Craft Weaves Together Community

Written by Thumbs from Cambia Community

from Your Passport to Complaining

Through the haze of old safety goggles I struggle to read the fractions of an inch I was told to measure.  When I look up to ask for the length again my voice is droned out by the grind of iron against steel, groaning like tectonic plates being forced against each other.  I pull out my earphones to try and hear the number my friend is saying, but as soon as my ear is exposed the scream of dull blades splintering wood makes my ears ring like funeral bells for the death of hearable tone.  We are here to build a natural home, a safe place for the community to gather and celebrate, but our means of getting there is through the dehumanizing technology of industrialization. Does community begin when the project is done?  Are the projects ever done?

Construction has become a means to an end.  There are customers who design compositions of geometric shapes on two dimension screens, and builders who are tasked to turn these teeny tiny drawings into voluminous structures which exceed the cubic area of many hundred year old trees, and preferably they should complete the task in the same amount of time it takes to simply imagine doing some of the steps.  This impossible task can only be dared to be dreamed of due to the cunning bedmates technology and globalization!

wigwam crew

However, home construction also has potential to be an artistic celebration of the unique local environment.  In fact, the architecture styles associated with various cultures of the world, are a beautiful expression of the dance between place-based resources, local climate, and the human imagination.    On the other hand, building a Laotian bamboo stilt house at the 45th parallel north will look stunning in a picture, but a close up would show popsicle frozen homeowners entombed in their own dream house.  That example sounds ridiculous because it’s unfamiliar, but there are innumerable identical architectural discords made bearable due to enough synthetic insulation, chemical wood embalming, and gently off gassing décor.

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Long House Construction

Turtle island (North America) has a rich place based architectural history.  The indigenous cultures built migratory homes they carried with them, Lakota tepees, temporary shelters along their travels, Inuit igloos, and long-lasting homes to raise a family, Anishinaabe wigwams*.  European colonists also established trademark style with the aid of hand saw technology to fell larger trees interlock them to create the signature log cabins.  Even more recently with the fusion of ancient architecture and Anthropocene resources the earth ships design has become a hallmark of the South West. Each of these designs works best using the materials of the biome it’s in, because that is the region these materials, organic or inert, evolved to endure.  Buried homes stay cool in the dessert but mold in humidity, and the forest appreciates the harvest of rot resistant sapling in regions known for benders (a general term for anything that involves created rounded structures using interlocking wood; sweat lodges, long houses, and wigwams).

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With any of these homes, the finished structure is only a small glimpse of the true beauty that went into crafting it.  Traditional building techniques also use traditional tools, which traditionally are about the volume of a loud bird (not a firing gun), and even more often require multiple people.  From weaving the inner bark of Hickory to make Wigwam cordage, to collaboratively wielding either end of a large bow saw many “old fashioned” tools are meditatively redundant and quiet enough to get lost in conversation with your fellow crafts person.  Without the screech of electric engines and unwieldy blades their use is also not restricted to the adrenaline hungry young men who surround me at conventional construction sites. My current highlight of traditional construction was working with a pregnant woman and young mother to peel Aspen bark while the year-old baby napped in the middle of the construction site.

When building community becomes the goal, instead of making a community building, there is less of a race to the finish, and more of a dialogue with local materials and people.  Do you know the 5 most common trees that grow in your biome? Do you know which characteristics of them are equivalent to their modern synthetic mimics? Instead of exchanging money for hired time, have you considered luring your friends over for a building party with food and music (you’d be surprised how people who are deprived of hand craft in their profession are exuberant to get their hands dirty building your home).

jeff build wigwam
Jeff hands on

At Rustling Roots in Central Virginia, we are turning back the wheels of time to weave community by weaving together a Wigwam.  Over the course of a weekend we will all learn how to turn the sweet-smelling bark of springtime Poplar into wallpaper, and the overly abundant shoots of cedar saplings into a bedroom sized inverted nest.  Not only will we be working with these materials for architecture, but you will learn about how to harvest them to appease the forest, and when they are most eager to be compliant to your construction whims.  With simply tools a 1st year blacksmith could forge we will weave together a structure rich in indigenous wisdom, while weaving together the lives of every hand involved.  Of course, we are planning to have a beautiful organic home at the end, but that is just the flower on top of community we’ll cultivate along the way.

           Wigwam Building Workshop June 28-30

           Zoom Interview with Instructor, Jeff Gottlieb, Wednesday 6 p.m. June 19th (Free, Click Here)

* “Wigwam” and “wikiup” are both popularly used to describe Woodland nuclear family homes. In general reference, these terms work (like when we use the term “moccasin” to describe a type of footwear in general). But keep in mind there are so many uncorrupted terms for “a home/dwelling” from different Native dialects that are very appropriate to use, especially when describing homes of specific Nations. You might have noticed that we favor the term “wigwam” in our writings. This is only because the term “wikiup” is often an applied term to describe Apache dwellings (in poplar writing and some academic outlets), and because they are not similar, we’d rather stick to terminology that embodies Woodland traditions without the association of a very different Native housing tradition of the Southwest. But truly the term “wikiup,” just like the term “wigwam,” are born of the Woodlands region.

(http://woodlandindianedu.com/wigwamlonghouselodge.html 5/18/2019)      

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Craft Weaves Together Community

A Detailed FEC History: Part Five, the Tens and Teens

by Raven Cotyledon

(This is the fifth and final part of a series.  Part one is here, part two is here,  part three is here, and part four is here.)

This post should bring us up to date on the History of the FEC and its Assemblies, concluding with last year’s Assembly.

This decade began with two Assemblies, one in March of 2010, and one in November. Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, and the Emma Goldman Finishing School attended both of them. Twin Oaks reported a population of 92, East Wind 50, and Acorn 30.  These are close to their current populations. The March Assembly was also attended by a community named Patchwork. The only other note was that “Villages in the Sky” was discussed.

The November Assembly brought two new communities, both of which had something different to offer.   The Midden was an urban community, in Columbus, Ohio, very much on the model of Emma Goldman. Living Energy Farm was a rural commune in Louisa, Virginia (home to Twin Oaks) but was focused on being off the grid and a demonstration of fossil fuel free living. Both communities were exciting to the FEC and both have, in their own way, ended up moving away from income-sharing.

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The 2011 Assemblies followed the same March and November pattern as the previous year.  Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, and the Emma Goldman Finishing School again attended both Assemblies, along with Living Energy Farm (LEF). I have nothing else on the March Assembly, but the November Assembly brought back The Midden, along with Skyhouse and two new communities, the Possibility Alliance and Camp Pleasant.

Camp Pleasant was another one time Assembly attendee, but the Possibility Alliance was something else.  Also known as the Stillwater Sanctuary, they made low tech LEF look extravagant. LEF uses small scale electric power, but the Possibility Alliance didn’t use electricity at all. The Possibility Alliance had a telephone, but no computers (or TVs–they had a “no screen” policy) and, of course, no website. But it wasn’t hard to find them, with articles about them all over the web. Also, their method of income-sharing was operating under the “gift economy”, where they only took what was given to them and shared the excess.

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Planting the first year at Living Energy Farm

Also for the November, 2011 Assembly, in addition to the populations staying the same at Twin Oaks, East Wind, and Acorn, Emma Goldman reported having 10 folks, Skyhouse 4, and The Midden 6.  And the reported topic that Assembly was something called the “league of activist communities”.

There was only one Assembly in 2012, in March. It was attended by Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, The Midden, Red Earth Farms (for the last time at an Assembly), and CRIC House, a new community in California that wouldn’t last long, but actually lead to another community in Louisa.  While most communities that reported their population stayed the same, Acorn dropped down to 27 and Emma Goldman down to 8. It’s also notable that Skyhouse, which had been a stable little sub-community in Dancing Rabbit ecovillage, was now gone, having lost three of their four folks and the remaining member decided not to start over again.  

There was also only one Assembly in 2013, in April. Attendees were Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, the Emma Goldman Finishing School, The Midden, CRIC House, and the Possibility Alliance. Acorn now reported 28 folks, but The Midden dropped down to 3. It was also reported that the Emma Goldman Finishing School was not fully income-sharing, and this was their last Assembly.

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The Emma Goldman Finishing School

And, again, there was but one Assembly in 2014, in March, but it was a packed and busy one and I was there.  It was held at Acorn and attendees included Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, Living Energy Farm, Sapling (which was a short lived offspring of Acorn), the Baltimore Free Farm (a scruffy punk anarchist collective), The Midden, CRIC House, the Possibility Alliance, and Willow Vale Farm (the would-be community that I was representing). Willow Vale never got the land that they wanted and I soon left the project for complicated reasons, but they eventually bought land in another place with another name.  This was the decade where several community attempts crashed and burned and new communities came out of them. (The transformations will become apparent as we go along.)

The 2015 Assembly was again in March. There was a good attendance: Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, The Mothership, Living Energy Farm, Sapling, the Baltimore Free Farm, The Midden, the Possibility Alliance, Living Tree Alliance (yet another one time Assembly attendee), and Oran Mor were all there.  CRIC was gone (but wait). Living Energy Farm reported a population of 5, Sapling also 5, and Oran Mor 3.

By 2016, the communes movement seemed to be taking off. Attendees at the March Assembly were: Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, The Mothership, Living Energy Farm, Sapling, the Baltimore Free Farm, The Midden, Cambia (the new Louisa community founded by folks from CRIC), Ionia (a community in Alaska), Compersia (in Washington, DC), Oran Mor, Sycamore Farm (in southern Virginia, created by some folks from Twin Oaks), Open Circle (also in Virginia, but north of Louisa), Quercus (in Richmond, Virginia, founded by folks from Acorn), and Le Manoir (in rural Quebec).  Cambia reported a population of 2, Ionia 30 (they had been around a long time before they discovered the FEC–or vice versa), Compersia 6, and Le Manoir 6. The movement appeared to be exploding, but some of these communities weren’t going to last long.

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Welcome to Cambia

By the next year (2017), two of these communities were gone.  For complicated reasons, neither Sycamore Farm nor Quercus made it. Living Energy Farm and the Baltimore Free Farm, while both continuing on, stopped trying to do income-sharing. In 2017, there were again two Assemblies.

The March Assembly still had a lot of communities at it: Twin Oaks, East Wind, Sandhill, Acorn, The Mothership, Sapling, the Baltimore Free Farm, The Midden, Cambia, the Possibility Alliance, Ionia, Compersia, Oran Mor, Rainforest Lab (a new community in rural Washington state), Open Circle, and Le Manoir were there.  The notes list three things happening: minigrants were created (these are small amounts of money–$600 or less–given to communities to pay for things like workshops, travel, infrastructure, etc), “Commune Life blog begins” (they noticed!), and “conflict resolution team ideas” were discussed.

The November Assembly had much the same crew but with some significant changes. The Midden and the Possibility Alliance were gone.  The Midden transformed itself into a cooperative house and the founders of the Possibility Alliance eventually moved to Maine. Sapling transformed itself into Mimosa.  It was the same place but all the people who started it were gone and it was taken over by the folks who tried to start Sycamore Farm. There was also one new community, East Brook Community Farm in rural New York, started by the folks who tried to start Willow Vale Farm. (As I said, new communities were emerging from the wreckage of the old.)

There was again one Assembly in 2018,in November. It had basically the same crew as the November, 2017 Assembly except Sandhill, one of the elder communities in the FEC was in trouble, and didn’t make it. Populations reported on the chart were Twin Oaks 92, East Wind 50, Acorn 28, Mimosa 2, Cambia 2, Ionia 30, Compersia 6, Oran Mor 3, Rainforest Lab 2, and Le Manoir 6.

The chart ends there but there was an Assembly last December. Fortunately, I was there. It was filled with controversy (as I suspect many others were), and due to that, the site was changed at the last minute from East Wind to Oran Mor (although many of us stayed at East Wind and they provided strong support for the Assembly). Present were folks from Twin Oaks, East Wind, Acorn, The Mothership, Cambia, Ionia, Compersia, Rainforest Lab, Oran Mor, Le Manoir, East Brook Community Farm, and Cotyledon (the new community in New York City, which I was representing).  Folks from Sandhill also tried to make it, but they had children with them and since there was a stomach virus which swept through many of the delegates, they decided not to risk it. In spite of the controversies (and there were a bunch of them), we passed a budget for the FEC (something that apparently didn’t happen the previous year) and began forming teams in the hope of expanding the leadership of the FEC.

Instagram video of the 2018 attendees

The current status of the FEC communities (as far as I know and subject to change with little or no notice): Full member communities–Twin Oaks, East Wind, Acorn, and  Compersia; Re-forming communities–Sandhill and Mimosa; Communities in Dialogue–Oran Mor, The Mothership, Ionia, Rainforest Lab, Open Circle, Cambia, Le Manoir, East Brook Community Farm, and Cotyledon.

Some takeaways from all this history.

Obviously, communities come and go. What’s more interesting is that the people who start communities often try again. Cambia was started by CRIC House folks. Sapling and Sycamore Farm both fell apart, but the folks who started Sycamore Farm took over Sapling and remade it as Mimosa. The folks who tried to start Willow Vale Farm eventually got East Brook Community Farm going. I have been to three different Assemblies representing three different communities: Common Threads (1996), Willow Vale (2014), and Cotyledon (2018).  There are communitarians who are passionate and don’t give up easily.

Also, a bunch of the communities that look like they have left are actually still around, just no longer income-sharing or wanting to be part of the FEC. Or wanting a different status in the FEC. The Ally Communities status was created to keep a connection with communities like Ganas and Living Energy Farm. I also know of at least one community that most people thought was long gone which has recently approached the FEC, possibly wanting to return.

The FEC itself is an interesting organization. I have written a bit about what it is and isn’t and how difficult it is to keep all these communities connected. I know that in this series I have focused on the Assemblies, but that’s what I have the information about and that’s where most of the decisions were made.  As always, if you have more information, feel free to share it in the comments.

I will probably write an addendum featuring the 2019 Assembly later this year, and maybe, if I am still around and Commune Life is still around, in another decade or so, I will write the FEC history of the Twenties. Meanwhile, for a shorter, more abbreviated and interactive version of FEC History, watch the video Maximus put together.

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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

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon 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!

 

 

 

 

A Detailed FEC History: Part Five, the Tens and Teens

Trust

by Raven Cotyledon

Here’s an issue that’s a little closer to home. This blog is about income-sharing and income-sharing requires trust.

I think that trust is the main reason most people don’t do income-sharing. It’s hard to share your hard earned money with someone who you don’t trust, and many people don’t see how they could trust a bunch of people with their money. Although it isn’t that difficult for some folks when they join one of the larger and older and well managed communes, if you are offered the opportunity to join a new and small community, it can be scary to think about sharing your cash with folks that you barely know.

So the question is, how is trust built?

My stock answer is time. I don’t think that there is an instant way to build trust. There are ways to speed up the process (and I will talk about them shortly), but it will never happen overnight.

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DNA and gil and I spent two and a half years talking and getting to know each other before we started living together at Cotyledon and sharing income. At the community I helped create in Cambridge in the 1990s, Susan and Robert and I moved in together after a year of discussion but it was at least another year of discussion before we began income-sharing.

My understanding is that Transparency Tools were devised as a way for people to get to know each other quicker and on a deeper level, and thus speed up the trust building process. It can work, but it isn’t a substitute for working together, talking together, and just spending time together. That’s what really builds trust.

Unfortunately, if trust is betrayed, it becomes a hundred times harder to rebuild it. Often, the simplest solution when a community member betrays trust is to ask them to leave. For those who choose to stay and work it out, the process can take years and be fragile even then.

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While I was writing this, I received the newest issue of Communities magazine, which was focused on Sexual Politics. I saw this quote, which was about sexual misconduct but, unfortunately, I think also applies to financial misconduct: “…those who violate people most often build a base level of trust, and then violate that trust with intention. That’s a difficult reality for many people to grasp, especially those who want to only see the good in people.” (Amanda Rain, “Community Accountability”, Issue #183) Unfortunately, I know of communities that trusted one person with all the finances until the person was caught. Trust is very important, but I think any community needs to have at least two, uninvolved people watching the books.

My feeling is that income-sharing is an amazing tool that can liberate people to live the way that they want and directly challenges the corporate capitalist system. There are a lot of wonderful things about it, but it does require trust, and trust takes time.

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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

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon 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!

 

 

 

Trust

Thinking about Needs

by Raven Cotyledon

This may seem a bit off topic, but I think it’s very important. For people who want to start communities or folks who want to know why they can’t keep people in their commune, I believe that no one will be interested in a community or stay in one if their needs aren’t being met.

I have my own blog, which I have mentioned before, and which is now being neglected while I focus on Commune Life and commune building in New York City. I have thought about the concept of needs for a long time and, just a bit more than ten years ago, I wrote a post that inaugurated a series that lasted four months and involved something like forty-five posts, all focused on human needs.

I began by using, as a framework, psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef’s Fundamental Human Needs. Even though Max-Neef made his list in opposition to Maslow’s Hierarchy, I saw the two lists as compatible and created my own list, combining them, listing categories beginning with physiological/subsistence needs and finishing off with artistic and creativity needs, identity needs, and freedom needs. I followed this with forty-three posts, each talking, in some detail, about what might be needed to meet each of forty-three needs. I think this all is important to try to think about what the needs of each person in community might be and how to meet these needs. As I said in my wrap up post, these were all real needs and did not include things the advertisers claim you need.  There is no human need for SUVs or McMansions.

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Maslow’s Hierarchy

Since then I have encountered two other ways of looking at needs that I think are worth mentioning, from the perspectives of Nonviolent Communication and Permaculture.

One of the concepts in Nonviolent Communication (aka Compassionate Communication or NVC) is the difference between needs and strategies. An example is that I come from Boston and live in New York City. Most of the people I love are still in Boston. If something happened to one of them, I might have a real need to get up to Boston. (A need not on any of the lists, but a need just the same.) If I came to you and said that I needed to borrow your car, that would not actually be a need. It’s a strategy. I could get to Boston by bus, train, ship, plane, biking, walking, hitchhiking, and on and on.  There usually dozens, if not hundreds of strategies to meet a need. When needs seem to be in conflict, NVC claims that it’s often really about conflicting strategies.

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Where Maslow and NVC look at needs from a psychological and often individual perspective, Permaculture looks at them from a system perspective. In permaculture, they look at “elements” in a system, which could be plants in a garden or people in a commune.   Each ‘element’ has both needs and products or behaviors or yields or, I would say, gifts. The system part goes beyond the individual needs to looking at how one person’s gifts can meet another person’s needs, and with things in right relationship, the whole community can meet everyone’s needs. I love thinking about how person A’s needs can be met by person B’s gifts, and person B’s needs can be met by person C’s gifts, and then person C’s needs can be met by person A’s gifts. (This is oversimplified, but hopefully you get the idea.)

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Needs and gifts of a chicken

Maybe someday, the communes will figure out, not only how we can each meet other member’s needs, but we can do so effortlessly. Truly then we would have something that could transform this society.

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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
● Acorn Community
● Compersia Community
● Cotyledon Community
● East Brook Community Farm
● The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
● Twin Oaks Community

Communards
● Tobin Moore
● Kai Koru
● Jenn Morgan
● Jonathan Thaler
● Nance & Jack Williford
● Julia Evans
● William Croft
● Aaron Michels
● Cathy Loyd
● Laurel Baez
● Magda schonfeld
● Michael Hobson
● William Kadish
● Em Stiles
● Laurel Baez
● Lynette Shaw

Thanks!

Thinking about Needs

FEC TV

from the Commune Life Instagram site

FEC TV