I'm Flo and I turned one year old last week! What does it mean to be a one-year old goat? I can do ANYTHING. I can run really really fast while hopping sideways, backways, upways, and downways pretty much all at the same time. While your favorite food is probably "sweet" or "spicy" or something silly ... mine falls into the category of "anything with a lot of thorns" (thistle! blackberries! roses! locust!), which is to say my tongue is tougher than yours. I eat poison oak. What is my purpose in life? To sneak into the school office if the door is left open and play king of the mountain on top of computer desks.
Springtime has arrived at Woolman! Jackets and sweaters are being shed, the days are getting longer, and temperatures are rising, much to everyone's enjoyment. The garden is waking up, the orchard is in full bloom, and some of the plum trees are already sprouting their leaves.
Maggie, Bri, and the interns have been hard at work for a month pruning the apple, pear, and plum trees. After hours of staring at fruit trees and planning our cuts, our hard work started to pay off as we became more and more familiar with the structure and growth of the trees. They are looking happy and healthy heading into warmer temperatures, and we are looking forward to a bounty of fresh fruit come fall.
Everyone is hard at work in the garden, too. We've been tilling, bed prepping, laying irrigation, and transplanting hundreds of plants. Baby cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce plants are poking their heads up and greeting the spring! Our asparagus starts, which have been in the greenhouse for a year, are finally in the ground. Though we won't see them matured for another year, their fuzzy green tops adorn the beds and bring joy to the garden.
During shared work, the whole community contributes to getting the garden ready for summer. Below, students and staff weed beds of garlic.
My name is Brianna Beyrooty, I'm the new Farm Apprentice at Woolman. For the next 9 months I will be working in the garden, experiencing a full season of farming. From Permaculture to weeding, I'm excited to get my hands dirty and see what this beautiful earth has to offer!
For the past two weeks students have been researching different aspects of our campus and looking for ways to reduce our energy consumption. Yesterday students presented their energy audits to the class, and in the coming weeks we will be implementing the changes that they've recommended. The first group looked at our dish sanitizer and alternatives to it.
Based off their research they will be proposing to the community that we save energy by washing dishes by hand for a week. We will see how that method serves or does not serve the community.
The next group — Alex, Pedro, and Wade presented on our wood stoves and their efficiency.
What was most interesting for them and the class was how inefficient space heaters are and the benefits of EPA certified wood stoves. We have written grants in the past, through the Strawberry Creek Meeting Dime-A-Gallon Grant, to replace old wood stoves with EPA certified ones, and this research supports doing so again.
We then heard about Woolman's vehicle use, and a proposal to buy a two-seater leaf car for short town trips, which we will be looking into. Finally, Lily and Luz presented on cabin lights. They looked into switching them to motion sensing lights and/or timer lights. Their data showed that switching the porch lights of all 8 cabins to motion sensing would cost about $100, but pay for itself in a year. They will be proposing this change to the community next Wednesday.
I am excited for the impact these students will have on the campus and for the understanding that they gained while doing these projects. Their knowledge will transfer to where ever they go when the leave Woolman, and will hopefully have a positive impact on those communities as well.
Each semester, the community interns plan a pretty rad trip to somewhere in California for the students to catch a break, get away from schoolwork, and let the campus rest for a few days. This semester, we took our students down the coast to Big Sur, California for a few days of beaching, hiking, swimming, resting, s’mores-making, and exploring.
Day One: We left Woolman at 8:00am (on time!) to start our day of driving. We stopped in Las Trampas Wilderness – it looked like the Shire! – for a picnic lunch and a chance to stretch our legs with a short hike up the grassy hills. We finished the drive around 3:00pm at Plaskett Creek Campground to set up camp and catch a beach sunset.
photo by Pedro
Day Two: Six-mile round-trip hike up to some stunning views of the Pacific Ocean with a stop for lunch on the trail. We headed back to the campground to drop off gear, have a surprise snack (chips!), and head over to the beach to explore, swim, and play.
photo by Pedro
Day Three: We packed up camp early in the morning and were on the road by 8:00am to drive North to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I was driving the suburban on the winding and beautiful CA-1 byway, watching rainbows appear seemingly behind every turn, while Lily played an acoustic guitar and everyone sang along for the two-hour ride.
After the aquarium – where we saw jellyfish, stingrays, sea turtles, puffins and penguins, giant tunas, tiny sardines, octopi, and hammerhead sharks – we headed to Taqueria Santa Cruz for a taco dinner. We drove back to Woolman that night for pack-in and cozy cabin fires.
Happy March! It is hard to believe that the semester started almost six weeks ago. We have some updates for you from different aspects of Woolman life, written by various teachers.
Students and interns had a gorgeous 3 days on Staycation last weekend! They headed down the coast to the Big Sur region, camping at Plaskett Creek campground which bore a lovely resemblance to Frodo and Bilbo’s shire. A 6 mile hike up the switchbacks of the Cruickshank Trail was well worth the trek when met with epic oceanic views at the summit and a West Coast sunset at the shore in the evening. Saturday morning started early to get down to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. While the tentacle exhibit was incredible, the simple pleasures of double rainbows, tacos, and accoustic melodies of fellow students were a wonderful completion to a weekend away.
In one of our first units in Global Thinking, we examined how each of us views the world. What parts of our identity, backgrounds, experiences, and other aspects of our selves influence our perspectives? Where do our biases and opinions come from? Multiple perspectives is a key theme that we will explore throughout the semester, and students began by digging deep within themselves and shared what makes up their unique worldview.
The semester is in full swing! After a week of orientation, and a hectic first week of classes, people are starting to find their rhythm. Each of the teachers have written about their classes for this update.
The students hit the ground running in terms of being introduced to and grasping the basic concepts of NVC. On their second day here in orientation week we identified what values/life qualities would be present in their ideal community and what we were willing to do to live into or out of those values. In our first NVC class we looked at what gets in the way of us living like this all the time. This led us to exploring right/wrong, good/bad thinking and how that naturally flows into a system of punishments and rewards and named that way of living as a "power over" culture. The whole process and consciousness of NVC was presented as a choice to explore a "power with" culture instead. Next class we will continue to explore what it means to embody a value that we deeply care about so we may better meet hard and challenging moments from a place of fullness, without judgements or blame.
In Environmental Science, we began the semester hiking around Woolman’s campus, learning about the land and what we will be covering. We then shared our experiences with science and our dreams for this class. We are now studying global warming and the biases commonly associated with both sides of the issue. From here we will delve into energy, and groups of students will be doing an energy audit of different aspects of Woolman’s campus.
In Peace Studies we began by sharing our hopes and fears and envisioning the world in which we want to live. We also made collective agreements with the goal of creating a safer space for learners who support, challenge, and affirm each other. In this introductory unit we are building a theoretical foundation drawing on concepts of peace, violence, power and interconnection. We are exploring the power of voicing our truths and transforming our silences in to action for peace and justice. This week students wrote and shared powerful “Where I’m From” poems.
In Global Thinking, we began by exploring what it means to be a global citizen, working off the idea that we are all interconnected to each other and thus in order to be agents of change we must start by changing our own lifestyles. We have examined our individual worldviews and what parts of our identities and experiences help shape our perspectives. This week we began our unit on media literacy with a TED Talk by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi.
In Farm to Table, we started with a class on fruit tree pruning, which we will be practicing all spring as we maintain our orchard. During shared work, several students learned to create trays of seedlings, which will be transplanted to the fields in April. This week we are talking about why growing, preparing, and consuming our own foods is a form of activism.
Sorry, we don’t have many pictures from class… yet! But here are some from the Contra dance we took students to this past weekend, shared work, and community meeting. Oh, and a Valentine’s Day gift Eli and Andrew gave to Wade!
When I think of intersectionality,
I see a venn diagram of overlapping social categories
I see colorful pasta intertwined to make mutually constructed identities
I see runners on a track
I see obstacles set in front of them
On the basis of their race
I see privilege and the power to oppress
I see multi layered oppression of people of color
I see gender, race, class, sexuality
a checklist of categories that place us within the patriarchal hierarchy we call our world
But when I translate this to to world around me, and to feminism
I see a huge part of the media portraying white middle class heterosexual cisgendered ablebodied men and women as humanity
I see politicians claiming neutral politics
That serve this fictional majority
I see a public space filled with institutions
That were built to serve the hegemonic masculinity
and oppress the other
I see the center of knowledge production operated by white men claiming objectivity
Where are the people of color?
Where are the colonized?
Where are the disabled people?
Where are those who lie outside the recognized boundaries?
This is what needs to be seen
This is what needs to be made visible
These are the voices that need to be heard
This is the call that can reshape economic structures of oppression and exclusion
Which can unmask the identity of the “neutral” citizen
Which will show that his privilege is built upon the exploitation and discrimination of the marginalized
But how can the concept of intersectionality be more than just a buzzword?
More than a checklist of static identity categories
And instead something that is used to really take into account
The complex forms of discrimination
Shaped by history
And social structures
As a white middle class cisgendered woman
And a bearer of privilege,
I am trying to understand the ways i reproduce systems of oppression
So that i may be apart of deconstructing them
I am not humanity
I am not women
I am not objective
I am a standpoint in solidarity with,
and recognition of society's many unique and complex identities
In other words, I hope for solidarity.
I hope for understanding, gender starscapes and fluidity
I hope to bring compassion for the unknown
And recognition of the need to listen, I hope for humility.
Learning about grafting at Wolfskill Experimental Orchard & Picking strawberries at Swanton Berry Farms
Ecology Research Presentations
Woolman well data for this semester & Ceramic coffee filters to replace plastic ones
It’s been a very busy season in the garden this year! The fields have been put to bed and are bursting with a think blanket of cover crop spouts. Our community has been working hard all year to tend and celebrate the little sweet spot on our campus that provides such bounty. Since January we built a new and very nice green house, remodeled our beehive, installed a huge drainage system as well as three water catchment elements to preserve our soils, reduce run- off and increase the water holding capacity on site. All the while, we're pumping out hundreds of pounds of the freshest of foods, rich in nutrients for our community in as well as inspiring young people through garden education. We had a wonderful season with our small and loyal CSA members. Woolman has also been selling produce to Summerthyme’s Bakery, where we are featured in their weekly specials. Wow, no wonder we're tired! A huge THANK YOU to the students, interns, staff, visiting students and volunteers who all played a part in making this season a success!
In the Intern Garden Class and Farm to Table, we've started exploring the ethics and principles of Permaculture. Permaculture is best described as "a system of assembling conceptual, material and strategic components in a pattern which functions to benefit life in all it’s forms. It seeks to provide a sustainable and secure place for living things on this earth." It's been a wonderful and interesting opportunity to brainstorm ways we might design our lives to be more ecologically and socially resilient in this time of globalization. In the Woolman garden, we hope to inspire mutually beneficial approaches to life though observation, careful thought, smart work and cooperation, leaving plenty of room for imagination and enjoyment. As Einstein said, "We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking we used when we created them."
The Woolman Community Intern Program forms an essential thread that helps to weave together the fabric of life here at Woolman. On any given day, you will find these magic-makers creating beautiful meals, planting seeds, harvesting roots, connecting with students, hugging, laughing, crying, supporting – doing the invaluable work of the heart – an organ that doesn't just pump blood through the body, but synergizes all of its cells, organs and systems. Indeed the interns here combine really hard work and deep heart-work, in a way that allows unique and emergent life to flow through the veins of this community.
The classes we teach here deal a lot with how to live in a time of great change, and how to hold oneself and each other lovingly as beings who are constantly changing and growing. I am excited to teach Cooking & Nutrition Class to the interns this semester, as I see it as an opportunity to look at this truth through a different window. What are the interconnected systems inside our physical bodies that inspire our one emotional, mental, spiritual dynamic life? What do we know about these physiological systems, and how do we know it? How do our bodies relate to the Earth, and what role does food play in this relationship? Every Thursday morning, interns come to prepare a meal for the community together and spend time considering the story of food as it moves through ecosystems and human hands, and the stories we tell ourselves that shape what the food does when it gets to our body.
Intern Seminar is a time to gather skills to celebrate and support life. Thus far, we have had classes on: The Art of Live-Culture Fermentation, The Great Toilet Challenge (Plumbing 101), Woodworking I and II, Craniosacral Therapy Introduction – an example of the art of hands-on healing, and The Acorn Model: A Nature-based Model for Mentoring and Community Building. This semester the interns are also taking a weekly Garden Seminar and a Non-violent Communication class, to widen and deepen their skill set as change-makers in the world.
“All Oppression is Connected” –Staceyann Chin
One of the most inspirational and exciting experiences for me all semester was co-organizing and co-facilitating the Global Issues and Peace Studies (GIPS) trip. Our goal in designing the trip was to give our students the opportunity to see models of activism and social change in action in order to empower them to see themselves as agents of change. We have been studying themes of peace, violence, and systemic oppression and wanted to present students with examples in the Bay Area of ordinary people making extraordinary efforts to challenge the status-quo and create just communities. Being from the Bay Area, I was excited to collaborate with many friends and organizations whose work I admire and respect.
The theme of our trip this fall was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1967 Beyond Vietnam speech in which he states:
“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin—we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered”
We wanted to highlight the intersectionality of systemic oppression and violence as it manifests through the giant triplets of racism, capitalism, and militarism. In class this semester we have been working with students to not only develop a critical consciousness of these intersecting oppressions in their daily lives but to envision, discuss, and act upon the change they want to see in the world. From community murals and gardens to meditation circles to FOIA requests to nonviolent protest to creating alternative institutions, we wanted to provoke thoughts on different organizing styles and challenge students to examine which models of change resonate most with their own passions and communities. Below you will find the schedule of activities from the week and a reflection piece by one of our students, Flannery Raabe.
- Tri Valley CAREs presentation & perimeter tour of nuclear weapons lab
- Oscar Grant mural at Fruitvale Station
-Visit Canticle Farm
- Generation Waking Up workshop
-Political activism talk at Oakland City Hall
-AFSC presentation on the prison industry
-LLNL presentation at Discovery Center with weapons researcher
-Lunch and mural tour with 67 Sueños
-AORTA Solidarity Economics workshop
-Iraq Vets Against the War presentation
-Beehive Collective workshop/exhibition
-Watch Fruitvale Station
- Berkeley Poetry Slam
-Open house dinner
-East Point Peace Academy Nonviolence training & exchange w/ Youth Spirit Artworks
The GIPS trip was inspiring and educational. I was constantly considering the theme of our trip, the giant triplets of militarism, capitalism, and racism, and the idea that fear could be the root of all of them. One of the coolest parts of the trip, for me, was the nuclear and anti-nuclear places because they combined both environmental issues and human issues. On Monday, we talked to a group called Tri-Valley CAREs, an anti-nuclear community watchdog. Marylia Kelley, one of the two staff that the organization has, talked to us about the work her organization has done and about the work done in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. She told us that as part of Tri-Valley CAREs, she has helped workers from Lawrence Livermore get compensation for injuries from a variety of things, especially exposure to radiation. Marylia’s organization helps provide the community an alternative to the militaristic nuclear lab through their work to expose the negative effects of the lab and provide paths of resistance. What really struck me about this organization was their willingness to work with the community, rather than hiding things from the community like the lab seemed to do. The collaboration seemed to be an important tool in community organizing.
After talking to Marylia, we talked to a few people who have spent almost 30 years working as part of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Our group asked questions that were perhaps a little too attacking, but we were straight to the point and asked what we wanted to know. However, she seemed to evade most of our questions. Her answers were vague, and it seemed like she was often just repeating the question. We asked follow up questions in some cases to try to get a clearer answer, but she dodged even those. Overall, I left the lab feeling disappointed and suspicious of what she wasn’t saying when she avoided our questions. Maybe she just didn’t know the answers, but even that would cause me to worry a little bit. It’s also possible that she wasn’t allowed to disclose the answers and was trying to appease us best she could, but that would mean there is something to hide. Either way, the way the talk went made me suspicious, or at least uncomfortable. I’m wondering now how I would have felt if we had gone to the lab first and to Tri-Valley CAREs second, but, honestly, I’m not sure it would have made much of a difference.
When we were visiting the lab, I felt like militarism and capitalism definitely influenced the work they do. Without the militaristic society we live in, we wouldn’t need the lab to keep the nuclear weapons we have fully functional. The tour guide admitted to being motivated by fear and it seemed to me that the whole lab’s militaristic ideology is motivated by fear and capitalistic values. A lot of the values of capitalism we talked about in the AORTA workshop on Wednesday were present in the work of the lab. They seemed more interested in self preservation than things that are beneficial to the whole.
On Monday night, we watched the movie Fruitvale Station. This movie documented the last day of Oscar Grant’s life. Oscar was a young, black male living in Oakland, California. He had a girlfriend and they wereraising a daughter together. On the night he was murdered, he was taking the BART subway home from a New Year’s celebration. He was stopped by the police and ended up being shot. The inherent racism in our police system was clearly at play here and after hearing so much about police brutality in class and in the news, it was powerful to see a real story of the affects of racism in our police system. In addition, it seems to me that the “security” of the community is similar to the “security” of the nation through nuclear weapons — motivated by fear. Both nuclear weapons use and Oscar Grant’s murder were horrendous side effects of fear.
Reflection by Flannery Raabe
Photos by Gray Horwitz
Friday, Nobember 14th, marked the 124th firing of the oldest noborigama kiln in the U.S., built on Woolman soil in 1971 by a large crew, including Dick Hotchkiss, who runs it currently. Woolman students, local potters, and some from as far off as North Carolina came to our campus for this three-day event.
A noborigama is a Japanese style of kiln dating back to the 17th century. It features a large clay structure with multiple connected chambers situated on a slope.
We split rounds of cedar into massive rows of kindling.
We glazed our pieces together, and stacked them on shelves next to the kiln.
It was strange to see over 2,000 ceramic pieces, each individually and carefully crafted by so many different potters and sculptors, all fit into a single kiln.
The kiln doors were sealed shut late at night. A fire was built at the top to create suction, and another fire was built at the bottom. We stoked it until the fire glowed yellow-white and a searing kiln wind pulled from the bottom chamber out through the chimney.
We stoked the kiln all morning, all day, and into the night, in shifts.
One person pulls the stopper out, one throws the wood in, then shuts the stopper, all in one quick motion. It’s so hot that the wood explodes rather than burns.
The heat is intense, but it’s much more exciting than unpleasant. Except by the end of your shift, that is.
This is the time we'd been referring to as "Christmas morning."
We opened up the doors, and assembly-line passed thousands of hot ceramics into the open.
“No oggling. Keep the line moving.”
We oggled. I oggled quickly, caressed each piece with my hands as I passed it to the lady on my right, who was beaming back at me. Honestly, my heart was pounding with joy and excitement. I cannot overstate the emotional effect of watching all of these transformed pieces, hot out of the kiln and baked dark and smooth and vibrant, being passed out into the open. I saw each piece individually, and was briefly elated by its elegant form, its weight, the way its heat lingered on my hands, the rich dark interior or the the way the glazes interplay on the rim, before passing it to my right and taking the next on my left.
And finally, every piece was layed out together in the open, and all the artists walked among them, collecting their own, admiring others’, and talking.
There’s an element of unpredictability in the process that is fascinating. The upper chambers were hotter than the lower; the bottom one was more prone to scorching; reduction and oxidation work in mysterious ways, making the same glaze turn different colors on different pots, different colors on the same pot, or different colors on different sides of a pot; some unfortunate pieces (unless you’re into that) had pieces of the kiln roof fall into them. The number of variables that play into how a piece turns out is dizzying. It’s an exercise in acceptance.
I think I may be a little bit in love with ceramics. There were pieces so finely crafted that I could feel the sculptors hands poring over every curve and surface, and, though I’m blushing as I write this, there were pieces that were so beautiful, or so shapely that they made my heart flutter in a way that I can really only compare to meeting the gaze of someone I have a crush on.
One of the greatest things about ceramics, as Giovanna noted to me, is the community it creates. All these potters and sculptors rely on each other, and come together here for this kiln firing. Thank you all the people who built the dragon kiln, all the people who kept it running, the people who split the wood, the people who stacked, the people who stoked, the people who piled, the people who passed, the people who brought food, the people who explained to me the nuances of how the whole confounded thing works, the people who contributed works of ceramic to the kiln, the people who contributed their knowledge, the people who contributed their work and their love, and all the people who shared the joy of the whole process.
Thank you all,
(First photo by Maggie Jones. Subsequent photos by Gray and Nomi)
We shared a beautiful meal together (prepared by the magic-making interns - thank you) before our Woolman community members went off in different directions for the holiday. It was an occasion to let our attention take root in the land here for a moment, to feel the feet that have walked upon it, all the movement and movements, fierceness and stillness, light and shadow … to acknowledge the various lives and forms of life that have found a home here, felt lost here, felt found, and are still searching. So much gratitude for YOU.
photo credit to Gray Horwitz. Thank you!
This poem was performed Wednesday night in Berkeley at a Slam Poetry event. (Click on the image to see the Video).
Every semester the Woolman campus hosts the Quaker Quarterly Meeting and many Quakers all come to stay on Woolman campus and use the cabins and classrooms for meetings and lodging. Students and interns can join, or go on a mid-semeter adventure called Staycation where we choose as a semester where to go for four days. Our semester chose to go to the Stinson Beach/Point Reyes area!
On the first day of staycation we all piled in cars and made it to our campsite and got settled in with plenty of time for a sunset beach trip and a wonderful dinner!
On the second day we started out with sleeping in (finally!) and a lazy breakfast. At around 10 o’clock am, a group left camp and went on a beautiful hike from our campsite down the mountain to Stinson beach. It was a day filled with lots of swimming in the ocean, reading and napping in the sun, exploring the small town, and long walks on the beach!
On day three we all drove down to the beach at Point Reyes and one group of students decided to stay and relax at the beach and search for tide pools, while another decided to go for a hike. The group that stayed at the beach was successful in their search for sea anemones and a relaxing day of reading and napping in the sun. The other group had an amazing time hiking the Tomales Point Trail. On the hike we saw gorgeous views as well as lots of lots of wildlife including tule elk, coyotes, falcons, and a bobcat!
After the hike we all met back up at the beach and had more time swimming and sunbathing before heading into the town of Point Reyes for dinner and ended the night with ice cream and free freshly pressed apple cider gifted to us by a 1970’s graduate of the John Woolman School!
On the final day of Staycation we all packed up camp and headed to the ocean for one last lunch on the beach, and then packed into the vans sandy, salty, tired, slightly sunburned and happy from a great vacation. On our arrival back on campus we were greeted with lots of hugs and joy from Dorothy, Gray, and other staff members!