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

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Chapter Twenty-Six: Cat Gets Religion

"Oh no!" Nancy cried.  "You just can't give up on the cupcakes."

Cat just looked at her.  "I can.  I don't want to bake cupcakes, I don't want to eat cupcakes, I don't want to sell cupcakes.  I don't want to even see cupcakes. They're full of sugar and you know they're bad for you."

"But they sell so well," Nancy said.

"Well, have Barbara make them.  I've made my last cupcake.  I'm going to see if I can help out with the produce.  At least that's real food."

"What's gotten into you?"

"I told you," Cat said.  "I started thinking about it.  Then I started reading about it.  All that sugar is terrible for you.  I've been hurting people with all those cupcakes."

"I should never have let you go to that bookstore.  You haven't been the same since that organic food woman started talking to you."

"I thought about what she said.  She's right.  And that's all I have to say."

Cat turned and walked away leaving Nancy staring at the pots and pans in the kitchen.

A few minutes later, Barbara walked in.  "What's with Cat?" she asked.

"Do you know how to bake cupcakes?"

"Cat really won't make any more?"

"Cat really won't make any more."  Nancy was trying to keep calm.  "If you don't know how to bake cupcakes, I'm afraid that we're going to have to stop selling them."

"I'm sorry," Barbara said.  "I was never even able to bake stuff in those Super-Simple Kiddie Ovens.  I can barely boil water.  But I'm going to really miss those cupcakes.  They practically sold themselves."

"Well, we better find someone else around here who can bake," Nancy said.  "I'm not going to do all the baking here myself."

Fortunately, it turned out that Darren liked baking.  "I would have helped you bake sooner," he said to Nancy, "but you and Cat were so good at it.  I was intimidated."

"Can you make cupcakes?"  Nancy asked.

"I can try," Darren said.

He made several batches of cupcakes and Nancy tried them all.  They were pretty good, but they weren't as good as Cat's cupcakes.

Nancy sighed.  "They'll do," she said.  "Now we better get baking.  We're just about sold out of everything at the bake stand."


Cat talked with Dan and Sal.  It was a long discussion and Sal and Dan spent a lot of the time looking at each other.  They weren't happy but Cat was adamant.

"Okay," Dan said finally.  "You can help us with the produce."

After Cat left, Dan went to find Luna.

"I've heard," Luna said.  "I've never seen Nancy so distraught.  But Cat has the right not to make any more cupcakes.  I don't want this to be a community where people are forced to do anything.  I mean, we got to work to support ourselves, but the point of having all these different kinds of work is that mostly we get to choose."

"But I thought that Cat already chose to make cupcakes."

"People also get to change their minds."

It took quite a bit of adjusting but things at the commune slowly settled down.  There was definitely a little more tension around the farm, but mostly folks got used to the changes.

Cat was fairly helpful in the produce stand (sometimes it took both her and Sal to pull Dan out of a pile of vegetables) and with all the greens coming in from the EcoGreenHouse, and the long lines to get fresh greens in winter, Sal and Dan were grateful for the help.

Darren's cupcakes didn't sell as well as Cat's had but they sold, and soon he and Nancy and Barbara were a  well working team at the bake stand.

And, although conversations between Cat and Nancy were difficult for a while, they continued talking with each other, although less than they had.  They both acknowledged that they liked one another, even if they were also frustrated with one another.

And then there was the awkward moment at the produce stand when a customer there was flipping through the cookbook.

After she looked at a cupcake recipe, she turned to Cat.  "Say, aren't you the one who used to make all the cupcakes?  Why don't you make them anymore?"

Cat shrugged.  "I'm moving on."

"You want me to weigh those greens for you?" Sal asked the customer before she had a chance to say anything more.

"Thank you for not preaching to her," Sal said after the woman left.

"I don't want to make things worse for anyone here," Cat said.  "I just think that we should be focusing on selling real food and not sugar fueled junk."

There was an uneasy pause before Cat said, "Sorry.  I'll try not to rant."

"Thank you," Sal said.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Chapter Twenty-Five: The Cookbook is Published

Within a week, Barbara was practically a fixture over at the "Chthonic Baked Goods and Yggdrasil Cupcakes" stand.

"I don't know how we ever did anything without her," Nancy said to Dan one morning.  "She could sell water to the fish.  She just smiles at some people and they double their order.  Yesterday a couple came in wanting to buy a pie and left with two pies, two cakes, three loaves of bread, and a dozen cupcakes.  We're going to have to triple all our baking time just to keep up with her."

Dan pulled a couple of tatsoi leaves out of his hair.  He opened his mouth but before he could say anything, Darren yelled, "Is anyone expecting something?"

Darren was standing in the front room, looking out of the windows of the main building.  A big UPX truck had pulled up the drive and the driver was now unloading boxes onto the porch.  Lots of boxes.  Lots of big heavy boxes.

Dan looked at Nancy.  She shrugged.  He yelled upstairs.  "Are we expecting any parcels?"

"Not that I know of," Ken called back.

"Does anyone know where Luna and Sal are?" Dan asked.

"I think they're in the EcoGreenHouse with Viv and Chuck," Nancy said.  "But they never said anything to me about ordering stuff."

Dan looked at everyone, but they just looked back at him.  He took a breath and walked out the door.  He regretted it as soon as he did it, wishing he had thought to grab a jacket.  His breath was coming out in big white clouds.

"Can we help you?" he asked.

"Give me a minute," said the driver, and he went back and grabbed another box.  There were seventeen boxes on the porch already and this made eighteen.  Eighteen identical boxes stacked up in two small pyramids of nine boxes each.

The driver went back to the truck again but this time he came out with a clipboard.

"Sign here," he said to Dan.

"Wait a minute," Dan said.  "What is this stuff?"

"How the heck should I know?" the driver said.  "You didn't order this?"

Just then Ken came out onto the porch.  "I know these boxes," he said.  "They're the ones that my uncle packs books in."

As if she'd heard, Nancy came flying out.  "The cookbooks!" she yelled.  "They're here!"

"Well," said Dan, turning back to the driver, "I guess I'm going to sign for them."


After Dan, Luna, Nancy, and Sal spent a little while figuring out where to store all the boxes of cookbooks, they brought a box each to the produce stand and the bakery stand and tried to find prominent places to display the books in each.  Within a week, they needed to trudge out boxes again--in fact, they had to take two boxes to the "Chthonic Baked Goods and Yggdrasil Cupcakes" where Barbara was especially adept at getting customers to buy a cookbook along with the pastries.

That Saturday a car pulled up to the main house.  An older woman got out and knocked on the door.

Marge answered it.  "Yes?" she asked tentatively.  She thought the woman looked like a schoolteacher or a librarian.

"I heard you were selling cookbooks," the woman said.

"Oh," said Marge, "if you want a cookbook you should go over to one of our farm stands."  She gestured in their direction.  "We're selling them there."

"I don't want a cookbook," the woman said.  She laughed at Marge's confused look.  "I want a box of them.  I'm from the Statewide Bookstore, down by the capital.  We'd love to carry your book.  We're trying to support local authors."

"Let me see if I can find Luna or Sal," Marge said.

Marge found Luna just coming in from the EcoGreenHouse.  "We've got a customer for the cookbooks," she told her.

"Send her to one of the stands to buy one," Luna said.

"That's just it.  She doesn't want to buy one, she wants to buy a box.  She's from a bookstore."

Luna brightened up.  "Have her come here.  I'll talk with her."

And, in fact, the woman from the bookstore left with two boxes of books.

When Luna told Nancy, Nancy said, "I knew it would be a hot seller."

"I didn't ever think we'd sell eighteen boxes of books," Luna said.  "Now I'm wondering when we'll need to order a second printing."

"Considering how long it took for the publisher to get us the first batch," Nancy said, "I think that we should reorder soon."

Dan had walked in on the conversation.  "Congratulations," he said to Nancy.  "That was a great idea."

Luna turned to him, "It's amazing.  The EcoGreenHouse is in full bloom, the winter farm stands are flourishing, and now we're selling cookbooks left and right.  We're doing incredibly well."

"Yeah," said Dan.  "That's what I'm worried about. Don't you think things are going too well?"

"What could go wrong?" Nancy asked.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Chapter Twenty-Four: And a Newcomer

It certainly was back to work.  The next week was busy all over the farm.

The EcoGreenHouse was now lush and overflowing with leafy greens of all types: spinach, and chard, and kale, and collards, and arugula, and mizuna, and bok choy, and tatsoi, and parsley, and dark red cabbages.  When the commune re-opened the farm stand with fresh greens in January, the lines were even longer than they had been in the fall.

"This year we're gonna need to plant a lot more root vegetables," Luna said one afternoon as they were working in the EcoGreenHouse.  "We can build a root cellar and next year we'll have lots of carrots, parsnips, potatoes, radishes, and squash to sell all next winter.  Plus all the greens that are bringing in the customers now."

"I want to plant some fruit this year," said Viv.  "Strawberries, and raspberries, and blueberries--maybe even some peaches."

"Absolutely," Luna replied.  "I want this to be the year we start doing real Protoculture.  We should plant fruit trees and nut trees and grow mushrooms on logs.  We're gonna need more people than the three of us, though."

Chuck looked up from the plants he was tending.  He was wearing a emerald sarong with an amber and orange blouse, but his hands were covered in dirt and his pale green nails were chipped.  It turned out he was quite good in the garden.  He told Luna and Viv that he had been one of the chief gardeners at Squat Mountain Sanctuary, a queer community in the deep, deep south, and they had had some huge plots of vegetables all around the place.

"I'm up for it," he said.  "I love helping things grow."  A thought occurred to him after he said this and he blushed.

"Yeah, I can see you're pretty good with plants," Luna said, "but I really want to do more around the farm this year and I'm afraid it's gonna mean that we're gonna need to have a lot more people living here that can work on all this stuff."

"Sounds good to me," Viv said.  "So where are we going to find all these communal farming type folks to live here?"

"I plan to put ads in the farming magazines.  Surely somewhere there must be some farmers that have always wanted to live on a commune."

"Good luck with that," Viv said.

Chuck had stopped paying attention to the conversation and was staring out the clear plexiglass of the EcoGreenHouse.  Viv noticed it and turned her head and followed his gaze and then Luna noticed and followed Viv's gaze.

Wandering through the snow covered fields and heading for the EcoGreenHouse was a woman with short shaggy turquoise hair and a many colored Guatemalan coat.  She looked lost.

"Excuse me," she said when she reached the door, "is this the commune?"

Viv nudged Luna. "Well, you said you wanted more people," she whispered.


Luna looked at the woman at the door.  Close up she appeared to be a rather attractive woman, probably in her early forties, with a small ring on the side of her nose.

"It is," Luna said to her.  "What can we do for you?"

"My name's Barbara.  I heard you might be looking for people.  I'd like to join."

Chuck whispered in Viv's ear.  "It's like she overheard our conversation."

Viv didn't take her eyes off Barbara but gave a slight nod.

"Can you farm?" Luna asked.

"Not really," said Barbara.

"How about cooking or cleaning?"

"Sort of," Barbara said, but she didn't sound enthusiastic.

"How are you at selling things?"

Barbara's face lit up.  "I'm great at selling stuff."

Luna sighed.  "Okay.  Good.  Go over to the main house," and she pointed to the building, "and ask for Marge.  Tell her to set up a room for you.  Do you have much stuff?"

"I have a car load."

"Okay. You can move it in.  Then go over to the baked goods stand and tell them that Luna suggested they see if you can work there.  Do you like pastries?"

"I love pastries," said Barbara and she licked her lips.

"Great.  They can use the help over there anytime you're ready to help."

Barbara trudged back through the snow.

"Nancy and Cat were just telling me this morning that they could use some extra help," Luna said to Viv and Chuck.

"I thought you wanted help for the farming," Viv said.

"We don't really need more help right now with just these greens," Luna said.  "This summer is when we're really gonna need the farming help."

"Well, I hope that a whole bunch of people come wandering through the fields this summer, telling us that they want to live here," said Viv.

"That would be great, as long as they don't trample anything."

"I'm visualizing it now," said Chuck.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Chapter Twenty-Three: The Natives Return

(Note from the author: With the new year, I am giving up my attempts to continue mangling a beloved song.  There are only so many ways you can beat a dead tune till it crumbles like a rolling stone.  The story will go on, however, just with little breaks in the middle of the chapters.)


On January second, Dan came back.

Marge and Viv had gotten back on New Years Day (the day before) as planned, but no one knew anything about Dan's return until he walked through the door.

"Hey, honey," he called, "I'm home."

"Dan!" came six voices in reply and Luna, Sal, Nancy, Cat, Viv, and Marge all converged on him.

"Guess what?" Dan asked as he paused from hugging everyone.  "I'm legal." He waved a small green piece of paper.  "Here it is. I now have one of these little cards and I can stay here pretty much as long as I want as long as I keep getting it renewed."

"That's wonderful," Sal said.

"Awesome," said Nancy.

"I missed you," said Luna.

"Me, too," said Marge.

"Have a cupcake," said Cat.

Everybody was still crowding around Dan when Ken walked in.

"Hey, Ken," said Viv, "Come join us!"

The whole group huddled together.

"This feels so great," said Marge.  "We're all finally back."

"The whole bunch of us," said Nancy.

"The commune, the whole commune, and nothing but the commune," said Cat.

"What else could it be?" asked Sal.  "It's all of us and there's no one left."

"It's true, it's true," said Dan.  "This is the crew."

"For now," said Luna.  "I'm sure there will be new people showing up at some point.  You know that we're gonna need them."

"Well, there won't be anybody new tonight," said Nancy.

There were a couple of moments of silence as they all cuddled together.  There were small murmurs of contentment.

Then the door burst open.

"Hey, everybody!  I'm here!" said Stan.


It took a minute or two for anyone to be heard clearly in the hubbub following Stan's announcement.  Finally, the commotion died down enough for Stan's booming voice to be heard again.

"Don't worry!  I'm not staying!  I just brought Darren and Chuck back!"

Slowly people became aware of the two men standing in the doorway, confused by all the chaos.

"Darren!" yelled Viv.  She ran over and practically dragged him into the room, with Chuck trailing along behind.

Marge grabbed Darren's other hand.  "Are you here to stay?"

"If you'll let me."  He paused.  "And you gotta let Chuck stay, too."

"You're both very welcome here," said Luna.

"Welcome aboard," said Nancy.  "And it's time for dinner."

"Can I stay for dinner???" asked Stan.

"You can stay for dinner and even stay for the night," said Dan.  "But you'd better be leaving us in the morning."

"I will!" said Stan.  "Don't worry!  I've got a noontime bus to catch!"

Fortunately, Nancy and Sal and Marge had prepared a small feast.  They had expected to have plenty of leftovers but everything got eaten.

"I've never lived at a commune before," said Chuck.  "Is it like a faery gathering?"

"Yeah," said Marge, "except it goes on and on and on."

"And you've got to work hard," Sal said.  She looked over at Stan.

"I'll help!  Tonite!"

"Is it okay if I wear a dress while I'm here?"  Chuck was wearing a red and gold print wrapped around his waist, with a deep blue and purple blouse.

"It's fine with me, as long as you're willing to work in it," said Dan.

"I've never seen men wear dresses before," Ken said.

"Hang around here long enough and you'll see a lot of things," Sal said.  "Lots. Hopefully most of them will be good things."

"Dessert," Nancy said, and everyone quieted long enough to eat some lovely squash pie with a vegan custard topping.

"Well, it's good to have you all back," Luna said.  "And it's back to work tomorrow."