love of Lallans, the old Scots language of his boyhood. He tried to teach me how to roll my r’s, at my request. We would often tease each other in the hammock shop, and listen to music, and play guessing games. He was partial to tango. I’m partial to folk, especially that of the British Isles.  Cam was a boy in the land where Robert Burns lived, near Dumfries and Ayrshire in Scotland. He was born Kenneth Taylor, and changed his first name to honor his mother’s clan. His father died in WW2, and he moved to Argentina with his mother. Now, of course, I wish I could remember more of what he told me. I’ve written here a short account of what I do remember.

Cameron had a passion for kayaks, and for the people of Greenland, who taught him ocean kayaking, fishing, and their way of life when he was a young man. He put together his memoirs of this time: [what’s the link?-ed] I enjoyed hearing about his times in Greenland. Several times he pointed out the young woman he loved there, and the wondrous times he had in the North. During his later years, at Twin Oaks Community, he built a traditional kayak, which he donated to a museum, [fact check: ask Kevin] after spending time traveling with it. He also spent many days kayaking on local lakes, especially with Kevin.

Cameron the kayaker

Before Cam came to Twin Oaks, he was an anthropologist. In addition to his time in Greenland, he spent time with the Yanomami in Brazil. He and his wife studied their culture, and he learned the language. I remember he brought a Yanomami hammock to our hammock shop, to show us. We marveled that anyone could balance on one of them, much less sleep! It consisted of strands of strong fibrous plant material, maybe bark, in parallel, knotted on both ends. One year, he asked to go to the Yanomami to help vaccinate them, as part of an interna because they were under immediate threat of disease. Twin Oakers were proud to help him on this journey.

Cameron was also our Dairy Manager for a while, and was responsible for getting the loafing shed built, so our cows could have a place out of the sun. He also found and brought Dexter, a border collie, who helped immensely with herding.

Cam and Dexter to herding dog

And of course, he made hammocks, and taught us how to make hammocks. I remember his infinite patience with this. I often had to ask him for help, and he was always willing to give it.

One of my most fond memories is watching a meteor shower with Cameron, camping out by the grapevines, drinking from a bottle, and listening to him sing a long funny song from his childhood. I tried to get him to sing it again, later, in the hammock shop, when we were sober, but he wouldn’t.

I don’t remember why we decided to celebrate Burns Night dinners, but I do remember Cameron being an important resource for verisimilitude and delight. We had three, I think, in a space of four years. Cam inspired us to make haggis, a delicious (no! really!) lamb and oats sausage, and a main ingredient of the dinner served usually Jan 25, celebrating the works of Rabbie Burns, and all things Scottish, which included whiskies, poetry, singing, and merriment, and a band. Cam requested My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose, so we learned it, as well as a few other classic Burns hits, like Green Grow the Rushes Oh. Thankfully, we didn’t record ourselves. Cameron read aloud a section of Tam O’Shanter, Burns’s funny hero poem, which needed translating for the modern American audience. Cameron, always the considerate teacher, obliged.

Thanks for reading this long ramble. I hope Cameron would be happy with it. I can still hear his laugh. Cameron’s lovely, always, in my memory. He’s stubborn, argumentative, caring and wise. A wit and always ready with a story. I miss him.

Bye Cam

Twin Oaks’ Guardian Angels

by Keenan
from his blog:  Keenan’s Twin Oaks blog
Posted 6th January 2012 by 
One of the line-items in the econ team’s 2009 economic report is a savings of $15,000. Much of that savings is from ex-member Denny Ray noticing (somehow) that Twin Oaks was being overcharged by the corporation that supplied our propane gas. Denny Ray took the initiative to come to the Planners (I was a Planner at the time), point out the problem, and propose that he help Twin Oaks by taking on the task of switching to a new, cheaper, locally owned company. In the intervening years this new company has been great to work with.
This is amazing, weird, or creepy

While involved in installing the new gas tanks, Denny Ray discovered two serious hazards with our gas lines in Llano and in Morningstar.  With the Planners’ blessings, Denny Ray fixed them. I joked with Denny Ray that someday Llano would not burn down, and we would all thank him. But of course we won’t; who notices when something bad doesn’t happen?

It seems that there are many ex-members looking out for Twin Oaks’ well-being. When the fire broke out by the hay barn, people brought the communal fire hose and hooked it up to the fire hose tap at the tobacco barn. The fire hose tap was marked by a metal pipe that said, in big letters, “Fire Hose Tap.” The fire hose and the fire hose tap were there compliments of Alexis-ex-member. Alexis has installed fire hose taps all over the community. Someday Twin Oaks won’t burn down and we’ll thank Alexis and Denny Ray.

The concept of hovering guardian angels came to me at my first Planner meeting a few years ago. Noah came in as the brand new tofu manager and was worried at how little he knew about the business.  With Aubby leaving, and other previous managers gone on sabbatical there wasn’t much managerial knowledge of the tofu business at Twin Oaks.  The Planners were re-assuring to Noah, telling  him that Jon Kessler (ex-member) used to manage the tofu business as did Jessie (ex-member) and that Alexis (ex-member) had built the tofu hut and installed lots of the machines. All three were available and happy to answer questions.

The next person to come in to that planner meeting was Alex, new member and newly appointed legal manager. He wanted to know where certain legal files were. The Planners directed him to Lynn(ex-member) living at Baker branch and ex-legal manager.  The next person in was Denny Ray to talk about the propane situation. There is a larger community around Twin Oaks that does things large and small to help promote, preserve and protect Twin Oaks. During the days of darkness this past winter, Alexis worked as hard as anyone, getting our generators up and running, moving the generators around and, also, shoveling snow.

As a Planner I saw how much ex-members do for Twin Oaks and as a long-term member, I know the ex-members and I know, a little bit, who does what. But most of the contribution of ex-members is invisible and anonymous. Ex-members don’t ask for credit, or for anything in return. As an example, the wonderful magazine cover photos of Greasel in ZK are by Denny Ray.

Most members are probably not aware that the thousands of dollars that Twin Oaks has earned over the years from doing the JPJ job is due to Rob Jones initially getting the offer of that job, but passing it on to Twin Oaks. There have been many other times that Hale and White  construction company (partially owned by ex-Twin Oaks members) has hired Twin Oakers in times when our income areas were languishing. Many of these jobs involved demolition, so Twin Oakers brought back doors, windows, wood, siding and many other useful building materials to Twin Oaks. The playhouse behind Degania is built mainly with Hale and White salvage, with a few materials given to us from two other ex-members Dr. Schwartz and his wife, Alta.

Since so much of the contribution of ex-members is quiet and anonymous, I am sure that there are many other examples that other people can come up with that I don’t know about. But I wanted to share this little bit that I know just to let members here be a little more conscious that beyond Twin Oaks’ borders is a larger, looser community that nurtures Twin Oaks but doesn’t have a location or a name. I encourage everyone, if you get a chance, to nurture that other, larger community as well.

Twin Oaks’ Guardian Angels

The Story

by Raven Cotyledon

There isn’t going to be a lot of new information in this post. Rather, I would like to look at the context that surrounds this information. I am going to call this context, “The Story”.

I will start off with a story that I am concerned about and is prevalent in this culture. It was popularized by Margaret Thatcher and goes by the acronym, TINA.  TINA stands for There Is No Alternative. It’s a story that keeps the status quo in place. Things may be awful, but if you believe that there is no alternative, there isn’t much that you can do.

The intentional communities movement, and especially the communes, have a very different story to tell. It is a story about creating many, many alternatives.

And I often start telling the story by talking about Twin Oaks. Twin Oaks is  contradiction to many of the stories that are told to support TINA. All the communes from the sixties failed and are long gone. Communism just doesn’t work.  A dictator (or small oligarchy) will always arise and use any communal situation for his (or their) benefit.

Rey6
Twin Oaks 50th Anniversary picture 

Twin Oaks is a commune that started in the sixties, has run for fifty-two years, has over a hundred people living there (including children), and is going strong. It is a small communist society, voluntary and built from the ground up, that functions pretty well. No dictator or oligarchy has emerged in those fifty-two years and, given how independent minded most of the Twin Oaks members are, if anyone tried, they would probably be thrown out.

But one commune doesn’t prove anything. The next thing that I talk about in my story is this blog.  Not because I manage it and write so much for it, but because of the massive amount of information here about communes around the US and around the world. We have articles about communes in Virginia and Missouri, but also in New York City, Washington, DC, Portland, Oregon, and Laramie, Wyoming , and rural communes in Quebec, New York state, Washington state, British Columbia, and Alaska. And beyond North America, we have stories about  Kommune Niederkaufungen in Germany  and Las Indias in Spain, and the kibbutzim in Israel, which were not only the predecessors of the commune movement but are still being reinvented.  I have heard of more, and will publish whatever I find. Twin Oaks is not a single exception but part of what may be a worldwide phenomenon.

LI In a Madrid Bus
Las Indias 

The Story expands from there. It’s not that I expect everyone to live on a commune, but that the communes are the far end of dozens of alternatives. There is a large world of communities to explore if you go over to the Fellowship for Intentional Communities website, ic.org–including cooperative and collective houses, ecovillages and cohousing projects, and, of course, communes. Beyond that is the world of cooperative businesses, alternative agriculture, soft technology, ecological design, sharing projects, and new ways of communicating, building relationships, and dealing with conflict. The Story that we are telling is not that there are no alternatives, but that there is an abundance of alternatives, the world is overflowing with alternatives.

As I have said, communities are laboratories for social change where we see what works and what doesn’t. This blog is important because it documents what is happening in the far end of those experiments. This is the new story, the story of the world we are building, one commune at a time.

____________________________________________________________________________

Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us!

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards

  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft
  • Aaron Michels
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Laurel Baez
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • William Kadish
  • Em Stiles
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw

Thanks!

 

The Story

What can we learn from lasting communities?

,by Raven Cotyledon

I was interviewed recently about the time I lived at Ganas, which is not an egalitarian community, but is an amazing, thriving community of a different type. Ganas has been around for forty years as of this year and that got me thinking of other long lived communities and what people who are  trying to start (or keep going) new communities can learn from them.

Twin Oaks, of course, is a big example, since they hit fifty in 2017 and will be fifty-two this year. Another obvious candidate is East Wind which is clocking in at forty-five this year, as is Sandhill in northeastern Missouri.   But I want to even include somewhat younger communities like Acorn (26) and Dancing Rabbit (22). I think that any community that is over twenty is worth studying, since so many communities never even reach ten.

TO50TH10
Twin Oaks 50th Anniversary

 

What is the secret to their longevity?   One obvious thing to me is their size. Twin Oaks has ninety something adults (I often just say a hundred members but they have never reached that), East Wind, Ganas, and Dancing Rabbit all have in the neighborhood of sixty people, and Acorn keeps itself at around thirty.

Sandhill is the outlier here. It has never had more than ten adult members and often less. They are currently down to three adults and have put themselves in a reforming status. Things seem touch and go there, but I certainly wouldn’t count them out.

I found out that Acorn had been down to two members early in their history. I asked a long time member how they survived. He suggested it was due to two things: Twin Oaks and Ira Wallace.  Having a big, stable neighbor like Twin Oaks, I am sure was helpful, but having someone as tenacious and persistent as Ira, who is an amazing person, I believe, was essential.

Which brings me to a first factor in longevity: persistence, basically not giving up, even in the face of adversity. And with that, I would also add, having a commitment to the other people in the community. I have seen this modeled at Ganas and I am sure this is a big piece of why they have lasted so long.

Aviva1
Houses at Ganas

A third major piece is flexibility, or perhaps, adaptability. Allowing a community to change and evolve is key.  Both Twin Oaks and Ganas are quite different from when they started. I would say that there is an essential core that has never changed (for Twin Oaks, I would say, it is a belief in income-sharing and equality, for Ganas, a belief in the importance and healing power of feedback), but the communities grew and changed as people came and went and the community aged.  Interestingly enough both communities went through a similar process with their founders. Both Kat Kinkade (Twin Oaks) and Mildred Gordon (Ganas) were key in founding their respective communities, both left after many years because the community had changed in ways they didn’t like, and both returned to their communities to die.

So here are at least three important things we can learn from long lived communities: persist, even when things get hard, commit to each other, and figure out how to adapt while holding on to your key principles. These don’t guarantee success, but little in life does.

There are lots of new and young communities out there.  I’ve written about why communities fail and how fragile they are; now I am thinking about how communities can last.

____________________________________________________________________________

Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us!

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards

  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft
  • Aaron Michels
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Laurel Baez
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Sasha Daucus
  • William Kadish

Thanks!

 

What can we learn from lasting communities?

One Hundred Members by 2017

from Keenan’s Twin Oaks Blog

FEB 28, 2013

100 members by 2017

Blog readers: This is a paper I posted at Twin Oaks. The reception did not rise to the level of lukewarm. Twin Oaks’ finances are tight, so this was deemed as not a good time at Twin Oaks to start planning a major new project. As of March 2013, there is still no movement to begin process to build a new building.
[Editor’s note: Still true in 2019.]

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By Keenan

25 Aug 2012

100 members by 2017

Twin Oaks’ reached a peak population of 96 adult members a few years back—very close to 100 members—but since that time, due to more kids, additional slack rooms, and bedroom conversions, our current pop cap is now down to 93 adult members.  I would like to reverse this downward trend; I propose that Twin Oaks’ next building be a residence that brings Twin Oaks’ adult population to 100 members.
Adding seven more members would mean about 14,000 additional hours of labor per year, with a negligible increase to Twin Oaks’ labor infrastructure (we won’t need a bigger membership team, more cooks, more Planners etc.)  With a waiting list that has been ongoing for years and a need for more labor in our income and other areas, it seems that it’s a sensible next step to begin planning for increasing Twin Oaks’ population.  It’s been awhile: the last residence completed was Kaweah in 1995.  Since then, the community has mainly been doing maintenance (replacing roofs) and building infrastructure (tofu addition, Nashoba addition) , but not increasing population.

w_beechsidekitchen-289-500-500-100
Kaweah residence

If the past is any guide, we could be just starting to break ground in  a little over two years in early 2015 (that is,if the community chooses this direction and makes a commitment to moving process forward swiftly). With a Twin Oaks crew working at a steady pace, the building could take as little as two years to build, so that, by 2017, just in time for 50th anniversary, Twin Oaks could have 100 members.

Where to locate a new residence? I suggest somewhere along the ridge overlooking the pond—either near MT, or on the volleyball court, or in front of Llano parking lot. The advantages of these sites are all about the same: excellent solar gain,  (no need to cut down lots of trees either for the building site, or for a solar clearing), good access to a road (no need to build a driveway), minimal excavation needed, and easy access to sewer, water, and electric (less expense and less labor).

One advantage of any of these sites is that if there is a kitchen, it could serve as a second courtyard kitchen.  The courtyard has three SLG’s and only one kitchen.  The Llano kitchen gets a lot of use.

w_llanoSE-303-500-500-100
Entrance to the Llano kitchen

The proposed building:

I propose a two-story, solar powered, child/adult, 11 bedroom SLG, with two bathrooms, a kitchen (with pantry),  a utility room, an office for the Seeds business, and two sign-outable public rooms (meeting rooms).

For purposes of acoustic separation, I propose locating all of the bedrooms on the second floor and all of the public rooms on the first floor.

Why eleven bedrooms to add seven members? If we increase the population of adults, we also increase the number of kids.  I assume that two of these eleven rooms will go to children.  There are then nine rooms to increase adult population.  I am assuming that in the next five years probably two of the most sub-standard bedrooms will be taken out of commission,  (furnace room?) or, that a bedroom or two will be converted to some other function, or that with a higher population, that we will want more “slack” rooms for guests.  Given these considerations, I believe it is a conservative estimate that adding nine rooms for adult members will only be a net gain of seven adult members above the current pop cap of 93.  Twin Oaks added 21 bedrooms with Kaweah and got a net gain of about 12 members.
Presumably, the seeds business will keep expanding. The hammocks business, the tofu business, and the indexing business all have their own offices (indexing used to have its own office and in a few weeks will again) .  I understand that this courtyard location might be a good location for the seeds business office.

Twin Oakers seem to enjoy outdoor space—especially decks.  The proposed, simple, rectangular design of this SLG lends itself to having a second-story, screened in deck on the east and west ends of the buildings.

Caveats:

Caveat #1) If Twin Oaks chooses to increase population, there will be lots of papers and meetings for input-gathering and design decisions.  I am under no illusion that there is any assumption that we will be a) building a residence anytime soon, or  b) that if we do choose to build a residence, that it will be anything like the one proposed here.

The current five-year planning process is getting people looking at “What next?”  I am providing this somewhat detailed proposal merely as a discussion starter for people participating in that five-year planning process.

w_entrance_main-295-500-500-100
Aerial view of Twin Oaks entrance and courtyard

Caveat #2) Isn’t this a really bad time to be posting a building proposal? I am hoping that most people recognize that our current building issues wilbl be long resolved before five years have passed.  Maintenance is a big issue now, but soon TCLR roof will be done.  Soon Christian will be back.  Soon Red will have more time available.  Also we are mid-stream with two building projects.   The Nashoba addition is inching forward and could be done in as little as six months. The tofu addition has been stalled, but it is moving forward and looks like it will have a completion date, probably soon.   And, once the tofu addition’s done, Twin Oaks’ finances should suddenly look a lot better.

Additionally, the early stages of gathering community input for choosing what to build, where to site it, how to design it…all take a really long time.  It is best to do processey, labor-intensive, meeting-heavy stuff in the winter, so I think now, with fall approaching, is a good time to start peeking over the horizon to see what we want our collective future to look  like.

Caveat #3)  Sketches have a false feel of significance to them.   In thirty seconds these sketches could have  four more bedrooms—or four fewer. I really did sort of whip the sketches together;  for instance, the generic meeting rooms in the building design are not that essential.  But to maintain the separation of the public space from the bedroom space, I had some extra square feet on the lower floor. It seemed to me that two meeting rooms would be a good use of that extra space. But my guess may well not be the highest need in the community.

Posted 28th February 2014 by keenan

Labels: Twin Oaks

One Hundred Members by 2017