By Joe Kruse
We came up with “The Rye House” because the first thing we planted as a community was rye as a cover crop over our plot in a community garden down the street. We feel that the plant is a symbol of our genesis. We also chose rye because in it is most commonly used as a green manure crop that is plowed back into the soil to strengthen the soil and provide it with nutrients. The sacrificial nature of rye and the way it often exists to benefit the whole are themes we hope to emulate as a community. Rye has also historically been a crop grown and eaten by starving people in times of drought. We feel that this communitarian lifestyle provides us with sustenance in a society seeped in individualism and controlled by the personal accumulation of the dollar. We believe that, like rye, a strong sense of community with each other and those around us can carry us through these often starving and challenging times.
Adapted from the beautiful Izzy Darby-
Check her out at www.veganizzm.com
Makes 7-8 cups
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cups sweet potato puree
6 cups vegetable stock or water+veg bouillon
2 cups water
1/2 cup canned crushed tomato
1 cup dried lentils (soak 1 hour beforehand)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Teaspoons curry paste
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
3 cups chopped kale (can be sautéed for 3-5 mins
ahead of time with garlic for a lil extra flavor!)
1. Heat a large pot over a medium flame and add the olive oil and minced garlic. Sauté a couple minutes until it is lightly browned. Add the pumpkin puree, vegetable stock, water, crushed tomato, lentils, lemon juice, and spices.
2. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. You may need to add a bit extra water if it looks like it is getting very thick (like applesauce or denser) or starts to burn. Once the lentils are cooked, add the kale and cook an additional 5-7 minutes.
3. Om nom nom!
(Written in September 2011)
By Joe Kruse
We have finally all moved to Minneapolis. It was a process that took about a month. First Ruthie came, then myself, then Emily shortly after, and lastly Seth about three days ago. Finally living together and being able to lay the foundation for our community is exhilarating to say the least. There is a palpable joy when we are all together.
We are living with a woman named Lynne Mayo in the Phillips neighborhood.* We rent rooms from her in her big old house for an ultra-reduced rate for doing work in her gardens and around the house. She is amazing. Her wisdom about gardening, the neighborhood, and community is deep. I know that she will teach us multitudes.
Near the house is a community garden that Lynne and a few neighbors started. It’s the size of two house plots. The houses that used to stand there were razed by arsonists when violent gang activity spiked in the 1990’s. Now a place that emblemized the hopelessness that is the product of our wrecked systems is wrapped in grape vines and raspberry bushes. Where violence, the derivative of systemic oppression, once crept like a noxious weed is now layered with rich, dark soil.
One of the first things Ruthie and I did when we moved in early September was become members of the garden and receive a plot of our own. When Emily came she and I prepared the bed. We double dug it, and planted cover crops and a few vegetables we are hoping may grow before the first hard frost. I grew to love our plot. It was the first garden of my own. I relished the morning waterings and how clean the dirt felt.
One afternoon I walked to the garden to water our plants. I neared our plot expecting to see green sprouts reaching through the dirt. Instead I saw fifty small foot-shapes embedded into our once perfectly aerated soil. Our plot had been trampled. Above our plot were a few squash from someone else’s garden that had been smashed underneath the same little feet. I was heartbroken. From what I could make out, neighborhood kids, fueled by the insatiable drive to cause mischief (an impulse I remember well), decided to have a dance party on our seedlings. I eventually found space in my heart for forgiveness. It didn’t’ take long, about a half hour. It seems that kids are really easy to forgive.
I thought that was the end of our gardening days for 2011. There was no way that anything was going to grow after the rapture. But, when I checked the garden a couple days ago, to my immense joy, little sprouts were crawling skyward through the size-six Nike imprints. I was thrilled. Our garden, like Mark Wallberg in his recent blockbuster, is a fighter.
So we will grow with our garden this Fall. We will learn how to live and love each other in community. We will construct goals that will stick with us as we build a group of people full-heartedly trying to live in unconditional love. We will grow through destruction, we will be resilient and ready.
*We have since moved out of Lynne’s house and into a place of our own.
By Seth Graham
If you’ve lost the spark of being human
Apathy’s set your gaze to ruin
Is there a way back?
The Child saw the world for what it is
And the cynic was born
But we can bring the dreamer back!
Just as the dead can rise, we’ll make them realize
Not just animal, but something divine
Like no other we can swell up inside
Emotions fill us with no place to go
Then tears fall down as we overflow
Remember our sins so we don’t repeat them
Don’t look to long or you won’t beat them
It is grace that we have and grace we must give
But none of this matters if we can’t forgive
Let us do something new, write our own history
Because we can’t move forward until we remember life’s mystery
That is in each of us…something sets us apart.
When we choose to believe that we’re no more than cells
We’ll be eternally trapped in those societal hells
So, close the eyes in the back of your head
They distract us from the work we should do instead
Keep your mind right when the day begins
And you will lie in peace when the day ends
It’s not about how big or bold you can be
It’s plan and simple, L.O.V.E.
By Emily Duma
There have been few times that my toes have been colder than they usually are around 6:15pm on Thursdays and Fridays. That’s generally the time that I get back from the Amen Corner, after 2 hours of neighbor-meeting, soup sharing, and listening.
Ruthie, Joe, Seth and I have spent the last several weeks cooking soup for a Ventura Village Neighborhood Initiative called the Amen Corner. The Amen Corner has run every Thursday and Friday at Peavey Park’s “Thrones Plaza” since July. It has created a space for many to express what is on their hearts and minds, a safe place for gathering, exchanging ideas and opinions, venting frustration, expressing joys and fears, and discovering and building community. It was originally a reaction – police had decided that the corner of Chicago and Franklin (just 3 blocks from our little Rye House) was a hotbed of crime and drugs, and were going to “fix” the problem through increase patrolling and installation of massive spotlights. However, for many people in our neighborhood, increased policing does not mean increased safety, and therefore a diverse group of neighbors (all sizes and colors and ages) came together to create a different solution.
They decided to rely on the community to create the change. The name “Amen Corner” is not linked to religion, but instead is a reference to a James Baldwin play and the African American spiritual tradition to yell “AMEN!” whenever you hear something that particularly resonates with who you are and where you are at. Setting up a microphone, speakers and a grill, a small but dedicated group of volunteers created a intentional space and time for sharing stories and food, and yelling “Amen!” in celebration every time something worth supporting or working towards was said.
The response was remarkable. In the first 17 weeks alone, 258 people signed up for follow-up involvement in the neighborhood, and it was estimated that over 2000 people were affected. Even more, you can feel the difference in the corner. What was once a collection of bus stops and transient passers-by has now been reclaimed by the community. Kids climb on the mosaic’d chairs surrounding the stage area, clearly comfortable (as they should be!) in their park space. Even the Minneapolis Police force was impressed – since the Amen Corner project began, crime at Peavy Park has been the lowest in twenty years.
I was introduced to the project by our dear friend and near-constant dinner guest Jason Rodney, a fantastically dedicated Phillips neighborhood resident who has been involved with the project since the beginning. He invited me to stop by one day when volunteers were low, and after hearing neighbors share songs, stories, revelations, poetry, and even a particularly insightful greeting card, I was hooked. I started going every Thursday and Friday and attending planning meetings, but it was Joey who really came up with the idea of real Rye House involvement.
For the first 17 week, hotdogs were grilled and served up with juice and chips – a definite draw for some passers by. Now that it was getting cold, hotdogs weren’t going to be as fitting. We as a house have always talked about doing community dinners, and what better place to do them then alongside this homegrown safety initiative? Starting in mid-November, we were the official cooks of the Amen Corner.
Generally, this meant coffee, cocoa, bread and massive pots of soup – we cooked for 40 every Thursday and Friday, and consistently served close to that. From Baked Potato Stew to Curried Sweet Potato and Lentil (our favorite – recipe below), to Three-Bean Chili and French Onion, our soup was always vegetarian and as locally sourced as possible. We tried to make the soup meet our ethic without compromising general likeability. And I think we succeeded – people gave complements in exchange for seconds.
However, it seems strange to talk about the Amen Corner in terms of what we gave, because what’s’ transformative about this project is how much you can receive in just 2 hours. Some folks show up with thoughts or things to give, and other folks come with needs to be filled. The Amen Corner is a literal point in the community where people can connect and ask, “What do you need that I might have?” or “Here’s what I need; do any of you have that?” The Amen Corner allowed me to meet my neighbors, to learn how to talk to people whose experiences were radically different than mine, to find common ground, and to learn to relish in the things we don’t share. It helped me feel comfortable walking around my neighborhood, and introduced me to friends who are grandfathers and grandkids, friends who have lived here their whole lives and others who are recent transplants like me.
Ultimately, I see the Amen Corner as being about recovery. Although not always stated so simply, almost everyone who came was recovering from something. Whether it was from substance abuse, a disconnection to one’s neighbors or a deep need to ask for or share something on our hearts and minds, so many of us found personal rehabilitation (and the relationships to sustain it) on Thursdays and Fridays. I certainly did. However, even more than that, I see the Amen Corner’s effect as going beyond that. Phillips is a NEIGHBORHOOD in recovery – recovery from history, from violence, from drugs, and from an overwhelming lack of power to make change in our community. Together, we have the solutions for all these, but it is only through open, honest sharing and a whole, healed community that we will be able to get there. The Amen Corner is one small, but significant step in the right direction, and it has been an honor to be a part of it.
So, if you’re ever in Minneapolis on a Thursday or Friday from 4-6, feel free to stop by. We’d love to slop you up a cup of soup and hear what you have to say. And if you’ve got a great soup recipe that you want to pass on, please send it! We’re always looking for new ideas to fill bellies. Amen to all you lovely readers – thanks for listening.
By Joe Kruse
prairie ocean, golden and rippled, stretched from end to end
made tight like the skin of a drum
deep and violent and cold
the breath of the land
is a mammoth, inaudible sound
my buddy and I engrave new veins in the grass
November beards, chest waders, and a 12 gauge
a crucifix with a trigger
the decoys are set, given to life
we stay. we wait.
hour one, jokes, laughter, warmth
hour two, conversation, depth, cold
hour three, silence, the holy spirit
God is stripped into my world, fragmented among the rocks.
I see it only rarely and only unexpectedly.
But when I do, how will I know it, how will I embrace it, how will I cultivate it?
How do I swim in the Prairie and drown into God?
By Ruth Cole
I have always been a very visual person. When I decide to make or do something whether it be a baked item, a lesson plan, or a life decision, I get a picture of what it will look like. This summer when I made the choice to direct my life to live in community, I definitely had a picture painted in my mind of what that would look like.
Within the first month of moving to Minneapolis, starting my new jobs, and getting to know my community members I began to realize that the image I had in my mind could not be my goal or “vision”. I have learned through prayer, meditation, and active listening to some very spiritually devoted individuals that I cannot be in control of this journey. The mind set to “let go and let God” is one that has come in and out of my life, but it has never been a competency.
In visiting communities something that I treasured was the ability of community members to treat each other like family. It was incredible to see individuals make dinner for each other and have concern and consideration for each other like members of a family do. These Catholic Worker and intentional community houses exposed an alternative type of committed relationships. These community relationships are bonded by callings, faith, inner challenges, ideas, and hopes for the greater community. Society promotes marriage and family to be the most acceptable choices for life commitment. The idea of sharing finances, a household, emotional journeys, spiritual reflections, life work, and daily actions of love with a person outside of your family is a radical idea. The spiritual intimacy and deep love that I was witness to in these communities, is what I was hoping for in my choice. That image of community is an image that cannot be predicted. It is an aspect of community living that is the most fulfilling to me.
Recently our community received news of deep sorrow in the loss of a life of a dear friend of Emily’s. It is in times of deep need that we are most able to see and fill the needs of others. In the past weeks I have bared witness to the unconditional love and servanthood that was modeled for us this summer in my own community.
In September I was anxious about how four individuals could come to love and care for each other in the ways that a family does, that Jesus taught us to do, without being family and without having the familial obligations that society promotes. As we enter the new year, I feel more able, more confident, and more comforted in the support system, the relationships, the love, and the family that has blossomed in our community. As it has been said, “We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community” (Dorothy Day).
By Emily Duma
I am still learning how to talk.
Learning just how much “oooh” fits into my Minnesotan “so”
Learning how to complement a chicken for laying its first egg.
Learning how to sluff off my day job after a long day of work.
How to say I love you.
I’m 23, and I’m just learning how to talk.
I’m learning how to say hello.
How to really SAY it, how to mean it so much that its tangible.
How to convey “you are welcome here” no matter what you bring. No matter what’s holding you down or lifting you up.
I’m learning how to say hello.
Learning how to meet my neighbors.
How to talk to strangers, how to make children giggle.
How to create safety, how to be community.
I’m learning how to get angry.
Learning how to share that without pain, without suffering. Without guilt
How to say goodbye to my anger as it wanders away, replaced with a laugh or a lunch or a nap.
I’m learning how to say no.
I’m learning how to ask someone if they’ll stay for dinner.
If they’ll pass the peas (Or the pad thai. Or the pirogis.)
I’m just starting to learn how to fit everything I’m grateful for into that small, handheld space right before dinner.
I’m learning to be okay with letting things go unsaid.
How to speak with my breath and my body and my actions.
Learning how to listen.
Hello. Welcome. No. Yes. Please. I love you.
I am only just now learning how to talk.
“It has to start somewhere, It has to start somehow…”
By Seth Graham
The Rye House was dreamed up while we were traveling and exploring the vast United States and its many beautiful communities. We learned from many wise and incredible people who had spent much of their lives living intentionally in community as well as from people who were also very fresh to this lifestyle. The summer of 2011 was spent on the road learning from, experiencing, and enjoying different communities throughout the U.S. The many stays affected our decisions and outlooks on community. We are indebted to all the friends that took us in over the course of the summer and we hope to stay connected with you all as we begin our own journey here in Minneapolis.
In the months leading up to that summer Joe Kruse and I began our talks of a trip around the U.S. For me, the idea began as a trip to see how vast, beautiful, and diverse this country was. I wanted to experience the different regions, cultures, peoples, foods, etc. Joe was interested in doing the same, but he also wanted to visit Catholic Worker houses and other intentional communities to take part in their social justice actions. We were also interested in possibly finding a community to live with for the next few years or so. We joined forces and made the thing happen. I’m sure taking off work, or quitting work, and traveling around the country is an appealing idea to many. We were just fortunate enough to have the freedom and privilege to do so. And it wasn’t just the two of us! Joe’s friend Ruthie Cole heard of the expedition and followed suit. She would spend the first month of her summer traveling in a smelly car with two guys.
This first month was spent on the East coast. Before I arrived, Joe and Ruthie met up in New York state to do some WWOOFing north of Syracuse at a farm that was also a Catholic Worker. New York was a great place to begin our visits to Catholic Workers. The St. Francis Farm, Friends of Dorothy in Syracuse, and the Peter DeMott Catholic Worker in Ithica showed us unbelievable hospitality. We carried a directory with us and tried to call communities in advance but in some cases we didn’t give much notice. But still, they invited us in without hesitation. We began to witness the many acts of mercy and aspects of simple love that would inspire us to begin our own intentional community.
When I met Joe and Ruthie in Syracuse they were waiting anxiously and they already had big ideas brewing. As soon as I walked off the train they asked me if I wanted to start an intentional community with them. Without much thought of what that might mean I said yes to the proposition. I should add that this was the first time I had met Ruthie in person. So our mentality changed from “maybe we’ll find a community to stay with for a while” to “We’re going to start our own community!” This was new for all of us but especially Ruthie, but she fell in love with the way hospitality was done in Syracuse at the Friends of Dorothy Catholic Worker. Now we needed to start asking a lot of questions during our visits and needed to start learning from the different models we saw. All together we stayed with about 15 Catholic Worker Houses, about 5 other intentional communities, a couple WWOOFing farms, and some of our friends who lived on the planned route. The diversity of our travels ranged from New York City’s Mary House which has a deep history, the PAPA Fest gathering outside of Philadelphia on a potato chip farmer’s land, the dry-heat and monsoon season of Tucson working with social justice advocates for immigrants’ rights, and beautiful camping spots like the Redwoods and Glacier National Park. It was an unforgettable summer.
After leaving the East Coast and heading south we met up with some friends in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee to camp for a few days. There, we recruited our fourth community member, Emily Duma. Joe and I knew Emily from a study abroad program in Kenya during college. She was very interested in how our summer was playing out and what our plans were for after the travels. Ruthie was departing soon to head home to Oklahoma. In a short car ride from the Smokies to the airport in Johnson City, Tennessee to drop Ruthie off, Joe and Ruthie convinced Emily that our community idea was the right choice for her immediate future and that she would contribute greatly, especially in the area of urban agriculture because food is her expertise. And it was done, our little trio grew one more strong!
There was much planning and learning to be done. Emily travelled back to Wisconsin to finish with her previous commitments. Ruthie did the same in Oklahoma and New Jersey. In August Ruthie moved in with Joe’s parents in La Crosse, Wisconsin so she would be close to Minneapolis and begin looking for work and houses. Emily also looked for houses and other ways to get connected to Minneapolis. Joe and I circumnavigated the continental U.S. Our journey after the Smokies took us to rural Alabama, Birmingham, New Orleans, Tucson, LA, San Francisco, the Redwoods, Portland, Tacoma, Seattle, Spokane, Glacier, and finally…. Minneapolis. The Catholic Workers and other intentional communities along the way shared much wisdom with us and were a necessary support. This network of communities is very special to us and we are glad to have met all of them.
If only life could be spent celebrating, eating great food, and catching those glimpses of nature’s sublimity with the people we love. But there comes a time to work. That is what we are doing now in Minneapolis. We want to give back as much as we were given to all summer. We are finding our place here and the different ways we can help out in our greater community of South Minneapolis. The Rye House is a baby community just taking its first steps. It is a very exciting time and we are very thankful to all that influenced us over the course of the past summer. If anyone we stayed with this past summer happens to be in Minneapolis please get a hold of us. We would love to return the hospitality. The same goes to anyone else who has read this newsletter or knows of us otherwise.