Archive for May, 2011

May 26, 2011

St. Elmo Village, Los Angeles

I keep telling people that there aren’t many intentional communities in Los Angeles but I really should stop saying that.  It’s true that the Technicolor Tree Tribe (Max’s and my home community) often feels isolated and that we don’t have much of a network among communities in LA, but the fact is that there ARE other communities around us.  We just don’t know about them, or they aren’t listed on, or they don’t call themselves “intentional communities” or “co-ops” and thus are under our radar.

The other day I discovered an incredibly inspirational, beautiful, well-established, 30+ person community called St. Elmo Village, just 10 minutes (by car) away from the TTT on St. Elmo Drive near La Brea in Midcity.  It was founded in 1969.

My friend and TTT alum Erin and I heard about St. Elmo Village from our other friend and TTT alum who’s thinking of living there.  We dropped by the other day to check it out.  The Village is an oasis of color: the walkways and drives that meander among the 18 family units are painted brightly with swirls of every possible color, there are desert plants and big shade trees everywhere, clearly planted with thought and tended carefully and lovingly, and among the plants resides a community of sculptures and multi-media/recycled-materials art pieces that blend in seamlessly.

“St. Elmo Village, Inc. is a credit to the human spirit.  It is an inspirational example of what can be created when a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural people come together for the good of all… The surrounding neighborhood, predominantly African American and Latino, was at the point of visual deterioration [when the Village was created].  In the mid-sixties, Roderick and Rozzell Sykes, nephew and uncle respectively, rented a couple of these dwellings on St. Elmo Drive.  Both men were visual artists (Rozzell passed away in 1994) and both were thriving independently.  By 1969 they, along with other artists, decided to present their work as a group in their own environment.  This was the birth of St. Elmo Village as an art space.  St. Elmo Village, Inc. has survived since 1969 by continuing to reach out to the community with its positive image.  Providing a place for individuals to explore and develop their creativity, the message of the Village has always been: ‘Do your best, no matter who or where you are.  Eliminate I can’t and discover the rewards of I can!'” (from their info pamphlet)

We were graciously given a tour by Roderick, who showed us the indoor and outdoor art galleries and exhibits, the studios where he and his wife work, the enormous barn-like building where classes of kids come from all over Southern California to express their creativity through paint and play, the large fish pond which was built by children from found materials, the lush low-maintenance plant life infusing the Village with green, and the office full of photos from the many moments of joy and accomplishment the Village has experienced.  Roderick told us of the community’s philosophies: that everyone is creative, whether or not they call themselves “artists,” and that joy and happiness come from seeing every act as a valuable and creative act, that everyone is welcome regardless of their background or beliefs.

“Working together in a place like the Village, we are reminded of the things that we have in common rather than those that separate us.”


May 17, 2011

Butter Making!

So what do you do with a case of heavy whipping cream? Well we tried ice-cream, but we didn’t have any other milk products and ended up basically with frozen whipped cream. It was ok, but bordered on unbearably heavy. Luckily someone mentioned that you can make butter and that he’d seen people making butter by shaking mason jars. About 20 minutes of shaking a glass jar full of heavy whipping cream, VOILA! we had made ourselves some butter. An incredible amount really–I’d say that out of a pint of heavy whipping cream we got ourselves a cup (and a half?) of butter and a cup of milk. So without further ado, here are some instructions to make butter:

Pour one pint of heavy whipping cream into a quart mason jar. Close the top and shake vigorously for 20 minutes. You’ll see the cream go through a bunch of stages. At some point it will be whipping cream and you may get disheartened because it doesn’t look like its turning into butter. Don’t despair, just keep shaking. At some point, it will become very clear that the cream has turned into butter surrounded by milk. It will be very very obvious that you’ve got butter. If its not, keep shaking. Once you have butter and milk, pour off the milk into another container to save (this is just whole milk). Then add cold water to the jar, shake for a minute or so, and then pour off the water. Repeat this until the water you’re pouring off is mostly clear. This rinses off the rest of the buttermilk from the butter. The buttermilk could potentially go sour and ruin the butter much earlier than the butter might go bad. After you’ve rinsed it a bit, dump the butter out, put it in a container and eat it! (or add salt and herbs, but thats up to you)


May 16, 2011

Dumpster Score #29: Eugene

So for those that don’t know, Rachel left Eugene and Ollie (and Max) for a few weeks to do some gallivanting/traveling around. She’s currently in Los Angeles where a number of people are graduating and moving on from the coop and where there will be a Women’s Creative Collective for Change Skillshare(!) in the Angeles National Forest. After that, she’ll be out in Ohio for her brother’s graduation.

So anyhow, its been a little difficult to keep up my motivation to dumpster without my partner in reclaimed trash. But I have made it out to Trader Joe’s a couple times the past week or so. This is really two trips, but I thought I’d just go ahead and post as one:

Trader Joe’s: 6 different bags of precooked meats (think frozen chicken wings, marinated beef kebabs, etc), 3 cartons of eggs, 15 (ish) pints of heavy whipping cream (I think we’re going to make a lot of ice cream and butter).

May 16, 2011

Heartaculture Farm, Eugene

The day we visited Heartaculture Farm was a brilliant blue and green sunny spring day in Oregon. It was quite unbelievable timing as its about a 16 mile bike ride from the house we were staying at. Which made for a sublime morning bike ride mostly on semi-forested bike paths and then country roads. About 1/2 mile from our final destination we passed a pasture with the most adorable dwarf cows. They seemed like they were almost half size and they had these really funny faces with huge noses. Rachel stopped to say hi and although they were really shy, they edged a little closer to her until they decided they weren’t sure what they thought of us.

We arrived at Heartaculture shortly after and walked our bikes through their dirt driveway. The first thing I remember thinking was that I had never seen so many chickens in one place! They were everywhere clucking around, chasing and flapping at eachother, curiously staring at us; general chicken silliness. We had come for a work party, so we made our way to the fields towards the back of the property. A couple of other people were already getting dirty, so we ambled over and said hello. They were moving piles of leaves that the city of Eugene had collected during street cleanings and provided to them for free. The leaves were going onto raised rows with layered cardboard. Apparently this process creates really rich soil in a short amount of time and requires no tilling.

We met some folks and before we got down to working we were given a tour of the property. The land is quite large. They have a big greenhouse, a huge barn with a workshop, several stalls where chicks were being raised, one big old farmhouse, two other smaller houses, several other garage like spaces with all sorts of things going on inside, two icosa huts, a yurt with a big tarp over an apparently leaky roof, a big city bus that had been converted to live in, another bus that was apparently someone’s burningman trailer, a small cabin that had recently been built but was unfinished on the interior and a couple of chicken pens and coops. And the crazy thing was that there were something like 6 or so adults currently living on the property! Our host told us that they are definitely trying to grow the number of people living on the property and that their ideal number would be closer to 15. They are very much in their infancy as a community, and are trying to figure out a lot of what they want to be and how they can make that happen. They are really interested in recycled and re-used materials and two of their garage-like structures were filled with items that might have otherwise been thrown away and that were biding their time before they were reincarnated.

We stayed on for most of the afternoon shoveling leaves onto the beds, enjoyed a nice picnic lunch with some younger kids, and then took another beautiful ride in the late afternoon sunshine.


May 15, 2011

Technicolor Tree Tribe, Los Angeles

I dug up some old journals, from before and after I returned to LA to be part of the Technicolor Tree Tribe.

January 16, 2008 (Seattle) Life right now isn’t that bad, but there is something, an emptiness, a loneliness.  It’s as if my current happiness is only superficial, insubstantial.  I feel complete at the Coop.  When I am happy there (which is whenever I am there), it is a deep happiness, a happiness which takes importance over any possible petty issues, arguments, or uncertainties I may have.  The love I feel there is equally substantial and satisfying — it is a powerful, unconditional, undying emotion that truly pervades the whole house.

February 4, 2008 (Seattle) Sometimes I just wish I could go into my brain and erase all memory of the Technicolor Tree Tribe, the Coop, all of them.  I am so hopelessly attached to them.

December 1, 2008 (LA) Sometimes I wonder if living here is actually too intense for me.  The relationships, the social dynamics, are always so intense.  Every situation, every event, every decision, every MOMENT together is so charged, so meaningful, so educational, so INCREDIBLE.  Hugs as we walk in — everyone so excited we’re back (from camping), so excited to see us, and we’ve only been apart for 4 days.  It’s a homecoming, a celebration we’re all so happy to be together again, after even such a short time!  Cooking!  We love to eat of course, but it seems we love to cook even more… I cooked with Michaela today and we chatted like we knew each other well, like the way I want to know her.  I felt sisterly towards her, which is an unusual feeling for me.  Dinner — together, always together, everything together.  And not cuz someone told us to, or some non-human factor forced us to, but simply cuz we’d rather be together than be anything else, simply cuz we love each other.  We sit the way I envision siblings sitting — close, touching, in tune with each other.  But we’re so far from being siblings; more like lovers… We all try to be everything for each other, knowing that we can’t.  But we can love each other, appreciate each other, know each other.

December 18, 2008 (LA) It is a serious fear of mine that I will never love anyone as much as I love these kids, that I will never feel more at home than I do here, that I will never be in a more wonderful family than this one.  It’s lonely here with only 8 of us.

September 9, 2009 (LA) The co-ops we visited in Berkeley put my life, our house, and my dreams into perspective.  Loth made me cry.  I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was, how old, how lived-in, how colorful, how established, how comfortable.  The painted walls, the treehouse, the garden, the wall of bumperstickers, the kitchen that was clearly the center of daily activity… It’s funny how jealous I became, how much I longed to just move in, right then and there, how much I hated the idea of returning to LA.  But when we did get home there was nothing but happiness and relief.  Here is a co-op where not only does everyone know me and I know everyone, but everyone loves me and I love everyone!  Here is a co-op where I can spend hours cleaning and feel satisfied and appreciated.  Here’s a co-op where I know the “rules,” where I am totally at home.  It is my home.  Max said, it’s a good home to come home to… I came back from visiting those beautiful old co-ops, and I felt more at home than ever before.  It is incredible what we’ve done.

It is incredible what we’ve done.


May 8, 2011

Heart and Spoon, Eugene

The Heart and Spoon house was formed several years ago by a group of folks who had worked together as part of the volunteer organization Emergency Communities.  Emergency Communities provided food and other relief to residents and emergency responders in Mississippi and Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.  The original eight members of Heart and Spoon hadn’t known each other before Katrina, but the bonds they formed while volunteering together led to their collective decision to live together in the future, raise their children together, and create an intentional community that would be open to others who shared their interests and goals.  Most of them were from the South, but they chose to live in Eugene because of the many communities already established there and the general sense of ecological and social responsibility in that city.  Most of Heart and Spoon’s members are teachers and/or social aid/social justice workers for different organizations.

The house Heart and Spoon eventually moved into had previously been owned by some older hippie folks (regulars at the Oregon Country Fair, we were told), so the house already looked like a co-op: outdoor shower surrounded by artistically interlaced pieces of gnarled wood, gardens, a large trellis, beautiful trees.  The new residents added a hot tub, a dome (built by the same person who made the ones at the Maitreya Ecovillage, though this one’s much larger), chickens, a roof garden, and other outdoor structures.  About nine people live there now, including young children; dogs, cats, and fish are also members of the family.  We were surprised and impressed to watch one dog expertly use the door knob to let herself in and out of the house!


May 4, 2011

Dumpster Score #28: Eugene

The Eugene TJ’s has a night-time security guard, so we’ve taken to dumpstering during the day.  Today, for example, we approached the dumpster, which is in the parking lot and visible to just about everyone, cautiously but confidently (don’t want to look too suspicious) at about 7 PM.  Just as we knelt to open the door to the dumpster bay, a disembodied voice yelled, “You can’t go in there.”  What was that?  We ignored it.  “You can’t go in there,” again seeming to come from nowhere.  We looked around and finally located the source of the voice: a man sitting on the curb in the parking lot, surprisingly far away.  “I work there, and you can’t go in there, for liability reasons,” he said.  We waved to him, and said ok, turning to leave.  “But I’ll be gone in five minutes” said the voice, almost sympathetically.

We had a snack in the park across the street (some excellent dumpstered bread and cheese!), and returned to TJ’s — but this time to give them some money in exchange for something we probably wouldn’t find for free: wine.  We checked out with the owner of the previously disembodied voice.  “We decided to buy something!” we tell him, and he laughs.  “I’m sorry I had to do that,” he explains, “but you know, if someone saw you, and then saw me there watching, and you were to get hurt…” he trails off.  It’s obvious that he only wants to keep his job, and isn’t judging us.  As we finish paying for our wine he says, “I don’t know if you know this, but we throw away A LOT of stuff.”  WE KNOW.

Trader Joe’s: 1 block sharp cheddar cheese, 1 lb 10 oz sea salt, spinach pie, Scallops Wrapped in Uncured Bacon with Brown Sugar Glaze (still frozen!), 2 spinach sour cream dips, 1 gouda wedge, 2 packages sirloin fillet black angus beef, 2 bananas

Chocolate Decadence (vegan chocolate): 2 bags chocolate, some pretzels

May 3, 2011

Dumpster Score #27: Eugene

Trader Joe’s: 4 containers salsa, 5 containers cottage cheese, half gallon skim milk, 2 containers five layer dip, box of crackers, bag of honey mustard pretzels, 3 triple cream blue cheese wedges, 2 triple cream brie wedges, 4 double cream goudas, 1 bag pasta, 1 pasta sauce, 5 packages chicken sausages

May 2, 2011

Maitreya Ecovillage, Eugene

Of all the communities we’ve visited so far, the Maitreya Ecovillage reminded us the most of a 1960s hippie commune.  [As we both consider the hippie phenomenon to be our cultural heritage, I do not make this comparison with derision!]  The Ecovillage (so-called due to its founders’ dedication to living sustainably) is a ~30-person cohousing community which spans a few blocks in a quiet western Eugene neighborhood.  It is currently owned by one of the founders, and I think it’s been around for about 20 years, but I might be getting that wrong.  Our visits often consisted of making pizza, including dough from scratch (a weekly event), hanging out by the fish pond (where I made my very first hula hoop), hanging out on the front porch (listening to someone play guitar), and hanging out in the kitchen (eating, cooking), all surrounded by a multitude of tumultuous naked children running around underfoot.  We spent most of our time in and around a single house, home to upwards of 10 people (my best guess), the center of most of the action.  There were several garden/yard/construction projects being worked on simultaneously, every day (except when it was pouring rain) — it seemed like people spent all their time tending to children and working on projects; I often wondered if anyone had jobs or went to school, but was too embarrassed to ask!  The overall vibe was a perfect balance of industrious and chill.

One of our favorite parts of Maitreya were its domes.  Remember the Domes in Davis, which are entire houses?  The ones at Maitreya were much smaller — room enough just to be a bedroom for one or two people.  They were clustered in front of one house and the folks who slept in them (for $45/mo) could use that house’s bathroom and kitchen.  We asked one dome resident if she was cold at night, and she said she just plugs in a space heater!  Just like my good old van!   🙂