Recently, a good friend of the community, Wolvie, came to buy the school bus and take it back to New Orleans, where they live. They also ended up staying for 10 days to help us complete some pretty urgent house projects, such as fixing the slate roof and putting up ceilings where the roof hole had caused water damage.
Wolvie, being a queer person themselves, wanted to hire a local work crew of queer, trans, and POC. They said they prefer to work with cool folks and wanted to prioritize people who generally have harder times getting a decent paying job. We put out a call into the networks, and got a solid handful of rad folks to get the work done. They did a FANTASTIC job. One member of our team was Wripley Bennet, of the Black Pride 4, who is an organizer with BQIC (Black Queer Intersectional Columbus). Check out all the solid organizing work BQIC is doing here. Wripley writes, “It was amazing to be doing work in my old stomping grounds, with a community that has always done such extraordinary work. The work was hard, but filled with laughs and pizzammmm…pizza. I got to know one of our talented youths during our time, “V.” And Wolvie was patient and kind with on-site training with the work. It’s was the perfect example of ready work for our folks. Same day work same day pay, in a respectful and affirming environment. We need more of that!”
This is the essence of community building, IMHO. Identifying needs in the community, and collaborating to get shit done. Back in the day (maybe 9 years ago??) Wolvie was one of the founding members of the Baltimore Free Farm, a collective land project that provides huge amounts of free food to the surrounding communities. The Midden (which is the fertile soil out of which CoCoHo is growing) used to be in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities with BFF, so we were sister communes. The work Wolvie did for us on the house was above and beyond anything we could have hoped for. They wanted to help us make our space a viable community, even as we transition away from being an income-sharing urban commune, and towards become a housing cooperative.
I am blown away by all the good work, friendship, and community building that happened during the last 2 weeks. We worked hard, blasted music and sang along, and each learned at least one new skill. So much gratitude to everyone who contributed to making this possible. ❤️ Queer Crew For the Win!
Greetings, Communards! It’s Caroline from The Midden in Columbus, OH, on a visitor period to Compersia in DC. I’ve been here 11 days, and have been participating in the labor system, exploring the city on foot and by car, wrangling children, and connecting with various other visitors– Sitali, Telos, Mary, and Beaux. Telos arrived a couple days ago, and he and I have been job searching, updating resumes, cooking, and just connecting in general. Yay!
When I first arrived, the house was nearly empty. Peaches, Courtney (and Telos) all went up to the HONK! Festival in Boston along with some other communards, Maximus Cambia and Paxus Twin Oaks. The children were staying elsewhere. Kathryn and her visiting mother Mary took a trip to Dolly Sods for a weekend adventure. GPaul was on a month-long trip to the west coast. I found myself nearly alone after having survived a particularly challenging yoga class, when Jenny emerged in the backyard in a snazzy dress and makeup. She had a date later in the evening, and so we decided to go out to dinner beforehand to talk about membership. I donned a dress and some glitter and we walked to Thip Khao, a Laotian restaurant. The verdict: DELICIOUS. En route we encountered these fantastical huge mushrooms.
While it was just me and Jenny in the house we got to have a couple really good conversations about patriarchy, alpha men and white male privilege in the communities movement, and the damaging and lasting effects that this stuff can have on women. Even when we try to dismantle these systems in an intentional way, we’re so indoctrinated by society that it’s easy to reproduce this shit in our communities without even realizing. Patriarchy isn’t a just a women’s problem, or just a men’s problem. It’s a multilayered system full of subtleties.
Top takeaways: as a woman you’ll often find yourself on the losing end of any proposition. You may not even realize there was a power dynamic until it’s too late. You may end up with more work to do, or you have have surrendered your self-determination into the hands of a man (who may or may not even want to be The Decider!) Don’t beat yourself up about it when you do finally realize. Take notice of how it went down, and look for early warning signs next time. Because there will always be a next time. Refine your ability to notice the nuance, inquire within about your own internalized patriarchy, and choose your actions carefully. There’s no one right way to subvert the patriarchy. Outright refusal to be complicit, gentle on-on-one conversations, banding together to build power together, dancing about it, smashing about it… Creativity counts.
But enough about patriarchy. How about cats?! There are 3 hammocks hanging in the back yard. (Twin Oaks hammocks, obviously.) One night I went out to hang and this lil fluffer joined me for some cuddles. I’m allergic, but really couldn’t resist. A nice moment of decompression after some deep emotional work.
Compersians often appear to be in to costumes from my perspective from under a cape, but I’m told that in fact, there’s a desire to increase costume time. Courtney has been rocking the Wookie costume for a couple days now. I’ve suggested they start an adult costume closet, so they can combine forces and always have ridiculous things to wear. Like Commie Clothes, but Commie Costumes.
Courtney and I had a couple substantial conversations during my time here, one in particular stood out, and included Telos and Kathryn. The conversation was about a phrase we have all heard said by a number of community members, “We want to be an ambitious commune.” At first blush, this struck a number of us oddly. Like, is this Ableism in action? Or is it some domineering work ethic, similar to the one white people imposed on black people in this country for centuries? Why would it be a good thing to be ambitious? Wasn’t Hitler ambitious? So we dug in a little more and expanded and modified the idea. What if it’s not the communards being individually ambitious, but the COMMUNE itself? If the community hones in on it’s ideals and dreams and pursues them relentlessly, can’t that be a good way to be ambitious? For the good of the whole, and not as a competitive individualistic pursuit? More people living communally is a good thing. Let’s pursue that together, with gusto. This is obviously a conversation that has a lot more room to evolve, but this conversation appeared to be a second draft of what it means to “be an ambitious commune.”
On Thursday night, Peaches came home from visiting family in Maine with new ideas for building a swinging bed from the rafters in the living room. (Not gonna happen.) On Friday, GPaul came home from a grand train adventure across the country. The children were clearly happy to have their jungle gym back. (Not pictured: Solomon and his awesome new mohawk.) There’s a new 20-foot shipping container for bike storage, and it’s full of bikes. Which is great! Except we lost the key. So that’s a thing… Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of antics and mayhem from this thriving young urban commune we call Compersia.
People ask regularly if there are spaces for new members at the income sharing communities. This is a current update on the space availability of the various communes in the US with ways to contact them and relevant guest/intern/visitor policies linked. This information changes with time, so it’s best to check with any community you wish to visit before scheduling your trip there.
Cambia(Louisa, VA) Yes, there are spaces. Cambia is actively promoting its sustainable environmental education program and has space for both interns and new members. This 2016 intern announcementis also current for 2017 and 2018.
Mimosa(Louisa, VA) This reforming new community (formerly Sapling) is interested in new members but is currently working on completing housing to provide space and thus cannot currently accommodate people for more than short visits. Feel free to send them an email.
Living Energy Farm(Louisa, VA) does have space for interns but is not seeking new members at this time. They have completed their main residence and are working on additional spaces for new members.
Acorn (Mineral, VA)is full. Acorn is not accepting new visitors interested in membership until spring 2018. Acorn does have possible internships starting in January 2018.
Twin Oaks(Louisa, VA)is near its population cap, and continues to accept people for membership, currently if you were accepted you could join right away, but there is some chance we will return to a waiting list soon. Twin Oaks does not currently have intern spots available.
Twin Oaks also hosts an annual communities conference. This year it is Sept 1st thru 4th (labor day weekend). If you are seeking communities, this is a great place to discover a bunch of them at once. And here are 7 reasons it is a better place to spend your time than Burning Man.
Compersia(Washington DC) has at least one space available in this new, urban, commune located in the Brentwood district of DC. Compersia has had one intern and might be open to more.
Ganas (Staten Island, NY) is looking for new members. While technically not an income sharing community over all, Ganas is supportive of the Point A project and the expansion of the communes movement. There are occasionally job openings at Ganas but right now Ganas is looking for paying members.
East Wind(Tecumseh, MO)is full and has a waiting list, but is still happy to have folks come and visit and like Twin Oaks you can apply for membership and be put on a waiting list. Because East Wind has a gender imbalance it actually has two waiting lists, one for males and one for females. There is currently a male waiting list of about half a dozen men. A woman who was accepted now would be at the top of that waiting list, and after three women are accepted, one of the men can be offered membership from the male waiting list.
The Midden (Columbus, OH) is in transition away from being a commune and towards being a NASCO group house in Columbus.
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.)
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.)
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.
(Notes: This report is rather out of date. Also, it’s significant that we took something from Paxus’s blog, your passport to complaining, this week because his blog was the main inspiration for this blog. His blog has lots of stuff on communes, but also polyamory, nuclear power, political situations, and stories from his family and his life. He got the idea he should have different blogs focused on different topics. From there we talked about the idea of a blog focused on egalitarian income sharing communities that he and many other folks could contribute to. That became this blog.)
“Look for the place with the canoe in the front yard.” It is pretty safe to assume that another canoe was not going to make it into another yard in downtown Columbus OH on Halloween. And we were already warned that this was not going to be a “normal” visit.
By most measures the Midden is a fantastically successful community. And one key to their success is in their name.
A midden is an intriguing or marvelous rubbish heap. Pack rats and octopi make middens—so do ocean currents and human civilizations. We call our house The Midden because we make use of the artifacts (groceries, furniture, shoes) thrown away or overlooked by mainstream society. And all the while, we’re using this stuff to build more whole and meaningful systems to provide for ourselves. [All quotes from the Midden website]
We arrive in time for dinner. Much of the house is not here this evening. Some doing their political works, others touring, still others will be back later. The house is a lived in construction site, but most of the bed rooms look well lived in and are decorated with political posters and exotic art. We have arrived with the intention of working with them on our way back from NASCO, and we can already see that we will be working on blown cellulose insulation. I have a long love affair with insulation materials.
We also love to care for each other, share our skills and ideas, and do what we can to confront systems of oppression that bring us all down. We’re eco-activists, prison abolitionists, housing justice advocates, writers and theater artists, adventurous human beings and more.
They are also charming, dedicated, sarcastic, spunky, counter culture kids who are the newest member of the egalitarian communitymovement. They were great hosts, embracing us not just as guests but as valued co-conspirators in making things better. The refrigerator rivals a suburban fridge for high end fare, the only difference is much of it made a brief stop in a dumpster first. Amazingly they have only spent $340 on food for all 7 of them since the first of the year (excluding coffee). The kitchen sink is a perfectly positioned bathtub.
We believe in things like: doing it ourselves, anti-authoritarianism, using (and re-using) our resources responsibly, friends and hanging out, dumpstering, caring for each other and staying solid. You can read more athttp://themidden.wordpress.com/.
While a couple housemates tell me that all the members like and respect each other, what really holds the place together is their shared commitment to political change. We try to kidnap Cole and get her to come to NASCO with us. She wisely resists, thought she was tempted by the idea of doing her own guerilla skill share.
We’re solid. We defend space that is safe, secure, and reliable for ourselves and our friends. We know where we stand in relation to the neighborhood, the city and the community and we own and shape that position. We practice security culture. We protect ourselves (to the best of our ability) from crisis both within and outside the house. We hold practices and policies that keep us stable, effective and creative as individuals and as a group. By pausing to think about what we think, want, and need, we make ourselves resilient and able to adapt to change.
We do end up spending a day helping install insulation. Billy from the Baltimore Free Farm scrambles thru the crawl spaces pumping fire resistant paper into the hollow spaces between ceiling and roof. We put in a long day of insulating and shlepping the heavy blower machine to the third floor. And we are satisfied that the house will be much warmer this winter for our efforts.
The Midnights (as I like to call them as a compression of Midden-ites) are game to guerilla workshop material to NASCO 2014. When I say we are going to run 24 new workshops, Alex instantly replies “We will do 6 of them.” We have met our partners in crime, and they live behind the canoe is Columbus Ohio.