Holy Housing Shrine at Compersia

from the Commune Life Instagram account

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@compersia.community has a belief in sharing so strong that it constitutes a religion. This belief granted them a zoning exemption from DC to allow them to live with up to 15 unrelated people in a single family home (the city’s normal limit is 6). Compersia therefore celebrates the holiday of Holy Zoning Day, the day upon which this exemption was granted, and keeps a shrine to the Patron Saint of Holy Zoning Day—the bureaucrat who granted the exemption—on their hearth. “May the bureaucrats who watch over us continue to bless us with their byzantine and obscure wisdom. May their red tape roll down like waters upon those who would oppose us, but part before us and our righteous cause like the sea before Moses.” I can’t say that I stopped by Compersia exclusively as a pilgrimage to see the Holy Zoning shrine in person, but it was the primary reason. -Julia (I’m back!) . . . #communelife #shrine #bureaucrats #zoninglaws #iconography #dcitystyle #communalliving #intentionalcommunity #intentionalliving

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Holy Housing Shrine at Compersia

Thinking about Needs

by Raven Cotyledon

This may seem a bit off topic, but I think it’s very important. For people who want to start communities or folks who want to know why they can’t keep people in their commune, I believe that no one will be interested in a community or stay in one if their needs aren’t being met.

I have my own blog, which I have mentioned before, and which is now being neglected while I focus on Commune Life and commune building in New York City. I have thought about the concept of needs for a long time and, just a bit more than ten years ago, I wrote a post that inaugurated a series that lasted four months and involved something like forty-five posts, all focused on human needs.

I began by using, as a framework, psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef’s Fundamental Human Needs. Even though Max-Neef made his list in opposition to Maslow’s Hierarchy, I saw the two lists as compatible and created my own list, combining them, listing categories beginning with physiological/subsistence needs and finishing off with artistic and creativity needs, identity needs, and freedom needs. I followed this with forty-three posts, each talking, in some detail, about what might be needed to meet each of forty-three needs. I think this all is important to try to think about what the needs of each person in community might be and how to meet these needs. As I said in my wrap up post, these were all real needs and did not include things the advertisers claim you need.  There is no human need for SUVs or McMansions.

maslow's hierarchy of needs
Maslow’s Hierarchy

Since then I have encountered two other ways of looking at needs that I think are worth mentioning, from the perspectives of Nonviolent Communication and Permaculture.

One of the concepts in Nonviolent Communication (aka Compassionate Communication or NVC) is the difference between needs and strategies. An example is that I come from Boston and live in New York City. Most of the people I love are still in Boston. If something happened to one of them, I might have a real need to get up to Boston. (A need not on any of the lists, but a need just the same.) If I came to you and said that I needed to borrow your car, that would not actually be a need. It’s a strategy. I could get to Boston by bus, train, ship, plane, biking, walking, hitchhiking, and on and on.  There usually dozens, if not hundreds of strategies to meet a need. When needs seem to be in conflict, NVC claims that it’s often really about conflicting strategies.

Where Maslow and NVC look at needs from a psychological and often individual perspective, Permaculture looks at them from a system perspective. In permaculture, they look at “elements” in a system, which could be plants in a garden or people in a commune.   Each ‘element’ has both needs and products or behaviors or yields or, I would say, gifts. The system part goes beyond the individual needs to looking at how one person’s gifts can meet another person’s needs, and with things in right relationship, the whole community can meet everyone’s needs. I love thinking about how person A’s needs can be met by person B’s gifts, and person B’s needs can be met by person C’s gifts, and then person C’s needs can be met by person A’s gifts. (This is oversimplified, but hopefully you get the idea.)

Needs and gifts of a chicken

Maybe someday, the communes will figure out, not only how we can each meet other member’s needs, but we can do so effortlessly. Truly then we would have something that could transform this society.

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:

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

● Tobin Moore
● Kai Koru
● Jenn Morgan
● Jonathan Thaler
● Nance & Jack Williford
● Julia Evans
● William Croft
● Aaron Michels
● Cathy Loyd
● Laurel Baez
● Magda schonfeld
● Michael Hobson
● William Kadish
● Em Stiles
● Laurel Baez
● Lynette Shaw


Thinking about Needs


from the Commune Life Instagram site


Cotyledon’s Relationship to the Ranch

by Raven Cotyledon

The Cotyledon community is focused on, among other things, food justice and urban agriculture.  We are connected with several related organizations in western Queens, including Hellgate Farm, the Queens Action Council, and Just Soil.  We do our principle work, however, with a small community garden/urban farm called Smiling Hogshead Ranch (also known as SHHR, Hogshead, or the Ranch).

SHHR: Garden beds, compost bins, and, behind, the towers of Long Island City

I first met gil when he was organizing a fundraiser for SHHR called the Hogshead Hoedown.  I was impressed with all the people involved and how gil kept telling everyone what a great job they were doing.

Later, through gil, I met DNA. The three of us began talking about creating a commune but we also tried to start a composting business at the Ranch.  I was living at Ganas on Staten Island and it took me two hours (each way!) to get to Hogshead, whether by train or by bike. One of the main reasons we chose to build Cotyledon in Queens was to be near the Ranch.

Gil was one of the founders of SHHR and is a director there.  DNA has been working there for many years, building things and gardening. Recently, gil and DNA have been organizing young people at the Ranch, working with the Youth Leadership Council.  I am a faithful composter there and, a couple of weeks ago ended up teaching small groups of third graders about snails, as part of Smiling Hogshead Ranch’s educational mission.

DNA and gil after a late night event at the Ranch 

None of us get paid for the work we do at the Ranch. Rather, we see Hogshead as one of the main ways we can promote what we believe to the world. Smiling Hogshead Ranch isn’t the only thing that Cotyledon does, not by any means, but we see it as one of the most important.


Cotyledon’s Relationship to the Ranch

East Wind History


East Wind was founded on May 1st, 1974 by a small group dedicated to the principles laid out in our bylaws and inspired as such to grow the communities movement.  A part of this group had been living at Twin Oaks, which was founded in 1967 in Virginia.  Twin Oaks is also a founding member of theFederation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC).  This pioneer group was motivated by what they had learned about living in community at Twin Oaks and aimed to start a differently structured communal experiment. The small contingent picked up more members in Vermont and later in Massachusetts, and settled on two different farms which they hoped to make into the new community’s base. Neither of these arrangements proved suitable and it was necessary for the group to move to Boston in order to earn money to purchase property. A scout was sent to find land and the rest of the group held down city jobs to save money.

The Ozarks was chosen for its attractive land at modest prices.  The founders of East Wind learned from their observations of how Twin Oaks operated and sought to create a less rigid governance structure that would suit their needs.  All FEC communities have distinct governance structures that attract different types of people that in turn create different cultures. Diversity lends itself to resilience and prosperity and each new community that joins the FEC is unquestionably unique.


East Wind’s Story
When the original founders arrived in the spring of 1974 the land had only an old farmhouse, a barn, two small outbuildings and a well. The community’s population jumped from eleven to over thirty in a small amount of time and construction quickly became an imperative. First, a small showerhouse was built and immediately expanded upon. Then a ten room dormitory dubbed Sunnyside for the street in Boston that the first members lived on. The old farmhouse, called Reim, was used as a sleeping quarters, kitchen and dining space, as well as an office. In 1975 East Wind’s largest dormitory, Fanshen, was built with twenty one rooms. At this point, East Wind’s membership was approaching forty and the facilities provided by Reim were no longer enough to feed such a number. Work began on a new kitchen, dining hall, and lounge area and by 1976 Rockbottom (RB) was completed. RB is a hub of social activities with people commonly hanging out on both floors of the building.

In 1974 East Wind’s first industry began – crafting handmade rope hammocks. Three large tents were erected for hammock weaving, woodwork, and storage. Under these conditions, through the hot sweaty summer and cold winter, the first 6,000 hammocks were produced.  In 1976 a 3500 square foot industrial building was built to support an expanding business. This building provided quality space for hammock production and part of it is used to make hammock chairs and Utopian rope sandals today. We also use the space for recreation, commie computers, and our business office.


As membership continued to grow, work began on a third residential building, Annares – by 1978 one dozen bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom were completed. The common area here includes a room with couches and chairs as well as a large community library that anyone is free to browse. The last dorm to be built, Lilliput, was dedicated as the children’s building in 1992 and currently houses many young families.

In 1981, East Wind began what is currently its most lucrative business – the making of high quality nut butters. East Wind Nut Butters provides a high standard of living and resources to allow for other areas to grow. East Wind Nut Butters supplies all natural and organic peanut, almond, and cashew butter as well as tahini to restaurants and retail outlets nationwide. Nut Butters has given East Wind financial security and respect in Ozark County as a local company and large taxpayer.

Currently, East Wind is home to approximately eighty people living, working, and playing in relative comfort and harmony. We are a diverse group brought together by a common ideal: that we are all equal. We struggle with many of the same issues everyone faces. We may argue and disagree sometimes, but we do so with respect. Living in community is engaging and can be challenging, but we are invigorated by being a part of a radically alternative and constantly changing communal experiment.


East Wind History

A Detailed FEC History: Part Four, the ‘Oh-oh’ Decade

by Raven Cotyledon

(This is part four of a series. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three is here. Note the warning that this is for commune geeks.)

The millennium began (or perhaps ended, to be precise) with the April, 2000, Assembly. Participants seemed to be Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, Beacon Hill House, and Skyhouse. Twin Oaks reported a population of 76, East Wind 50, Sandhill 5, and Acorn 16.

Jolly Ranchers, Terra Nova, and Tekiah all still seemed to be part of the FEC but didn’t appear  to have made it to this Assembly. Topics discussed at the 2000 Assembly included Paxus proposing a software co-op, another proposal (unclear who from) for an FEC video project, and something about East Wind being less engaged in the FEC.

There were two Assemblies in 2001. The first one was in April and was attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Acorn, Beacon Hill House, Jolly Ranchers, and Skyhouse. It was reported that Tree was no longer at Acorn but was still serving as the FEC secretary.  (Tree Bresson is a facilitator and consensus expert who was the FEC secretary for many years, even when no longer living in an FEC commune.  Rejoice, the current FEC secretary, remarked on this at the last FEC assembly.) It was also mentioned that Laird was absent. (Laird Schuab is community and facilitation consultant who lived for many years at Sandhill and was also the long time Executive Secretary of the Fellowship for Intentional Communities–the FIC, often confused with the FEC.) And, finally, there was a note that Common Threads was no longer a Community in Dialogue. (Sadly, Common Threads, a community that I helped form and lived at, dissolved in the summer of 2000. We referred to it as our own Y2K problem.)

There was a second Assembly in December of 2001, attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, and Acorn, as well as two new communities, Aspenwood and Heathcote.  Apparently, Heathcote became a Community in Dialogue at that Assembly.

Heathcote in October of 2001

2002 seemed a banner year for Assemblies. There were three, in May, July, and December. The May Assembly was attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Acorn, Beacon Hill House, Jolly Ranchers, Skyhouse, Aspenwood, and Heathcote. There were no notes about what actually happened at this Assembly.

The July Assembly was attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Acorn, Beacon Hill House, Jolly Ranchers, and Skyhouse. The main topic of discussion seems to have been PEACH, the umbrella health insurance project of the FEC. At that point, the worth of PEACH was listed as $400,000. The members of PEACH were listed as Twin Oaks, Acorn, East Wind, Jolly Ranchers, Kindness House (the first time I have heard of it), Sandhill, Skyhouse, and Terra Nova.  

The December Assembly was very well attended, featuring Twin Oaks, East Wind, Acorn, Beacon Hill House, Jolly Ranchers, Skyhouse, Meadowdance, Aspenwood, and Emerald Earth. (I will have to say that I am impressed that Beacon Hill House and the Jolly Ranchers made to all three Assemblies that year, since both of them are out in Seattle on the west coast and most of the Assemblies took place in Virginia or Missouri.)  The only note from the Assembly was that Beacon Hill House wanted a stronger social justice focus. (I will add a personal note about Meadowdance. When I visited them, early on, I heard that they were opposed to the FEC income-sharing philosophy. Then they joined the FEC. Later they left, saying it was a big mistake. Like any community, I think that Meadowdance had different people in it with different opinions. Apparently, the direction they went in depended on who held sway.)


There was only one Assembly in 2003, held in May. It was attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, Beacon Hill House, Jolly Ranchers, Skyhouse, and ecofarm. (Apparently ecofarm was another one time Assembly visitor.)

There were two Assemblies in 2004, one in May and one in September.

The May Assembly was packed: Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School (formerly Beacon Hill House), the Jolly Ranchers, Skyhouse, Meadowdance, Aspenwood, shivalila (this is the first of only two Assemblies that they attended), Terra Nova, Heathcote, Oran Mor (the first Assembly for this small but long term FEC member–formed by four ex-East Winders), Tekiah, and Ganas. The agenda seemed packed as well.  They discussed racism in the FEC, talked about creating an income-sharing starter kit, talked about questions of the FEC as a mediator (none of these things for the last time). Violence at East Wind was discussed. “Sorrel and Matt identified three negative patterns at EW: unwanted sexual attention, alcohol abuse, and yelling/volatile verbal exchanges.” Facilitation training was talked about. And there was a note that Tree was paid $2000 for 200 hours of work.

One of the buildings at Oran Mor 

The September, 2004, Assembly was also fairly well attended: Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, the Jolly Ranchers, Aspenwood, shivalila (for the second and last time), Heathcote, Oran Mor, Tekiah, Phoenix Ranch (another two Assembly attendee), and Springtree (who last showed up in April of 1989).  Some of these communities were in trouble. While Twin Oaks and East Wind remained stable at 76 and 50 members, Acorn went from 16 members at the May Assembly to 3 members. (Note, the rapidity of the change is probably more a function of how it was reported. I will have more to say on this later.)  The Jolly Ranchers also reported 3 members and Tekiah reported 2. The notes said it clearly. Jolly Ranchers were “dissolving” and Tekiah was “failing”. East Wind’s alcohol problem was discussed, along with something called “commune on a bus”. The ‘allied community’ status was also created at this Assembly. Although Ganas wasn’t there, I am pretty sure that it was created for them.  Ganas was never an ‘egalitarian’ community (something they are quick to say), but they have had a long relationship with the FEC, especially with Twin Oaks. This status allows them to remain in relationship but makes it clear that they are not interested in pursuing full membership (which is the direction Communities in Dialogue are supposed to be going).

The August, 2005, Assembly (the only one listed for that year) was also well attended, with Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, Meadowdance, Aspenwood, Terra Nova, Heathcote, Ganas, Phoenix Ranch, and Red Earth all listed as being there. Both Jolly Ranchers and Tekiah are no longer on the chart, so apparently neither of them made it.  It’s interesting that Red Earth shows up for the first of several times. (It’s a homesteading community, with each homestead organized differently–although one or two of them are income-sharing, I can’t see why the whole community would be represented.) In spite of the large attendance at the Assembly, there were no topics listed as being discussed.

Dandelion, an income-sharing sub-community of Red Earth Farms 

2006 had two Assemblies, one in January and one in July. The January Assembly featured Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, Skyhouse, and Alpha, which I am assuming meant Alpha Farm. The anti oppression clause was discussed.

The July attendees were almost the same, except Alpha (or Alpha Farm) wasn’t there. The only note was that Tigger became the treasurer, which is noteworthy because he only recently left that position.

There were two Assemblies in 2007 as well, in January and June. Both were attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, Skyhouse, and Oran Mor. The only notable differences were that Echowood also attended the June Assembly and there was a note from the January Assembly that Aspenwood had closed.

The notes for 2008 are confusing. The columns on the spreadsheet that I am getting most of this information from are for February, 08, followed by January, 05, followed by November, 08. I am going to ignore the January 05 entries. Another confusing thing is that the Twin Oaks population was listed as 76 for June of 2007 and 92 for February, 2008, a rather rapid increase. (The fact that the listed population of Acorn goes from 3 as of March, 2009, to 30 in March of 2010, makes me even more suspicious. I think they must keep listing the same population until someone tells them that it has changed.)  Both February and November list Twin Oaks (with its now larger population), East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, Skyhouse, and Red Earth as attending, with Heathcote being at the February Assembly (their last Assembly) and Oran Mor and Echowood being at the November Assembly. No topics were listed for the February Assembly, but there seemed to have been a discussion about the expansion fund at the November Assembly.

Finally, there was an Assembly in March of 2009, attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, Skyhouse, and two one-time attendees, the 529 Collective and Teaching Drum.  There were no notes about what was discussed.

Which brings us to the current decade, what I am calling the Ten and Teens Decade.  That will be the final installment of this series, next month!

As always, if you were a part of this history, or know information about this period, and want to add or correct, please let us know in the comments.


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:  


  • Acorn Community
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  • Cotyledon Community
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  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community


  • Tobin Moore
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  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft
  • Aaron Michels
  • Cathy Loyd
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  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • William Kadish
  • Em Stiles
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw




A Detailed FEC History: Part Four, the ‘Oh-oh’ Decade

Bye Cam


Kristen/Kelpie here: Cameron Taylor was of the Scots diaspora and a friend of mine. He and I often spoke of his love of Lallans, the old Scots language of his boyhood. He tried to teach me how to roll my r’s, at my request. We would often tease each other in the hammock shop, and listen to music, and play guessing games. He was partial to tango. I’m partial to folk, especially that of the British Isles.  Cam was a boy in the land where Robert Burns lived, near Dumfries and Ayrshire in Scotland. He was born Kenneth Taylor, and changed his first name to honor his mother’s clan. His father died in WW2, and he moved to Argentina with his mother. Now, of course, I wish I could remember more of what he told me. I’ve written here a short account of what I do remember.

Cameron had a passion for kayaks, and for the people of Greenland, who taught him ocean kayaking, fishing, and their way of life when he was a young man. He put together his memoirs of this time: [what’s the link?-ed] I enjoyed hearing about his times in Greenland. Several times he pointed out the young woman he loved there, and the wondrous times he had in the North. During his later years, at Twin Oaks Community, he built a traditional kayak, which he donated to a museum, [fact check: ask Kevin] after spending time traveling with it. He also spent many days kayaking on local lakes, especially with Kevin.

Cameron the kayaker

Before Cam came to Twin Oaks, he was an anthropologist. In addition to his time in Greenland, he spent time with the Yanomami in Brazil. He and his wife studied their culture, and he learned the language. I remember he brought a Yanomami hammock to our hammock shop, to show us. We marveled that anyone could balance on one of them, much less sleep! It consisted of strands of strong fibrous plant material, maybe bark, in parallel, knotted on both ends. One year, he asked to go to the Yanomami to help vaccinate them, as part of an interna because they were under immediate threat of disease. Twin Oakers were proud to help him on this journey.

Cameron was also our Dairy Manager for a while, and was responsible for getting the loafing shed built, so our cows could have a place out of the sun. He also found and brought Dexter, a border collie, who helped immensely with herding.

Cam and Dexter to herding dog

And of course, he made hammocks, and taught us how to make hammocks. I remember his infinite patience with this. I often had to ask him for help, and he was always willing to give it.

One of my most fond memories is watching a meteor shower with Cameron, camping out by the grapevines, drinking from a bottle, and listening to him sing a long funny song from his childhood. I tried to get him to sing it again, later, in the hammock shop, when we were sober, but he wouldn’t.

I don’t remember why we decided to celebrate Burns Night dinners, but I do remember Cameron being an important resource for verisimilitude and delight. We had three, I think, in a space of four years. Cam inspired us to make haggis, a delicious (no! really!) lamb and oats sausage, and a main ingredient of the dinner served usually Jan 25, celebrating the works of Rabbie Burns, and all things Scottish, which included whiskies, poetry, singing, and merriment, and a band. Cam requested My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose, so we learned it, as well as a few other classic Burns hits, like Green Grow the Rushes Oh. Thankfully, we didn’t record ourselves. Cameron read aloud a section of Tam O’Shanter, Burns’s funny hero poem, which needed translating for the modern American audience. Cameron, always the considerate teacher, obliged.

Thanks for reading this long ramble. I hope Cameron would be happy with it. I can still hear his laugh. Cameron’s lovely, always, in my memory. He’s stubborn, argumentative, caring and wise. A wit and always ready with a story. I miss him.

Bye Cam