Saturday, November 27, 2004


The most difficult thing about going to the farm was that I had no idea what to expect. I never had any plans to join any intentional community in a rural setting. I did spend a lot of time thinking about meditation and yoga. My sister was the one who listened to the Grateful Dead and trucked around on a school bus. Diedre spent a lot of time in California and she liked the idea of being vegetarian, macrobiotic or vegan. The whole trip was her idea really. Unfortunately I may have inspired it. When she became pregnant, Diedre quit her job as a baker and moved in with me. We had been separated for about three months. I tried to think of what to do and in order to be helpful I purchased a copy of spiritual mid-wifery, the famous book by Ina May Gaskin. We signed up at Elizabeth Blackwell Center which practiced progressive methods of childbirth. Diedre decided that the city was the worst place to have a baby. And she wanted out. I became unemployed and went out looking for people who do something about the farm. Mostly these were folks selling tie dyed T-shirts at Grateful Dead concerts. After interviewing quite a few of them the possibility of going there looked pretty dismal. The farm had officially closed its gates. They were no longer accepting new members. That however did not dissuade us. We made a few phone calls to the farm and found out that their mid-wife program was still operating. We would be able to have the baby there.

We decided to travel to the Farm to check out first. Of course that meant abandoning our apartment and moving our belongings to my parents home. So we rented a truck and filled with stuff, drove from Philly to my parents new home in Tennessee, borrowed their car, and visited the farm. The people there were nice except for a few teenagers who told us the farm was not a hippie commune anymore. We bought food at the store, talked with Pamela Hunt, who was the head nurse in the mid-wife program. They seemed pretty confident that everything would be all right but they did not know that we intended to stay there and become members of the community. Before the farm closed its gates people had lived there for free. Coming from the city, we were completely prepared to pay for our lodging's and utilities. The only problem was finding work. I guess I have the feeling that everyone there was in denial about the demise of many of the Farm's institutions. The bakery was closed. The publishing house was closed. Lots of buildings were empty. Multi-family homes were gutted and vandalized by visitors and frustrated teenagers. But we didn't notice all of that first.

Once we settled in I found work with the Farms construction Co. Michael Gavin was the contractor who managed the company. There were a few issues that had to be worked out before I could work on the crew. First of all no one received a paycheck. All of the carpenters were shareholders in the company and they received dividends. Because I was not a member of the community I could not become a shareholder. So I became an independent contractor. Not that I knew anything about carpentry. I had to learn at a laborers wage. Not much more than I made folding burritos at Cantina del Dios in Philly. D. threw a fit when she found out that Michael couldn't hire me out right. She expected me to support her throughout this. Somehow she believed that she could bully me into making more money. She and I had the idea that she could start up the old bakery. I was eager to help since I had a background in restaurant work. Most of the facility was intact although it would never need to health codes standards the equipment was there. After some weeks she got together with a woman named Rita and another named Ramona. They had done some large-scale baking before. Little by little, they started baking again. I don't think they use the original bakery, but they moved some of the equipment. They started with tofu Danish, pizza rolls and cookies. Later D. tried to duplicate her former boss' secret formula for bagels. With some success. They were Chewy. The farm store offered some of their products and they started showing up where the construction crew met in the morning to discuss the different jobs we were working on. The Danish were pretty good. Plus they were low-calorie and protein filled because of the tofu. They also started making tofu cheesecake which is really a lot better than it sounds. Nothing like cheesecake though. Meanwhile banged a lot of nails and hauled a lot of boards around. D. got bigger in bigger as she came to term.

In the midst of this Alice wrote to say the she was pregnant too. I think she miscarried. Alice was 19 or 20 at the time. She went through a few boyfriend's that summer but I'm pretty sure that he was not someone I met. I don't remember if she was still seeing Raven at the time. Bought she did move out of the city and settled in Oregon. She spent sometime in Santa Cruz, some in Haight-Ashbery and some in Oakland. Or so I recall. She asked us not to tell Mom and Dad about the pregnancy. We're too busy anyway.

The day that Owen was born was right after Thanksgiving. I went out to work on a home that morning. I was reluctant to go because D. was sick and very close to giving birth. Right after lunch our gray Honda showed up at the job site driven by a man whose name I can't remember. He said "your old lady is having baby" he was pretty shocked to find out that I couldn't drive. The labor lasted seven hours. D. had a small epistiotomy. All the midwives left except for Deborah and somebody left us a huge pot of spaghetti. D. was trying to nurse the infant and I was trying to eat the spaghetti when Deborah asked a shaky voice, " Can I hold your baby?" Her arms trembled as she took the child. But I could see he was already blue. " Call Pamela," she said.

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