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Summer of love

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Once upon a time, in a May long ago, six (or seven?) starry-eyed, excitable boys and girls left their predictable college lives and moved to the country. They found an old farmhouse surrounded by 60 acres of woods and fields, three miles from the nearest paved road. Rent was $30 a month.

We had to put in our own plumbing and chop our own wood to keep warm. There was a pond nearby and the biggest full moons on the planet. We belonged to two food co-ops, a chainsaw co-op and a rototiller co-op. We worked in local natural foods restaurants and had to get a second refrigerator for all the leftovers. The kitchen closets were full of brown rice, whole wheat flour and lentils.

We pooled our possessions, got some chickens and planted a huge garden. We grew rhubarb and asparagus. We grew okra! We canned tomatoes and beans. A peach tree grew out of our compost pile. When it hadn't rained for a while, we took our clothes off, made a big circle in the front yard and did a rain dance. It rained. Or maybe when it finally did rain, we ran outside and celebrated. Whatever. We did do a lot of group celebrating.

Seems like we were always trying new things, too. The men learned to bake bread, the women learned to change oil. Everybody made desserts. Someone was always making bean sprouts and yogurt. If you went to bed early, not only did you miss out on the latest brownie recipe, but you never could really be sure who ended up in which room.

When the house got too crowded, we spread out into the outbuildings. In quick succession, we liberated an old tobacco barn, a chicken coop and a woodshed, turning them all into funky bedrooms with kaleidoscope views. We combed the town for old buildings, coming home with truckloads of old windows. They became skylights, greenhouse bay windows and second-story lofts.

Every hippie commune has some great stories. Most of the weirdness and wildness at our place occurred on weekends, when cars and trucks would bump down our winding driveway to join the party. Most people brought little gifts, lots of homemade goodies. Everybody was crafty; lots of candles and pottery. One guy showed up every Saturday for dinner with three cabbages.

One afternoon a woman just walked out of the north field and said her name was Rene. She was full of energy, ready for anything. She could be a terror in the kitchen. Her real name, she said, was Irene. Things got a little crazy when she announced her new name was Nazarene. That was around the time she poured kerosene on the woodstove.

Dogs and cats and people with wonderful names and curious personalities came and went. A former Weather Underground person working on Prairie Fire, wide-eyed farmers bearing bags of corn. All kinds of brothers and sisters, both real and imagined.

That first summer, 35 years ago, is alive and well in our hearts and minds.

It started one May and went on forever.

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