A letter home

A letter sent to my younger brother – early Summer 1972

Dear Gary,

I haven’t written a letter (except to the folks) in a long while. The Farm has been going through heavier and heavier spiritual evolution as the Universe gives us more stuff to integrate. We realized that we didn’t have our shit together when we let that girl die here. Stephen said the other day that when she died the Farm just didn’t have enough energy to go around – not enough juice to sustain that one monkey that needed some.

After that we seemed to go through a resurgence of higher voltage things – Stephen’s 4-marriage became a 6-marriage (BOGGLE!), the band got picked up by a studio and put together a bunch of amazing music. Stephen’s family is going to be on David Frost on the 23rd (I’m not sure of the date) and maybe Dick Cavett on the 19th.

More and more folks have come to stay though “officially” we’re full. I was on the gate last weekend and I let about 24 people in to visit. Most of them had come to live, some to check it out. I told them all that we were having so many visitors that they could just spend the night. Our “policy” was to tell them that, then let them in the gate if they were cool,or cool them out if they weren’t. Then, once in the gate it was their karma. As it turned out it was twelve folks’ karma to see Stephen and get to live here. But Stephen said Friday that we just can’t handle no more people on the parcel of land we got. There’s 500 of us or thereabouts. So we’re tightening up the gate – being firm about being full, being picky about who we let in. We’re specifically asking visitors why they want to visit this religious monastery of which Stephen is our respected spiritual leader and teacher. Some folks think it’s a commune likeMorningstar or Wheeler’s Ranch. They’re appalled at finding a gate and even more outraged at being asked their business. Lots of them don’t get in. The way it is is that folks shouldn’t come to the Farm even to visit unless they want to learn about something. Cause, ready or not, once they’re inside the karma’s fast and can easily blow your mind. Mine gets blown pretty often still. Stephen’s getting 6-married blew the whole Farm’s mind.

The band has established their own label as a subsidiary of a country music label, Million Records. Our thing is called Mantra Records. The label will be a big, beautiful peyote button. It should be out in a couple weeks. It’ll be a double album with, I think, 9 cuts. Lots of tripping music. It will start with an Om recorded in the barn. I’d never heard one recorded before. It’s amazing. The band did all the recording on peyote and you can feel the stuff when you listen to the records. PLAY IT LOUD. They did the mixing on grass for sensitivity. All the cuts are live. The only changes are from mixing – adding tape loops, echo,reverb , raising and lowering different instruments. When you open the album there’s a big family portrait of the whole Farm – except Anita and Timothy and me. We were picking up Anita’s mom at the airport. The band is getting a Scenicruiser to tour with. They’ll always play for free. That’s only fair, music being a pure energy exchange anyway.

Timothy jabbers all the time now. He really digs standing up while we balance him. He’s gonna be a hoofer, a real explorer. He’s 15 lbs 10 oz, 27″ tall.

We almost moved into a house with 3 other couples, but we decided to hang out on the deal for X amount of time ’cause we didn’t feel like we had enough agreement to do such a heavy deal.

Get yourself a Caravan book now. First editions may someday be collectors’ items.

Tell Sharon to stay out of the cities. All there is there is the downfall of Western materialism, European and American student sexual subconscious and crazy drivers. Tell her to do a village tour. She’ll meet nicer folks.

I’m not into selling the guitar for moolah too much, but if Brian has an old bicycle in good shape that he could ship to Lawrenceburg, Tenn, I could dig making a deal. If anybody has such a contraption it would help getting around these 1000 acres. Brian could just pay shipping – I hear it’s cheap.

It would be neat if you could get down this summer to sort out your head a little. It’s good for you (GOOD) to get this sort of relativity after spending the other 360 days of the year assuming you have to make it rich on a material level. Sometimes you feel strung out on the idea of making some money so you can afford to hang out some – Then you can get stoned. Well that material plane can never satisfy you. Never, ever. If you keep looking for it there, it’ll elude you.

So with that thought implanted on your brain, we send our love and hopes that you’re getting higher.

Clifford, Anita and your nieces and nephew.

Are you gonna cut your hair for Ma Bell this summer?



  1. judith said,

    February 27, 2009 at 6:38 am

    nothing lke a good heartfelt family letter for a blast from the past! thank you Cliff AND Gary for sharing. hey, did anyone ever see the David Frost show with Stephen and entourage? or Dick Cavett if that happened? this I’d LOVE to view. (Alicia Bay Laurel, of “Living on the Earth” runaway bestselling hippie handbook fame, told a hilarious story of appearing on David Frost in 1971 or so absolutely gone on organic mescaline.) if someone has seen Stephen on the talk shows from that er, , shout out as to how.
    okay, my prurient hippie curiosity has been stirred once again everyone including Stephen has referred to the six-marriage and I’ve had to guess just who…is i being too rude to ask who were the pair who joined Stephen and Ina may and Michael and Margaret that summer? I know that Michael after a while had enough and headed back to California alone (and I’ve wondered how *that* reverberated in the community.)

    • July 3, 2009 at 10:02 am

      I don’t suppose it’s rude to ask that, since it was (and still is) common knowledge…that was Thomas Dotzler and Louise Hagler. He was the keyboard player/saxophonist in The Farm Band, had been in a second-line SF band called Mt. Rushmore….Stephen often referred to Louise as “Little Annie Fannie” (after a Playboy spoof of “Little Orphan Annie”), and she bore Stephen’s child, who is now an adult and seems fairly well adjusted…

      Thomas and Margaret left the Farm together in the mid-80’s, and are rumored to be someplace in Alabama, where Thomas is from. Margaret, by the way, is Margaret Nofziger, and I understand that she is Lynn Nofziger’s niece (to refresh your memory, Lynn was Nixon’s Karl Rove)…at this point, conspiriacy theorists are free to go nuts,….

      • Judith said,

        July 3, 2009 at 11:08 am

        thanks Martin; I knew that Thomas and Margaret has two children together when it never quite gelled for Stephen and margaret to have a baby together. the stuff Lrgaret learned that became “Cooperative Method of Natural Bitth Control” was, ironically enough, based on the studies she ahd done to try to increase her chances of getting pregnant. It’s long been my hypothesis based on what everyone was written and said that had Stephen and amargaret been able to conceiv e a child together, the whole sotry might have shaken dowen differently.I used to be in touch with Margaret around the fertility issues _ I had similar problems myself, one baby afte16 eyars of trying, and no poregnancies after that either.) Spiritual Midwifery refers to “Margatret and Yhomas” a few tmes in the con4etect of their two children. , and she still sells her books on natural fertility awareness under MND Press, or something like that, from Deatcille AL…the piece I was missing was that is was originally Thomas and Louise.

        Louise wrote very touchingly about the baby she gave up for adoption as a teenager in earlier editions of Spiritual Midewifery, and how going into her first Farm mirthing years later showed her the “fear and paraboia” that the experience of having a baby she couldn;t keep in a hospital has lief ton her spirit.

        I do know that when there was the Grand Exodus into California after the change-ver in the ’80s, a bunch of my friends who were departing the Farm mentioned the business of Louise having Stephen;s baby as a sort of scandal, and it came up in the letters to Whoel Earth Review from a bunch of the ex-Farmies.

        one of the intersting things in the Caravan journal my aunt kept (which I believe is in a bhox somewhere at her son jeremy’s house in Anchorage; it slipped away around the time ELizabeth and Patrick died in 2001) is Elizabeth;s notres about the chidlren who were being raised in the extant four-marriages of the time…I don;t have any proiblem with any of this in theory, and let;s just say for now that in my own life, there are some unresolved parentage issues stemming from ultiple relationship setups eyars ago, that have been brought into more focus again by a rncent death in the extended family. the only real “scandal” as I udnerstood it regarding Louise and Stephen;s baby is thgat if everyone else was under tremendous pressure to return to or remain monogamous and Stephen was still polygamous, even in the model of what a kind of weiord community here in the Bay Area called “plyfidelity”…well, the problems have to do with differnt standards for who’s cool to have a multi-marriage, I guess.

        I’d heard it rumored that Margaret was a close relative of Lynn Nofziger, but that doesn;t push my conspiracy buttons at all. lots of folks in conservative politics wind up with relatives who go in another direction entirely. remmbeer when Newt Gingrich’s absolutely adorable porgressive-mionded lesbian half-sister surfaced at the height of Newt’s reactionary power-stuff with some strong ooinions about her prother;s policies and practices?

  2. Sharla said,

    March 3, 2009 at 7:49 am

    First blog I read after wakeup from sleep today!

    Mind Blowing!

  3. Don James said,

    March 6, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    I’ll see if I can dig up my postcard from the Farm to my mother in 1976, I’m pretty sure my brother mailed it to me when she died in 2000. The one thing I do remember about it was it was extremely naive. Stephen made some offhand comment about the farm attracting the “criminally naive” which over the years has made me laugh because it was so true in my case. I too hadn’t tried much meditation before The Farm, my lady and me had been going to a Satchidananda ashram in Denver for a month or two before we joined. We even bought meditation pajamas for the practice. Not very hippie, but it gave me a nice white shirt to wear when Stephen married us.

  4. Don James said,

    March 6, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    I’d just like to say that over the years I’ve heard all kinds of ideas about where it’s at and how to think about things and such and the best wisdom I’ve heard was really very simple and that was that it’s all about love. Now that’s so simple as to sound simple-minded, but it’s stuck with me over the years and I get bogged down in various things but that one thing seems to cut thru everything. It seems to be the only thing that you can really plug into that will get you above the smog.

  5. Judith said,

    March 7, 2009 at 12:26 am

    lyes, AND love in practice, call it spiritual or not, turns out o be more complicated than the simple flower-child thing we all want to believe. I’ve said elsewhere that at this point in life, I must say that my views are much closer to the quote that Dorothy Day, pacfist visionary founder of the Catholic Worker movement, so loved from Dostoyevsky; “Loe in reality is a harsh and dreadful thing, compared with love in our dreams.”

    I ike things mildly sweet i suppose, not oerwhelmingly saccharine. jsut brings up real experience inthe world: we;re all getting a bit too old to think it;s as simple as “all you need is love, love, love is all you need.” might be tue in the long run, but the run is longer than we may imagine.

    i’ve said elsewhere that we all learned we can’t banish all obstacles with a “spit spot!” like Mary Poppins, for those who read the onerful chidlren;s books about magic. That loe energy is real and it will indeed float ou above the clouds but it;s what to d when yo come down to earth that ultimately is the amtter of spiritual endeavor.

    at least that;s how it strikes me now.

  6. Karen said,

    March 15, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    I’ve been reading the 24 chapter history of Morningstar and Wheeler’s Ranch and I think: No wonder the Farm felt the need to have so many rules! The freedom of the 60s unleashed a lot of weirdness, no doubt — eating cats, and orgies, rapes, drunks and guns, etc. For a shy quiet female coming down from the North country to the Farm it the late 70s, the rules seemed too strict. It required some thought on whether I wanted to commit to that. My parents were strict, but basically dishonest. I guess I was looking for an honest place to live (still am), but if the Farm hadn’t laid down some rules, the crazies, the energy exploiters might have taken over and ruined the whole thing in a year.

  7. Cliff said,

    March 15, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Exactamundo, Karen. I had no experience living on an open commune, but apparently many of the Farm founders did, and word got around about Morningstar and Wheeler’s in particular. As Stephen described it, we wanted to be a community that would “keep the toilet paper dry.” I assumed that was literal, not just a metaphor. But I still found plenty of wet toilet paper in Farm outhouses.

  8. Don James said,

    March 16, 2009 at 11:41 am

    I put a couple of Farm videos on youtube. One of the Bronx Ambulance service. When you get to youtube, type in jameskan7 in the search window.

  9. Karen said,

    March 16, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Thanks Don, for the reference. I’ve looked at some YouTube videos about the Farm from the main site, but I’m glad to have more.

  10. March 23, 2009 at 3:26 am

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  11. Judith said,

    March 30, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    i checked out the footage Don posted. interesting, though it is inded raw footage…just recording things ‘as they lay” really.

    I;’ve been thinking about Karen’s remarks about the need for rules and the sense f ‘stricture” (okay, that’s my term, not one anyone else used) when it seems like there ar too many rules and :”agreements” that come down from Stephen’s received wisdom,or anywhere else rea
    it;s always a balancing act. somewhere between the let-it-roll of the wild Open Land and the extent to which the early Farm,especially, sought to figure absolutely every aspect of how people were to speak, eat, name their children, birth their babies, listen to music, treat their ailments; we work at finding that balance between the paths of utter discipline and utter abandon.

    I too often ask myself where I would have been happier, say, at Wheelers where everyone figured it out for themselves, sometimes with some real bizarreness arund, or on the Farm in the days when “Stephen had a true vision of the Universe and i laid all my bets on him” as Ina May put it. it;s both funny and poignant to read in accounts such as Voices from the farm that the :hey Beatnik” book rather “airbrushed” Farm life in the early years; I was barely out of high school when I read it and thought that the version of Farm life there sounded a bit harsh – even the tales in that earliestersion fo Spiritual midwifery spoke of a huge degree of ontrol which a non-farm midwife wol remark,”this works wellin a commnity of spiritual afreement, but if a male doctor were to come into o ouse and say and do some of these things, it would feel like gross interference.” I;d say the same about a female doctor, then again I try very hard tobent onlnon-sexist, but reallygender-ba;lancedin terms of what is or what is not tlerable.

    and then the other side is that SOmuch fo te expressed philosophy DID appeal to me greatly, in theory and in practice.

    i think the rigors of just how much people’s lives were circumscribed by the various rules about marriage and sexuality, about language,about medicine, abot technologies of various sorts, and especially about the truth-telling, up-in-your-stiff were a double edged sword for me. Cliff, was it YOU who said in the Whole Earth Review article that is was your father…someone’s father said it, anyway…who visited and commented that it was almost unbelievable how people would eat dinner together as friends and housemates, wash the dishes together, and then sit down and criticize each other’s weaknesses for their evening “program?”

    i don;t know that I, as a rather over-sensitive young woman, would have had the inner fortitude to take the ego-dismantling aspects of the farm. I had rather shaky self-esteem then, to use an old bromide but, like Karen and many others, the teachings made sense, and the practical knowledge that emerged from the Farm, on vegan foods, midwifery, fertility awareness, and a rather down-home, adpated-if-not-made-in-America approach to spiritual life, all really helped me along my path, which lke that of the Farmies was more about service to others than about disappearing into some ineffable spiritual New Age rhetoric.

  12. Karen said,

    March 31, 2009 at 6:48 am

    I think it was all about connection, as Stephen had said (attention) and relationship. I certaintly would not have wanted to connect with violent drunk gun toting males that would try to force sex on me, such as happened at Wheeler’s, etc. I would not have felt safe as a female there alone and would have felt pressured to pair up with some guy for safety — that’s bullying. I think it would have destroyed my shaky self esteem worse than the Farm, because the Farm was about improving yourself and being a better person, or at least trying to. Even when I visted, when I could look at people eye to eye, I saw a sincere connection. I think with time, I could have trusted and probably given back as good as I got, whether it was service or getting up in someone’s thing — a talent that I seem good at now! 🙂 Call it a critical nature, or whatever — its not much appreciated by anyone “out here” anywhere now, though! It seems like one is put down for criticizing business you are buying even, so the only recourse is to take one’s business and money elsewhere! No one seems to want to improve — they just want to take. That’s my view. Not all people are like that, of course, but the majority are. Perhaps thats human nature and what all the gurus and people who studied the gurus like Stephen and the Farmies saw and were trying to modify. Just be a better, more responsible person, they all said. At Wheeler’s and Morningstar, it was about “freedom”. But what’s freedom to one guy (freedom to rape, for example) is enslavement and violation to another person. I don’t think our society & our world understand this basic basic truth at all even now! …on any scale!

  13. Cliff said,

    March 31, 2009 at 9:13 am

    I find it so express my feelings about the Farm in hindsight, but here in Farmola I try to put myself back in the headspace I was in at the time. The tradeoff of being bound by many agreements on how we would live together vs our shared propensity toward freedom and outlawishness was resolved by being on the Farm. We could have pulled up and left, as many people did. But look at what we had – a huge, private preserve with no violence, no outside authorities, a blank slate for creating and innovating our lifestyle, relationships that were predominantly trustworthy and even loving. Add to that, a mission that we all recognized as being noble and in line with our spiritual philosophy. So, even with the occasional rub of Stephen’s supposed infallibility or lack of privacy or lack of comfort, I was in it for the adventure.

  14. judith said,

    March 31, 2009 at 9:29 am

    Cliff said: “here in Farmola I try to put myself back in the headspace I was in at the time.”
    and you are doing a fabulous job of it! again. almost any of us in our fifties and sixties look at those :younger cousins t ourselves’ that we were thirty o forty years ago, in a very different world besides, and try to make some sense of who we were and how we would be if a time machine dropped us back where we were. (there’s a Yiddish expression about how “the eyes in your tuchis are better than the eyes in your face.” they mean “hindsight” rather graphically!) I have expressed an interest in how it looked and felt toward the end of the collective church days and beyond, and I do still old to how some of the maturation of experience has to do with the changes any of us go through from living as working adults raising families and growing together and individually for twelve years.

  15. Karen said,

    March 31, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Yeah, I think the Farm did a better job of creating a society than society “at large”. Too bad about the “no dogs”, though. Dogs are my co-pilot as the bumper sticker says. I can’t imagine life without one at my side, especially in the woods. I’ve seen black bear, grizzly bear, moose, elk, deer, coyotes, wolves, and mountain lions with my dog, so that old fallancy about a dog chasing away wildlife isn’t always true. (We’ve also seen skunk, marmot, squirrels, birds, fish, etc., but they never seem to count when one is talking about “wildlife”). I guess I am basically a loner, too, but if I wanted to live in a community, the Farm was the one I wanted.

  16. Prema Rachel said,

    June 16, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Maybe I’m just a pollyanna, but having come from an anarchist community in Vermont to the Farm was wonderful in spite of my first winter (Wheatberry) I was soo excited to be on this enormous adventure with all these great people who were trying to create something that had such real possibility to me. It was only later, perhaps six years that I became disillusioned by the hierarchal system, especially when by 1979 it was openly discussed in many households, and (in my experience) vehemently denied by the powers that were. But still, the overall experience I would not have missed for the world. I became an adult there. I found real love there, and I came to love, honor and respect myself there. Such great gifts!

    • Judith said,

      June 17, 2009 at 4:24 pm

      hi prema rachel…good to hear your input.

      did you arrive at the Farm as a child, with your family? how old were you and how did you find the “kid culture” during your formative eyars?

      would love to hear more…

    • Judith said,

      June 17, 2009 at 4:28 pm

      hi prema rachel…good to hear your input.

      did you arrive at the Farm as a child, with your family? how old were you and how did you find the “kid culture” during your formative years?

      would love to hear more…

  17. June 30, 2009 at 8:48 am

    I think we crossed a line at the Farm when our “agreements”–which we could call that because we all saw things the same psychedelic way and agreed–became “‘rules” which were enforced on folks who had not had the same vision as we who founded the place. I never had any problems with these guidelines/agreements/rules, because of that….tho, once “the changeover” happened, and folks started using alcohol openly, my response was to start using LSD again…and I’m very glad I did, but that’s another story….

    • Judith said,

      June 30, 2009 at 10:21 am

      interesting, Martin, and it;s barely exaggeration to say that every sentence in this note of yours seems to beg “another story” which I;d love to ehar.

      personal observation over the decades decades leads me to thinkn that Dr ANdrew Weil is right: the nature of psychedelics makes them far more difficult to “abuse” than alcohol. few and far between are those who can keep the uses f fermented beverages spiritual/ceremonial and/or medicinal interesting footnote on all that is that while alcohol was prohibited for social/recreational uses on the pre-Changeover Farm, it WAs used as medicine (e.g., for halting premature labor and for making cough syrup during flu outbreaks – Stephen has even noted, in “Voices from the Farm,” that they ought moonshine from the locals at times to use for making cough syrup.

      the Agreements for the most part still make good sense to me. I said before I;m not really Technicolor AMish though I identify with the identification, so to spoeak – I’m Pantheist Adventist and their dietary uidelines and view of medicine work well for me…but anyway…looking forward to eharing your tales, martin. and whenb I;m done with this latest batch of ripe fruit that MUST be canned (or the home-brewers in the community work more of THEIR Pruno Magic on it…I’ll go through ELizabeth;s papers and get you some copies of your letters toher from the Farm.

      love, Judith

    • Karen said,

      July 3, 2009 at 9:07 am

      Martin, I think there is a good story in your statements, also. Perhaps on your own blog, you could write about in? I’ve already read Voices From the Farm. When I visited in 1979 or so, there was some discontent. People were talking openly and some of the folks I wanted to meet had already left; others were “off limits” it seems. I was still starry-eyed and not quite inclined to give up my idealistic views, but I was cautious enough to consider them and that may have been one of many reasons for my not staying.

      • Judith said,

        July 3, 2009 at 11:10 am

        Martin has a blog, and it’s blog is great! check it out if you haven’t…www.brothermartin.wordpress.com. the Deep Green perspective.

  18. July 3, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Thanks for the plug, altho my blog is concerned with current events, not my Farm experience. I’ve written a lot about the Farm, hundreds of pages, but did it all back in the early nineties and none of it is online….reviewing and revising it and putting it online, or between covers as a book, is one of my “one of these days” projects….I’d rather play music! http://brothermartin.dmusic.com/

    One commentary on the Farm that is available online is Craig Bialick’s “Heart at Work,” which critiques the community from a Vajrayana Buddhist perspective. You can find it at http://www.turtlehill.org/haw/intr.html

    I’ve read it a couple of times, in an earlier, limited-edition printing he did, and think he’s got a lot of good insight.

  19. Karen said,

    July 14, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Yes, I’ve been reading Martin’s blog. I also think it is so true that one’s “agreements” or spiritual ideas can become rules that then imprison one and harass non-conformers. It is so hard to keep a true vision and beliefs. Life changes one, hardens, batters, etc.

    • Prema Rachel said,

      July 20, 2009 at 4:27 pm

      I soo agree with this, Karen. When agreements become rules, or at least are taken on as rules in ones mind, everything we deal with changes as the ‘rules’ remove the need for thinking. I think it so important to distinguish between sound principles that guide ones path and ‘rules.’ My experience has been that those who follow rules tend not to grow spiritually or emotionally. I sometimes wonder if Stephen was not a ‘rules’ person. My personal experience of him, in looking back, was that he was not so much a ‘feeling’ kind of man. I never felt a personal warmth from him. I think he was a great thinker and a bit of a narcissist who thoroughly enjoyed his status and became quite invested in the idea that it was ‘his’ teachings and we were ‘his’ students and as such needed to toe the line or follow the ‘rules.’ Of course we all totally supported him in this. Lol.

  20. July 20, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    …which gets back to him not really having a teacher who would tell him when HE was getting out of line….the guy was taller than just about everybody, older than just about everybody, had a mouth on him, and started out, i think, genuinely smarter than the rest of us–but as Rachel sez, he got overly invested in being The Teacher…and when his shortcomings started to show up, it was, for better and worse, disillusioning for all of us who really did, in the beginning, totally support him. I think in some ways the Farm community has never recovered from following a guru who failed…

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