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If this is your first time here…

Skyfish Mid-Process

by Raven Cotyledon

Thumbs has already detailed the story of the early construction work on Skyfish, at East Brook Community Farm, including how a fish actually fell from the sky and thus named the building, in an earlier Commune Life post.

I visited East Brook Community Farm on my way to the FEC assembly and toured the farm.  I was intrigued by Skyfish.

From the outside it looks finished:

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Skyfish from in front
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The side of Skyfish from the hillside next to it

The back of it is especially colorful:

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The back of Skyfish
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A closer look

There are some lovely details:

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Left door
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Window in door from inside

But inside the building is a different story:

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Sarah from East Brook and unfinished interior
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Work bench
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Insulation
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Ceiling and vents

Sarah told me that they hope to finish Skyfish this spring and it will provide housing for new community members.

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us!

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards

  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
  • Bryan Utesch
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft

Thanks!

Skyfish Mid-Process

The Economics of Cooperation

The Economics of Cooperation

by Boone

At East Wind we reap the benefits of cooperation. Because we work together, we are able to achieve a lifestyle of leisure and comfort while spending far less money than the national average. Let’s get right into the numbers (the following numbers are based on our fiscal year 2016-17, specifically July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017. As far as expenditures go, this year is representative of East Wind’s operating costs.)

Population:

It is probably impossible to come up with an accurate average population count at East Wind. Members leave East Wind and drop membership to pursue other opportunities, and new members are constantly joining. Members often leave the farm, sometimes for extended periods. At the same time, there are pretty much always non-members – visitors, and guests of members – on the farm whom we are feeding and clothing and who may or may not be contributing labor. To avoid even attempting to address this problem I will be using our population cap, which we were at for the year in question, of 73 members as our population count. This is slightly misleading as we do not have 73 full members and there are benefits such as full health coverage that only full members receive, but fairly accurate as most of the benefits of living at East Wind are shared by everyone living here.

Labor:

Click here for a full description of East Wind’s labor system. Something not mentioned there is the many vacations we East Winders enjoy. While our weekly labor quota is 35 hours per week, once a month we have a holiday, and quota is reduced by 8 hours for the week the holiday falls in. Members also get the same 8 hour quota reduction for their birthdays. Every year members get three weeks worth of hours (105) on their anniversary as a ‘paid vacation.’

As a community we worked 101,798.9 hours for this year. Bear in mind that the following does not truly reflect our average working week but instead is a rough approximation based on the idealized population of 73 members. As mentioned above, East Winders will leave the farm for sometimes significant amounts of time. Furthermore, outside of the winter months we always have visitors and guests here who contribute labor to our community. These caveats noted, our total hours divided by 73 members and 52 weeks works out to 26.8 hours per member per week.

Food:

I cannot even begin to describe how well we eat here at East Wind. Every night at 6 our cooks put out dinner for community. The deliciousness and variety is continually amazing. Our cooks serve all different styles of meals: Thai, Southern, Mexican, Indian, Italian, barbeque, or just good ol’ meat and potatoes. Lunch is often put out at noon, usually consisting of leftovers and maybe a fresh dish or two. We are also free to cook whatever we want for ourselves at any time. During the summer there’s fresh produce from the garden, and there’s always cold raw milk on tap and freshly baked bread to eat. We buy things to eat that we don’t produce ourselves such as avocados, pasta, fruits year round, and chocolate chips. Desserts often just appear on the serving counter at night. You have to eat here to really understand, but I’d say we eat better than just about anybody. And we do it while spending way less on food per person than just about anybody. Our successful ranch, dairy, garden, and food processing programs contribute greatly to this low cost, high quality food.

Food Costs for a year:

Buying food: $81,138

Kitchen Supplies: $3,770

Food Processing (meat and veggie): $2,362

Garden: $5,639

Ranch & Dairy: $25,005

Water: $207

Total: $118,121

Total food cost per person per month comes to $134.84

We are able to keep our food costs so low because we provide a good chunk of our food for ourselves, outside of the money economy. And we of course do all our own preparation. The following breaks down how much time we spend growing, preserving, and preparing our own food.

Kitchen = 12,826.3 hours

Food processing = 4,381.2 hours

Garden = 5,677.2 hours

Ranch & Dairy = 11,178.8 hours

Meal Preparation:

One of my favorite things about East Wind is that every single night I get to enjoy a delicious, fresh, home-cooked meal. Before living at East Wind I would cook for myself, but with hardly any variety because I am a lazy cook. Cooking for one or two just always seemed so inefficient. Here that’s obviously not the situation. If we say that East Wind prepares about eleven community meals a week (seven dinners and four lunches) then we only spend .3 hours per person per meal. That level of efficiency is only possible in cooperative living. I guess you could pop something in the microwave and have it be ready in less than 18 minutes, but there is absolutely no comparison between our freshly made, many-dished meals and frozen microwave dinners. This .3 hours per person per meal also includes cleaning and all the ancillary chores associated with maintaining a kitchen like stocking and ordering food (which would be shopping for those in the mainstream).

Food Production:

I asked our incredible Food Processing manager if she had any numbers on our food production for the past year, and boy did she.

Veggies:

The following list is what we put up from our garden production in 2016. We certainly consumed much more than this, but there’s no way to know how much. A key thing to keep in mind is that the following was produced by our gardens and food processing kitchen. Our veggies are of the highest quality. We use completely natural methods here at East Wind, and you cannot get any more local. We use nothing artificial; no fossil fuel fertilizers, no pesticide, no GMO seeds, etc.

  • 100 gal. Tomato Sauce
  • 25 gal. Pickled Peppers
  • 10 gal. Roasted and Tomatillo Salsas
  • A small chest freezer’s worth of Strawberries
  • Two large chest freezers’ worth of Corn, Okra, Pesto, Sweet Peppers, Eggplant, Summer Squash, and more
  • 100’s of lbs. of Beets and Carrots
  • 3,000+ lbs. of Squash and Sweet Potato
  • ~2,000 lbs. of Potatoes

Dairy:

We have a fantastic dairy program here and milk 3-6 cows twice a day, every day. Our cows are treated extremely well, and like our garden, are natural. They are grass fed and we don’t use hormones. This year, they produced ~34,000 lbs. of raw milk (~4000 gals.). We drink a good portion of this. What we can’t drink we turn into butter, cheese, and yogurt. In 2016, we made ~150 lbs. of the most delicious butter I have ever had. Our butter is a rich yellow, so different from what you can find in stores. We also produced ~1,500 lbs. of all different varieties of raw cheese. In our processing we use no pasteurization, which maintains all the healthy probiotics native to raw milk.

Meat:

Like everything else at East Wind, our meat animals are all natural and raised with love. We use no hormones or antibiotics, nor herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers on our pastures. Something that truly sets East Wind apart is our meat processing. We do everything ourselves. Our animals are raised, cared for, slaughtered, butchered, preserved (naturally, not artificially), and eaten all within a quarter mile radius. You cannot get more local.

We didn’t keep the most detailed records of our meat production for 2016, so the numbers that follow are averages.

6-12 Pigs @ 100lb. yield        900lbs. pork

2 Hogs @ 400lb. yield            800lbs. pork

3 cows @ 300lb. yield            900lbs. Beef

Eggs:

We have numerous egg layers in two mobile chicken tractors, and get an ample supply of farm eggs every day. The difference between our farm eggs and those we purchase is stark, the yolks of our farm eggs are a rich, dark, orange color, while those of our purchased eggs are a pale yellow. It goes to show that malnourished chickens produce malnourished eggs.

Medical Care:

East Wind provides medical coverage to the best of our ability for full members, including vision and dental. Our total medical expenditure came to $50,138. This works out to $686.82 per member per year. Compare this with the national average: “A 2015 Employer Health Benefits Survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that employer-sponsored family healthcare insurance premiums cost $17,545 annually, and the average worker contributed $1,071 for single coverage and $4,955 for family coverage per year.”

We also create a ton of our own medicine from herbs we grow in our herb gardens. These include salves, tinctures, tea blends, and more. Our healthy, active lifestyle further contributes to lower medical costs. Because we pay cash out-of-pocket for medical expenses we often get huge reductions in charges, as much as 40% off.

Energy:

Despite owning and running a nut butter business and factory, our per capita energy consumption cost is quite low. We heat a lot of our buildings with firewood which we harvest from dead standing trees. Only our business offices, factory, and certain member rooms (as well as hallways) have air conditioning.

Energy Costs for 2016-17:

Electricity: $35,571

Propane: $7,648

Forestry: $1,815 (2312.1 labor hours went into Forestry this year)

Total: $45,034

Total per person per month comes to $51.41.

Electricity consumption:

Total kWh for the year: 544,830

Per person per year: 7,463

National Average: 12,987 in 2014

Source: “Electric power consumption measures the production of power plants and combined heat and power plants less transmission, distribution, and transformation losses and own use by heat and power plants.“

It is worth noting that East Wind’s electrical consumption includes the energy consumed by our Nut Butters factory and yet we are still significantly below the national average. It is also worth noting that some of the buildings built here are not very energy efficient.

Nut Butters:

Our main community business, East Wind Nut Butters, made $630,000 in profit for fiscal year 2016-17. This amply covered our domestic costs. We put in 18,734 labor hours into this business, which works out to $33.63 per hour. Not bad for a bunch of hippies.

Total Cost of Living:

Factoring in the varied other costs that go into providing a high quality of life, we pay a total of $533.05 per person per month to live as we do. Included in that amount is each member’s Discretionary Fund, which is $150 a month. That number encapsulates every domestic expenditure: medical care, auto maintenance and gas, housing, food, energy, shopping, discretionary funds, phone and internet, etc. In short, we have an incredible quality of life for far less than most people spend.

Per capita, we each live on $6,396.58 a year, which is well below the national poverty line of $12,060.

Cooperation pays.

 

Post researched and written by Boone, lightly edited and formatted by Sumner. Pictures by Sumner and Fran.

 

The Economics of Cooperation

Comparing East Wind to Twin Oaks

by Raven Cotyledon

I visited East Wind community for the first time last month (December, 2018). From the beginning, I kept comparing it to Twin Oaks.

Although it’s probably not fair, there is some justification for doing this.  Among other things, East Wind was started by some folks from Twin Oaks, notably Kat Kinkade who discusses the founding of East Wind in her book, Is It Utopia Yet?  Here’s what she says: “I left Twin Oaks, taking two members and some visitors with me, and we set out to form a community that would be just like Twin Oaks in every way except one: we would never close our doors!”

East Wind is not just like Twin Oaks, but there are a lot of similarities.

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Rock Bottom

Rock Bottom (RB) is the dining hall at East Wind and it has some similarities to ZK, the Twin Oaks dining hall, including being often referred to by its initials.  It even has an O&I board (opinions and ideas) like the one at Twin Oaks.

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The O&I board at East Wind

I found myself continually comparing and contrasting.   For example, I liked the humanure (composting) toilets at East Wind better, but I thought that the visitors quarters at Twin Oaks were nicer.

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South Fillmore, one of the toilet buildings at EW

 

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The Man Hut, the male visitors quarters
East Wind also has a brand new laundry/shower building which is beautiful. There is no way to compare it to Harmony, which is an old building at Twin Oaks that has their laundry and a shower room. East Wind has a new building because their older facility burned down. Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of the new building, but it is truly lovely. 

Where Twin Oaks makes their money off of a variety of stuff, including hammocks and tofu, East Wind gets most of their income from their nut butter business, although they also make rope sandals.  Nevertheless, their industrial area looks similar to me to Emerald City, the industrial area at Twin Oaks.

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The industrial area at East Wind

Finally, I want to conclude with this sign, in the EW industrial area. I have nothing to compare it with, but I like the motto. Perhaps it says a lot about East Wind.

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us!

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards

  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
  • Bryan Utesch
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft

Thanks!

Comparing East Wind to Twin Oaks

About the Mothership

From the Mothership website

The Mothership is an urban intentional community living in two houses in Portland, Oregon. There are currently 15 people living here, and we are in the process of acquiring a third house which will increase our population capacity to 17, and then to build 4 additional bedrooms beyond that.

We have a fully collectivized food system with the understanding that anyone can come eat here, we share most household expenses, and a subset of us operate as a fully income sharing group.

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We support each other as parents, believe children should be treated like humans, and humans should be treated well. Many of us co-parent each other’s kids and we generally believe children to be the responsibility of the group.

We love welcoming guests. Many people think of The Mothership as home base and stop in to refuel, gather supplies, and plan new expeditions.

We are committed to clear, direct, and open communication, which we maintain with regularly scheduled (twice a year with each member of the house) one on one conversations and more one on one, small group, and whole community discussions on an as-needed basis. We encourage communication early and often, and we endeavor to avoid having unresolved interpersonal struggles that lead to a toxic living environment. If you’ve upset someone at The Mothership, you either already know about it or are about to.

We acknowledge having been raised in a culture that teaches racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, gender essentialism, ableism, body shaming, slut shaming, and the enforcement of gender roles and stereotypes. When these things inevitably fall out of our mouths, we are committed to talking about why they were problematic and how we can do better in the future.

We aspire to be a safe space for the marginalized. We have cultivated a culture that feels safe and comfortable for many queer, non-binary, and transgender people, as evidenced by our current demographics: we are over 70% LGBTQIA. We aspire to create a similarly comfortable environment for people of color and people who belong to other marginalized groups who are currently underrepresented among our membership.

We are currently looking for new members. Check out our membership process.

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About the Mothership

The FEC Assembly

by Raven Cotyledon

The Federation of Egalitarian Communities is the organization that connects egalitarian, income-sharing communities in North America. It was created to facilitate transportation and labor exchanges between the communes. It was never meant to be a governing body for these communities, but currently it has been involved with various controversies between the communities and between communities and individuals.

This is Rejoice. She is the Secretary of the FEC.  She gets to be involved in tangles like where we will hold the Assembly.

 

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Rejoice

The Assembly is a meeting of delegates from the communities in the FEC.  Originally we were going to hold the Assembly at East Wind, a large community in southern Missouri, but due to some controversy, we ended up holding it at Oran Mor, a small community, a half hour away.  Some of us spent a lot of time going back and forth between the two communities, through the Ozark region of Missouri. 

 

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The building at Oran Mor where we held Assembly meetings

We had over twenty-five people descend on Oran Mor (not including members of their community and East Wind).  We came from communities in Quebec, New York, Washington, DC, Virginia, Oregon, Washington state, and Alaska (and, of course, Missouri).

 

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Arielle and Marie-Claire from Le Manoir in rural Quebec 

 

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Rachael and Maximus from East Brook Community Farm in central New York state

There was a lot of drama, personal and political, but there were also a bunch of more mundane things, like creating a budget for the next year.  There was some discussion about Commune Life, both the blog and the YouTube channel. An important item was creating leadership teams, so Rejoice wouldn’t have to do everything alone–and we could focus on getting more stuff done.

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Caroline from Compersia in Washington, DC
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Lo and Jesse from the Mothership in Portland, Oregon

One interesting aspect, we have been dealing with, is the FEC constitution, which was written many years ago and seems increasingly out of date.  Among other things, the constitution has an anti-discrimination clause which some folks thought meant queer communities, Jewish communities, women’s communities, and communities of color couldn’t join.  We were talking about changing the constitution, but it seemed tricky. We decided instead of changing the constitution, we might create a document with interpretations of the constitution, which might be easier to change in the future.

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Iz and Tea from Rainforest Lab in rural Washington
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Greg from Ionia in Alaska

In spite of everything, I was glad we had this Assembly.  It was wonderful to meet so many folks building communes around North America and the struggles we engaged in were difficult but important. It still seems amazing and critical to me that our communities are kept connected. This is the next level of community building–creating networks of communities and keeping the communication between our communes growing.

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us!

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards

  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
  • Bryan Utesch
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft

Thanks!

The FEC Assembly