Author Archives: mattiereitman

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!)

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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:

NEW PEOPLE
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.

ACTION
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.

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

BUGS OMG
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!

INSULATION AND PAINT
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]:

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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-

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

-alex

Occasional Update #9

Well, we finally taught Burglar to catch rats:

After clearing out and occupying the rest of this house, we’ve continued to re-arrange our main living areas to accommodate the new layout. We’ve nearly transformed the kitchen with a few key effects –

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The sink’s backsplash is made from broken pieces of slate from our very own roof(!). Slate has become Mattie’s new material obsession—ever since he and Alex learned to repair some of the missing/broken slates on our (very high, very old) roof.

A slate roof looks like a book before it is bound. All of the pages

are written by a collaborative effort of weather and time. Hold one slate

in your hands. It is smooth and in places crinkled like handmade paper.

You can’t see yourself in the surface, it has lasted and will last much longer.

—from The Slate Roof Poem, by Philip Terman.

Things Change

This summer we experienced our first major internal conflict—a long-term romantic relationship came to a close, and we lost a house-mate in the fallout.  The process was hard on all of us, but we are taking steps toward reconciliation and spending time regularly with the house mate we lost. We’ve learned the importance of being forward with- and open to all of our house mates (even if they seem ok) because we can’t support each other if we don’t know that support is needed, and how important is is that support comes from all directions in a community.

The neighborhood is also in a state of change (or as some would call it, “Development”). Long term renters, including our close friends, are being forced from their homes to make way for wealthier student populations. Since its inception, the Midden has involved itself in neighborhood planning and development coalitions. We’ve been happy to offer otherwise-absent critiques of both capitalist developers and the misguided do-gooders that seem to thrive in our neighborhood. But faced with a property-owner’s whim to suddenly, and legally, evict our friends, we’re struggling to find ways to respond in a fashion that is effective for our friends. Watching how quickly our street is losing its racial, economic, and generational diversity feels crippling sometimes, but we do the best we can to support each other in the face of forces that we can’t control.

Projects

After a period of job-free creativity here in town, Kate is now on tour with the Beehive Design Collective giving presentations about the coal industry in Appalachia. Weslie started a job at a local co-op and now brings home lots of cheese and delicious gluten-free cookies. And Neb is about to release an album! I think!

Redbird Prison Abolition hosted the 2nd annual Prisoner Art Show to benefit Ohio prisoners. And if you happen to feel nostalgic for the days of pen pals, you should email them to inquire about writing letters to prisoners.

Cole left her job at a nonprofit back in August and has been working with Alex on a graphic novella. Mattie is currently helping facilitate a series of community dialogues in the neighborhood, and is preparing for a trip west this January!

Revisioning

At the beginning of October, we went out into the woods with the coyotes and spent two nights’ days “re-visioning” or “revision-ing” or just “revising” our guiding principles. Ben Bennett showed us plant families on a plant walk and we showed each other pictures of our younger selves.

Much of the trust in our house is founded in shared politics, but sharing similar critiques of the current social order and navigating the complexities of our daily lives are two different things. The good news is that we’re in the process of editing a brand new document that defines what we’re about and accounts for all of the voices that currently dwell in our home.