Monday, March 31, 2014

What's Happening: March 2014

Small signs of spring began to show themselves this month, with daffodils, trout lilies, and toothwort in bloom by the end of March.  Cold temperatures and even snow persisted through the month, though many days were sunny and pleasant.   The greenhouse is warm and full of life, with onions, peppers, lettuces, brassicas, herbs, and other plants getting a head start on the growing season. Grapes, blueberries, strawberries, carrots, potatoes, chamomile, and hops were planted in the garden this month. Baby animals are plentiful on the ranch; little goats, cows, and chicks are experiencing their first spring.  Milk, cheese, and yogurt production are up. 

Planning for the 40th Land Day
East Wind will be celebrating its 40th Land Day this May 1st- 4th.  Many former members, people from other communities, and friends will be joining us during this four day celebration.  The festivities will begin with a Beltane celebration on May 1st, followed by an East Wind Renaissance Faire on the weekend of May 3rd and 4th.  Entertainment will include a play written and performed by East Winders, fortune telling, a magic show, a scavenger hunt, juggling, fire spinning, music, a Maypole ceremony, a catapult, sack races, court jesters, traditional food and drink, costumes and decorations, a time capsule to be opened on the 50th anniversary, a group photo, face painting and hair braiding, an apothecary, workshops and demonstrations, tug-of-war, mud wrestling, jousting, a dragon log, and more.  East Winders have been busy with preparations for the festival, including play rehearsal, home brewing, costume design, site preparation, bow making, etc.  There is still much work to be done, and even more fun to be had.

Friday, February 28, 2014

What’s Happening: Winter 2013-14

A Long Winter
East Winders endured one of the coldest and snowiest winters in recent memory.  Snow that usually melts away after a day or two covered East Wind in a blanket of white for much of the winter.  While there is still a lot to be done during the winter, these months are definitely a slower and less productive time in community.  Some people struggle to find things to do for work and fun, though many folks enjoy the downtime.  When not working, many East Winders spend a good portion of their time staying warm and socializing in our main common spaces.  The winter is also a great time of the year to get out in the Ozark woodlands; East Winders enjoy hiking, forestry, and hunting, among other pursuits. 

Waiting List
By the end of February, everyone on the waiting list for membership and a room has either received a space or declined to join at this time.  East Wind has maintained a continual waiting list for almost two years now, as we have continuously been at population capacity (which is the same as the number of bedrooms in the community: 73).   At certain points while the waiting list was in effect, male applicants were waiting for nearly a year for a space, though the average wait was generally only a few months.  Now that the waiting list is caught up for the time being, visitors will be able to transition to provisional membership and receive a room after three weeks with no additional wait.  We usually receive a high influx of visitors during the spring and summer, and all rooms are full currently.

Monday, September 30, 2013

What's Happening: September 2013

Autumn Begins
Cool nights and warm sunny days marked the beginning of fall in the Ozarks this year.  Some foliage has already begun to change colors and fall to the forest floor, though most trees are holding out for a little longer.  Ticks, chiggers, mosquitos, and fleas are abundant and flourishing as the summer comes to an end—leaving some East Winders eagerly awaiting the first frost.  During the fall and winter, East Winders are able to enjoy limitless opportunities to explore the Ozark woodlands that surround us.  Hiking, hunting, forestry, and plant and mushroom foraging are a few favorite activities. 

East Winders celebrated the autumn equinox on September 22nd this year.  Party-goers gathered in a lovely little spot overlooking the Mulberry Garden.  The party location was once comptoil, cow pasture, and orchard space; but has begun to undergo a transformation this year.  The old orchard space is now home to three new fig trees and four new elderberry trees, and we intend to plant more trees nearby this spring.  Just south of the garden fence, our new gazebo is finally complete.  The cedar pole gazebo is partially timber framed, and houses a beautiful stone and cob table and four benches on a cobblestone floor.  Vines have already made their way up the gazebo posts and trellising, producing an abundance of nearly ripe passionfruit and hops strobiles.  East Winders enjoyed ten gallons of homebrewed IPA made with our own homegrown hops this equinox.  

Natural Building
The final touches have been put on our new cob oven and benches at last, providing an absolutely lovely hang out spot in our beautiful Mulberry Garden. Work on our new cob oven and outdoor kitchen is well underway.  The all natural cob oven is being built atop a conveniently located large stone next to our central dining hall, Rock Bottom.  The oven is being made using all materials resourced from our own land, including clay, sand, stone, sawdust, straw, glass bottles, bricks, and water.  By the end of September, the base of the massive oven nears completion.  We hope to be baking delicious brick oven pizza before the first frost this October.

The last of a seemingly infinite abundance of watermelons and cantaloupes were harvested this month.  Okra, pole beans, eggplant, peppers, squash, sunflower seeds, raspberries, and cow peas were enjoyed in great abundance as well.  East Wind also grew cow peas for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, the business of one of our sister communities, Acorn.  Fall lettuces have grown to a harvestable size, and salads are once again being enjoyed regularly.  Tomato and cucumber production peaked last month and dwindled this month— though we are still enjoying a few fresh tomatoes and cucumbers regularly. 

Many of our old apple trees displayed poor production and fungal infections on apple skins, though their fruit was delicious nonetheless.  Our 3-year old fig tree has grown beautifully and has produced an abundance of delicious figs throughout the month.  Three cuttings from the same fig tree (less than one year of age) are already producing figs as well.  Many wild grape vines are without grapes entirely this year, after an extremely productive year last year.  East Wind gardeners are hard at work keeping weeds under control to prevent seeding that could cause problems in future years. The bulk of the harvest has already been brought in, and we’re now shifting our focus to fall crops.  Lettuces and other greens, carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, and garlic are just a few of the crops that we’ll be tending to this fall.

Oregano, parsley, basil, holy basil, spilanthes, hibiscus, lemon balm, sage, and peppermint were harvested and dried in abundance this month.  As we head into the dormant season and plants move their energy underground, we will begin to harvest medicinal roots such as dandelion, burdock, yellowdock, chicory, valerian, marsh mallow, elecampane, and echinacea.  Many East Winders have contributed to herb harvesting and processing this year, accumulating the most extensive supply of medicinals East Wind has seen yet.  Quality tea blends, individual dried herbs, tinctures, hydrosols, essential oils, and salves are readily available to help East Winders maintain good health. Our herb gardens received a lot of love this September, and are looking gorgeous as ever as we head into autumn.

Sandhill Sorghum Harvest
Eight East Winders travelled to Sandhill Farm, one of our sister communities, this September. East Winders (as well as communitarians from our other sister communities, Twin Oaks and Acorn) participate in an annual labor exchange to help Sandhill harvest and process their fields of sorghum.  Sandhill produces and sells sorghum syrup to support their small community, and East Winders are happy to lend a hand during the harvest season.  East Wind LEXers were able to help with the entire process— from stripping, cutting, gathering, and milling the cane to cooking and bottling the syrup. 

Our hosts at Sandhill were a lovely bunch of folks, and East Winders had an enjoyable stay on the farm.  East Wind LEXers were impressed with Sandhillers’ good attitudes, work ethic, and laidback community structure; as well as their never-ending fields of sorghum, and extensive shiitake and beehive operations. LEXers also took advantage of the opportunity to visit two other intentional communities in our home state, Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage and the Possibility Alliance. East Winders were glad for the chance to check out other models of communal and ecological living.  The Possibility Alliance is currently in dialogue with and considering joining the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, and we would be happy to have them join the team.  The Federation of Egalitarian Communities currently consists of East Wind Community, Twin Oaks Community, Sandhill Farm, Acorn Community, Emma Goldman’s Finishing School, and The Midden.  With a growing interest in communal living evident, we hope to see the Federation continue to grow.


Nutbutter Sales Increase
Business for East Wind Nutbutters is beginning to pick up after a slow year last year.  A shortage of organic peanuts led to the loss of some of our larger customers last year, resulting in low profits.  Business has finally picked up, and we are once again selling nutbutter by the truckload.  Production has increased to meet demand, and shifts are being scheduled on evenings and weekends.  East Wind Nutbutters has a dedicated general management team working hard to keep the business alive and thriving.  East Winders are proud to demonstrate a successful egalitarian business model.

Waiting List
The waiting list is finally moving along, with a number of people obtaining rooms this fall.  There are still over a dozen people waiting for membership space and rooms, but they will be asked to leave the farm (until space opens up) by November 3rd.  We are continuing to schedule three-week visitor periods, although visitors must leave after the completion of the three week period (and will be able to return in the spring or when more space opens up). A gender imbalance is still in effect, and so females wanting to apply for membership will still be given priority over males.

Land Bordering East Wind for Sale
A large plot of land with a house, barn, and well bordering East Wind is currently for sale.  The current owners of the property have offered to sell to East Wind—for a good deal of money.  East Wind would need to take out a bank loan to afford the property, and the matter is a controversial one.  East Winders recently had a community meeting to discuss the matter and find out if it’s something we’d like to pursue.  Another meeting has been scheduled, and East Winders will vote on whether or not we want to pay for a certified appraisal of the land.

Friday, August 30, 2013

What’s Happening: August 2013

Summer Heat
The beautiful weather of spring and early summer gave way to heat & humidity this August.  Temperatures are still tolerable, reaching the 80s and 90s during the day and cooling down at night.  Plentiful rains in early August were greatly appreciated, especially in the gardens.  Many East Winders are enjoying the creek this time of year, though some are already eagerly awaiting autumn and a break from the heat.

Tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, pole beans, okra, corn, and potatoes were harvested in great abundance throughout the month.    Tomatoes and cucumbers were being brought in by the cartful daily through late August. Our walk-in fridge is overflowing with fresh garden veggies and melons, leaving barely enough room for an aisle to walk through. Production of hot peppers and raspberries dwindled early in the month, but started to pick back up by late August.  Squash, sweet potatoes, sweet peppers, sunflowers, and eggplants continue to ripen and grow.  Fall carrots and lettuce were planted at the end of the month. Lots of love and hard work has gone into our gardens this year; the land is healthy and lush and the late summer harvest is plentiful.

East Wind’s dairy program is still growing and expanding, and already producing an abundant amount of milk. East Winders are currently milking three dairy cows and six dairy goats, and receiving 80 lbs of cow milk and 20 lbs of goat milk daily.  We are now able to provide enough milk and cream for the entire community.  Some East Winders have been making different types of cheeses from our excess cow and goat milk, but not in large enough quantities to provide for East Wind’s voracious consumption of cheese entirely.  Dairy workers hope to be able to provide all of our own butter within the next year.  We plan to increase our dairy goat herd to 8 or 9, and switch our dairy cows to a dual purpose (beef and dairy) breed.  We recently obtained three Red Pole cows, and hope that these will be a good dual purpose breed for community. Most East Winders are new to running a dairy farm, and are dedicated to learning how to best manage our land and animals. Their hard work is appreciated by the dairy animals and the people of East Wind alike.

Food Processing
Food processing and preservation is a vital part of our community during this time of year.  Many garden crops simply cannot be consumed at the rate which they are ready to harvest, and must be saved for the winter ahead.  Tomato processing is important work during this time of abundance, and over one hundred half-gallon jars of salsa and tomato sauce have already been put away for the winter.  Cucumber pickles of all flavors and varieties are starting to crowd the shelves of our root cellar.  Our food processing center, Foopin, is in use almost constantly; whether we’re canning produce, drying herbs, brewing beer or wine, butchering meat, making cheese, fermenting tempeh or kimchi, or engaging in other pursuits of food and drink.  Kombucha and kefir are fermenting rapidly in the August heat; producing up to five gallons of each weekly.   A wide variety of healthy, homemade, delicious food is important to many East Winders.  We are able to provide high quality nutritious and organic foods to a community of seventy people affordably by growing, processing, and preparing as much of our own food as possible, though we still purchase many staple items in bulk.  Our food waste is fed to our pigs or composted in our gardens.

Basil and holy basil were harvested in seemingly infinite abundance this month, and dried or made into pesto.  Peppermint, lemon balm, tulsi, and basil were steam distilled to create potent aromatic hydrosols.  Spilanthes, hops, oregano, marjoram, sage, lemon balm, elderberries, and wild carrot seed, among others, were also harvested and processed this month. Our herbs storage shed is overflowing with buckets upon buckets of healthful herbs, and we are already well prepared for the winter months.  Our stock of tinctures, dried herbs, hydrosols, and salves has greatly expanded over the past few years, and more and more East Winders are learning about the healing properties of herbal remedies.

August Music Fest
East Wind celebrated our annual music festival this month.  Musical talent on the stage included Buddha’s Groove Shoes, Sean Porter, Juli vonZurmullen, Mac McNulty, Aster, Pilfered by Peasants, and more.  Twenty East Winders participated in a scavenger hunt to start off the fun and festivities in the afternoon.  Later in the day, East Winders enjoyed homebrewed beer and wine, an open bar, and a bonfire.  Music on the stage was a hit, and the festival was well enjoyed by all who attended.

Annual Plan
We held a series of meetings to discuss our financial plan for this year.  Each summer, East Winders meet to discuss how we will budget our collectively-owned money for the year ahead.  Our largest source of income, East Wind Nutbutters, suffered a loss last year— prompting us to reduce budgets and tighten our belts.  Our largest budgets are spent on food and medical expenses, while smaller budgets provide for our ranch, dairy, garden, food processing, vehicle use, house supplies, recreation, etc.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What’s Happening: July 2013

This summer has been pleasantly sunny and warm, and definitely a mild summer compared to the extreme heat experienced during the past few years.  The plant and animal life of the Ozarks suffered briefly during a minor drought in early June, but was relieved by plentiful rains at the end of the month. Despite the characteristic humidity, the weather has been beautiful.  The afternoons are often hot and sunny, but the mornings and nights are pleasantly cool.  Many East Winders are enjoying the creek daily.

Tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, corn, zucchini, carrots, beets, onions, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries were harvested in abundance this month.  We will continue to harvest many crops, especially tomatoes, potatoes, and cucumbers well into August.  Tomatoes will be processed into salsa, tomato sauce, hot sauce, ketchup, juice, and even wine.  Potatoes (including a variety of purple potatoes) are a favorite during breakfast time, and are also enjoyed as homemade fries, chips, and mashed potatoes.  Many cucumbers will be pickled, canned, and stored in the root cellar.  Our blackberry vines produced prolifically in the beginning of the month, but the harvest is already starting to dwindle by the end of July.  Melons and grapes are still growing on their vines, and are expected to mature in August. The gardens are a beautiful sight to behold.

Waiting List Continues to Grow
The waiting list continues to grow; there are currently nineteen people waiting for rooms to open up.  Individuals on the waiting list are welcome to live and camp at East Wind for the time being, but will be asked to leave by November 3rd.  East Wind has now been at population capacity continuously for just about a year, and is gradually adjusting to life with a higher population and unending waiting list.  Waiting times to obtain membership and a room are variable, but males can expect to wait for up to a year and females can expect to wait for a number of months.

East Wind Community Kitchen at the Rainbow Gathering
More than a dozen East Winders helped run a free kitchen at the National Rainbow Gathering in Montana this year.  East Winders loaded up two vans with a few hundred pounds of nutbutter and other food, and headed to Montana on June 23rd.  Everyone helped out, and East Winders were happy to feed hundreds of people during our stay in the mountains.  East Wind is closely aligned with many values of the Rainbow family, including the values of non-violence, equality, communal living, peace, love, environmentalism, and non-consumerism.