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

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Chapter Eighty-Three: BBAA, Humbug

“It’s that time of the year again,” Luna said.

“What time is that?” asked Dan.

“Time to look at all the BBAAers that we could get.”

“Remind me again what BBAA means.”

Luna sighed.  “Building Better Alternatives in Agriculture.  It’s basically a way that kids that want to learn how to grow stuff can see the world.”

“Free labor for us,” Dan said.

“Yeah,” Luna said.  “Free labor.  And we’ve already had one applicant.  Someone named Humbug.”


“Yep,” Luna said.  “Sent in a nice looking resume.  Seems to know a lot about plants.  So I sent out an invitation to come here.”

“And did Humbug accept?”

“Humbug accepted.  Humbug will be here at the end of the week.”

“Hey, this is something to look forward to.  I can’t wait.”

“You can’t wait?”  Luna looked puzzled.  “What can’t you wait for?”

Dan smiled.  “I can’t wait to introduce Humbug to Sowbug.”


It was actually a little over a week before Humbug arrived.  Humbug turned out to be a young guy of about sixteen years old.

“I really want to learn to farm,” he told Luna and Viv.  

“Have you had any experience growing things?” Viv asked.

“Yeah,” he said.  “We have a garden at home and I helped out in it a bunch.  I like to take care of plants and grow things.  I’d have done more except my older sister was really bossy and wanted to do everything.”

“We’ll need your parent’s permission for you to be here if you’re under eighteen,” Luna said.

“I don’t think that will be a problem,” Humbug said, although he looked a little nervous.  “My mom knew I was coming here and I’m sure she’ll give you permission.”

“Well, we do need to ask,” Luna said.  “You’re okay if we call her?”

“No problem,” Humbug said.  “I’ll write down the number.”

“Okay,” Luna said.  “I’ll call her this afternoon.  Are you sure you’re okay with tenting?”

“Yeah, our family went camping a lot.  I’m used to living in a tent.”

“Have you got a tent?”

“Not really,” Humbug said.  “I left in a hurry and didn’t pack a lot.”

“I wouldn’t worry,” Viv said.  “I think we have a spare tent or two around here.  I’ll help you find one when we’re done.”

“Well, I think we’re about done,” said Luna.  “Do you have any questions for us or anything that you think you’ll need help with?”

“Not that I can think of,” Humbug said.  He still looked nervous and seemed to want the interview to be over.

Luna was about to end it when Marge came in.

“Excuse me,” she said.  “But your new BBAAer is here.”

“New BBAAer?” Luna asked.

“Yeah,” Marge said.  “She says her name is Humbug.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Chapter Eighty-Two: Under Construction

It was well into April and most of the snow was gone from the farm.  Luna and Viv and Chuck and Patsy and Birch were out in the fields, plotting and foraging and planting.  Strange Brew was taking care of the chickens and goats and their one cow, making sure that they were well fed and enjoying the spring.

And, in the very back field, up against the brook, the construction crew was laying the foundation for the new residence under the able direction of Sal and Dan.

“No,” said Dan.  “Over there.”

“What?” said Sal.  “That’s way too far over.” She grabbed a fallen branch and used it as a pointer.  “Put it here.”

“Look,” said Sowbug.  “We can put it here or we can put it there, but we can’t put it both places.  When the two of you can agree to something, we’ll do it.”

While Sal, Dan, and Sowbug were arguing, Dandelion, Sorrel, Earthworm, Mo, and Lois were carting in concrete blocks, from one side of the farm to the other.

“Over hill, over dale, I can barely see the trail,” sang Sorrel.  She was the only one who seemed to have the energy to say anything.

Dandelion and Earthworm were pushing the cart she was pulling and Lois and Mo were struggling with the second cart.  Both carts had as many blocks as they could fit in them.

“At least this should help us work up an appetite,” Sorrel said.  

Dandelion grunted at her.

“Only one more hill to go,” Sorrel said.

Mo stopped so suddenly that Lois almost fell over.  “Tell me why we’re doing this again,” she asked.

“You wanted to live on a commune,” Lois said.  “You said we’d be able to get some great experiences.”

“This wasn’t exactly what I had in mind,” Mo said.

“C’mon,” Lois said.  “We’ve only got three more cartloads left.”


Within a week the foundation of the new residence was finished.  

Dan and Sal stood in the middle of where the residence would be built and were heatedly discussing the future direction of the building.

“I mean, really,” said Sal.  “This foundation can hold a couple of stories.”

“I don’t know,” Dan said.  “That may be pushing it.  Why don’t we stay with a single floor for now?  We could always try adding another story later.”

“Would you two stop it?” Earthworm asked.  “It’s going to be hard to build something if the two of you can’t agree on anything.”
“Tell me about it,” Sowbug said.  “I’ve been listening to them argue for the past six days.  I’m amazed we even completed the foundation.”

“Okay, okay,” Sal said.  “Let’s just build one story for now.  I can live with that.”

“Thank you,” Dan said.

“Now can we start with the actual building?” Mo asked.

“Sure,” said Sal.  “Let’s start with the framing.”

“Good,” said Dandelion.  “We’ve got the timber over there.  We’re ready.”

Lois and Sorrel dragged a few boards over to the foundation.

“Okay,” Earthworm said.  “Now, where do we start?”

“Right in this corner over here,” Dan said.

“Wait a minute,” said Sal.  “That’s the northeast corner.  It’s so much better to start with the southwest corner.”

“You’re kidding,” Dan said.  “Since when?”

“Since I’ve done construction,” Sal said.  “Where did you learn to build?”

Sowbug sighed.  “I think this is going to be a long project.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Chapter Eighty-One: Debt and Taxes

It was Wednesday night and the commune was involved in another fun-filled meeting.

“What do you mean, we’re in debt?” Strange Brew asked.  “Luna, I thought you were all paid up for this farm.”

“Well, yeah, I bought the farm,” Luna said, “but I did it with a mortgage and we still owe on the mortgage.”

“We got a great rate on the mortgage and pay very little,” Sal said, “but we won’t be paid up for another fifty-three years.”

“Yeah,” Luna said again, “I’ll be seventy-three before we completely own this place.”

“But can the bank just take the place back if we fall behind?” asked Blue Sky.

“The trick is,” Cat said, “we don’t want to fall behind.”

“Yes,” Sal said, “and that’s why the fact that we took in less money last month is so important.  I want to say again that we’re still doing okay, but we need to keep tracking our expenses and pay attention to how we’re doing so that we’re not in any danger of falling behind.”

“And, if any of you want to help with this,” Dan said, “you can join the finance committee.”

“Not me,” Darren said.  “I hate numbers.”

“And not me,” Nancy said.  “I worry too much about money.”

“Well, maybe I’ll join the committee,” Strange Brew said.  “I’d like to know more about how we’re doing, money wise.”

“Well, welcome aboard,” said Dan.  “We meet every other week after the commune meeting, including tonight.  Anyone should feel free to stay and join us.”

“And we promise not to make you do any financial work outside of the meeting,” Sal said.  She paused and looked around the room.  “At least not after the first meeting that you come to.  We’ll see about what we do after you attend your second meeting.”


“So I have a question,”  Strange Brew said at the finance committee meeting.  “It’s tax week and I don’t understand why we don’t have to pay taxes.”

The meeting was held in a room upstairs in Groovy House.  Sitting around Strange Brew was Sal and Dan and Marge and Paul G.

“I thought I explained that to everyone,” Dan said.

“Well, you did,” Strange Brew admitted, “but I didn’t quite understand it.”

“Let me try,” Sal said.  “The commune pays all the taxes, so none of us has to pay individually.”

“I got that,” Strange Brew said.  “But I don’t understand why.”

“We’ve got a special tax status,” Sal said.  “It’s called a 501z and it’s available only to communes, cults, and conspiracy theorists.  Basically, since we all share all our money, we just pay once for all of us.”

“But what about our allowance?” Strange Brew asked.

“We make five dollars a week,” Marge said.  “Do you think the government cares about that?”

“I guess not,” Strange Brew said.

“Can we go back to the business plan?” asked Paul G.

“Absolutely,” said Marge.  “I want to make sure that we don’t go into real debt.  That wouldn’t be pretty.”

“Okay,” Sal said.  “So this involves increasing our sales at both the produce stand and at the baked goods stand.”

“We also have some ideas for new projects and businesses,” said Dan.  “I think between the increased sales and the new income streams, this is going to boost our revenue tremendously.”

“Wow,” said Strange Brew.  “Boost our revenue.  That makes it sound like we’re a real business.”

Sal looked at Strange Brew.  “If you’re going to be on the finance committee, you’ve got to believe that we are a real business.”

“Wow,” said Strange Brew again.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Chapter Eighty: … and Plotting

Less than a week later, Luna and Viv stood over that same map.

“Here’s where I think the squashes should go,” said Viv, wielding a familiar stick.

“Should we put the zucchini in a patch next to the squashes?” asked Chuck.

“Shouldn’t we give them a little more room to grow?” asked Birch.

“I think that if we try to give all the vegetables lots of room, we’ll run out of space,” said Patsy, who sat very close to Birch.

“I think we’ll have enough space as long as we don’t get carried away,” Viv said.  “We have a bit of expansion room here.”  She pointed at the area on the map near the field where they held concerts.

“Yeah,” said Strange Brew.  “That should work.”

“Fine,” said Patsy.  “As long as all of you are okay with it.”

“Okay.  I think that covers most of the vegetables,” Chuck said.  “This should give us quite a nice farming area.”

“One other thing,” said Luna.  “I’m hoping that this is the year we begin to put in fruit and nut trees.  Can I borrow that?” she asked Viv.  

Viv handed her the stick.  Luna pointed to an area at the edge of the fields, right where the hillsides began.  “I think we could take out some of these old hemlocks and put in apple, peach, pear, pawpaw, mango, walnut, and filbert trees.” She then pointed to an area on field proper.  “We could put some raspberry and blackberry bushes over here, along with a strawberry patch and maybe a grape arbor.”

“Wow,” said Birch. “This all sounds great.  I love fruit and nuts.”

“Absolutely,” said Strange Brew.  “Me, too.”

“Wait a minute,” Patsy said.  “You were kidding about the mangos, right?”

“Just seeing if you were paying attention,” Luna said.


“Mushrooms,” Birch said.  “We should grow mushrooms.”

“Must rooms?” said Patsy, in a very sleepy voice.  “Must we?”

“We’ve got all these logs lying in the woods,” Birch said.  “We could use them to grow lots of mushrooms on.”

“Can it wait until the morning?” Patsy asked.  She rolled over so that she faced Birch.  “Pretty please?”

“Sure,” he said, but he lay awake for the next hour or so just thinking about it.

The next morning he approached Luna and Viv about his thoughts.

“I think that’s a great idea,” said Viv.  “We can add that to the mix of what we produce.”

“We’re already sprouting and krauting,” said Birch.  “Why not ‘shrooming’?”

“We could use the front of that area where I want to put in the fruit and nut trees,” Luna said.  “I wish we could grow mushrooms on hemlock logs.”

Chuck had walked into the room as Luna was talking.  “Shrooms,” he said.  “What kind of ‘shrooms were you thinking of growing?”

“I don’t know,” Birch said.  “Probably Portatakee and Oyster of the Woods.  Or something like that.”

“Sounds good to me,” Luna said.  “Why don’t you order some and we can start growing them as soon as the last of the snow melts?”

“Sounds great,” said Birch.