Theresa decided to hold a mycology camp this summer here at Glomus for Binghamton University students. The first step has been to build platforms for tents to house the students. Glomus members and visitors have helped Theresa build these platforms.
Here is a large tent that someone here had used last year that we just moved (piece by piece) to one of the new platforms. It will be used as a meeting space. Jules, who will be running the camp with Theresa, decided that the name of the new tent is “Calvatia” after the giant white puffball mushroom.
Here is a picture of the space where the tent had been before we moved it.
More additions to Calvatia include a kitchen space that Theresa and her main helper, Leo, built.
Here’s Theresa and Leo working on a foundation for stairs going into the back of Calvatia.
And here’s the stairs built.
Finally, here’s Theresa and Leo working on constructing an outhouse for the camp at Glomus.
Here they are again, with Dylan, a visitor, observing.
And, the final outhouse (with some Egg signs that were found around the farm we are on, tacked on).
There’s still more construction to go, but the camp isn’t until July.
Meanwhile, here at Glomus, here’s Cicada of East Brook Community Farm (our communal business) bringing out the greens and veggies for our first weekly CSA of 2021. Farming is our business, and it’s a lot of work, but this is the payoff.
I have written about the differences between living communally and living in the mainstream (occasionally called ‘Babylon’ by communards). One big difference is that money is essentially irrelevant within the communes. (Money is highly relevant to the survival of communes in a capitalist society but, in this case, we are talking about how income sharing communities interface with the mainstream.) There are jokes within the communes that you can leave a $20 bill lying around and find it in the same place several days later (assuming that no one has been cleaning the room) but don’t leave a candy bar lying around–because candy bars are worth something.
So what is the currency within the communes? I would love to be idealistic and say something like love or compassion or justice, but the truth is that work functions as a currency within most communes.
I’d like to illustrate this by starting off comparing communes with cooperative households, a somewhat different form of community that I’m familiar with. In a co-op house, you are asked to pay monthly for a room (and food and utilities, etc). In some co-ops all rooms are priced equally, in some the price varies by the size of the room, and some use a sliding scale to price things but there is a price for everything. They have to charge the residents in order to pay their rent or mortgage. In addition, everyone is asked to do chores.
In a commune, there is no price and no chores. There is no price because all income is shared equally and, thus, money is irrelevant. There are no chores because it is all work. Work is the currency.
In many of the bigger communes, work is actually tallied up. How careful this tally is depends on the community (Twin Oaks tracks hours carefully, Acorn is much looser about it). In addition the amount of hours varies (although I’m not up on the latest policies, for years there was a 42 hour a week requirement at Twin Oaks and Acorn and it was a bit less, 35 hours, at East Wind). In addition, Twin Oaks has a ‘pension plan’ that slowly requires less and less hours from older members. Even though forty-two hours seems like more than the usual mainstream forty hour work week, they argue that it’s actually less because everything is counted as work.
This is why I say that ‘chores’ are irrelevant. At Twin Oaks, if you cook or clean or grow food or even take food to a sick friend, that is considered just as much to be work as work that makes income for the community. Of course, you are cooking or cleaning for the community, but if you don’t cook, someone else does and you still get to eat it. So you don’t need to cook unless you get hours for it and they argue that since most work is done on the commune, there’s no commute. If you averaged the amount of time many folks spend cooking and commuting in addition to paid work it would probably add up to sixty or more hours.
At Glomus, which is a much smaller commune, we don’t track hours directly. Rather we pay attention to each other. We can see each other working, we report in a meeting that we have each week about what we have been up to, and we do a yearly “Roles and Goals” report about what we’ve done and what we plan to do. I can tell you that everyone here works hard–not because they are required to but because they love most of what they do and they want to make sure that certain things get done. If someone did nothing but sit around and play video games or watch shows and didn’t do any observable work (and they weren’t having some kind of health crisis), we would probably asked them to either work or move on because there’s so much that needs to be done and we want to be fair to everyone.
And this is the reason that I say that “Work is the Currency”. Everyone works so that we can survive. We still pay attention to money (at least some of us) to make sure that the community’s bills are being paid, but within the community, we just make sure that everyone is working (and often working together) to make sure that we get what we need to get done, done.
And, maybe, if you are a Kahil Gibran fan, you might say that love really is the currency.
The natural beauty that surrounds the rural communes is often breathtaking–especially in early spring. Here are some photographs that appeared on our Facebook page recently.
East Wind recently posted this charming picture of a rainbow appearing above the community:
Here’s a gorgeous picture of Twin Oaks from Jayme Miller who was kind enough to give me permission to reprint it:
Jayme Miller wrote: “Twin Oaks- where every day is a week long, and so is every month.”
I posted the pictures from Glomus Commune and also wrote: “It’s high spring at Glomus Commune and the land around us has turned a brilliant green. Here’s three views of Pine Hill behind our land. The tree with the pink blossoms in the second photo is a peach tree. We live in a valley, so in the afternoon the land around us is in shadow while the tops of the hills are still sunlit–see the third picture.”
I often advocate living in communes for ideological reasons, for support and connection, and to be part of something very different from mainstream living, but the views aren’t bad either.
It’s late winter and the nights are cold and some of the days are reasonably warm. This is when the sap runs in trees. Here at Glomus Commune, several folks, led by Taliesin, have been tapping maple trees to make syrup. The process is sometimes called “sugaring”.
I published two Facebook posts about the process, trying to document it from collecting the sap to boiling it down. Here’s the first post:
One of our neighbors, Jeff, left a comment about our sugaring history and, having only been here a bit over a year, I realized I had written “every year” in error. Fortunately, Rachael had the correct history.
Once the sap is collected, it’s boiled down. Taliesin worked at this a long time.
We now have homemade maple syrup for pancakes and waffles (and a jar of ‘maple cream’ to spread on toast). We grow vegetables and raise livestock here, but we also use our land in other ways, and collecting sap when we can is one of them.
I decided, long ago, that communities were a balancing act, that for me community exists precisely in what I call the dynamic tension between the individual and the group.
Many people have trouble understanding this. They see a commune, for example, as just a place where a lot of people live. But a commune is more than a collection of people, the same way that a forest is more than a collection of trees. I believe that communes and communities are living, breathing entities unto themselves. And, yes, it’s true that no community could exist without people, but it’s also true that our bodies can’t exist without cells. However, that doesn’t make our bodies just a container for cells.
By dynamic, I mean that the balance is always shifting. Sometimes we need to focus on the contributions of the individuals and sometimes we need to focus on what we have collectively accomplished. Sometimes it’s good to say, “Look, I did this,” but often, it is more satisfying to say, “Look what we did.” I think that it’s hard in this individualistic society (especially if you haven’t lived in community) to appreciate how important being part of that “we” is. (We have someone here at Glomus that is fond of saying that “Teamwork makes the dream work.”) This doesn’t negate the importance of honoring the contributions of the individuals in a community. But it’s always a balance. It’s not about the individual OR the community, it’s both/and.
So we appreciate each other—and we appreciate ourselves as a commune. On Validation Day, we had a card created for each person, but someone also made up a card for “Glomus/EBCF/The Land” where we expressed our appreciations for this wonderful place where we are.
Here at Glomus Commune, we are working to truly honor the contributions of each individual as well as what we do collectively. We don’t always succeed, but it’s what we are working on.
Last month, I wrote a little about Validation Day before the actual holiday. Slowly, after it was over, pictures started coming out on Facebook. I realized that I hadn’t posted them here.
First there was a post from me comparing an ornate card from Twin Oaks with the simpler ones that we had here at Glomus Commune.
As I said, the messages are the most important part. Still, the creativity that goes into the cards can be stunning. Here’s a post from the beginning of this month talking about what happened at Twin Oaks.
At the busy communes, I think that this is a wonderful way for us to remind ourselves that we care about each other.