It runs in the Family

from the Commune Life facebook page:

by Maximus Thaler

It turns out my uncle Dan Thaler used to live in a branch of The Farm (Tennessee) in Franklin NY, less than a 15 minute drive from where I currently live at East Brook Farm. They sold vegetables in the same farmers market that we do, decades apart. Here are some old pictures of the community he sent me. There’s plenty more where these came from, so leave a comment if you would like to see more from this archive.

-maximus

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It runs in the Family

A Diversity of Communities

by Raven 

I recently put a question on Facebook, “…which is more important, diversity within a commune or community or a diversity of communes and communities?”

Here I want to talk about what I mean by a diversity of communes. The Federation of Egalitarian Communities recently began looking at one of their principles, principle #5, which reads that each community: “Actively works to establish the equality of all people and does not permit discrimination on the basis of race, class, creed, ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”  While this principle seems well intentioned, what about a community that focuses on, and may only include, people who desire a safer space for those of their identity? (This is currently being re-interpreted to potentially include some of the communities mentioned below.)

What about communities that are primarily, or perhaps exclusively, for people of color or trans and/or queer folks?  This has been a bit of a problem in the past because some of the Tennessee queer communities had expressed interest in the FEC but some people in the FEC felt that their focus on queer identity violated the “anti-discrimination” clause in principle #5.

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Picture from a New York Times article on the Tennessee communities 

What about a community like Soul Fire Farm, which describes itself as a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) centered community farm? They haven’t expressed interest in the FEC, but what if they did?  When people of color express uncomfortableness in primarily white communities, what about supporting communities that are primarily or exclusively for people of the global majority? 

I have also met some people from Jewish focused communities that shared income. It would be great to invite them to check out the FEC. Again, these communities would violate the “anti-discrimination” clause.  The upshot is that the FEC is talking about changing this to an “anti-oppression” clause. 

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Soul Fire Farm 

My vision is of a communities movement where there were Black communities, Jewish communities, queer communities, communities of women, communities filled with trans and genderqueer folks, and many other possibilities.   

Don’t get me wrong.  I really want to see diverse income-sharing communities becoming a reality  and would love to live in one, but I also think that having a diversity of communities is an important step in this process. I don’t think that a large community that is mostly white but has one or two African-American members is a diverse community. I would rather see a variety of communes where people felt safe and valued for who they are. 

I would rather see a diversity of communes and communities.

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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

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

Communards 

  • Aaron Michels
  • Brenda Thompson
  • Caroline Elbert
  • Cathy Loyd
  • Em Stiles
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Janey Amend-Bombara
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Joseph A Klatt
  • 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
  • William Scarborough

Thanks! 

 

 

A Diversity of Communities

The Gasoline Altar

from the East Wind Community Facebook page:

To appease the Gods of Insurance, our Gasoline Altar is complete. Though we’re always seeking to be more self-sufficient, East Wind is still reliant on the system. For the foreseeable future, our agricultural and cooperative systems are made possible by our successful business, East Wind Nut Butters. We drive cars and use tractors. Hopefully one day we won’t need to.

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This was re-posted on the Commune Life Facebook page with the comments:

Lots of people are drawn to community by the dream of living sustainably and autonomously. East Wind Community does better than most at actually actualizing these ideals. But the state is pervasive, as are fossil fuels, and neither can be escaped entirely. So sometimes you gotta build a gasoline altar to appease the insurance gods…

The Gasoline Altar

Associate Status

by Raven

I was talking with Ryn, who had been staying here at East Brook Community Farm for several months but is also an Associate member of East Wind. East Wind is one of a few communes in the FEC that has an Associate status. I know that Acorn used to have Associates (and may still have them) and they are considering creating this status at East Brook.

Ryn sent me a copy of the East Wind policy on associate members. East Wind has had Associates for a long time, perhaps dating back to the 1980s.  Basically an Associate member is required have a room at East Wind for at least 60 days during any given year and to be away from the community for at least 60 days during a year. An associate member is therefore a part time member in a community. Being part time at one of the communes allows you to spend significant time at other communities.

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East Wind’s membership in Spring 2016

Associate members at East Wind can own their own cars and vehicles and they can hold jobs outside the community, something that full members at East Wind can’t do.

Being an Associate member gives you a lot of freedom to go back and forth between various communities and therefore Ryn believes that it creates the “social glue” that can hold the communes together.  Associate membership allows you to hang out for decent periods of time with people from different communes and get and spread the news about what is happening at various other communities.

Ryn pointed out that when there was at least one member that went back and forth between East Wind and Acorn, the two communities grew closer together, and when that communard settled into one of the communities and dropped membership in the other,  there seemed to be more tension between the communities.

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Acorn’s membership, November, 2018

I am always a believer in creating more options for people.  Living part time in several different communities is an important alternative that some of the communes offer.   It’s not for everyone (I wouldn’t want to live part time in several places) but I think that it’s an important and useful option that benefits not only the people who take advantage of it, but the income-sharing communities at large.

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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
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • 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! 

Associate Status

Twin Oaks Tofu Upgrade

from the Twin Oaks facebook page:
TOFU WASTEWATER. Construction is now moving ahead quickly on the urgently needed tofu whey wastewater handling project. This part of the project involves specially engineered drainfield lines.

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from the Commune Life facebook page:

Upgrades to Twin Oaks Community Foods tofu factory have been going on for over five years. There have been many hiccups along the way, but the project is finally reaching its conclusion. One of the major roadblocks this year has been the surprise need for a more robust wastewater management facility. Construction is just beginning on this critical piece.

 

Twin Oaks Tofu Upgrade

Quebec Community Bike Tour

A Rural Peninsula in Quebec is a Hidden Gem of the Communities Movement

by Thumbs 

Gaspésie Quebec is the Olympic Peninsula of the East Coast; a mountainous peninsula, with a rugged coastline, spotted with small towns fueled by fishing and logging, with a vibrant indigenous culture, all woven together with bicycle friendly roads.  However, as a couple of community hummingbirds what we were most allured by was the growing intentional community network around this vibrant peninsula. The best part is that they are all connected by one of the most popular scenic bicycle touring routes in Quebec.  We packed our paniers, clipped in and started pedaling a 700km tour of ravishing natural beauty and inspiring community projects.

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My partner’s annotation of the elevation map of the Gaspésie captures the intensity of the trip

We started our tour at Hameau 18 (Hamlet 18) on the shores of the St. Laurence in Cap-au-Renard.  When we rolled in it felt like walking into a story book of community life.  The pizza oven was radiating heat into the outdoor kitchen, where people were bustling back and forth from the summer gazebo with its reciprocating living roof and full round timber frame.  The pizza was still cooking so in a baffled state of awe we kept walking towards a couple performing acroyoga with the backdrop of a setting sun. The scene enraptured our gaze for only a moment though, because we were eagerly handed a glass of freshly brewed raspberry juice and invited to take a couple mallet swings at the newly minted blacksmith forge.  Once we sat down for pizza, I felt at peace to feel so at home, yet so in awe. 

Hameau 18 is a manifestation of a community dream I’ve heard many groups aspire to, but few actually create such a vibrant example of.  It’s the dream of synergizing community life and sustainable business incubator. It started 12 years ago with 5 friends buying a lease for the land.  Through a Kickstarter and low interest loans from friends, they paid off the mortgage and sold it to a Cooperative each member now owns a share in. The 55 hectares they own are convenient for a Cooperative CSA a couple of the members run, fertile enough for a 10 acre farm, along a major road to support a local roaster cafe, near the ocean to support an algae farming business, and a short commute to town for a local doctor to live.  Each of the members is tenaciously self-driven (most building their own house as well as running their own business) and loves the rugged life of coastal Gaspésie (average temperature 0 C) yet wouldn’t go it alone.

The way Hameau 18 is navigating personal homes is a telling example for the challenges of negotiating personal autonomy and community support.  As a natural builder I was enthralled with each of the homes there, because they were a colorful mix of techniques yet each was functional to the high bar their climate demands (I saw straw bale with reclaimed windows, reciprocating living roofs with children running on top, locally milled log cabin, and platform mounted four season family yurt).  This extraordinary level of innovation and competence came at the cost of high out of pocket expenses for each member, and long build times due partially to limited help. Members must personally finance the building of their home, and there isn’t a culture of “barn raising” a member’s home, so they must also budget for the time and energy it will take them to build on their own.  After it is built, the Hameau 18 Cooperative will buy it back from them over the course of years until it becomes cooperatively owned asset. Some members are interested in creating zero interest loans for members to help kickstart their home building process, but for now taking on the task of building your dream home is equal parts liberating and daunting. 

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Preparing for lift off at the cafe that a couple of Hameau 18 members run 

With our bicycle trailer packed and my French lesson audiobook playing we hit the road for the daunting next 220 km of our ride.  Collectively I’ve enjoyed a few thousand kilometers on bicycle tour often crossing large mountain ranges, yet the Gaspésie route boasts a mere 533m as the highest point in 700km of riding, so I wasn’t quivering at the challenge.  However, what my always sunny perspective had overlooked was that this 100-year-old road isn’t graded like a typical highway, but instead hugs the cliffs of the coastline with unforgiving linearity.  My beloved travel partner captured the intensity of these days best by circling sections of the elevation map where we appeared to be either climbing straight up a cliff side, or in free fall. Luckily the drivers in Gaspésie were the most respectful ones I’ve ever experienced, often stopping traffic to wait for the right time to pass and giving us honks and fist pumps when we were wavering most on the vertical climbs. 

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This 17% grade hill is the closest we came to free fall!

Our next stop wasn’t at a community, but at the second home of a pair of community builders on sabbatical.  In exchange for not telling you who they are or what community they are associated with I can share more honest stories from the frontier of community founding.  

After spending years starting a community, they were taking a year off, without commitments to return.  Right off the bat this struck me as a profoundly humble move, which should be built into the community start-up guide.  Founder syndrome sounds terribly clinical yet is such a multi-dimensional challenge for communities it’s hard to cure it with protocols.  This sabbatical was a surefire technique to let the vision of the community grow its own identity separate from the vision of a few founders.  By stepping away from all meetings and voting influence right as the community was becoming a self-sustaining organism, these founders were essentially parents trusting their kid would find its way and be more resilient without their tutelage.

What I learned from them was that in starting a community you can lose yourself.  Starting a community isn’t compatible with also pursuing a highly specialized independent life.  Instead, a founder must immerse themselves in the myriad of head, heart and hand skills for building the foundation of community and let wither personal projects unrelated to the vision.  Yet there is also another phase, after a community has built a strong foundation in which another wave of equally passionate, but potentially more specialized communards can flourish. Once the community has systems to sustain itself, members can have free time to pursue their individual passions or integrate their passions into the community.  It’s like a baby who in the first years of life is simply growing, and figuring out how to stay alive, but later in life one has the necessities of life figured out and can integrate more unique passions into their daily life. My hypothesis is that the length of this baby phase is directly related to the degree of income, resource, and responsibility sharing, with fully interdependent communes spending the longest time in diapers. 

Fast forward through a boat trip, island hike, Gannet colony, and we arrive at the only commune in Quebec, Le Manoir!  We rolled in just as the Beat Rave (Anglo-French pun) was beginning, which is like entering a movie theatre during the climax of the story arch. Nachos came pouring out of the oven, home brewed beer and fresh cocktails served generously, and we danced swing until our bodies reminded us of the 90km straight into headwind we’d bike all day and we collapsed in our tent.

Le Manoir is a like a sapling whose tap root is just reaching the aquifer, it has had enough member turnover, by laws tested in the real world, and steady flow of profitable community business that I think it’s going to become a sustaining community for at least the next decade.  Its founders Audrey and Arielle traveled communes around the US for a couple years and integrated what they learned into the culture and economy of Quebec. With only 6 adult members, they are at the fledgling stages of their community vision to create a Twin Oaks size community, but they are currently doubling the size of their main house (le manoir) and have endless potential on their expansive property.

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Preparing Calendula flowers for drying at Le Manoir

Like Hameau 18 they are comprised of economically self-sustaining individuals, but Le Manoir shares the income of every members endeavor and has a community labor quota for some businesses (including the farm and herbal apothecary).  With 40hrs a week of community labor required, communal lunches and dinners, and one common house it feels familiar to some other FEC communities. Seeing this framework for community flourish in another country gave me hope that the trials and tribulations we each face in building our communities aren’t just to serve ourselves but can be part of an international community movement which doesn’t homogenize but creates a baseline each culture can customize.  We left Le Manoir with the peace of mind that we’d return or see them at our favorite communities in the States again.

Oh, dear Gaspésie you have stolen my heart, and taken my life vision in a whole new direction.  With huge swaths of uninhabited natured, skirted with pockets of small towns where the next generation of intentional communities are taking root you are balancing at the sweet spot between wild lands and culture hubs.  I hear that your frigid winters, when the snow is stacked so high the first floor of houses become igloos, is an even more astonishing time of the year. So, I’ll see you again this Winter, and we will see where the story goes next.

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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
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • 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! 

 

Quebec Community Bike Tour

Quink Fair: Fail Soft

by Paxus Calta

from Your Passport to Complaining

I had my heart set on Ignition.  Maud and i had spoken half a dozen times about the theory and set up.  We had emailed much more about the tests we could administer in the relatively short amount of time new participants would be willing to self reflect before they hit the festival space.  We discussed if Re-Evaluation Counseling (AKA co-counseling) could be synthesized to untrained practitioners quickly and if it was too trauma focused which would likely be the wrong mood to spark going into a fair.  We had rough questions and scripts and Enneagram experts consulting us. And it is not for nothing that the principal volunteers for this event are called “disorganizers”.

We had wanted a space for Ignition’s operation and Darrell from Camp Contact offered us a smaller (25’ diameter) geodesic dome.  But even a small dome was too large for the trivial amount of furniture we had acquired. And we were underprepared in half a dozen other ways.

Maud called it first; “we should cancel it.” My heart was broken, but she was right.  And in leaving this failure early we were both able to concentrate on other aspects of this inaugural celebration.  Maud took ignition “wifi;” doing personal orientation to new arrivals and helping everyone she could find their way. And i ran around doing errands for Angie’s amazing kitchen, working the front gate, driving compost away, shuttling participants to Twin Oaks and Cambia tours.  Reverting to the axiom “no job is too low for a (dis)organizer.”

By failing soft in this ambitious aspect, the entire event was served.

Numerous participants said they had quink experiences large and small.  We started several promising romances. Several people were asked what their pronouns were for the first time in their lives, and some were surprised to discover they didn’t know what pronouns they would like to be referred to as.

Lila described her quink experience to me.  “I was in the Temple of Oracles late last night and there was this lovely cuddle pile that formed which was sensual w/o being sexual.  It felt very safe because people were checking in with everyone about touching. I’ve never been in anything like that, i want more of it in my life.”  It was at that moment i realized i was not only excited about, but felt obligated to organize Quink Fair 2020.

A disorganizers planning session

I had another lovely experience during the event. On the Sunday morning i got a call from my son Willow. “You should know that the police have set up a check point between the Quink event and Twin Oaks and they are stopping all the cars going through and questioning people.” My frustration with this police harassment was quickly abated by my appreciation of my son. He knew what was important to me, that the event participants did not have problems with police and he called so i could do something about it.

Willow and Paxus – Circa 2017

Angie has a plan, she actually maybe the only person who has more plans than Elizabeth Warren.  Angie will come down to Virginia in November to help dis-organize a mini reunion and QuinkFair 2020 planning session.  On this trip she also wants to network with the fine folks from Network for New Culture and act as an ambassador for the QuinkFair project. Part of the reason for this is the New Culture participants were largely absent from our event because their own summer camp overlaps. New Culture builds the high consent culture which permits more daring workshops and events than is normally possible.

Her planning continues, we are deep into negotiations about dates, likely earlier in the summer as it will be cooler and avoid some of the key conflicts.  On the other hand, we may move the event into the armpit of August, on the weekend before the Queer Gathering, to spark synchronicity and build solidarity. We have to find a new venue, raise money, round up disorganizers and do all the stuff it takes to make this amazing event happen again, only bigger and better.

If you want to attend or help out with QuinkFair 2020 write QuinkFair@gmail.com.

Nadia with the Phoenix she built.
Quink Fair: Fail Soft