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 –


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.


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!


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.


Occasional Update #8

Date: Friday June 22nd, 2012

The Midden’s Spring Update



In March we had the chance to host a prospective member named Shawn for a month and are currently going through the process of new membership with Cole. If you wanna live here too, let us know! We continue to try and work against development in the neighborhood.

Us and Spring Changes

At a recent pot luck, there was a question about what ‘who you were 5 yrs ago’ would think of ‘who you are now.’ People’s answers to that question highlight just how much happens with time, how everyone is constantly creating variations of who they are. So, here are some things that we’re up to these days that will make us someone else in 5 years:

Wes has given up screen printing for farm work, Mattie has started his own business called Living Wage Lending and Alex is beginning to get a Masonry business off the ground. Meanwhile, Neb is continuing to develop music and make small fires for audiences on High Street. Death row prisoners receive support from Ben and RedBird Prison Abolition. And last but not least, Kate quit her job and is spending time this summer writing and working around the house.

Mattie also continues to play a mentoring role for students organizing around environmental justice, and in April, Kate, Wes and Ben returned from a month long tour with their play In the Belly. Here’s a picture of us celebrating Student Move Out with a trash cake.

moveout cake

We’ll continue to have spontaneous pot lucks and we’d love to chat with you about what you’re up to.

That’s all for now!

The Midden

Occasional Update #7

Winter News from The Midden

Hello and sending warm thoughts from Wes, Kate, Ben, Mattie, Alex, and Burglar (yes, a new member!) at the Midden!  As you read this, we are probably all huddled around our new woodstove hatching plans to knock down walls, re-finish floors, paint things, build things, and generally realize our dream to create ‘one big house’, as we like to say.

One big house . . .

As you may or may not know, the house we bought in Columbus used to be a duplex.  We’ve been living mainly on one side, while the other side has been very messy, so the first and main task towards one big house was cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.  I think we are all glad that the cleaning part is about finished, and now we get to move on to the fun stuff – renovations!  None of us have ever done home improvement quite on this scale, so we’re in for a fun and exciting learning process.  Our living room is scattered with drafts of crazy awesome ideas – our main criteria seem to be big kitchen and lots of common space. In the upcoming months, we plan to do lots of repairs on both sides of the house.  By the next newsletter we will hopefully have one big house!

Dogs, woodstoves, and other warm things . . .

Between the months of September and November we had 2 break-ins, which left us feeling pretty violated and un-easy.  As a result, we decided that the  house would benefit from having a big dog around.  Now we have Burglar, a 75 pound 11 month old boxer-lab mix, who is more likely to cuddle an intruder to death than bark at him.  Needless to say, Burglar has quickly become an important part of the house as we learn the ups and downs of collectively having an animal.  He belongs to no-one, and we share the tasks of caring for him.  If you come to visit us sometime, just tell him ‘down!’ :)

Another important addition to Midden was our wood stove!  We decided to install the stove ourselves, and Mattie took a leading role in making it happen.  The process included Mattie climbing 40+ feet into the air and perching on our chimney to finish up tapping into the existing chimney and exhaust pipe.  It was quite an adventurous couple of days, to say the least, but we recently passed an inspection with flying colors and fire it up almost every night.

The wood stove has inspired many nights of reading and writing together by the stove, and we have also started having people over for potlucks.  At the old house (64 King) we had a weekly potluck that happened without a halt for two years straight – quite an accomplishment!  From that experience we learned that we enjoy filling our house with people, food, and ideas.  With that in mind, Ben is going to host a weekly craft night by the fire.  Bring it on, winter – we’ve got friends, crafts, and a woodstove!

Us and new members (the human kind)

When we’re not running around like maniacs with the dog or fixing the house, we all have different projects we’re working on.  Mattie has been facilitating with the Beehive Collective, and continues to work at a local food distributor, the Greener Grocer.  Kate, Wes, and Ben still work with Red Bird Prison Abolition, and all have various part-time jobs.  Ben has been especially excited by the Occupy movement, and sees opportunities to tie it in with Redbird work.  Similarly, Kate is exploring other projects, such as volunteering with women’s health organizations.  Alex has been recording songs for a new album, is helping plan a Solidarity Network for Columbus, and frequently cooks up magnificent meals.

And there will soon be a new addition to the Midden – Neb! Neb makes noises with home made instruments, has expansive foraging knowledge and experience, and recently attended a silent meditation retreat. He will moving into the third floor sometime in late February.

Occasional Update #6

September 20 2011

Hello Friends!

This summer, things have been really hopping at Community Autonomy! We’ve done a lot of growing as a house, a community and as people.

As a house!

We had a house work party and got a lot done in the yard. We’ve built up a bunch of garden beds to grow more foods for ourselves. We replaced the gutters off one side of the house to grow our water catchment abilities (and shrink the basement’s tendency to collect water). We’ve got so many more exciting plans to transform this space over the next year. We’ve also been calling the house “The Midden” with enough regularity that it just might stick. “Midden” is an archaeological term for a trash heap or rubbish pile. It’s a intriguing place where detritus is collected. In our case, that detritus is re-purposed and transformed into a home!

As a community!

We’re super excited to announce that we’re expanding our membership. Alex and Wes are now provisional members of Community Autonomy. Alex has been active in Columbus Housing Justice and other activist and documentary film projects for a long time. Wes lived with us at king house and has been very involved with RedBird Prison Abolition and Insurgent Theatre. We also hosted a really wonderful provisional member for a month this summer, but he’s instead settled at Acorn Community in VA.

As people!

We’ve been doing a lot of house maintenance work, student move-out scavenging, and had a fun day in a rolly coaster park. I’m not sure how effective being thrown around screaming by huge steel machines is for bringing a community together, but we all had fun. Mattie has been developing his facilitation work, which you can read about online here: mattiereitman.wordpress.com Ben, Kate and Weslie have been super busy and travelling all over with their play In the Belly and working to support Ohio prisoners through RedBird Prison Abolition.

On a somewhat melancholy note, we also helped everyone move out of our former home at 64 King and helped prepare it for sale. We’re so grateful to have met each other in that space, and are supportive of Amy doing what she needs to do to move forward and put the house behind her.

Until fall!


Picture: Kate, 3 stories up on a 32 foot ladder. (Don’t worry, she got more confident up there by the end of the job!).

Occasional Update #5

Spring Update — We Did It!

Hello you and hello springtime!  This is Mattie from Community Autonomy, bearing digital greetings and well wishes.  As you know, we are a group of people creating a life together around the principles of egalitarianism, sustainability, accountability, justice, and community in Columbus Ohio.In this spring edition:
– We Did It!
– Ad Seg
– New Economics

We Did It!

Yes indeed. 3 years into this project, we bought a house together, did some initial rehab, and moved in. Our house is a 10 bed/4 bath centenarian on an 1/8 acre southeast of OSU. After helping the sewage actually make its way to the sewer, refinishing the floors (see attached!), replacing 115 slate roof tiles (okay we contracted that one out), and a bunch of smaller ongoing stuff, 3 of us moved in a month ago. We live in an area known as Weinland Park or The Short, a neighborhood undergoing rapid transformation. We’re variously and critically engaged to help this place remain culturally rich, socioeconomically diverse, and accessible to current residents, which is a complicated adventure!
We need: new members, help developing the awesome potential of this old house, conscious and critical community organization in this changing neighborhood, some good dirt, and probably other things we don’t even know about yet – please drop a line if you can help! Also, in case you’re wondering, the old house on King Ave is continuing as a housing cooperative, and they’re also looking for members.
Ad Seg
Continuing their work with Insurgent Theater, members Ben & Kate have got a new show. Ad Seg is a critical exploration of the US prison system. February/March was the southeast tour, and some more local shows are filling space until the west and east tours in August/September – you can bring them to your town!
New Economics
We take care of each other. Though it will take a few months to figure out the details, there is great comfort and strength in egalitarian community. Transportation? Health care? Unemployment? Food? Got you covered. Here’s an excerpt from our economics agreement to give you a flavor of what I’m talking about:

Accountability: To guide our economic decision and actions, we rely on an honor system, regular communication, clear understanding of what counts for Quota hours, and a shared convention in recording them. Generally, all work done to meet the Community’s needs counts for Quota. Acceptable work includes, but is not limited to: cleaning, cooking, shopping, yard work, renovation, Community meetings, record keeping, outreach, research, repairs, income-generating work, and limited sick time.

What a way to live!  And with my new job at the Greener Grocer, Ben becoming a substitute teacher, Kate maybe picking up some part-time vegan baking, and all the work to do on this house and in the neighborhood, there’s no shortage of stuff to do around here.
until next time,