The Back-to-the-land Movement, February 1970-September 1970

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By March Helen Gilbert, Wayne Myers and Judy Wapp had left the commune. Ragnarokr owned a debt of $500 to its suppliers. The incident with Helen Gilbert ended the open door policy under which anyone who wanted to work in the shop was allowed to do so. Hereafter craftspeople are admitted to the commune by invitation only. The remaining group, consisting of Philip Mullins, Steve Spring and Mary and Randy Rauton, continued to pursue their dream of building a community in the country. They invited George Mullins and Madelyn Averette to join them in buying a rural property. (George is Philip's brother.) In December 1970 Steve Spring traveled to Golden Lake in Renfrew County to visit Barry and Sue Woolaver and in March Philip and Mary made a trip to Madonna House in Renfrew County to see the area themselves.

Philip’s brother George and George’s friend Madelyn Averitte were already living on a hippie farm. In November 1969 they moved from the city of Eugene, Oregon to a communal farm called “the Mud Farm”. By March Madelyn was making and selling tie-dye clothing and the Mud Farm began to support itself by supplying Eugene’s first co-operative grocery store with homemade bread, soap, homegrown herbs and vegetables. George learned to collect and sell “cascara bark” from wild Buckthorn trees. In the spring of 1970 Ragnarokr leather shop in Toronto invited the four residents of the Mud Farm to join them in its back-to-the-land project.

By May 1970 Jimmy and Pat Wilson of the Yellow Ford Truck and two other groups in the Baldwin Street community are also ready to buy land in the country. The four craftsmen at the Ragnarokr leather shop had saved $700 by depositing all checks received by the business into a savings account and by operating the business on cash receipts. By June 1970 they had $1,000 in the bank for buying land. In early July 1970 Madelyn began to send tie-dyed clothes from the Mud Farm for sale in the Ragnarokr store. The proceeds from the sale of the clothing were deposited in a fund for the purchase of land. In late July George and Madelyn packed up their belongings, drove to Toronto from Oregon in a VW beetle and joined the Ragnarokr commune.

When the Chinese owners of the building at 11 Baldwin Street sold the building in July, the leather shop moved to 33 Baldwin Street. The barn-board retail display and the long, wooden work tables in the leather workshop at 11 Baldwin were carried piece-by-piece to the new storefront and reassembled. The leather shop occupied the storefront and the middle room upstairs was made into a workshop. The monthly rent on the new building was $300. Steve and Mary Burdick from Florida moved into the large upstairs front room overlooking Henry Street and Steve Spring moved to an apartment on Spadina Avenue.

In September the parents of George and Philip Mullins arrived for their third annual visit to Toronto. A pair of misical instrument makers who lived near the village of Clarendon Station (north of Kingston in Frontenac County) learned that the leather shop was looking for land and the wife invited the leather shop to share their land. The Mullins group, including Mary Rauton and Madelyn Averitte, traveled there to examine the property and spent a week camped on the Graff’s place. After examining the property thoroughly and after several disagreeable visits with the owners, the two groups agreed that they were not compatible. George and Hazel Mullins returned to Lousiana and the Ragnarokr group returned to the shop in Toronto.

The narrative continues at The Business of the Leather Shop, November 1970-December 1971

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