Villages in the Sky: DIY World Change

Just another weblog

A snow day is no day off. January 31, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sara Tansey @ 11:03 pm

But it sure does go slower.  Two days ago we got about 8+ inches of snow here in Tecumseh, MO which has thrown me into a childish tailspin.  The morning I woke to see snow falling I hurried into warm clothes and rushed to RB–which is the main dining hall community building here.  I found a couple of likewise delighted friends and we made french toast and played with thousand piece puzzles and drank coffee.  It was kind of wonderful.

The snow has made getting out onto the festival grounds a bit difficult, so Pilgrim and I have switched gears a little.  We’ve been plotting how to manage the influx of volunteers coming west at the end of February, shifting around priorities so we can house and feed a small crew out on the land much sooner than anticipated.  It will be great to have extra hands early, because as amazing as Pilgrim is, he can’t do it all by himself.  We’ve got clearing and building and planning to do all at once and in just four months.  The sooner we can get started, the better!

And Matthew, a member here at EW, and Pilgrim have been doing the foundational work on the map our expert architects need for their master planning.  As soon as the snow and ice melt away a little and we can get back to the site safely, they’ll be walking the land and filling in the details requested by the architects.

Things are coming together even when the weather is delightfully distracting!


What makes a masterplan ? January 29, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — paxus @ 2:09 pm

One of the cool things which has happened with the project is that these professional architects have offered to help us.  They will be coming in late February and helping us develop a multi-year masterplan for the site.

Of course they need things from us.  First they want a site survey.  Since we are building tree houses and zip lines they want to know about the trees on the site, their size, type, suitability for these applications.  So we have a crack team of Matthew and Pilgrim to find these trees and bring back surveys of them for the architects.

The other things they want is a project descriptions which tells them what we want.  This is of course a bit tricky, because we want more stuff than could possibly be completed on time.  I got good marks from Al Ross for the outline below as the template for the information they need for the masterplan.  Thought i would share  it here.

  • Goals of the Project
  • Project Time Table (including estimated work force)
  • Architectural elements planned to be included in the project
  • Known functions/events the space should host
  • Special considerations for reused and recycled materials
  • Multi-year considerations (what is important in 2010 and then 2011)
  • Zoning of the site for different types of spaces (kid friendly, supervised use only, construction areas, etc).
  • Availability of Garnie limbs and other special tree house constructing equipment.

Sara and i will start kicking out the answers to these, and anyone else who has an opinion on the topic.  Which of course brings up my big failing in the project to date, which is that i have not implemented this cool wiki project management plan i have had for some months which would permit people who want to help to know what we need to have help with.

What is also exciting is that Harley and Robert who are friends of Haydens are talking about coming out in the Feb trip and volunteering.  More hands on deck – super cool.  Hopefully they will be introducing themselves soon in the comments or posts here.


And the good news is… January 27, 2010

Filed under: build up camp,Fundraising,Project Personalities — paxus @ 4:53 am

That my boys are taking care of me, too.  I always say that one of my favorite parts of this project is getting to play with “the boys.”  They are wonderful.  Real boys, you know, work hard, play hard, build things with their hands and all of them are a couple of decades older than me.  We decided months ago that I’m the little sister who’s had to assume all maternal responsibilities because our mother is in rehab.  And trust me, it explains a lot about “the boys” and our unique relationship.

Tonight I got a call in the middle of a Smash Brothers tournament from Pilgrim—our site manager and tree house building master.  We’d been sifting through community politics together earlier in the night and I’d shown signs of mild exasperation (ok, maybe more than mild).  He was calling me with “not great news, but good.”  He’d been talking to one of the East Wind “boys,” Kris, who is a local expert in steam engines.  All along we’ve been trying to figure out how to incorporate steam into the project; Kris refuses to use steam for electricity, too inefficient, but tonight he agreed to put together a steam exhibit for the festival.  He also provided us with a much cheaper solution to energy generation out on the site during build up camp by offering a diesel engine we can convert—all we need is a battery.

Some of the other good news is that East Wind might have two starter solar panels we can use on the site, every day we’re finding another potential long term VIS volunteer to come out in February to help with our massive site preparation, and we had a really great development and fundraising call today.

“I wanted to call and give you some good news, some hope.  Something good right before you go to bed,” Pilgrim told me.  And as we wished each other sweet dreams and hung up I was close to tears.  This is a big project and wading through community politics, trying to raise money, trying to keep everyone happy and trying to find enough volunteer help for Pilgrim himself is a bit crazy making.  And sometimes I feel like I’m doing it all alone out here.  But that’s just the egomaniac in me, and the team I’m working with reminds me in the simplest and most profound ways that we are a strong team.  It seems almost impossible, but with this group of misfit toys, I know we can make almost anything happen.  Prove me wrong, come and join us in June and tell me we’ve failed.  I dare you!


Ants in your pants and grants January 24, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sara Tansey @ 6:02 pm

Being at east wind is important for me, and the delightful balance of my life continues.  it’s sometimes hard to get motivated to sit in front of a computer when there are so many easy distractions.  the downstairs kitchen in anarres* provides ample amusement for a slightly silly organizer who enjoys all things childish.  the other morning, a handful of us were making breakfast together, which led into a couple of games of rummikub, which, in turn, bled into a raucous game of ants in your pants.  yes, three adult bodied people sat around the kitchen table trying to shoot small, brightly colored plastic ants into a pants shaped bucket.  and the satisfaction of success was maybe a little too great.  it took all my will power to step away from the table after getting every last ant into the target.

but as fun as little kid games can be, i was moving off into the realm of equally exciting fundraising, with a success satisfaction level even greater than bouncing an ant off of the suspenders and into the pants.  villages in the sky is an ambitious project and we’ve got lots of incredible work to do.  which means we need some kind of funding.  i am currently working on grant applications for three different foundations, but i have little experience in this realm and am always seeking other editors and foundation leads.  if you know some more progressive foundations or have experience writing grants, i’d love to get your help!

and soon we’ll be creating mechanisms for personal donations, so that all of our funding doesn’t come with foundational strings attached.  slowly, we’re growing up and digging in.  but it’s going to take a lot of hands to help us thrive.

* annares is the anarchistic egalitarian planet from Ursala Le Guins brilliant science fiction story The Dispossessed.  It is also the name of one of the residential buildings at East Wind


Welcome Erica and Wrenegade January 22, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — villagesinthesky @ 10:44 pm

Four months ago as i was walking the magic meadow site and looking at the tremendous volume of brush that needed clearing i said “we need to get Pilgrim here, way before April.”  And now Pilgrim is there, with a shiny new chain saw and he looked around and said “We need to get a bunch more hands on this problem way before April.”  East Wind has been helping quite a bit, but it is not the communities job to build out festival site.

So i have started recruiting, which is my favorite job actually.  First it was Hayden who is on the edge of finishing his GED and in conventional classifications would be a a “kid at risk”.  What i see is a jem ready to reveal itself and choose important cuts.  With some luck and some tutoring he will come out on the next trip from Twin Oaks (Virginia) to East Wind (Ozarks) on Feb 18th.

What is also exciting was that Erica and her young daughter Wrenagade (see photo above) are probably coming out as well.  Below is the CraigsList ad she recently ran.
(t)hey say it takes a village to raise a child. so where is it? why aren’t we living in this village, raising each others children? we all know the answer. simply put, the alienation of families makes life difficult, and consumerism more productive. we’ve replaced grandmothers with talking bears and bouncy chairs. anything and everything to give mommy a break. as a new other, this is NOT acceptable to me. I want our village, without mind-numbing TV, electronic babysitters, instant formulas, all things that only make life easier for that instant, but at a dire familial, social, and cultural cost that we all see the effects of.

I’m tired of complaining about what my daughter and I don’t have. I want to go out and get it. We want to live simply primitively, supportively, communally, spiritually, maternally, matriarchally, openly. some of these terms might scare some people off because of being red-tagged, but I assure you – if I say carefree, i don’t mean careless. when I say open, i don’t mean anything goes. when I say communally I don’t mean lack of personal space. when I say matriarchally, I don’t mean anti-male. I think all the mothers reading this know exactly what I mean because it pulls at our primordial strings in a very familiar ancient way.  so how do we get what we all need? how do we make it work when we get it? what do we have to give up? how do we get the support we need to accomplish our goals?

we’re so used to living autonomously. there are plenty of individuals wanting to live more simply, in the woods, farming, bartering… themselves, because they have their individual vision and want things to go the way they imagine things should go. plenty of groups who’ve tried to live in a village have failed for that very reason – because their visions could not be lined up. but with the way this system is going, I don’t see it possible to do it any other way. we need each other now more than ever. we need story time around the hearth, drumming, chanting, chopping wood, initiations, direct interactions with everything and everyone, reflecting Nature that knows no good vs. evil, shame or blame, just cause and effect. i come to you all with nothing of my own…..except this vision and the drive to make it happen, to pull resources together, network, and realize.

Looks like her village is looking for our village.


up with the cows January 20, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — villagesinthesky @ 4:29 am

we’ve been here three days and already life is falling into an interesting balance.  rachel woke me this morning before sunrise with a kiss on the cheek and asked if i was still coming to play with the horses.  we were both confused; east wind doesn’t have horses.  of course i slipped into my jeans and went downstairs to the anarres kitchen where there were scrambled eggs and coffee all ready for me.  we woke slowly and then walked out to do our ranch chores as the sun rose over the valley.  really, i don’t think i could think of a better way to start my day than having calves follow closely as i carry their feed to the trough midway through the pasture.  oh and chasing the chicken, of course.

we finished our chores and went back to the main dining room at east wind to see what the day would be like.  i ran into qn, who has good relations with the neighbors and had offered to take me to meet the satterfields.  we wanted to pay them some sum of money to park festival traffic on a corner of one of their pastures nearest the entrance to the festival grounds.  so, fresh from stomping around the ranch, i decided to change into a plaid jumper dress and flannel shirt complete with my workboots and alfalfa caught in my hair.  it was perfect.

mr and mrs satterfield are sweet and they want to help east wind, they want to help their neighbors.  after doing a bit of background checking, asking about the kinds of people who’d be coming, the kind of event we were hosting, they were satisfied that the risk was limited and immediately agreed upon a liability free contract with villages in the sky to lease enough land to park the cars that carry festival goers to the ozarks.

and this will be the unique nature of our work over the next few months as we prepare for build up camp.  there will be lots of flirting with the neighbors.  we need crumbling barns for salvage, we want an old farm truck for hauling brush, we are going to need to find outside sources of volunteer labor and outlets for local promotion, in kind donations from local businesses.  this revolution we’re building will take all sorts: the 78 year old lifelong neighbors, the chainsaw wielding boys, the web maniacs and the money husslers.  if you’re looking for your niche in the work, find us at   i promise you there’s some super power you have that will make our team stronger!  and keep coming back; life at east wind promises to be an adventure in itself.


half way there January 17, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — villagesinthesky @ 9:23 am

This spot in Kentucky just off of 64 is fast becoming a second home for our traveling misfit toy army.  A little over half way between East Wind and Twin Oaks, with extra rooms, yummy cereal and a gracious Dad, we’ve stopped here every time we’ve made this trip.

This time, it’s me and “the boys:” Pilgrim and Milo.  Pilgrim is coming out early, to manage a number of early priority pieces of the project.  We’ve got tons of brush to clear, water catchment systems to install, monitor windmills to throw up, and Pilgrim is going to make sure it all happens.  Milo is a new member of our merry band of trouble makers.  He’s a friend of community electrician and engineer extraordinaire and we’re hoping he’ll play the part of lead geek–with his experience with renewables and running transmission lines.  These are boys that work hard and play hard and it’s been an experience traveling half way across the country with them in a tiny little four door saturn.  You should hear the stories they tell.

We’ll land later today, hopefully getting to East Wind just in time for dinner.  And when we get there, we’ll settle into life at East Wind, seeking out community members interested in supporting the project, walking the land and creating maps for our architect master planners, meeting and playing with all different sorts of misfit toys.  And this is just the beginning’ we are but the first wave of VIS miscreants to hit East Wind and start raising Cain.  I can’t wait!