It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, and the length of this post reflects that. I apologize for both the wait and the length. I’ve been pretty busy settling into my new life here.
April 18th marked my official three month anniversary as an East Winder, and I’m loving it more than ever. There is a vote on each provisional member’s membership at the three month mark, and I did not receive a single no-vote, which felt very nice. There will be one more vote on my membership at my one year anniversary, and should I pass that I will become a Full Member.
Spring is definitely sprung here in the Ozarks, and it is incredibly beautiful. I have never lived anywhere more gorgeous. The trees are flowering and leafing, everything is turning green, and it is all so wonderful. I have never before lived so close to nature, and find myself constantly grateful to do so now. I consider myself so lucky to no longer be trapped indoors when it’s a beautiful day out, and can instead either work outside or simply take the day off on a whim.
Being so much closer to nature has also given me the gift of looking at the natural world in ways I never have, and now wish I had been. The most notable thing is an appreciation of seasonality. Living in Babylon (what East Winders call mainstream society), seasons pretty much just meant the weather would change and the leaves would grow, change color, and then fall off. But watching winter turn to spring here has given me a completely new appreciation for the seasons, and their effect on the world around me. Working in the garden I’ve started to learn the order of planting, and for the first time became concerned about frosts. Being out in the woods first cutting down dead trees and now herding our goats, I see the land take on a very different character as some plants sprout and grow and others fade away. Strawberries, instead of being available whenever I want them, only come once a year (which is almost upon us!). I’m learning to identify the different plants that grow here, what they signify, and what they may be used for. I went mushroom hunting last week, and found my first morels, a highly valued delicacy. These too only appear for a few weeks out of the year.
Speaking of food, I need to rave about how well we eat here. It is absurd. I have never eaten so well in my life. I’m an admittedly lazy cook, and would be grateful simply to have food regularly prepared for me. But it is so much more than that here. I eat a huge variety of meals, in a large variety of styles. Every meal has at least five different dishes, and often more. And it’s all freshly made, from the best quality of ingredients I have ever heard of. Only the very, very best of restaurants could match the quality of ingredients here, and even then I would not be sure. I’m not sure it’s possible to be more local, organic, farm-to-table, than we are. There have been a large number of meat-heavy meals since I’ve been here as winter is the time to slaughter animals, which have almost all been born, raised and cared for, slaughtered, and butchered right here on our farm. I actually helped to butcher the last pig we killed this winter, and found it to be an incredible experience. Not only was I grateful to have the opportunity to learn how to carve and preserve an animal, but I also learned a lot about how bodies are built. It turns out a pig’s musculature is not all that different from ours, and I found my knowledge of human anatomy to be quite helpful in separating the different muscles of the pig. Our garden is getting into full swing and will provide us with delicious and nutritious veggies all year long.
Another form of food processing I have started to learn is the art of cheesemaking, which I am finding fascinating. Cheesemaking is important here because it allows us to preserve our excess milk, produced by our dairy cows, AND because cheese is delicious. I’ve made a couple cheeses now: simple farm cheese, ricotta, whole milk ricotta, and a passable attempt at feta. There have been some bumps, but so far I’m decently happy with what I’ve produced. We are very lucky to have an incredibly intelligent, knowledgeable, and meticulous food processing manager, Rin, from whom I consider myself very lucky to be able to learn from, as well as eat the products she presents to community. Cheesemaking is also my first venture into fermentation, which I find to be a really interesting field of study. Beermaking is next.
… started to learn to use our sawmill. I think it’s so cool that some of the dead standing trees we cut down a few months ago during Forestry season are now being turned into lumber by us. The work itself is a little rote and mechanical, but I find it really rewarding to be able to produce our own lumber. I really enjoy working with and learning from Dusty, a co-manager of both Forestry and Building Maintenance. Before coming to East Wind he ran his own contracting company in LA building mega-mansions for movie stars and is incredibly knowledgeable and skilled.
… been working production shifts in our nut butter factory. “Nut Butts” is currently the lifeblood of East Wind, and allows us to do all of the other awesome stuff that we do here. I’m therefore more than happy to work in the factory and help support our lifestyle here. The shifts are usually 2-4 hours long and are pretty simple. There are a few different jobs on each shift, which one person will do for the length of the shift. Each job is straightforward and simple, and it’s actually kinda fun finding a rhythm together to bang out the job.
… worked at the local food bank a few times. East Wind grants its members labor credit for hours spent in community service, which we call Community Support. I think it’s pretty awesome. Working at the food bank was actually a pretty depressing experience for me. Ozark County (wherein East Wind is) is very poor, and until handing out food here I had never encountered poverty on this level before. To directly see and interact with their suffering made me sad for them, and angry at the system that creates that level of suffering. It also made me very grateful for the countless blessings in my life.
… worked a little bit in the garden. Nothing too special, mostly doing some planting and hoeing, but I find it’s quite enjoyable work. There are usually other people around and we chat and joke while working. When it’s a particularly nice day I usually work in the garden to be able to enjoy the weather and get hours at the same time.
… started goat herding. And it’s probably my favorite work on the farm. I get to walk around and chill on our beautiful land for three hours with our goats, which are great animals. And the mamas just kidded! Sadly it was a rough birthing season for our goats as four of the babies were stillborn, and we might lose one of our mamas, Ocean. The four kids that did survive however are ridiculously cute, friendly, and playful. Because of that they don’t like to go too far from the goat barn, but soon they’ll be going out again. I like to goat herd as I get hours to just sit in nature and do as I please: read, pet goats, practice music, or just be.
… been working to improve how East Wind handles it’s domestic grey water. Currently it empties out onto a hillside, which is obviously less than ideal. Apparently there used to be a sewage pond, but then someone decided to build a new system and left it unfinished in its current state. So another East Winder, Will, and I have been working first to cover up the standing water, which is just about done. Next step is to decide on and design a permanent solution, and then implement it.
The largest project I have undertaken since getting here has been creating an Amazon.com seller’s account for East Wind and listing our nut butters on there. It was unexpectedly hard to create this account for us due to Amazon’s unclear requirements to do so. Once I was finally able to get cleared to sell on Amazon it was a good bit of work to list all of our various products with appropriate information and pictures. However it’s all done, and we’re live and have already shipped five orders. I’m pretty proud. Should you be so inclined, you can buy our healthy and delicious nut butters on Amazon and support East Wind. Who knows, I could even have been on the shift that produced what you buy.
Dusty (of the sawmill) is also involved with the Ozark Neighborly Exchange, a local organization encouraging locals to come together and create self sufficiency through the unity of their neighbors. They put on a one day congress a few weeks back and a bunch of East Winders and I attended. There were some cool presentations by some impressive people there, and I learned a good bit. It was also encouraging to see about 200 people there, and to know that there is a community of like-minded people in the greater Ozark area. Until then I was unaware of the strong self-sufficiency/back to the land sentiment here in the Ozarks.
Something else I love about East Wind is all of the crazy talented musicians here. It’s so nice to have live music around. And then we have weekly jam nights, some of which have actually sounded really good. A couple will be getting married here soon, and an East Wind band has formed to play at their wedding, I’m looking forward to hearing them play. II still haven’t started working on my music much, finding that figuring out my labor and socializing take up the bulk of my time, but I have started playing the drums a little bit. There’s at least a few other people here into EDM production, and I’m looking forward to learning from them.
While I’m in fantastic spirits now, there have been a few rough patches for me. Nothing serious, but I have found myself lonely at times. What I told myself during these times (and which has since been proven true) is that it’s normal and to give it time. I’ve started to build real connections with people here, and feel it will only get better with time. When I would get a little down I would perhaps question if this all wasn’t a big mistake, but there was always an answer: I can’t imagine a more powerful way to fight for what I believe in.
Another much less serious… let’s just call it a complaint though it hardly qualifies is that the internet can be quite slow at times. Usually it’s slow but workable, but sometimes it just does not go. This is something I’m going to be looking into to see if we can’t find a better option. However I really like that I’m not connected to the internet 24/7 anymore, which I did not expect. Now I have to take a five minute walk if I want to use it, which is no problem when I need to but is enough to stop me from defaulting to browsing Reddit or Facebook when bored. When I first got here I asked about getting Internet in the dorm buildings and learned there was a community meeting about five years ago and community decided against it. Apparently at Twin Oaks and Acorn, the other two large FEC Communities people hardly ever socialize because they’re all in their rooms on the internet and it harms community. I find that a really compelling argument and no longer wish for Internet in my room.
I’ve been playing a lot of games here, which I enjoy. There’s a bunch of chess players here, and I play more chess than I have since leaving Dallas when I lived with a chess Master. I’ve also got back into Magic, which I used to play back in highschool. I never could quite bring myself to get rid of my cards, and now I’m glad I didn’t. I’ve also played a good amount of Catan, and have started to learn Go. Oh! And also Tak, which just got invented and will only be familiar to fans of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles.
The weather has been wonderful this April, and there have already been some days spent hanging out at the creek drinking and enjoying the sun and the water, something I’ll never grow tired of.
I’m sure there’s more I’ve done that I can’t think of at the moment, but that’s all I’ve got for now.
Originally published April 29, 2016