Activism: Twin Oakers have done a variety of activist work over time. Some members have become more locally politically active around issues relating to national politics, such as voter registration. We do some amount of self-education around oppression within the community. Past outward-facing activities that members have participated in include Books Behind Bars (books to incarcerated persons), indigenous rights, women's marches, LGBTQ activism, Black Lives Matter actions, and more. While many individuals at Twin Oaks engage in activist activities, as a community we do not officially endorse any particular course of political activism (i.e. members do this work as individuals, not in the name of community).
Conflict: In any group of people living or working together, some amount of conflict is inevitable. At Twin Oaks, there are different types of conflict. Conflict can spring from values differences, from communication difficulties, from different assumptions of what's "normal" or "acceptable", and from having different perspectives on the same set of events. Some conflict is work-related, some is interpersonal. There are different ways we deal with conflict as it arises. Sometimes the people involved simply talk to each other to resolve differences. Sometimes the people prefer to have a mediated meeting, in which a third party is present either as a facilitator with skills in helping resolve conflict, or simply as a witness, creating a feeling of greater safety. Our Process Team offers support and resources for people in conflict, and also keeps an eye on "hot" issues in the community which might cause conflict to come up. We try to keep in mind that it isn't the existence of conflict that determines the health of a group, but rather the manner in which a group does or doesn't deal with conflict that determines it's health.
Twin Oaks culture places a much higher value on cooperation than mainstream culture. Sometimes, this can mean we need to learn new skills, and we strive to "raise the cultural bar" around communication skills. To a large extent, the expectation at Twin Oaks is that if conflict does arise, members be willing to engage in working it out, and to use respectful communication in doing so. Both the ability to see and understand (although not always agree on) more than one perspective of "the truth" and each of us being able to take responsibility for our own behavior in partially creating the conflict are skills that can go a long way in resolving conflict. We're still learning. Conflict resolution exists here along a spectrum; different members have different opinions. We find common ground in our hope that ultimately we can find a way to work out our differences and work together.
Connection to Mainstream Society: Members can be as connected to the mainstream as they desire. A few prefer to live a quiet life on a farm, while many others are quite connected to the mainstream. Some members avidly follow global, national, and local politics; others don't. Historically, we have chosen to not have television here, as we wanted to avoid its influence in importing mainstream values such as consumerism, violence, pre-packaged "canned" entertainment, etc. We do have internet at Twin Oaks, but it is less prominent than it is in the mainstream. We work on finding a balance between keeping our culture distinct and realistically engaging with the technology that exists in the world. However, we are not purists, and many members watch movies (including documentaries and independent and foreign films) and follow shows, etc.
We have more than a dozen public computers, and most members have various personal devices (laptop, cell phone, tablet, etc.). There are almost daily trips to town for social activities: to go to the library, to visit friends, to take a day off, etc. We shop at local shops and know the people there. There are also quite a few ex-members who have settled in the town and cities near us, which is one way that we are spread out into the larger community. Although we are interested in creating a culture that is distinct from the mainstream, we are not interested in isolating ourselves from the mainstream.
Diet: We have a mixed diet at Twin Oaks—some members are vegetarian, some are vegan, some are meat-eaters. We don't serve meat every day, and most of the meat we eat is produced here in the community. We have a number of members with special diet needs (eg. gluten-free, no nuts, no eggs, no mammal meat), which we are generally able to accommodate.
Diet can be pretty fluid at Twin Oaks; members often follow their dietary instincts and eat differently at different times over the months and years. We produce a significant portion of our own food including vegetables, fruit, and meat. Some people make diet choices based on the knowledge that they are eating organic, free-range, locally-produced food.
Ecological Sustainability: Twin Oaks incorporates a variety of ecological practices. Our choice to share houses and cars reduces our footprint on the earth: our 18 vehicles and 7 residences for 100 people are both well below the national average and use substantially less resources per person. Because we work in our community-owned businesses on our land, our commute, instead of using fuel, involves a short walk through the woods. When we do drive (for business or social reasons), we carpool extensively. We build our own buildings; and, although our building techniques in terms of structure of the building are fairly conventional, we incorporate a wide variety of alternative energy features. These include passive solar features (large, south-facing windows to light and heat the building), super-insulation, skylights and sun tubes for natural lighting, cellulose insulation in some places (instead of fiberglass), wood heat (using wood from our own forests and scrap from our sawmill) in almost all of our buildings, solar hot water, photovoltaic solar electricity in one residence, multi-use of most spaces, permaculture landscaping around buildings, and more.
Growing a significant portion of our food in our organic garden also helps us be more sustainable by not using pesticides and by reducing the amount of food we buy that needs to be transported by trucks. We also buy most purchased food in bulk, thereby reducing packaging.
Feminism: We strive for an intersectional feminism, in which the intersecting social structures of gender, race, social class, sexual identity, religion, ability, and age, among others, are acknowledged as being as interrelated and shaping one another.
Systemically: Much of the organizational infrastructure here is classically feminist in nature; for example, our decision-making process is egalitarian (as opposed to hierarchical), and the community’s labor system equally values traditionally women’s work (cooking, cleaning, laundry, some amount of child-care, emotional labor), whereas in the mainstream this work is often undervalued when done as paid labor and/or is done over-and-above paid labor.
Culturally: We have much less division of labor based on gender. People of all different genders in the community prepare food, fix cars, do child-care, use power tools, etc. We practice consent culture and it is assumed that personal boundaries will be respected and that all people will be sensitive and tuned into interacting with and treating each other with appropriate respect. We largely ignore mainstream values of clothing choices, make-up, hair (including body hair), etc., instead opting for a fashion of self-determination. Whereas in the mainstream, certain relationship styles tend to be socially and economically rewarded (most notably a man and woman married to each other), at Twin Oaks a much wider range of relationship choices are accepted as normal and are not remarked upon.
Gender: Twin Oaks has members of various gender identifications. We have transgender members, cis-female and cis-male members, as well as people who identify as non-binary or genderfluid. We expect everyone to honor people's chosen names and gender pronouns.
Holidays: Twin Oaks is sufficient in size to have developed our own holiday culture, including rituals and ceremonies which are unique to our village life. We have one member who serves as our Holiday Manager, who coordinates the organization of each holiday activity. Read about specific examples.
IT (Computers, Cell Phones, etc.): We have public and individual computers and mobile devices here for members to use for both community work and personal use. Our internet connections are communal; so, in order to equitably distribute bandwidth, we have restrictions on certain uses such as streaming video, downloading/uploading large files, etc. Most, but not all, members have cell phones, although we limit use in public space in order to minimize screen culture and maximize face-to-face interaction.
Non-Violence: One of our primary values is non-violence. Our culture is one that values resolving conflict in a cooperative, peaceful manner and living one's daily life in line with those principles. We do not tolerate physical violence at Twin Oaks, and verbal violence (this can mean different things to different people) is discouraged. We have members who have been involved in the war-tax resistance movement, and our historical choice to not have television here has been partially rooted in wanting to avoid importing the violence often found in that medium. Members do currently consume media via the internet, and non-violence in media is more important to some members than others.
Racial Justice: Twin Oaks strives to center anti-oppression and social justice work, including racial justice, in our community.
We have RET (the Racial Equity Team), which both works on internal education around racial justice in the community and helps develop policy and other changes relating to racial dynamics and support for POC. We also have the REAL Team (Racial Equity & Advocacy Leaders), which is a group of BIPOC members within RET, who hold authority to veto decisions and to meet and discuss issues separately whenever they deem it appropriate to do so. (Currently, due in part to lower-than-average population, there are no members serving on the REAL Team.)
We acknowledge that Twin Oaks is a majority white organization, and we are striving to forge a path forward where our values and how we live are grounded in inclusivity.
Relationships: We have a quite wide variety of intimate relationship styles at Twin Oaks. Some members are single, some are married, some are in non-married but long-term committed relationships, some have a series of relationships over time, some people are celibate, and some are polyamorous (in relationships with more than one person at a time). We have people of many different sexualities living here, plus some who would refuse to be labeled. There is no community norm about relationship choices—it's up to the individual. Unlike mainstream culture, we tend not to have social or economic rewards for choosing a particular relationship style.
Social scene: We are very social creatures at Twin Oaks. We have all kinds of different social and cultural activities. We have innumerable on-going, weekly activities that are at least somewhat social in nature, and over time have included singing groups, bands, yoga classes, a juggling group, knitting groups, art nights, scrabble nights, video nights, support groups, political discussion groups, etc. Events of a more purely social nature (dances, parties, games nights, etc.) also happen frequently. We also tend to socialize throughout the day, during work and at other times. We chat with each other, lay in the sun in hammocks, canoe on the river, play music, go to church, do political activism work, and much more. However, members also take alone-time as needed, walking in the woods, spending time in their room, and engaging in other solitary pursuits. People can be as socially involved or as solitary as they like, according to personal preference.
Spirituality-Religion: As a community, we purposefully have no one specific spiritual direction/path; the choice is left up to the individual. As a result, we have quite a variety. Many members practice no spiritual path or religion at all, and would be identified as atheist or agnostic. Our membership also includes Buddhists, Pagans, Christians of several (mostly progressive) varieties, and general "New Age" types.
In terms of religious observances, the community officially celebrates the Solstices and Equinoxes—usually with a day off of work, a party, and an informal ritual (all optional). There is a group of Pagans who gather throughout the year for more involved rituals. Different practices arise and disappear over time; these include activities like hosting a local Quaker meeting, observing Friday night Shabbat gatherings, offering a meditation group, attending services at a nearby country church, etc.
Businesses: Twin Oaks collectively runs several community-owned businesses. This is how we earn the income needed to purchase that which we do not provide for ourselves. Most members work in at least one of our businesses, and a good portion of members work in several of the businesses.
Our primary businesses include tofu, hammocks, book-indexing, and working with our sister community Acorn's organic hierloom seed business.
Income-Sharing: Twin Oaks is an income-sharing community. Members keep all assets they come with (they are frozen during membership), but all income from our community businesses goes to the collective; no one earns individual "wages" or a "salary". We all work approximately 40 hours in our community businesses and domestic areas (for example, cooking, gardening, building maintenance, etc.) and more or less in exchange for our work, community members receive everything we need including housing, food, clothing, health care, etc. That is the economic agreement between the individual and community. The money received from the businesses is pooled, and each year we collectively decide how to allocate it to our various community budgets. Also, each member receives a small personal spending allowance (roughly $100 a month) to cover items the community does not provide (e.g. special foods, certain trips to town, etc.). Our tax status reflects our income-sharing—we are a 501(d) entity, which is based on having a shared treasury and is similar to a monastery. In addition to being a working model of a more equitable and just distribution of wealth, pooling our income allows us to be able to afford amenities that can benefit the entire community but would be difficult for one or two people to afford on their income alone.
Vehicles: Twin Oaks collectively owns a fleet of about 18 vehicles (including cars, pick-up trucks, cargo vans, and a mini-van) for our approximately 85 adult members. Members do not have personal vehicles. One of our core values is resource-sharing, and we're able to get all of our transportation needs met with vehicles shared by all of us. Most of our day-to-day interactions take place within the community. We don't need a car to commute to work since most of our work is done here. We also have a system where one person goes into town every day and shops and does errands for people here, so that 15 people aren't taking 15 separate trips into town. We carpool a lot. Our vehicle-sharing is also related to our value of egalitarianism. One of the most concrete ways we do this is by creating a system where members have equal access to resources. Access to transportation is a powerful tool, and we don't want some members to have access to their own transportation while others don't.
Possessions: The community provides for all our basic needs—food, clothing, housing, health care, etc. Each member has their own private bedroom. The community will provide furniture (bed, lamp, dresser, etc.) or members can bring their own. Members bring their own clothing when they move here, and we also have Community Clothes, aka "Commie Clothes" (essentially a giant free-store/clothing-library), which provides additional clothing as members need it over time. Members can bring personal possessions with them (e.g. books, musical instrument, laptop, etc.), and whatever they keep in their room remains theirs. Other personal possessions can either be stored elsewhere (usually at a family/friend's house), donated to the community, or lent to the community for the duration of the person's membership. Please also see our Property Code for more information.
Work: Work is a significant part of life at Twin Oaks. People often invest a lot of their identity in the work they do here. Members work 42 hours each week, both in our collectively-owned businesses and also in our domestic areas (see below). No one earns individual "wages" or a "salary"; in exchange for our work, community members receive everything we need including housing, food, clothing, health care, etc. That is the economic agreement between the individual and community.
We use a labor credit system to track our work. Every hour of work a member does is worth one labor-credit; each member needs to earn 42 labor credits each week (this system is adopted from Walden Two, the book on which we were founded). Every week we each get a labor sheet, which we each fill out ourselves with our own work preferences and then hand in to the labor assigner, who makes sure that all the work shifts are filled for that week. The only work each member is required to do is one two-hour kitchen cleaning shift each week; all other work is decided by each member according to personal preferences (indoor/outdoor, physical/sedentary, day/evening, etc.). As we complete our work each day, we record it on our labor sheet, and at the end of the week, we turn our sheets in to the Labor Manager. This both helps us, individually, to keep track of how much work we've done, and also tracks labor as it relates to our community budgets.
There are many different types of work available at Twin Oaks: in addition to our community businesses, there is plenty of work in our domestic areas, which include gardening, milking cows, building maintenance, office work, plumbing/electrical projects, cooking and baking, cleaning, childcare, computer work, bike repair, yard work, sewing, carpentry, farm work, and forestry, as well as serving on the teams that manage various aspects of life here (Membership Team, Health Team, Child Board, Planners, etc.).
Tours: We offer tours of the community on Saturday afternoons. The tour guide will tell you about the history, culture, and philosophy of the community and will be available to answer any questions you may have. The tour is from 1 - 3 PM, and much of this time is spent walking around the community. Please dress appropriately for the weather, wear comfortable walking shoes, and let us know if you have particular mobility needs. Do not bring pets. Phone 540-894-5126 during regular business hours or use our Contact Form to get in touch with us via email to make reservations. We request a $10.00 voluntary donation per person for the tour.
Visiting—The Visitor Program: Twin Oaks puts a lot of time and energy into our Visitor Program. We have three-week visitor periods scheduled throughout the year. We welcome people who think they might be interested in living at Twin Oaks as well as people who just want to spend three weeks experiencing the community but aren't interested in living here. During the three-week program, visitors live together in our visitor building; work alongside members doing a variety of our community jobs; and attend orientations about the systems, policies, and culture of Twin Oaks, including our financial, legal, health, labor, and governmental structures. Visiting Twin Oaks is good way to learn an incredible amount about the workings of a unique and complex intentional community and to meet a wide variety of people with quite diverse life experiences and knowledge. It's also a lot of fun! The visitor period also provides an opportunity for community members and people who think they may want to live here to get to know each other and start to explore how good a fit there is between the visitor and the community.
A Day in the Life of a Visitor
7 AM My alarm wakes me up and I roll out of bed, ready to start the day. The other visitors and I chat as we're getting ready in the visitor cabin, Aurora.
7:30 AM I make myself breakfast (toast with homemade bread and an egg from one of the chickens) in the main kitchen. Lunch and dinner are served buffet-style, but there are a handful of smaller kitchens for breakfast and snacking. As I eat, I read a novel I pulled from the public collection of several thousand books, no library card needed.
(Summer-time) 8 AM I head to the main community garden, a two-minute walk down the hill from my room—not a bad commute. It's a pleasantly cool morning, but I know it'll warm up quickly as we work. I meet the Garden Manager and chat with the rest of the crew until our shift begins and we're instructed on harvesting tomatoes and how to tell exactly when they are ripe enough for picking.
(Winter-time) 8 AM I head to my wood-splitting shift. The community heats most of its buildings with energy-efficient wood furnaces using firewood harvested from their almost 500 acres of forest. I've never done this work before, but the "honcho" (what Twin Oaks calls their shift coordinators) shows me how to use the wood-splitter and what size to split each log. Soon I get into the rhythm of it and have amassed a pile of wood ready to be stacked.
11 AM My shift is over, and I head inside to do some email on one of the public computers in the office. I've promised to give my friends and family "the inside scoop" on life on the commune, and I don't want to disappoint them.
Noon It's lunch time, so I walk up to the main dining hall. Lunch is mostly leftovers, supplemented with a fresh salad and baked potatoes. The community grows greens throughout the winter in the huge greenhouse, and they harvested enough potatoes in the summer and fall to last through the winter. Some members (adults and kids) are practicing their hula-hooping skills on the deck outside after they finish eating, and I end up giving it a try.
1 PM Time for a tofu shift. I head to the Tofu Hut and put on boots, gloves, a hairnet, and an apron. My job here is to weigh blocks of tofu and make sure each one falls within the total weight advertised on the package. All around me other members are using all manner of industrial equipment to grind and cook the soybeans before curding them, draining out the whey, and pressing the curds into the blocks I will eventually weigh. The whole operation functions like a finely-tuned machine.
3:30 PM By mid-afternoon I'm ready for some more relaxing work. Today I've been assigned a shift helping out with some work in the office. It's not too challenging, and even though I'm focusing, I can take it easy while I work.
5 PM I hang out in my room a bit before dinner. I find it's important to carve out alone time for myself—it's very easy to get sucked into the social scene 24/7 here. There's always something going on, which can be fun for meeting people, but getting down-time is important too.
6:00 PM Dinner is served! Tonight it's veggie burgers, with sides of steamed spinach and sweet potato fries. Some of each meal, both veggies and meat, is homegrown. I sit at the "Fun Table" with about ten people. Sometimes at dinner there's one main conversation, but tonight several smaller discussions have sprung up. Besides copper-vs-plastic waterlines, people are talking about the new fruit orchard that is being planted, the latest news from Twin Oaks' sister community 8 miles up the road, and trying to work out if people's schedules will allow the belly-dance troupe to meet on the same night as the queer-theory discussion group.
7:30 PM Tonight is Games Night. A bunch of people show up and we end up playing Code Names, Settlers of Catan, and plain old Pictionary. One person doesn't play at all but hangs out, knitting a pair of socks. It's a festive atmosphere, though there's no particular occasion; we just like to enjoy each other's company.
9:30 PM I head back to my room. I record the work I did today on my labor sheet and write in my journal a bit to unwind before bed. I'm very tired, but happy. It's been a good day.
Internships: Twin Oaks offers various internships at various times. These have included Conference-Organizing (Communities Conference, Women's Gathering, Queer Gathering), an Ecovillage Internship, Tofu/Soyfoods Management, and Hammocks Marketing.
More details are available here.
Contact us for specifics for this year. If you are interested in doing a general internship and would like to spend a few months here, you might be interested in our Residency Program. Residents live in the community 2 - 6 months and participate in various aspects of life here. Please contact us for more information, and specifically mention that you are possibly interested in Residency.
Becoming a Member: Basically, in order to become a member, a person needs to be willing to abide by the agreements of the community (e.g. no personal cars, our income-sharing agreements, and lots more). They also need to be able to fit into our social norms, which, because we live so closely together, are quite particular (e.g. being sensitive to people's "personal space", being able to pick up social cues, being able to be cooperative and share control, etc.).
The process for membership involves an interview with the Membership Team during a Three-Week Visitor Period. The interview consists of telling one's life story and answering questions about how one deals with various aspects of community living like conflict, anger, people with different values, etc. Then there is an input period during which all visitors leave Twin Oaks for some time and have the opportunity to reflect on their experiences and decide if they really do think they want to live here. During this time, each member of the community has an opportunity to give input on the visitor (Accept, Visit Again, or Reject for membership). If there are outstanding health (including mental health) issues, those will also be taken into consideration. The Membership Team makes the final decision about a visitor becoming a member.
Leaving / Being Asked to Leave: There are many different reasons people choose to leave the community, although they can be broken down into a few main categories. Sometimes the person wants to pursue a different life path, e.g. go back to school, travel, follow a certain career path. Sometimes the person has felt dissatisfied with their life for a while (like everyone does everywhere), and something happens to tip the scale for them to decide to leave (e.g. a relationship break-up, a difficult community issue, etc.). Sometimes the person decides they want a different lifestyle than we live (e.g. private housing, more individual money, etc.) and so they pursue that elsewhere. On very, very rare occasions, we will ask a member to leave if repeated instances of unacceptable behavior have occurred (e.g. consistently not working enough, violent behavior, etc.). However, many steps are taken to try to address such behaviors before asking someone to leave, and often a member who is having repeated difficulties will choose to leave before being asked to leave (when it becomes evident that it isn't working to live in the community).
Systems & Policies
Basic Values: Our basic guiding principles are cooperation, egalitarianism, income-sharing, and non-violence. We are a member of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, which is an organization made up of communities that share those values.
Decision-Making: Our decision-making model is based on the Walden Two Planner-Manager system combined with our egalitarian values. Each work area has a manager. Managers are responsible for the day-to-day decisions for their area. For community-wide decisions and larger issues, the Planners (three rotating members) make decisions by using our bylaws and policies and by soliciting community input by posting papers for comment, holding community meetings, putting out surveys, talking with members (especially members that are closely involved in the issue or have strong feelings), etc. They don't make decisions based on their personal preference, but rather by gathering information and determining the larger will of the community on a given issue. Any member can appeal a Planner decision they feel is unfair; although this rarely happens, as Planners generally do a pretty good job at considering all the aspects of a given issue. The community as a whole does not use consensus for making decisions, but some decision-making bodies within the community use consensus to make their decisions (e.g. the Membership Team).
In keeping with our egalitarian values, we all have a voice in making the decisions about how to spend our collective money and labor during each year's economic planning. The Econ Team, working with Managers and Planners, makes an economic plan, and members can give input according to their values and preferences (e.g. less support for the Office budget, more support for the Garden budget).
Egalitarianism: Egalitarianism is one of our primary values. Each member here has equal access to our decision-making process; we all have a voice in making decisions, unlike hierarchical communities where a sub-group of the community or a single individual makes decisions for the whole.
This value also plays out in how we share our resources. We all have an equal opportunity to access our resources; there is no individual or group here that has access to community resources that others don't. We have no structured inequality as can be found in the mainstream (for example: there is no disparity here between what different genders or new members and long-term members receive as compensation for their labor). We also balance this with our creed "From everyone according to co’s abilities, to everyone according to co’s needs." ("Co" is our gender-neutral pronoun that means "non-specified gender”.)
We are a member of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, an organization of communities that value egalitarianism, income-sharing, non-violence, and cooperation.
Health Care: Once someone becomes a full member of the community, the community provides for all co’s basic healthcare needs. Our Health Team oversees all health care issues, and we support both allopathic ("western") medicine and alternative healing modalities, as our annual budget allows.
The community stocks all sorts of remedies for common problems—everything from aspirin to homeopathic remedies to tinctures made from our own herbs. We also provide some on-the-farm alternative care, such as massage, Reiki, etc. Because of our income-sharing, our members often qualify for state-subsidized health care, and we are also part of a larger mutual aid health care program for intentional communities.
Housing: We live collectively in residences of approximately ten to twenty people. Each member has their own private bedroom, and the living rooms, bathroom, and kitchen are shared public space. We have a total of 7 residences (each named after a historic community), and they all have their own distinct style. New members are assigned to a room wherever space is available; as other people move and rooms become available, the member can find a room in a residence that is suited to them.
Families & Kids
Child Care: We started out with a completely communal child-care system (modeled after the Israeli kibbutzim) in which children lived in a special child house and were cared for in shifts by “metas”. However, the system eventually proved unsatisfactory to parents, who wanted more contact with and responsibility for their children. So now a certain number of childcare labor credits are allotted per child (more for infants and less for older kids); parents generally take some of these credits themselves and give the rest to other adults who help. Non-parent adults who commit to spending regular time with specific kids are called primaries. Depending on the preferences of individual parents and kids, some kids are cared for almost solely by their parents, and some kids spend much more of their time with primaries. There is no one who just does childcare and housework. Both parents and primaries frequently bring kids with them while they work (for example, in the garden shop, the kitchen, etc.).
Education: Education at Twin Oaks is driven by the preferences of the parents and kids. For the most part, we homeschool our kids. Some parents use a relatively loose "un-schooling" model, and others use a more focused homeschooling curriculum. It is common for non-parent adults to teach a child a particular subject in which they have some knowledge/interest. Our children take annual standardized tests for homeschoolers. Occasionally a child will go to public school. We make different choices at different times, as the parents and kids determine what is wanted. At times, we have more organized homeschooling programs for age-similar kids.
Founding: Twin Oaks was founded in 1967 by a group of people who were studying psychologist BF Skinner's book Walden Two about a fictional behaviorist community. They were so impressed and intrigued by his fictional community that they decided to create a real-life community modeled after it. A supporter leased the land to Twin Oaks for 3 years for $50 with an option to buy at the end of that time if the group was still in existence, which it was and which we did. After a few years, we stopped defining ourselves as a "behaviorist" community, as interest in that focus waned, although we still use the labor credit system and the Planner-Manager system of self-government originally described in the book. We have also bought more land since that time—mostly contiguous, but also about 100 acres of non-contiguous agricultural land up the road. Our current total acreage is approximately 500 acres.
Walden Two: Twin Oaks was founded in 1967, based on the book Walden Two by BF Skinner. The book described Skinner's vision of what a community would look like if his principles of behaviorism were practiced. The book was the blueprint for the original forming of the community.
The community has changed significantly since we were founded. We no longer identify ourselves as a "behaviorist community", and we haven't for a long long time. However, we have kept several of the features from the book, most notably the Planner-Manager decision-making model and the labor-credit work system. Some of our members have read Walden Two, but the majority are not very familiar with it. BF Skinner did visit Twin Oaks twice. When he was here in 1979, his visit was featured on the PBS program "Nova".
A Day in the LIfe
A Day in the Life of a Twin Oaker
6:30 AM I wake up and go outside to go pee (many people here use flush toilets, but I prefer to fertilize plants with my urine instead of using a gallon of water to send it to our sewage treatment plant). I breathe in the cold air and appreciate the red hues of a sunrise peeking over the trees of our rural landscape.
6:45 AM I meet up with a friend and go on a run about a mile up to our community’s conference site. While there, we each swing from a giant rope swing that one of our community members built in the woods. It’s a whimsical and, ironically, grounding way to start the day.
7:45 AM My friend and I head down to the field, near our persimmon orchard, where our laying hens are being pastured. We let them out of their mobile chicken coops and bring them enough food and water to last them for the day. Their eggs will be collected this evening—depending on the season, there can be up to 50 a day—and distributed to each of the community kitchens.
8:15 AM Next, we go to one of our community kitchens and make breakfast with raw milk from our dairy program and some organic oats that I bought with my allowance. I find that the ~$100 a month that the community provides us with is plenty to supplement my dietary needs.
9:15 AM I do a load of laundry and hang it up outside to dry during the day. We have dryers here, but I typically use a clothesline because it saves on electricity.
9:45 AM I grab one of our community’s public bikes and start riding towards Emerald City (our industrial/warehouse portion of the community). On the way, I stop at ZK (our main kitchen/dining building) to make a quick change to my “labor sheet”—a standardized paper schedule that’s part of an elaborate system to help people in the community coordinate what activities we do each week.
10:00 AM I arrive at our commercial woodworking shop and begin sanding some wooden parts that will eventually become standalone seed racks to hold organic, heirloom seeds from our sister community’s seed business, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Twin Oaks handles the wholesale side of this business, and there’s lots of inter-community cooperation in a variety of different areas within it—from growing the seeds to making sales calls and going to conferences.
12:00 PM I bike back down to ZK for lunch, which is generally leftovers but often with fresh salad. A majority of the vegetables we serve are grown in our own, organic gardens—so they’re pretty much as fresh, local, and chemical-free as it’s possible to get. Community meals are often a social affair, and the buzz of conversation is alluring; but I choose to eat by myself today.
1:00 PM I take a nap. I sleep biphasically (one big chunk at night and a small nap during the day), and Twin Oaks is one of the few places I’ve been with a flexible enough structure to consistently accommodate that lifestyle choice.
2:00 PM I arrive for a meeting with the Outreach Manager to work on the community’s website, which is one of the primary ways we let people know about our life here.
3:30 PM I prepare to do some gardening work in our community’s hoop house (like a giant, plastic greenhouse). I start by reading our logbook to find out what needs to be done; then, I clean out some hose filters and harvest a bucket of lettuce and leafy greens for tomorrow’s salad.
5:30 PM I stop by the chicken coops to collect the eggs for the day, and I spend a couple of minutes contemplating the winter moon, already clearly visible above the twilight horizon. The cosmic perspective refresh is always welcome.
6:00 PM Dinner is the main meal of the day. We serve vegetarian, vegan, and sometimes meat dishes, along with various options such as gluten-free, no-onion, and other diet needs. Tonight’s supper includes beef from our own cows, squash that was grown (and bred!) by one of our community members, and various other creative dishes that the cooks for the evening have concocted.
6:45 PM I go over to the building that houses our community’s office for the wholesale side of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and I prepare for a seed packing “date” with a friend. My friend and I spend about an hour and a half packing seeds together and talking. This kind of work is a great way to build relationships and to earn income for our community, all while providing an ethical and sustainable product to a growing number of people in the Southeast United States.
8:30 PM I poke my head into our music room and watch some members and a few guests of our community jamming to a song I’ve never heard before (most likely it’s one they’ve invented) with a variety of instruments. I listen for a few minutes; but then instead of joining in, my friend and I walk over to the “Twin Oaks Archives” where we chat and browse some old papers and photos from the community’s long and fascinating history.
9:30 PM I head back to my residence where I brush my teeth and do a bit of stretching; record my labor for the day and preview my schedule for tomorrow; and tuck myself in with a book to read until I fall asleep.
Of all the things that make living at Twin Oaks unique, perhaps the most notable to me is that—on a regular basis—I get to go to sleep completely satisfied and wholeheartedly looking forward to what I get to do tomorrow.