East Wind Land by Drone

A virtual tour of some of East Wind and views of the vast landscape surrounding the community with music and occasionally commentary:

You can learn many practical skills at East Wind. http://www.eastwind.org

Music (in order):

Com Truise – Existence Schematic

Nujabes – Blackalicious’ Make You Feel that Way

Father John Misty – Date Night

Destroyer – Savage Night at the Opera

Nujabes – City Lights (featuring Pase Rock & Substantial)

Cut Copy – No Fixed Destination (this song was BLOCKED due to copyright… so I replaced it with some YouTube music… do not know the name…)  

Video put together by Sumner

East Wind Land by Drone

Critical Mass

by Raven Glomus

When I was compiling the responses to the questions about communal size for last Friday’s post, I started thinking about the issue of how small was too small and the brittleness of very small communities.

This is not just a theoretical issue for me.  Common Threads, the commune in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that I helped start in the nineteen nineties and loved dearly, broke up when membership dropped down to four adults and then one of the founders decided to leave.  And Cotyledon, my most recent attempt at building a commune, was ended by mutual consent, but my primary reason for deciding this was that it had never grown, in terms of primary members, beyond the three of us, through our more than four years of working on it.

The crew of Cotyledon

As I said on Friday, I don’t think of three people as being a community.  You need at least four adult members with, hopefully, some of them not being in relationship.  And it needs to be real, full time members.  Two adults (generally a couple) with any number of interns, visitors, guests, wwoofers, etc, does not make a community.  The FEC recently (in our Assembly last December) decided to require full FEC member communes to “Have, at minimum, five adult full members who have been in the community a minimum of six months, understand the community systems, and have access to equal participation in the community’s processes.”

I think that four people can be a nice intimate community, but as I said with Common Threads, having only four members makes you very susceptible to falling apart.  Skyhouse was an income sharing community at the Dancing Rabbit ecovillage in Missouri that lasted seventeen years.  It was a small, close group of four folks, but when two of them (a couple) decided to leave and another person also decided to depart (to attend school in another state), it left Tony to decide whether to try to rebuild it from scratch or give up and focus on the ecovillage as a whole.  (I talked with several people about this, including Tony.)  Apparently he tried once and couldn’t duplicate the lovely little commune that they had and, having a lot of responsibilities for Dancing Rabbit as a whole, decided to turn the building into a simple housing unit.  It was a story that resonated with me, given how Common Threads ended.

The Skyhouse building at Dancing Rabbit

So, my question is, what constitutes ‘critical mass’?  While I don’t think that any community is “too big to fail” (although it would take a lot to bring down Twin Oaks–which recently had been bemoaning dropping down to less than seventy folks, which is still bigger than almost any other of the FEC member communes), I think that there is safety in numbers.  (Acorn at one point was down to six members and at another down to two, but they had Twin Oaks nearby to support them until their numbers could be built back up.)  Kat Kinkade, who I will have to admit I admire a lot since she helped start three communes, all of which are still around and doing well, apparently said that she believed in growing communities rapidly, to quickly get past the brittle period.

As I think about it, I would say I think that seven is a minimum number for safety.  Four and five are the fragile numbers–lose one or two people and it feels like it’s over–and often is.  Six might work but it feels too close to four or five.  So I am going to say seven, but I would also say that having nine or ten feels even stronger.

Until recently at Glomus we were six or seven folks (we lost one in the last few months), but we’ve recently gotten three new members (okay, they are saying that they are seasonal, but they are all communal veterans and they feel committed) and the difference for me is large.  It definitely feels more like a thriving community with nine people actively involved here.  

The current line up at Glomus

Having seven or even ten folks doesn’t guarantee that you won’t fall apart, but it certainly makes it less likely.

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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 
  • Raines Cohen 
  • Suzi Tortora
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

Thanks! 

Critical Mass

A Question of Size

This is the next in a long series that I’ve been posting here on questions that have gone up on the Commune Life Facebook page. Here’s the first question we reposted and the second and the third and the fourth and the fifth and the sixth and  the seventh, and, from last week, the eighth

At the very end of January, I posted this question that I have heard others talk about:

I don’t know if this really isn’t a subject that a lot of folks are concerned about or whether people are just getting burned out on so many questions, but there weren’t a lot of comments. However, I thought that the four comments that this question got, were interesting:

I realized that I (Raven) never responded to my own question. I will put my thoughts out here.

I agree with Theresa that a large network filled with communities of all sizes is ideal, because I think that different sized communities appeal to different people. I also think that there is such a thing as too small and, perhaps, too large.

First of all, I think that less than four people is not a community. Three people is often just a couple plus a friend, or possibly a three-some. I think that you need to have at least four folks to have a real community. (And sometimes, even then, it’s just two couples.) But I also think that having four or five members is still a very brittle community. If you lose one or two members, the entire community can be gone. (This is something that I have experienced and find it useful to think about. I think that I will post more about this on Monday.)

On the too large side is Dunbar’s number. I think that there is a reason that Twin Oaks has not quite reached a hundred adult members and many communes and communities fall far short of this. I know that Dancing Rabbit has talked about wanting to be a village of five hundred to a thousand people. As far as I know, after twenty years they have never had more than seventy people. They keep getting new people but I think that they are also losing folks at a similar rate.

I think that once you get to over a hundred people, it really seems less like a community and more like a village. I think that many people want the intimacy of smaller communities, even if they also want the diversity that is possible in larger communities.

Feel free to chime in, in a comment, if you have an opinion about the ideal size of a commune.

A Question of Size

Communes as Places of Refuge

by Raven Glomus

I already had the idea for this post when I received the email from the Foundation for Intentional Community.  The email was entitled, “Thinking of joining or starting a community during the pandemic?” It goes on to say, “In the weeks since the pandemic, we have seen a sharp uptick in people searching for ‘off-grid communities with openings 2020.’ Dealing with uncertainty and isolation, more and more people are planning for how they want to change their lives once it’s possible to move again. Suddenly, community and resiliency are top priorities.”

I have been telling far away friends that I live in a bubble here.  While we hear about the horrors of the coronavirus, we seldom go off of our farm and I live with eight other great people and we are all still working very hard doing the work that each of us wants to do.  In many ways, we are some of the least affected people during this pandemic.

It’s something that I would wish for everyone and, if that FIC email is any indication, there are definitely folks that are realizing that it is possible.  Unfortunately, as much as some people might love to join a commune right about now, none of the communes (including Glomus) want to see anyone at this time.  Twin Oaks and Acorn have reported folks trying to enter the property to join and they promptly chased them off. Communes don’t like unannounced visitors in the best of times, and absolutely don’t want anyone showing up now.

Sign at Twin Oaks

However, I don’t believe that this pandemic will last forever.  The communes will open up again to people willing to pursue the proper membership procedures.  Of course, some people may see communal living as less desirable once the pandemic is over. However, I think that this is very short sighted. 

With climate change increasing, with an ever more connected world, and with some very conservative folks in office who are willing to do increasingly more manipulative things to stay in office (look at the Wisconsin primary and the large number of other voter suppression and gerrymandering tactics being used), I believe that there will be more unpleasant situations ahead.  Living in a commune can’t absolutely protect you from all of them, but it can provide a buffer from some and it means whatever needs to be faced next, you will not need to face it alone.

The main house at Glomus in winter–or perhaps in a spring snow

The FIC letter suggests (and I agree) that this is an excellent time to study and search for what you want.  There are a lot of resources out there. The FIC website (ic.org) is an excellent place to begin, as is the FEC website (thefec.org).  Look through Commune Life. In the right hand corner above is a stack of three bars. Click on it and there will be a list of categories, including articles on many communities (warning: several are now defunct) as well as over forty different communal living subjects at the end under ‘What Else’.  Really read up on all the aspects of communal living. Figure out what you want. It might not be an income sharing community. If it is some other type of community, ic.org is definitely the place to begin.

The most popular post on Commune Life is something that I wrote called “How to Start a Commune,” followed by my article “Four Steps to Building a Commune” and Paxus’s “So you want to start a community”.  Lots of folks dream about starting a commune. As someone who has done just that (a couple of times) I would actually advise against it. It’s hard work and very often doesn’t last long. I strongly suggest that you find a community that appeals to you (at least somewhat) and join them, at least for a while.  After you have had a good period of communal living and you know several other folks that share your dreams, then you might want to give it a go.

Meanwhile, when the next big crisis comes along, you will be with others and won’t have to face it alone.  So, start now, searching and researching, and when the pandemic has died down and communities have reopened membership inquiries,  contact them and visit. Do it while you can. You don’t want to be caught dreaming about communal living, when the next time comes and there is no opportunity to join one.

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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 
  • Raines Cohen 
  • Suzi Tortora
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

Thanks! 

Communes as Places of Refuge

Questions about Rural Communes

This is yet again the next in a series that I’ve posting here on questions that have gone up on the Commune Life Facebook page. Here’s the first question we reposted and the second and the third and the fourth and  the fifth and the sixth and, finally, the seventh

Towards the end of January, I (Raven) posted this question asking what people thought about rural communes:

It got a lot of folks looking at it and had eleven comments. The first three were people speaking from their experience:

Then came the quick, often one word answers–although Clint Brown wrote a second comment to clarify:

Finally, Zamin K Danty wrote a longer, deeper response, and Boone Wheeler made one final point:

Questions about Rural Communes

BF Skinner and Twin Oaks

Recently the Twin Oaks Facebook page featured this video about BF Skinner (the author of the book Walden Two, which was a major influence on the founding of Twin Oaks) and his visit to the community. Here’s what they had to say:

“In 1978 the Nova TV program documented Skinner’s visit and in 2016 the complete program was posted to YouTube. It’s an amazing look at a moment in the past of Twin Oaks, showing many people and scenes from that era.

“Many things portrayed are the same, and of course many things have changed.

“Start watching at 10:41 to see Twin Oaks content.”

BF Skinner and Twin Oaks

Mixing It Up

by Raven Glomus

We are creating an unusual model of community here at East Brook Community Farm.  We have started a small income-sharing community (Glomus Commune) which we are embedding in a larger, more diverse community (which we are calling Glomus Community).  In the larger community we have long-term income-sharing members, long-term non-income-sharing members, long-term part-year members, and seasonal members, all of whom work together and all of whom are valued members of the community.

Glomus income-sharing group: Raven, Cicada, Theresa, and Rachael

I wrote a post last fall about Associate Status.  Rin (aka Ryn) has an Associate Status at East Wind community, which allows them also to spend part of their time with us.  Another member here at Glomus is pursuing a dual membership status with Twin Oaks. We are intentionally creating a space where people can really be here while they are here and still come and go (when there isn’t a pandemic occurring).

We are also creating an income-sharing community where people don’t need to share their income.  We have a status we call residential members. In many cases, this is a temporary status, from when someone is accepted as a provisional member to when they join the income-sharing group, but we also have the possibility of  a person continuing on as a long-term residential (non-income-sharing) member, and still be an equally valued member of the larger community.

Monica, a long-term Residential Member

This kind of flexibility allows us to offer several different options for possible membership to the people who come here: full-time, part-time, income-sharing, non-income-sharing.

I love the idea of creating a large, diverse community which offers a variety of possibilities to attract a variety of people.  This is our path toward growth and economic stability.

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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 
  • Raines Cohen 
  • Suzi Tortora
  • Tobin Moore
  • Warren Kunce
  • William Croft
  • William Kadish
  • William Scarborough

Thanks! 

Mixing It Up

Questions of Gender

This is yet the next in a series that I’ve posting here on questions that have gone up on the Commune Life Facebook page. Here’s the first question we reposted and the second and the third and the fourth and  the fifth and this is the sixth one that we published two weeks ago.

In mid-January, I (Raven) brought up a question related to some policies that a few of the communes had:

I believe that it was Rejoice that responded with an actual policy:

Unfortunately, since these are photographs of the Facebook page, the next link doesn’t work. Here is a link that does.

Pretty soon we were well into the question of non-binary folks. Fortunately, Rejoice had some answers.

And that, of course, gave folks even more ideas about gender ratios:

Questions of Gender