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

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Chapter Fifty-One: The Site Visit

Sowbug and Dandelion were working on the front porch of the Side House when they saw a white minivan slowly making its way down the drive.  Two folks got out, a woman with dark hair and an intense expression and a man with close cropped brown hair, a close cropped brown beard, and a luminescent pearl earring.

“Hi,” the woman yelled to them.  “We’re Beechpest and Unicorn.  We’re here to check out the place.”

“Let me get Luna,” Dandelion yelled back.  Two minutes later Dandelion returned with Luna and Sal and Dan.

“Hey, Beechpest,” Sal said.  “This is Luna.”  She looked a little further.  “Oh, hey, Unicorn.  You came too.  This is great.  Nancy and Strange Brew are around some place and they’ll both be happy to see you.”  She paused again and then said, “Oh, yeah, Unicorn, this is Luna and Dan.”

“Hey,” said Unicorn, “Pleased to meet both of you.”

Sal hugged Beechpest and Unicorn.  Then Dan hugged Beechpest and Unicorn.  Then Luna hugged Beechpest and Unicorn.  Then they all went on a tour of the farm.

“This is Groovy House,” Sal said.  “Sowbug and Dandelion helped build it.  They weren’t part of the commune then, but they liked the place so much that they’ve come and joined us.”

“How many people are living here now?” asked Beechpest.

“We’ve got nineteen at the moment,” said Dan.  “That includes four BBAAers, but doesn’t include friends and neighbors and lawyers who stop by and even stay here occasionally.”

“How new is this building?” Unicorn asked.

“Three months old,” said Sal.  “The original building burned down.”

“Yeah.  We know how that is,” Beechpest said sadly.

“These are the two older buildings that were on the property when I bought it,” Luna said.  “We call them Side House and Back House.”

“Wait,” Beechpest said.  “You bought the place?  Who owns it now?”

“I guess I do,” Luna said.  “Is that a problem?”

“Maybe,” Beechpest said.

After walking through the buildings, the tour went to the EcoGreenHouse and then out into the fields.

“Here’s where we grow all our vegetables,” Sal said.  “The stuff we sell and the stuff we eat.”

“Oh look,” Unicorn said.  “You have chickens and goats and a little cow.”

“Yes,” said Luna.  “We guess we do.”

“The chickens have just started laying eggs, so sometimes we have eggs for breakfast,” said Dan.  “We don’t sell eggs at this point.”

“And the goats and cow are too young to give milk,” Sal added.

“And back there is where the BBAAers are tenting,” Luna said.  “Sowbug and Dandelion are going to help Dan and Sal build a new house for people to stay in soon.”

“Is that the place?” Beechpest asked.

“That’s the place,” Sal said.

“Okay,” Beechpest said.  “Let’s go somewhere and talk.”


“So my first question is,” Beechpest said.  “How does it work with you,” she pointed to Luna, “owning the house?”

“Well,” Luna said, “we haven’t really talked about it.  We’ve been too busy with farming and building the commune to worry about ownership.”

“I can see that,” Beechpest said.  “But I think this is one of those things that could be a problem later.  It’s not really equal opportunity if you own the place.  It gives you a real advantage over everyone else.”

“Will this stop us from being a Commune Worth Talking With?” asked Sal.

“No, not really,” Beechpest said.  “But it would probably keep you from being a full fledged member of the CEOC.”

“How long does it take a commune to become a full member of the CEOC?”  Dan asked.

“At least a couple of years,” Beechpest replied.

“Good,” Dan said.  “Hopefully in a couple of years we’ll have this tricky ownership issue all figured out.”

“Do you have a maximum size that you would like to see the commune become?”  Beechpest asked.

“Oops,” said Luna.  “That’s another thing we haven’t talked about.”

“I’d say we want to be at least twenty folks,” said Sal.  “And maybe as many as forty.  I can’t imagine we’d want to have much more than that.”

“I don’t know,” Luna said.  “I’ve thought about having as many as a couple of hundred folks here sometimes.”

“What?” said Sal.

“As she said,” Dan said.  “We haven’t talked about it.”

“Do you have any plans in case something happened to anyone?” Beechpest asked.

“What do you mean ‘something happened’?” Dan asked.

“You know, someone gets sick or there’s an accident.”

“Are you talking about insurance?” asked Sal.

“Yeah.  That’s one possibility.”

“No,” said Luna.  “We don’t.”

“I think our plan is for no one to get sick,” Dan clarified.

“Doesn’t the CEOC offer insurance?” asked Sal.

“We have our own plan, called KIWI,” said Beechpest.  “But you have to be a full member of the CEOC to be part of it.  Unfortunately, we don’t offer it to Communes Worth Talking With.”

“What does KIWI stand for?”  asked Dan.

“Keep Invigorated Wellness Insurance,” said Beechpest.  “It’s also a tasty fruit.”

“We’re going to have to keep working on this one, too,” Luna said.  “Do you have more questions?”

“Probably,” Beechpest said.  “But we’ve got to get going.  I promised to take Unicorn to see the Jen and Berry’s Sorbet Factory and it’s only open for a few more hours.  Anyway, I’ve seen enough to know that you qualify as a Commune Worth Talking With.”

“Oh, that’s great!” said Luna.

“Wait,” said Unicorn.  “One more thing.  Is there someplace around here to buy maple syrup?”

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Chapter Fifty: A Visit from the Reagons

It was a dark and stormy night.  The wind rattled against the windows.  There was a knock upon the door.  Ken answered it.

There, in the door, stood Hillary and Alec Reagon.

“May we come in?”  Ms Reagon asked.

Ken wasn’t sure what to say.  He looked behind him and saw Luna who nodded to him.   He slowly moved aside.

“Thank you,” Ms Reagon said.  She walked through the doorway and her son lumbered in behind her.

It was just past dinner and all the commune members were around, cleaning up.  Except that now they had all stopped in their tracks and most were still holding dishes while staring at the Reagons.

“We heard the ambulance come here a few days ago and wanted to make sure that everyone was all right,” Ms Reagon said.  “We were concerned.”

“Paul G slipped and broke his ankle,” Luna said.  “He’s doing better today.”

Paul G, standing with the help of a pair of crutches, waved at the Reagons.

“Well, that seems most fortunate,” Ms Reagon said.  “I’m glad it wasn’t more serious.  You seem to have had a number of unfortunate accidents here recently.”

“Quite true,” Dan said.

“We know that we have not been over here before this and we apologize. We wouldn’t want anyone to think we were unfriendly.  We had also wondered why no one had come over to welcome us to the neighborhood, but we are aware that you lead very busy lives.  I do hope that we can see more of each other in the future.”

Luna was struggling for an appropriate reply when Nancy came to her rescue.  “We are truly sorry that we have not been more sociable since you arrived.  As you said, we have been quite busy here.  It was so good of you to come and check to see how we are doing.”  She smiled sweetly at them.

“What are neighbors for?” said Ms Reagon.  She looked at her son.  “Come, Alec, I think we are done here.”

Ken opened the door and the two Reagons somberly departed.   No one spoke until they were down the drive and crossing the street.

“Wow, that was surreal,” Darren said.


“It really was surreal,” Luna said.  “What do you suppose it was all about?”

It was the day after the Reagons’ visit and Luna and Dan were telling Peter and Fred and George all about it.

“Intimidation is what I’d say it was about,” said George.

“I agree,” said Fred.  “They don’t have Cecil Nixon to go after you now so they figure they could make you nervous by showing up themselves.”

“Well, they certainly made me nervous,” said Luna.

“I think that they’re desperate,” George said.  “They came because they couldn’t think of anything else to do.”

“Do you really think so?” Dan asked.

“Sure,” Fred said.  “But don’t get complacent.  I’m sure that they’re trying to think up something new and nasty.  Meanwhile, it seems like this is the best that they could do.”

“Yeah,” said George.  “I think they’re buying time.”

Just then Strange Brew came in.  “I’ve got Beechpest on the line.  She’s calling from Old Corn.  She wants to know if there would be a good time next week for her to come here for an official site visit.”

“Sure,” Luna said.  “Tell her that she can come anytime.  We’re looking forward to her visit.”

“I’ll let her know that,” Strange Brew said.

After Strange Brew left the room, Peter asked, “What was that all about?”

“We’re trying to join the Confederacy of Equal Opportunity Communes,” Dan said.  “They need to do a site visit so they know that we really exist.”

“What’s involved in being an Equal Opportunity Commune?  Do you need to have any legal work done around it?”

“Not that I know of,” Dan replied.  “Although some of them do have this cool tax status.  It’s called a 502zzz status.”

“What’s a 502zzz?” asked George.  “I never heard of it.”

“It’s a special tax status for hippie communes,” Luna said.  “I think that it’s only applicable to them and religious cults.”

“I’ll have to look into that,” said Peter.  “Meanwhile, I wouldn’t worry too much about Hillary Reagon’s visit.  I think Fred and George are right.  I think this was a desperation move on their part.”

“I can’t believe that they asked why we never visited them,” Luna said.  “I looked at Alec’s rifle when they moved in and decided I never wanted to go near the place.  Now Hillary claims that she wants us to visit.”

“I’ve only got one thing to say about that,” said Peter.  “Don’t.”

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Chapter Forty-Nine: Cat Comes Out

“It’s my decision,” Cat said.  “I get to decide just who I am.”

It was the Wednesday night commune meeting and Sal and Dan had just talked about the CEOC Convocation.

Then Cat had an item.  “Okay, I’ve thought about this for a while now and I have decided that I’m gender-free and non-sexual.”

“Can you explain what you mean by that?” Nancy asked.

“Sure,” Cat said.  “I don’t think of myself having a gender and no longer want to be thought of as having one.  I also don’t want to be sexual with anyone.”

“But that doesn’t make sense,” Broc said.  “I can see that you’re a…”

“Stop,” Cat interrupted.  “You don’t get to tell me what I look like.  I get to define who I am.”

“I’ve known you for a long time,” Darren said.  “I will support you in being whoever you say you are.  It may take me a bit to get used to it, but feel free to correct me.”

“Me, too,” said Marge.  “You can count on my support.”

“Hey,” said Blue Sky.  “I like this gender-free thing.  I am declaring myself gender free as well.”

“Wait a minute,” said Sowbug who was taking notes.  “I’ve got to keep track of who is gender free here.”

“I am all man,” said Broc.

“I figured that,” said Sal.

“So is anyone else gender free?” asked Luna.

“I think at the moment,” said Sowbug, looking at the notes, “that it’s just Cat and Blue Sky.”

“Well, we started this commune as an alternative,” said Luna, “and I think we need to support each person being who they are.”

“Amen to that,” said Viv, and then remembered she was supposed to be facilitating.  “Okay, next item.  Luna, what’s this about someone’s anniversary?”

“It’s our anniversary,” Luna said.  “We started this commune a year ago last summer.  I think we should do something to celebrate.”

The rest of the meeting was taken up with ideas for celebrating the commune’s anniversary.


The next day was a little rough on Cat.

First, Grace kept quizzing Cat about what it meant.

“I don’t understand how you can not have a gender,” she said.  “You look like you have a gender.”

“Well, I don’t accept people’s ideas of my gender,” Cat said.  “I’m being how I want to be.  Why does that bother you?”

“What if I told people that I didn’t have an age?”

“Wouldn’t bother me,” Cat said.

Broc did not say anything more about Cat’s gender, but kept looking at Cat which made Cat somewhat anxious.  Fortunately, he worked out in the fields and Grace worked in the house (and Marge was a strong supporter of Cat’s and had a little discussion with Grace).

But then something happened at the produce stand that took Cat’s mind completely off of these conversations.

It had been a busy shift at the produce stand but they were finishing up for the night.  Paul G had counted up the cash from their sales and was rushing it off to the main house when he tripped on a step and went flying.  Money flew all over the place, too.

Cat and Blue Sky went rushing over to Paul G to see if he was okay.

“Don’t worry about me,” he gasped.  “Get the money.”

The two of them quickly rounded up the bills and coins, which fortunately hadn’t bounced far.  They then went back to Paul G, who was rubbing his ankle.  “It hurts a bit,” he admitted.  “Could the two of you help me up?”

With the help of Cat and Blue Sky, Paul G stood up, but as soon as he put some weight on his left foot, he screamed and collapsed.  “Sorry,” he said.  “I don’t think I’m going to be able to walk.”

Cat stayed with him while Blue Sky ran to the house to get help.

“We called for an ambulance,” Blue Sky announced after returning. “It should be here very soon.  I hope.”

Unfortunately, it took almost forty-five minutes for the ambulance to arrive.  Cat and Blue Sky told Paul G every joke and silly story that they knew.

Finally, a big white vehicle with a flashing red light came screaming up the road.

“Sorry it took so long,” one of the ambulance attendants apologized.  “We ran into tire trouble with one of the trucks and had to go back and get the other one.”

Carefully, and with help from Blue Sky and Cat, the two attendants got Paul G onto the stretcher.  Cat gave them the story of his accident while he just lay there and winced.

“Wait a second,” Paul G said as the attendants started to roll him into the ambulance.  “I gotta say something to these two.”

He looked at Cat and Blue Sky.  “I don’t care who or what either of you says you are.  Both of you are just wonderful.  I love you two!”

And with that he was rolled up into ambulance which drove off, sirens wailing.

“Well, at least one person gets it,” Blue Sky said to Cat.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Chapter Forty-Eight: The CEOC Convocation

The commune almost missed the yearly CEOC Convocation. It turned out that this year’s convocation was being held at the Southern Breeze community which was located deep in the Old Dark Mountains.  And it was being held only a few weeks after they filled out the CEOC application.

The commune decided to send Sal--and Dan.  Fortunately now that the maintenance and renovation crew had Sowbug and Dandelion on it, Dan and Sal weren’t so needed for that work.  And Cat seemed to have the produce stand under control--with lots of help from Blue Sky and Paul G.

The two communards were able to take a bunch of BeigeDog buses from the terminal in the state capitol (just a block away from the Statewide Bookstore) all the way down to a small town in the Old Dark Mountains where they were picked up by one of Southern Breeze’s rickety old minivans.

Southern Breeze was far down along a long county road, quite a distance from the nearest town or noncommunity home.  The place, with almost seventy commune members, was nestled in the mountains on more than thousand acres of land.  They were famous for their tasty fruit butters and rope belts.

The land was wooded and quite lush.  Sal and Dan could see nothing but green stuff growing everywhere.

“Oh my, look at this place,” said Sal.  “It makes our commune--or even Old Corn--look positively urban.”

“Welcome, welcome,” said a young man with a long brown beard and bright blue beads.  He hugged each of them.  “I’m Onion.  You must be the folks from the new commune.”

“Yes, we are,” Sal said.  “I’m Sal and this is Dan and, wow, this place is incredible.”
“Would you like a tour?” Onion asked.

“Oh, yes,” said Dan.

“Over here,” Onion said, pointing,  “you can see some of our residences which accommodate anywhere from five to twenty-five people.  We also are the only commune to have personal isolation shelters.  There’s a couple of them over there.  And that building over there is the Dark House, which is the guest building that you’ll be staying in.”

Onion walked Dan and Sal into the building and showed them where to put their stuff before continuing the tour.

“That building there is our main dining hall.  We call it ‘Stone Bum’.  And our business area is over there.  There’s a few more buildings up over there, but that’s about it for the tour.  Any questions?”

“When is the actual Convocation?”  Sal asked.  “Will you be part of it?”

“The Convocation starts tomorrow,” Onion answered.  “Folks from the various communes are arriving today.  I’m just the greeter for Southern Breeze.  Our delegates are Fuzzy and Owl.  And there’s Fuzzy over there with UniqueWay from DirtPile Farm.”

“Yeah,” said Sal.  “And there’s two folks I know--Beechpest and Texas.”

“Are they from Old Corn?” Dan asked.

“Beechpest is,” Sal said.  “Texas is from a new community starting up near Old Corn and Three Sycamores called Dead Battery Farm.  They’re trying to create an energy free community.”

Pretty soon a small swarm of communards gathered, with Beechpest and Texas hugging Sal and being introduced to Dan, and Fuzzy and UniqueWay being introduced to both Sal and Dan.  In the midst of this, the Lyon King from Three Sycamores arrived with Alice from The Trash Heap and Ralph from The Holly Near Elementary School and a very energetic guy named Ruckus who said he was with a project called Mark Z, which seemed to have something to do with starting communes in Los Angeles.

DInner that night was a very anarchist affair with lots of folks from Southern Breeze (including the wise and mysterious Owl) eating, drinking, talking, arguing, flirting, and planning with the CEOC delegates.  Sal and Dan did not get to bed until very late that night.  Fortunately, the first meeting of the Convocation didn’t start until noon the next day.


The first meeting was a bit confusing for Dan.  The communards discussed whether they wanted to meet more than once a year and why or why not, whether they should fund a newsletter that they weren’t publishing, whether people were actually living at Dead Battery Farm, and who Ruckus was sleeping with and why.

At the end of the meeting they flip charted all the agreements, which were that the Convocation would continue to meet once a year and that they’d check back next year and see if that  was working, that they would try to actually publish the newsletter that they were funding, and that there didn’t seem to be anybody actually living at Dead Battery Farm and so it would remain in the Commune Worth Talking With status.  They decided not to take any action on who Ruckus was sleeping with, but they would check in with him next year to see who he was sleeping with then.

After that everyone broke for lunch.

Then, after lunch, Sal and Dan got to present the commune to the CEOC.

“So, how do you organize your income sharing?” asked the Lyon King.

“We don’t have that much income to share,” Sal said.  “Farming doesn’t make us a lot of money.”

“Everyone gets an allowance of twenty-dollars a week,” Dan said.

“Wow,” said Fuzzy.  “We only get fifteen.”

“Yeah,” said Owl.  “But there’s a lot less around here to spend it on.”

“What does your commune bring to the CEOC?” asked Alice, who was the CEOC’s CEO.

“Well, first of all, we are the only commune in the northeast,” said Sal.

“Also, we’ve got a cookbook,” Dan added.

“Hey, “ Beechpest said, “We should have a CEOC cookbook.”

“I’ll make a note of that,” said Alice.

The question and answer session only lasted an hour and a half but it felt like longer to Dan and Sal.  The rest of the afternoon was spent on a proposal from Ruckus that the CEOC help fund a new Mark Z project to create communes in San Diego.

“But you haven’t even started one in Los Angeles or San Francisco yet,”  said Ralph.

“It’s only a matter of time,” Ruckus said.

Sal and Dan were asked not to attend the next day’s sessions which were supposed to focus on CEOC internal business.  One of the items to be discussed was their proposal  to be part of the CEOC.

Instead, the two of them helped out at the fruit butter making factory, learning how to make apple butters and raspberry butters.

Finally, on the final day, Sal and Dan were invited to the final session.  One of the first things on the agenda was their commune.

“We’ve decided to make you a Commune Worth Talking With,” Alice said, “contingent on a site visit by someone from a CEOC commune to make sure that you really are a commune.”

“But we’ve had several people from Old Corn visit us,” Sal said.  “In fact, I’m from Old Corn.”

“Yes,” the Lyon King said.  “But those weren’t official visits.”

“Hey, Sal,” Beechpest said.  “I’ll make an official visit to your commune soon.”

There were a bunch of other things on the agenda, including making sure Ruckus kept track of everyone he was sleeping with and the folks at Dead Battery Farm pay attention to whether anyone was living there or not.  

Time flew by and soon enough  the convocation was over and Dan and Sal were hugging everyone goodbye, getting a ride into town, and taking a whole bunch of buses north, all the way back to the commune.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Chapter Forty-Seven: The Cookbook Gets Revised

“You look familiar,” Marge said.

“Maybe it was because I was here five months ago,” the woman said.  “I’m from the Statewide Bookstore.  I bought a couple of boxes of your cookbook.  We’re almost out of them now and I’d like to get a couple more boxes.”

“Come on in,” Marge said.  “Let’s see what we got.  We haven’t been selling many of them lately, but there’s been a steady trickle over the last few months.”

“Is this house new?”  the woman asked.

“Yeah,” Marge said.  “We’ve had some difficulties here.”

“I’ve heard.  I’m glad you’re still around.”

“Me, too.”  Marge found the boxes of cookbooks in a corner of a closet in a back room.  “Looks like we’ve got four boxes left.”

“Great.  Like I said, I’d like to buy a couple of boxes for the store.”

“Let me help you get these into your car and then you can pay for them at the produce stand.”

Each of the women grabbed a box and they carried them out of the house.  When they were loaded into the car, Marge and the woman from the bookstore headed over to the produce stand.

Paul G was at the stand working with Cat and Blue Sky.  Since Cat and Blue Sky were busy, Paul G rang up the order.

“Will that be it?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said.  “Unless you have having any other books that you folks have written.  We’re always looking for new books.”

“No other books that I know of,” Paul G said.  “Of course, I didn’t even know about this one until today.”

“Nope,” Cat chimed in.  “That’s all we wrote.”

“Well, I’m glad you wrote it because we’re happy to sell it.”

When the woman left, Blue Sky asked about the cookbook.

“We wrote it last year and it was published in January,” Marge said.  She had stayed for a moment.  “We’ve only got two boxes left.  Maybe it’s time to reprint it.”

“No,” Cat said.

“You don’t want to reprint it?” asked Paul G.

“No,” Cat said again.  “I don’t think we should reprint it.”

“Okay,” Marge said.  “I know that there’s gotta be more than that.  You’ve got something in mind. I know it.  So what’s the rest of it?”

“I don’t think we should reprint it.  I think we should revise it.”


“That makes sense,” Nancy said when she heard what Cat said.  “I’ll bet we could get a lot of new recipes for the new edition.”

“Oh great,” Dan said.  “Now we’ve got to start collecting stuff all over again.”

“And we should really revise a bunch of it,” Viv said.  “I’ve learned a heck of a lot more about sprouting and krauting.  Enough so I want to change much of what I wrote in the book.”

Soon Nancy and Dan started going around to everyone, even the BBAAers and the ex-Trollworkers, getting new recipes and going over ideas and the older recipes and changes to them, consulting with the original cookbook as well as covering lots of additional paper with all the new things people wanted in the book.

“So Luna wants to add a new section on what we’ve learned from growing stuff in the fields and the EcoGreenHouse,” Dan said.

“Yeah, and Cat wants to add a section emphasizing nutritional choices,” Nancy said.

“At least we don’t have to take out the cupcake recipes,” Dan said.

“Yeah but that’s only because I talked Cat out of insisting that we do just that,” Nancy said.

“With all the additional material, I’m worried that we’re going to double the size of the book.”

“I know.  Does that mean we get to charge twice as much?”

“I wish,” Dan said.

Nancy looked at all the new stuff in front of her.  “How big can the book get before it gets too big?”

“I think that’s what we’ve got to figure out.”

“Yeah,” said Nancy, “and I really think we’re going to need to edit some of this out.”

“Okay but which stuff?”

“Maybe since we’ve got this new recipe for collard snacks we can remove the one for broccoli puffs.”

Dan looked through a dozen pages.  “Do you think we really need a second recipe for dandelion pie?”

Slowly, sifting and sorting, Nancy and Dan took all the new ideas and merged them with most of what had been in the book.  By the time they were finished with their organizing and editing, the cookbook was only half again as big as the original.

“I think that’s the best that we can do,” Nancy said.

“I agree,” said Dan.  “Let’s talk with Ken’s uncle about republishing the book.”

Ken’s uncle was glad to print the revised edition and this time the commune decided to order thirty boxes of the cookbooks.

“Well, at least this time we know it will sell,” Sal said.

“Yeah,” said Marge.  “Now all we have to do is wait for the new cookbooks to be printed.  Hopefully it won’t take as long as it did last time.”