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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Chapter Twenty-Two: Waiting for the New Year

    "...we'll be busy, we'll be busy, as soon as we are able."

The folks at the commune were quite relieved when, two days after Christmas, the sign across the street, the one about the 'War on Christmas', disappeared.

"I wonder what's going to replace it?" Sal asked.

"I don't know, but I don't trust them," Luna said.  "I fear that they're plotting something."

"How can you say that?"  Cat grinned.  "Yeah, that's what I'm worried about, too."

"It's just too quiet right now," Nancy said.

It was very quiet at the commune.  With the holidays over, bakery sales went way down.  The stuff in the EcoGreenhouse wasn't quite ready to pick.  The Christmas guests were all gone and Ken, Marge, Viv, and Dan were still away.  It was just Luna and Cat and Sal and Nancy at the house and there wasn't a lot for any of them to do.

"Do you know when the cookbook is going to come out?" asked Nancy.

"Some time in the new year is all that I've heard," said Luna.

"Well, I'm going to make a pie anyway," said Nancy.  "I don't care if we sell it or not, I just need something to do."

Cat went into the kitchen to help her.  Sal and Luna decided to inspect the EcoGreenhouse, to see how the crops were doing and just to make sure that everything was running okay.  They looked and they looked, but there wasn't any problems to find.

The four of them did dinner that night by candlelight, just for a change of pace.  Everyone oohed and ahhed over Nancy's Zucchini-Rhubarb Pie and Cat's Winter Wonderland Cupcakes.

"Who will be staying up to see the new year in?" asked Luna.

"I will," said Nancy.

"I will," said Cat.

"I hope you all won't mind, but I'm planning to go to bed early," said Sal.  "I always go to bed early on New Year."

"That's right," said Nancy.  "She does."

"Well," said Luna, "we'll have to find some way to make the evening special, even if it's just the three of us."

"Well," said Cat, "there's always special cupcakes."

"And I have a special New Year's Pie," said Nancy.

"I hope there's leftovers on New Year's morning," said Sal.

     "Doo doo doo doo doo doo, come on, commune folks,
     "Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo,
     "The story of Luna Lagoon..."

By eleven-thirty on New Year's eve, Luna, Cat, and Nancy were all getting just a little bit tired.  Sal, after numerous well wishes, retired at around ten (which was actually later than she was usually up and later than she had planned for the evening).

The three remaining communards were telling each other stories from their childhoods, mostly, but not exclusively about New Years.

"My parents always said I could stay up for New Years Eve," said Cat, "and I always tried, but then I always fell asleep before it came."

"How old were you before you saw the New Year in?" asked Luna.

"I think it was my third year of high school.  I was such a wimp."

"My parents never let me stay up," said Nancy.  "One year I defied them and hid behind the couch.  I think I was ten.  I heard them popping corks and yelling 'Happy New Year' at midnight, so I jumped up and yelled 'Surprise!'."  She giggled.  "I was grounded for a week."

"No one in my family stayed up to see the new year," said Luna.  "We were a farm family and up early every morning, so we went to bed early every night."  She blushed.  "Actually, this is my first time doing this."

"Well, great," Nancy said.  "All the more reason to celebrate."

"That pie looks awesome," Cat said.

"As do those cupcakes," said Nancy.

"Now I'm getting hungry," Luna said.

"Well, you'll just have to wait," said Nancy.  "If Sal couldn't have early pie, neither can you."

It was now ten minutes to midnight.  They each had a glass of a special cider that they had gotten from Peter, which had been sitting there, waiting for them to do a toast.

"I wonder what the new year will bring," Nancy mused.

"I hope it will bring lots of good crops," said Luna.  "And I hope it will bring Dan back.  Soon."

"Maybe it will bring some new people to us," Cat said.

"Let's see," said Nancy.

"I wonder what the commune will look like in a few years," Luna said.

"I hope we're all still part of it," Cat said.  "I'm enjoying this."

"I hope we have new neighbors across the road by then," Nancy said.

"Yes!" Cat and Luna yelled together.

Midnight was now fast approaching.  Nancy held up her watch so they could see the seconds ticking off.  Finally they started counting down together:









Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Chapter Twenty-One: A Communal Christmas

  "The town so it seems, was covered in greens..."

Seven days later and it was the last night of Hanukkah.  There were nine candles burning in the window at the commune.

There was also a tree in a corner of the dining room and boughs and branches and holly and ivy everywhere. There was even a sprig of mistletoe above a side doorway.  Not that anyone in the commune needed encouragement to kiss, but it was traditional.

Sal grumbled about all the greenery but had not really complained since her discussion with Marge and Luna.

All around the town, neighbors had put up lights and occasional garish displays.  There was a nativity scene on the town green.

And the Reagons across the street thought it would be festive to erect a billboard denouncing "The War on Christmas".

"So that's why they brought the rifle," said Viv.  "When the battle against Christmas comes down the street, they'll be prepared."

"More likely, they're getting ready to shoot anyone who says 'Season's Greetings!'," said Marge.

"Let's not worry about them and just enjoy the holiday," Luna said.  "Who is going to be staying here for Christmas?"

"I think I have to go home with my family," said Ken.

"This is my family," said Cat.

"Me, too," said Viv.

"Oh, yeah," Sal and Nancy said almost together.

Marge sighed.  "I have a sister near Worcester that I need to be with.  I don't want her alone for the holiday."

"She could come here," Luna said.

"I wish," Marge replied.  "We lost our parents last year and she won't go anywhere.  She gets depressed at the holidays.  As I said, I don't want her alone."

"Oh, wow," Viv said.  "I know what that's like.  Can I go with you?"

Marge went over to Viv.  "Are you sure you want to?"

"Would you like it?"

"I'd like it, if you really want to come."

Viv gave Marge a hug.  "I really want to come."  She turned to everyone else.  "Sorry folks, but this is calling to me."

"That's fine," Luna said.  "I just want everyone to enjoy themselves."

"And we'll send lots of pastries with you," said Nancy.

"And my special Yule cupcakes," added Cat.

  "And so the commune, in their dining room, had a merry Yuletide intertribal..."

Christmas morning came clear and very cold.

It had snowed a couple of days before and, with the frigid temperatures, it didn't look like the eighteen inches of snow on the ground was going away any time soon.  The sky was blue, the snow glistened, and at the commune, four folks were in the kitchen, preparing a yuletide feast.

Sal and Luna were cutting up veggies and Cat and Nancy were baking away.  But Nancy stopped what she was doing when the doorbell rang.

It was Ralph and Ed, carrying several sacks that seemed to be filled with bottles of all kinds.

"Eggnog and cider, hard and soft," Ed said.

"Glad you're here," Luna called from the kitchen.  "Peter said he'll be over soon, too."

Not two minutes later the doorbell rang again.

"That should be him," Luna said.

Nancy opened the door and almost dropped the wooden spoon she was carrying.

"Surprise!" Amanda and Steve said in unison. "Merry Christmas!"

"Oh my..." said Nancy.  When she got her breath she added, "You should have told us you were coming."

"And miss the shocked look on your face?" asked Steve.

Cat and Luna and Sal all came bustling in from the kitchen, joining Ed and Ralph who had just finished putting their coats away.

"And guess what two people have gone smoke free?" asked Amanda.

"Two months now," added Steve.

"Congratulations," said Cat.

"Wow, yeah," said Sal. "Congratulations."

"I'm stunned," said Nancy.

A minute later the doorbell rang again.

"Now that should be Peter," said Luna.  She opened the door.

"Merry Christmas," said her mother.

"Mom, what are you doing here?  Where's Dad?"

"He was being an old grouch so I decided I'd join the commune for Christmas.  Besides, he was so busy watching the game when I left, he may not even know that I'm gone. What can I do to help?"

Sal and Nancy herded the crowd into the kitchen.

Luna's mother helped her and Sal steam up veggies.  Ralph, Ed, Amanda, and Steve started fixing up the dining room and setting the table.

When the doorbell rang again, Luna said, "That better be Peter."

Fortunately, it was.

Dinner was a joyous and somewhat raucous feast. Lots of jokes, lots of laughter, lots of affection.

At one point Sal started nibbling on Nancy's ear.

"Stop it," Nancy said, but she was giggling. "Later."

"Hey, you two, the mistletoe is over there," Cat said.

People started pushing away their plates and giving sighs of satisfaction.  Nancy and Cat stood up to get the desserts.

"Wait a minute," said Luna.  "I just want to say something."

She sat back.  "This is amazing."

There was a pause where she did nothing but smile.

"I feel blessed."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chapter Twenty: Hanukkah Happens

     "And one day Daniel ran off, to re-apply, hit the commune with a sigh..."

The next day Dan went back home.

"I don't know how long I'll be gone," he said as he was leaving.  "Hopefully it'll only take a few weeks, but when I get back, I'll be here legally and that's really important right now."

The timing wasn't too bad, given that most of the new winter structures were up.  Luna and Viv were working with the plants in the coldframes, hoophouses, and EcoGreenHouse, but the harvests were small and Sal was able to mostly handle the farm stand, with occasional help from Marge.  

On the other hand, Cat and Nancy were pretty busy with holiday sales on pies and breads and cakes.  Cat had created three new types of winter themed cupcakes including a latke flavored cupcake with an applesauce topping crowned with a dreidel.  It turned out that Cat had been raised in a Jewish household, as had Sal.

"Oh, dear," said Nancy to Cat.  "Sal has even stronger feelings about Christmas and Hanukkah than she did about Thanksgiving."

Luna was finding this out.  She had just started hanging evergreens around the house, thinking that they'd look festive.  Marge and Ken had been helping her.

Then Sal came by.

"Has it occurred to you that not everyone was raised Christian?" Sal said.

"Sure," replied Luna.  "I was figuring we'd have a Hanukkah celebration as well as a Christmas celebration.  And maybe we'd celebrate Solstice as well."

"Just like someone raised Christian.  You seem to think that Hanukkah and Christmas are equivalent holidays."

"Well, I don't," said Marge.  "I was raised in a mixed household.  My father was Catholic and my mom was Jewish.  We celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas every year but our big holiday was Pesach."

"Pesach?" asked Ken.

"Passover," said Marge.  "And I'm going to make sure that we celebrate it big here.  And if you're so Jewish identified, how come I've never seen you celebrate Shabbat?"

"Um," said Sal, "Uh, so why you don't celebrate Shabbat?"

"I'm pagan identified these days.  That's why I'm putting up evergreens.  What makes you think that they have anything to do with the birth of Christ?"

Sal was speechless.

"Look," Marge went on.  "I think we should celebrate Shabbat here, and Pesach and the Solstices and Beltane and Samhain and Christmas and Hanukkah.  Why not celebrate it all?"

"I'm for that," Luna said.

"Me, too," said Ken. "Even if I don't know what half of those celebrations were."

Sal sighed.  "Okay," she said.  "I guess we can celebrate it all."

   "And so the commune, and Luna Lagoon, lit the menorah and played with the dreidel..."

The first night of Hanukkah, Nancy and Marge created a spread that included a vegetable stir-fry and lots of latkes and applesauce and sour cream.  Marge also made blintzes.  And, besides latke cupcakes, Cat made rugelach and special jam filled doughnuts.

Ed and Ralph came a little early and brought apple fritters.  Peter arrived shortly before dinner.

"Contrary to the rumors around here, I'm not Jewish," Peter said.  "I'm actually a Lutheran from the Midwest but, hey, I'm up for any celebration, particularly if it involves good food.  And this food looks truly amazing."

"Well, you can't eat yet," Marge said.  She started motioning for people to come around the table holding the menorah.  When everyone was gathered, she lit the tallest candle on the menorah.  "This is the shamash, the servant candle."

Then Ken (who was the youngest one there) used the shamash to light one more candle.  People stood admiring the light for a while and then Sal took the menorah and moved it to a table by the front window.  "I'd like to see Hillary Reagon complain about that," she said.

Then people slowly moved over to the table.  Everyone held hands for a minute before people began devouring the food.

"So good," Viv said.

"I miss Dan," Nancy said. "I wish he could be here."  She turned to Luna.  "Have you heard anything from him?"

"Just that he got home okay," Luna said.  "I have no idea how long it's going to take for him to get a green card."

When people had finished, everyone helped clean up and get the dishes washed and dried.  Then Sal and Marge brought out dreidels and gelt (chocolate coins).  Together they gave lessons in dreidel spinning and gambling to everyone still hanging out.  Then they divided the gelt among those that wanted to play and the spinning began.

For a while it looked like Ralph was going to be the big winner of the night, but then Cat, who had seemed to be holding back, began raking up the geld taking most of Ralph's stash away from him.  

In fact, Cat at one point had almost of the geld, but then held up the stash of chocolate coins, waving them in front of everyone.  "This game is just not fun when you have all the coins."  With a toss of the wrist, geld went everywhere and the participants scrambled to pick it up.  Then the games started all over again.

Finally, people began cleaning up and heading for bed.

"It's so nice to have a night when we just get to have fun," Nancy said.  "Happy hanukkah everyone!"

"Happy hanukkah," Sal said, and she looked tired and happy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chapter Nineteen: It Turns Out that Dan Needs Something

   "Peter had come, with the legal system, to shoot down the schemes of their rival..." 

The folks at the commune really liked Peter at this point.  They even let him finish dinner before they started bombarding him with questions.

"Wait a minute, wait a minute," he said.  "I can only answer one thing at a time."

He took a breath.  "First of all, this town does have a zoning and planning board and you are supposed to get permission from them before you build anything.  But I think I can talk with the chair of the board.  Betty is an old friend of mine.  I'm quite sure that she'll be reasonable and give you a retroactive permit for the building."

He held up his hand before anyone could say anything else.  "More important, I intend to go over this place with a fine tooth comb and make sure that there's nothing else they can cite you for.  I'm going to interview each of you and check everything.  And I have some pretty high powered lawyer friends who'll help me with this.  I think that we're in for a fight and I want to make sure we win.  You don't need to worry about this at all.  I'm willing to put a lot of time into it."

"Oh no," Marge said. "We're going to owe you something like the entire crop of vegetables that we grow next year for doing all that work.  Or maybe even more than that." 

"No, you won't.  From now on it will be all pro bono."  Peter grinned.  "That's lawyer talk for free."

"Wow," said Cat.  "You like us that much?"

"Well, yeah, but that's not why I'm doing this and it's certainly not why my legal friends will volunteer their time.  You haven't heard the latest about Hillary Reagon."

"I know that she's behind all these harassments," Dan said.

"Sure, but I don't think you know why."

"Does it have something to do with trying to create a maple syrup industry?" asked Sal.

"Bingo," said Peter.

"But I can't understand how she thinks she can create an industry out of tapping trees," Luna said.  "People do it all over the state.  What advantage does she have?"

"A lot of us have been wondering that.  Then we found out she had teamed up with the bioengineering firm, Monsterinsano."

"I've heard of them," Sal said.  "They're evil."

"One of the things that Monsterinsano has come up with is a genetically modified maple tree. Apparently it comes to maturity in a year and then turns out maple sap twenty-four/seven all year long.  Ms Reagon intends to buy land to create a maple farm and use these trees to flood the market with her syrup.  And do you know what land she wants to buy to create her farm?"

Luna blanched.  "It wouldn't be right across the street from her, would it?"

"Bingo again."

    "But Daniel was caught, he just hadn't thought..."

There was a protest that was staged at the state capitol a couple of days later.  People were carrying signs saying things like, "Monsterinsano, get your hands out of our syrup!" and "Corporations are not trees!" and many, many that just said: "No GMMs!!!"  Several folks from the commune went, including Luna, Sal, Ken, Marge, and Dan.

Peter wasn't at the rally.  As he had said he would, he had gotten a retroactive permit for the EcoGreenHouse and made sure that the registration for Carrie was fine.

And, he had been staying over at the commune, going through their records, checking on their mortgage payments, inspecting everything he could find on the premises, and interviewing all the commune members. Also, as he promised, several other lawyers had come by the commune to check it out and confer with Peter.  Folks were very riled up about Hillary Reagon's plans.

At this point, Peter had talked with Nancy and Cat, and had even called Ralph and Ed and talked with them about their relationship with the house and their financial backing.  

He had also spent a lot of time talking with Viv, making sure she had the medical and legal documentation for her use of marijuana for depression.  So when Luna, Sal, Ken, Marge, and Dan returned from the demonstration, Peter set up times to sit down with and interview each of them.

There were no problems with Luna, Ken, and Marge.  It turned out that Sal had been arrested several times in protests down south and she had a court order to stay away from all military bases, at least for the foreseeable future.  Peter promised to make sure that her record wouldn't affect the commune in any way, or at least any way that would allow Hillary Reagon to get an advantage over the farm.

Finally, Peter met with Dan.  They got some privacy in a room in one of the back buildings.

"So you don't use any drugs?" Peter asked.

"None.  I don't even drink coffee."

"And no arrests?"

"No.  I've never been in trouble with the law."


"Nothing," Dan said.  "Well, maybe some parking tickets in Montreal, but I really doubt that counts for anything."

"Why were you visiting Montreal?"

"Oh, I used to do it all the time.  I grew up a few miles from there."

Peter looked at Dan.  "Are you a Canadian citizen?"

"Yeah.  Is there something wrong with that?"

"Do you have a green card?"

"What's a green card?" Dan asked.

"Uh-oh," Peter said.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Chapter Eighteen: The Crew Builds an EcoGreenHouse

     "So one day they walked around the land, built themselves an EcoGreenHouse on the local commune..."

With the days getting colder, the construction crew of Sal, Dan, Luna, and Viv were spending most of their time building hoop houses and cold frames and, on this particular day, they were working very hard to finish the EcoGreenHouse that Luna had designed with help from Sal and Dan.

It had taken them a couple of weeks just to get the design of the EcoGreenHouse right.  Now they were in the final stages of actually putting it up.  They were nearly done.  They had the frame up and the windows in and had just put in vegetation so they could see what it would look like when it was completed.  They had all stopped working to admire the affect.

"This is going to be just like one of those solar-powered shelters that they used to have down by the ocean at the New Chemistry Institute," Luna said.  "I've studied lots of picture to figure out how they did it.  It'll be yet another triumph for reverse engineering."

"It looks great," Sal said.

It was a sunny day and the plants and plastic and clear tubs of water gleamed.  It looked as if there were things growing everywhere. Plants were hanging in all the corners, lying in long sunlit beds, and sprouting on top of the water.  If it wasn't for the fact that the whole structure leaned slightly to the left, it would have been perfect.

"There must be some way of propping it up so it's a bit straighter," said Viv.

"I don't know," said Sal.  "Maybe we could just call it the leaning tower of greenery and we could leave it at that."

"Yeah, I agree.  I think we should call it a night," was Dan's contribution.

"It's only four o'clock," said Luna, "and I'm sure there must be something that we can do to make it stand straighter."

"It's four o'clock on a December afternoon," Dan said. "It's going to be dark real soon.  Let's deal with this tomorrow."

"Give me a few more minutes."

Dan, Sal, and Viv started packing up their stuff while Luna stared at the structure, trying to figure out a way to make it work out.

At five-thirty, Dan came out with a flashlight and found Luna still looking at the building.

"C'mon," he said, grabbing Luna's hand.  "We can make another try in the morning."  He practically dragged her into the main building for dinner.

After dinner she staggered to bed, still trying to figure out where they had gone wrong.  She kept Dan up half the night with her tossing and turning.

    "Hit young Luna in her mind.  Luna really liked that.  She said, 'We're gonna get it right.'..."

Luna said, "The foundation!"  It was a middle of the night revelation.  "We need to check how solid the foundation is.  If we don't have a solid foundation on both sides of the greenhouse, that could be why it's leaning over."

The crew was out there with Luna right after breakfast.

"I think you may be right," said Sal.  "You can see where it's pulling off the ground over here."  She pointed to a corner where the frame lifted slightly.

"Yeah," said Viv.  "And I can see where it's digging into the ground on this side.  We need to balance it some way or other."

Dan got down on the ground, eye to where the frame was lifting.  "It's not lifting much.  We just need to add something to anchor it down on this side."

In the end they used a bunch of large rocks that they had dug up for extra weight.  With the weight of the rocks holding it down, the EcoGreenHouse slowly settled upright.

"The tilt is gone!" Sal said.

"It looks good," said Viv.

"Okay," said Luna.  "Now let's finish the job."

They worked together for another two hours and then broke for lunch.  When they came back, the crew focused on the final details.

After about another hour, they were wrapping up.  Luna ran back and forth and back and forth looking at the building from every angle that she could think of.  She even went into the nearest house with a pair of binoculars so she could look at it from the top.

"I think it's okay," she said when she returned.  "I could have seen it better if that tree wasn't blocking my view."

"Hey," Viv said to Dan. "Would you give me a boost?  I'm pretty good at climbing trees.  I can see what it looks like from up there."  She pointed far up in the tree.

Viv climbed fairly high up on the tree and looked down at the EcoGreenHouse.  Then she climbed back down and jumped from the lowest branch.  Dan and Sal caught her.

"What do you think?" Luna asked after Viv caught her breath.

An oddly familiar male voice answered her. "I think you need to have a permit from the town to build something like this.  I'm going to put in a petition to have it torn down."

Cecil Nixon was standing a short distance away.  He waved at the building. "I gave you a chance to clean up your act with the pet permit.  Now I'm going to show you that I mean business."