Archive for April, 2011

April 29, 2011

Dumpster Score #26: Eugene

Metropol Bakery: bread

Humble Bagel: bagels

April 28, 2011

Du-Ma, Eugene

Before we visited Du•Má (which means “home” in the Calapooyan Indian language), I was quite impressed by their website, particularly the list of community values: fostering a sense of community, being ecologically responsible, striving towards equality, embracing diverse groups of people, and supporting personal growth.  The website elaborates upon these admirable goals in detail, including exactly how each value is expressed by community members.   Here’s a beautiful example:

Du•Má Values: Egalitarianism


Egalitarianism is difficult to define because it involves perceived and real power relationships between people.   Assessing whether a decision or behavior leads towards egalitarianism is difficult because relationships are complex, numerous, constantly changing, and can not be evaluated objectively.  Theoretically an egalitarian society exists when people have equal access to power, share responsibilities equally, and are able to pursue their full potential as humans.

The members of Du•má believe that the best organization system for our community is one within which power and responsibility are distributed equally.  Each member should have easy and equal access to political power and no member may own special power privileges.  Likewise, all members are expected to share the workload in an equal fashion and are equally responsible for the daily operations as well as the long term well being of the community.

We would like to carry on as many of Duma’s activities as possible in a manner that contributes to a more egalitarian society.   However, we also recognize that our society systematically perpetuates inequality amongst people.  The existence of these systems and their past and present effect on our lives make the task of creating an egalitarian community more complex and not fully obtainable.   Nevertheless,  we are doing the best we can to minimize and reverse the oppression associated with power structure in our society while providing a model for society to overcome the inequity amongst people in our society.

From experience we have found that to create a sustainable community requires a willingness of members to invest personal energy towards eliminating oppression, taking responsibility for personal actions and possessions, and thinking in a “consensual manner.”

In working towards becoming an egalitarian group we believe it is important to recognize that most people in our society have been denied a wide variety of privileges, rights, and opportunities based on their gender, race, class, religion, able bodiedness, sexual orientation, and age.  Most of the systems (legal, education, economic, etc.) in our society have been structured in such a fashion that they are prejudiced in favor of those people who belong to a privileged group.  This is true in areas such as political power, personal freedom, employment, income, housing, education, health, physical safety, emotional well being, recreation, as well as many others.

Ending oppression begins with an awareness of the privileges and oppressive messages (stereotypes) bestowed upon each person by society as a result of their  background.  Awareness must be followed by a commitment to change our behavior and thought patterns that limit the potential of others to fully be who they are.  For example, to end racism, we need to unlearn societal messages that Asians people are smart, Mexicans work hard, and blacks are violent.  We must pay attention to the subtle ways that we are inclined to treat one another differently based on what category we fall into.  Thus, our daily lives demonstrate our  desire to end past and present oppression.

Personal responsibility
For each member of the community to feel a sense of equality, each person must take responsibility for their own actions and possessions.  If some people are affected by another’s action without their consent, then a unilateral power relationship has been established.  For example, in day-to-day life, if one person is unable to enjoy a common space because someone else has left their clothes in the space, then the person who left the clothes has control of a common space.  In a larger context, many environmental issues involve control over common resources.  The person who drives an old car belching exhaust impacts many people without their consent.

As members of a community striving towards egalitarianism, we must be aware of how our actions affect one another.  If we suspect that our individual actions (or inaction) will significantly affect someone else, then it is our personal responsibility to obtain their consent.  It’s also our responsibility to communicate to others when they fell affected by someone’s actions.  This is particularly true with agreements that we have made with one another such as house jobs.  How can we have equality if only some people uphold their agreement to do jobs that benefit the entire group but no one speaks up about it?   In essence, “responsibility accompanies freedom.”

We are committed to using the consensus decision-making process as an essential part of pursuing egalitarianism.  We believe that including everybody’s thoughts and feelings in every decision will result in a more equal distribution of power than occurs in the traditional voting system.   Because the consensus process is inclusive rather than alienating, we believe it provides a firm foundation for a sustainable community.  Personal responsibility accompanies the decision-making process as well because consensus requires full participation.    For the members of Du•má, consensus is both the process used during meetings as well as a philosophy that guides our actions and informal decision-making.

We also recognize that as individuals and as a group we have a limited capacity to assimilate changes in our lifestyle that lead towards egalitarianism.  For example, eliminating sexist language is easier for most people to adopt as part of their lifestyle than it would be for us to pool all of our income and share all our expense.   For a variety of reasons (age, class background, cultural background), some people take longer to assimilate changes in their lifestyle than others.  We hope to provide a supportive atmosphere to help one another and the group towards a more egalitarian household at a realistic rate that doesn’t strain the social fabric of the community.

The following partial list provides examples of activities that individuals and/or Du•má as a group believe contribute to egalitarianism.   We have incorporated some of the examples into our daily lives to differing extents; other examples hopefully will be possible for individuals and/or the group in the future.

  • challenging traditional gender roles
  • providing access to people with different abilities
  • organizing a political campaign to support the Equal Rights Amendment
  • refraining from talking “down” to children
  • recognizing the privileges white people take for granted
  • providing workshops on class issues to the community at large
  • creating a job redistribution system that provides equal opportunity to all members
  • confronting one another about behavior that is oppressive to others
  • supporting one another financially
  • ensuring that there isn’t a seniority
  • practicing non-violent conflict resolution
  • forming study groups to understand sexism, homophobia, racism, classism, etc.
  • identifying internalized messages that threaten our self-potential
  • developing an affirmative action policy for new members

Egalitarianism is closely associated with other values Du•má embraces.  To create a healthy, enduring community,  we must treat one another as equals or else the group will become divided into people with excessive power, and those who don’t.  But to treat one another as equals in a society where inequality pervades requires personal awareness of the destructive attitudes that we carry with us that is oppressive and restricts our understanding of individuals.   As we understand one another as individuals, we come to honor and appreciate the diversity of cultures and experiences people bring with them.   Further, we come to realize that trying to live ecologically sustainable lifestyle is impossible unless we begin treating other species with same respect and reverence that other humans deserve.

Yes, that was long… but I hope you didn’t expect addressing oppression, privilege, power dynamics, and egalitarianism to be quick and easy!

I was a bit disappointed, then, to learn that their website is super out of date, unused by current members, and not required reading for incoming members.  In fact, Du-Ma does not have any formal application process for prospective members, who simply have to attend a few community dinners and pass what was described to me as a “vibes test.”  That being said, from what we witnessed at this 9-person household, folks are still striving towards the original goals — the community is relatively diverse in terms of race, sex, and age (that’s relative to other communities we’ve visited), and the overall feel of the group was definitely very respectful, friendly, consensual, and politically conscious.

Du-Ma is, as far as collective houses go, exceedingly clean.  All the community members I spoke to pride themselves in this collective cleanliness, and it was often acknowledged that this is a rarity in community living!  The member who’s been there the longest stated frankly that he likes to impress more “square” visitors who might be coming to the house with stereotypes of dirty, chaotic communes.  Du-Ma proves them wrong!  And the community members revel in it: their house is a shining (literally!) example of a community whose daily chores seem to work like the well-oiled machine we all dream of.

The house was purchased collectively among 8 people back in 1991, though only one of those founders remains.  Despite his being the only official owner, in no way does he act like he’s above egalitarianism and consensus, and the other members don’t seem to mind his sole ownership of the land.  He does seem to put in more yard work than the others, however, and the yard is strikingly beautiful as a result (you can see the fruits of his gardening labors in the above picture of the front of the house).  The back yard, which was a gravel parking lot in ’91, is now a thriving urban jungle of flowers, fruit trees, and vegetables, and also includes a chicken coop, hot tub, and sauna!  (Gotta love communities with saunas!)  Du-Ma members are truly blessed with this verdant, blissful space that’s clearly so full of love and care.


April 26, 2011

Vegan Gravy

Incredible on corn bread!!

1/2 c veggie oil

1/3 c chopped onion

5 cloves garlic

1/2 c allpurpose flour

4 t nutritional yeast

4 T light soy sauce

2 c veggie broth

1/2 t dried sage

1/2 t salt

1/4 t ground black pepper

Heat oil on saucepan over medium heat.  Saute onion and garlic until soft and translucent, ~5 min.  Stir in flour, nutritional yeast, and soy sauce to form smooth paste.  Gradually whisk into broth.  Season with sage, salt, pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer, stirring constantly, for 8-10 min, or until thickened.  Eat with corn bread, seriously!!!

April 24, 2011

Walnut Street Co-op, Eugene

The Walnut Street Co-op is a 7-10 person house in a quiet neighborhood in eastern Eugene, close to the University of Oregon campus.  The house itself is quite impressive: it was originally two separate houses with a landlord’s apartment in between, so there are two full kitchens, two large livingrooms, two garages (one bike shed and one workshop), and 4+ bathrooms.  The backyard reminded me of the Secret Garden, full of flowers, fruit trees, tall grass, playful cats, an outdoor kitchen, and a chicken coop-in-the-making (they’re thinking of getting goats, too!)  House members sit down to dinner together five nights a week, and we joined in one Friday night for nachos, salad, and generously-offered beer.  Common meals are vegetarian (meat is contained in one of the kitchens), the cooking duty rotates, and there is a massive amount of bulk, communal food stored in several places throughout the house (the unusual architecture lent itself to many an odd closet).  Members volunteer at a local grocery co-op called Growers Market where volunteers earn “pumpkins,” each worth 15% off their next purchase.  All common food is purchased using these pumpkins, and we’ve heard that even without them, Growers is the best place to buy bulk in town.

Chores (other than cooking dinner) do not rotate at Walnut Street like they do at most other communal houses we’ve visited.  Instead, when a new person joins the house they can choose their favorite chore(s) and keep those responsibilities for as long as they’d like.  If they get worn out, they can ask to swap with someone at a weekly house meeting.  Rent is $350/month for every room and everyone pays $140/month for food and $90/month for utilities.  Here’s a quick financial history:  “In fall 2003 we successfully purchased our house from the original owner, so that title is now held by our cooperative corporation rather than by any individuals. As a co-op we were unable to obtain bank financing, so we started a Community Revolving Loan Fund, where about 20 friends and supporters donated and lent us the money to buy the property. Each resident pays monthly fees which go toward loan repayment, taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance, and other costs. We are responsible for everything having to do with our community and building, there is no landlord to handle things so every person needs to pitch in! It is our hope to maintain this place as a long-term affordable housing option in Eugene.”

As we were biking to the Walnut Street Co-op we just happened to notice a large white bus parked in their neighbor’s driveway.  Upon hearing about Ollie, one of Walnut’s members gave their neighbor a call and we all went over to check out the bus.  On the outside it looks old and grungy, covered in lichen and dirt, but the interior is like the fairy tale cabin of an old grizzled explorer who’s traveled the continents in search of treasure: every shelf and counter top was a shrine full of natural and cultural artifacts from around the world, from animal skulls to masks and drums.  The bus’ owner, a carpenter and RV mechanic, was happy to tell us stories of his adventures and his projects (reversable vent in the ceiling, inlaid tile shower, exterior propane).  We probably spent way too much time there, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we went back for more!


April 20, 2011

Dumpster Score #25: Eugene (can you tell we’re having fun?)

Metropol Bakery: 4 bread rounds, 3 baguettes, 3 croissant, 1 cheesy bread

Humble Bagel: 6 cinnamon raison muffins, 6 birdseed bagels, 6 cinnamon Strussel muffins

Market of Choice: 4 heads of cauliflower

Trader Joe’s: 2 cartons eggs, 10 containers edamame hummus, 12 containers spinach sour cream dip, 10 apples

April 17, 2011

Dumpster Score #24: Eugene

VooDoo Donuts: countless donuts of various kinds

Trader Joe’s: 4 bottles soy sauce (one had cracked so they threw away the entire box), two boxes cherry tomatoes, 1 chicken salad, 1 bottle pickle relish, bouquet flowers

Metropol Bakery: 2 loaves bread

April 16, 2011

Tryon Life Farm/Cedar Moon (Part I), Portland

Tryon Life Farm is seven acres of gorgeous land, technically within Portland city limits, that borders the 650-acre Tryon Creek State Park.  It’s home to a 16-person community called Cedar Moon and is the location of several educational programs including Mother Earth School (a Waldorf/all-outdoor preschool and kindergarten), permaculture and Earth Activist trainings, and numerous workshops, events, and skill-shares centered around sustainable farming, Earth spirituality, and the skills our ancestors relied on but we’ve all forgotten (yarn spinning, use of medicinal plants, cheesemaking, etc.)  The financial history of Tryon is long and complex, and if you’re interested we recommend you read their detailed history on their website.  We just happened to stumble in during an all-weekend Animal Workshop, and thus learned how to sheer sheep, clean and spin yarn, build a chicken coop, milk goats, make goat cheese, and take care of bees.

Tryon Life Farm is planning to put on monthly workshops like the one we attended; they will mostly be sliding-scale, with a work-trade option (for this one, the work-trade was mucking out the goat barn!)  We arrived on a Friday night, by bike — the farm’s driveway is long and narrow and treacherously muddy, and we were told that the neighbors probably wouldn’t tolerate Ollie being parked on the street, so we left the bus about a mile away in a friendlier neighborhood and biked in with our sleeping bags, all our food, and a variety of clothes for muddy work.  On Saturday morning we woke at 8:00 AM, and after a leisurely breakfast in the communal kitchen, we started our day with milking the goats.  Though the workshop leaders consistently told us that it takes a lot of practice to milk goats, both of us seemed to take to it relatively quickly, and this became one of our favorite activities.  The farmers related goats to dogs and sheep to cats: goats like human attention and will follow you around, while sheep kind of do their own thing.  Sheering the sheep turned out to be much more difficult than we’d expected since, for some odd reason, sheep really do not like to be flipped upside down and on their sides so the sheerer can trim their tummies.  Much of the skill of sheering seems to be knowing how to wrestle sheep to the ground, and sheep, for all their docile nature, are unbelievably strong!  In the end, of course, the sheep seemed quite happy with their new hair cuts, and Max had a good time fine-tuning his yarn spinning skills.

Next we were taught how to make cheese from the goat milk, a fascinating process which both of us had been wanting to learn for a while.  You have to strain the milk through a cloth to catch any dirt, hair, or hay, then heat it, stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn, to the temperature that your bacteria like best (in our case, about 100 degrees).  Next you introduce the bacteria (different types yield different cheeses) which curdles the milk (separating curds from whey), let it sit for a couple hours, add rennet (usually made from animal intestines, though vegetarian rennet does exist) which coagulates the curds, and let it sit again for a few more hours.  At this point we were able to taste the cheese, which was bland but delicious.  The rest of the process is simply draining the watery whey from the cheese, either by hanging it in a cloth bag and letting the whey drip out, or by putting it in a cheese press.  Once the whey is mostly gone, you can flavor the cheese with spices and herbs, and continue to press it until you reach the hardness you want.  We ended up with a fairly soft chevre to which we added salt and dill — it was delicious!

The second day was more oriented around bees and chickens, although it again started with milking the goats in the morning. After that was a really thorough and helpful talk about bees. They are truly mysterious creatures, and while its easy to have a very vague understanding of what  honey bees do (they collect pollen and make honey, there’s a queen, etc), the specifics of it are much more bizarre and wonderful. We learned about bee bread, control center dance floors, royal jelly, swarming, the different types of bee boxes, etc. I think the details are probably best left to what must be the volumes of texts out there and/or personal experience. One of the women leading the workshop did relate a story of catching a swarm and bringing it to the farm. She told us that giving birth and catching the swarm ranked among the most magnificent experiences in her life. After the talk, she opened up her top bar bee house so that everyone could see inside. It turned out that a little mouse family had taken up residence in one corner of the box, but she was able to clean out the nest and even harvest some honey.

The rest of the workshop was sort of devoted to the chickens. The little children running around got to collect eggs, and everyone got a tour of their coop. The coop is currently made out of a big mobile home-like trailer, so that it can be attached to a vehicle and moved around the land.  This would theoretically allow them to move the chickens around to prepare soil for growing plants. However, the current coop was so big that it was impossible to move with just people and too tricky to get a vehicle in to pull it around. So they were working that weekend on building a new coop which was smaller and more mobile. One of the women had welded a frame for the house and we got to pitch in putting on a floor, siding, and a roof.

That night, we helped cook dinner and got to sit in on one of their meetings. I’m pretty sure we’ve said this before, but attending a meeting is a really amazing way to get a sense of how things really work at a community. The food was delicious–chickpeas re-fried in butter with some braggs on top is surprisingly good. They hold meetings once a week, with meetings of the heart and meetings of the mind alternating. This was a meeting of the mind, and therefore open to the public. The nature of the farm and their community seems to necessitate much more consensual decision making than perhaps co-housing communities where people can sort of get along on their own. Tryon is currently working on a consensual budget with buy-in from members on the whole process. It looked like a ton of work, but we think they could really get an important result. So often that sort of work is done by just one or two people and those sorts of power dynamics seem to be so uncomfortable for all involved.

We had to leave the next morning to get on the road so we could get out to We’Moon and then Eugene in time to catch Max’s friend Michael before he goes gallivanting off on his next set of adventures, but it was with the sense that we’d both really like to spend some more time at Tryon in the near future. There were several specific aspects of Tryon that particularly appealed to us, including their emphasis on Earth spirituality, the openness with which folks spoke about gender and race and the obvious importance of these issues for the community as a whole, the fact that they focused on permaculture without being snobby about it (a rare trait, apparently), and an almost ideal balance between being urban (in Portland) and rural (forested).  This combination of factors, in addition to the multigenerational aspect of Tryon (members aged 1 year to 40s), made this community one of our favorites.  We look forward to visiting them again soon!

-Max and Rachel

April 16, 2011

We’Moon Land, Estacada

Once, not that long ago — about 40 years — a group of womyn got together in Oregon and hatched a plan.  They had dreamed of living in a place free of patriarchy, where they needn’t fear rape, where their bodies wouldn’t be objectified, where their love for each other could grow openly and without shame, where they could be comfortable learning all the skills they’d been told were unfeminine, where they could reconnect to the Earth as Her daughters and priestesses, where they could be truly themselves — live to their highest potential — without being pulled down again and again by patriarchy.  In short, they had dreamed of land that was owned, occupied, and run by womyn only, a womyn’s community set apart from the oppressive patriarchal society in which they were born.

From this dream came We’Moon Land, a picturesque 55 acres outside Estacada, OR, where only womyn have lived since 1973.  The houses, cabins, workshops, sauna, and yurt that dot the partially forested landscape were built by the womyn residents, and it was this community that started the now famous, and incredibly beautiful, We’Moon Astrological calendars as a successful cottage industry.  Several years ago the building where the calendars were being published burned down and the business was forced to relocate to Portland and Southern Oregon.  The business is doing well, however, and though many womyn left We’Moon Land due to the relocation, the land is currently occupied by womyn with a vision for another larger community.  They see their presence there as a bridge from the past culture centered around the calendars to a future of creating something new and as of yet undiscovered.  They relish in the peace and serenity of their beautiful spot on the Earth, and care for it lovingly.  Womyn can visit the land for $15/night or work-trade, and my nights there were spent in quiet solitude in a wonderful cabin named Myrtle.  The gentle, loving vibe there was tangible.  I have also had dreams of a world without patriarchal oppression, and I didn’t think it possible, at least not for hundreds of years (if that seems long, just think how long patriarchy has been in existence!).  But visiting We’Moon made me realize that that dream is possible in our world now — it takes a lot of effort, and money of course, but it’s possible, it exists, and experiencing it felt strangely safe, almost uncanny.  Who would have thought that one could actually escape patriarchy, that there could exist a place that big where one could be sure that no man had ever molested, harassed, raped, shamed, objectified, used, coerced, or belittled a womyn, at least not in 40 years?  It sounds impossible — it sounds like science fiction!  But it’s real, and it’s powerful.


April 16, 2011

The Hippie Mansion, Portland

We spent a couple weeks in the wonderfully hip world of Portland, parked outside a house unsarcastically called the Hippie Mansion that I found on under a different name, but which is now more of an unintentional community of 14 or so chill friends.  The awesomest thing about this house, other than the huge lion-footed bathtub and the fact that though 14 people live there, there always seems to be 25+ [really nice] bikes in the livingroom, is some of the friends’ way of paying their rent.  One housemate owns a deli that’s just down the street from the house, and housemates volunteer at the deli to pay for their rent.  Anyone can jump in and work if there’s need, and since lots of people want their rent paid that way, there’s usually a lot more would-be workers than there is space in the kitchen.  But everyone seemed to like the arrangement, and we were quite impressed by the idea!  (It was even suggested to us that we make some of our tried-and-true peanut butter cookies to trade for food, but we never got around to it.  Thanks again Max H for that recipe!)

Other awesome spots we spent time at include Microcosm (publishing company, zine distro/infoshop), In Other Words (the last non-profit feminist bookstore in the country!), and two FNB groups.  You know those detailed pictures folks sometimes draw that depict scenes of ideal anarchist/utopian life?  They usually involve a lot of people happily trading wares, cooperating on neighborhood projects, eating together, playing music, celebrating, all under a canopy of trees with lots of happy animals running freely amongst them?  Sometimes with shadowy fragments of the old capitalist world (factories, office buildings, etc) crumbling in the background?  Well, I used to think those scenes were just idealists’ imaginations, but in Portland that actually happens sometimes (ok, minus the crumbling factories), and one of our FNB days was like that: enough free food for 50 people, TONS of free stuff being given away (all of it transported on bikes, of course), guitars, dogs, just totally spontaneously, in a park, under trees.  It was a little surreal, but also pretty fantastic.  A vision of the future, perhaps, or maybe just Portlandia.


April 16, 2011

Dumpster Score #23: Eugene

Trader Joe’s: 1 carton eggs, box cherry tomatoes, udon soup bowl, basil box, cinnamon swirl bread loaf, instant green tea (!?), chicken enchiladas, olive spread, Ricola cough drops, seed and nut bread, bag lemons, bag Oriental rice crackers, 2 shallot bulbs, cheddar cheese, pastrami, hot cereal

[The security guard, who was clearly prepared for dumpsterers at TJ’s, promptly shooed us away before we could get more.  Ah, the pain of having to leave tons of good food to rot in the dumpster!]

Market of Choice: 2 boxes cherry tomatoes, 3 cucumbers, 23 apples, bag oranges, bag grapefruit, 3 bags yellow potatoes, 1 pear, 10 bananas, 2 ginger roots, tons of bulk bin bags (granola, trail mix, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, craisins, chocolate covered raisins, almonds, sunflower seeds), 3 tomatoes, 1 bagel, 3 clementines    🙂

Palace Bakery: 2 carrot cake mini muffins, 2 croissants, 1 cinnamon bun,  1 banana muffin, 1 scone, 2 chocolate Easter eggs