Once upon a time we lived at the end of Bill Thomas Road in a rented trailer we called Camelina. There were two other houses nearby with enough bedrooms for another ten people. We all ate dinner together once a week, we made group decisions at monthly meetings, and we called ourselves Oilseed Community.
We lived at Oilseed for two years before moving four miles down the road in December of 2009. Eventually, the other Oilseeders moved on and the land owners took possession of the houses.
Early on the third Sunday of August, we parked at the end of Bill Thomas Road and walked into what had once been a thriving community, ready to turn and run if we encountered squatters.
Bob used to mow this land and now here I am twelve years later, walking across the overgrowth with our old home behind me.
In addition to mowing, Bob grew potatoes.
He grew loads of other vegetables, including shitake mushrooms.
This is what our trailer looked like shortly after we moved in.
And here is what it looked like last month.
Camelina rests on its wheels, steps and occupants gone, a ghost house, windows open, an empty shell swirling with memories of friendship and community.
I think back to when our younger, more athletic friends did cartwheels across the lawn, back when Camelina had steps, and vinyl skirting to hide its wheels.
We opened the door and peered in at what had once been a hub of activity, our old kitchen, all tore up and abandoned.
Nostalgia washes over us as we remember the good times we had at our old kitchen counter.
Our bedroom windows and the blue boat with a hole in its side. I remember lying on the other side of that blown-out screen listening to a whippoorwill one dark moon night.I also remember the day we decided to remove the garbage from the boat. Some of us thought we might fix it and go out on the lake, and some of us just wanted the trash to go away.
This was the lower house, where Ian, Jessi, Greg, Adah, and Jack lived.
Tim, Jack, Adah, and Link went dumpster diving at night and brought back embarrassing amounts of food.
We rotated Sunday potluck between houses, so every third week the gang gathered at our place.
Jessi and Ian made a baby! One birth, no deaths – that’s a pretty good run.
We went for walks. (Dana ran ahead and took this photo)
We went to music Festivals! Shakori’s Grassroots Music Festival is one of the reasons Bob and I moved to this area.
Matt was the Mayor of Oilseed and he kept us all on the same page and working together. When someone new wanted to move in, he took them from house to house to introduce them and later we would decide as a group whether or not they were a good fit for Oilseed. I don’t recall saying “No,” to anyone.
And now there is an empty field where the lower house once stood.
This was the road from Bill Thomas Road to the upper house.
The road looks so much the same now that I half expected to meet one of our friends with a covered dish or a musical instrument.
We called the old farm house the upper house because Camelina and the lower house were downhill. This is where Matt, Dana, Link, Jessica, and Simon lived, where we came for potluck when their turn came, and where we met for our monthly pow wows.
It appears to have burned down, whether accidentally or intentionally. Gone, too is the little horse barn where some Oilseeders kept chickens.
I’d like to say, “Easy come, easy go,” but instead I’ll say that we breathe life into the places we touch. Cherish today’s energy because life is fleeting and you cannot turn back the clock.
But all is not lost. Five years later, Oilseed lives. Anchored no longer by infrastructure and space, the community we shared flourishes in our hearts. We feel it when we see each other at weddings, or at the gym, or when we check in virtually each month.
A history of Oilseed in ten chapters
(see video in “Settlers of Oilseed” and “We’re Not Amish”)