A Well-Fed Kenya: Food and Photojournalism

Wren on September 17th, 2012

Some stories enter my bones and don’t leave. The story of Nairobi Food Not Bombs is in my marrow and vibrating, refusing to be ignored.

As C.T.’s partner, I’m a witness to the daily news feed of Food Not Bombs arrests and court cases, mostly here in the U.S. In addition, he gets a steady stream of calls all day, mostly people asking advice on consensus and also starting a Food Not Bombs.

One such FNB startup was germinated from C.T.’s trip to Nairobi, Kenya, in 2007. He was there to teach consensus at the IndyMedia Convergence, in advance of the World Social Forum.

IndyMedia is an amazing case study in do-it-yourself journalism, personal and collective empowerment. IMC “converges” at the site of each World Social Forum, a week or so before the WSF begins, to teach grassroots journalism to non-corporate press from all over the world.

IndyMedia Convergence, Dakar, Senegal, 2011

The convergences are temporary Intentional Communities that operate by consensus. Workshops teach would be journalists from Africa, South and Central America, Europe and the U.S. in street-level skills like building radios and transmitters out of materials available where they live.

At the Nairobi convergence, C.T. taught consensus and also pulled a hidden skill out of his hat—He taught IMC participants how to build a silkscreen press! This knowledge came from his early days of battling

C.T. teaches IMC journalists how to build and use a 3-color silkscreen press to generate fliers, books, posters, t-shirts, etc.

Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant, starting the first FNB collective, the start of ACTUP, etc.

The convergences are meetings of very different cultures. In Nairobi, C.T. was the “old guy.” While the Northerners (Europeans and Americans) gave him little rank and dismissed his efforts to teach, Africans sought him out and revered him as the elder in the group.

One such new friend erased C.T.’s name from a community chore chart and wrote his own in its place. “In my culture, elders do not do the dishes,” He said.

Douglas Rori, a convergence participant who was local to Nairobi, was so taken by C.T.’s stories of Food Not Bombs that he started a Nairobi chapter.

A Totally Different Ballgame

But unlike the twentysomethings who start chapters in their Midwestern college towns or face up against the police in Tampa, Florida, Doug and his Nairobi compatriots couldn’t just show up in the town square or public park with a table and pots of yummy vegan soup.

That’s a recipe for a food riot.

The hunger issue is not a minority issue there. Public feedings such as FNB is famous for the world over would put Doug and other volunteers at physical risk. Plus, with their food stolen, they would not complete their goal of serving the large population of street kids, mostly orphaned in the AIDS epidemic.

Sewing in the IndyMedia Thread

This is where the story gets dramatic in order to prevent drama.

Learning photojournalism

Doug and other young Kenyan activists had the direct experience of how empowering it is to learn tools for telling personal and local stories; to be an alternative to the corporate press party line.

And they had learned filmmaking, photography and journalism in that way. Doug decided to disguise their feedings by offering journalism workshops to the homeless kids.

They chose enclosed courtyards and indoor spaces and spread the word about their workshops. As you can see by the photos, people of all ages came to learn.

And meals were included!

Doug leading a workshop

To keep this innovative project going, Doug has formed an NGO, A Well-Fed Kenya, in partnership with A Well-Fed World. This status enables him to operate and seeking funding on an ongoing basis.

Even with NGO status, life is still touch and go for Doug. An IndyMedia colleague was gunned down a few months ago in one of the ghettos, probably an assassination. Doug himself struggles to keep a roof over his own head as he does this important work.

To fund his project and stability for the coming months, we have collaborated with him on an Indiegogo campaign. Please


make whatever contribution you can, and tell your friends Doug’s amazing story! Let’s pull together to keep this project going in the ghettos of Nairobi!

We are starting out with some popular perks from our previous Indiegogo campaign, Food Not Bombs t-shirts and copies of C.T.’s books, On Conflict and Consensus and Consensus for Cities.

Doug is also making contact with some fair trade crafts cooperatives and exporters in Nairobi who may be willing to donate some of their jewelry and other crafts as perks for the campaign. So watch for additional perks!!!

How can you get involved? Certainly, donating whatever you can is a huge start. Are you willing to join our campaign team and use Indiegogo share tools and social media to spread the word? Reaching out to people who don’t already know me, C.T. or Doug Rori is a great help.

What ideas do you have for getting the word out about this impactful project?

If you’re in the D.C. region, C.T. and I can schedule a House Party with you. We can supply a slide show, talk about the project with friends you invite, and seek donations. Contact us at fiopa@consensus.net today to make arrangements!

Our main goals for now are to share this amazing story of risk, caring and daring and to get folks to visit our campaign page and donate. We must keep this work going!

When visiting the campaign site, do take the time to go through the photo gallery picture by picture. The interest of the kids in learning from Doug and his friends is amazing. You will understand from the numbers of people who attend that his offering is relevant and is making a difference.

What can you give today?

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Jewelry in June

Wren on June 23rd, 2012

Time flies! It looks like I’ve been neglecting my blog duties while we transition from our Direct Democracy Tour to a summer schedule.

Summer for us looks like touring flea markets and festivals with my jewelry, a trip to the ocean, dance camp and a consensus workshop in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas…About a month in each place—July in Washington, DC; August in Maine; September in Texas.

But June is all about jewelry on Staten Island.

I’ve been partnering with some of my friends at Ganas Community here to feature earrings and necklaces I made for Heathcote Earthings, and had left over from that business. I’ve been putting my collections front and center, on the sidewalk outside of Every Thing Goes Clothing on Bay Street. For most of the month I’ve been there two days a week. But now that we’re getting to the end of our stay on Staten Island, I’ve increased my days there and added a couple of other events around town.

Just when I’ve cultivated a loyal following of repeat customers, it’s time to go! Figure…

Here are the remaining dates for Every Thing Goes Clothing (thrift & vintage) at 140 Bay Street:

• TODAY! Saturday, June 23

• Tuesday, June 26

• Wednesday, June 27

• Thursday, June 28

• Friday, June 29

In addition, I’ve arranged two other jewelry set ups at Staten Island events:

• Sunday, June 24—Staten Island Flea Market

• Saturday, June 30—March of Dimes Arts & Crafts Festival, Clove Lake Park

Our travels continue to be true adventures, with unexpected events around every corner. Yesterday, we learned that the Magic Box, our current Honda CRV, needs many more repairs than is practical for a long range vehicle. We’ll be selling her her on the island and proceeding into the summer with just Serenity, our thirty-four foot Bounder rv. How long will we be without a car? It’s a surprise!

Currently, our jewelry/recreational tour looks like:

• July in Washington, DC, visiting friends and looking for work

• August in Maine and New Hampshire, visiting family and attending Dance New England, with a trip to Assateague worked in

• September in Texas, teaching Consensus: Body and Soul to the Black Cat Collective and others, with a possible trip to Washington State to help facilitate the sign language interpreters’ society’s annual meeting


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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, curiocoast@comcast.net


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

A Global Open Space Geared Towards Action

Wren on February 15th, 2011

From Wren: The World Social Forum is a growing event that happens concurrently with The World Economic Forum. WSF intends to turn the tide of “neo-liberal globalization,” (free market capitalism, with slavery, child labor, imperialism and environmental injustice).

I just received this email reporting on the World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal. Click here for extensive photo coverage.

C.T. Butler and I had planned to attend it and the preceding IndyMedia Convergence as consensus trainers, but our invitation was relatively last minute and funding didn’t happen in the short time. We’re expecting our friends to return in the next few days with exciting stories! Until then I share this, unedited:


From Sven Giegold—

Just like last year’s World Social Forum held in Belem (Brazil), the
Forum in Dakar took place under the impression of the deep crisis of
neoliberal globalization. Whereas the economy has recovered for some
time already in some regions of the world, it started to do so recently
in others. But all that cannot hide the existence of deep social,
economic and ecological problems. The WSF provided a meeting point for
a broad range of individuals originating in movements and civil society
who hope to overcome neoliberal globalization: Either by establishing
social and ecological regulations, for instance by implementing a
“Green New Deal”, or by breaking with capitalism in general. This range
of political alternatives characterized this WSF, just as the
alterglobalist movement in general. In the run up to Dakar, Gustave
Massiah (2011a & 2011b)* wrote a widely acknowledged book and published
12 theses on the alterglobalist movement.

Whereas the debate in Belem had been dominated by discussions over the
crisis of civilization and fundamental alternatives to globalized
capitalism, such as the concept of “buen vivir” (“good living”) this
was different in Dakar. This year, the agenda was dominated by the
peaceful revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, and the particular African
context with its own topics. Already the impressive opening march made
clear that this would not be a forum of big overarching claims and
slogans. The organization committee succeeded in mobilizing a big
variety of social- and grassroots-movements from all over West Africa.
Caravans had been travelling across all neighbour countries, converging
to Dakar from different directions. On the one hand they provided cheap
transportation, on the other hand they called attention to the WSF. And
they did not come with red, green or any other banners, but with their
own concerns: land grabbing in order to fulfill the needs of the global
consuming class in times of increasing scarcity of arable land.
Protection of local seeds and local production from control of
multinational companies and agricultural subsidies. Sea grabbing by
industrial fishing on the cost of family-run fisheries.
Especially the strong African women’s movements were eye-catching,
regarding land use rights, fisheries as well as participation of women
in conflict resolution on the African continent. Finally, fortress
Europe with its inhuman “frontier protection” regime, was a big issue.
Senegalese students and others confronted European participants over
and over again: How is it possible that you are able to come here
without a visa, whereas we do not even have a chance of having one?
Global freedom of movement, as being part of global civil rights, was
claimed consistently. A Migration Forum adopted a “Charta of Migrants”
in the run up to the Forum (http://fsm2011.org/fr/charte-mondiale-des-
migrants ).

In short: new and old forms of colonialism were the decisive topics of
the WSF. Fortunately, there was no arrogant western critique or bashing
of African grassroots movements this time, in contrast to the 2007 WSF
in Nairobi. This was partly favoured by the less obvious appearance of
religious groups – either Christian or Muslim -, so that religious
intolerance, popular in some left currents, was less provoked. However,
the engagement of Catholic and Protestant development organizations can
be seen as positive in enabling numerous of their partner organizations
from the global South to participate in the WSF. The “German Protestant
Development Service” presented its study on EU-West African fisheries
cooperation, which massively affects the right on food of local
fishermen and their families along the coast. Left parties and labour
unions were not as visible as at Forums in Latin America and 2003 in
Mumbai/India. The only German union participating in the WSF was the
GEW. Big NGOs were present numerously, but did still not dominate the
Forum. The participation of the global alterglobalist movement mirrored
its regional spread on different continents as well. Whereas Europeans
and Latin Americans were very visible, alongside the in numbers
dominating Africans, there was very few Asian participation apart from
India. North American NGOs were under-represented in terms of numbers
as well.

Unlike in Latin America, no African government relates politically to
the alterglobalist movement. The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt
therefore became the point of reference concerning political power of
the Forum. A dozen of Social Forums held in the Maghreb region had
helped to prepare change. Nevertheless, it would be an exaggeration to
see the fall of the two antidemocratic regimes as a success of the
alterglobalist movement. But a lot of organizations associated with the
process of World Social Forum want to travel to Tunisia around the 20th
of March. The European network of Attac is preparing a delegation in
cooperation with Attac Tunisia.
The new methodology applied at WSF proved to be of value: One day of
events dealing with African topics was followed by two days of events
self-organized by participating organisations. Opening and final events
were the only big and centrally organized events. Just like in the
years before, there were numerous events dealing with the same topics
because the organizers did not know each other in advance.
During the last one and a half days, 38 action assemblies were taking
place. Each of them dealing with one relevant topic. They turned out to
be a big success throughout. Resolved common actions were frequently
based on preparatory work of global networks, that were initiated at
WSF some years ago. Those networks – often running a little secretary,
mailing lists and regular phone conferences – are one of the biggest
success of past World Social Forums. And one of the most overlooked
ones at the same time. The World Social Forum can therefore be seen as
a Global Open Space gearing towards action.

As there was no systematic documentation of the results of the 38
action assemblies, I will only mention some of the numerous results.
They are politically only binding the participants, not the World
Social Forum as a whole. During a big event with 300 participants
dealing with land grabbing, a whole clutch of activities was agreed
upon and a declaration was adopted
(http://farmlandgrab.org/post/view/18159 ).
In doing so, it became obvious that the fight of traditional land use
rights, and with it the right to food, have to be won on a local level.
Whereas consumerism of the global rich, interests of multinational
companies, and powerful states are the cause of land grabbing in the
global South, local authorities and nation states from the global South
play a decisive role as well. They should defend peasant’s rights
instead of serving export agriculture in an often corrupt manner.
This was also demonstrated during the conference “land and sea
grabbing” which was organised by our Green group in the European
Parliament and took place at the edge of WSF. We have to take advantage
of the relevance of the very topic at WSF in order to impose pressure
upon illegitimate practices of western companies and EU trade policy,
which negatively affects small producers in the Global South. At the
same time, we have to strengthen fair trade and social movements
putting pressure on their governments.

The mobilization agenda for the upcoming months became obvious
throughout different meetings. G8 and G20 summits are going to take
place in France this year. Sarkozy wants to present himself as an
alterglobalist, failing with his agenda because of “other evil states”.
At the same time he is slowing down EU regulation processes regarding
the financial markets and the introduction of a European financial
transaction tax. It seems to be clear that French movements will not
let pass this obvious cheap strategy. The action assembly dealing with
G8/G20 adopted a corresponding resolution (http://gruenlink.de/54 ). An
organization committee with networks all over Europe has been created
in France. A strong mobilization towards Deauville in March (21st-22nd)
and Cannes in autumn (31st October until 5th of November) can be
expected. And there will be another preparatory meeting, taking place
on the 26th and 27th of March in Paris. Withstanding strong existing
tensions between NGOs and social movements relating to the topic of
climate protection, seems to be possible.
Furthermore, a lot of movements are heading to South Africa where the
next World Climate Conference (COP-17) is going to take place from 28th
of November until 9th of December in Durban. Even more attention is
given to the Rio-+20-Earth Summit which is going to be held from 14th
until 16th of May 2012. Realisation of a “People’s summit” as parallel
event for civil society is planned in Rio. It is a politically
interesting coincidence that both conferences dealing with climate
protection and biodiversity are going to be held in booming countries.
Both governments emerged from social movements. At the same time they
did not cover themselves in glory regarding ecological policy. How to
fight against ecological and social crisis with a common economic
strategy is going to be the essential subject. All in all there will be
a chain of big mobilizations for the alterglobalist movement:
Deauville, Cannes, Durban, Rio.

Unfortunately, the Forum suffered a lot from organizational problems.
The presidency of the university had changed recently and the new
president did not see himself bound to former agreements. As a
consequence, the WSF had to be held in addition to the regular
university schedule, which led to double usages of rooms. It lasted
quite a long time until tents were built up. But even then, changes of
rooms were not announced sufficiently. As a result, many events, that
had been carefully planned in advance had to be cancelled. Small
organizations were affected in the first place.
Nevertheless, all those problems could still not destroy value and
success of the Forum. The International Council of the World Social
Forum, who met in the aftermath of the Forum, accordingly rated it as a
success. Globally successful networks and their activities demonstrate
the necessity and benefit of the WSF. Anyhow, the Forum is neither
running out of topics, nor repeating contents without progress, as
often claimed. World Social Forums are developing regionally as well as
thematically. Even if it is true that there is still no – and will not
be an – overarching, common theory of social movements and independent
civil society. The discourse of an alleged exhaustion is based on a
wrong desire of unity and one big, unifying “-ism”. But the lack of
such an ideology must not necessarily be seen as weakness – it rather
proves the democratic strength of the alterglobalist movement.

In the Council, it was rightly criticised that a state representative -
Bolivian President Evo Morales – was given the honour to open the
global Forum of civil society. This had not been agreed on with the
Council in advance. Furthermore, there are accusations that the
Moroccan and Algerian government co-financed the WSF in return for
political concession on the Western Sahara issue. These allegations
have to clarified fully. Finally, there were critical inquiries by
Indian and Brazilian participants regarding the process of European
Social Forum. As a matter of fact, the process of European Social Forum
is in trouble for years. In contrast to the World Social Forum, linking
up big NGOs, labour unions and radical social movements, failed so far.
Almost all big organisations have left the process, which is now led by
a small and insufficiently legitimised preparatory committee. It is a
good sign, that has now been noted and is criticized from the Global

* Gustave Massiah (2011a): Une stratégie alterglobaliste, Paris: La
Gustave Massiah (2011b): Les douze hypothèses d?une stratégie
alterglobaliste, http://www.cetri.be/spip.php?article2060&lang=fr

You can find my 150 pictures taken at World Social Forum here.

Sven Giegold, MdEP

http://www.sven-giegold.de * facebook/twitter: sven_giegold


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Mother Earth Harvest Fair

Wren on October 3rd, 2010

Alright rain, we have a deal. You’re gonna hold off until I’m loading my last box at the end of the day.

I know I wrote extensively at the end of this year’s Fairie Festival about weather being my white whale, but we’ve made friends now, right?

C.T. Butler and I are up past midnight finishing posters and making lists for the Intentional Community info & speakers’ booth at Spoutwood Farm’s Mother Earth Harvest Fair. He will speak on Formal Consensus and I’ll do readings from the website. Sociocracy author John Buck will also be speaking, on Leading in Community. Actually, his share will be very interactive. I can’t wait!

Heathcote Earthings will be selling our fair trade wares and jewelry right next to the Community booth. Regina will be holding down the fort there. She’s going to love all the new pendants and earrings Rita Jane and I made during this year’s York Fair. Lots of natural gift ideas!

Thanks in advance to Heathcote intern Sariel and member John for helping with the booth, and to Rob, Lucy and all the Spoutwood crowd for your patience, flexibility and vision! Well, time to get a few hours’ sleep before I’m a slave to the to-do lists for another day!

Okay, I’ll admit that after six days of baking my brain in the sun and heat at Spoutwood Farm, I’m not so swift anymore. My head aches, I close my eyes a lot and make zombie noises. You could embed a promise that you can have my car and a goat into a conversation about the existence of aliens and I’m not likely to catch it. You could dress Carole King in fairy wings and say she wants to buy my most expensive necklace and I would just moan, “We’re closed…” Even so, I’m pretty sure that I left the remains of tent #3 on that hill and now it’s gone. Who steals trash? I withdraw that question, I know dumpster divers. Come to think of it, we sell a cloth shopping bag with the “dumpster diving team” logo on it. Still…

Retracing my steps, I arrived at Spoutwood Farm in Glen Rock Pennsylvania on Wednesday, giving me two set up days prior to the Fairie Festival, usually Heathcote Earthings’ biggest show of the year. Although the day Wednesday has no etymology associating it with wind, I’m going to pretend that it does because, wow. It was windy. I had three EZ Up canopies to set up, two for Heathcote Earthings’ inventory and one as a Heathcote Community information stand. My booth site was at the top of the hill and the gusts scraping across it were impressive.

I got help opening the tents from four twenty-something volunteer fairies. Number three gave us lots of trouble. I’d recently replaced some of the cross braces and might have over tightened some of the bolts. By the time we yanked and coaxed and threatened it open, the volunteer fairies flitted away to some other mission, leaving me to stake all three tents myself.

I was hammering down tent one when a gust scooped up tent three, bowled it over my van, and down the hill, leaving it upside down in the middle of the field. About three-fourths of the cross braces and upper supports were bent. It was totaled. Another vendor helped me walk it into place and I finished staking. I even staked number three into place and duct taped it to number two for support. It was in position to cover my tables but I would not be able to collapse it again for removal.

So our temporary boutique took shape.  Tables were positioned and necklace branches and handmade batik flag sets were hung. Several new collections of earrings shined on our custom made displays. Scarves, purses, buttons, bumper stickers, hand etched gourds, clay cats, elephants and bunnies, onyx fruit, candleholders, turtles, frogs and cats, handmade instruments, including bamboo xylophones and flutes, ocarinas, grass and juju bean rattles, thumb pianos, wrist bells, all paraded out for showtime.

There was a chance of rain for Sunday. So in my mind, I made contingency plans for getting inventory away from the curled and mangled corners of tent three.

The rain blessedly held off until the festival was over and the very last scrap was in the van! Instead, our bodies faced the challenge of heat. The crew, C.T. Butler, Regina Tassone and Kwame Bidi, helped me drink gallons of water, yet no one needed any bathroom breaks. I started to feel heat exhaustion by the end of the first day. By the last day, I was dragging and a bit foggy. Thanks to my crew for picking up my slack!!!

So Sunday evening, just before dark and the first raindrops, everything was packed away except tent three. I left it there over night, staked down, since it needed to be dismantled to fit into a vehicle.

The next morning, I arrived solo. The field was occupied by slow moving, dazed vendors, packing up the last of their wares. And several tents remained to be taken down.

I  was armed with the wrench they give you with every EZ Up you buy. It’s a happy little wrench. You dance around your tent, “La de da. This is the only tool I need to work on my wonderfully engineered instant shelter. La de de de da…”

But your little opera needs a dramatic shift–”Ooh! I’ve been deceived!!! An allen  wrench and socket wrench are also needed…or dynamite…Curses, EZ Up!”

So I went off in search of more tools. In the interest of full disclosure, I also obtained a fast food sandwich at this time.

When I returned, the field looked much the same, a scattering of vendors, moving slowly among the remaining booths, business as usual. But when I pulled up to my site, it was empty, in a stark, satisfied way. No tent number three!

I ran up and down the field, looking for  some corner it might have blown to, but it was nowhere, as if it had never existed. I stared at the sky, as if I might sight some UFO that curiously requires mangled steel and poly canvas as a fuel source. The sky just stared back at me, as if saying, “I didn’t see anything.”

I hiked over to other vendors in other corners of the field. People remembered seeing my tent but didn’t see it leave. I sought out Rob and Lucy Wood, Spoutwood’s owners. We polled all the clean up fairies. Everyone had a theory, no one had any facts to report.

Well, what can I say? Weather is my white whale. Heat, floods, Snowmaggedon, now wind.

The aliens got away clean this time. What the fuck? Who steals trash? I’m stuck there. I lack closure. Some part of my soul still haunts that field, the part that rolls around like a dying plastic spider…


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Upcoming Post: The tent theft and the “culture of stuff”–My life didn’t change, although the business took a $500 hit. But the twinge of violation leaves one with the pause, what else could leave while I’m not looking? An heirloom? A child?

Also, the issue comes back to intentional community, where we ask, what kind of world do we want to live in? We like to envision a world where, maybe, just maybe, we don’t have to lock our doors. In community, if something disappears, there are just a few people to question, they haven’t fled the scene, and if you find the new owner, you just discuss it as a misunderstanding.

Stay tuned, and feel free to comment here and on the HCD facebook fan page! –WT

Taking the Elements Personally

Wren on April 29th, 2010

“At least it’s not rain; a high wind is fine with me,” I said to Fairie Festival organizer BiBi. Famous last words. Half an hour later, after four fairie volunteers had helped me wrangle/wring/wizard my three EZUp canopies open and into place, a very focused gust of wind tossed tent number three over my van and down the hill, as I was scrambling to stake tent one. Number three lay planted, like an evil, mangled flower, upside down in the middle of the field. I’m thinking insurance claim.

“At least it’s not rain,” I had said, because last year’s Fairie Festival was epically tragic. I had planned to make the most of the weekend, hiring five helpers, renting four spaces and ordering tons of fair trade instruments and handicrafts, fun lefty buttons and bumper stickers, scarves, hats and handmade batiks. The Fairie Festival is always good to us, usually our best show of the year, bringing us the income early in the season to pay our booth rentals for the rest of the season. So I wanted to make the most of the convergence of Heathcote Earthings’ wares with our core customer base (winged people).

But an outdoor festival in the spring is a roll of the dice. And although I bet the house, last year was not my (or anyone’s) year. A steady, heavy rain for the entire festival cut attendance to a fraction and left most of our inventory ruined. The five helpers got paid but there was no surplus to cover booth fees for the rest of the season.

Sunday night after the public had gone home, vendors, volunteers, organizers and Spoutwood farm residents gathered for dinner under tents. I could tell that the rain was as devastating to Spoutwood owners Rob and Lucy Wood, and to their programs as it was to me and mine. They, too, depend on this weekend each year to finance much of their educational work. The hundred or so people at that dinner were shell shocked and grim as organizers gave speeches thanking everyone and encouraging positive thoughts. I was warmed by sentiments expressed, that nature gives and nature takes; we were due for a year like this after many blessed ones; we would all land on our feet. Wren always does, but not Heathcote Earthings. That was the beginning of the end for this project.

We couldn’t even pack up at the end as it continued to rain. My partner Iuval and I came back the next day. Still raining. We put the mess in the van and headed for Heathcote. I was thinking…insurance claim!

So a couple days later, when the skies seemed like they’d had their say, I put up my canopies on the Heathcote playground to spread things out, dry them, see what could be saved and what would be written off. Ha! This was the move the rain was waiting for. It returned, and with the ground already saturated, the Heathcote valley, yes, including the streamside playground, flooded.

The Community was at dinner on the mill’s side porch. Someone mentioned that the flood waters were nearing my tents. “Oh I’m not worried. I have all the boxes up on tables,” I said, as we began to see hackey sacks and maracas floating by. Water laughs at me, “You should be writing, you fool! What are you doing playing with all these toys? I’m giving them to the bay so you won’t be burdened and distracted!”

But I wasn’t listening so Heathcoters were suddenly gone from their plates, knee deep in flood waters, carrying crates, boxes and displays to higher ground.

The five elements, water, air, fire, earth and spirit, can each be a blessing or a curse in different amounts and different moments. I realize now that community is a sixth element, and I am so often blessed with just the right amount of it. How can I ever give back enough to these wonderful people who, time and time again, are there beside me in the flood waters of my life? It is my joy to try.

So, I don’t know how many handmade, fair trade, seed filled hackey sacks are bobbing around the Chesapeake Bay because of me, but they’re biodegradable. At least I wasn’t stocked to the gills with those plastic dryer balls that reduce your drying time by forty percent. That would be ecologically unfortunate.

Now, as I set up my wares under a tent that looks like a giant bent, arthritic insect, I ponder my future. My associates and I have been on a slow track to closing out Heathcote Earthings to focus on writing projects such as the Hippie Chick Diaries book. The rain and the wind are just manifestations of my own inner Baba Yaga, torturing me, yes, but for the purpose of revealing my true potential to me. Let’s make this year a wonderful, and final year for Heathcote Earthings! See you  there!


Spoutwood Farm Center Inc. is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Educational Farm
4255 Pierceville Rd. Glen Rock, PA 17327 717-235-6610

Visit the Facebook Group page for the 2010 May Day Fairie Festival

Please join our Hippie Chick Diaries fan page on Facebook!

Smile and frown. I was Facebook messaged to put this grassroots “press release” in my status bar, but it has more characters than my status bar can swallow! So I’ll stick it in here, with some of my favorite pictures from Fairie Festivals past. I’ll be there, on the hill called Frodo’s Eye (there’s a strawbale observatory a few yards from my stand). Our booth will be mainly Heathcote Earthings, selling the jewelry I make from natural and recycled materials, and fair trade crafts from around the world. We’ll also have information about Hippie Chick Diaries and Heathcote Community. So strap on your wings and see us there! —WT


Spoutwood Farm Center, an organization dedicated to bringing people and nature together, presents…

The 19th Annual May Day Fairie Festival

This year’s May Day Fairie Festival will be held at Spoutwood Farm on April 30th from 12:00 PM to 7:00 PM, and May 1st and 2nd from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM each day. The weather reports look DRY and SUNSHINE-filled!! Yay!

Admission is $15 for people over 12, $5 for people 12 and under, and free for those 2 and under. A three-day pass is available for a reduced price of $30…the three day pass can also be used to get through the gates quicker, even if you are only using it for two of the days.

Those who decide to volunteer when they arrive at the festival can request a 2-hour job assignment; upon completion, the admission fee will be refunded.

Spoutwood Farm is just outside of Glen Rock, PA, 45 minutes north of Baltimore, 30 minutes south of York, PA. Parking will be available near the farm.

The May Day Fairie Festival is the brainchild of Rob and Lucy Wood, owners of Spoutwood Farm, an organic farm in the Community Supported Agriculture movement. It began as a party for about 100 friends, and was has been celebrated by 16,000 “friends” of the little people from the local area, all across the US and across the Atlantic. Previously a one-day festival, a second and third day were added as a response to the festival’s rising popularity.

Once again, the festival will celebrate the beginning of spring and all of the nature spirits return to the warm world with 70 arts and crafts vendors (mostly featuring handmade art inspired by the little people), performances by musicians and dancers, storytellers, participatory maypole dancing, fairie craft activities such as wand and garland making (involves a small fee), food vendors, fairie and other nature spirit environments to explore, a Nature Place offering a place for environmental, health, animal interest and other groups to share their vision, fairie and gnome habitat tours, fairie tea parties, guest appearances by the Green Man, the Mossmen, Sweet Pea and others.
Families attending this event have discovered that this event is not just for kids!

The fairie and May Day themes go back to ancient times in almost all cultures, especially to the Celts of the British Isles who had a festival on the first of May called Beltane. It was a time of great rejoicing at the return of the earth’s abundance in spring and the impending bounty of summer. The Celts celebrated the spirits of nature by honoring not only the plants that they could see and smell but also the unseen beings of the fairie realm.

© 2010 Spoutwood Farm Center

Spoutwood Farm Center Inc. is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Educational Farm
4255 Pierceville Rd. Glen Rock, PA 17327 717-235-6610

Visit the Facebook Group page for the 2010 May Day Fairie Festival

Please join our Hippie Chick Diaries fan page on Facebook!

Pewter Party

Wren on March 2nd, 2010

Here are just some of the shinies I’m preparing to sell online. These are not my creations, but an excellent collection of lead safe diamond etched pewter, mostly from Oregon. My own designs to follow!

We bring these and more to our festival appearances around the Mid Atlantic region. Watch the site’s Heathcote Earthings page for our upcoming dates!

Please join our Hippie Chick Diaries fan page on Facebook!

Heathcote vs. Snowmaggedon

Wren on February 14th, 2010

Well, I’ve lived through Snowmaggedon without expiring from despair. It was actually quite easy. Intentional Community is the place to be when natural disaster hits. I kept seeing news clips on my computer of urban dwellers worried about running out of food, living without power or heat, and I kept thinking, “Loaves and fishes, people! I’m pagan and even I know that bible story! What you need is probably right next door! Go introduce yourself to your neighbors…”

The first weekend we were snowed in, Heathcoters Greg and Juji invited everyone for a lovely Sunday brunch at Polaris, our strawbale group house. Even though blazing trails through the waist-high snow took some heroism, once we were there the building was toasty warm from the southern exposure and the masonry stove. The tea, pancakes and conversation kept flowing. Karen, who teaches at Goddard as well as Heathcote, showed us an impressive notebook on how to construct a homemade portable sawmill. One of her students had created it and the Heathcote construction team was very interested. I love watching things spread virally that way! I got out my handmade peg solitaire game and several tried, cooperatively or alone, to end with one piece in the middle. I think we got as close as three.

That same weekend we had our quarterly retreat for members. So being snowed in was little change in a way. Somehow, we managed to run out of propane in the Mill at that moment. So we lost heat to every space except our Conference Center, which is heated by a pellet stove. No biggie; We were planning to spend most of the weekend there anyway! The community dinner, homemade pizza by Nick, was shifted to the Farmhouse. The kids were a little grumpy at the loss of heat but they were included in a session of cooperative games at the end of our retreat. They led the adults in several group machines, an activity we frequently do in Open Classroom.

Since most of us work here at Heathcote, it was business as usual. Hammering, talking and NPR could be heard in the Mill bunkroom, where John, Nick, Betsy and Kwame continued renovations. Somehow they managed to get a load of drywall between blizzards. With Mike pitching in, they carried two sections at a time up the hill, into a second story door, and up to the third floor.

Mike, Larissa, Gloria and Betsy continued to work on Natural Awakenings Magazine. Paul worked on Cooptek software projects uninterrupted. Open Classroom was in session, with Gloria, Kwame and I meeting the kids on Tuesday and Thursday. The chess club met.

Although we did decide to cancel Visitor Weekend and last night’s Dancefree, yesterday was Mike’s birthday. So at the end of dinner cleanup, before we enjoyed several birthday fruit pies, Paul put his ipod into the boom box and Heathcoters busted a move to Love Shack.

Our monthly coop food delivery was several days late, waiting for our one lane road to be plowed by the county. But we had plenty of food to last. The big truck got in and out. And the usual sampling of Heathcoters came out of the snowbanks to inventory and put food away.

All this snow must be a culture shock for Kwame, our intern from Ghana. When he flew here in December, he was laid over in New York City for two days because of snow. And when he arrived at Heathcote, we scrambled to find him enough warm clothes. Now he’s experienced a record setting double blizzard. He shoveled most of my path, uphill! When he heard the Open Classroom students wanting to play in the snow, he said, “I didn’t know this was possible,” Five minutes later, he was performing flips in the snow, to the kids’ delight!

I, of course, took the snow play as an opportunity for a forty-five minute Earl Grey break in the always buzzing Mill kitchen, during which I consulted with several Heathcote carpenters on the bunkroom renovation. They always appreciate my input…

My main inconvenience was delaying a trip to the bank. Truth be told, I often live as if I’m snowed in here. It’s not unusual for me to go two weeks or more without driving or hiking out to “civilization.”

I had the comfort of community and simple living. If we had lost electricity, mine is the only residence that requires that for heat–My pellet stove had electrical components. If we had also run out of propane and heating oil during the blizzards, four out of nine of our buildings can be heated entirely by wood. And with games, hot tea, and friends who play guitar, I was never going to be cold.

Now that I’ve replaced my whining with bragging, I see we’re due for more snow tomorrow and Wednesday…Wow, karma is swift in snow.


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