Pubdate: Sun, 20 May 2007
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 The Toronto Star
Author: Douglas Gloin


Almost 40 years ago, Morninglory commune took a zero-footprint

Spring was sprung on Morninglory Farm from a hilltop under the
toothless grin of a crescent moon and the twinkling of the evening
sky's first, brash stars.

Residents and friends of the farm gathered around a fire overlooking
the commune below. After cleansing themselves with smoke from a big,
glowing smudge of dried herbs (all of them perfectly legal), people
declared their intentions and hopes for the coming season, and then
tossed a cedar frond on the coals. They sang, drew inspiration from
Celtic, native and goddess sources, and danced in a circle around the
fire to a glorious rhythmic din made by a selection of maracas, seed
pods, music sticks and handmade drums.

"Forward!" shouted neighbour Tim Rivers-Garret, pointing dramatically
as the gathering turned and bowed toward the east, the direction of
renewal. A woman named Melodie from the Gaspe offered her thoughts for
the season in French. A collective "Aho" followed each

The chilly evening began with carob and hempseed "hot chocolate" and
ended in warm hugs and wishes as everyone headed back to their
homesteads down their own well-trodden pathways through the snow.

Morninglory Farm, nestled in the hills near Wilno, Ont., about an
hour's drive east of Algonquin Park, has been marking the turn of the
seasons with ceremonies like this for decades, so the gathering on the
vernal equinox was not out of the ordinary. Yet coming as it did on
the 40th anniversary of the year when hundreds of hippies ushered in
the Summer of Love from a San Francisco hilltop, then held a mock
funeral signalling "the death of the hippie" just four months later,
the event had a certain poignancy.

In those heady days of Hendrix and Haight-Ashbury, "hippie communes"
dotted the hills around the south and eastern edges of Algonquin Park
as people in the back-to-the-land movement discovered the area had
lots of cheap land to get back to. The hardscrabble farms homesteaded
by the Madawaska and Bonnechere Valleys' Polish and Irish settlers
were being sold off at low prices as their descendants moved to town.

Most of those communities are gone, as is the "hippie commune" label,
overburdened as it was with stereotypes about free-flowing sex and
drugs. Today, Morninglory and a couple of others are alive and well,
"intentional community" is the preferred term, the "herbs" are mostly
for eating or medicine, and the sons and daughters of hippies have
grown into adulthood on the farm and are parenting a third generation.

More than that, some of the flower children of the '60s are feeling
vindicated by a growing concern about the very things they rebelled
against: rampant consumerism, waste and environmental degradation. At
a time that has seen An Inconvenient Truth capture an Oscar, and the
U.S. get bogged down in another foreign war, the idea of finding a
better way to live has found new currency.

Earlier this month, the San Francisco Chronicle's Mark Morford, in a
column headlined "The Hippies Were Right," argued that the
flower-power generation can take credit for inspiring many of the
ideas now accepted by the public at large. "You know it's true," he
wrote. "All this hot enthusiasm for healing the planet and eating
whole foods and avoiding chemicals and working with nature and
developing the self? Came from the hippies. Alternative health?
Hippies. Green cotton? Hippies. Reclaimed wood? Recycling? Humane
treatment of animals? Medical pot? Alternative energy? Natural
childbirth? Non-GMA seeds? It came from the granola types.

"It's about time the media, the politicians, the culture as a whole
sent (hippies) a big, wet, hemp-covered apology."

Morninglory continues - preserved, its residents say, through a
mixture of tolerance, hard work, communication, adaptability and a
touch of compromise. Today, about 20 people live in the former
homestead's old log farmhouse, some of its outbuildings or in cabins
and shelters built over the years. About half of them have been there
for 20 years or more. But Rob Anderman is the only original resident
still on the farm.

- --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Anderman's workshop is an adventure in eclecticism. A tangle of grouse
feathers, a large derelict wasp nest and sacred native tobacco plants
hang from the rafters, which themselves are stuffed with aged Whole
Earth Catalogues and other reading material. On the workbench are
wooden flutes in various styles and states of construction. Anderman,
known locally by the nickname Beaver, is an accomplished musician who
has released two CDs. His current passion is the Buddhist-inspired
shakuhachi flute, but on this day he picks up a dulcimer he crafted
several years ago and strums a couple of tunes.

"It's from the word dulce, which means sweet," he says. And it

The seeds for Morninglory Farm were sown at Rochdale College, then
unofficial headquarters of the counterculture in Toronto, less than
two years after that flower-power summer of 1967. Anderman and his
friend Mike Nickerson were students at the alternative, tuition-free
communal college when a fellow student named Dalton McCarthy, who
hailed from Killaloe, was encouraging his peers to move up to the area
around his hometown, where cheap land was available.

"Beaver and I went up and looked at some places," recalls Nickerson.
For $4,300 they bought a 40-hectare farm that had been homesteaded by
immigrants of the Polish Kashub ethnic minority whose descendants had
moved into nearby Barry's Bay. In March, 1969, the two said goodbye to
Rochdale and waded up the long driveway through thigh-deep snow to the
farmhouse. "Moglo," as some residents have come to call the farm, was
born as an experiment in communal living.

"I don't think we had any clue about process and making something
work," Nickerson says. "What we had was an educational nest egg that
Beaver had landed" - a cubic metre of books on alternative living
from the Whole Earth Catalogue.

"I spent the whole winter reading and making notes. I didn't know it
was called sustainability at that time, but that's what we were doing."

There was no electricity - the farm had never had hydro service and
still doesn't. Candles and kerosene lamps were used for light. The
commune's first full winter was a constant scramble to collect
firewood because none had been cut the previous spring and summer.
Woodstock may have been to blame for that.

Anderman had received word that a big concert was planned for August
back on his home turf near Bethel, N.Y. He and three others headed off
to Max Yasgur's farm for the party.

- --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

At 58, Anderman - who lives on the farm with his wife, Christina,
and two of their three sons - could be considered an icon of the
'60s. He led his first protest in high school, battling plans to hold
the high school prom at the local Elks Club, which at the time barred
black people from membership. Before it was over, a boycott organized
by Anderman and a few friends grew until the NAACP set up a picket
line around the school board offices. Through friends of his Jewish
liberal parents, Anderman met black singer Odetta, as well as an
up-and-coming young folk singer named Bob Dylan.

After high school, he began studies at Quaker-inspired Haverford
College near Philadelphia. Anderman attended a guest lecture by
Richard Alpert (who later changed his name to Baba Ram Dass), the
former Harvard University professor and close associate of LSD
advocate Timothy Leary. "Alpert talked about how this (using LSD) is a
way to tune into the spirit," Anderman says. After several months, he
was ready to try it himself.

By the time Anderman was in second year at college, the school had
changed the route of the campus tour so that it wouldn't go past his
dormitory window. "You never knew what sort of smoke might be coming
out, or what Day-Glo posters were glowing in the window, or what music
might be coming out," he recalls with a quiet smile. Anderman was
invited to leave Haverford.

Heading north to study Russian at the University of Toronto, he lived
in a Yorkville head shop called Jabberwock before ending up at
Rochdale College. Then he got his draft notice, but Anderman avoided
going to Vietnam after his parents sent him to a psychiatrist friend,
who told the draft board the young man was unfit for the army because
of his past drug use.

At Woodstock, Anderman soon moved in with the legendary Hog Farm
commune, which provided the "Security Please Force" and other services
at the festival. Then Hog Farm member Hugh Romney (a.k.a.Wavy Gravy),
whose "What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400,000"
announcement is a Woodstock classic, led commune members on a
travelling "starve-in" protest caravan to San Francisco. Anderman
joined the trip in his van, bringing along the Hog Farm mascot, a sow
named Pigasus.

"I drove my 'Morninglory Farm, Killaloe, Ontario' red van in the
caravan with one passenger, Pigasus. I slept in front. She slept in
back in the hay."

Later, "feeling the lure of the north woods," he headed back to
Morninglory for Thanksgiving.

- --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Diana MacAuley is serving a tea made of nettles, clover and anise
hyssop from the sprawling garden outside the front door of her cabin,
which is built into a Morninglory hillside. A firm believer in
alternative medicine, she's filled the shelves of one wall of her
kitchen with various jars of herbs and homemade salves and tinctures.

MacAuley, 58, came to the Madawaska Valley 22 years ago and has lived
at Morninglory for more than 16 years. A teacher, she says it has been
a healing place for her. "I was a bit shell-shocked from living in
that community," she says of the Labrador settlement she left. "It was
pretty rough at times."

She was a single mother with three sons and an infant daughter when
she arrived. One son, Nicholas, still lives with her; the other
children are away travelling but intend to settle on the farm later in
life. She brought up the children while working as a supply teacher in
the area, something she still does.

The farm "shocked me at first, that it was so grungy," she says. But
she got used to it. "We don't have a judgment of other people's homes.
. Everybody here is pretty down-to-earth basic."

Governance is done in a circle. At farm meetings, each person gets to
speak without being interrupted. Consensus is sought though not always
reached. "The whole circle has to come into harmony," MacAuley says.
"It's the process and the vibe. We work hard to make the vibe good."

She credits the farm's women for helping to keep the place functioning
as a collective. Years ago, people who came there had to sign all
sorts of agreements about how they would live and conduct themselves.
The agreements were kept in a thick book, and they became a frequent
source of dispute at meetings with new residents.

"Meetings were just a dreadful thing sometimes. They could be very
emotional. Then, 15 years ago, somebody said, 'Let the women take over
for a year.'" They fixed the problem by scrapping the agreements book
and bringing in the circle process.

At the moment, Morninglory isn't taking new residents, although guests
- - many of them young "WWOOFers" (Willing Workers On Organic Farms)
- - come through the farm regularly. But people who do want to live
there more permanently must first perform a number of tasks that
include spending all four seasons at the farm. There is a $5,000 fee
to join.

- --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In the early years, says Anderman, when the farm had a collective
garden, food was something "that broke apart the community many
times." Some favoured organic farming; others wanted raw food only, or
a macrobiotic diet. One woman insisted there be no meat at the farm.

Today, most people either have their own gardens or maintain separate
plots in the community garden, and so a former source of conflict has
become, in Anderman's words, a "great meeting place." Anderman's own
specialty has turned out to be tree grafting in a small pear and apple

Early on, there were periods of distrust among some farm members,
Anderman says. "Yes, there have been members who couldn't stand each
other .. but that seems to have passed as we matured and actively
worked things out and grew to trust each other more and more." At one
point, the group brought in a facilitator who helped residents
communicate better with one another.

"And it's not like we're all in one house camped together," he points
out. "There are days, sometimes weeks, where I won't see someone on
the farm. Then I get to seeking them out because I miss them, and we
have a great visit.

"Also," continues Anderman, "we're not like an island; we have very
active interactions with the local 'outside' community. Each of us has
our own projects, our children have their own projects, and topics of
interest that they pursue. We also have visitors and WWOOFers from the
outside world, even from around the world."

In the beginning, the goal was to live off the land. Nowadays, the
residents grow between 20 and 50 per cent of their food. Farm members
often do canning and preserving together and share their produce. Many
also share meals frequently.

Most residents order much of their food in bulk through a natural food
club, and many have enough on hand to last a year or so. Several grind
their own flour from grains ordered in bulk.

The farm also has solid ties to the surrounding community. In fact,
Morninglory is something of an institution in these parts. The area
still supports a vibrant "hippie" community and is rich in artists,
musicians and craftspeople. Morninglory alumni are everywhere. It's
not unusual to see Anderman sitting in the bleachers at a local
fastball game, playing "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" on the panpipe.

 From the start, Anderman says, "We were welcomed into this area." One
farmer ploughed their garden, while others gave them chickens,
asparagus plants and plum trees. Yet another helped them cut ice in
the lake for Morninglory's ice house.

There are still some stereotypes out there about the farm, however.
"Some people think everybody's running around without their clothes
on," Diana MacAuley says.

These days, those who conjure up visions of wafting pot smoke when
they think of communes would likely be disappointed at Morninglory.
There's a strict policy against dealing marijuana or any other drugs.
But some residents do not consider pot harmful and value it for its
medicinal qualities.

- --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Most of Morninglory's children are home-schooled. The Andermans
home-schooled (and home-birthed) their three boys. Daryl, 25, who was
born at a commune called "The Farm" in Tennessee, still lives at
Morninglory with his partner, Rose, and their two young children. He
has a show on Killaloe's community radio station and is its
tech-support person. Ethan, 23, is studying circus arts, repairs
computers and is an avid naturalist. Ben, 19 and a talented
photographer, is still at home.

As for entertainment, potluck dinners with homemade music are a
regular occurrence at Morninglory, and every Thursday night there's a
jam session. There are 40 hectares of bush and fields to walk, ski and
snowshoe around, and a pond for swimming, sailing and skating.

MacAuley says the children who grew up on the farm tend to be
independent thinkers. "They're not afraid of the land, of nature.
They're not afraid of work. Kids who come out of rural areas - a lot
of them are pretty healthy in their minds. I know my kids are pretty

All Morninglory's children grew up without TV. And although each of
the farm's dwellings has solar power (the heating is all solar or
wood), the number of appliances can be counted on one hand - two
blenders, a food processor and a powered stone grain mill. There are
no washers, dryers or cellphones. The telephone is the only outside
service, and only two homes have running water.

Residents are not anti-technology, however. Laptop computers abound
(they use less power than desktops), as do solar panels. The Anderman
house gets its power from 12 50-watt photovoltaic solar panels and a
small wind turbine. They have the only hot water service on the farm,
supplied courtesy of some government-surplus solar heating panels.

Morninglory's homes are as varied as the people who dwell in them. The
farm's original log homestead is the largest house. The Andermans'
residence was once the granary. One woman built her own cabin, felling
the logs herself.

University student Emma Manchester, 26, spent this past winter in a
tent-like shelter at Morninglory heated by a small wood stove. She
first went to the farm from her Toronto home about four years ago,
arriving the way many of the young people do, as a WWOOFer. Since
then, she has come up "just about any time I can," pitching in with
chores such as cooking, woodcutting, making maple syrup and gardening.

"I like the people here and I feel at home here, so that's why I come
back - I feel welcome here," she says. Manchester also appreciates
the fact that people from three generations can live, work and play

- --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mike Nickerson, who left Morninglory in the '70s and now lives in
Lanark, near Ottawa, credits his time at the farm with helping him to
formulate ideas for a book on sustainable living, Life, Money and
Illusion, which he's now on tour to promote. He was heavily influenced
by the work of the American visionary, architect and author
Buckminster Fuller, in particular Fuller's landmark 1963 book
Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth.

"He was a generalist - he looked at the big picture," says
Nickerson, a two-time federal Green Party candidate. "He wanted to
make the world work for 100 per cent of humanity for all time to come,
which is a reasonable aspiration I think for a species of our own making.

"Really, Utopia or oblivion is the choice we face."

Rob Anderman believes the rest of the world could learn some lessons
from Morninglory and other intentional communities.

"People learning to live together, it's the key to life,
co-operation," he says. "It's like the best tool we have. We're
heading for some really heavy rides, and until people learn to
co-operate it's going to be very hard.

"I've decided to be optimistic about it - I mean one has a choice,
and that's what I've decided to do."

- --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Douglas Gloin is a freelance writer and editor who lives in the
Madawaska Valley.
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