Harvesting Nettles at East Brook

From the Commune Life Instagram account:

Harvesting Nettles at East Brook

Agreements

by Raven Cotyledon

I have written a post that is quite popular here (58 views just this week, 1708 views this year–really, it’s the most popular post on the blog) called Four Steps to Building a Commune. In it I say: “Step Two is about working on vision and agreements together.”

This post was suggested by Warren Kunce, who lives in Sweden and has been visiting us this week at Cotyledon and has been an avid reader of this blog. When I asked him what I should write about that hadn’t been talked about on the blog, his suggestion was “agreements”.  I realized that, while I had strongly suggested it in the post, I don’t think we have talked much about how to actually work on agreements on this blog, and I think it’s very important.

IMG_20190618_170921
Warren and Raven (picture by Warren)

The substance of the paragraph I wrote in the article about Four Steps was focused on what can go wrong if you don’t have agreements in place.  Here I want to talk about how to create agreements. First, it isn’t as easy as it may sound. We have been working on a Membership Process agreement at Cotyledon for over a year and we still don’t have all the details in place.

We use consensus decision making in our community and that means that you have to have buy in from everyone, at least on some level, for every decision. With agreements, it’s the details that are difficult.

And you really do want everybody’s buy in on your agreements, otherwise members are less likely to stick to them. So that means having many meetings to work through all the details. One thing that might make things faster, especially in a large group, is if there are two people in particular who disagree on some details, have them get together outside of community meetings and figure out a compromise that they can live with, and then bring that to the group for discussion and decision making.

designer491-fotolia

One really useful resource for making agreements, especially for new communes, is the Systems and Structures page on the FEC website.  Why try to reinvent the wheel?  Here you can see what other income-sharing communities have developed over the years. You don’t have to copy what they have done, but you can see what they have tried, and pick and choose what your community likes, and try it yourself.

And a good thing to remember is that agreements are experiments. You are not coming up with agreements to lock yourselves into doing things the same way forever. You are trying things to see what works for your community.  Agreements can and should be able to be changed if they don’t seem to be working for you. Some communities write an agreement with a “sunset clause”. Because consensus, honestly, tends to be conservative, in that once something is in place, it can be difficult to change it, there are communities that write some of their agreements with an expiration date. Once the experimental period has passed, the agreement becomes null and void unless the community agrees to renew it.  This makes the default, which the community needs to fall back on in the event that they can’t reach agreement on the agreement, that they need to start over, rather than they need to keep the agreement in place.

Agreements are mostly written for the difficult times, when there is a lot of conflict or turmoil. You don’t want to have to come up with an agreement or policy when things are rough.  Agreements are a support when times are difficult. But they can actually be ignored or discarded if everyone is able to decide on something different in a situation. For example, Common Threads early on came up with an agreement on what we would do if or when we dissolved.  However, when we did dissolve the community, we did something quite different, which made more sense to everyone at the time. It was still good to have the agreement, because if there had been a lot of disagreement, it would have been something we could fall back on. As I said, agreements are there to support the community, not control it.

So, the best advice I can give your community if you are making agreements, is to listen to each other. That’s what consensus is about, anyway.  Try things. Be flexible. Use agreements but don’t be ruled by them. They are there to serve your community. If they are used well, they can be very helpful. They can make things a lot smoother when you don’t have to make the same decisions again and again. And they can be changed when it’s needed. Be willing to toss out what isn’t working and start over.

And, above all, have fun with it all.

Working+Agreement

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Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

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  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

Communards

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
  • Magda schonfeld
  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish

Thanks!

 

Agreements

The Art of Maintaining Good Vibes

The Art of Maintaining “Good Vibes:” lessons on practices and skills from two egalitarian communities

from the P2P Foundation

If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Egalitarian communes create an alternative to capitalist individualist lifestyle and values. The add communal organization of life and sharing living space to the self-managed enterprises that they operate to generate income. Living in such setting means agreeing to be challenged and confronted with the conditioning of modern upbringing. They developed practices that help to create an alternative to the socialization in the capitalist system. Maintaining “good vibes” does not come naturally as we may assume but requires structure, regular practices, and group effort. In a community, a two-person conflict is a community affair because the entire community may be affected.

Creating an alternative economy and organization of production implies a transformation of the relations and ways of inter-personal functioning that have been inculcated into hierarchy culture and the capitalist system. The following analysis will give some insights into intentional ways of creating a new culture that can serve as an inspiration for the organizations that want to create an alternative to the mainstream. We can learn from these advanced forms of cooperation for other co-operative projects.

I interviewed dozens of members of two egalitarian communities (also called communes), rural Acorn community in Virginia, US (consisting of 30 adults and one child at the time of research in 2014) and suburban Kummune Niederkaufungen near to Kassel in Germany (consisting of 60 adults and 20 teens and children in 2016). Egalitarian communities constitute a more advanced version of experimenting with alternative economy than ecovillages. They share labor, land, and resources according to one’s needs and everyone contributes in a chosen way to reproductive and income-producing endeavors. They apply the principle of consensus to their decision-making.

How the communes maintain good vibes?

In both communities, there are weekly meetings to discuss and make decisions. They are also an occasion to get updates on the lives of individual members and communal affairs. In Niederkaufungen, there is a general meeting once a week and working groups that discuss specific topics meet according to their own schedules. In Acorn, another weekly meeting is scheduled to discuss a proposed topic with a moderator. This may serve as a preparation for decision-making during weekly General Assembly.

In both communes, all kinds of conflicts, all kinds, including romantic breaks-ups are seen as a communal affair. There are several people who volunteer to be mediators in such cases and help the conflicted to communicate. One of Niederkaufungen’s enterprises is a training center for non-violent communication (it is a method and theory developed by Marshall B. Rosenberg1). Therefore, the community has experienced trainers and many of the members are familiar with the method. This, however, does not mean that there are no conflicts. Some people have not talked to each other for years as a consequence of a conflict. Some resentments are held for a long time, which is often caused by not knowing and understanding the other. They may avoid the resented person and gossip. Some people feel frustrated because decisions and changes in the life of the commune take such a long time. Discussions in groups to understand different standpoints on an issue causing a conflict also may take time.

Living in a commune is not easier than in the mainstream society – it is challenging in a different way. It involves a lot of talking: in assembly, in smaller groups, informal exchanges. Gossiping is a form of dealing with frustration. Talking seems to be a crucial factor in maintaining togetherness and self-insight.

Both communities recognize that being closer and more inter-dependent than it is usually the case in the relationships outside one’s family is a challenge. The communes have developed their own ways of maintaining community spirit and good relations among communards.

Acorn:

  • regular personal updates, so called “clearness process” : “This measure consists of weekly check-ins – short sharing of how one feels during a weekly meeting, presenting one’s wellbeing and plans towards the community once a year, and obligation to talk with each community member in a one-on-one conversation at least once a year. The latter one is reported during the weekly community meeting. For example, someone shared that the obligatory conversation made her realize that she had a lot in common with someone she hardly talked to all the year.” (Gajewska 11 October 2016)
  • principle of no “withholds”: “The principle of “no withholds” bases on the premise that long-term frustration may result in explosion or bad atmosphere. Members schedule an appointment to share their frustration. The addressee of this revealing is supposed to abstain from responding during certain time and integrate the feedback.” (Gajewska 11 October 2016).

Niederkaufungen:

  • therapy groups: Some members choose to meet regularly in meetings, for example, men’s group, to provide each other support and more insight. There is no leader or expert. Meeting and exchanging in the group aims at therapeutic effect.
  • individual therapy: Some of my interviewees participated in individual psychotherapy sessions during their stay in the community. One of them reduced working hours to allow time for processing the insights from the therapy. They considered it to be helpful to change their functioning in the group. One of my interviewees observed that thanks to individual intense therapy, which was made possible by lowering work load for this period, this person started to perceive other members differently, with less projections and blaming others.
  • practicing non-violent communication: the members that I interviewed seemed to have internalized the principles of Rosenberg’s method. They process their emotions and ask what is behind a conflict. Also other members may step in to talk about a disagreement and help conflicted parties understand their needs better.
  • rules regarding the use of mobile phones and similar devices: they are allowed only in private spaces and they shall not be used in the common area such as communal dining room.

Cultivating communal skills in the mainstream world

Creating an alternative reality to the one imposed by neoliberal agenda requires capacity to organize, be part of a group, commitment to collective efforts. These skills are a base for cooperative enterprises, consumer self-organizing, and other forms of collective autonomy. Many of my interviewees mentioned that work is different in their communes because they can show up the way they are. There is less pretending. I am convinced that culture can be shaped despite our conditionings. It is an interesting human adventure to look into the mystery of inter-personal relations. Many of the communards that I interviewed revealed intentional personal and group work on this very aspect. They undertook practical steps to make it work. So can we.

Short description of Acorn and Niederkaufungen

Acorn community is a farm based, anarchist, secular, egalitarian community of around 32 folks, based in Mineral, Virginia. It was founded in 1993 by former members of neighboring Twin Oaks community. To make their living, they operate an heirloom and organic seed business, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (“SESE”), which tests seeds in the local climate and provides customers with advice on growing their own plants and reproducing seeds. They work with about 60 farms that produce seed for them, which they test for good germination, weigh out, and sell or freeze for future use. The seeds are chosen according to their reproduction potential so that gardeners can reproduce seeds from the harvest instead of buying them every season. The enterprise conducts and publishes research on the varieties so that customers take less risks when planting them. Acorn is affiliated to the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, a US network of intentional communities that commit to holding in common their land, labor, resources, and income among community members.

Kommune Niederkaufungen consists of about 60 adults and 20 teenagers and children. It was founded in the late 1986, after three years of preparing and campaigning. Meanwhile other income-sharing communities have been established in the region of Kassel. They are a left wing group, with positions that range from radical and social feminist, through green/ecologist standpoints, over Marxism and communism, to syndicalist and anarchist positions. Many communards are active in political groups and campaigns in Kaufungen and Kassel. Nowadays, they are economically autonomous. Their enterprises include elderly daycare, child daycare, training in non-violent communication, a seminar center, catering and food production, carpentry. Some members are salaried outside of the commune. To become a member, one needs to give all the property and savings to the commune. However, it is possible to negotiate a sum of money in case of exit from the commune to start a new life. The commune is a member of German network Kommuja. To read more about the commune, see: https://www.kommune-niederkaufungen.de/english-informations/

Authors’s articles on both communities (you can find references included in this article)

  1. Gajewska, Katarzyna (Autumn 2018): Practices and skills for self-governed communal life and work: examples of one US and one German egalitarian community. Journal of Co-operative Studies 51(2): 67-72.
  2. Gajewska, Katarzyna (25 June 2018). How to Start and Maintain a Micro-Revolutionary Project. Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO). http://geo.coop/story/how-start-and-maintain-micro-revolutionary-project
  3. Gajewska, Katarzyna (2017): Kommune Niederkaufungen – jak się żyje w 60-osobowej wspólnocie. [Kommune Niederkaufungen – on living in a 60-person commune], quarterly Nowy Obywatel [New Citizen].
  4. Gajewska, Katarzyna (9 October 2017): Raising children in egalitarian communities: An inspiration. Post-Growth Institute Blog http://postgrowth.org/raising-children-in-egalitarian-communities-an-inspiration/
  5. Gajewska, Katarzyna (11 October 2016): Egalitarian alternative to the US mainstream: study of Acorn community in Virginia, US. PostGrowth.org http://postgrowth.org/egalitarian-alternative-acorn-community/ , first published in Bronislaw Magazine
  6. Gajewska, Katarzyna (21 July 2016): An intentional egalitarian community as a small-scale implementation of Post-Capitalism. P2P Foundation Blog https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/an-intentional-egalitarian-community-as-a-small-scale-implementation-of-postcapitalist-peer-production-model-of-economy-part-i-work-as-a-spontanous-voluntary-contribution/2014/12/27
  7. Gajewska, Katarzyna (10 January 2016): Case study: Creating use value while making a living in egalitarian communities. P2P Foundation Blog, http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/an-intentional-egalitarian-community-as-a-small-scale-implementation-of-postcapitalist-peer-production-model-of-economy-part-ii-creating-use-value-while-making-a-living/2016/01/10
  8. Gajewska, Katarzyna (27 December 2014): An intentional egalitarian community as a small-scale implementation of postcapitalist, peer production model of economy. Part I : Work as a spontanous, voluntary contribution. P2P Foundation Blog, http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/an-intentional-egalitarian-community-as-a-small-scale-implementation-of-postcapitalist-peer-production-model-of-economy-part-i-work-as-a-spontanous-voluntary-contribution/2014/12/27
    This is a shortened and modified version of the article : Katarzyna Gajewska (Autumn 2018): Practices and skills for self-governed communal life and work: examples of one US and one German egalitarian community. Journal of Co-operative Studies 51(2): 67-72.
    This article contains excerpts of already published texts in Creative Commons and is under Creative Commons licence.

Katarzyna Gajewska, PhD, is an independent scholar, workshop leader, and transformational guide. She has published on alternative economy, universal basic income, non-digital peer production, collective autonomy, food and health. You can contact her at: k.gajewska_comm(AT)zoho.com.
List of publications here
Facebook: Katarzyna Gajewska – Independent Scholar

1 Marshall B. Rosenberg was the founder and director of educational services for The Center for Nonviolent Communication.

Header image: “The Poop Deck is a humanure toilet with two seats. The sign adjusts that way in case you want company while you do your business.” – The picture was taken in Twin Oaks egalitarian community. Picture and picture description by Raven Cotyledon from Commune Life (creative commons)

WRITTEN BY Katarzyna Gajewska

Katarzyna Gajewska is an independent scholar and a writer. She has a PhD in Political Science and has published on alternative economy and innovating the work organization since 2013. She is also interested in preventive health and emotional and psychological aspects of economic change. You can find her non-academic writing on such platforms as Occupy.com, P2P Foundation Blog, Basic Income UK, Bronislaw Magazine and LeftEast. For updates on her publications, you can check her Facebook page or send her an e-mail: k.gajewska_commATzoho.com. If you would like to support her independent writing, please make a donation to the PayPal account at the same address.

The Art of Maintaining Good Vibes

Status

by Raven Cotyledon

At the close of my final article on the Detailed FEC History, I wrote: “The current status of the FEC communities (as far as I know and subject to change with little or no notice): Full member communities–Twin Oaks, East Wind, Acorn, and  Compersia; Re-forming communities–Sandhill and Mimosa; Communities in Dialogue–Oran Mor, The Mothership, Ionia, Rainforest Lab, Open Circle, Cambia, Le Manoir, East Brook Community Farm, and Cotyledon.”

What do these statuses mean? What is the difference between a Full community and a Community in Dialogue? What is a Re-forming community? And what is an Ally (or Allied) Community?  That’s what I want to explore here. (Warning: in great detail.)

Most of this information has been taken from the FEC website and more information can be found there. (Yes. As long as this is, I left out a bunch of things.)

From the section on Joining the FEC:  “The first step in becoming an FEC Community is to contact the FEC Secretary… The FEC Secretary is responsible for guiding you through the process, or connecting you with a delegate from another community to do so.

“There are six things that we expect from a community before applying for full membership in the FEC.

*  A member of your community completes a questionnaire, and sends out written information that you have about your community…  

* The members of your community make some kind of collective binding agreement, with a defined process for changing that agreement, that represents a written affirmation of the FEC’s seven basic principles.

* A representative requests for your community to officially become a Community-in-Dialogue with the FEC, at least one year before applying for full membership in the FEC.

* Members of your community develop and maintain an active relationship with the FEC or at least one FEC community by attending monthly conference calls, visiting other communities or doing labor exchange, written communication, attendance at our annual assembly, conferences attended or hosted by other FEC communities, or other forms of sharing.

* One or more delegates chosen by your community attends annual assemblies of the FEC.  A community can apply for membership in the FEC during the second assembly to which they send delegates.

* A representative of the FEC designated by the delegates visits your community, and co writes a report to the FEC and its member communities about your community and your adherence to FEC values.

* Consensus of the existing FEC communities is necessary to accept a new community, both as a Community-in-Dialogue and as a full member community in the FEC.

“For your community to become a full member in the FEC, delegates will evaluate your community on the basis of these requirements and criteria.  Once accepted the new community is granted full member rights and privileges from that point on.”

But, before we go into Full Membership Status, here’s a lot more on Communities in Dialogue.  The status of Community in Dialogue was created at the January, 1980 Assembly.

EastBrook Sign
East Brook is a Community in Dialogue 

 

From the section on Community-In-Dialogue Status:

“If a community is seeking FEC membership but is not yet at the point where the Assembly will approve its application, that community may apply for Community-in-Dialogue (CID) status. For a community to be accepted as a CID, the Assembly need only be convinced that the community is actively working toward meeting the membership criteria, and that there exists a mutual desire for cooperation between the community and the FEC.

“The Assembly shall not be obliged to accept a community as a CID, even if it is working toward meeting the membership criteria, if it is felt that the community in question is actively contradicting those criteria (e.g., using violence, being governed by a leader or minority, discriminating on any of the grounds outlined in the Federation’s basic principles).

“A Community-in-Dialogue shall:

1 Maintain an active relationship with at least one FEC community through activities such as visiting or labor exchange, written communication, attendance at conferences, etc.;

2 Attend FEC assemblies if they so desire, and participate in discussions on a limited basis;

3 Pay an annual base tax of $100, plus $5 per working member.

4 Be eligible to participate in FEC projects specifically designated by the Assembly (e.g., conferences, training programs, etc.) on the same basis as members, but with the understanding that FEC members receive space priority… and

5 Have their status reviewed annually by the Assembly.

A Community-in-Dialogue shall not:

1 Vote upon or ratify decisions of the Assembly; or

2 Be eligible for transportation subsidies without approval.”

TOOT1
Twin Oaks is a Full Member Community 

From the section on Full Membership:

“CID status essentially has been the category we hold interested communities in while they are working to meet all the criteria for full membership. There is no fixed limit on the amount of time a community can have CID status; presumably, as long as the delegates see no reason to revoke that status, they can be CID as long as it takes until they can be accepted as full members.”

“The only guidelines the FEC Constitution gives about new communities joining is that they must meet the seven core principles of the FEC. The decision is made through normal decision making structure we establish for all our decisions.”

“Communities desiring full membership in the FEC should:

  1. Be a Community in Dialogue for at least one year, and meet the requirements for communities in that category, such as attending Assemblies, participating in FEC discussions, having at least one site visit, etc.

 

  1. Have the seven FEC principles as core values of the community in their Bylaws (or equivalent fundamental documents). This does not have to be a word for word copy…  but the community should be able to demonstrate that those principles are part of the community’s written core values.

 

  1. Be actually following the above seven principles.

 

  1. Have group ownership of all land, property, and other major resources.

 

  1. Have a detailed income-sharing model in place, preferably already functioning for some time before applying for full membership.

 

  1. Appear to be sufficiently stable, in terms of population, economics, and other relevant factors.

 

  1. Have, at minimum, three members, none of whom are in a romantic relationship or family.

 

  1. Not have different tiers or levels of membership, or significantly different privileges based on membership length, beyond the provisional to full member process. Once people are full members, they should have the same basic level of political and economic equality.

 

  1. Not have any blanket restrictions on people joining based on sex, gender, age, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other similar discriminatory categories.

 

  1. Have systems in place to provide for the health and medical needs of all its members up to at least the requirements of PEACH. Since FEC membership guarantees automatic membership in PEACH, and since one of the presumptions of PEACH is that member communities are taking care of the health needs of its members up to the catastrophic level where PEACH kicks in, this is something we need to evaluate.

 

  1. Be able to address a variety of less tangible factors that the delegates believe are necessary. There are likely going to be many situations where a community seems to be in a somewhat borderline situation with some of the above criteria, or there may be issues about things that we can’t think of in advance.”
Aviva1
Ganas is an Allied Community 

The Allied Community or Ally Community status was created at the September, 2004 Assembly.  There isn’t a lot written about this status on the FEC website, but if you look at the Our Communities page, you will see Baltimore Free Farm, Ganas, Living Energy Farm, Terra Nova, and the Walnut Street Co-op listed as Ally Communities.  From what I have heard, this status was created at the request of Ganas, which is not (by their own admission) an egalitarian community, but has a long relationship with Twin Oaks and the FEC and wanted some status within the FEC.  Terra Nova and the Walnut Street Co-op also have had a long history with the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. When Living Energy Farm realized that they were not going to be able to become income-sharing, at least for a long time yet, they requested this status. And, honestly, Baltimore Free Farm is on the page in that status because there is no income-sharing group there now, but there are people there that hope they will in the future. This is not an official status for them. They are literally there because I didn’t want to completely take them out since they might return in the future.

img_20160624_172209361
Sandhill is a Re-forming Community 

The Re-forming Community status is the newest status having just been created at the November/December, 2017 Assembly.  It was created to address difficulties with two full communities which had dropped down to only a few folks, less than the required amount: Mimosa (formerly Sapling, which Acorn had put a lot of energy into) and Sandhill (one of the oldest communities in the FEC).  It is so new that there isn’t yet a section on the Our Communities page (even though there is supposed to be one).

From the section on Re-forming Community Status:

“Becoming a Re-forming Community is a voluntary action taken via the full member community’s own internal decision making process, although members of other communities may gently encourage them to consider the idea.

“Re-forming Communities will be given a separate section on the web site, and are encouraged to include a paragraph in their long description explaining why they are currently a Re-forming community.

“The FEC will make special efforts to assist Re-forming Communities in returning to the principles of The FEC.

“Re-forming Communities may elect to begin paying dues equal to those of a Community in Dialog and their rights and privileges will be reduced to those of a Community in Dialog. Re-forming Communities may choose to continue paying Full Member dues and retain the rights and privileges of full member communities. The delegates may check in about this at each assembly.

“In order to regain their status as a full member of the FEC, a Re-forming Community applies in the same way a CID applies for full membership, but the application can be made at the FEC Assembly or on a Conference call. Re-forming Communities who have elected to reduce their dues to the CID level must pay the dues that would have been due during the current fiscal year had they remained a full member community.

“Full Member communities who experience major turnover may find the experience of re-forming to be more like starting a new community than coming back into alignment with The FEC principles. Such a community may also elect, by their own decision making processes, to change their status to Community in Dialog by submitting a CID application.”

If you have read all the way to here, I am sure that you are truly interested in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.  You may be wondering about the Seven Principles mentioned several times here. Rejoice has promised to write seven posts about these principles, analyzing each of them. I look forward to publishing them here in the future.

Meanwhile, again, if you have any questions about any of these statuses, I suggest that you go to the relevant section on the FEC website (follow the link) where there is even more information, or ask in the comments.

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  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Julia Elizabeth Evans
  • Kai Koru
  • Kathleen Brooks
  • Laurel Baez
  • Lynette Shaw
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  • Michael Hobson
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Peter Chinman
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
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Thanks!

 

Status

Craft Weaves Together Community

Written by Thumbs from Cambia Community

from Your Passport to Complaining

Through the haze of old safety goggles I struggle to read the fractions of an inch I was told to measure.  When I look up to ask for the length again my voice is droned out by the grind of iron against steel, groaning like tectonic plates being forced against each other.  I pull out my earphones to try and hear the number my friend is saying, but as soon as my ear is exposed the scream of dull blades splintering wood makes my ears ring like funeral bells for the death of hearable tone.  We are here to build a natural home, a safe place for the community to gather and celebrate, but our means of getting there is through the dehumanizing technology of industrialization. Does community begin when the project is done?  Are the projects ever done?

Construction has become a means to an end.  There are customers who design compositions of geometric shapes on two dimension screens, and builders who are tasked to turn these teeny tiny drawings into voluminous structures which exceed the cubic area of many hundred year old trees, and preferably they should complete the task in the same amount of time it takes to simply imagine doing some of the steps.  This impossible task can only be dared to be dreamed of due to the cunning bedmates technology and globalization!

wigwam crew

However, home construction also has potential to be an artistic celebration of the unique local environment.  In fact, the architecture styles associated with various cultures of the world, are a beautiful expression of the dance between place-based resources, local climate, and the human imagination.    On the other hand, building a Laotian bamboo stilt house at the 45th parallel north will look stunning in a picture, but a close up would show popsicle frozen homeowners entombed in their own dream house.  That example sounds ridiculous because it’s unfamiliar, but there are innumerable identical architectural discords made bearable due to enough synthetic insulation, chemical wood embalming, and gently off gassing décor.

Jeff longhouse build
Long House Construction

Turtle island (North America) has a rich place based architectural history.  The indigenous cultures built migratory homes they carried with them, Lakota tepees, temporary shelters along their travels, Inuit igloos, and long-lasting homes to raise a family, Anishinaabe wigwams*.  European colonists also established trademark style with the aid of hand saw technology to fell larger trees interlock them to create the signature log cabins.  Even more recently with the fusion of ancient architecture and Anthropocene resources the earth ships design has become a hallmark of the South West. Each of these designs works best using the materials of the biome it’s in, because that is the region these materials, organic or inert, evolved to endure.  Buried homes stay cool in the dessert but mold in humidity, and the forest appreciates the harvest of rot resistant sapling in regions known for benders (a general term for anything that involves created rounded structures using interlocking wood; sweat lodges, long houses, and wigwams).

tipee

 

With any of these homes, the finished structure is only a small glimpse of the true beauty that went into crafting it.  Traditional building techniques also use traditional tools, which traditionally are about the volume of a loud bird (not a firing gun), and even more often require multiple people.  From weaving the inner bark of Hickory to make Wigwam cordage, to collaboratively wielding either end of a large bow saw many “old fashioned” tools are meditatively redundant and quiet enough to get lost in conversation with your fellow crafts person.  Without the screech of electric engines and unwieldy blades their use is also not restricted to the adrenaline hungry young men who surround me at conventional construction sites. My current highlight of traditional construction was working with a pregnant woman and young mother to peel Aspen bark while the year-old baby napped in the middle of the construction site.

When building community becomes the goal, instead of making a community building, there is less of a race to the finish, and more of a dialogue with local materials and people.  Do you know the 5 most common trees that grow in your biome? Do you know which characteristics of them are equivalent to their modern synthetic mimics? Instead of exchanging money for hired time, have you considered luring your friends over for a building party with food and music (you’d be surprised how people who are deprived of hand craft in their profession are exuberant to get their hands dirty building your home).

jeff build wigwam
Jeff hands on

At Rustling Roots in Central Virginia, we are turning back the wheels of time to weave community by weaving together a Wigwam.  Over the course of a weekend we will all learn how to turn the sweet-smelling bark of springtime Poplar into wallpaper, and the overly abundant shoots of cedar saplings into a bedroom sized inverted nest.  Not only will we be working with these materials for architecture, but you will learn about how to harvest them to appease the forest, and when they are most eager to be compliant to your construction whims.  With simply tools a 1st year blacksmith could forge we will weave together a structure rich in indigenous wisdom, while weaving together the lives of every hand involved.  Of course, we are planning to have a beautiful organic home at the end, but that is just the flower on top of community we’ll cultivate along the way.

           Wigwam Building Workshop June 28-30

           Zoom Interview with Instructor, Jeff Gottlieb, Wednesday 6 p.m. June 19th (Free, Click Here)

* “Wigwam” and “wikiup” are both popularly used to describe Woodland nuclear family homes. In general reference, these terms work (like when we use the term “moccasin” to describe a type of footwear in general). But keep in mind there are so many uncorrupted terms for “a home/dwelling” from different Native dialects that are very appropriate to use, especially when describing homes of specific Nations. You might have noticed that we favor the term “wigwam” in our writings. This is only because the term “wikiup” is often an applied term to describe Apache dwellings (in poplar writing and some academic outlets), and because they are not similar, we’d rather stick to terminology that embodies Woodland traditions without the association of a very different Native housing tradition of the Southwest. But truly the term “wikiup,” just like the term “wigwam,” are born of the Woodlands region.

(http://woodlandindianedu.com/wigwamlonghouselodge.html 5/18/2019)      

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Craft Weaves Together Community