First week at Twin Oaks (journal entries)

10/13 - Friday
First day at Twin Oaks. There are 10 people in our visitor group: Jeremy (my roommate, does research for Google); Ethan (works at Whole Foods in the beer department); James (studying sociology/psychology of architecture); Carmen (a smart young Colombiana); Calista (taking a break between high school and college); Alex & Jessie; Mark (English); and Tina. Everyone but Mark and Tine are under 30. Dinner in “ZK” was nice - although the cafeteria setup is kinda weird. They have milk dispensers! We already have labor schedules for the week to fulfill our 38 hour labor quota (usually 44, but not counting Friday). I joined the sauna after dinner and our first “oreo” (orientation). It’s supposed to get down to 29 degrees tonight, but you wouldn’t know it the way we were standing around naked and jumping in the pond. A bunch of the visitors came with me to the sauna - cool group I think.

10/14 - Saturday
Wow. What a fuckin’ day. Yes already. Had a tour this morning - basic stuff, nothing shocking. The food so far has been great - an eggplant/marinara/cheese thing last night and a mexican-style tostada thing tonight - with home-grown ground beef, cheese & sour cream from the dairy, tomatoes & salsa from the gardens, etc. I’ve heard that pretty much the only veggies they buy now are apples and onions.
After lunch, we had a Hammock shop tour and I had a personal lesson in macrame-ing the “harness” - where the ropes connect to the ring. As I was walking back to Aurora, the visitor building, I got an invitation to Ultimate Wrestling. I got very tired and sore, but had a lot of fun. It reminded me of the night I wrestled with the interns at Lost Valley. We had a “visitor’s social” after dinner where we socialized with some of the members - from 7:30 to - the last of us visitors left around 11:45. Fucking A.

10/15 - Sunday
The food continues to be outstanding, though I’ve been more gassy that usual lately. Dinner was stuffed bell peppers, spaghetti & “tofu balls,” salad, etc. I did a Tofu Boxing shift today - 700 boxes to pack (6 cubes each), but there were a ton of people (10-11), so we got it done in under 3 hours (the scheduled time). I’m beginning to see the advantage of scheduled labor. The emphasis on production (of tofu, hammocks) is not something I’m keen on, especially when the materials (wood, yarn, soybeans) come from outside the farm - thus hiding their (un-)sustainability. But on an individual level, it allows for a variety of work. I watched a couple movies after dinner - Art School Confidential & A Prairie Home Companion. Every weekend, 3 films are each shown at both an early (7:30) and late (9:15) showing.

10/16 - Monday
I worked with Woody today planting garlic. I’m still somewhat sore from the ultimate wrestling, but it didn’t interfere with the work at all. This morning we got an oreo (orientation) this morning from Coyote about the labor system. What a trip! The guy is the last of the beatniks. We had a birthday party for Carmen (one of the visitors) tonight. I secured some home-brew wine from Bok Choy, one of the members here; it was made from forbidden fruit, and delicious!

10/17 - Tuesday
It was rainy today, so my dairy clean shift was canceled. To make up some time, I worked in the hammock shop for a couple of hours. I hung out with Coyote for a bit - he feels like the last of the beatniks. I’m so tired - I helped Bok Choy with de-stemming grapes this morning (at 8 o’clock), as payment for the wine.

10/18 - Wednesday
The child oreo today brought some stuff up for me that I hadn’t considered before. A community (as in, IC-intentional community) is a step towards a new tribe, but not there yet. I see a tribe as a cohesive whole - able to exist and continue in a somewhat steady state. They have traditions and culture and know what works for them. An IC (as I see it) is a group of people on that path, but still figuring things out. Twin Oaks hasn’t yet figured out how to integrate adolescents - there is no maturity ritual - they go from dependent children at 17 to members with full quota responsibility at 18 (if they so choose).
I sliced peppers and peeled garlic this morning - fun conversation while working around a table. We had another sauna tonight. I drank plenty of water this time. After checking my e-mail, it looks like a Sirius visit will come together, but may be more expensive than my other stops @ $25/night + 4hr/day.
When I came into Aurora this evening, Calista and Ethan were talking about the devouring nature of civilization - I mentioned Derrick Jensen and they’re already on the same page. I’m coming to the belief that the communities movement is no more a “solution” than recycling. It will all come down eventually. I still think stories are our best bet. These ICs are the little experiments - maybe we can learn from them. Why am I here? Because this is the closest thing that I’ve found to how I want to live my life. These people are all going in the same direction as me.

10/19 - Thursday
Keenan led our legal oreo, and described how Twin Oaks treats members’ assets when they join. It is set up so that while members are here, they are (by policy) as financially egalitarian as possible. Money owned before joining or funds earned outside the community may be spent only when the member is off the farm (i.e. on vacation). To me, the system seems to discourage abundance, which seems backwards to me. I would prefer to see something closer to / approaching a gift economy.

10/20 - Friday
We got our new labor sheets last night. At Twin Oaks, the week starts on Friday and goes through Thursday. Someone said that this is to hide the fact that there’s no weekend at TO. You can request a day or two without scheduled work (or more), but there is no regular “day off” that everyone takes. Everyone is responsible for fulfilling 44 hours a week. It works out to about 6.2 hours a day, and includes everything from working in the garden and making hammocks to cooking meals, doing dishes, going to town to shop for the community, even some activist work like Food Not Bombs. The labor system is central to life here. Labor is measured with credits in hourly units. It is responsible for much of the enforcement of the egalitarian ideal. It serves as an accounting system and a local currency, and to help channel resources within the community. Children are given a certain number of hours of “child care” each year, which the parents can use themselves, or pay to other community members to take care of their kids. When sick, you can claim up to 6.2 hours a day as sick time - your job is to get well. If you work over quota one week, you can slack off the next week, or save up hours for a longer vacation - either on or off the farm.
There are plenty of things to do here - both for labor and for fun. There are almost too many things to do, even fun things. This afternoon I had to decide between doing yoga or writing this journal. I’m never bored - at work or at play.

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