Cambia: Reusing and New Buildings

by Raven

At the Communities Conference this summer, I got to take a tour of Cambia and I learned a few things.

Like the connection between their pond and one of their buildings.

This is their pond:

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They dug it out themselves, it has a nice deck (built from a deck that was torn down at Twin Oaks), and is great to cool off in, among other things. (For more about the pond, see Ella’s post, What Does It Mean to Build a Pond?)

Not far from the pond is a building they call ‘the barn’:

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This is a residential building where a family lives, but it also has a common space where meditation and spiritual activities happen:

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The flooring and walls are made from clay.  It says this at the beginning of Ella’s post, but I had forgotten, the clay is from what they dug out for the pond. So two of the things that they accomplished at the same time were digging out the pond and getting clay to create this room. It’s very much how they do things at Cambia.

A couple of new things that I saw this summer were this wigwam (which I believe was built during their Wigwam Building Workshop):

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And this new outdoor classroom:

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Check out the amazing roofing:

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Cambia continues its combination of ecological innovation and a lovely esthetic.  I wonder what I will find next year.

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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
  • 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! 

 

 

 

Cambia: Reusing and New Buildings

Bye Denny Ray

From your passport to complaining

Denny Ray left Twin Oaks many years before i arrived (and that was over 2 decades ago). But from early on in my membership i knew who he was, because he fixed things. Twin Oaks prides itself on on being self sufficient. And in many ways we are, in ways few families or even companies can brag about. But our little secret is we have some ringers. Denny definitely was one.

Denny Ray and his impressive camera

Denny was an independent political force in the labyrinth decision making system at Twin Oaks. He would get an idea in his head that we should do something and he would make it nearly irresistible to follow his advice, He wanted us to change to Blossman Gas; he argued that it would save us money, he argued that they gave better service, he argued they have safer equipment. But in the end what really won over the planners is when he said “And i will manage it”. We would have paid him, but he would not take money this time.

Denny brought the Blossman crew in and they went around to all our residences. They proposed a bunch of new hardware and i was frankly a bit scared that in the end it would not end up saving us money. Denny asked me to give hammocks and pillows to the Blossman engineers, which i happily did.

Denny was of course right. The new gas company ended up saving us over $10K a year, even after we paid for all the new equipment. Denny had negotiated a great deal for us. Best hammocks we ever gave anyone.

But Denny was loved for far more than his utility. He was funny, friendly, generous and highly opinionated. He loved his little house and would never move back to Twin Oaks, but he was often over for lunch consulting with old friends who were members, or newer members who knew he often had sage advice or a good story to share.

Denny also was a photographer. He would catch us walking on the road with our kids, and later send us a much loved picture to remember the moment. He loved our plays and musicals as well, and took photos of the performers in costume. We very much appreciated his generosity and artistic dedication. The sight of his much-beloved blue truck was always a cause for celebration.

Twin Oaks Forestry Crew: Photo Credit Denny Ray

Denny would get frustrated with us for poor decision making or treating a member poorly, and then he would take time away from the commune, a week – sometimes even a month. But his love for the place and its people always brought him back.

Denny’s last year was a tough one, He spent a bunch of nights in Twin Oaks hospice facility, Appletree. We don’t use Appletree for anyone who is not a member, but Denny was exceptional and no one even considered challenging the decision to bend the rule for this old friend.

I’ll miss Denny, who used to often joke about my many girlfriends or how i was upsetting the bureaucrats on campus. I’ll miss him, and i will remember him, his commitment to community, and his willingness to be part of something greater than self.

Good Journey, Denny Ray, thanks for everything.

Bye Denny Ray

The First Two Steps

by Raven

Probably the most popular post that I have written on Commune Life is the one on Four Steps to Building a Commune.  Recently I have started thinking that I missed a few steps. 

When I wrote it, I wrote it with the assumption that someone who wanted to start a commune, had come with experience and checked out the alternatives.  Now, I want to look at those things. Let’s call it steps zero and zero point five. (Or Step 0.0 & Step 0.5)

stepzerow1

Let’s start with step zero. If you are thinking of starting any type of community, but especially an income-sharing community, you should at least have some real group living experience. How do you even know that you would even like living in a community if haven’t tried it first?

I know of people who have given lots of good reasons for why they thought that they would be great in community only to find out that they didn’t like it once they really tried it.  You may be great at working with people. That isn’t the same as living with them. If you’re working with a group of people, no matter how difficult, you can go home at the end of the day. If you are living in a community, you are home. These are the folks that you are with, sometimes 24/7.  If you don’t like that, you probably don’t want to live in a commune. 

I would further suggest that if you are interested in starting a community, you actually live in one (even a co-op or collective house) for a couple of years first, and perhaps visit several others for at least a few weeks, before trying to start something. It’s really good to know how things are done at several places. The problem with only knowing one place before you start another, is thinking that the way that things are done in the place that you lived is the way things are always done everywhere.   

seeking-and-visiting-community

The more places that you visit, the wider the range of what you see as possible. Three places I would particularly recommend people who want to start a community should visit are: Twin Oaks in Virginia, to see how a commune that has lasted over fifty years works (I have done two three-week visits there plus many shorter stays), Dancing Rabbit in Missouri, to learn the pieces of how to build community, especially an ecological community (I did their three-week program several years back), and Ganas in New York City, to look at a community that fearlessly embraces conflict (I lived there for two and a half years–I would particularly recommend going to at least several of their morning meetings).

Then there is what I would call step zero point five. Ask yourself why you want to start a commune or any other type of community. Is there already a community that would meet your needs? If so, why don’t you want to live there? Please be real.  Starting a community is a lot of work and most new communities fail. At the very least (and this is moving into my Step One of my four steps), find someone else who wants to do this. Even better, see if there is anyone else who is already trying to do something similar. 
many hands together: group of people joining hands

As an example, I helped start Cotyledon because, first, I wanted to start an income-sharing community in the Northeast US and there wasn’t one at the point that I became involved. Ironically, I found some folks prior to this wanting to start a farming community in upstate New York, but after over a year working with them, I decided the way they were organizing wasn’t viable. I found out about Point A, so I would be working with a project out of the communes and after I was up here I met gil and DNA, so I now had a group to work with. (The irony is that a few years after I left, and by that time I was committed to working with Point A, the upstate farming community reorganized so that it was viable and became East Brook Community Farm. I am currently taking my own advice and planning on moving there as  Cotyledon winds down.) And I had literally decades of community living experience, including having previously started a commune in the 1990s, and visiting all the places that I mentioned above, all of which proved very useful in starting Cotyledon. And, even that wasn’t enough when we weren’t able to attract enough people. 

I am not suggesting that you need decades of experience, but I also think that someone who wakes up one day and says, “I want to build a commune” will not get far without, first, having at least some group living experience and perhaps visiting a bunch of communities, particularly places like the one that they are dreaming of, and second, having a really good reason for starting yet another new community, rather than simply joining one.

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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
  • 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! 

 

The First Two Steps

Appletree

from Keenan’s Twin Oaks blog

Posted 19th April 2014 by 

The grand opening party for Twin Oaks’ hospice, Appletree, was April 11th 2014.

It’s been a long journey.  The process for Appletree  (then, “the hospice addition”) started right after Kat Kinkade, the founder of Twin Oaks, died on July 3rd 2008.  Josie, Kat’s daughter, observed that Kat had “Rolls Royce” from twin Oakers care while she was declining at Twin Oaks. That care came at some emotional cost.  A couple of Twin Oakers had pretty serious emotional breakdowns due to caring for Kat, or being around her as she declined. Additionally, many caregivers who were sleeping on a mat in Kat’s room suffered hurt backs and various other physical ailments.   We collectively concluded that if we want to have people stay at Twin Oaks as they decline, and not have it be traumatic to the rest of the community, we need to have a space that isn’t in the middle of an SLG—that is, we need to build a place specifically designed for end-of-life care.

The goal behind Appletree is to keep elders in the heart of the community as they age and decline.  So the hospice was designed as an addition to Nashoba, Twin Oaks’  main handicapped accessible SLG, which, in turn, is close to ZK, Twin Oaks’ dining hall and community center.

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Nashoba, where Appletree was added

The guiding principle for the addition was to make it “nice,” that is, built to a quality standard to provide a pleasant environment for people who are dying.  And also to make sure that it’s comfortable for more mainstream caregivers, family members, and friends to be able to visit and stay.

The Louisa building department granted Twin Oaks a building permit for the addition in 2010, so the building of Appletree has taken 4 years.  That is probably longer than necessary due to stopping active construction for about a year for cash flow reasons.

I was the main mover of the process starting in 2008,  and I have been the honcho of the building part as well, so I have had this hospice addition on my front burner for six years now. Historically, a building project burns out the honcho, often to the point of leaving the community.  I have tried to be conscious of that unhealthy pattern, so I have tried to think of this as an opportunity and, specifically, to not be too attached to outcomes around Appletree, or to think of the building as “mine” just because I’m the honcho.  I’m very pleased and proud of how it’s come out and, as anyone who knows me well is aware, I’m really quite ready to be done with the construction part of it; six years is long enough.

Throughout most of the actual construction, the crew was Rowan, Arlo, and Elijah.  Rowan and Arlo started working on the building when they were 14 and 17. On April 11th Rowan turned 18.  It has been a joy and a privilege to have that able crew to work with—to see them gain skills and confidence, and to generally observe them growing from being boys to being men.

The first stages of the building, leveling the hillside and pouring the concrete were very stop-and-go.  It was hard to schedule people, and the uncooperative weather caused lots of slow-downs.  But once the concrete slab was poured, Elijah, Arlo, Rowan and I committed to doing a push to get the building itself up as quickly as possible.   We collectively cleared our schedules, and then did a construction boot camp.  Our goal was to work every day, for as long as there was light each day and to not stop until the building was “completed,” that is, the framing was up, the trusses on the framing, plywood on the trusses, metal on the roof, the siding on, and the doors and windows installed—that is, it would, from the outside, look like a completed building.  My very optimistic estimate to the young lads was that we could, if the weather held, possibly get all that done in a month.  The weather was perfect, the young lads worked hard; we built that whole house in two-and-a-half-weeks.  Yes, weeks.  Really.  Ask people who were here.

The guys took a break while wiring was run and insulation installed.  But then we got the band back together, did another blitz, and put up all of the sheetrock. Since those heady days, Elijah, Rowan, and Arlo have found other work and followed other interests, although Arlo did almost all the interior painting once the “mudding” was done.

It is either ironic or appropriate that the first use of this hospice was for the birth of Sylvia, before the addition was even all the way completed.  And now Aubby is planning to give birth there (she’s due any day now). Maybe we shouldn’t call it a hospice.

However, I like that the creation of Appletree as a hospice tangibly demonstrates that Twin Oaks is planning on sticking around.  Appletree shows that Twin Oaks is investing in our members and in our future.  It is sort of incidental, but no less meaningful, that the building for Twin Oaks’ elders was built by Twin Oaks’ teens.

Far from feeling burned out, here, at the conclusion of this project, I’m happy at how well Appletree has come out.  I really value having had the opportunity to work with Elijah, Arlo, and Rowan over these years.  It has been great having my main work area be fifty yards from my SLG.  I have felt a lot of trust from the community and support from people throughout this whole project. During much of the building of Appletree, it has felt like a blessing to me, and now that it’s done, it feels like the project is a success.

 

Appletree