July 25, 2012

One journey ends, another begins!

Well folks, we started our journey on Ollie (and started this blog) back in November 2010, a whole year and a half ago, and I am delighted to announce that this particular voyage has officially come to an end and we have settled down permanently in Oakland.  We found a lovely house called the Barnyard Collective, a small but vibrant group of rad folks dedicated to urban homesteading, home brewing, dog loving, vegan cooking, dumpster diving, and the queer things in life.  It feels like home.

Ollie is parked in the spacious yard, providing a needed shade area for the chickens as well as a convenient storage space (and perhaps a cheap room for a lucky someone in the future?).  Ivy seems to have taken to house living more easily than I (I haven’t lived in a room in a house in four years!); she still sleeps between us, under the covers, at night, and she has found her favorite nooks and crannies (as well as illicit chewables) around the common spaces.

This doesn’t mean that Max and I won’t continue to visit intentional communities, of course.  There are tons of said communities around the Bay Area, many of which aren’t listed on ic.org.  We kind of knew we’d have to live here before we even heard about the coolest ones.   🙂

But expect less frequent posting, as we will no longer be driving wildly from Davis to Seattle in the dead of night, nor will we be picking up too many more dead deer along the interstates.  Those days are over… for now.


July 5, 2012


While driving from San Francisco back to Struggle Mountain one day we came across a road-killed deer on the side of the highway.  Thus ensued….

We had originally been planning on digging a huge hole somewhere to bury the carcase.  But while we were skinning it, a single brave coyote followed its nose straight to us, and hung out quite close by, watching us work.  We figured the meat would be eaten quickly, so after skinning, we dragged the carcase into a ravine (far from anyone’s house!) and left it there.  The following day we went back to check on it, and literally one day later this was all that was left:

June 28, 2012


We have been living at Struggle Mountain, the community in the Los Altos Hills, and have been looking for employment and housing (preferably in an intentional community or smaller collective house) in the East Bay.  Lots of time spent on the computer, responding to Craigslist posts and re-writing old resumes… not particularly exciting.  Ivy, however, is still cute.

May 29, 2012


This squirrel is the third road-killed animal we’ve skinned and tanned.  We’ve tried a different tanning technique for each animal: we put Fox I in a chemical bath that didn’t work too well; we brain-tanned Fox II, which was gross and kind of sketchy but worked really well; and we used a strong black tea + raw egg for the squirrel, which also worked well (and was way less gross than brains).  Struggle Mountain has a lot of oak trees, so I’d like to try a boiled acorn broth next.


May 21, 2012

Solar eclipse!

Struggle Mountain‘s three young kids went up the mountain with their families to observe the eclipse, so the rest of us were left to our own devices here on the property.  Three eclipse-watching tools were procured: a very thick, dark piece of glass; a plastic cup-style pin-hole projector; and a cardboard box-style pin-hole projector.  The results were impressive!

This last picture shows the weird shadows cast by the sun at the peak of the eclipse — the edges of our shadows are very strange (check out Max’s hand!).


May 18, 2012

Struggle Mountain, Los Altos Hills

We are currently searching (somewhat casually, which is how we generally do things) for a place to park permanently in the East Bay.  In the meantime, we’ve settled quite comfortably at a beautiful community in the Los Altos Hills (10 miles from Palo Alto) called Struggle Mountain.  We visited this community back in December ’10 — it was one of the first communities we visited on our travels.  We loved it so much, we decided to come back for a little while.  Here are some pics for your viewing pleasure.


May 14, 2012

Dumpster Score #Don’t worry, we haven’t stopped dumpstering

We stopped posting our dumpster scores because there’s just too much food to keep track of.  It takes a long time to sort, and even longer to record everything.  Here are some of our latest pics:

April 25, 2012

The Establishment, San Luis Obispo

The Establishment, an aptly named 19-person community that was founded in the 1970s, was the only community we contacted in SLO.   The 19-bedroom house used to be a hotel and was originally located next to the railroad that runs through town (it was moved — rolled on logs and pulled by oxen — in the early 20th century).  Jack Kerouac is said to have stayed in the hotel during his famous train hopping days.  The Establishment’s community members, all in their 20s and 30s, seemed to be a fun-loving family; interests included roller derby, bikes, and Burning Man.  There weren’t any all-community events during our stay, and community rooms were small so people seemed to spend a lot of time in their bedrooms (which were also quite small), so we didn’t get to spend much time with too many people.  The folks we did chat with were very welcoming; one told me I should “feel free to walk around the house like it’s a weird museum.”  I did.

























































April 16, 2012

Bus life with a dog

She got stung by a bee (while trying to eat it):

We’ve been dumpstering Petco and Centinela.  Along with some highly bizarre pet products (such as a perfume flask-like container of “cat pheromone”), we’ve picked up six or seven 30-lb bags of dry dog food.  We’ve also found cat food, tug toys, stuffed animals, extraordinarily large dog beds, and various kinds of treats and rawhide.

The view under the bed:

Needless to say, though we are training Ivy constantly and consistently, we don’t exactly abide by the “no free lunch” philosophy.

April 3, 2012

Sugar Shack, Los Angeles

The Sugar Shack, a 10-year-old, 15-20 person community in Los Angeles, occupies one of the most striking houses I’ve ever seen.  It used to be a store (on a street full of smallish shops and no other houses), then a church, and probably some other things that I can’t remember.  It fell into disrepair and the founders of the Sugar Shack purchased it for cheap, turning it into a vibrantly colorful, playful, dare I say hippie-esque mansion of sorts.


Pool table:

Bus downstairs (!!):

Dining room:















The Sugar Shack’s ic.org description is quite brief:

The Sugar Shack is a Los Angeles intentional community committed to social change through cooperative living, art, and activism. We do this by living communally in mid-city and providing free of charge spaces for individuals and group gatherings.

Perhaps they figure that words are relatively meaningless if people don’t come visit and see for themselves, talk to residents, and experience the colors and sights and smells in person (I quite agree!).  I was told by one of the founding members that there is an unwritten rule of utmost importance: NEVER try to talk someone into moving in.  An applicant really has to want it, on a deep, instinctual, personal level, for their membership to work out.  Coming from a community that’s always struggling to make rent (and is therefore constantly recruiting), this rule seemed like a huge privilege!

I visited the Sugar Shack twice, the first time with a number of Technicolor Tree Tribers for a dinner visit, where everyone except me and Max got to mingle and chat because we were babysitting our very food-driven puppy.  I felt like parents of an infant in a stroller, both of us completely occupied by feeding, cleaning up after, monitoring, and talking about our charge while the rest of the noisy world just passed us by.

Because I didn’t get to learn much about the community during that first visit, I made a point of returning just to chat, and ended up spending a few hours talking with the founder and property owner of the Sugar Shack.  The visit was very satisfying; I felt like we were on the same page.

Unlike with most of our community visits, I went through my list of “interview questions” and we spoke about each one.  I’m usually frustrated when people say that the intention of their community is to “live together,” because any group of people can try living together and so often it ends up like random housemates who maybe do their basic chores but rarely talk about the greater societal implications of communal living (examples might include gender disparities in housework/yardwork/construction, lack of racial diversity in the community, opportunities for using the community as a hub of political activism, etc.).  The Sugar Shack was different.  It’s true, my host/guide did tell me that their intention was to “live together and share resources.”  But this community definitely took it farther than that; the nature of the art and the diversity and openness of the people I met made it clear to me that the Sugar Shack really is committed to social change through art and creative expression.

The Sugar Shack is impeccably clean.  The community abides by a clever indoor adaptation to the decree “Leave No Trace,” as community members are asked not to leave their personal belongings in the common spaces.  There is also a complex (but apparently manageable, since it clearly works!) system of chores.  There are two parts to the system: Sugar Love, which involves each community member committing 1-3 hours of general cleaning tasks; and Energy Exchange, wherein each community member does certain tasks for the community and records their work on a paper spreadsheet, tallying hours as they go.  Work hours/tasks can be traded and exchanged among members, and it seemed they were always in flux.

When I asked about conflict resolution, my guide had a lot to say, and a lot of experience to back up her statements.  She said that the community is always working towards greater transparency and personal accountability, and that she believes the best way to work through conflicts is to have everything out in the open — no secrets.  We talked about the difference between gossip and constructive discussion among friends.  Gossip, she explained, requires keeping secrets; talking to one person and asking them not to talk to others leads to divisions in the house.  Talking to as many people as possible, especially at a weekly house meeting with a goal to resolve the conflict in mind, airs out the issue and lets everyone know what is going on, so that no one is talked about behind their back.  She explained that back when she and the other founding members were looking for a house she insisted that it had to have only one kitchen.  The kitchen is where everything comes out — at the TTT this is also very true.  Multiple kitchens would lead to factions, which could be the community’s demise.

I have often wondered if many (if not most) of the TTT’s problems were simply due to age: everyone there is in their late teens/early-mid20s; the more “mature” people often end up spending most of their time in their rooms because they can’t stand the mess/noise/whatever of the rest of the house.  Well apparently the Sugar Shack has recognized the implications of having a lot of young community members; another unwritten house rule is to never accept more than one or two applicants in their early 20s, OR to accept a whole group of friends in the early 20s so that they can have their own area of the house to contain their energy (and stuff).  I found this very interesting.  I’ve never lived in a community with a large age range, and I often wonder if the older people resent being pushed into a “parent” position (I feel this at the TTT, and I’m still in my 20s!).  I can see how this “unwritten rule” takes care of some of those issues.

In conclusion I’ll just mention I’m telling all my LA friends who are older than 25 to live at the Sugar Shack.  I think it would be the perfect fit for most of them: colorful, joyous, genuinely socially/politically conscious, and also quite mature.