Deborah Frieze

Deborah Frieze

Deborah Frieze is an author, entrepreneur and social activist. As former co-president of The Berkana Institute, Deborah joined Berkana to support pioneering leaders who were walking out of organizations and systems that were failing to contribute to the common good—and walking on to build resilient communities. These leaders are the subject of her book, Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now, co-authored with Margaret Wheatley. Walk Out Walk On has received the 2011 Terry McAdam Book Award and a 2012 Nautilus Silver Book Award for Social Change.

Deborah is co-founder and managing partner of the Boston Impact Initiative, which partners with businesses and organizations throughout our city to create systemic shifts in opportunities for urban communities. She is also founder of the Old Oak Dojo.

Growing Mushrooms

Posted on June 2, 2014

It couldn’t be easier. Find some fresh hardwood logs. Drill holes an inch or so deep, fill the holes with mushroom spore, seal with wax and leave in a shaded place. A year from now, we’ll get our first crop of  mushrooms, followed by another every six months for 5 to 7 years. How about that?
Thanks to our neighbor Dan Bensonoff and a half dozen curious mycophiles, we are now proud cultivators of Shiitake mushrooms. The technique Dan showed us has been in use throughout the far east for at least 1,000 years and is well-adapted to our climate. Come check it out next spring!

The Community That Plants Together…

Posted on May 28, 2014


Food is a catalyst for bridging difference and bringing people together to create healthy and resilient communities. That’s why urban agriculture is such an important activity at the Old Oak Dojo. But we’ve faced two big challenges: contaminated soil and limited sunshine.

With the help of our permaculture friends at Restoring Roots gardening, we’ve constructed four large raised beds from cinder blocks and filled them with soil, compost and mulch from local sources. Now we’re ready to plant our second year of shade-tolerant crops.

Friends and neighbors from Jamaica Plain and beyond joined us on Sunday, May 25th to plant tons of vegetables, flowers and herbs. Better still, we met new friends, had great conversations, enjoyed the gorgeous weather and ate yummy snacks together. Thanks for joining us!

Fruiting Up the Place

Posted on April 27, 2014

food forest

Ever tasted a juneberry? How about a serviceberry? Ever seen a pie berry tree? Do you know this difference between currants, gooseberries and jostaberries?

We planted our paw-paws last fall. This time we’re creating a fruiting food forest with the guidance of Restoring Roots gardeners Noah, Cheryl and Karen. They’re teaching us about soil amendment, positioning and planting fruiting trees and shrubs.We’ll put in low- and high-bush blueberry, a dwarf plum tree, currants and more. Then we’ll wait…

Who wants to help us make jam about a year from now?

Practicing Parkour

Posted on April 14, 2014


The Old Oak Dojo has attained a new level of coolness. Remember that scene in Casino Royale where Daniel Craig chases some dude who launches himself off rooftops and bounces from wall to wall? The guy he’s chasing is one of the early developers of parkour, the art of moving smoothly through any environment, negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing. The Old Oak Dojo is partnering with Parkour Generations to launch a series of  classes where students train to develop strength, speed, endurance, precision, spatial awareness, dynamism, and creativity.

We’ve built scaffolding in our backyard to support skills training. Add that to the slackline and climbing rope, and we’ve got a real playground!

The Great Compost Toilet Debate

Posted on March 26, 2014

Clivus Multrum compost toilet

Clivus Multrum compost toilet

On September 4, 2013, I sat in the Board Meeting Room at 1000 Washington St. waiting for a verdict from the Board of State Examiners of Plumbers and Gas Fitters: Would or wouldn’t the State of Massachusetts approve an indoor compost toilet for the Old Oak Dojo?

The answer came 30 minutes later: “Unapproved.”


The motion to approve our variance was denied. The motion to deny our variance was denied. Ah, the drama, the dialogue, the fear present in that room… Concerns about finger-pointing, neighbors, rats, innovation… A split vote… Another split vote… A final surrender to maintaining the status quo… Suffice it to say we modern, civilized humans live in terror of our own bodily waste.

It took another six months before we finally received our second hearing date of March 26. We headed back to 1000 Washington St., fingers crossed on behalf of all of Boston’s anti-sewer-sludge-pro-humanurists. This case is for precedent.

This morning, our ablutionary purgatory has finally ended. We are now official recipients of Variance 6-1 — setting a new precedent of the approval of indoor compost toilets in the City of Boston.

We can’t wait to invite you all to deposit your treasures in our facilities.

The Taste of Trees

Posted on March 18, 2014

sugar maple

This past weekend, our friend Sage Radachowsky posted on Facebook that he was tapping trees, but bemoaned the fact that he had access only to Norway maples rather than Sugar maples. Generally speaking, the taste is equal — it’s just that it takes 60 litres of Norway maple sap to get 1 litre of syrup, whereas with Sugar maples, it takes on 40 litres.

Meantime, I’d been thinking: “Who can we find to tap our Sugar Maple, since I’m away right now?” And thus a match was made.

We now have a bucketful of sap, which Aaron has been dipping into from time to time to sample its raw flavor. He says it tastes woody and sweet, and goes down with an electrolyte buzz like coconut water. Delish.


Playing with Weightlifters

Posted on February 26, 2014

InnerCity Weightlifting visit

Yesterday, the crew from InnerCity Weightlifting stopped by the Old Oak Dojo for 90 minutes of messing around. We practiced push-up handstands, stumbled across the slackline, knocked each other over playing push-hands and competed to see who could freehand all the way up (and down) the climbing rope without getting rope burn. It was the first of what we hope will become many visits with these strong and engaging young men.

InnerCity Weightlifting is a non-profit organization whose mission is to reduce violence and promote professional, personal and academic achievement among urban youth. They work with young people at the highest risk for violence in order to reduce youth violence by getting students off the streets and into the gym, where they are empowered with the confidence and positive support needed to say no to violence and yes to opportunity. Watch video on ESPN.

The Healing Properties of Chopping Wood

Posted on December 6, 2013

chopping wood

It was your average early winter day in New England. Seven bearded scruffy men appeared yesterday at the Old Oak Dojo for Aaron’s Morning Practice, and they lingered afterward just long enough to be pulled into service. Two hours later, our wood had been chopped, our late fall crop of kale had been eaten, and seven pairs of hands were seen rubbing aching shoulders after swinging on the climbing rope and falling off the slackline.

If you ever start to feel the winter blues, please stop by — nothing is more restorative than physical play, a little laughter and a stellar cup of hot chocolate.

Honey Harvest

Posted on November 8, 2013

honey harvest

Aaron and Jasper harvest honey using an extractor

It was easy. We built them a home and left them alone. Months later, our beautiful bees have blessed and impressed us with more honey then we could have hoped for.

Unfiltered, raw, cold-packed, powerful, rough, refined, rustic, deep, dark and delicious… Thank you, Old Oak Dojo bees! And thanks also to Sage, Mark,Bill Perkins and Anish Shaw for supporting us along the way.

New England’s Tropical Fruit

Posted on October 2, 2013


Betcha didn’t know that we New Englanders have our very own tropical fruit. (Well, perhaps tropical-like would be more accurate.) Read More »