reepicheep's journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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reepicheep
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Joined: Mon Dec 29, 2014 7:45 am

Re: reepicheep's journal

Post by reepicheep »

I bought a ginger lemon one in a 64 fl oz container, mostly for the container. Soon I will have a kombucha empire!

I did use a little bit of it in my first batch, but mostly I brewed my own tea and used the scoby that was given to me earlier this year.

reepicheep
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Re: reepicheep's journal

Post by reepicheep »

You guys! My house is moved! It's so good! Yay!

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C40
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Re: reepicheep's journal

Post by C40 »

WOOOOOOO

reepicheep
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Re: reepicheep's journal

Post by reepicheep »

Welp. As of this morning I am the new bookkeeper for realzies. Interviewed, signed paperwork, all that jazz. I start tomorrow. I also (finally) found out how much rent I'll be paying.

Drum roll:

$445/month.

Includes:

My RV spot
All my utilities (including shitty internet)
80 forested acres
Sauna
Hot tub
Classroom space
Yurt
Lodge (commercial kitchen, woodstove, hangout spot)
Outdoor kitchen
Woodshop (fairly meh and pretty disorganized, but there is some useful equipment in there and a lot of wood that I think I could have access to for pretty cheap)
Gardens
3 meals a week (I could pay slightly more to get fed more often, but the kitchen provides food inconsistently and the quality varies depending on who is cooking)

Job pays $624/month (taxes will lower this, haven't done that math).

Pretty pleased that I won't need to put a third of my pension into living expenses each month, though I won't be able to take advantage of that until I move out of my condo at the end of February.

enigmaT120
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Location: Falls City, OR

Re: reepicheep's journal

Post by enigmaT120 »

Sounds good! Where did you move, sounds like you're still at the same community?

reepicheep
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Re: reepicheep's journal

Post by reepicheep »

Yeah, just moved a quarter click away. In the meadow instead of next to the dorms. There's 80 acres, plenty of space. Still want power and water though.

Jin+Guice
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Re: reepicheep's journal

Post by Jin+Guice »

How did you get involved with the Quinoa people? What are the full details of your arrangement with them? It sounds like an "intentional community"' where you still have some amount of autonomy?

reepicheep
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Re: reepicheep's journal

Post by reepicheep »

I started out a student here in September taking a semester program. Got my university to pay for it (aka G.I. Bill) for it via independent study.

Decided to drop out of school (for a bit? forever? looking into voc rehab to go be a carpenter vs. getting my second BA, which has mostly been a waste of my time except for the school trip to Belize I took in spring to go snorkeling for 5 days). Applied for residency. Still here.

Sociocratic decision making. Not quite consensus, not quite tyranny of majority. It's basically a cluster fuck all of the time. The place has been constantly on the verge of falling apart (in every way you can think of) for about 30 years, which is the length of time it's been around.

Tonight, for example, they spent 30 minutes discussing cats at meet-up (I did not attend, just reviewed the notes). There were two separate cat proposals from two separate parties. The first was an "accept" and the second was an "object" and the two people who were sorta ambivalent/negative about the first cat were the owners of the proposal to bring the second cat. The hypocrisy unnoticed in the notes is astonishing.

I have no expectation of changing anything meaningful here. But it's real purty and my dog gets to run around off leash on 80 acres. There's no way I could afford to buy this size of property, especially not with trees still on it -- at least here in Oregon (where it honestly doesn't make sense for me to live, due to income taxes on my pension and relative closeness of non-income-tax state, but meh, gunna be here for a minute all the same).

enigmaT120
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Re: reepicheep's journal

Post by enigmaT120 »

I expect to make it down there in the next couple months for dance. I'll just sleep in the lodge if so. The trouble is there's a trail building day on January 5 in McDonald Forest for biking and running trails, and I've been wanting to start paying that back for a long time. Also probably a good way to meet people to ride bikes or trail run with.

Both of these events look like they will happen monthly so maybe I'll alternate depending on the weather for the trail building day.

reepicheep
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Re: reepicheep's journal

Post by reepicheep »

Yeah, dance is every month.

See ya when I see ya.

Jin+Guice
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Re: reepicheep's journal

Post by Jin+Guice »

Yikes! Sounds like a clusterfuck. That's my fear of the community life. It's really hard to find a space that's as small as I require. Also, why do I need my own kitchen and bathroom? I don't. Except that I need them to be kept clean. Some kind of tiny house community sharing an outdoor kitchen and bathroom is really appealing to me, in theory.

enigmaT120
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Re: reepicheep's journal

Post by enigmaT120 »

A couple of my friends think I should start a community here on my property. I'm pretty certain I won't. But when I jokingly asked one of them "What's in it for me?" she replied "Community." And I didn't laugh. A few years ago I would have.

reepicheep
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Re: reepicheep's journal

Post by reepicheep »

@Jin+Juice,

Well, here's the thing. A lot of people who live in the failing infrastructure here and who rely on the organization for some or most of their income are super stressed by the experience they're having.

Most of the places where people live are falling apart. 2+ inches of moss on the roof, little to no insulation, no way of heating except via electric space heater (and drawing too much power trips the breaker -- it's not uncommon for that to happen multiple times a week in different places around the site), black mold is a huge issue, no vapor barriers under some of the cabins, etc etc etc. The cleanliness of the common kitchen(s)/areas is definitely also something that kind of fluctuates. People do get credit hours for keeping things tidy, and I'd say generally we all do a pretty good job. However, I just got an email about one of the kitchens being left with dishes in the sink, clutter, etc.

Today I spent 1.5 hrs (paid!) in a meeting where, due to a higher than usual number of vacancies and the event season lull, we decided to cut staff hours and chore rent credits to make up the budget deficiency for the next two months. People who rely on their staff hours/credits to pay their rent here (which is already low because the community is zoned as low-income housing, below 80% the market rate for the area) are going to struggle to pay their rent...and if they don't pay their rent, our deficiency increases. It's a vicious cycle.

But none of the above is the experience *I'm* having, other than to the extent that the people around me are more stressed than normal at the moment. My problems -- the RV condensation, the pump flood, and the electrical issues -- have all been solved, and were in part solved by ingenuity/bribery/money -- intellectual, social, and financial capital.

Side note: I fixed my electrical problem by buying a converter and am now plugged into the 30 amp RV plug with my 12 v extension cord (yes, this should be a 10 v, I agree), this seems to have fixed the too-much-power-draw then flip-the-breaker problem. Indeed, I might be on one of the few really good, new, updated electrical systems on the property at the moment. And even when the power goes out, I have a practice of keeping three propane tanks handy, two on the rig and a spare, a battery, and a solar panel that sorta works.

Because I have an RV (and have solved my previous problems), I have my own kitchen and bathroom, the tidiness of which is entirely up to me. I have a heating system that works even if the grid goes down. The RV isn't an ideal long term solution because it's not super well made and the insulation is shitty, but in comparison to a lot of buildings on campus I'm doing really well. Indeed, I've heard the joke, "the nicest building on campus" in reference to this RV. As long as the site is still open as a community, a tree hasn't fallen on my RV, and the water keeps pumping, I could live here pretty happy without the rest of the place at all (or even electricity!), and that much degradation doesn't seem likely. In contrast, the structures that do exist (even clusterfucky as they are) add a lot of value to my life. Somebody else cooks meals multiple days a week. There's a gathering of people around the wood stove after dinner in the lodge every night and I can go plug into that -- or stay 1/4 mile away from almost everyone else on campus, as I choose. Sometimes those people start up the wood-fired sauna! My immediate next door neighbor is a professional musician and is going to start teaching me guitar on Tuesday. I'm paying him with my time on some home renovation projects of his choosing. Somebody else brings in ecstatic dances once a month and I can choose to cook/clean/prep for that (and get paid), or not. I can just attend for free if I so desire. There's a mostly-helpful maintenance guy I can bribe with cider and chocolate chip cookies and childcare when I can't figure out my own RV problems.

Because I have a pension (and a pretty good sized nut put aside from my time in the service, as well as the fortune of my birth), the budget cuts don't really impact me financially. Even if they cut hours for bookkeeping (which they won't, even though right now they are paying two because I'm in training), I'm not especially bothered or worried about it. Unlike most of the people here, I'm not on SNAP (food stamps) and I'm not living pay-check to pay-check. I consider my car old enough to be sensible -- 2007, but it's probably 10 years newer than the average vehicle on site. Hell, the amount of money I have just sitting around in cash in my checking accounts on an average day is probably more than most people who live here make in a year.

But it's not just assets protecting me financially, it's that having them protects me emotionally and mentally. If my pension went away and I liquidated everything I own -- including the condo in Beaverton -- and put everything in cash, and continued to live here/got out of my lease in Portland (imminent -- end of Feb), and got a little bit more frugal with my luxurious food purchases/travel to Portland, I could probably live here for 25+ years without ever making another cent in interest. That's one hell of an emergency fund/security blanket. It's easy not to take the next two month's budget cuts seriously -- at least not for myself. Event season will pick up, we'll make more, and people's hours will be added back. I can ride that out no problem.

I do feel empathy for those here who have not been as fortunate as I. I made a number of income-boosting suggestions that fell directly under the purview of someone who really needs those hours that are getting cut and was very upset during the meeting. That person was very grateful for my suggestions. My head may have been clearer due to my lack of sense-of-existential threat. It sucks to be poor. I've never been poor -- though I've felt poor. But the clusterfuck really only hits the people here who can't absorb any shocks to the system. Even the people who are moderately well off financially aren't overly troubled by most of what happens here because their living expenses are so low. I think anyone who had been practicing ERE for even just a couple of years would be more than fine here in a lot of ways, if they really wanted to be here.

@enigmaT120, dying at the bottom of your stairs with a broken hip would suck.

enigmaT120
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Re: reepicheep's journal

Post by enigmaT120 »

Reepicheep wrote: @enigmaT120, dying at the bottom of your stairs with a broken hip would suck.

LOL that is not why I didn't laugh!

Jin+Guice
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Re: reepicheep's journal

Post by Jin+Guice »

@reep: That sounds pretty dysfunctional. It sucks that a lot of the residents are basically trapped there by poverty. It sounds like your personal situation is actually pretty good though. How long do you plan to stay?

@bigato: Interesting. How to foster the good side while minimizing the bad?

reepicheep
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Re: reepicheep's journal

Post by reepicheep »

@Jin+Juice, Not sure. Depends on how long I can stand the dysfunction. I told them at least a year when they hired me, though being in bookkeeping is revealing new heights. But the current bookkeeper is overwhelmed by a lot of other life stresses I don't have -- family stuff, mostly -- and I honestly don't have other complicated/stressful stuff going on that I could swap out for her stuff. She also has another staff role that is equally as difficult as bookkeeping, and I don't plan on taking on anything else here. I have a daily reminder I have to check off that says, "Don't take on anything else even under extreme pressure!" Like with most places under constant existential threat, an individual offering a high degree of competence leads to that person getting rapidly burnt out -- if they can't maintain good fences. I remind myself that if a system isn't working (like the kitchen/meal plan/garden set-up), it's probably not the fault of the hapless individual who happens to be trying to make it work, and that I'm probably not going to be able to do any better. There's a lot of history here over why things are they way they are, and that's tough to fix.

Example: In the meeting yesterday I suggested that we post our campus location up on RV forums and camping websites. This was intended as a way to bring in more income when we desperately need it. There are a number of good sites here with hook-ups. It's a beautiful place to be, if you have your own housing, and the costs are quite competitive in comparison to most RV parks, especially for longer-term stays. It doesn't cost the community very much to have somebody parked in our RV spots. The objection, which is a valid one, is that if we list ourselves up on these places the likelihood of random people just showing up here in the middle of the night goes way way up. We're also a community, not just an RV park, and people don't want goosenecks rolling up our shitty road at 2 AM expecting someone to come out and greet them. Super valid objection. Hard to work with that from a "we desperately need money" perspective.

As far as people being trapped here by poverty...I don't think that's valid. Turnover here is super high. Most people stay less than a year. Sometimes people are asked to leave at the 3 month or 1 year mark (when we are evaluated) because they don't fit in with community norms. Typically these are people who aren't cleaning up after themselves, aren't contributing to the community in some visible way (just paying rent doesn't cut it, really, though the way people decide to contribute is pretty broad and nothing is mandated. Even the chore program is voluntary), or aren't able to maintain good emotional boundaries. People who dump their problems on other people, project, don't own their shit, can't accept feedback, that kind of thing. From an interpersonal perspective this place gets a lot right. Even the person who recently said, "the only reason I'm still here is because I can't afford to leave" has just moved out.

Sometimes people just choose to leave. They get disillusioned, or they can't get enough work out here to make ends meet (or cut their expenses to make it viable), or they have a conflict with someone else that they can't resolve. Nobody owns any property here; everyone is a renter on a month-to-month lease. It's really pretty easy to leave, maybe even too easy. There was a whole effort to address that a couple of years ago with a big change in legal structure and new construction offering people the opportunity to get some equity on site. That didn't work out for a bunch of reasons.

Most people here are pretty well educated. Many have had careers already. They *could* work more, earn more, not be in poverty, but they choose not to for a variety of reasons. I think ERErs can appreciate that. There is more than one way to retire early, and saving up 5x your yearly expenses is only one way. The other way is to not work very much and to live hand-to-mouth and on food stamps and not worry about it.

@bigato has identified one of the ways that things work better here for some people. There are several people here with pretty well-off micro-businesses. Those are completely private enterprises and they are doing better than the organization as a whole is. One person has built his business from scratch over the last four years and is now so successful that he's moving off site and expanding. We've had other businesses in the past get started here and then really blow up -- there's one I know of that's now a popular brand name food item shipped nationally that you've probably seen in the supermarket (and probably haven't bought, because it's expensive hippy food). So competent and driven people can come here, take advantage of the community structures and super low rent, work their asses off, and do really well for themselves. The community is pretty supportive of these ventures in the sense that if someone demonstrates a good ability to follow-through and keep their shit together, most ventures are approved and there are various places on site that can be rented for different business activities. But you have to earn some trust from people first, so you have to be able to put up with the dysfunction for awhile.

Other people who do well are the folks who take frequent trips off campus. The more you stay here the more you get wrapped up in the drama and crazy. This 80 acres becomes your whole world and you lose perspective. These tend to be the folks who maintain outside employment to some degree, or have other reasons to get off campus regularly (typically relationships).

Personally, I have a couple of things I'd like to try out here, though I don't really care if I make money at them. One of them is growing edible mushrooms. I'm interested in that and people reallllly like to eat mushrooms here. They are the food item that often goes first at meals. I think the kitchen would pay me for as much as I could give them, any time of year.

I'd also like to have some meat/fiber rabbits. Partly to eat them and partly because I have a growing interest in fiber arts/sewing. I have a dream that I'll make something and all the component parts of the thing someday. I realize these are not the same kind of rabbit. That's less likely to turn a profit, though.

These are the rules for success here, as near as I can figure:

Don't make a lot of noise after 10 PM
Don't drink or smoke in common areas, without prior approval (every time I've seen approval requested, it's been approved. Usually for holidays and events)
Clean up after yourself
Sort your recycling
Pay your rent on time
Don't fuck students (I have decided my personal rule is don't fuck anybody who lives here, after watching a love triangle blow up in early fall and scatter confetti over several other people who were more peripherally involved)
Don't spam the campus email
Participate in community life to some degree
Maintain good boundaries, accept feedback, apologize if necessary, address conflict promptly, seek help if needed

That all can be hard (that last one really asks for a high level of adulting), it is harder than you'd think for a lot of people, and it might be hard for me in some ways. But those aren't, to my mind, super strict or unachievable rules for living in a community, and being able to be a good member of the community gives you a lot of room to experiment and play and figure out what your joy is.

Cheepnis
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Re: reepicheep's journal

Post by Cheepnis »

I used to make kombucha quite a bit. I had a 2 gallon iced tea style dispenser with spout I would do my first fermentation in and I repurposed 12oz plastic soda bottles for my second fermentation. The bottles are nice because you don't have to burp them. I liked using apples, strawberries and ginger to add flavor during the second fermentation. Filling up a weeks supply of bottles only used ~ 1/2 the container of the kombucha which, after repleting it, would allow the new batch to be ready quickly. If it was the warm season within about 5 days.

There was a couple years there where my kombucha rotation was dialed and I always had fresh bottled kombucha. Not sure why I stopped, but it's been a while since I made any.

reepicheep
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Re: reepicheep's journal

Post by reepicheep »

Kombucha update: Been a week. Still too sweet. Will let it go another few days.

Moisture update: Have discovered that there is moisture on the inside of the doors that lead to the storage compartment under the bed. I have temporarily moved one of the dehumidifers under there and have propped the entire bed platform up on a meditation cushion. Next step is to create a couple of spacers so that the platform can be permanently raised up an inch or two to allow for air flow, and to build a second platform with lats that will go directly underneath the mattress to improve airflow under the mattress. Have discovered that the woodshop has various wood cutting power tools and more than enough wood to do everything i want, but no ear or eye protection that I can find. So I need to go get some headphones, at least. Might be able to use sunglasses. Also my power drill and all the rest of my tools are in the garage undergoing renovations up towards Portland.

Guitar: Had my first lesson. Guy is going to re-string from metal to nylon for me so I don't hurt myself (broken elbow from last year, angle/arm strength is awkward). I don't know zero things, but I mostly don't know very much.

Baking: Made banana chocolate-chip cookie/cake from scratch! First time I've ever baked without using a pre-made mix from a box. Not super difficult. Good results.

Bookkeeping: Clusterfuck. Checks voided due to "avocado stains." Incorrect check numbers recorded on the log. No invoices for checks. Unknown charges going back all the way to May. We sent out invoices for January and immediately got back half a dozen emails with "my invoice is wrong." Have started creating a How-To manual, which does not exist for this position. It seems like the best time to create it is while I am still in training and able to get all of my questions answered from current bookkeeper. Not that she necessarily knows the answer...

Tiny Houseing: Am doing design work with friend of friend. Going to cost me $$$. Building exterior shell with him and then bringing it down here to finish interior. Hoping to have woodstove installed by next winter. Can sleep on mattress on the floor if necessary and do cooking/bathing in RV.

Writing: I put up a couple of pieces (one is on my blog, one is not) that attracted a fair bit of attention. Fed my ego. Appreciate.

DutchGirl
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Re: reepicheep's journal

Post by DutchGirl »

reepicheep wrote:
Tue Dec 31, 2019 11:16 pm
Bookkeeping: Clusterfuck.
Ouch. Given how the complete place is run, I guess this was to be expected. Hopefully you still feel you get paid for all the work you do. (If you need to work more hours on this, will they also pay more?).

Good luck...

reepicheep
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Joined: Mon Dec 29, 2014 7:45 am

Re: reepicheep's journal

Post by reepicheep »

@DutchGirl,

Yeah. The Business Admin can approve me for up to 15 hours/week or, honestly, however much is required. In November they didn't even worry about the cap -- something happened, I'm not sure what, to prompt that. Probably tax season is similar.

I'm watching the current bookkeeper work, though, and I'm noticing a hella ton of inefficiency in her workflow that goes well beyond just the problems of herding hippies. Things like not knowing keyboard shortcuts, slow typing speed, having to go back to correct spelling/syntax in emails constantly before sending. Going through the file tree every time for specific folders that she uses a lot instead of favoriting them or just searching for them.

There are also things that could be done to educate residents/staff that would help cut down the workload. For example, people just dump receipts/invoices in her mailbox. Then she has to sort them, figure out which department they belong to, and categorize them according to certain codes used in Quickbooks. I see no reason why there couldn't be a different system where each department had their own mailbox slot so that receipts were already categorized. I would also have a sign saying, "WAIT! Is your NAME, DEPARTMENT, and DATE of purchase on this invoice/receipt?" It would still be a challenge to get everyone on board with that process, but there are a number of people who are relatively competent with their admin and would probably be capable/willing to help me help them, when given a clear avenue to do so. I might even be able to get people to categorize their expenses with the codes used most often in their department, given enough time. If that were in place, it would cut down at least a couple hours.

A site Amazon account would also help. Right now people are using individual accounts with the organizational business card to order stuff for their departments. So we see Amazon charges on the bank account but have no idea what department ordered them or what they ordered, if they don't provide receipts promptly. At least if I see "100 feet of hose, 40 packs of seeds" I'm gunna know that wasn't ordered by someone in admin.

Also, there's probably some low-level fraud going on. Hard to verify. People maybe tacking on personal purchases onto their department purchases and getting reimbursed. Not sure what to do about this. Whole place basically operates on honor system. People leave doors unlocked right left and center. Items go "missing" regularly...I lock my shit up when I leave. So far answer has been, "do nothing." I think probably if I see it I bring it to BA and then...write down that I brought it to BA in case of audit?

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