The Fragility of Communities

by Raven

I’ve been hoping to have some of the folks in the communities that I’m going to talk about tell their tales, and I’m still hoping that will happen, but in the interests of transparency, I want to put out some of what is happening.

I’ve heard it said (and have said it myself) that 90% of new communities fail. It’s not a real statistic but it is an acute observation. Anyone working closely with community building knows the stories. (And it’s not that strange–I’ve also heard that 90% of new business fail.)

FNB benefit house show

Many communities fail because people have no idea what goes into building community. I’ve written a piece on this blog on one way not to build community. But even some of those communities that seemed carefully thought out, don’t last, for one reason or another.

At this point, three of the communes that have graced this blog are gone: Quercus, Sycamore Farm, and the Midden. The Midden lasted more than seven years (they bought a house in 2010) and only fell apart recently. (Note: Not completely accurate.  See my comment in the comments section.)  Quercus lasted (I think) less than a year. Sycamore Farm may have done the best of all–as their community fell apart another community near Twin Oaks and Acorn (called Sapling–we were never able to get anything from them) was also doing poorly. The founders of Sycamore Farm were able to take it over and it has become Mimosa. (As I said, I’m hoping the folks that were part of Quercus and Sycamore/Sapling/Mimosa can tell their stories. Folks involved have said that they’d like to, but communitarians are busy people.)

Sycamore Farm

A lot of this is simply the nature of building community. It’s just not easy–if it was, there would be ten times the number of communities that there are now. Community involves people and people are both wonderful and can be very difficult.

This makes things like Twin Oaks turning fifty a major celebration. I believe that Acorn will reach twenty-five next year and that’s amazing as well. It makes me appreciate both of them and other long lived communities such as Sandhill and East Wind. When you realize how fragile new communities are, you realize both how precious the long lived communes are and how important it is to keep working on building new ones.

The Midden

It takes courage to build new communities, but Twin Oaks, etc, wouldn’t be around unless someone made the effort.






The Fragility of Communities

A Cornucopia of Communes

Pictures of most of the communities featured in Commune Life over the last year.  (All communes are in US states unless otherwise noted.)

Acorn, Mineral, VA:


Baltimore Free Farm, Baltimore, MD:

Cambia, Louisa, VA:

Cambia 4

Compersia, Washington, DC:


East Wind, Tecumseh, MO:


las Indias, Madrid, Spain:


Living Energy Farm, Louisa, VA:


Oran MórSquires, MO:

Summer OM5a

Quercus (disbanded), Richmond, VA:

Porch music jam on our snazy palette-finished porch

Rainforest Lab, Forks, WA:


Sandhill Farm, Rutledge, MO:

Sandhill 1

Sycamore Farm, Arcadia, VA:


The Common Unity Project (TCUP),  Gitxsan Territory, Hazelton, BC (Canada):


Twin Oaks, Louisa, VA:





A Cornucopia of Communes

Happy Equinox from Sycamore Farm Community!

by Sapphyre Miria, Sycamore Farm Community, 9.22.16

Fall Equinox seems like a fitting time to finally write something about what’s happening here at Sycamore: balance of light and dark, preparing to enter into a quiet, reflective season.

Right now, Sycamore Farm Community is comprised of two adult members (Edmund and me) and two teens (Evan and Kaya). We’ve spent the last nine months in a flurry of activity – SOOO much construction, SSOOO much farming!  We often miss our friends at Twin Oaks and hope that more folks will join us soon. We’ve had a lot of friends coming through to give us a hand, for which we are forever grateful. We’ve also had some folks expressing interest in our project.  I find that words fail to convey the landscape of our project in these cases. As such, I decided that I wanted to post pictures of what we’re working with here.

First, let’s start from the trailer:


The trailer is under renovation, obviously. Currently, the two completed rooms are business related. The great room that the french doors open into is the large seed business catch all room. This room will be where all of the Common Wealth Seed Grower’s seed packing and shipping happens, as well as where winter squash will be stored. Seed processing happens on the porch out front, which is precisely what Edmund is doing in this picture. The room to the right off of the great room is our climate-controlled seed/medicinal herb drying & storage room.  These two rooms make up about 60% of the living space inside the trailer. The other 40% remains to be renovated at this point. We envision adding at least two bedrooms plus some public space inside and constructing a composting toilet,  off to the left of the building.

Here’s a closer look of Edmund processing some wet seed harvest:


Yes, that is Kudzu eating everything around us. It’s even eating the dumpster! We want to get two pigs from Acorn to root it all out, whenever we find the time for yet one more project….

This give you an idea of the spread between the properties:


Now, on to the main house:


This is the heart of our baby community project, where food gets cooked and baths get taken. Yes, those are train tracks. Yes, the house faces the tracks instead of the road. We think it’s pretty cool, albeit a bit dangerous for young two leggeds and for unaware four leggeds. As you can see, the garden is winding down….


….and we can’t wait to figure out what to make with these gourds!

We really dig the hammock set up under the willow tree. It helps us when we’re missing Twin Oaks.


A different angle of the hammock under the tree, this time capturing the front of the house as well as Evan:


The pile of rubbish on the ground was my bedroom floor. The mold had overcome my bedroom this summer and, when we returned from Communities Conference, I decided I couldn’t take anymore. I ripped up the carpet, which uncovered a molded “sub floor”. Started ripping that up to discover another layer under that. This was about when my chronic lyme decided to flare up with a vengeance, causing me to retreat to the trailer to escape the mold. Edmund and Calvin (ex Twin Oaks) finished ripping it all out the following weekend while Calvin was visiting, only to discover that the floor joists were dry rotted and molded out too. Right now, my room has no floor, no joists. Hopefully some friends will come and help us get it back together soon! Anyway, I digress. The porch has been in some stage of catch all for us since we’ve moved in. We’re hoping that after various projects are finished, we can finally find homes for all of this stuff and make it feel cozy.

Here’s a broader angle of the same shot:


Now, let’s walk on down to the river!


Once you finish the short jaunt down the tracks, you slip down a trail onto waterfront land that is a part of the Jefferson National Forest.

Here is the view to the left from the river bank:


If you look back up to the photo of the main house, you can see the ridge line disappear into the woods. Well, this is where the ridge line comes back into view.

Now, the view to the right from the river bank:


Gorgeous, isn’t it? Now, for the walk back up to the house:


This shot shows the walk from the trail to the river to our house, with the willow tree marking our spot.

I don’t have pictures of our farm land here – that will be another blog post, some other time. We lease our 3.5 acres in three different locations in Rockbridge County. We’re hoping to find farmland somewhere near us here in Arcadia to make life more easeful and to have us driving less.

This gives you a pretty good idea of where we’re at and what’s happening right now.

To leave it on a fun note, can you spot the beginning of fall in this photo?


Happy Equinox from Sycamore Farm Community!