With apologies to the Beatles, the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, and the state of Vermont.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chapter Four: They Talk and They Work

   "Luna Lagoon checked around the commune, only to find issues tribal..."

Things were pretty loose at the beginning.  They didn't seem to need a lot of policies and regulations.  Most of the folks got along with each other.

And the arrangements they had with each other were pretty loose as well.  It turned out that Luna had been sleeping with Nancy.  And Sal. And Dan.  And Dan had been sleeping with Stan. And Sal. And Nancy.  And Sal and Nancy were still sleeping together occasionally. And there were rumors about Stan and Sal.  About the only one who wasn't changing beds regularly was Cat--at least as far as most people knew.

And then things got really messy when Ralph and Ed came to visit, and Ed found Ralph and Stan cuddled up together.

But there were actually very few problems with romantic jealousy on the commune.  (Except maybe for Ed's threats to make Ralph actually listen to Stan for an hour.)

Instead, people were complaining about who was snoring, who left the windows open, who left the dishes in the sink, and who didn't clean the bathroom.

"I cleaned!  Last week!  I think!" said Stan.

It was their second ever community meeting. They just had decided to do them every other week while they were getting going.  This one was held in the living room of the middle farmhouse.  It was the biggest room on the place and could have held another six people easily.  Which was sort of the point.

Nancy was facilitating.   She was doing pretty well considering the number of people who were yelling.

"Well, somebody left a mess," Luna fumed.

"It was one of the men," insisted Sal.  "I know it."

"And just how do you know it?" Dan declaimed.  He put his hands on his hips and glared.

Cat appeared to be trying to disappear into the wallpaper.

Nancy raised her hands.  "Let's take a minute of silence," she said.  She got dirty looks from almost everyone, but there was nearly two minutes of silence before anyone spoke again.

"Look," Luna said finally.  "I'm sorry I lost my temper."

"Me, too," said Dan.  "I know I was getting defensive."

"I'm sorry, too!" said Stan.  "Really!"

"Well, I'm not," Sal said sternly.  "The bathroom is still a mess and I want to find out who's responsible."

Immediately the meeting re-erupted into chaos.  Sal, Luna, Dan, and Stan were all yelling, Nancy was waving her hands, and Cat seemed to be inching toward the door.  The meeting lasted into the night.

   "This earful it seems, disrupted their dreams..."

The next day, people tried to get back to their routines.  There was lots to do.

Nancy and Cat were in the kitchen baking.  Nancy was preparing a sweet dough for the loaf pans; Cat was testing how well done the cupcakes were with a knife.

"Well, that was a healthy meeting," Nancy said.

Cat stopped, knife still in the air.  "What do you mean?"

"Everybody got a chance to air their feelings.  I'm sure everyone feels better now."

Cat stabbed the cupcake until it crumbled.

Out in the fields, Luna and Dan were checking on the growing veggies.

"Looks like we'll have a lot of kale," Luna said.

"And zucchini," Dan replied.

"Oh, yeah," Luna said, tugging on her hair.  "Lots."  She stopped and thought a moment.  "Ya know, I don't think that starting a commune is going to be as easy as they said in the brochures."

"Did they say it was going to be easy?" Dan asked.

"Well, not exactly.  But I didn't think it was going to be this hard. I wonder if we need to do more concentrating in the meetings."  Luna  sighed and kicked a rock out of the soil.  She looked beyond the two fields they had cleared.  "Maybe we should plant some berries and trees over there.  I've heard you're s'posed to do that if you're doing Protoculture."

"What about the commune building?"

Luna kept looking at the fields.  "It will happen.  It will. Somehow. I know it."

Back in the main building, Sal and Stan were cleaning the bathroom.  Together. Sort of.

"You missed a spot," said Sal.

"Oops!" said Stan.

Sal looked at the ceiling and counted to ten in her mind.  "Why did I think you'd be a good person to live in a commune with?" she mused.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Chapter Three: The Group Gathers

   "Now Luna Lagoon, was back in the commune..."

Luna was showing Ralph (aka ex-best man friend) and Ed (aka pretty city boyfriend) around the place she had invested their cash in.  They had brought a friend from Boston with them named Cat.

"All it's gonna take is some folks to work the land," Luna said.  She waved her arms over a patch of weeds.

"I'll help you," said Cat.  "I'm getting tired of life by the airport anyway.  I can't even think when the planes take off."

Luna was delighted.  She didn't have time to reply because there was a rundown old Rabbit pulling up the dirt drive.  Out popped four folks.  She recognized Dan but he had companions.

She was surprised to see Ed make for the car even faster than she did.  "Stan, you old dog," he said.

"Ed!  Ed!  What are you doing here???"

"I put money into this land.  Luna here is trying to build a commune."

"I know!" said Stan.  "I'm here to join!"

"Oh, no," said Ed.

"You two know each other?" asked Luna.

"We dated for a while," said Ed.  "Then Stan found some fairy folk who were going south to join a farm in Wilmington.  That was before I met Ralph."

Luna turned to Stan.  "Oh, wow.  So you're my ex-lover's current lover's ex-lover.  So pleased to meet ya."

"Likewise!  Absolutely!" said Stan.

"This is Sal and Nancy," Dan said.  "They're from Old Corn.  They want to see what it's like to farm in the north country.  Sal, Nancy, Stan, this is Luna, the brains behind all this."

Luna waved Cat over.  "This is Cat, who just decided to join us.  Hey, now there's six of us."

"What about them?" Sal asked, pointing at Ralph and Ed.

"I think we could be in the frequent visitors category," Ralph said.

   "Now she and the man, who called himself Dan, were in the next room at the farmhouse..."

The next morning, after everyone wished Ralph and Ed goodbye, Luna dragged Dan into the den for a private conversation.

"Okay, now that we got people," she said, "I think we'd better get farming.  Got any ideas how to get all these folks organized?"

"At Old Corn they had all these community meetings to figure out what they were doing."

"Sounds good to me.  You want to run it?"

"Sure.  We can do it the way they do.  They make all their decisions by concentrating."

"What does that mean?" Luna asked.

"Well it seems like if they concentrate people hard enough, everybody ends up agreeing."

Fifteen minutes later, the two of them plus Sal, Nancy, Stan, and Cat, were standing together looking at the land.

"I'm calling on Luna," Dan said.  Fortunately no one else really wanted to talk at that point.

"We got to get farming.  Anybody know anything about growing food?"   Luna actually knew lots about growing food but didn't want to be the only one doing anything.

"Sure," said Sal.  "At Old Corn there was lots of farming to do."

"We did farming in Wilmington!" said Stan.  "And I helped!  Sometimes!"

"Well, we're gonna need to start with getting rid of some of these weeds."

"We picked weeds at Old Corn," said Sal.

"And packed them," added Nancy.

"I know every weed that grows in East Boston," said Cat.

"Well, I'm sure that some of them are growing up here," said Luna.  "Let's see if we can get a few of these weeds out of here so we can plant some stuff."

By noontime, the two largest fields on the land were bare.  Sal and Nancy had organized the picked weeds into twelve categories and were busy packing them up.  Cat had several piles of Boston-like weeds.  Stan was leaning on a shovel, supervising.  And Luna was going over the next stage with Dan, talking with him about what they would plant.

At some point it dawned on everyone that no one had made lunch.  For some reason they all turned and looked at Stan.

"I'll make something!" he said.  "Right away!"

By one o'clock it became evident that the food stash that Luna had gotten from the general store earlier that week was getting low.

"Okay," said Luna.  "At these Equal Opportunity Communes everyone shares their income."

"That's right," said Nancy.  "We been sharing our income with everyone at Old Corn for the last six months.  That's why we don't have any."

"I'd share with you!" said Stan.  "If I had any money!"

"I've got two dollars," said Cat and handed them to Luna.

Luna sighed and looked at Dan.  He reached into his wallet and pulled out a twenty.

"That's the last of my cash," he said.

"We're gonna need to figure out a way to make some money," Luna said.  "It's going to be a little time before the stuff we're gonna plant this afternoon will be big enough to pick."

They all sat and thought for a few minutes.

"I can bake," said Nancy. "Bread and muffins and biscuits and cookies.  And lots of different kinds of pies."

"Me, too," said Cat.  "I bake really good organic vegan gluten free cupcakes and I can make a really mean stevia frosting for them."

"I was thinking of putting a farm stand up by the road anyway," said Luna.  "Maybe we could use it to sell baked goods while we wait for our crops to grow."

"I could build a roadside stand," said Sal.

"I can help," said Dan.  "I don't have a lot of experience farming, but I can swing a hammer."

Nancy and Cat drove into town to buy supplies, while Dan and Sal helped Luna begin planting.  Stan cleaned up.

When Nancy and Cat came back they began baking, and baking, and baking.  Luna continued sowing seeds while Sal and Dan started building.  Stan was everywhere, holding seeds for Luna, nails for Sal and Dan, and pie plates, loaf pans, and muffin and cupcake tins for Nancy and Cat.  He also managed to squeeze in a nap.

  "Luna had come, covered with crumbs, to taste all the breads on arrival..."

Of course there were taste tests.  Of course everyone ate up the first batch of goods that Nancy and Cat made.

"That was excellent bread," said Luna.

"And amazing cupcakes," added Dan.

"Thank you," Nancy said.

"Thank you," Cat said.

By the next morning, the stand was up and filled with goodies.  Sal had made up a sign that said, "Chthonic Baked Goods and Yggdrasil Cupcakes".

The road by the farm was not a busy route, but there was very little to do around the town and the word spread fast.

Within days, there was a line of cars waiting to pick up pastries, mostly from the surrounding towns, but some coming from as far away as New York and New Hampshire.

Suddenly, there was money coming in and crops coming up.  There were also interesting things they were learning about living together.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Chapter Two: Dan Finds Folks

       "But Daniel was hot.  He thought quite a lot..."

Dan left after breakfast the next morning.  His parting words were,  "I'll be back.  With reinforcements."

Within hours he had left Luna and the mountains of green far behind and was riding into megalopolis, Manhattan, and Newark, and Trenton, and Philly, and Wilmington, and Baltimore, and finally into the District of Columbia.  When he had left Washington behind, the land turned green once more.  His final ride took him into Clarissa County, home of the Three Sycamores commune.

Three Sycamores had almost two hundred people living in a small village.  They had lots of communal houses and a big dining hall named after a famous Russian Jewish farmer.  They grew their own food, had plenty of cows and chickens and goats and elk, and made their money from a bunch of little businesses, including their signature Three Sycamores lawn furniture and their home grown organic pickle relish.  They had a rock band, and a funk band, and a Klezmer band, and two or three jazz bands.  They even had an a capella shape note blues singing choral choir which was famous throughout the county.  What they didn't have was anyone who was interested in moving north to start a commune.

Fortunately, a mere seven point three four miles down New Valley Road in nearby Vitamin Rock, was the new commune called Old Corn.  And when Dan went there he got lucky.

     "...she called herself Sal, and everyone knew her and Nancy."

It was at Old Corn that Dan ran into a sassy sapphic couple who were tired of the hot southern summers.

"So, what's the point of this commune, anyway?" asked Sal.

"We're going to do organic farming," Dan explained patiently, trying to remember what Luna had told him that night. "We'll be doing lots of cutting edge stuff, like Protoculture, and Eco-expensive Agriculture, and Five Season Harvesting."

Nancy yawned.  "We do lots of gardening here.  What's so different about your commune?"

"Well, how much snow do you get here?"

"We got almost a foot last year," said Sal.

"Luna told me they get around six feet a year up there.  And that's normal."

"Wow," both women said.

"Plus, you'd have the fun of starting something from scratch up there instead of just sitting around here packing weeds."

"Well, we get to pick weeds, too," Nancy said, but she didn't sound enthusiastic.

In the end, Sal and Nancy decided they needed a break from packing and picking weeds and thought it might be fun to see this new commune.

It turned out that Nancy had a car and she and Sal and Dan headed north together.  Sal said she had a friend who lived at the Wilmington Free Farm that she thought might want to join them. That became their first stop.

     "So one day they drove into town.  Booked themselves a room in the local commune..."

The first thing that they noticed as they got out of Nancy's 1984 Rabbit was the lush land surrounding the Free Farm.  Vegetables, herbs, berries, flowers, grasses, and weeds grew together in wild disarray.  It was like the land inside Old Corn or Three Sycamores having been let free (or burst free), except in this case the trees and forests of Clarissa County which surrounded the communes had been replaced by crumbling city buildings in glorious states of urban disrepair.

Nancy started running around looking at everything.  "It's like one of those, you know, things in the desert that have palm trees."

"An onassis?" Sal asked.

"Yeah, something like that.  An onassis in the city."

A young man flew out of the house at the back of the land.  "Sal!  Nancy!  Strange guy!  Welcome!"

"Hey, Stan," Sal said.  "It's been a while."

"Stan," Nancy said, "this is Dan."

"Hey, Dan!  Pleased to meet ya!" said Stan.

"Is he usually this enthusiastic?" Dan asked.

"Oh," said Sal, "you should see him when he's really excited."

"Ya'll need a place to stay???"

"Just for the night," said Nancy.  "We're headed up north to see Dan's friend Luna's new commune.  Want to join us?"

"Wow!  Would I???  We just had a commune meeting last night!  This might be a great time for me to go traveling!"

"I won't ask," said Sal.

Inside the house, everything was organized with complete abandon.  Battered tables were covered with books and dishes and art projects and they had their choice of decrepit sofas to sit on--as long as they moved the stuff on them.

"Where's everybody else?" Dan asked.

"Off in search of food!  There are dumpsters in Wilmington that are overflowing!  Someone needs to liberate the contents!"

Sure enough, a half hour later a bedraggled cluster of young folk streamed into the house carrying massive amounts of produce and canned goods.  A table was cleared off and food was sorted out amidst sporadic introductions of the various newcomers.  A couple of the men started dinner preparations, while communards handed them stuff that needed to be used quickly.

"Living off the land!" Stan said as someone passed him a steaming plate of food.

"Yes, and how long are you going to be living off this place?" a woman asked him.

"Ah!" said Stan.  "We were just talking about that!"

Dan, Sal, and Nancy all ended up together in the guest room which fortunately had a double and a single bed.

The next morning most of the commune came out to wish Stan a fond farewell.  "And if we ever see your sorry..." someone yelled, but the rest was lost in the noise of the traffic.

"I could be coming for an extended stay!" said Stan.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Chapter One: Luna Buys the Farm

Let's begin with a little tune.

     "Now somewhere on a small farm south of the Northeast Kingdom there lived a young woman named Luna Lagoon..."

When Luna was five she figured out how to use an old pair of circus stilts that some visitors had left behind to reach the pedals of the tractor and she began helping out on the farm.  Since she was an only child and her parents didn't have the time or money to hire farmworkers, this made her father very happy.

By the time Luna was ten, she was managing produce for the farm. She had set up a farm stand by the road and was doing a brisk business with the passerbys.  Occasionally, someone would ask her parents if she wasn't a bit young to be working for them.  They didn't have a good answer for this.  Neither one of them wanted to admit that they were practically working for her.

And then, when Luna was sixteen...

     "...one day her man-friend ran off with another guy.  Hit young Luna in the thigh.  Luna didn't like that.  She said..."

"I'm swearing off men.  I'm going to start a commune."

"Are you sure, dear?" her mother said.

"How do you even know what a commune is?" asked her father.

"One of your visitors left this behind." Luna held up a pamphlet entitled 'The Confederacy of Equal Opportunity Communes'.  "See, down south there are places like Three Sycamores, which is huge and has been around since the sixties, and Dirthill Farm and Southern Breeze and a new commune called Old Corn.  Doesn't seem hard to do.  I think we need a commune up here."

"You've got to do what you think is best," said her mother.

"You're crazy," said her father.

Luna went out and began plowing the fields with a vengeance.

Two years later the recession hit.  Farmers were trying to get rid of their land, but no one was buying.

Luna discovered that there was a farm for sale not far from where she lived that was going for a song.  Well actually, the housing market hadn't hit bottom yet, so it might have been a song and a half.  It seemed affordable anyway.

Luna had been saving money, and her ex-best male friend and his pretty city boyfriend felt maybe a smidgen guilty about leaving her in the lurch so they agreed to help her out. (City boy also had a nice inheritance to live on and felt more than a little guilty about that.) Plus the bank was eager to unload what they saw as a worthless property.  Soon Luna was standing on the edge of her own farm.

It was just forty acres of mud and clay in a valley between the river and the Green Mountains, but Luna thought it was a bit of Eden.  It was a couple of miles from the nearest town, and that town consisted of a general store and a gas station, but Luna thought it had charm.  The farm itself had three large rickety buildings that Luna figured could house maybe a dozen people.  And nothing had been grown on the farm except weeds for the better part of a decade, but that didn't discourage Luna.

She figured all she had to do was find some folks and they could have a communal farm.  So where, oh where, were all the hippies when you needed them? Luna wondered.

   "Now the preacher came in, thinking of sin, and proceeded to cry at the table..."

Dan's draft-dodger dad had hitchhiked his way to Canada.  He settled in and started a growing family just south of Montreal.  He later got religion (of the non-denominational, humanistic sort) and formed the Church of Living Energy.  His Sunday sermons were a bit more entertaining than the weekend television programming, so the church was pretty full most weeks.  But his youngest son wondered about life beyond the provinces.

When he got older, Dan decided to hitch down to the states.  It took him a couple of days, but he made it across the border and on three rides he got as far south as a small town with little more than a gas station and a general store. He stopped in at the store for supplies and noticed a flyer on the bulletin board that said "Commune Starting.  Serious inquiries only."  It gave an address a couple of miles down the road.

Dan got a ride out of town after only three cars passed him by and he asked the driver to let him off by the green 'Commune!' sign.

There was a dirt path past the sign leading to three large, dilapidated old houses.  Flecks of paint still clung hopefully in places to the weathered wood.  Daniel wondered briefly if anyone actually lived there when a young woman in faded flannel and old jeans walked onto the middle porch.

"Ya here for the commune?" she said.

"Yep.  Where is everybody?"

"Right here.  There's you and me and that's twice as many folks as there were before you arrived.  You know how to work a farm?"

"Nope. But I'm willin' to work and I'm willin' to learn."

"Well, I guess you'll do.  Now we just gotta find some more folks."