Nailed It!

Twin Oaks is popular enough that we’ve been at or near pop cap for a bit and for the foreseeable future, but that means there’s not much time or space for necessary room improvements since rooms aren’t vacant for very long. Each Twin Oaks member is guaranteed their own room and while it’s expected that it may be a bit of a funky style, it’s also expected to have basic functionality, such as…a floor.

One room in downstairs Oneida has sadly been lacking in this area until it became a priority and now has an awesome new floor using an interesting technique: plywood cut into planks! We used a circular saw for the cutting, then put the planks through the planer/moulder/sander at EC to make the tops nice, sanded the edges with a handheld power sander, nailed the boards in with a finish nail gun, and coated it with one coat of sanding sealer and three coats of polyurethane. Added a nice white trim around the edge and it looks like a whole new room ūüôā




The sanding by handheld electric sander took a fair amount of time, but the cost is under half of what it cost to buy cheap pre-made planks. So if you have time and tools but are short on cash, this seems like a good way to go. Time will tell about how well it holds up and if modifications (such as thicker or higher grade plywood) are needed for long-term upkeep. We used the extra boards for the hallway in Aurora, so we’ll also see how it holds up in a more heavily trafficked area. Yay for nice things!

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What if the Tofu Hut was a Band?

Note– this is a rewrite of a FB post I put up a few days ago. ¬†Brittany suggested I expand it into a RIZK blog entry, and I thought it was a good idea, so here goes…

Yesterday morning, I was working trays in the tofu hut, and I got to thinking about the similarities between a band and the crew working to make tofu– everyone does their part, and together we create beautiful music (or soy product). ¬† Here’s what I came up with:

The kettle person is the drummer of the band. ¬†It’s the basic foundational job, which sets the pace for the entire tofu hut. ¬†When the kettle person is fast, everyone works faster. ¬†When it’s slow, there’s nothing you can do but slow down.

The curder is the bass player. ¬†This job is, mostly overlooked and underrated, is nonetheless quite important to the quality of the final project. ¬†Much like the bassist, if the curder is doing a good job, everyone’s job is easier and the resulting tofu is likely to be high quality. ¬†If the curder is making crappy curds, everyone down the line is going to have a harder job, and no matter how long the curds are pressed, the tofu just isn’t going to be very good.

The trays person is the lead instrumentalist (guitar/piano/etc.). ¬†It’s the most prominent job, one might say, the “loudest in the mix” when it comes to actually making the tofu. ¬†If the tofu comes out good, the trays person is quick to take credit, claiming that the beautiful firm blocks are all due to their skill at their instrument. ¬†And if the tofu is soft and crappy, they will blame the rhythm section (kettle/curder) for giving them lousy curds to work with.

The pack honcho is the lead singer/front person.  Primarily concerned with appearances, the slickly-packaged product they create is the first thing that a potential customer sees when deciding whether to purchase the tofu.

The pack helpers are the backing singers. ¬†When we’re going for that stripped down effect (just plain bulk), it’s fine to have one pack person. ¬†But when we want those complex harmonies (pounders, flavored tofu, MTT), you need to bring in some help. ¬†Like backup singers hired for a tour or recording and fired afterwards, they aren’t really considered to be an essential part of the band, as this job is frequently done by visitors and guests without a lot of training.

The kettle/trays clean crew are the roadies/sound guy/tech crew.  The most un-glamorous job in the tofu hut;  to the casual observer, it might seem like they are the least important part of creating the finished project.  But if you tried to do without them for a single day, the whole operation would fall apart.

That’s as far as I got. ¬†Later in the afternoon I was talking with Zenny, who pointed out an important addition. ¬†The tofu hut squirrels, who are the groupies, waiting just off-stage to gather up and consume any spare soy goodness coming out the door of the tofu hut!

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A working year in Shaker brother Benjamin Gates’ diary.

Have I mentioned this is a month long fellowship at the Winterthur museum and research library? It is. It's fantastic! It's like being a time traveler. I can call up articles, documents, drawings, receipt books and journals of the shakers and a few other things from other utopian communities like Birdclyffe and Rose Valley.

While here, I'm looking at two diaries primarily. Isaac Youngs and Benjamin Gates. Isaac is sort of Benjamin's master or teacher and I guess they may have been lovers?! But that is an aside and speculative. So I'm reading Benjamin Gates' handwritten diary. In reading this, I was struck by how in winter months, there are fewer entries and in summer, more. I find this interesting as when I'm busiest, I'm often unable to record my work properly so I always underestimate so as not to pad my own vacation time.

My hope is to discover how their work lives matched up with my own. Benjamin was apprenticed as a tailor but took on many different jobs, notable firewood splitting, stacking and moving wood and loading wood boxes and sheds! A job I've spent about four to thirty hours a week year round for about sixteen years. So my wonder is whether people were given leeway or freedom to pursue interests within the community workload. Could they make as many jackets as they pleased as long as they were nice? There was no Walmart or Amazon so it made sense they made everything from buttons to shoes and clocks. Though that stopped when clocks were cheaper.

Also I'm wondering how they budgeted labor. Was it added up by the elders? Were there committees devoted to assigning work? How long did it take to sew a coat. Or make a table or chair? I have of course, in my own records or Twin Oaks records, labor sheets that show when I began a chair and stopped. How many hours a week I took to make a table. Though it's more since I'm working within the pentameter of a small budget. Now I claim more since able to since most things sell or are on commission. But early on, it was a challenge since it was all speculative if it was for sale and I couldn't make things for the community except by volunteering the work as I did plenty.

Below is each month written out in his
wonderful script. In excuse my index finger in some photos I have to be careful when photographing the material as it's fragile so I'm holding the place in order to photograph the page. I was shocked to find the fellowship doesn't offer a manicure to the fellows so that's why my nails are wrecked. Normally they are so well kept. Lol.

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I’m Purl, I’m a member at Twin Oaks on sabbatical and I haven’t written in a while.

I’m writing this in order to direct people to a blog I started ¬† connected with a fellowship I’m undertaking at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware. ¬†I’m writing about the Shakers and other utopian communities in connection with Twin Oaks, the current state of the communities movement and my own life. My focus has been primarily with regard to furniture making as I myself make and am in love with making chairs as well as other useful things for the farm, and looking at the chair making and other work of the Shakers and how their work loads and budgeting matched up and differed with that of Twin Oaks. I’ m reading and partly transcribing journals and diaries of members to learn their mindset, the variety of work a member did, their work day and work week and even if I can, their musings, joys and struggles. In addition, I’m making measured drawings of various things they made and illustrating them in a few journals I keeping, all the while noting humorous or interesting details in the collection of shaker material in the library and museum itself.
While here, I’m also looking at everything else held in the museum from Chippendale furniture to portraiture and the wide array of decorative arts in American history. Winterthur is considered the belweather of the decorative arts in america and holds symposiums on various subjects. It’s pretty exciting. I’m also visiting places of note that have a special link to Twin Oaks in a way, like the Wharton Esherick museum and other little communes if I can manage it in terms of money.
Of course anyone who knows me, knows I can’t help but be distracted in these efforts by the various oddities and peculiarities like the displays, discarded kleenex, or the museum guard or barista interactions I had. So I’ve decided to include them too in my ramblings to offer a hopefully interesting if not edifying experience to the reader. Living in community is interesting, so in my conversations, the question is always posed how I came to this fellowship which leads to questions about Twin Oaks and my every effort to evade discussion on the matter leads to more questions. Not evading really for any other reason but that it gets lengthy to explain everything to every person I encounter here. Mostly I’m just trying to blend in, which can be a challenge when your slacks are too short exposing your mismatched gym socks. It’s also been a challenge trying to budget living here as expenses are great in Wilmington, DE and my funds are as usual very limited.
Winterthur sits on about a thoousand acres of forest and pastures not unlike Twin Oaks, so it’s been a treat to walk the woods the way I do at Twin Oaks and discover natural wonders like massive fallen trees and mushrooms, as well as the occasional interesting piece of litter or artifact like broken jars or remnants of brick, and the like. There are many stories and wonderful people working here. Experts and scholars in many fields, so there’s plenty of interesting conversation which is my favorite thing in life. Feel free to follow the blog I started as I hope it might interest people in community and those who are interested in community as well as those interested in museums, decorative arts, history, and just the wackadoodle mindset of a weirdo who can get off tangent pretty easily. So if you like long, poorly punctuated, verbose, garrulous, circuitous, overly detailed-about-the-boringest-things-ever, partly maybe incorrect speculations or conjecture based on my three week foray into material about which much has been written more legibly and is also readily available, then you’ll love my blog. I do think however, I can offer an insight into both being a Twin Oaker, living much the way the shakers did, and a furniture maker. I find it interesting to see the parallels in say how long it takes to make a peg board, what work can be finished in a week, the losses due to mistakes or interacting with the outside world as a commnitarian, with that of the shakers and their constraints and privileges. Please chyme in with any correction or additional thoughts or information you may have on these matters. The photo I shared is a shaker inspired table I made now living in the ZK snack kitchen from a red oak that stood near ZK. And a chair I made with a group of women from UVA who came to watch a chair being made. ¬†In Community, Purl Samoheyl ¬†Sunrise
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Commune Dads Episode 6 – The Blessings and Curses of Grandparents

Keegan Dunn and adder Oaks ponder the pros and cons of having their kids’ grandparents in their lives. Grandparents are often sources of unconditional love and care, not to mention sugar and TV. Do grandparents create openings for our kids to become obsessed Disney consumers or beat-em-up superhero devotees? How can one deal with influence of commercial media generally? Also, a look at the BBC Dad viral video, for which our hosts are joined by special guest, fellow communard, loving partner, and co-parent Megan Lebda.

This episode is sponsored by Twin Oaks Hammocks, the community-owned business creating handcrafted outdoor luxury furniture. Visit and use coupon code DADS for 10% off your entire order.


Children interrupt BBC News interview (BBC Dad video)
Woman interrupted during BBC interview (parody)

Outfoxed (board game)

Potion Explosion (board game)

Lingua Latina (Latin language textbook)

Opening music: Commune Dads Theme – Nick Paoletti
Closing music: Nowhere Land – Kevin Macleod

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Commune Dads Episode 5 – Teenage Communards with Evan Houston and Rowan Dakota

Guest commune adolescents Rowan and Evan join adder and Keegan for this lighthearted discussion about the lives of teenagers on a commune and what comes next. They share the unique educational opportunities presented to them, such as classes on pyrotechnics, sign language, and and film studies. In addition, Rowan and Evan point to gaps in their experience living outside the mainstream and there plans to round out their academic and cultural education.


Evan’s Instagram, featuring short videos:

Homeschool Film Ed, Christian’s blog:

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting

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Commune Dads Episode 4 – Will Kids Ever Learn to Share?

We live in a community that is based on sharing, yet struggle just as much as any other parents to instill the value of sharing on children.¬†Are the sharing habits of commune kids actually any different than those of the mainstream? Effectively encouraging sharing ¬†appears to be an as yet unsolved problem. Mandating children’s sharing seems to miss the point: kids don’t seem to become empathetic sharers by having their toys passed on to others by force. But a¬†lassiez-faire approach will often leave children stuck in selfish habits. just as well. Does the commune life help create an example of sharing, or does so much shared actually work in the opposite direction, encouraging children (and adults) to claim out¬†whatever personal domain they can. Keegan and myself, adder Oaks, explore these questions and more on this episode of Commune Dads.


Preschoolers’ Selfish Sharing Is Reduced by Prior Experience With Proportional Generosity (academic article)

The Dispossessed (novel)

It’s OK Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids (book)

Revolutionary OS (documentary)

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (picture book)

Memorize the Faith! (and Most Anything Else): Using the Methods of the Great Catholic Medieval Memory Masters (book)

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