Friday, November 28, 2008

Tales from the Commune: Part III

Tales from the Commune, Part III

I guess I should give you all more of a context for where all of this occurred and give you a tour o’ pictures as it were.

The Farm is a community that started out as a commune in the 70’s, and I recommend checking out all the really interesting history here.

Within the Farm there is the Ecovillage Training Center, which teaches apprenticeships on organic gardening and natural building and various workshops on everything from solar panel installation to growing shitake mushrooms. The ETC consists of a little area which includes the Ecovillage hostel, where everyone lives, cooks, and cleans communally, an organic garden, a few experimental natural building works-in-progress, various broken down school buses from the original caravan that some of the permanent ETC residents live on, and a smattering of other structures.

This is the Ecovillage Hostel, where everyone stays. It was built by the original Farm crew using recycled materials and used to be a multi-family dwelling.

Inside the hostel...hats and jackets

Extensive you might have imagined

Buddha and sunshine

This is what communal cooking and cleaning looks like!

A little political art.

This was the "hodge-podge lodge" which was basically an experiment in all different types of natural building. We were working in here to make the bench.

This is one reason natural building is so wonderful...not everything is 2x4's and right angles. You can create sculpture right into your wall.

And you can re-use glass bottles to take up space, let in light, and decorate. There's so much freedom in natural building.
This was the Green Dragon building. The roof and some of the interior still aren't finished, but I believe it's the largest cob structure around and has some pretty beautiful details inside!

The garden gate where they grew everything from tomatoes to kale. And man, I didn't even know what kale was before but I have more than made up for lost time since then.
Organic permaculture garden.
They actually take a step further than just organic (not using pesticides or oil-derived fertilizer).
They grow with a method called permaculture, which is aimed at being sustainable and mimicking natural systems. Pretty much hippie for bad ass.

The door to the greenhouse.

The greenhouse, which totally reminded me of a hobbit house.
Not so much with the tractors, more so with the good ol' fashioned hoes.
One of the buses from the 70's caravan, which now serves as the natural building instructors 'home'.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tales from the Commune: Part II

I woke up to someone blowing a conch shell for breakfast (kinda like camp, only weirder!). Debated whether or not I should change out of my pj’s before going downstairs, decided against it because I’m at ‘effing hippie camp! After some oatmeal, it was time to learn some building!

Things I knew: Natural building involved using only natural materials, presumably in a non-damaging to the environment type of way. (As you can see, it was a very scientific, thorough knowledge.)

This is true. It’s kind of like the Three Little Pigs…straw, wood, bricks (adobe bricks, obvi), etc.

So, the task for the day was building a bench. This might not seem like a day-long task for 7 grown people, but this was not like a 3-pieces-of-wood-and-you’re-done-type bench; this was a fancy hippie bench.

#1- It was made out of cob. Cob as it turns out is a mixture of clay, sand, straw and water that when it sets is hard as a rock. You get to mix it with your feet. It’s fun and has absolutely nothing to do with corn.

#2- This bench had 4 arches in it made out of adobe bricks with apses (half-domes) under them so you can store things in them like shoes, firewood, conch shells, 6 packs of good beer, and other things hippies store.

#3- This bench was going to have a heating pipe running through it so it will warm your rear when you sit on it, kinda like those heated seats in cars only better because it’ll be au natural and not dependent on foreign oil (hippie point!).

So this is what we did all day, and it felt good after many conversations about and daydreams of creating a community that is more in line with the natural order of things, to get some dirt on my hands and learn a skill that will literally help me build it. Because dreaming is good and talking is good, but ultimately getting things done is what you have to offer the world.

At some point that morning, one of the guys asked if we could change from the hippie music and put on some lil’ Wayne! What?  Lil’ Wayne?  For realz?!  I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to hear lil’ Wayne! Not that I didn’t love the music we were listening to before, but this was the first crack in the homogeny of ideas and tastes that I thought I had perceived at this place, this image that I didn’t fit into. I don’t even really like lil’ Wayne, but this attached Byron to something outside the realm of vegan food and herbal tea and hand-knit hats. Turns out he also played football in college and used to have an earring and wear bling in high school.  And Wade, our fearless instructor, went to Alabama and played rugby.  And Cody didn’t like folk or bluegrass; he liked heavy rock. And Alyssa went to hipster shows and wore cool sunglasses. And Liam went to UGA and probably knew people that I knew. None of these people fit a mold, except that they’d all come to the conclusion, through very different paths, that there had to be a better way to live and they were open to new ideas and were trying to create it.

So, it turns out I did belong there, as long as I was open to them.

Tales from the Commune: Part I

I know, I’ve left you (whoever you are) in suspense over “Tales from the Commune” (like Tales from the Crypt! only less mummies, more hippies!), but the effects of the commune were long reaching and have left me in a life-altering vortex for the last few weeks. It’s hard to tell someone where the tornado has set you down until it stops spinning, but I think I can at least give you an accurate description of the landscape now.

So, here you are…

Tales from the Commune, Part I.

First of all, will someone remind me to stop thrusting myself into life-altering situations before I give myself time to prepare for them? K thanks. With the working two jobs and applying to medical school thing, I have not exactly been in leisurely hippie mode, I have been in soldier mode. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a hippie at heart (minus the whole non-shaving, drum-circle loving aspect) but my vibes were on lockdown as to not offend the boss(es). So, I was not a hippie when I arrived at the Farm, I was a soldier and instantly felt as awkward as if I had walked into a peace circle wearing my fatigues. I was totally the new kid at camp, and like the new, nerdy kid who had never heard of the book Ishmael and didn’t know to only bring dirty clothes and thought that cob structures were made with the remnants of ears of corn.

Not that everyone wasn’t completely lovely and welcoming (exhibit a: see above blackboard), as is one of the best traits of hippies, but I felt like an impostor. I drive an SUV and shop at Target and love Mountain Dew and red meat. I was pretty sure they could read all of this on my face, but I used my voice to assure them that I was going to be a doctor on an intentional community (also true, but you go ahead and reconcile the two in your head and then tell me how.)

So night one, I awkwardly leafed through pamphlets while sitting on the couch, had an overwhelming fear that I might starve on a vegan diet, ate some really delicious sweet potatoes which abated my fears, had serious qualms about what would be considered reason enough for me to flush a toilet, blushed with guilt over charging my cell phone and settled into bed shivering on two pieces of foam covering some squeaky springs cursing this spartan, hippie lifestyle and my spoiled, consumer-driven pansy ass that couldn’t take it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

To my sister in NZ...

Um, hi, I miss you, can you come home now?

I mean, I'm sure you're having fun and all with your
thing you have going on.

But there's no one to greet me
wearing sweatpants or guys athletic shorts
in the big leather chair in the living room
with a computer on her lap
and that awful Amanda Bynes TV show on
when I get home now.

Miss you!