In which tomatoes are tasted.
by Raven Cotyledon
The Cotyledon community is focused on, among other things, food justice and urban agriculture. We are connected with several related organizations in western Queens, including Hellgate Farm, the Queens Action Council, and Just Soil. We do our principle work, however, with a small community garden/urban farm called Smiling Hogshead Ranch (also known as SHHR, Hogshead, or the Ranch).
I first met gil when he was organizing a fundraiser for SHHR called the Hogshead Hoedown. I was impressed with all the people involved and how gil kept telling everyone what a great job they were doing.
Later, through gil, I met DNA. The three of us began talking about creating a commune but we also tried to start a composting business at the Ranch. I was living at Ganas on Staten Island and it took me two hours (each way!) to get to Hogshead, whether by train or by bike. One of the main reasons we chose to build Cotyledon in Queens was to be near the Ranch.
Gil was one of the founders of SHHR and is a director there. DNA has been working there for many years, building things and gardening. Recently, gil and DNA have been organizing young people at the Ranch, working with the Youth Leadership Council. I am a faithful composter there and, a couple of weeks ago ended up teaching small groups of third graders about snails, as part of Smiling Hogshead Ranch’s educational mission.
None of us get paid for the work we do at the Ranch. Rather, we see Hogshead as one of the main ways we can promote what we believe to the world. Smiling Hogshead Ranch isn’t the only thing that Cotyledon does, not by any means, but we see it as one of the most important.
The East Wind Building Maintenance Crew has been pushing our infrastructure forward. The project for this Spring is remodeling of the floor and windows of our main Food Processing space.
We are still bringing in over a hundred pounds of milk everyday and dairy processing has been moved to the former showerhouse. Good thing the BM Crew got the new showerhouse up and running this past Fall, they just keep setting themselves up for success!
The East Wind’s agricultural areas keep bringing in the goods. Produce, dairy, meat. Potatoes, beets, and carrots are in the ground. We are still harvesting kale, spinach, lettuce, and radish. There are two new additions to the milking cow herd: Betty Boop and Carmen.
The East Wind Nut Butters (EWNB) Crew is continuing to evolve. Members new to the management team are stepping up and taking on responsibility. Passing complex operations along in good, working order can be difficult in this income sharing context. Anna Youngs (Anna Young ran East Wind Nut Butters for most of the 2000s, thanks for holding it down) don’t come along but once a decade. Luckily, there are numerous young Annas here at the moment, all picking up a piece of the puzzle as they can. Effective training and effective leadership comes with time.
There was a relaxed Equinox, Easter, and Birthday combo party on the 21st (the actual Equinox was rainy). No pictures or comments from my end as I was in Dallas visiting my lovely Blood Fam, but I heard it was a good time. Happy Spring!
All in all, East Wind is moving along quite nicely in this most interesting year of 2019. As my co Sage told me today: “things tend to work out for the best.”
Oh yeah, here is the latest video: Utopian Rope Sandals
Post written by Razz with edits from Boone. Pictures by Beauxb, Pinetree, and Panda.
Hello dear reader!
These past two months have felt like four. Lots of ups and downs through the winter time. The good news is that we are fast coming out of the cold season into the long Ozark warm season. The honeybees are out, searching for potential new nests. I saw one of their scouts fight a spider while I was relaxing at Sunnyside:
That honeybee just kept going up to the spider until a complete stalemate was reached. I took this as a sign that it was time to put up a couple swarm traps and try to capture some honeybees. There are more than a couple experienced people on the farm thinking on the honeybee hive situation for the year, which is super exciting!
Looking at the Seed Palace as a home for Genomes…
“Work is love made visible”
The Prophet, Khalil Gibran
This Spring a team of colorful communard builders convened for a secular barn raising. Even though everyone came for different personal reasons, the shared goal was clear, make an old sheep barn more hospitable for commune members. One would assume that a simple, tangible goal would lead to a predictable week, but jumping to that conclusion would skip all the flying fish and cornucopia of magic that happened in-between.
Within the Federation for Egalitarian Communities (F.E.C.) this type of trip is called a LEX, and it’ as culturally far from the norm as East Brook is from any major city. With each turn down another unmarked country road, you are taking another deviation from the cultural norms around work, leadership, and purpose. Officially a LEX, short for Labor Exchange, is a time based currency used between participating members of the F.E.C. through which community members can help their fellow communities, and expect equitable hourly return of help at their own community Yet, the culture of LEX goes far beyond any quantifiable market exchange, and unlocks a culture of radical generosity that questions cultural norms most people take for granted.
While driving down Country Highway 22, the first intersection I had to make a turn at was “Construction projects need clear blueprints in order to be productive.” It seemed obvious that would be a right turn, but I was wrong. On the first day of the build, the travel weary crew was introduced to a small warehouse of materials and an even smaller dilapidated barn, with the general guiding principle being, “The more of these new building materials that we can refurbish the old dilapidated barn with, the closer we will be housing more communards.” One week later 1,000 square feet of insulated flooring was installed, two new walls were built, two doors were installed, and the ceiling was made watertight with a glistening new roof, and yet I didn’t see a single blueprint drawn. Not even a back of the envelope sketch was made. This whole project was a streaming interplay of experimentation, action, teaching and rethinking.
The next crossing on the road was across the train of thinking that says “successful projects need leaders”, which I expected to be a mandatory stopping point, but instead we rolled right passed it. While gaining labor credits through LEX was a periphery benefit to some of the builders, the majority of us came with the intention to gain more confidence in our building skills. Keenan and Nina have decades more building experience than the rest of us, but I’d be surprise if an observer would have been able to discern this. Both of them held space for learning in the egoless way a graceful mentor let’s you flourish in the skills you already have while opening the door for you to lean into your learning edge. It wasn’t that we were leaderless, but more accurately it was that each of us lead ourselves to show up the responsibilities we could fearlessly accomplish.
Now that the previous turns had lead me to unfamiliar territory I knew to turn the other direction when I arrived at the assumption that “efficient productivity needs schedules”. One of the experiences of commune culture that has profoundly changed my life is the experience of abundant food, beauty and friendship without the sweaty palm anxiety of fiscal scarcity putting you a couple paychecks away from being homeless. This separation of work from pure fiscal survival, to making work a voluntary choice to celebrate ones gifts within their chosen commune family, is rarely more alive than at a LEX build. From 6 a.m. till 7:30 p.m. there was a steady stream of workers gracefully picking up the hammer where the last person left off. Slipping away for a nap or meandering down to the stream to get lost in the glistening water where so common that announcing you were taking a break felt unnecessarily formal. We all trusted that everyone was giving as much as they felt called to, and our love for each other dwarfed the importance of renovating a barn, so we skipped planning our day in the morning, and instead celebrated our accomplishments in the evening.
I knew I was close to my destination when I was faced with the assumption that “hot tubs are expensive indulgences for wealthy people” and I turned the other direction to arrive at East Brook. Communes tend to be wealthy in “resource yards”, sometimes called junk piles by other Americans, which are often stocked with a variety of metal tubs. These bulky containers are as hard to find a use for as they are to get rid of, so they tend to become vernal pools for mosquitoes. However a few of us had experience turning these treasures into fire heated hot tubs, lovingly referred to as Hippy Stew pots. With juvenile enthusiasm we tinkered and toiled until the old barn was outfitted with the makings of a hot tub. Granted it took a few kettles of water boiled in the kitchen to nudge the temperature up to the point of indulgence, but the sensation of winning at life was authentic.
Now that all my assumptions on people’s relationship with work had been inverted, I was hardly surprised when fish began raining from the sky. We were cautiously enjoying a hot afternoon, after a couple days of snow in late April left us suspicious of the order of the seasons, when an epic toil of prehistoric ferocity began in the sky above us. An osprey resolutely clutching a fresh fish catch from the adjacent brook was blindsided by an eagle that mistook the osprey for a food delivery service. The two toiled hundreds of feet above the ground, claws and feathers rolling through the sky in defiance of gravity, until the still squirming fish slid out from the talons and came plummeting towards us. With a crash it landed gasping for water on the metal roof. Maximus and Rachael swiftly collected, gutted and fried it. That night I ate flying fish, and when I tasted it, I realized that to be abundantly wealthy is to be grateful for all that I have already been given.
Another video by Maximus:
In which Ella, Avni, Telos, and Maximus pick beans at Living Energy Farm.