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The Facilitator's Horse Trick

Laird's Blog -

I was recently in a conversation with a friend who had just facilitated a difficult meeting for a neighboring community. Upon reflection, he felt fine when it came to working conflict and emotional distress, but felt sloppy and not well-focused when it came to managing problem solving and issue exploration.

While most facilitators would report the reverse (comfort in examining issues, yet unsure our their footing in the face of strong emotional currents), I believe deeply that we need facilitators who can do both. The bad news is that it ain't easy. The good news is that it's possible, and can be learned.

I've been a professional facilitator for 28 years, and have been teaching it—in the context of cooperative culture —for the last dozen years. Next year I'll be conducting three two-year facilitation training courses concurrently (one in New England starting Sept 10-13, one in Portland OR starting Dec 3-6, and one in North Carolina starting Jan 14-17).

One of the key concepts that I'll teach is that a high-end facilitator needs to be able to ride two horses: both the Content horse and the Energy horse. My friend, understandably, was witnessing how hard it is to be good at both. While acknowledging that as a widespread phenomenon—I know very few who are equally adept on both horses—I believe it's crucial that we invest in training facilitators to learn to ride like that.

The Content Horse
The skill set here includes:

o   Laying out clearly how the conversation will be focused 
o   Coming up with and following a plan for how the conversation will flow from opening to conclusion
o   Separating the signal from noise (not all contributions to the consideration are equally valuable)
o   Offering concise and accurate summaries
o   Weaving together the common elements of disparate statements (bridging between people who disagree)
o  Making sure no one is left behind
o  Tracking loose ends of the conversation
o  Accurately reflecting the sense of the meeting

The Energy Horse
The skill set here includes:

o  Getting people moving frequently enough (up out of their seats, to increase blood flow)
o  Maintaining a positive, curious attitude
o  Appreciating people's contributions without taking sides
o  Attending to emotional undercurrents when they start impacting the group negatively
o  Not freaking out when others freak out
o  Sequencing the work such that the group is ready to do heavy lifting when the time comes
o  Celebrating success 
o  Finishing on an up note

Unfortunately, the skills needed for doing well with one horse are largely unrelated to being good at the other. And as if that weren't enough, there is the further challenge of discerning which horse to be riding at any given moment. All of which is why facilitation is an art form and not a paint-by-numbers exercise, where all you need to do is follow a script.

The two main difficulties that facilitators face are complexity (a Content concern) and volatility (an Energy concern). What if you encounter a topic that includes both—which is a lead-pipe certainty to occur some of the time? That's when you use your most experienced people, or even bring in a hired gun. You'll need someone at the helm who can deftly handle both horses and will know when to switch rides. If facilitators get in over their heads, everyone pays (not only do you suffer through a poor meeting, but the facilitator can get traumatized into the bargain—yuck).

If you cannot develop the capacity for a single person to ride both horses (best), try to have two people work in tandem, with a horse each (next best). While two riders means you'll have to choreograph who's the lead facilitator at any given moment, it can be done, and may be more accessible than one person developing the agility needed to dance from one horse to the other, and back again.

A Week in my Old Room

Laird's Blog -

This week I'm visiting Sandhill Farm, the community I helped start in 1974 and was a member of until last summer.

As it happens, I'm staying in my old room, which has now been converted to a sewing space, making it an interesting mix of the familiar and the strange. My welcome here has been warm, and I've enjoyed a number of conversations on the front porch (Sandhill's favorite fair weather hangout spot).

In addition to treading water with email (the flood of which never stops), my visit is a potpourri of my many familiar things:

o  Playing dpulicate bridge
The first night I was back I drove into Kirksville and played in the regular Wed evening duplicate game. I hadn't played since I was last in town (early June), but card playing is a lot like riding a bicycle, and my partner and I finished in a tie for first.

o  Preparing my divorce paperwork
Thursday I spent the morning with Ma'ikwe, going over our no-fault DIY divorce settlement. We now have a notarized document that we've both signed and I'll drop it off at the Circuit Court on Wednesday when I go into our county seat to pick up a rental car for the next leg of my fall odyssey.

While we were able to work everything out with minimal hassle, I can't focus on the failure of our marriage without invoking a cloud of sadness.

o  Making frames for María's ritual prints
One of the first things María told me about when I moved into her and Joe's house in June was that she was planning a major ritual for her birthday, Oct 3. As part of her shamanic training she'll be conducting a doming ceremony, which will help protect her home from inappropriate spirits (I don't think alcohol counts), maintaining the house as a sanctuary.

An aspect of this is installing eight pieces of original art that draw upon different spiritual traditions, to be affixed according the eight cardinal points of the compass. She had the art in hand, but needed to have it framed. After volunteering on the spot to do that for her, I quickly realized that I had no idea where in Chapel Hill I was going to get access to the woodworking equipment that I'd need. Then it occurred to me that I could do the job at Sandhill, where everything I needed was in one place, and I was familiar with all the tools.

So here I am, making eight 10.5"x13.5" frames out of walnut. I started Wednesday with raw lumber that had been air dried, and have now planed it, ripped it, shaped it with a router, beveled it with a table saw, put in a rabbet joint with a table saw, cut a joining dado with a radial arm saw, and sanded the pieces. Tomorrow I'll start gluing up, so that I can get everything assembled and oiled in time to drive the finished products east with me this coming Wednesday.

Though I'll be working with a community in Colorado Springs on María's brithday, my spirit will be thoroughly commingled with all eight pieces of art.

o  Visiting friends
As you might imagine there are plenty of people in the tri-communities of Rutledge that it's a pleasure to see while I'm in town. I've already been over to DR twice and will go again tomorrow, mainly to participate in Men's Group, which meets every Sunday at 7:30 pm until we're done.

o  Making tomatillo salsa
Monday I have a date with Frankie (a new Sandhill member and former intern) to process three five-gallon buckets of tomatillos—all of which go into making salsa, using a recipe that I pioneered years ago working off the advice of a Latina intern we had one summer, who passed along the secret of her Grandma Gutierrez: roast everything.

As food processing used to be one of my main jobs at Sandhill, it'll be fun to be back in the kitchen putting a little of the summer into jars (a la Greg Brown's grandma).

o  Cleaning out the old FIC Trailer
Last, I'll be devoting most of Tuesday to walking through the old FIC trailer, sorting stuff to be recycled from stuff to be archived. On a space available basis, I'll load the car with archive materials to be dropped off at the Center for Communal Studies, which is located on the campus of the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville—which I'll be driving right by on my way to the Twin Oaks Communities Conference.
• • •So it's being a week filled with conversation, memories, and good work. I even have time for a little reading.

Polcum Springs

New listings on ic.org -

Website: City: Laytonville State: California Zip: 95454 Contact Email: auntym25@comcast.net Content Phone: 916-457-7141 Contant Name: Muriel Strand

Cohousing, non si pensi all'aspetto strutturale ma al comune pensare - Il Fatto Quotidiano

Cohousing News from Google -

Il Fatto Quotidiano

Cohousing, non si pensi all'aspetto strutturale ma al comune pensare
Il Fatto Quotidiano
Se andate a cercare della bibliografia sul cohousing, troverete quasi sempre un approccio da architetti, spazi nuovi, ecocompatibili, pensati per vivere assieme, per ridurre le spese, per avere dei vicini coinvolti in un progetto. Molte di queste ...

Millrace Neighborhood soil cleaning bid awarded to Goshen's RGB Sales - The Elkhart Truth

Cohousing News from Google -

The Elkhart Truth

Millrace Neighborhood soil cleaning bid awarded to Goshen's RGB Sales
The Elkhart Truth
The city cleaned the land a few years ago after acquiring it and is in the process of selling it to Millrace Neighborhood LLC, which is developing a cohousing neighborhood. According to the Cohousing Association of the United States, a cohousing ...

Camp Easton

Laird's Blog -

Beside the shores of Little Long
Where towering pines do stand
There is a camp called Easton,
The finest in the land.

The boys there are the straightest
That ever felled a tree.
All honest, kind good fellows
With hearts both bold and free.

And if I choose to wander
10,000 miles or so
I'll think of my Camp Easton
Whene'er a fire does glow.

Sunday afternoon, after Susan and I wrapped up a visit with friends at their cabin on Birch Lake, near Babbitt, we detoured on the way back home to Duluth to see if we could find Camp Easton, where I learned to canoe from ages eight to 16 (1958-66).

I knew where it was, tucked into the southwest corner of Little Long Lake, between Shagawa Lake (on the shores of which sits Ely, gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area) and Burntside Lake, a major destination for resort seekers. The question was what remained of it.

Getting to Ely was easy (and yes, Zupancich's Grocery is still alive and well, selling pasties and hot bologna). From there we took the county road that circles Shagawa Lake, hoping to suss out which turn on the north shore would lead to Little Long. Our problem was decisively settled when we encountered a sign for "Camp Easton Road."

Turning in, I explained to Susan that there was a fork in the road up ahead that used to be marked by a pine tree in the middle: to the left would be the camp; to the right would be private cabins along the south shore of the lake. Twice a summer, the campers would race by cabin group from the craft shop to the pine tree and back. This contest was styled The Lone Pine Tree Road Race: 0.6 miles up and down the gravel road. Amazingly, the lone pine still stood, so there was no question where to turn, even though a sign indicated that we were entering the private property of Rock Ridge Camp and Outfitters.

It wasn't long before a string of familiar green painted bunk houses started appearing along the road on our right, with glimpses of Little Long poking through the trees. These buildings were the cabins for the Bobcats, Beavers, Eagles, Wolves, and Cubs, respectively. Sure enough there were still signs identifying a couple of them.

Though it was the tail end of summer, the camp's season was not quite over, and we met Mike on the road, as he was outbound in a pickup, towing a canoe trailer on a rescue mission to pick up some wind-bound canoeists on a nearby lake. Once he learned that I had once been a camper there—albeit 50 years ago—he told us to go on up to the dining hall and tell his wife that we were welcome to look around. He was part of a Christian Fellowship group that has been operating it as Rock Ridge since 1997.

As near as I can piece it together, the camp began as Camp Winter, which probably went back at least as far as the '30s. At some point Bill Easton (head track coach at Kansas University) bought it and changed the name. Bill's last year was my first: 1958. At the end of the summer he sold it to his Assistant Director, Doug Bobo (who wisely decided to keep the old name and not risk his endeavor being mistaken for clown camp). Doug ran it for the remainder of my tenure as a camper and at least into 1972. It's mysterious to me what bridged Doug's ownership to the Rock Ridge era.

To be sure, much had changed. There were buildings I didn't recognize, parking lots where there had once been only trees, and even a tarmac basketball court that didn't use to be there. But the road ended at the top of the hill where it always had, right next to the dining hall.

Walking into the mess hall brought back a wealth of decades-old images. Though the wall decorations had been altered, the wooden plank tables covered in oilcloth were just the same. The room looked smaller than my teenage memories, but I could almost hear echoes of the after-dinner singing.

When I had been a camper, there had been a string of plaques along the top of the outer walls, commemorating who had attended each summer's session. I had been hoping to show Susan the ones with my name on them, but they were not in sight. When I asked Mike's wife about them she offered hopefully that some had been relocated to the Trading Post (the re-purposed Cubs cabin), and others still were in a box in the next room. Alas, the artifacts boxed in the office were of too recent a vintage to cover my era. So we repaired to the Trading Post to see what we might discover there.

While those plaques turned out to be from years before my time we did discover this gem from 1952:

The eighth name listed in the Wolves Den that year was Guy Schaub, my brother (though the last two letters have been obscured by damage to the birch bark on which the names were recorded with a wood burning tool). Guy only went the one time, six years before his younger brother first ventured north to learn campcraft. While Susan and I weren't able to locate any of the plaques from my years, it was enough to have found my lineage still on display.

From there we moseyed down to the beachfront, an overexposed view of which can be seen behind me in the opening image. While there used to be two piers where there is now one, and the old roof-protected canoe racks are long gone, the sauna still remains:

All summer long, the sauna would be fired up every other day, with each camper required to avail themselves of the opportunity to get steam-cleaned, followed by a bracing, pore-closing dip in the lake. As you can see from the image, there were three benches, which allowed campers to find the heat level they could best tolerate. On the top bench, where I'm sitting, the temperature could reach 230 degrees. While the sauna is still wood-fired, They've now electrified it for interior lighting (it used to be illuminated solely by a kerosene lantern placed in the window that separated the sauna from the anteroom where the firewood was stored), but it's the same building, with decades of soot baked into the eaves. Just the smell was evocative of summer nights in the North Woods.

Overlooking the beach is the old lodge. Now serving as the Lakeside Chapel, in our day it was employed mainly as a hangout space on rainy days, as a library, and as the site for hotly contested ping pong games. While pews have replaced the gaming equipment, many of the old hardbacks still line the dusty shelves along the back wall.

Thus Susan and I spent a satisfying hour on a rainy Sunday, ringing down the echoes of the summers of my youth.

Living Tree Cohousing

New listings on ic.org -

Website: http://livingtreealliance.com City: Moretown State: Vermont Zip: 05660 Contact Email: livingtreealliance@gmail.com Content Phone: 603-387-6033 Contant Name:

Living Tree Cohousing

New listings on ic.org -

Website: http://livingtreealliance.com City: Moretown State: Vermont Zip: 05660 Contact Email: livingtreealliance@gmail.com Content Phone: 603-387-6033 Contant Name:

Cohousing-project mikt op oud politiekantoor - Het Nieuwsblad

Cohousing News from Google -

Het Nieuwsblad

Cohousing-project mikt op oud politiekantoor
Het Nieuwsblad
Cohousing Projects is op zoek naar kopers die mee in een project in Berchem willen stappen. Daarvoor organiseerden ze zopas twee infosessies. 'De interesse was zeer groot', zegt Federico Bisschop, zaakvoerder van Cohousing Projects. 'Op onze sessies ...
Cohousing in politiekantoorDe Standaard

all 2 news articles »

Now We're Cooking

Laird's Blog -

Over the years I've done a fair amount of wilderness camping, much of it canoeing in central Canada. While we could always depend on catching fish for a certain number of meals (mainly northern pike and walleye), we were essentially packing in all our food and packing out all our inorganic waste.

While that's unquestionably the right thing to do ecologically, it was invariably a challenge physiologically, because you are necessarily most loaded at the front end of the trip, when your muscles are least accustomed to the workload. Every day, as we steadily worked our way through the food supplies with purpose and appetite, the packs got a little lighter—a phenomenon that we referred to as "eating our way to mobility." The more we consumed, the easier it was to load the canoes each morning and to portage the remains.

I tell you that story because Susan and I have been going through an analogous gauntlet of food management the last five days.

When I visited her in early July (during which time we successfully launched our young relationship between old friends), one of the many things we discussed was what we might do together on future visits. It didn't take us very long to settle on hosting dinner parties as a possibility: cooking is something we both enjoy and it would be a delightful way to include others (rather than holing up in her house playing doctor).

Dinner Party #1
Looking ahead to the visit I'm now enjoying, Susan's first thought was to organize a dinner party for eight, where three other couples who enjoy good food would be invited. While that sounded fine to me, it turned out that the dates didn't work for one of the couples, so she switched off to hosting a neighborhood party, taking advantage of her kids visiting at the same time I'd be there. She knew that many of the neighbors would appreciate catching up with Britta (33) and Jamie (31), and vice versa. Because my overlap with the kids was only a few days, we needed to schedule the party for the day after I arrived (Wed). Then, because it was hard to know where to draw the line on who to invite, dinner for eight mushroomed into a freewheeling affair for 19. Yeehah! 

Reasonably enough, Susan's ease in expanding the guest list was influenced by the likelihood of being able to accommodate the flow in the back yard as well as the living room and dining room (think end of the summer block party). Unfortunately it started raining Tuesday night and was wet and soggy all day Wed, with temperatures in the 50s. Oops. Time to switch to Plan B, where all the milling was confined indoors—with Jamie bravely manning the barbecue grill out back, dancing between rain squalls. Even though we didn't quite have enough seating for everyone, in the end only 17 showed up and it all worked fine. Britta and Jamie were game for helping out and the home team pulled it off without a glitch.

In addition to a few contributions from the guests (who were told that nothing was needed but brought favorite recipes anyway) we served up:
—Swedish cucumbers with sour cream
—Sri Wasano's Infamous Indonesian Rice Salad 
—Sliced fresh tomatoes, red onions, and shredded basil marinated in aioli
—Watermelon cubed and tossed with mint and feta
—Grilled bratwurst (both pork and tofu) and grass-fed hamburgers
—Peach cobbler
—Plenty of wine, beer, and soda

Did we have enough food? We didn't even bother to pull out the second dessert and we were giving away doggie bags to all comers by the end of the night.

Dinner Party #2
While the refrigerator was already stuffed with leftovers, we bravely turned around Thursday and began planning for the second dinner party that Susan had queued up—this one for her mah jongg group on Friday. Susan is a card-carrying member of a dedicated group of four women who meet monthly for schmoozing and game playing. While the males do not typically attend these gatherings this party would be an all-skate, with Susan and me cooking. (Thus, Susan managed to preserve our opportunity to cook for a party for eight.) Now all we needed was a menu.

Susan and I tossed around a number of ideas before settling on:
—Appetizer tray of assorted olives, assorted cheeses, peppadews, marcona almonds, and French bread
—Locally made linguine with fresh spinach, served with a sauce featuring onions, garlic, and crimini mushrooms, cooked in a red wine reduction, topped with fresh whole sage leaves fried in butter
—Pork tenderloin smothered in caramelized onions, served with sour cherry chutney
—Frenched green beans stir-fried with garlic chunks and turmeric
—Potatoes au gratin
—Dessert was a birthday cake for one of the guests, who's special day was coming up at the end of the month

This worked pretty good, and we even got in several hands of mah jongg, with two of the men playing for the first time.

As the evening wound down (circa 10 pm), we distributed another round of doggie bags to our happy guests and sent them off into the night. After corralling all the party detritus into the kitchen, Susan reloaded the dishwasher and somehow manged to find a home for all the leftovers, creatively manifesting holes in a refrigerator that appeared to be completely full when she began.

Dinner Party #3
Saturday morning we slept in. Jamie had departed Thursday (for a bachelor's party weekend with 10-12 guys at a cabin on Lake Vermillion), and Britta had left Friday morning, headed back to Denver, by way of Northfield MN, where she'd do a spot of alumni fundraising for Carleton College, from which all four of us had graduated.

After luxuriating in an unscheduled morning with no one else in the house, we prepared to head to Babbitt and a rendezvous with friends Jane & Mick at a cabin they had rented for three weeks on Birch Lake, very near Ely and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. 

Taking into account that Jane & Mick would be arriving from their home in the Twin Cities only scant hours before we got there, and that we didn't want to be ungracious guests for our overnight stay, Susan volunteered that we'd cook dinner. (Hell, we were on a roll, right?)

While we needed to be a bit more creative to accommodate their vegan diet, it wasn't hard to settle on a reprise of the previous night's pasta dish. We just made sure to bring eggless noodles and to use olive oil in place of butter in building the sauce. So we dropped the sage leaves and substituted a handful of minced green olives and a jar of sun-dried tomatoes. We also contributed some of the choice leftovers from Friday: antipasto, the frenched green beans, and a loaf of French bread to fill out the simple menu.

Dinner Party #4
Tonight is my last night in Duluth. Amazingly enough, Susan and I will be dining alone. (Notice the near perfect progression: 17 on Wednesday; 8 on Friday; 4 on Saturday; 2 on Monday. Looked at through a geometric lens it seems inevitable that I'll be on my own come Tuesday, and fasting by Wednesday.)

I brought with me a special bottle of Chardonnay Reserve from Chateau Morrisette that I picked up when I was in Floyd VA at the beginning of the month, and we'll start the evening with that, augmented by baked garlic, a wedge of champignon brie, and the ubiquitous loaf of warm French bread. From there we expect to make further inroads on the surfeit of delicious leftovers, coming to the rescue of our hardworking refrigerator.

In case you couldn't tell, one of my favorite things is to cook and eat (and drink) with friends. This week I got to indulge in all three to my heart's content.


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