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.

Jeff longhouse build
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).



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.

( 5/18/2019)      




Craft Weaves Together Community

Spring! (At East Wind)

from East Wind Community blog 

March 27, 2019

The East Wind Building Maintenance Crew has been pushing our infrastructure forward. The project for this Spring is remodeling of the floor and windows of our main Food Processing space.


We are still bringing in over a hundred pounds of milk everyday and dairy processing has been moved to the former showerhouse. Good thing the BM Crew got the new showerhouse up and running this past Fall, they just keep setting themselves up for success!

The old showerhouse, see previous blog posts for pictures of the new showerhouse 


Inside the temporary (possibly permanent?) Cheesehaus: the steam kettle, crucial for cheesemaking, in its new home. Featured here is East Wind’s newest Associate Member, a professional butcher and cheesemaker.

The East Wind’s agricultural areas keep bringing in the goods. Produce, dairy, meat. Potatoes, beets, and carrots are in the ground. We are still harvesting kale, spinach, lettuce, and radish. There are two new additions to the milking cow herd: Betty Boop and Carmen.


This is neither Carmen nor Betty Boop, but what a great picture, Beauxb!
Summer crop seedlings.
Derpiest dog on da farm.

The East Wind Nut Butters (EWNB) Crew is continuing to evolve. Members new to the management team are stepping up and taking on responsibility. Passing complex operations along in good, working order can be difficult in this income sharing context. Anna Youngs (Anna Young ran East Wind Nut Butters for most of the 2000s, thanks for holding it down) don’t come along but once a decade. Luckily, there are numerous young Annas here at the moment, all picking up a piece of the puzzle as they can. Effective training and effective leadership comes with time.

There was a relaxed Equinox, Easter, and Birthday combo party on the 21st (the actual Equinox was rainy). No pictures or comments from my end as I was in Dallas visiting my lovely Blood Fam, but I heard it was a good time. Happy Spring!


A relaxing Sunday morning at Rock Bottom.

All in all, East Wind is moving along quite nicely in this most interesting year of 2019. As my co Sage told me today: “things tend to work out for the best.”

Oh yeah, here is the latest video: Utopian Rope Sandals

Post written by Razz with edits from Boone. Pictures by Beauxb, Pinetree, and Panda.

Photo roll!


The garden right in front of our dining hall is being expanded with new fencing and a new gate. Get out and garden!
Communitarians hanging out. The skin being worked here was harvested from Marmalade, the Mother of East Wind’s modern dairy program. Parchment is the end goal. She was delicious roast beef and she lives on in her numerous progeny. God bless you, Marmalade.
The road leading to Fanshen. You can see one of the swarm traps (to capture honeybees) hung on a tree to the left (mentioned in the previous post).

Spring! (At East Wind)

One Hundred Members by 2017

from Keenan’s Twin Oaks Blog

FEB 28, 2013

100 members by 2017

Blog readers: This is a paper I posted at Twin Oaks. The reception did not rise to the level of lukewarm. Twin Oaks’ finances are tight, so this was deemed as not a good time at Twin Oaks to start planning a major new project. As of March 2013, there is still no movement to begin process to build a new building.
[Editor’s note: Still true in 2019.]


By Keenan

25 Aug 2012

100 members by 2017

Twin Oaks’ reached a peak population of 96 adult members a few years back—very close to 100 members—but since that time, due to more kids, additional slack rooms, and bedroom conversions, our current pop cap is now down to 93 adult members.  I would like to reverse this downward trend; I propose that Twin Oaks’ next building be a residence that brings Twin Oaks’ adult population to 100 members.
Adding seven more members would mean about 14,000 additional hours of labor per year, with a negligible increase to Twin Oaks’ labor infrastructure (we won’t need a bigger membership team, more cooks, more Planners etc.)  With a waiting list that has been ongoing for years and a need for more labor in our income and other areas, it seems that it’s a sensible next step to begin planning for increasing Twin Oaks’ population.  It’s been awhile: the last residence completed was Kaweah in 1995.  Since then, the community has mainly been doing maintenance (replacing roofs) and building infrastructure (tofu addition, Nashoba addition) , but not increasing population.

Kaweah residence

If the past is any guide, we could be just starting to break ground in  a little over two years in early 2015 (that is,if the community chooses this direction and makes a commitment to moving process forward swiftly). With a Twin Oaks crew working at a steady pace, the building could take as little as two years to build, so that, by 2017, just in time for 50th anniversary, Twin Oaks could have 100 members.

Where to locate a new residence? I suggest somewhere along the ridge overlooking the pond—either near MT, or on the volleyball court, or in front of Llano parking lot. The advantages of these sites are all about the same: excellent solar gain,  (no need to cut down lots of trees either for the building site, or for a solar clearing), good access to a road (no need to build a driveway), minimal excavation needed, and easy access to sewer, water, and electric (less expense and less labor).

One advantage of any of these sites is that if there is a kitchen, it could serve as a second courtyard kitchen.  The courtyard has three SLG’s and only one kitchen.  The Llano kitchen gets a lot of use.

Entrance to the Llano kitchen

The proposed building:

I propose a two-story, solar powered, child/adult, 11 bedroom SLG, with two bathrooms, a kitchen (with pantry),  a utility room, an office for the Seeds business, and two sign-outable public rooms (meeting rooms).

For purposes of acoustic separation, I propose locating all of the bedrooms on the second floor and all of the public rooms on the first floor.

Why eleven bedrooms to add seven members? If we increase the population of adults, we also increase the number of kids.  I assume that two of these eleven rooms will go to children.  There are then nine rooms to increase adult population.  I am assuming that in the next five years probably two of the most sub-standard bedrooms will be taken out of commission,  (furnace room?) or, that a bedroom or two will be converted to some other function, or that with a higher population, that we will want more “slack” rooms for guests.  Given these considerations, I believe it is a conservative estimate that adding nine rooms for adult members will only be a net gain of seven adult members above the current pop cap of 93.  Twin Oaks added 21 bedrooms with Kaweah and got a net gain of about 12 members.
Presumably, the seeds business will keep expanding. The hammocks business, the tofu business, and the indexing business all have their own offices (indexing used to have its own office and in a few weeks will again) .  I understand that this courtyard location might be a good location for the seeds business office.

Twin Oakers seem to enjoy outdoor space—especially decks.  The proposed, simple, rectangular design of this SLG lends itself to having a second-story, screened in deck on the east and west ends of the buildings.


Caveat #1) If Twin Oaks chooses to increase population, there will be lots of papers and meetings for input-gathering and design decisions.  I am under no illusion that there is any assumption that we will be a) building a residence anytime soon, or  b) that if we do choose to build a residence, that it will be anything like the one proposed here.

The current five-year planning process is getting people looking at “What next?”  I am providing this somewhat detailed proposal merely as a discussion starter for people participating in that five-year planning process.

Aerial view of Twin Oaks entrance and courtyard

Caveat #2) Isn’t this a really bad time to be posting a building proposal? I am hoping that most people recognize that our current building issues wilbl be long resolved before five years have passed.  Maintenance is a big issue now, but soon TCLR roof will be done.  Soon Christian will be back.  Soon Red will have more time available.  Also we are mid-stream with two building projects.   The Nashoba addition is inching forward and could be done in as little as six months. The tofu addition has been stalled, but it is moving forward and looks like it will have a completion date, probably soon.   And, once the tofu addition’s done, Twin Oaks’ finances should suddenly look a lot better.

Additionally, the early stages of gathering community input for choosing what to build, where to site it, how to design it…all take a really long time.  It is best to do processey, labor-intensive, meeting-heavy stuff in the winter, so I think now, with fall approaching, is a good time to start peeking over the horizon to see what we want our collective future to look  like.

Caveat #3)  Sketches have a false feel of significance to them.   In thirty seconds these sketches could have  four more bedrooms—or four fewer. I really did sort of whip the sketches together;  for instance, the generic meeting rooms in the building design are not that essential.  But to maintain the separation of the public space from the bedroom space, I had some extra square feet on the lower floor. It seemed to me that two meeting rooms would be a good use of that extra space. But my guess may well not be the highest need in the community.

Posted 28th February 2014 by keenan

Labels: Twin Oaks

One Hundred Members by 2017

Skyfish Mid-Process

by Raven Cotyledon

Thumbs has already detailed the story of the early construction work on Skyfish, at East Brook Community Farm, including how a fish actually fell from the sky and thus named the building, in an earlier Commune Life post.

I visited East Brook Community Farm on my way to the FEC assembly and toured the farm.  I was intrigued by Skyfish.

From the outside it looks finished:

Skyfish from in front
The side of Skyfish from the hillside next to it

The back of it is especially colorful:

The back of Skyfish
A closer look

There are some lovely details:

Left door
Window in door from inside

But inside the building is a different story:

Sarah from East Brook and unfinished interior
Work bench
Ceiling and vents

Sarah told me that they hope to finish Skyfish this spring and it will provide housing for new community members.


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 to join us!

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  


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


  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
  • Bryan Utesch
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft


Skyfish Mid-Process

Ecovillage Design – An experts perspective

We are lucky to have some very talented folks presenting at this years Communities Conference.  In the coming days there will be several workshop highlighted on this blog.

If we are going to change the way relate to our environment, we are going to need to build new types of buildings and entire ecovillages.  Fred Oesch has been doing exactly this for years now.

Cville ecovillage.jpg
Charlottesville Ecovillage Design Proposal


seed palace schematic.jpg
Acorn/SESE Seed Office design

This is the workshop Fred is offering at this years Communities Conference.

Ecovillage Design – Principles and Practices

Presented by Fred Oesch of Oesch Environmental Designs and Openworld Villages

We now have significant experience designing ecovillages both in rural and urban settings and this workshop will take stock of what has been learned over the last 30 years.  There are sustainability elements, aesthetic aspects and design components connected with high degrees of sharing which all go into making a high functioning ecovillage. In many cases these are not elements which are taught in architecture school.  We will explore conversions of existing non-ecovillages as well as designed from scratch solutions. The workshop will start with presentation and then go into question and answer.

Fred Oesch Head shot
Fred Oesch – Architect/Ecovillage Designer

Fred Oesch is a licensed architect who designed the seed building at Acorn and lives in Schuyler VA.  He has also been involved in several ecovillage projects, both urban and rural as well as new builds and conversions.  He serves on the Ecovillage Charlottesville Board and throws a mean quarry party.

Site of ecological design and excellent parties

Some of what is covered in the workshop is Principles of Regenerative Environmental Design:

1] Design as a Way of Life.

2] Reflection of Evolving Regional Society, Tradition, Culture, and Religion

3] Utilization of Indigenous Technology, Materials, and Labor Skills

4] Direct Response to Microclimate / Seamless Site Integration

5] Minimum Inventory / Maximum Diversity Systems

6] Direct Designer / Builder / Inhabitant Participation

7] Net Resource and Energy Production

8] Self-Regenerating ‘Living’ Systems


It is still possible to come and participate in the Twin Oaks Communities Conference on August 31st thru Sept 2.  You can RSVP here in Facebook.  Or simply register for the Communities Conference

seed palace and vollyball.jpeg
Acorn/SESE Seed Office Actual


Ecovillage Design – An experts perspective