From Wren: Laird Schaub is a friend from Sandhill Community in Missouri, who teaches facilitation and consensus. He’s active in Fellowship for Intentional Community. Thanks, Laird, for allowing me to repost your article!


About 12 years ago I recall the first time FIC discussed the potential for intentional communities providing a safety net for people with special needs. Under Reagan’s tenure in the ’80s, the federal government went through a massive policy change whereby support for disadvantaged groups was deinstitutionalized. With the Boomer population about to enter retirement age, it didn’t take a math degree to predict the coming train wreck. Why couldn’t communities pick up some of the slack?

There’s no doubt that communities are well structured to offer this kind of help (think about the challenges of aging, mental health, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, recovery from trauma—there are myriad populations that could benefit from the dignity and caring distinctly possible in group settings). That said, I want to explore the tender dynamics of why it’s hard to take that very far, unless the community makes an explicit choice to go in that direction.

To be sure, there are a number of communities that have chosen to define themselves based on services to disadvantaged segments of the population. Here’s a sampling of some well-established examples:

o Camphill Villages
Inspired by the philosophy of Rudolph Steiner, these groups offer residential support for the developmentally disabled and have been around for 50 years. There are currently 13 offerings in North America, with others abroad.

o Gould Farm
This community in Monterey MA provides residential therapeutic treatment for the mentally ill. It’s been around since 1913—two wall calendars short of a century!

o Innisfree Village
This community in Crozet VA offers support for people with intellectual disabilities and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

o L’Arche
Inspired by the writings of Jean Vanier, this movement started in France in 1964, got a foothold in the US in 1972, and has 17 residential communities in America today, servicing those with intellectual disabilities.

With these solid examples, couldn’t the wider Communities Movement do more on a less formal basis? Perhaps.

Addition by Subtraction
For the most part, intentional communities aim to create a superior lifestyle for their members by purposefully downshifting into the slower lanes of traffic. Community living encourages members to get off the production and consumption treadmill, to slow down, build smaller houses, nurture connections, and share more. Following this path leads to less doing and more being, crafting a quality life on fewer resources. Sure people want security, but this is increasingly being defined as the quality of one’s relationships, rather than the quantity of one’s bank account.

Thus, even as communities aspire to meet their own financial needs, they actively work to whittle down what those needs are, and don’t particularly aspire to make much more than they need.

While most groups willingly stretch to help their own members in need, it is uphill asking communities to set aside resources (or work harder to generate those resources) for the purpose of creating surplus to aid unknown future members. Groups almost never run short of good ideas about how to put surplus resources to use. And if, for some reason, they’re ideas are fully funded, they’re far more likely to ease off the gas and smell more roses now, then to keep chasing dollars and deferring enjoyment of the life’s flower garden to some uncertain future.

Digesting this, it’s understandable that communities rarely get excited about tackling additional responsibilities than the ones they’ve already signed on for. In trying to pioneer sustainable and compassionate culture, they don’t want to swamp their life boat. While they’re typically happy to be an inspiration for other groups focusing on the needs of disadvantaged populations, they’re not likely to take a bigger bite of that particular apple than they already have in their mouth.

The double whammy here is that the disadvantaged groups themselves are, by definition, probably incapable of creating their own communities, and are thus at the mercy of new groups seeing the opportunities in meeting the needs of that client base as a way to ground the community’s mission. While some do, it’s not enough to make up for the (in)difference of contemporary public funding.

We need a different answer, and I think our best hope is for groups to be an inspiration for the neighborhoods and wider communities in which they’re embedded, where the support that intentional communities extend to their members is inspiring for how the many can humanely support the few—without reliance on governmental subsidies.

In an effort to fashion better safety nets, I don’t think we need communities to be salting away more dollars, so much as we need communities to be peppering their neighbors with ideas about how we can create robust services on the local level, built mainly on connection and common sense—giving up on our dependency to a connection with common cents.

Not only do I think we can do it, I think we must.

—Laird Schaub

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“Just one more thing…”

Wren on June 24th, 2011

Farewell, Peter Falk! I should screen The Princess Bride tonight…

Peter Falk

September 16, 1927 – June 23, 2011

Best Facebook Status Ever:

Wren on June 22nd, 2011

Here are some samples of the stickers available at the Hippie Chick Diaries Porch Sale, June 24-26, 2011. See the quarter in each picture to get their scale.

See you there!

Are Dragons Nocturnal?

Wren on June 12th, 2011

Are there wild monkeys in Maryland? Do raccoons pitch baseballs? Are dragons nocturnal? I’ve been trying to solve a mystery for the past few nights.

I’ve been enjoying the clean forest air, sleeping in a tent behind my cabin on Heathcote Community’s 110 acre wooded land trust. I’m tenting behind my house because, again this year, large black rat snakes have found access into my living space. This time, the story begins with the end of the world:

Remember Harold Camping’s predictions that the world would come to an end last May 21, 2011, at 6pm? Well, around 5pm, I strutted upstairs to where my partner C.T. was napping, to ask him how he wanted to spend the last hour of life. Since we’d just made love about an hour before, I didn’t want to assume he’d choose that. So we sat listing our options when something came crashing down in the kitchen.

“I didn’t like the sound of that,” I said.

“Is the end starting early?” C.T. wondered.

I tip toed about half way down the stairs and hugged the railing as I got confirmation of my fear: There was a four and a half foot black rat snake making its way from a shelf to the top of my refrigerator.

For those of you who don’t follow my website regularly, I don’t own any pet snakes.

“This means I’m not sleeping in this house tonight,” I told C.T. He kept an eye on our intruder’s movements while I gathered up my tent and assorted supplies. We ended up spending a few hours scooping out a level platform for the tent, since the woods is on a slope here. Last year the most level spot we could find still had us inching downhill all night long in our sleep. Now, level and happy, we sleep in a spacious tent while we seek and patch access holes. We have an extension cord and power strip going out to the tent so we have a lovely night stand with a lamp. We can recharge our cellphones and use them for alarm clocks. And we power a fan when needed.

But even though I’m enjoying the hell out of my tent, someone in the woods is taking exception to my new construction. About a week ago, the assault came from above. With lights out, several times over one night, it sounded almost like someone was dropping a whole bucket of water from above. But it wasn’t raining. The next morning we discovered our rain fly was decorated with some kind of non-mammal excrement. (For this post, I asked C.T. how you spell excrement. He said, “m-e-s-s-y.”) Looking above the area we found very a cool fork of a branch, with an s-shaped twist in it. If I were a bird or a bunch of mating snakes, that would be a comfy roost.

But the sheer volume of the excrement and the multiple offenses…snakes? Owl?

Every night when we enter the tent to go to bed, our dog Tuatha goes with. But he only lasts a few minutes before nuts from the trees above start falling and hitting the tent. Tuatha goes into panic mode and insists we evacuate. And when we show no interest, he scratches on the door of the tent, every dog for himself.

At this point, C.T. calls him scaredy-cat, to which Tuatha has no objection, as long as he can get back into the cabin to spend the night hiding under large heavy furniture. Tuatha apparently prefers the threat of snakes in the house to bombs from above.

For the past few nights, the bombings have been particularly frequent. As a matter of fact, C.T. and I could swear that the nuts are being thrown, not just dropping. They hit so hard. And, here’s the kicker, they’re coming in sideways!

“Maybe the squirrels are annoyed by our lamp and want us to turn out the light,” C.T. guessed.

“Squirrels are going to stay in their homes at night. They’re not going to risk getting eaten just to throw nuts at us,” I countered. “Although flying squirrels are nocturnal…” We did have a flying squirrel slam into the tent side a couple of nights before.

“Maybe they’re frightened or annoyed or jealous of all the sounds we’re making,” C.T. continued, referring to our tendency to  be very vocal during sex.

I tried to imagine a squirrel or raccoon with inadequacy issues. “Frightened, maybe,” I answered. “I guess we’re the noisy neighbors of the woods.”

Still we couldn’t place the source or catch anyone in the act. I started pondering the period of time about three years ago when we had other odd occurrences at Heathcote.

I recalled walking in the woods with the Open Classroom kids when we came upon a mass of some almost alien looking substance on the ground, a few feet from the entrance to a small cave. The stuff was greenish-yellowish, slightly more firm than gelatin and in a pile on the leaf litter. There was about a gallon of it.

Was it some kind of fungus or giant frog egg cluster? We couldn’t find any attributes that identified the mass. We were left with only one conclusion, given it’s proximity to the cave: Dragon snot.

This was the beginning of several months of sightings, almost-sightings, alleged sightings and many clues discovered and debated. At first most of the reports came from kids. But eventually adults also came forward with stories of dragon sightings in the Heathcote forest.

I myself was startled by the dragon up at Bill Anacker’s house once. I ran a twisted course through the swings in Bill’s yard, barely making it to the front door. The dragon was on my heels so near, that I had to dive trough the oversized doggie door. I didn’t even have time to turn a door knob!

Over time, sightings became less frequent. I haven’t heard of any lately. But now, with this anomalous event of nuts, dirt clumps and feces being thrown at our tent, I wonder.

There’s nothing like a tent, made of polyfiber only a couple of millimeters thick, staked under fifty-foot trees in a hundred acre wood, to give one pause about one’s place in nature and the food chain. Turn out the light, listen to the quiet of the night, then have it disturbed by tiny bombs, bombs that have been falling to Earth every year for millenia.

For millenia, animals like me have been discovering dragons.


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Bunny & Box Turtle Crossing

Wren on June 10th, 2011

As I finished making signs to post around Heathcote, advertising my porch sale, my dog Tuatha took advantage of my distraction to slip away for a little “me time” adventure.

Tuatha knows this distresses me. I want to keep him safe, away from car wheels and copperheads. But I have to admit that, on a hot June day like today, I’d love to slip away and play in the stream, too.

So I loaded my signs and myself into the car and went looking for him. When he runs away, I always have to talk to myself to remain calm and methodical. Once when I let my anger express itself in driving down the road much too fast, I ran over a groundhog. I felt horrible. And, of course, I realized that it could have been my own lost dog that I killed in an out-of-control moment.

And today I remembered that awful moment as I talked myself into calm, remembered that I’ve always found him quickly in the past, that he’s much more woods-savvy than I give him credit for, and that I can help him best by breathing and staying connected to my surroundings.

The Universe likes to reinforce these messages, apparently. As I drove around looking for him, driving at a reasonable speed, a rabbit in the road had one of those squirrel moments and zig zagged under my car. But I was in control and managed to not injure it. Later, on a dirt road, a box turtle was well camouflaged as it walked in the rut. If I weren’t paying attention, I would have flattened it. Instead I moved it.

Hares and tortoises. I get it. Even The Universe speaks in cliches .

Of course, my dog was safe in the bowl of Heathcote the whole time. and I caught up with him at our usual rendezvous point, Bill Anacker’s house. He was dripping wet from cooling off in the stream. I couldn’t be mad at him. Okay, I was still a little, but that’s my stuff…

This is the second time in a week Tuatha has snuck off. I am slow to get the message, but I wonder if there’s a way I can help him cool off while staying safe at home. He loves to play in the hose, but if I could find a little yard sale kiddie pool, he could self select. How about that, Tuatha?

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Buy a business or buy a necklace, I always say. Well, this is the first time I’ve said it and it’s not very witty, so I guess I won’t make a habit of repeating it. But those are your choices!

So many of my friends through Hippie Chick Diaries, Heathcote Community, Spoutwood Farm, Common Ground on the Hill, and other connections have come out to Heathcote Earthings’ many festivals and supported us. We’ve enjoyed our mission of bring handmade, fair trade goods of natural materials to the Mid-Atlantic region.

Now I am shifting to new education and writing projects, focusing on simple, sustainable living and social technologies such as consensus decisonmaking. I’m cashing out of Heathcote Earthings as a fundraiser for our new Social Technology Toolbox Summer Camp and its scholarship fund!

The remaining inventory and infrastructure of my festival business is on display at Heathcote Community in northern Baltimore County, Maryland, for two weekends only! I’ll wheel and deal on armloads of gemstones, handmade musical instruments, incense, buttons, bumperstickers, scarves, purses and of course, my handmade jewelry. Even the tables are for sale!

These photographs were taken during rare quiet moments in my booth, usually before or after events. I was too busy to document my little shop getting swamped with customers, so you’ll have to take my word that we were very popular, with great-selling collections. Some particular items you see in the photos might be sold out but you get a feel for our store and merchandise. Click on the image for a larger version.

This porch sale will take place for two weekends only, June 10-12 and June 24-26 for the brief hours of 10 am to 2 pm. It will focus on new merchandise:

  • diamond etched pewter pendants
  • handmade earrings
  • handmade pendants of gemstones, metal, wood, seeds, recycled glass, lampwork glass, etc.
  • handmade rings
  • bracelets
  • gemstones hand wrapped in sterling silver
  • handmade musical instruments
  • handmade batik flags & pennants
  • frog mating calls
  • hackysacks
  • scarves
  • purses
  • cloth shopping bags with great artwork
  • funny buttons
  • bumper stickers
  • tumbled gemstones & fossils
  • incense & burners
  • car stickers with beautiful designs
  • hand carved onyx figurines

Nearly everything is made out of NATURAL OR RECYCLED MATERIALS and is FAIR TRADE.

VENDORS and FLEA MARKET DEALERS will want to check out this inventory. Or if you have or have considered a FESTIVAL BUSINESS or CRAFT SHOP, this inventory will have you on your way.

Because I had to pack up every item that didn’t sell after each show, I was very motivated to limit my stock to proven popular sellers. No experiments here!

And because I was seller and the business’ buyer, I had the great pleasure of only stocking products I was excited about and wanted to sell. I could screen for high quality at affordable prices and go for fair trade because the overhead for a festival business in comparatively low. This means that, whether you want to buy the business or just one necklace, it’s worth the trip to my porch sale!

The space in enclosed, so we’re open, rain or shine! Thanks to Heathcote interns Anna and Lauren for helping me finish that job!


JUNE 10-12 JUNE 24-26



GPS, Mapquest or email for directions,


I’ll also be offering a few used collections, specifically over fifty used VHS titles, CD’s and DVD’s.

All proceeds from the Hippie Chick Diaries Porch Sale go to support my newest project with C.T. Lawrence Butler, our Social Technology Toolbox Summer Camp! Half of the sale’s income will be earmarked specifically for the Toolbox Camp’s scholarship fund!!!

As I say goodbye to colorful batiks and hackysacks, the earrings and necklaces I lovingly made (remember necklace salads?) and all those buttons and bumperstickers that made us laugh, I want to thank the many friends, partners and community mates who helped out with Earthings, a little or a lot. I know I’m forgetting people, so remind me! Here’s my list:

  • Greg Newswanger
  • John Fox
  • Bob Geissel
  • C.T. Butler
  • Regina Tassone
  • Rita Jane Leisure
  • Kwame Bidi
  • Karen Stupski
  • Davi Post
  • Gloria Brooks
  • Juji Woodring
  • Carol Seddon
  • Ana Phillips
  • Paul Phillips
  • Kathy Landers
  • Erika Kretzmer
  • Nick Corso
  • Iuval Clejan
  • Devin Barto
  • Robyn Jacobs
  • Harriet Moon
  • Theresa Foti
  • Charles Curtiss
  • Ursa Woodring
  • Avin Newswanger