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.”
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.]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thumbs has already detailed the story of the early construction work on Skyfish, at East Brook Community Farm, including how a fish actually fell from the sky and thus named the building, in an earlier Commune Life post.
I visited East Brook Community Farm on my way to the FEC assembly and toured the farm. I was intrigued by Skyfish.
From the outside it looks finished:
The back of it is especially colorful:
There are some lovely details:
But inside the building is a different story:
Sarah told me that they hope to finish Skyfish this spring and it will provide housing for new community members.
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We now have significant experience designing ecovillages both in rural and urban settings and this workshop will take stock of what has been learned over the last 30 years. There are sustainability elements, aesthetic aspects and design components connected with high degrees of sharing which all go into making a high functioning ecovillage. In many cases these are not elements which are taught in architecture school. We will explore conversions of existing non-ecovillages as well as designed from scratch solutions. The workshop will start with presentation and then go into question and answer.
Fred Oesch is a licensed architect who designed the seed building at Acorn and lives in Schuyler VA. He has also been involved in several ecovillage projects, both urban and rural as well as new builds and conversions. He serves on the Ecovillage Charlottesville Board and throws a mean quarry party.
Some of what is covered in the workshop is Principles of Regenerative Environmental Design:
1] Design as a Way of Life.
2] Reflection of Evolving Regional Society, Tradition, Culture, and Religion
3] Utilization of Indigenous Technology, Materials, and Labor Skills
4] Direct Response to Microclimate / Seamless Site Integration
5] Minimum Inventory / Maximum Diversity Systems
6] Direct Designer / Builder / Inhabitant Participation
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.