Live and learn in community

by Aviva Derenowski

I’ve lived in Ganas community for thirteen years now. It’s amazing how one year folds into another. I still feel as if I have so much to learn, and my friends will agree with me that I don’t always know when to speak and when to listen. I’ve improved much since I’ve arrived thanks to certain ways in my current community that encourage whoever is interested in getting feedback and change habits one prefers to alter.

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Ganas houses

I grew up in Israel in Kvutzat Kinneret, the second kibbutz on the land. We were about seven hundred sixty members. We had one member’s meeting a week, besides the scheduled committees. One could get lost in the multitude in those meetings. The person who wanted to speak had to get up and reach the mic. Those meetings seemed to lack intimacy. The interactions among members were minimal in order to keep the order. There was little emphasis on problem resolution and conflicts were not always addressed during the meeting. What wasn’t said was still present in the room.

I also spent seven years in East Wind Community in Missouri. It’s an established, colorful place that handles its meetings by counting majority vote. In this country it sounds sensible, but after living in Ganas I recognize that each person is a universe. Whenever a majority wins, there is a minority that didn’t get their way. Sometimes they are only slightly smaller than the people who got their wishes. If they feel strongly about their case, they will attempt to get the majority of votes. It is a see-saw system, where hardly anybody is satisfied with any decision for a long term. In Ganas we talk and listen till everybody is okay with the decision, and they choose not to block the process. Then we decide. Most decisions in Ganas take a long time to come to fruition, but we try our best to put the people before the bottom line.

Ganas is not an Egalitarian Community, but it has a lot to show. We treat people according to their needs, and encourage our members to contribute according to their ability. It amazes me how much communities have in common, whether they are egalitarian or not. We know that what we stand for is larger than the sum of the people.

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Walkway between buildings at Ganas

For example, members are encouraged “to do dishes” once a week. That means, cleaning up after dinner. Usually it’s a team of five people and it takes less than an hour. It can be a bonding experience, and very energizing since some of the people want to go home as soon as possible. Some other folks enjoy the experience so much they prefer to sit down, talk and work leisurely. In the end, the ones who want to finish early go home after the short shift, and the rest stay to hang out. But not everybody does dishes. Some people work outside of the community in the evening, others are not fit enough for this work. There are no consequences either way. People do what they can, and it’s okay.

Living in community can be practical and loving at the same time. In Ganas we meet five days a week for ninety minutes to talk about anything that comes up. One may need a ride, or somebody needs to mention a person who is interested to join us. At times people bring a conflict to the morning meeting. We value active listening in our community. Both sides listen to the different points of view, and the facilitator makes sure they all heard each other. Often the parties don’t change their views, but understand the other better.

‘No punishment’ is a value in Ganas. There are consequences to people’s behavior, but it is not to make them feel bad. If someone leaves the stove on, they may be asked not to use the stove again. It is not to make them feel bad, but to make sure they don’t cause a fire.

We are a community in progress. We strive to learn how to live together and grow in ways we wouldn’t be able to experience on our own. I bet you do too. I wonder if you use the tools of ‘no punishment,’ the one of ‘one case basis’ instead of the one of ‘one rule for all.’ When you are in conflict, do you listen to the other person’s point of view and let them know you do it?

Certain behaviors can smooth up the complexity of living in community. I’m sure you have tools that can enrich our life here. I’ll be happy to hear about them.

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Aviva!

 

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Live and learn in community

Commune Dads Episode 08: Siblings with Ezra Freeman

from Commune Dads, April 28th, 2017

Keegan and adder are joined by fellow commune dad Ezra Freeman to talk about raising siblings on the farm. We tend to say that age peers at Twin Oaks are much like siblings, but is this really the case? What advantages and challenges above those of friendships do kids experience? We are also joined by commune kid Lily to chat a bit about her experience as a sibling-less child.

 

Mentions:

The Fed Is Best Foundation Encourages Mommy Guilt Through Bad Science (blog post)
bit.ly/2pGd7vr

Perplexus (toy)
amzn.to/2qeKhPM

Opening Music: Commune Dads Theme – Nick Paoletti
Closing Music: Folk Bed – audionautix.com

 

 

 

Commune Dads Episode 08: Siblings with Ezra Freeman

Levels of Sustainability in Community

by Raven

Sustainability is a hot topic in communal living, but I think that there are several different types of sustainability.  I’d like to take this post to explore some various levels of sustainability.

The first level is what many people think of when they talk about sustainability, what some people call ‘eco-sustainability’.  Living Energy Farm is an example of a commune focused on eco-sustainability, as is the Stillwater Sanctuary, but even Twin Oaks, which has never tried very hard to be eco-sustainable, has a very low carbon footprint.  With the climate crisis we are in now, this type of sustainability is very important.

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Old fashioned sustainability at Twin Oaks

But it isn’t the only level of sustainability in the communes.  Twin Oaks is a model for a very different type of sustainability, the ability of a community to sustain itself, which Twin Oaks has done for fifty years.  Not only has Twin Oaks lasted, but it has provided a model that has influenced other long lasting communes (some of which have been around now for twenty to forty years) .

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There’s also a third level of sustainability to community living.  Dancing Rabbit (which is not an income sharing community but is an interesting model for community living and sustainability on many levels) refers to this as ‘inner sustainability’.  It is not enough to live ecologically sustainably and to sustain the community.  It is also important to sustain the individual members of the community.

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Sharing time at Dancing Rabbit

There are many tools to do this.  Two that are practiced at some of the communes are Transparency Tools and the Clearness process, but sometimes people use things like meditation, Nonviolent Communication, and Re-evaluation Co-counseling as well.  Some of this shades into interpersonal sustainability, where forms of conflict resolution are often helpful as well.  Good communication is an important part of sustainability.

So in community, we have the opportunity to learn to sustain ourselves as well as our interpersonal relationships, and the community as a whole as well as living in a way that is ecologically sustainable.  And this is how we create a sustainable world.

 

 

Levels of Sustainability in Community

New Pantry

from the East Wind Blog, July 10, 2017

Stocking a kitchen that serves the needs of over seventy people requires a lot of space for food storage. Steps away from Rock Bottom (our community’s main kitchen and dining hall) we have two stand alone buildings for food storage: a walk-in refrigerator (‘the walk-in’) and dry storage. East Wind now enjoys a newly constructed dry storage building thanks to the helping hands of many community members.

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Beckie making a cut at the site of the new building

Beckie, a member for over twenty years, planned and led the construction of the building from demolition of the old structure to completion of the new. The biggest challenge for her was preparing for and executing the pouring of a large concrete slab that was required to support the new building, which is more than twice the size of the previous dry storage structure.

EWP2Pouring of the slab, to the left you can see the ‘walk-in’ (walk-in refrigerator) and to the right is Rock Bottom (kitchen and dining hall)

The pour went well and the concrete provides a large thermal mass that helps to passively regulate the temperature along with the high ceilings and wall vents. Beckie, having decades of experience in construction and building maintenance, and the skillful hands of JR and Wild Horse were able to finish raising the walls and roof in short order.

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JR to the left and Wild Horse on the right installing tin roof

With the actual construction of the building finished there remained the electric, laying out the interior, and all the little finishing touches. Beckie’s son Wes, born and raised at East Wind, along with his grandfather Ed ran all the electric lines. Boone and Tony put in place shelving and a large rack of drawers. Winter painted the exterior walls to match Rock Bottom’s forty year old aesthetic (custom color tin was ordered for the roof for this same purpose). The small details are still being worked on to beautify the space and make most efficient use of it.

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Wood burned signs to be placed on each spice drawer

The new dry storage offers ample space for two freezers and yards and yards of shelf space. Everyone is free to take what they need, but don’t forget to close the door behind you! In addition to this facility, two new shower houses are currently under construction, this is certainly a building year for East Wind.

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Now that’s one gigantic pantry! A big thank you to Beckie and everyone who put time in on this project!

Post and photos by Sumner

New Pantry

Hello from Mimosa…

by Aurora DeMarco

I am down here in Louisa helping to start a new community called Mimosa. Mimosa was formerly known as Sapling but when my friends Sapphyre, Edmund, Kaya and Ponyo moved in, we decided to change our name to Mimosa.

According to the Global Healing Center, “Traditional Chinese Medicinal practitioners have long revered the bark, leaves, and flowers of the Mimosa tree for its potent health benefits. The Mayan people of Central America also revered the plant, and commonly used it for aiding trauma injuries and burns. And while little modern scientific research has been conducted on the qualities of this plant, time-tested ancient wisdom has long praised this herb as an important therapeutic tool.

“Usually, for health applications, the bark of the tree is shaved and dried and used in tincture and capsule forms. The leaves of the plant can also be dried and used as a tea. One of the most important applications of the dried/powder form of the bark is its use as an ancient mood enhancer. Known in China as the ‘Collective Happiness Bark,’ the Mimosa tree was given to people who needed a ‘spiritual uplift or cleansing.’ Mimosa tree bark is also used as a common remedy for generalized muscular discomfort and swelling.”

Mimosa

Coincidentally there was a lovely Mimosa tree in my yard when I was growing up. I spent a great deal of time in that tree trying to make sense of my chaotic life. I think it is more than possible that this tree helped me feel hopeful about my future despite living in such a dysfunctional environment.

Fast forward 40 years and here I am trying to build a community dedicated to healing trauma and building cooperative culture. Though it is a great deal of work, I never question the meaningfulness of the work I am doing. It is all for the betterment of the whole. My first project is putting siding on a new 3 room agricultural building that is about half way done from completion. We are working together as a community and it feels good to be in a place where many hands make light work.

But beyond the tending to the “hardware” (the structures of community) building the software (how do we build healthy relationships?) is time-consuming, yet rewarding too. We spend a lot of time getting to know each other and thinking through how to deal with things as they come up. Luckily we are all committed to self-growth and looking at conflict as an opportunity rather than as an obstacle. I feel pretty psyched about this new community dedicated to honest, trauma healing communication. So much of what I am reflecting on is the idea of how people fear being judged and that judgment in itself is not a real threat.

If you go to the FEC website you will see that we are 4 adults and 1 teenager living on 3.5 acres of land. We are surrounded by woods and agricultural land owned by other communities and ex-community members.

We hold egalitarianism, environmentalism, cooperative living and resource sharing as core values.

As a manifestation of our values, we plan to retrofit our recently-purchased mainstream manufactured house and recently denuded landscape into an energy efficient, low carbon footprint homestead over-flowing with beautiful gardens, happy animals, and awesome communards.

We believe this reflects as important a concern as preserving the environment: restoring what has already been destroyed and altering what already has been built to fit a sustainable paradigm.

Our primary income area is organic vegetable seed production as well as building up Common Wealth Seed Growers to become income-producing for us.

As part of our mission, we are especially interested in cultivating native endangered woodland medicinals.

So there you have it, the hardware and the software of Mimosa.

 

Hello from Mimosa…