Occasional Update #14: June 2015

Our occasional updates have gotten more and more occasional. It’s been over a year since we gave a shout out, and there has been a lot of change around here. Some of the biggest and hardest news for our home has been a lot of members have left. Everyone has their own reasons and stories for those choices, but overall, it hasn’t been easy. Cole moved home to Virginia in September and, despite the (physical) distance, has kept up with some of our current members. Kate and Wes moved out in early December and have been living together (with some others) in a cute house a handful of blocks from us. Mattie moved out in late December, and has recently been staying in a magical farm house just outside the city. In addition to being a big shift in how many folks live here, everyone who left have had long standing and significant impacts on life here at the midden, including Kate and Mattie that were founding members of this special place. Thanks ya’ll, for all the countless ways you helped us grow.

While we miss Wes, Mattie, Cole, and Kate- we also have a nice and intimate group right now. Alex, Phil and Molly are still around, and since our last update Max has moved in. Max has been here a few months now and has added a lot to the vibe around our home. Max is back in Ohio after a two year hiatus in Pittsburgh. Max enjoys making art (check out his site!), dancing at punk shows, drinking tons of coffee and rolling around on the ground with Burglar. He really loves Burg… and has taken to being sure he gets regular walks and tons of love. Individually, all of us have all been up to all sorts of things. There is too much to possibly say about what we’ve all been up to- so let’s not even try. We’ve been dreaming, doing, watching, and learning. Our lives are changing, things are moving, and we are growing.


 {max❤ burgular}

While four is a nice number that has allowed us to get close, it’s not our ideal. We’re actively looking for new folks to live here. Right now, we are also trying new things, and Liz has moved in as someone who is renting a room. We’re not sure how an agreement like this will work in the long term, but we’re excited to have Liz with us and to try a new format. We are particularly looking for women, trans, and gender non-conforming folks, but we’re up for chatting with anyone! We have a big house and want to live efficiently. We want to share our lives with more folks and want to learn from each other in the process. If you or anyone you know is interested, we’d love to chat and explore what it might be like to live here at the Midden. You can email or call us, or just grab the ear of Phil, Alex, Max, or Molly!

As transitions in the human world have taken place, we’ve also been reworking some of our agreements. Perhaps like always, we’re not totally settled on how things are, but we’re trying a more communication based way of contributing around the house- taking some inspiration from a community in NYC- and simply calling it House Love. We’ve also changed up the ways we pay our bills and our trying a more (logistically) simple contribution system, based on a percentage of income. Of course, all our agreements have lots of little details, but we’re pretty invested in making things that work for us and that build equity. We’re probably up for chatting about what we’re up to, if you’re interested, or have ideas and thoughts!

This winter, we had a long term visitor, Rayenbo.  She stayed with us while she worked on some things for the Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC). She worked closely with Alex, who is our liaison with the FEC and also does tons of work with that larger umbrella organization. Together, they did a lot of preparation and planning to help pull of the FEC annual assembly. This year, that was hosted by our friends at Sandhill in Missouri! Since the assembly wrapped up, Rayenbo has headed back to Acorn in Virginia where she spends most of her time.


    {shabbat dinner, hosted by rayenbo!)

Things in our neighborhood continue to change quickly. The houses behind our back alley are open and folks are living there. The backyard of those houses have been turned into a huge parking lot, sod has been laid, the houses look fancy, and they are expensive. The houses on both sides of us have been bought up and are well on their way to becoming fancy places for students, artists, and eventually the wealthy.

While the roofs over peoples heads change, another sort of very special place is rapidly changing. The mound. Loved by so so many, it’s been a magical little escape for folks here at the midden: a place to share feelings, watch the sunset, hold a potluck, go sledding, be alone, let your heart be warmed, allow tears to run down your cheeks and into your sweater, gaze at the full moon, talk out our disagreements, sit with Burglar, kick over (literal and metaphorical) signs of change, say good riddance to things of the past, and so much more. There might not be any ‘real’ information to back this up, but it feels like the highest geographical point in the city. You can watch the city move, while you have a moment of stillness. We’ve seen it go from a brownfield to a field of wild flowers, with an ever changing and growing set of biodiversity. The seasons change there, the cattails bioremediate, and birds dip low. Now the machines are tearing it down, almost certainly to start building something only the a few can enjoy.

cattails   mound

{cattails and tearin’ down machines}

While the changes outside our fence line are disheartening, inside our physical boundaries (fences and walls!) things are getting pretty cute. We have some intentionality of leaving the facade of our home (like our front yard) looking not so nice, but we do really value the ways things feel and look once you get inside. We’ve done some small painting projects, have continued to try to bust out a productive vegetable garden, put up screen doors and the like, try to keep things tidy, and have started planting more perennials (like daylilies, cup flowers, and solomon seal). Come on over and see how cute we are!

Thanks for keeping up with us and for being the delightful humans that you are! We look forward to having you over, hearing from you, or running into you! ‘Til next time..!

Occasional Update #13: August 2014

Occasional Update #13

August 2014

It’s been a pretty long stretch since our last update— and a fair amount of things have happened. We had a ridiculously cold winter that not only kept us inside, but kept the bugs at bay this summer (worth it?). Despite the frigid weather, we were able to run our wood stove hot without buying any wood (thanks scavenging, thanks networks of friends, thanks hard work). We’ve also seen above and beyond contributions to our labor budget—meaning that as the year rolls on, we’ll have even more freedom and flexibility. We’ve hosted potlucks, readings, music sharing, and celebrations. Birthdays have rolled by; bedrooms have been improved (lofts! painting! desks! cleaning!!!); meals have been shared; friends have visited—and time has passed.


{it was the kind of cold that means it took 20 min to get all the clothes on you needed to go play in the snow. brrrrr!}


Our house membership has shifted once again— Eric moved out a few months back, deciding to try to find something that was a better fit. We’re hoping he finds something that is just right. And about a month ago, Phil moved in! Phil grew up in Bowling Green, likes baking bread, and does a lot of theatrical performances around Columbus, including being part of a dance in Taking Place and playing piano in the upcoming community theater version of Hair. Not only have the people living here changed, but Cole and Molly also became full members of our community.

 Right now (summer).

For a lot of folks, summer is a time for traveling. That’s been true for our household this year, too. Wes is planning a trip to New Orleans in August; Mattie just got back from Colorado as he celebrated his mother’s graduation; Cole headed to South Carolina for her sister’s wedding and to the Ozarks for a camping adventure, and Molly spent time in the TN mountains with her mama.

Summer also means gardening and outdoor projects. We just finished our windows (which we started last summer!), installed a little pond, and are gladly watching some of our backyard begin to grow a green ground covering for the first time in a very long time. Our garden is bustling with food and activity— we tried to grow a few less varieties this year in hopes of having higher yields. We’ve planted more flowers (including a lilac bush!) and things to keep pollinators and peoples alike happy. Loofas, Hops, and a hearty kiwi are winding up our back porch, and upside-down tomatoes and nasturtiums are weeping down from it. We’ve also started to learn a lot more about herbs this year and have been drying things for the winter.

       tummytomato                                   DSC01684                                  DSC01676(shirts full of tomatoes, drying feverfew and sage, and lovely spicy nasturtiums!)

 This summer has seen some of the most visible and clear signs of gentrification in this neighborhood yet. Across the alley behind our house, the buildings that were boarded up and shut down (displacing the folks who lived there) years ago are currently being gutted and put back together. Only now, it’s not for those who once lived there, but rather for wealthy (probably white) folk. Two corner stores—longtime staples around here—were bought out and shut down by Campus Partners. A slew of houses have been torn down, and many more are being renovated. Many folks in our household have found ways to resist gentrification, but the tide has been strong, and new neighbors and bigger developers just keep moving in.


(a regular scene of renovation in the ally) 

We, Ourselves, Us.

You in front of You.

Looking back to the past several months, we’ve seen less ‘big’ projects around here (but lots of ‘small’ projects, for sure!). Perhaps because of that, or perhaps just because, it seems we’ve been a bunch of folks who have stayed on our toes and been real busy.

Kate and Wes continue to work with Redbird Prison Abolition, which has been gearing up to reach out to more incarcerated women. Wes, Kate and other Redbirders headed up to Ottawa to present and attend the International Conference on Penal Abolition this past July. Redbird hosted a book release for Bomani, and since Condemned has come out, Mattie has worked to join others in supporting Bomani in fighting for his life. Mattie has also joined the ranks of regular book packers!

Alex and Cole continue to work with folks to establish a Community Land Trust in another Columbus neighborhood targeted for development on the west side of the city. The group of Founding Members has continued to build new relationships while establishing a legal foundation for community-controlled housing. The paperwork sucks, but Alex in particular has been building trust with members by connecting with folks on projects.

Mattie became a coordinator of Third Hand Bike Co-Op and has been helping run some of their open shops— it’s a really cool place and you should stop by sometime! He’s also been working to support the Beehive through (what else?) listening to stories of those involved and finding ways to tie it all together.

Cole has been busy with freelance work, including doing layout (once again) for the 24th issue of 4Struggle Magazine, which you’ll be able to admire as soon as it’s out! And thanks to Molly’s relationship with IMPACT Safety Cole will also soon be working with their Columbus Chapter on outreach and communications.

As a household, we’ve been getting our writing on. Cole started a women’s writing group that both Kate and Wes have been involved in. (Expect a zine to come out of it in the future!) Cole and Molly both wrote articles  for the spring edition of Communities Magazine about gender within our own community. Kate put together a zine about eating, food, and bodies called the BARF! zine that Wes and others also contributed to. Kate toured briefly with the zine, reading parts of it while her friend and zine co-contributor Gus performed a short play about bodies.

With the financial support of the FEC (thanks mutual aid fund!) Molly spent a long weekend in Philadelphia this winter at a training called Whites Confronting Racism, and continues to find value from that experience. Here is her blog post about it, if you’re interested. She’s also continued her educational work with the Beehive Collective, raising enough money to get a True Cost of Coal banner and 2 small Mesoamerica Resiste banners for frontline communities to use.  In the Spring, she helped host a storytelling training for folks in Appalachia. While some really great work happened there, it was overshadowed by the sudden and heartbreaking loss of an anti-MTR movement builder— Scott Ellis. He’s overwhelmingly missed.

                             Copy of DSCN0450                                                     DSC01654

(sharing Mesoamerica Resiste at Earlham College and the True Cost of Coal at the Clearfork Community Institute in TN)

Kate’s been busy as a volunteer with SARNCO– a local sexual assault advocacy group- and has started to the intensive work of being a hospital advocate.

The Capit@l Crushers continue to be movers and shakers (literally)—including bringing some sass and fierceness to the Pride Parade and Doo-Dah this year! We continued our support for the CIW campaign to encourage Wendy’s to sign the Fair Food agreement— while Mattie also stepped into more of an organizing role with the CIW for some of the actions.


{crushing it at the Pride Parade: Agenda, Agenda, Here’s our gay agenda! Housing, healthcare education. Freedom in our copulation. Anti-war, pro immigration. Ending Mass Incarceration. Queer Liberation! Queer Liberation!}

 Alex has increased his work with the FEC, strengthening the network of egalitarian communities. He’s taken on some organizing work, including leading the annual assembly. Soon, he (and maybe others) will head down to Twin Oaks in Virginia for the annual Communities Conference—maybe we’ll see you there?

On top of all that: as individuals a lot of us have been growing and putting energy into healing and changing. We’ve reached out to support groups, books, coaches, doctors, mentors, yoga classes, therapists, herbalists, and friends to help us. As a household, and as individuals, this hasn’t been an easy process. In some ways, at least, our relationships have been shaped and defined by our struggles. 

‘Til next time-

We could say that’s all, but it seems unlikely. There’s so much to say about our lives and our home—this is certainly a good start. We’d be glad to hear about what’s been up with you, and probably to share more about what’s been up with us… so… ‘til then— be well!

Occasional Update #12 — December 2013

We’ve made this place a home for 3 years now. Earlier this month was our annual Land Day, which we’ve never properly celebrated before. It feels substantial to do so now. We decorated, had a nice dinner together, built a fort around the wood stove, and cracked open some glow sticks. (Well actually that was Sunday for scheduling purposes — on Saturday most of us just went to High Street and had an impromptu dance party with friends and whoever joined in. Also great!)


Hello friends new and old! This is Mattie from The Midden. It’s been nearly 3 years since I wrote one of these quarterly-ish updates for us, which is a great sign to me that this intentional community has grown. Here are several glimpses into the last few months around here:

So many people! On top of regular visitors, we’ve had two new folks staying with us for a month each as prospective members (including Yello, who’s been here about a week so far). Cole and Molly plan are moving toward full membership, and Weslie has returned after nearly a year of elsewhere. In short, more food is made, and more food is eaten! We also have an unusual addition in the form of a mid-sized waste-veggie-oil school bus, currently fairly full with the belongings of a dear friend who’s recovering from an injury.

Molly toured the southeast and mid-Atlantic with the newly hatched Beehive graphic, Mesoamerica Resiste, connecting local and global social justice issues. Some of us variously performed with the Columbus Capit@l Crushers cheerleading squad in rallies for farmworker rights, helped with FRAC’s Huntington divestment campaign, developed relationships on the West side for the Community Land Trust group, and hosted the third annual Prisoner Art Show to benefit Redbird Books to Prisoners. Cole and Alex also continued to develop a class and gentrification workshop which they took on the road to Baltimore last month.


Back at home, we hosted a wonderful Leftovers potluck + dance party the day after Thanksgiving. We haven’t had many potlucks lately, because…

I’ve said for years that Columbus is the best place to live. This is quite a statement, and on top of that I’ve lived many different places. My rationale, as you may have heard me say, is that “Columbus is at least mediocre in every category, and I can’t say that about anywhere else.” Well, I’m changing my tune ever so slightly, because Columbus is almost the worst place to stay free of bed bugs. Ack, terrible! We had a bout with them this fall in two rooms, and diligently defended ourselves. We’re now happily freely inviting folks over again to potlucks and such!

We finally put a hat on the house! 102 years old and standing strong, this house had zero insulation, so this fall we used fiberglass, foam, and cellulose to insulate the 3rd floor. Friends from Acorn, the Baltimore Free Farm, and Twin Oaks helped us quite a bit, with support from the FEC‘s Labor Exchange fund. Here’s a shot of our helpers operating the blown-in insulation machine [one of them also wrote a blog entry about their visit]:


We also scraped, sanded, cleaned, and painted the house’s exterior wood trim. One by one, we worked on the porch, eaves, 8 doors, and 37 windows — quite an undertaking!  With approval from the city’s Historic Preservation office, the wood is now satin black and will be in good shape for the winter and years to come.

-best, mattie-

Occasional Update #11

Cole and Alex just got back from the annual Twin Oaks Communities Conference.
(an out door structure at Twin Oaks!)

They were quite popular, even after telling everyone that we eat trash and stress about fracking and gentrification and other less-than-sexy situations. They came home feeling rejuvenated by everyone’s enthusiasm, and with a pretty good workshop about egalitarianism and revolution to share.

But before they made it home, they stopped in SE Ohio for a Community Land Trust retreat. Ten of the best people in Columbus gathered for two days around a run-down cabin to discuss the possibility of forming a CLT. They made one very important decision while there: to do it! Molly facilitated our meetings–we might never have made up our minds without her help. Thanks Molly!

Kate went to a conference, too! She drove to Denver to meet with lots of people engaged in different kinds of prisoner support. Redbird, therefore, got some great ideas and connections!

Also, Mattie built a bike cart between helping other people fix their bikes at the bike coop.

The Columbus Capital crushers- including Kate, Mattie, Molly and Wes- are performing semi-regularly. They can’t wait for y’all to organize a mass street demonstration so they can cheer you on!

(Brussel sprouts!)
(A maypop flower! It’s a fruit, that grows here!)

Our garden has been a robust jungle this season, as Cole continues to take the lead on maintaining and growing it. Despite the mild summer, our tomatoes are finally turning into one of the most delicious foods, ever. Our plates have been sprinkled with a  diversity of treats- kale, beets, strawberries, okra, green beans, snap peas, garlic, and more herbs than you can shake a stick at (to name a few). Through surpluses from our garden, jobs, and foraging- we’ve gotten a nice little back stock of canned jams and sauces. We’re working our way into the fall season as we get late season crops in the ground and do some mild reshaping of our garden beds. We also moved our compost system into homemade tumblers, which is an exciting upgrade!

photo(Tomatoes, of course!)
(Lantana flowers; there just to be lovely.)

Starting in July, we’ve been re-thinking our labor system as we keep a strong eye on moving us toward egalitarianism. We’ve spent a lot of time creating proposals, hearing ideas, and making decisions about what we want our contributions to our household to look like.


We’ve started supporting individuals’ in their financial obligations outside of the house, updated our agreements about new members, recommitted ourselves to taking time to check in with each other each month, emphasized our belief that an hour is an hour as we reduce the disparity between different wages, and cutting a few budget items allowed us to reduce our overall need for contributions. We’ve altered quite a bit more, and have a few things still on the list to go through.

Despite the many hours, we’re still excited to re-imagine the ways we contribute our labor to the world and our household, and would probably be pretty stoked about hearing your thoughts and sharing what we’ve come up with in more detail.


To celebrate Mattie’s 30th birthday, we had a slumber party! The house was filled with people here to celebrate the birth and life of Mattie– as we gathered around the table to share food and stories of lessons learned through the years. There was an epic game of hide’n’seek, dancing, homemade tomato wine (2 years in the making!), musical chairs, a couple rounds of Big Booty, movies, and eventually… sleeping.

As we quickly move away from blazing summer into a sweet fall, we’re glad to share with ya’ll what’s been happening and keep you updated!

Occasional Update #10

Well, since we’re a collective house, it’s probably good that we’ve transferred ownership of our home to an LLC. of which we are all equal part owners. Send us a message if you want tips on getting this done (it’s not too difficult).

Now that our land is owned collectively, we qualify for membership in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. The FEC is a union of–that’s right–egalitarian communities, which help to support each other by circulating skills, labor, and funds between existing and forming communes. Alex went to their conference in the Ozarks and presented the Midden’s official membership application. A couple weeks later they approved our application.


The FEC assembly in Missouri. Alex is down there on the bottom.

Sometimes they make time to update their website

Like any other FEC community our spring season involves lots of gardening. Cole is taking point on a lot of our garden work, with help from our newest member: Molly.


Molly had a birthday breakfast, so we made her a cake made of pancakes. She liked it.


Molly also works with the beehive design collective. Their newest print is (finally) being printed. It’s amazing. Molly is trying to write what it’s about. Check out these tiny crops from the full print.



Our other newest member is named Eric. He’s pretty quiet. He fixed our gutters, though. Everything he does is secret. We can’t talk about it.Image

While we’re enjoying the company of two new members we’ve also lost two. Wes left to live with some other friends a little ways north of us, and Ben moved to a farm just outside of columbus. He gets to play drums with plants most of the day if he wants to, so we’re happy for him. We’re also happy for Wes, who now has more time to work with Kate and other friends building resistance to fracking and the prison system.


We mentioned, last fall, that we’re struggling to find ways to respond to the gentrification of  our street and the rest of our neighborhood. Well, we found one we’re comfortable sharing with you all.

Backstory: Our housemates have been involved in an ongoing neighborhood organizing effort facilitated, in part, by a national group called Everyday Democracy. Mattie has had taken point working with them locally, organizing a collection of dialogue circles. Groups of 8-15 residents met in dialogue circles weekly to share their experiences in the neighborhood and brainstorm opportunities for grassroots collective action.

Last March, Alex pitched the idea of a Community Land Trust to an audience of neighbors, developers, and nonprofits at a self-described “Action Forum” hosted by the Weinland Park Civic Association. Mattie and Alex are standing up front with another facilitator.


The developers ignored us, the nonprofits seemed skeptical, but several of our neighbors have felt compelled to meet with Alex, Cole, and Eric weekly to develop our thinking and plan for the future.

A CLT, in brief, is a nonprofit that exempts real estate from the speculative market. This allows apartments and homes to remain affordable in the midst of steeply rising rents and property values. Let us know if you’d like to know more about CLTs.

Mattie has been deeply involved in the planning and organization of said Action Forum.

The neighborhood has a strong demand for his facilitation and organizational skills. He also took a road trip across the country and back.

Aside from redbird, Kate has had a lot of writing to do for a zine that she’s authoring and compiling (can’t share it, yet). Cole got a job driving bread and cookies around town, so her car smells really good. Cole and Molly are organizing a divestment campaign from Huntington bank in response to their investment in Ohio’s frack waste industry. Eric found work as a computer programmer, since he knows how to program things. Cole and Alex finished a draft of a graphic novella. Alex found out that his mother does not have cancer.

Several folks organized and participated in a conference about the Lucasville uprising. Panthers, peace activists, ex-cons, their loved ones and supporters all gathered in Columbus to review and compare strategies and tactics to confront the prison industrial complex and support people on the inside. Particular attention was paid, of course, to those indicted in the Lucasville Uprising, a prison riot that occurred in Lucasville, OH 20 years ago.

I’m consistently impressed by the work that RedBird does, and the trust that they’ve built between generations and across cultural boundaries. Here’s more about the Lucasville conference, and RedBird in general.

And our cherry tree bloomed this spring.


I think that’s enough for now. How are you?