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

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Chapter Thirteen: A Ghost Comes to the Door

    "The neighbors had come, equipped with a gun, to shoot trespassers on arrival..."

While the commune anxiously waited publication of their cookbook, talk slowly turned back to their new neighbors.  It was the last week in October and there had still been no signs of sign of life across the way.

"Maybe they're not going to actually live there," Ken speculated.

"Well, there was that moving van that delivered all that stuff," said Nancy.

"I wonder if they're just planning to use the house for storage," Viv said.  "Maybe they just needed a place to put some extra things."

"And they wanted to use a house all the way up here to store them?"  Luna seemed incredulous.  "There must be storage places closer to DC.  And what about that press release that Peter told us about, explaining why Ms Reagon is buying the property?  I think they're gonna move in there, sooner or later.  I just hope there's not gonna be trouble when they do."

The folks at the commune didn't have to wait long before there were new developments.  Two days later, a pearl gray SUV drove slowly down the road and pulled into the drive across the street. There was a small American flag waving from the antenna in the front of the SUV.  The windows were tinted, making the interior invisible.

Marge spotted the slow moving vehicle and called to the other folks who were outside.  Luna, Viv, Sal, Dan, Nancy, and Cat left fields and farm stands and gathered round.  Only Ken missed the arrival of their new neighbors.  He had been inside cleaning the left house and no one thought to get him in time to see the spectacle.

The rest of the gang watched as the gray car parked in front of the house and two folks got out.  One was a thin woman with short gray hair and a jet black dress.  The other was a stout young man in a dark suit.

"How appropriate," Sal said.  "They're arriving on Halloween."

"Spooky," said Marge.

The couple got suitcases out of the car and marched to their front door.  The young man fumbled with the keys for a minute and then let himself and his mother into the house.  The door slammed shut behind them.  Everything was quiet for a bit.  Slowly the commune members stopped holding their collective breath and started to relax.

"That's it," Luna said.  "I think the show's over."

But a moment later, the man came back out and reached into the back of their car. He pulled out what looked like it might be a semi-automatic sniper rifle.   It had a large telescopic sight on it.

"That's not a hunting gun," Nancy said.  "I grew up with hunting guns."

"No," said Marge.  "That's a military weapon.  I was briefly in ROTC.  We practiced with those."

"How friendly it all seems," said Dan.  "I can tell they're going to welcome visitors."

  "Now Luna Lagoon, was at the commune, only to spot spirits primal..."

That night, after dinner, Luna noticed something strange outside the window.

"Do you have any idea what that is?" she said to Marge and Sal.

It was really dark beyond the house; there were no streetlights in the area and no moon was out.  Usually very little could be seen around the commune at night other than the headlights and tail lights of passing cars.  But now they could see a ball of orange light, slowly moving down the road.

When it reached the area where the drive was, it began wandering toward the houses.

"I don't know," said Sal, "but it seems to be coming here."

By this time dinner clean up had come to a standstill.  Most of the community was now at the windows of the main house, which was the only house of the three that had lights on at that point, since everyone had been at dinner.

"We should really get a light or two on the property outside," Dan said, "so we could see if someone is out there at night."

"I think it's too late for tonight," said Luna.  "That light is almost to the house."

Suddenly, the light stopped.  It bobbed at what seemed like ten feet from the porch.  A minute later, however, there was the sound of feet on the porch, although the light stayed where it was.

The doorbell rang.  Luna opened the door.  There was a ghost standing there.

It was a very short ghost.  It looked to be about four to five feet tall.  It was carrying a bag.

"Trick or treat!" the little ghost shrieked.

"Oh, my," said Nancy.  "What can we grab?"

"I've got a few extra cupcakes," Cat said, and handed a couple to Luna who put them in the ghosts bag.

"What do you say?" came a woman's voice from the darkness in the general direction of the bobbing orange light.

"Thank you," said the ghost.

The orange light came closer and turned out to be a plastic pumpkin.  The woman holding it came to the door.

"I'm Linda Johnson.  I live three houses down the road.  And this is Chris."

The ghost giggled.

"I'm Luna Lagoon and this is Nancy, Dan, Cat, Sal, Ken, Marge, and Viv."

"I recognize you," Nancy said.  "You've bought breads and pastries from us."

"Not to mention tomatoes and Zucchini," said Sal.

"Yeah," said Linda.  "I know I should come by and visit all of you some time, but I'm a single mom and my life is kind of busy."

"I've got a tip for you," Dan said.  "I wouldn't advise trick or treating at the house across the way."

"I know," Linda said.  "They're definitely the scariest thing in the neighborhood this Halloween."

There were no more trick-or-treaters that night.  But the scariest trick was yet to come.

Two days later the sheriff's car came back up the drive.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chapter Twelve: The Commune Creates a Cookbook

   "Now somewhere near the Green Mountain forest, there was a young farm working on a book..."

Discussions about their new neighbor dominated conversation on the farm for the next few days.

One night at dinner Nancy finally protested.  "This is all speculation and, at this point, we've speculated and speculated and speculated.  We don't really know anything at all about them and all we're doing is talking about what we don't know. Until we know anything for real, I say we talk about something more interesting."

"Like what?" Marge asked.

"Like what we can do around here now that we're less busy."  Nancy helped herself to one of her pumpkin-mulberry muffins and then held it up for everyone to see.  "I've gotten lots of requests at the stand for the recipes for my muffins and breads and pies, and for Cat's amazing cupcakes.  I've been thinking for quite a while that we should make up a communal cookbook."

"That's a great idea," said Dan.  "People are always asking me and Sal about ways they can use some of the veggies that we sell."

"For real," Sal said.  "One guy asked me if you could use spaghetti squash to make spaghetti."

"Would you really give away any of the secrets to your cupcakes, Cat?" Viv asked.

"Maybe," Cat said.

"Well, I've been wondering how we could do more education about what we're doing on the farm," Luna said.  "I think that a cookbook is a great idea.  We could maybe put in a section on how you could grow your own vegetables, and make compost, and a bit about mulch, and maybe even a little write up explaining organic gardening and protoculture, and what Eco-expensive Agriculture, and Five Season Harvesting are."

"I'd like to write up something about krauting and sprouting," Viv added.

As people were talking, Nancy began writing down all the ideas.

"We could have pictures of the farm in the book," said Luna.

"And pictures of the produce," said Sal.

"And pictures of the cupcakes," said Cat.

"And we could talk about why we started the community in the first place," Dan said.  "And even include a little bit about what our life is like here."

Clean up after dinner ran late that night, and people were still talking about ideas for the book as they began drifting off to bed.

    "The topic was hot, and they wrote quite a lot..."

Things got busier for the next couple of weeks.  It was October and the season was winding down, but there were still tourists coming to see the last of the foliage--and then dropping by at the farm stands afterwards.  There were pumpkins ripening in the fields, and preparations beginning for the last of the harvests.

At one point a huge truck from a moving company came down the road and went up the drive across the way, but otherwise the commune heard nothing from their new neighbors.  It wasn't even clear that there was anyone living there yet.

And every spare moment seemed to be devoted to writing down recipes, and cooking and baking and testing out new stuff.  Dinners had become exotic.  Instead of simple vegetables and rice or quinoa, there were things like seiten-stuffed squash, bak choi fritters, spicy sweet potato salad, rumbling ratatouille, and zesty zucchini parmesan.

"What do you think?" Viv asked as folks were sampling her savory seaweed sauerkraut with lots of lentil sprouts.

"I think it needs more caraway in it," said Sal.

"Yeah," said Dan.  "I don't think it's savory enough."

Viv ran to the desk in the kitchen to write down the feedback.  Next to her, Marge was jotting down some ideas for a kale and collards strudel.

At the table Nancy was trying to persuade Cat to include at least one cupcake recipe.  "How about for your Hazelnut Surprise cupcakes?  They're very popular at the stand."

Cat hesitated. "Maybe..."

"And you've got to include something on how to make your stevia frosting."

"But that's a family secret, passed down from my great-great grandmother.  I can't share that."

Nancy took a deep breath.  "Maybe you can come up with a variation that you'd feel okay about putting in the book."

Cat looked at her.  "Maybe..."

That night Dan started taking all the hand written sheets people had given him and began typing them up.  He put aside all recipes that he couldn't read and typed up the ones he could.

Marge took his place at the produce stand the next day and by the end of the day, Dan had seventy-three pages typed.  It was every recipe that he could read.  Then he went after the folks that handed him unreadable recipes.

Nancy had beautiful handwriting, almost calligraphy.  Unfortunately Dan couldn't make heads or tails of any of it.  And Nancy had written pages and pages of baking directions.

"Would you mind reading these to me?"  Dan asked her.  "Slowly."

It took several hours, but when he was done with Nancy's recipes, he went after Ken who had submitted three items for the book.  Ken's handwriting reminded Dan of samples he had seen of cuneiform script, but Ken was willing to read his stuff slowly to Dan.  Then Dan went after Marge and did the same thing.

Dan also wrote up a small section about life in the community.  Nancy collected pictures from everyone.  Luna gave Dan sixteen pages on protoculture and organic agriculture.  Dan cut it down to twelve fact filled pages.

When they were done, they had almost two hundred pages of stuff, including the title page, table of contents, index, and twelve pages of pictures.

"This is great," Nancy said, looking at the final collection with Dan.  "Now all we need to do is get it published."

Ken was walking by when she said this.  "No problem," he said.  "My uncle is a publisher."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Chapter Eleven: The Commune Gets a New Neighbor

     "And now Luna Lagoon, looked beyond the commune, only to find neighbor trouble..."

Harry was a crested gecko that lived in an old aquarium Ken kept in his room, right in the spot that the pot plant had occupied.  As lizards went, he was a fairly harmless creature.  He stayed in his aquarium and didn't cause problems.  Ken fed him bugs that he collected from around the farmhouses.

This was now the quiet season.  The folks at the farm were starting to enjoy the lull in the business.  They began to figure out how to do stuff that they had only talked and thought about during the busy season.  One of the things Luna decided to do was invite Peter, their frequent customer and helpful neighbor, to dinner.  They had passed him some free produce now and then but had been too busy to actually have a leisurely meal with him.

Everyone was excited that he was coming, since he was the only neighbor they knew.  The neighbor on the other side of the farm was very quiet and pretty much kept to herself, and the property across the street seemed deserted.

Peter turned out to be a lawyer who traveled to Montpelier for his practice every day.  "Oh boy, it's good to have you folks here," he said as someone passed him the tempeh.  "You bring some life to this area.  Agatha, on the other side of you, is a recluse.  Tim down the road is another farmer but he sells his stuff to some corporation and only speaks in one word sentences.  I originally moved here because of the quiet.  Now I've started thinking that it's been much too quiet around here for me."

"Do you know who owns the place across the road from us?" Dan asked him.

"It's funny you should mention that.  The place has been for sale for a couple of years now.  I only found out yesterday that somebody's buying it.  Rumors are that it's this rural Republican right-wing wingnut."

"Oh, great," Luna said.  "I'd better take down our commune sign.  I can't imagine he's going to be excited having us for a neighbor."

"I can't imagine that you're going to be excited about having her as a neighbor either," Peter said.  "You know, it might get a lot less quiet around here pretty soon."

"Do you know the name of this person?" Viv asked.

"Sure do."  Peter grinned.  "Her name's Hillary Reagon.  She's a life-long Republican and on the boards of the Project for the New American Universe, the Wealthy Heritage Foundation, and Americans for Corporate Prosperity.  She knows Dick and Donald personally and is friends with the Kitsch Brothers."

"Why on earth is she buying land up here?" Marge asked.

"It's kind of busy down there in DC, I hear.  She grew up and raised a family in Idaho.  Maybe she wants to get away from it all again."

Just then Nancy brought out a black raspberry walnut pie and everyone grew quiet.  For a few minutes the only sounds were from satisfied eaters nibbling and noshing.

Finally Luna sat back.  "You sure about this Hillary person?"

"That's what I hear, anyway."  Peter used his napkin to wipe black raspberry off his face.  "The story is that she hasn't bought the place yet, but she's already put down a downpayment.  That's according to the rumors, anyway.  And supposedly, the bank seems satisfied.  I also hear that she's bringing her son, Alec, with her and according to everyone I've spoken with, he makes her seem like a flaming liberal."

"Well, there goes the neighborhood," said Cat.

   "Their neighbor it seems, had dangerous schemes..."

Several days later, as they were getting a late start at the produce stand, one of the customers asked if they had any maple syrup.

"No, we don't," said Sal.  She brushed some tatsoi off of Dan.  "We don't carry it."

"All the other farmstands do," the customer said. "Why don't you?"

"Maybe it's because all the other farmstands do," Sal said.

"You can get some at the general store down the road," Dan added, "and also at the gas station across the street from it, and I've heard that even the dentist a half a mile beyond there sells some.  You know, it's really hard to find places around here that don't offer maple syrup.  We just didn't think it made sense to be one more place that carried the stuff.  Sorry."

Meanwhile, helpful neighbor Peter had stopped by the "Chthonic Baked Goods and Yggdrasil Cupcakes" stand to pick up some pastries before he headed out to work.

"Mmm," he said. "These whole wheat donuts look good.  I'll take a half dozen of the maple ones."

"We'll throw in a couple of extra for you, no charge," Nancy said.

"Thanks.  And speaking of maple, I have some news for you about your new neighbors."

"Is it official?" Cat asked.

"Oh, yes," said Peter.  "They passed papers yesterday.  And Ms Reagon put out a press release this morning explaining why she is buying the property."

"Do tell," said Nancy.

"It seems that she believes that this area is the most sin-filled and liberal-ridden region of the country.  She said she plans to clean this place up."

"What does any of that have to do with anything maple?" Cat asked.

"Ah, yes," said Peter.  "She also announced that her first step is going to be to consolidate the whole maple sugar industry.  I hear that her son is planning to do the legal work and financing."

"But there really isn't a maple sugar industry," said Cat.

"Yeah, well, that's true, but unfortunately, I think there's going be a big one when she gets through, and, believe me, Hillary Reagon fully intends that she and her son will be the ones who will own it, lock, stock, and fifty-five gallon barrel of syrup."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Chapter Ten: Ken Brings a Surprise

     "He said, 'Luna I've brought some grass'..."

Ken came back from his parents home a few days later, carrying in a ton of books, plants, dishes, and pots and pans for the commune.  His mom helped him bring in boxes and boxes of stuff and took time to sample some of Nancy's Apple Zucchini Bread while she was around.  She praised the commune (especially the food) and said how good living there was for Ken. Then she gave him a hug and waved goodbye to everyone else.

After she left, Ken began unpacking boxes, bringing stuff to his room, stuff to the kitchen, and stuff to the den. Various folks passing by would move a box or three as they went.

Luna was having lunch but decided to eat by Ken while he opened more boxes. She felt she hadn't had a chance to get to know Ken and thought this could be an opportunity.

"Where do you think we should put all these plants?" he asked Luna.  He pointed out spiderplants, and coleuses, and jade plants, and a Boston fern.

Luna wasn't paying attention to the plants Ken was pointing to.  Her attention had been grabbed by a little plant Ken had stuck near the corner of the room.

"Is that what I think it is?" she asked.

Ken nodded.  "Do you think it will be a problem?  I like growing things and my mother didn't mind it.  I was hoping it would be okay here."

"Well, if the sheriff comes back to see how you're doing or if we've gotten any more runaways, I don't think he'd be happy to see it.  And I don't want to find any of us, including you, in jail over that plant.  We can't afford to get into trouble at this point in our growth.  I want to see the commune last a year here at the very least.  Hopefully a lot more."

"I was going to keep it up in my room.  Look, nobody's gonna see it up there. I'll make sure to keep it out of sight.  I promise."

Luna sighed.  "I don't know, Ken, but it's not my decision.  I think we're gonna need to talk about this in the commune meeting."

    "Luna said, 'Ken, we'll need to pass, and we'd better, we'd better, get rid of it as soon as we're able.'"

Sal was the facilitator for the next commune meeting.  There were a lot of items on the agenda but the one that ended up getting the most time and attention was Ken's little pot plant.

"I don't mind a little smoke now and then," said Marge, "but I don't want there to be any excuse for the sheriff to shut this place down."

"I agree," said Nancy.  "The sheriff and deputies were very nice while they were here and they seem fine with us running a commune in their county, but I don't know how fine they'd be if they saw that growing here."

"Yeah," said Cat.  "I just don't want trouble."

Sal asked, "Is there anybody that thinks that it would be a good idea for there to be grass growing up in Ken's room?"

"I do," said Ken.

Viv said, "I don't see why he can't keep it if it's kept up in his room.  The sheriff isn't going to be going up to people's rooms, is he?"

"I hope not," Dan said.  "But if he got a complaint about this place and came with a search warrant, he could go through people's rooms."

"Well, let's make sure that no one complains about us," said Ken.
"It's not that easy," Dan said.  "He could be looking for anything, including runaways, but if he saw that it could cause lots of problems."

"Unfortunately, I agree," said Luna.  "We've put too much work into this farm to jeopardize it for one plant."

Viv looked at Ken.  Ken sat and looked thoughtful.  No one said anything for a few minutes.

"Alright," Ken said finally.  "I'll have my mom come by and pick it up.  Soon."

"I'm sorry," Luna said.  "Maybe we're worried over nothing, but I just don't want to take a chance."

"That's okay," Ken said.  "I'll trade it for my lizard.  I miss him.  His name's Harry."

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Chapter Nine: Followed by Another Departure

     "The arrival it seemed, of the man of his dreams..."

Toward the end of September things began to slow down a little.

There was still some stuff in the fields, but not as much.  Dan had gotten himself out from under the rutabagas, much to Sal's relief.  Of course, the produce slow down didn't stop the baking from happening, but the lines at the farm stands had gotten shorter and there were far fewer out of state plates coming by.

Ken went home for a while to visit his folks but said he'd be back.  And one night, Cat and Viv and Marge and Darren had a former housemates/present communemates meeting.

"How's it going?" Cat asked the gang, being the old timer in the group.

"Well, I've been here a while," Viv said.  "It kinda feels like home now."

"I'm still getting used to it," Marge said.  "I still wake up at night wondering why I can't hear any planes landing."

"I think I'm used to it," Darren said, "but, I don't know, I'm feeling kind of restless.  I guess you can take the boy out of the city.  I'm not sure if you can take the city out of the boy."

"Are you thinking of leaving us?"  Viv asked, looking at him.

"Not really," Darren said.  "I'm just not thinking of staying."

A couple of days later, a lavender VW microbus pulled up the drive.  An athletic looking young man came to the door and asked for Stan.

"Stan ain't here no more," said Marge.

"Why are you looking for him?" asked Darren.

"He had a notice up about wanting a ride to the fairy fest," the young man answered.  "I'm running kind of late to get there and I didn't check in before I came here, but I was passing this way anyway and figured it wouldn't hurt to drop by in case Stan got stuck for a ride."

"You're right," said Darren.  "It doesn't hurt.  You want to come in and get a bite to eat while you're here?  You've got a way to go yet and I thought you might be hungry."

"That's very nice," the newcomer said.  "My name is Chuck."

"I'm Darren," said Darren and led him into the kitchen.

     "And so one day Darren ran off with this other guy..."

A couple of hours later, as Chuck and Darren were lying in Darren's bed, Darren pointed out, "This is all very lovely, but I think you're going to be a bit late getting to the festival."

Chuck lay there, not speaking for a little while.  "That's okay.  I'm not in a hurry. As far as I'm concerned, the best part is the end of the festival, anyway, and so that's all I'm really going for.  It's not like I can afford to go to the whole thing."

He took Darren's hand and slowly looked into his eyes.  "I really like you," he said.  "What would you think of the idea of coming along to the fairy fest with me?"

Darren's eyes opened wide.  He didn't say anything, but just nodded.  He took a minute to get himself together, up and out of bed, but got himself dressed and packed in record time.  He then spent the next twenty minutes saying goodbye to everyone.

He found Luna inspecting the fields, Sal in the produce stand, Dan under the kale, and Nancy slicing her new Apple Zucchini Bread in the kitchen, and gave them all hugs.

Hardest of all for him was saying goodbye to Marge, Viv, and Cat.  He couldn't stop hugging them.  "I'll be back," he promised. "I just gotta see where this goes."

Finally Chuck dragged Darren into the microbus.  "Goodbye, everyone," Darren yelled out the window frantically waving his arms.

Work on the farm came to a standstill as everyone stopped what they were doing to see Darren off.  Dan still had kale leaves clinging to his shirt.  The gang all stood in a clump waving back at Darren.

Chuck kept trying to get the engine to turn over.  Meanwhile there was more waving.  Darren blew kisses from his seat. The little lavender bus took some time to actually get started but the engine eventually caught and it finally chugged off in a cloud of exhaust.

The rest of the commune looked at each other.  "Is everyone else good?" Luna asked.  "Is there anyone else who's thinking of leaving?"

There was a long period of silence, before people started speaking up.

Someone said, "No," and suddenly everyone was saying no or shaking their heads, or doing both.

"I think we're all good," said Dan.

Luna took a deep breath.  "Well, okay..." she said, and went back to her work in the fields.