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

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

Communes and the Coronavirus

by Raven Glomus (with assistance from Theresa Glomus and JB East Wind)

The subject of this post will probably not surprise anyone. In one way, I hate to add to the constant drumbeat of coronavirus stuff.  It’s all our news feeds are filled with and it gets tiring–to me, at least. On the other hand, I think that it’s important that folks know what the communes are doing about this pandemic. 

In some ways, the communes are great places to ride out the pandemic. At this point, they are all rural and a bit isolated. It’s fairly easy to disconnect from the social world and you don’t need to feel isolated, since you have other people who are just as isolated with you.  It’s perfect–until someone somehow gets the coronavirus. 

This is the downside of the communes. We share income, we share a mission, we share our stuff. We also share germs. Once someone in a commune gets the coronavirus, everyone is probably going to get it.  There is also more back and forth between the various communities than there is contact with the outside world. That means there is also the likelihood of it rapidly spreading from commune to commune.

So what are specific communities doing to deal with the coronavirus?

Twin Oaks had been talking about quarantining sick folks in one cabin and only allowing caregivers in and out.  The caregivers would not be allowed to eat in the dining hall, to contain the spread of the coronavirus. 

Now, as of Saturday, Twin Oaks is in full quarantine/locked down mode.  No visitors are allowed except for essential services, such as UPS. Members leaving the property without the consent of the Planners won’t be allowed to return until the pandemic has abated. 

They have cancelled visitor periods for March and April and all Saturday tours at Twin Oaks have been canceled for the foreseeable future.

At Acorn, they quarantined themselves early. They have instituted thorough sanitation procedures in every area of the community. These include thoroughly wiping down surfaces that people interact with, and even nearby surfaces that might not be interacted with.  For off farm business trips, members have been instructed to wear gloves during the entire trip, to drop off items at designated areas and sanitize priority items, and then discard gloves in designated trash areas and sanitize hands with hand sanitizer immediately.

Acorn further instructs that if a person is having difficulty breathing, they should have a designated emergency person take them to the hospital. That person should prepare to shower upon returning to Acorn and put the clothes they wore immediately into a washing machine (with hot water), sanitizing all surfaces of the washing machine. 

Anyone at Acorn who feels sick or shows symptoms of the Coronavirus, has been told to stay in their own room. They have been instructed to stuff a towel under their bedroom door, keep a window open as much as possible, have a designated person bring them meals, and have a stock of snacks in their room. If they need to leave their room, they should wear a mask and sanitize all knobs and surfaces that they come in contact with.

Read the center gray bar

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (Acorn’s business) has posted the following on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/SouthernExposureSeeds/posts/10156779388296254 

At East Wind, they have had two community meetings to discuss the Coronavirus. They have stopped visitor periods for April and have effectively made a prohibition on guests.  They say that they have a solid amount of food and could be well situated to weather the pandemic.

Economically, their nutbutter business has been impacted with a drop in sales to those who use our product as an ingredient in their manufacturing (some examples are juice and snacks). On the other hand, the distributors that they work with are experiencing large spikes in sales. It seems unclear if they will lose money due to the virus but it is definitely a possibility.

Being one of the most rural communities, East Wind has yet to see the full extent of impact it will face. As things change, they may start taking more serious actions, but of the various communes, they think they may be in a pretty good place in terms of being prepared and isolated.

Here at the Glomus Commune at East Brook Community Farm, we are smaller and are looking at people coming here on a case by case basis. We have told people who just want to visit not to come.  With other people, who are planning to come here on a long term basis, we are checking on their health status and whether they are coming from a high risk area before giving them permission to come. As with all the communes, things are changing daily. 

Communes are semipermeable and still quite connected with the larger society. We are all going to have to see where this pandemic goes. 

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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 and the Coronavirus

Honk, Part One

Two and a half years ago, a bunch of communards invaded Somerville, Massachusetts, to be part of the Honk Festival. This six part series documents what they did. For the next six weeks (starting today), we will follow their adventures. In Part One, they leave East Brook Community Farm and head east, and arrive and go dumpster diving.

March forth!

Honk, Part One

Putting the Farm to Bed

by Raven

I am currently up at East Brook Community Farm and it’s late autumn. East Brook’s major source of income is from their agricultural work. At this time of the year, that work is finishing.

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Dried up tomato vines.

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Corn stalks. I will be taking them down and using them for compost to help grow new plants in the future.

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These are potato beds which have been dug up. Garlic will be planted in them soon.

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The kale is still being harvested. I think that they look like tiny palm trees.

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This is frost damage on the cabbage plants. The good parts will be used to make sauerkraut.

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Dried Echinacea. The birds apparently love the seeds.

____________________________________________________________________________

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! 

 

Putting the Farm to Bed