Jon Norcross' TOCC Trip Report 2016


At 5:30pm I arrived at Twin Oaks and met up with Hawyna, Sky and Nicole at ZK.  After dinner, Nicole and I found out where I would be staying which was in Tai-Chi and I got myself situated for the evening.  We then had a discussion in Tai-Chi with some of the members and guests who had come for the conference.


Early in the morning, I found Pam and worked on the Garden shift.  We picked corn, went on break for 15 minutes and then picked peppers and roma tomatoes.  Afterwards, we went to ZK for lunch where I learned that there was going to be an open community discussion with Reynaldo leading it.  Unfortunately there weren’t very many members that actually attended this one and we just jumped from topic to topic with no real central theme.

The purpose of the meetings was to allow for more face-to-face interaction between community members instead of just relying on responses from people on the O&I board.  The O&I board stands for Opinions and Ideas which has just a number of clipboards with various papers for proposals or information.  For example, one of the proposals was to change the over-quota system to be setup as a percentage refund of the over-quota time spent in each area so that managers wouldn’t need to be so tight with their hour budget with people working over-time.

After the meeting Nicole and I went to the parking area for the conference.  I checked in and setup camp for the weekend.  After I was setup, I went to the main registration tent to sign up for work shifts.  I ended up signing up for the same shifts Nicole did which was MOOP (Matter out of place) patrol.  This task involves picking things up that are left lying around like trash, dirty dishes, clothes etc.  Since I didn’t attend the Twin Oaks tour last year, I made it my first priority this time around. 

The tour walked us through the main areas of Twin Oaks and was led by Adder.  The main areas include the Woodshop and Storage area, the Tupelo music room, ZK, the garden fields, Oneida and Tai-Chi.  The woodshop is where they keep all of the wood working tools and include various saws and drills for cutting lumber and making hammock slats.  The storage area is where they keep all of the supplies for their various businesses such as hammocks and Tofu.  The Tupelo music room is where the members occasionally meetup to play songs and there are a few bands and groups that practice and sometimes go out to perform for money.  ZK is the main dining area which has plenty of tables and a full commercial kitchen.  The garden fields is where all the vegetables are grown which this time of year included corn, okra, peppers, roma tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, beets and romaine lettuce.  Oneida is the main office of Twin Oaks where they handle calls and it also has a kitchen for the residents of the surrounding buildings.  Tai-Chi is one of the residential buildings next to Oneida and also contains the hammock shop.

After dinner Nicole and I attended the evening session.  During this session Paxus led an opening activity which consisted of if you really knew me and declaring what you wished you could be appreciated for and ended with thoughts on how people felt about the things that were mentioned.  Alieda and Liywana gave a talk about the black movement such as black lives matter and what they were doing with it.



After introductions at the opening circle, all of the communities were each given a minute or two in order to introduce themselves further to the group for the Meet the Communities session.  Nicole gave the introduction for The Transition, but then she was too busy dealing with the silent auction to actually participate in meet the communities so I had to talk about The Transition by myself. 
There weren’t a lot of people that came by to talk to me about The Transition this year which I suspect was caused by both Nicole not being with me so they may not have known that I am working with Nicole on The Transition and there were a lot of communities that were here this year.  There didn’t seem to be that many people who were looking for a community.  This session continued until lunch.

After lunch, everyone broke out into separate workshops.  I attended Consensus 201: Levels of agreement.  The original person who was supposed to do the workshop did not attend so Marty from Shannon Farms led the workshop instead.  The workshop mostly focused on blocks and how they function in Consensus.  The two main points that I took away were “the sunset clause” and “the continuum”.  The sunset clause is a clause that tells when the proposal must end.  This is really useful in consensus because it allows for bringing forth something that may be unpopular, but if it’s known that the proposal will only be in effect for 2 weeks then those who are opposing it may be willing to try it out for that length of time.  The continuum is an activity to gauge where people currently feel on a proposal so that the participants can see where everyone lies on a line and then try to convince them to go one way or the other.

During the second half of the afternoon new workshops were put on and I decided to attend "Creating a Participatory Culture".  This workshop was put on by a team that was part of Agile Learning Center which is a group of people who run “Free Schools”.  These are schools for children where the children get to decide what they want to learn and how the school should be run while the teachers act more as facilitators to keep everything running smoothly. 

The main topic was the Community Mastery Board which tracks all of the cultural norms for their schools.  The board is broken into 4 segments: Awareness, Implementation, Practice and Mastery.  The way it works is someone will notice something (could be good or bad), as an example we used “there are ants in the living room”, which was added to the board on a sticky note.  Next during the weekly 15 minute meeting you would quickly go through all the items on the board.  For every item under the Awareness section you would come up with an Implementation that will potentially fix the awareness that was raised.  So for the ants in the living room, the implementation might be to not eat in the living room anymore.  After this is tried for a week or so it would be revisited in the next meeting and if everyone was following it then the sticky note would move under the practice section.  Once the item has been under the practice section for a few months and everyone was following it without really thinking about it then it would move under mastery.  Every new member that joins the school would then agree to follow all the items on the board which would explicitly state the cultural norms.

After the workshops, there was dinner and then the dance party at ZK. 



Sunday morning, I attended the Role of IC’s in a New Paradigm.  I was originally considering going to Boundaries: Truth, Needs, Attachment, but I met Jack the previous day during meet the communities and he was running the Role of IC’s in a New Paradigm which seemed related to what we wanted to do with The Transition so I attended this one instead.  The first part of the discussion focused on what we thought the Role of IC’s would be.  The second part of the discussion was broken into groups where we further discussed what IC’s could start to do to bring in the New Paradigm.   The most interesting thing that I got out of this workshop was a lot of websites that are potentially trying to do the same thing as The Transition.

There was then an organization session for the open spaces followed by lunch.  After lunch, I attended the Future is Now workshop which I found wasn’t very useful.  We spent the first 20 minutes of the workshop just waiting for people to show up followed by 10 minutes of meditation and then we went around the whole circle and stated what we thought the keys to the future are.  This was followed by a brief talk about the Peace Pentagon Hub which is fairly similar to The Transition, but with a focus on Activism instead of Intentional Communities.  The discussion then went back around the room where people gave their input about what was said.  Then we broke into groups to answer 3 different questions:

1)      What are you working on now?

2)      How can we support you?

3)      If this group were to start a new project to build a better future, what would it be?


After this open session, we had a meeting between the various projects that we thought were doing similar things such as The Transition, Pentagon Peace Hub, Infinite Trees Project and a virtual currency platform.  The Pentagon Peace Hub is a network of people who are interested in doing Activism.  The Infinite Trees Project is a network of contacts with various people in order to make things happen.  The virtual currency platform is a project that Eric was working on with one of his friends in order to have a platform where people could go to buy and sell mostly artwork, songs and written content.  We agreed to have a meeting later in the month or at the beginning of next month to figure out how we would work together and what could be done.




Monday was split into two sessions, the first session was about Ecovillages and the second session was about Freedom Songs.  During the first session, we got a briefing on what Ecovillages were and we were shown a short clip that showed how many ecovillages there are across the world.  Ecovillages have a focus on being ecologically sustainable.  After the briefing, they handed out cards with various items that are related to ecovillages such as Systems Design, Recycling Materials and Respecting Elders.  We placed the cards on the ground such that similar items were next to each other and then we placed a brown leaf on the card that we felt we had mastered and we placed a green leaf on the ones we wanted to learn more about.  We had a fairly diverse group so almost every card had a leaf of some kind on it and we discussed a bit about why people chose their cards.  During the second session, Alieda and Liywana talked about the history of the freedom songs and we sang them.

After dinner, Reynaldo invited me to sing karaoke in the Bijou.  So Nicole and I joined them later that evening to do so and there were roughly 12 people there.


Official end of conference was on Monday so this day begins my stay as a guest (not a visitor) at Twin Oaks.  A guest is a person who is temporarily staying at Twin Oaks and that person needs to be hosted by a member of the community.  A visitor is someone who is staying for a three week period in order to become a full member.

In the morning, I helped clean up and organize the conference site such that like objects were put next to each other in the main conference area.  Afterwards, Nicole and I went for lunch.  We then attempted to figure out where I would be staying, but in the meantime we helped Valerie clean up rooms for new members that were just joining this week.  While cleaning up Paxus came by and we eventually sorted out that I would be staying in his room for the duration of my stay.  I then gathered all my belongings and also retrieved some clothes from Commie Clothes.  There wasn’t much of anything else going on for the day so I spent 3 hours or so reading through the issues up on the O&I board.  A lot of the discussion was about the Tofu hut and how people didn’t like working in there due to the dangerous work conditions and the amount of effort involved in the labor.  There was also a discussion about over-quota and how mangers are hoarding their labor hours instead of giving them out to people who want to work over-time in their area.


I was up early today in order to attend the morning garden shift.  We started by picking corn, removing row covers, harvesting tomatoes and then finished with weeding beets and hoeing beds.  During lunch, there was another Open Community Discussion where the discussion focused on the over-quota system and how it was preventing people from doing work in the community.  The main issue seemed to be that there were people who wanted to work over-quota, but couldn’t do so because managers were not allowing their hours to be used.  Managers have only so many hours that they can give out for the entire year so they need to use them wisely so as to not run out before the year ends.  The proposal was to allow a refund based on a percentage of the time that was over-quota from each area the person worked in during the week so that managers could more freely give out those hours as they would receive some of those hours back at the week’s end.

After lunch, I met up with Pam and discussed the issue she was having with her computer and offered to assist her later that night.  I then attended an afternoon garden shift where we continued to clear weeds from the beets and I also stayed a bit extra with Finch in order to continue our discussion from lunch about the over-quota system.  After dinner, I met back up with Pam and went through some of the issues she was mentioning and offered her my advice.  Unfortunately the internet went down while I was helping her so I didn’t get a chance to download and install all the items I had suggested.  The rest of the evening was spent reading books up in Tai-Chi.




Today was the day we decided to head over to Shannon Farms for the day.  When we arrived, we met up with Marty and he gave us a tour of Shannon Farms and he talked about how the farm is setup into clusters of buildings.  There are 3-9 houses in each cluster and currently 8 clusters in total.  Membership seemed to be fairly fluid where you visit and need to get 1/3 of the group to agree to let you join.  From there, you can stay as a provisional member for 6 months and afterwards, you need to get 2/3 of the group to agree to let you stay as a full member.  The land is made of mostly wooded area on steep slopes, but there were some open spaces for grazing as well as a community garden.  Marty continued the tour and showed us the small lake they had as well as some of the more interesting buildings like a geodesic dome.  We then met up with Virginia and we had lunch and talked about The Transition and asked them a number of questions from our supporters.  After lunch, Marty took us to see Dan and he talked about all of the passive solar heating that he had created in order to keep his house warm in the winter.  He discussed various items such as solar greenhouse areas where the hot air was then pushed in-ward, adobe bricks and straw/clay mixed insulation.  Dan then took us around to some of the other houses where they were doing similar things and also showed us one place that was built of stone and was set into the ground.  After, Dan finished his little tour we walked back over to Marty’s house and we said goodbye and left.  We then went to Charlottesville and ate at Taste of India for the evening.



In the morning, I worked the garden shift again and during lunch, there was another Open Community Discussion to which I only attended half of because I wasn’t aware until later that they moved it over to apple tree in order for it to be a bit more of a private discussion.  This discussion focused on how to handle inter-personal issues.  After lunch, I found out that Paxus had signed me up for work shifts without telling me.  Luckily Brenda found me in ZK and took me down to the hammocks shop where we loaded hammocks into a van and took them over to the warehouse and unloaded them.  We then took some items out of the warehouse and loaded those into the van and Brenda had me put hooks into bags which they use for their hammocks.  After working on that for a while, a man named Wizard came by and asked me to start the Tofu Box Making shift early.  During this shift we stamped cardboard tofu boxes with the sell by date and added stickers for the type of tofu that would be in each one.  We then built the boxes and stacked them together.  They would later be filled with tofu and sent out to their customers.  After that shift, I went back to ZK and played Magic with Gloria and she invited me to play magic with them later that evening.  After dinner, we met back up in ZK and I played a free for all game with Rowen, Willow, Gloria and Sky.  The game was fantastic and at one point I had a 50/50 shot at winning, but unfortunately the wrong card was selected and Rowen ended up winning instead, though it was very close as Rowen only had 2 life left.



Nicole and I were up early along with Bill in order to attend the Heritage Harvest Festival which was a fair that was going on near the Piedmont Community College on top of Monticello.  I spent the morning assisting in running the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange booth which is the full name of the business that Acorn runs.  The booth allowed people to sample a number of different tomatoes and peppers so I spent most of my time stabbing pieces of peppers with toothpicks for everyone to sample.  Around lunch time, I was able to walk around and check out the other booths which were selling various products like granolas, chocolate, cheeses, ciders, salsa, alcohol, seeds and farming items.  As we were at Monticello, I took some time to listen to the men who recounted what it was like for the slaves that were living there.

After dinner, I tried to find some people who were going to play Ultimate Frisbee as listed on their board, but unfortunately when I went out to the field there wasn’t anyone there so I spent some time hanging outside of Tai-Chi and eventually entered the visitor’s social gathering.  Afterwards, we went down to ZK where Sky put on another dance party.



 I departed from Twin Oaks early in the morning for my long drive back home.

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