Jerking into Louisville

Wren on August 24th, 2009

The first leg of my trip was another nail biter, with my car bucking and jerking¬† half the way. I made to Louisville where I got help from my host John Thornberry and his pal Kirk to replace, well, many parts of the Blue Goose. The troubleshooting and repairs took two days, delaying me. Luckily I had pleasant company. Got to see my mom and my ex, Patti. My dog Tuatha was a bug in the milk of John’s cat Milky. But she seems to have survived yet another invasion by that annoying, curious sheltie.

Then my car purred like a dream, off to ride the Ozark Mountains…We’re ready to appear in one of those idylic SUV ads now…

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Ahh, A Rose at the Fair…

Wren on August 18th, 2009

rose-quartz-roughI confess to some amusement and bewilderment at some visitors to my gemstone table and jewelry collections. Not only do some adults as well as children have trouble identifying whether a piece is made of metal, stone, glass or wood, but sometimes the novice encountering my bin of raw rose quartz for the first time will pick it up, turn it in her/his hand to ponder it, then lift it to his/her nose and smell it…

Okay. I suppose I see some logic to that… I’m glad it didn’t get named strawberry quartz…

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Red Wiggler Farm

Wren on August 11th, 2009

Red Wiggler's recent tomato harvestFormer Heathcote Community member Andrea Barnhardt just let us know she’s working at Red Wiggler Farm, an organic CSA (community supported agriculture) that provides meaningful employment for mentally disabled adults. In CSA’s, buyer members have a stake in a farm’s crop and receive generous amounts of the harvest delivered to a central location.

This sparked on my radar because my mom, Peg Finnie, used to operate Harmony Habitat on our family farm in Bloomfield, Kentucky, a group home with similar goals.

Please consider giving your support to this project.

Similarly, Camphill Communities have existed within the larger context of the intentional communities movement for years. I’d love to expand on this post but I am bound for the Howard County Fair

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New Rule: No Saying, “No Touching”

Wren on August 10th, 2009

instrument section, World of PetsThe first weekend of the Howard County, Maryland Fair (“How Cow“) 2009 is through the chute. I am wiped out and hoarse, but also exhilarated to be camped out in the forest my beloved necklace branches and Karuna Arts batiks again. The sounds of customers tinking on the bamboo xylophone and rubbing the frog mating calls, shaking the juju bean rattles, tossing the cicada stones, etc.; These never get old for me.

Parents endlessly hissing, “Don’t touch anything,” that got old the first time.

I wouldn’t have packed fourteen tables to the gills with colorful shinies if I didn’t want little ones to touch them. When are parents going to read a book and get it that children are tactile and learn about their world through touch? “Don’t touch, just look,” they say. Duh. Children’s eyes are on their fingertips. They have to touch to look. Then there’s the enlightened, well meaning parent who says, “Look with your eyes…”

This is why I long ago decided my booth’s rule would be, “No leaving until you’ve touch everything. Now get busy!” Then I made the policy, “We don’t charge for breaking.”

I save broken things from Heathcote Earthings and my friends at Crystal Cottage in Roanoke, Virginia and I sell them on special scratch & dent tables at certain shows. How Cow is one of our clearance shows.

Nine times out of ten, however, when something gets broken, yours truly has done it, not someone’s grabby kid.

Besides developmental appropriateness, I also get frustrated with parents following their children around, pulling their paws back and barking, “don’t touch,” because if the parent is policing his or her kid, the parent isn’t shopping. I imagine that grumpy shopkeepers who are not also child development specialists have trained generations of parents to curb their kids. How does this not grind the economy to a halt?

My friend Herb, lovable curmudgeon that he is, follows greasy fingered tykes around his store, abandoning his pursuit of sales to do it. Granted, he sells more breakables than I do. And he pays young people to Windex fingerprints off his inventory. I skip this step mostly, and feel I have a measure of peace in life.

My observation about this drama is that, the shopkeeper isn’t focused on selling, the kid and the parent aren’t focused on buying. The store gets to keep its inventory, fingerprint free, and the parent and the customer who gets ignored get to keep their money. That’s one nice outcome but…

I have signs around my booth that read, “shoplifters will be hexed.” I often get asked if I’m worried about shoplifting at my booth, where so many tiny items are packed so tightly in a big space. My philosophy is the same for theft as for children. I don’t like it, but if I become paranoid and focus my attention on who in the crowd might be stealing, then I’m not focused on who in the crowd is ready to buy. I might catch a few sticky fingers if I try, but probably not. Their job is to steal and they’re good at it. I’m not a detective. I’m not good at that. I have some talent for sales. Let’s all stick with what we’re good at.


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Join a Dancing Rabbit on the Air

Wren on August 8th, 2009

Nathan BrownLet me tell you about my friend Nathan Brown. He hosted my partner Iuval and me on our recent visit to Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in Rutledge, Missouri. His drive and focus as an environmental and intentional community activist make my hair giggle. When I grow up, I want to be just like him. This Wednesday, August 12, 2009, he’ll be the guest on AwakeNow Radio from 4 to 5 pm and you can see if he makes your hair giggle, too!

At twenty-nine, Nathan is the kind of doer who makes me curious to see what he’ll be doing at thirty-nine…and forty-nine and fifty-nine.

While I struggle to make the transition from vegetarian to vegan, Nathan shows amazing discipline in sticking to his raw food and localvore diet choices. While were there, he taught Iuval how he soaks his food rather than cooking it. And he carefully researched the sources of the foods arriving to his little co-op at Dancing Rabbit. His particular food co-op is striving to eat locally, or at least regionally, so treats I love like chocolate and quinoa may go off their menu.

straw bale work at DRNathan was a gracious and engaging host, showing us around Dancing Rabbit’s many and varied building projects. A tour of DR will be part of the radio show as well. I love houses; They are worlds unto themselves and my imagination is always sparked on such tours. DR’s homes include straw bale, earth berm, and earth bag dome, conventional post and beam, modified silos, school buses, etc. One friend there lives so simply his “home” is a hammock. House sites are grouped together on their land, creating a warm, inviting village feel. Yards seem to be completely taken up by gardens.

Polaris, at HeathcoteDancing Rabbit is off the grid, getting electricity from solar panels and water from catchment. Creating a village from the ground up on empty land in a part of the country with less regulation, DR has grown to over forty people in a dozen years. My own community, Heathcote, is forty-three years old and hovers around a dozen adults most of the time. We face complicated issues navigating local housing regulations and we work with the buildings already on our land, such as our historic grain mill, farmhouse and pioneer log cabin. We modify outbuildings such as a chicken coop and corn crib. We try to improve the energy efficiency of our existing buildings. Polaris, our straw bale group house, (pictured here) is our only new construction. Additionally, our land doesn’t afford us as much opportunity for solar and other alternative energies as DR’s.

Nathan also demonstrates that, for an intentional community to succeed in its mission, its members must be dedicated to social, interpersonal technologies that facilitate consensus, conflict resolution, personal and interpersonal growth. He shared some of his techniques with us during our visit. And I appreciated doing more growth work with him at New Culture Summer Camp East last month.

I look forward to hearing Nathan share his community and his vision with a new audience. From the Facebook event page:

Nathan Brown will join AwakeNow! Radio and co-hosts Lotus Allen and Margie Scott for an engaging and informative conversation, plus he will take us on a fascinating journey to Dancing Rabbit Eco-Village in NE Missouri. Nathan will share his sustainable life way, vision, mission and his work/play, which serves and promotes The Great Turning from our current Industrial-Corporate Age toward the formation of a Life-Sustaining Age.

Nathan Brown is a eco social entrepreneur, healer, & social change activist living at Dancing Rabbit Eco-Village. Originally from Texas, Nathan has lived in several intentional communities and is dedicating his life to living and walking sustainability, including a deep commitment to Dancing Rabbit Eco-Village and his relationships built there over the past four years. He will share his philosophy on several topics he feels passionately about, including emotional healing and conflict resolution in community and with children; loving more than one in committed, polyamorous relationships; and his business consulting, coaching, and otherwise supporting social entrepreneurs. See

Feel free to join the conversation by calling AwakeNow! Radio’s Guest Call-in Number: (718) 664-9218 OR sign in to our Show’s chat room.

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No Chocolate for the Localvore?

Wren on August 1st, 2009

raccoon as localvore1As I was writing my last post about my favorite chocolate bar, something was eating at me. I wasn’t mentioning a priceless consideration we can make in our buying choices–locally made products! The omission bothered me, as I am both diligent and inconsistent about promoting this idea.

I vend at festivals and fairs in my region, promoting fair trade crafts, which I buy from fair trade wholesalers and charities, such as Ten Thousand Villages, Northern Sun, Gypsy Rose and ethical American companies and non-profits such as Karuna Arts, Native Scents and Aurora Glass.¬† Choosing winning products from their catalogs and websites is quite easy, compared to choosing from the river of local artists, hobbyists and craftspeople who ask me to turn their tinkerings into gold. Locals following a creative outlet haven’t always checked the marketplace to decide what they should make. There are lucky guesses–Duct tape wallets are wildly popular!

raccoon as localvore2But nothing is simple. I make jewelry, so to see me at a festival and buy from me would seem “local.” But my gemstones, findings, etc., come from all over the world, under all conditions imaginable. And I’ll bet the kid who makes the duct tape wallets isn’t holding out for duct tape made locally, from local materials. I imagine my Amish neighbors who do a fine business with outdoor sheds choose the cheapest wood, not the most local.

Like my favorite localvore and online mascot the wiselittleraccoon, my partner Iuval is looking for land to found a new intentional community, one in which members participate in a much more local economy, getting by with very little and making most of their basic needs. In this new/old model, most people would participate directly in growing nearly all of their food, including grains.

I know truckloads of gardeners and farmers. Some grow 5-10% of their food. Others grow nearly all the fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts they need. Grain seems to be another story, a final frontier.

With farmers’ markets, backyard and community gardens, CSA’s, etc, buying food locally seems to be comparatively easy, if not cheap. Government subsidies and other factors make commercial foods much cheaper than local organics. I love being right each time I repeat, “You get what you pay for…”

But as filmmaker Annie Leonard points out in The Story of Stuff, the trinkets and plastic crap we seem to think we need leave wakes of environmental and social distruction (slavery, child labor, unsafe working conditions). In my life, learning to live without “stuff” is the first step. This has been easy since I pared down from a four bedroom Victorian to a ten-by-twelve foot stone springhouse and commune life. In that process, I got clear that “stuff” doesn’t make me happy; It doesn’t fill that spiritual empty box. People do; Nature does. A dog is just the greatest. Stuff, not so much.

Now if I decide something is a need, not a want, I have mental flow charts to navigate. Can I get it made of anything except plastic? Made locally, of local materials? Union shop or crafter? Organic? Minimal packaging? Locally owned retailer? Will online shopping save or add to fuel consumption?

As of this writing, chocolate is still listed as a “need,” although I have friends who never partake because cacao can’t be grown in their area. We’re all hiking in different places along the green trail. My backpack still contains chocolate. And a car. And my own detatched cabin I share with only my family. And a cellphone, my mac mini, and the Firefly boxed set


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