There are not very many places that do secular income sharing. But those that do come in two broad flavors. For those of us who spend a lot of time talking about income sharing, these two different approaches are sometimes given the shorthand “Box of Money” and “Allowance”.
All full income sharing systems are in agreement about communalizing the vast majority of expenses: Medical expenses, food, housing, clothing, education, transportation, costs connected with children, pets, various emergencies – these are all covered. Everything that falls solidly onto the “needs” side of the sometimes vague needs vs wants divide is covered. It is the small things and the things at the needs/wants margin where we struggle.
Should i be paying for your beer (especially when i don’t drink)? Should i be paying for your vacation to the beach? At Twin Oaks we have “solved” this problem by giving our members an allowance which is typically around $100 per month. You want to smoke cigarettes, you can have up to a $100 habit. You have to be at the premier of the latest Marvel superhero movie, that is your discretionary call. By giving people allowances, the commune avoids having to agree on a whole bunch of small, and oft divisive issues.
The more radical solution is the infamous “box of money”. In a number of European communes, including some of the larger ones, there is a physical box of money and when you need some, you go take it. Sometimes you need to write down what you took it for, in other places there is less concern about this. But if you are using this approach, you are agreeing to have whatever conversations and consensus is necessary for everyone to trust each other enough to let them spend the money they need to spend to live the life they want to lead.
In the US, the existing “box of money” communes are smaller. Compersia in DC, Sandhill in Missouri. Allowance based communes include Twin Oaks, East Wind and Acorn, the largest three members of the FEC. Although Acorn, with its anarchist orientation, straddles the boundary by empowering any member to spend up to $50 on anything for the community that they think is a good deal. In the three years i lived there i did not hear anyone complain at a meeting that someone had misused this privilege.
Some of the trade offs between the “allowance” and “box of money” systems are obvious, but many we are still exploring. We know that using an “allowance” system makes room for differences of opinion to exist without being resolved or even seriously addressed. Is that a good thing because it saves time and preserves privacy or a bad thing because it doesn’t drive us towards mutual understanding and critical reflection? We know that using “box of money” system allows for a greater diversity of spending patterns and priorities among members. Is that a good thing because it more easily makes room for people from diverse backgrounds and in diverse situations or a bad thing because it doesn’t drive us always back into the communal economy, looking for ways to meet our needs with each other rather than with money? As more examples are created here in the States and as we build better bridges of communication across the Atlantic our understanding of the dynamics of egalitarian, cooperative economies can only flourish.
Keegan Dunn and adder Oaks ponder the pros and cons of having their kids’ grandparents in their lives. Grandparents are often sources of unconditional love and care, not to mention sugar and TV. Do grandparents create openings for our kids to become obsessed Disney consumers or beat-em-up superhero devotees? How can one deal with influence of commercial media generally? Also, a look at the BBC Dad viral video, for which our hosts are joined by special guest, fellow communard, loving partner, and co-parent Megan Lebda.
- Children interrupt BBC News interview (BBC Dad video)
- Woman interrupted during BBC interview (parody)
- Outfoxed (board game)
- Potion Explosion (board game)
- Lingua Latina (Latin language textbook)
Opening music: Commune Dads Theme – Nick Paoletti
Closing music: Nowhere Land – Kevin Macleod
Pictures and captions by Reynaldo
written by ella sutherland, cambia community
Cambia’s pond today, before the addition of the creek.
There are many reasons to build a pond. Here I’ll talk about all of Cambia’s reasons, the design and function, and how it relates to community.
When we were beginning to build our new common space, ‘the Barn’, we decided to create an earthen floor for the main room. This meant digging up quite a bit of clay to mix with sand and straw. But we also knew we wanted to have a pond. A small pond, for relaxation in the summers, for storing rainwater, for demonstrating the way plants can clean water. So we dug out our clay for the floor in a shady little nook across from the new building. Close enough to easily wheelbarrow over the clay, close enough that the pond would serve as part of the communal yard of the house.
Starting the pond dig, last summer 2016. The clay here was dug to use for the earthen floor of the barn.
Finishing the dig. Removing the last of the clay pile from around the pond.
The pond is about 10 feet in diameter, and three feet deep. It has a ledge all the way around it: one half for sitting, and one half for plants. The water flows in a cycle. Rainwater washes down the metal roof of the barn, flows through a gutter into a smaller pond. This smaller pond is in the sun, with lots of gravel and plants for filtering the water. The water then travels down a ‘creek’, lined with pond liner, gravel, and plants, and finally into the main pond. Fish eat all the mosquito larvae, frogs and toads moved in almost immediately, and birds are loving the new place to drink.
The smaller sunny pond that is filled with rainwater from the barn roof. The creek will connect the two ponds.
The plants provide many functions. They help to clean and filter the water while at the same time providing a beautiful, serene place to relax. The water hyacinths, when they grow larger, will provide shade to the larger pond, keeping it cold in the summer. Their long roots uptake the excess nutrients in the water.
We built a deck around the pond, using the scrap redwood from a deck that Twin Oaks disassembled. The deck is low, so you can sit on the edge and put your feet in the water. We lined the other half of the pond with flat stones that were unwanted at Acorn. This demonstrates the sense of abundance and mutual support between the local FEC communities. Both are a beautiful and essential addition to the pond.
The pond and deck, with the wood-fired hot tub in the background. The solar panel will power the water pump, which will cycle the water. We’re using the bilge pump from our landlocked sailboat house (more about that another time).
In the development of our educational non-profit, we are planning to use the pond to demonstrate to the children and their families who attend our programs the ability of biological systems to clean and filter water. It is a physical, intuitive, and hands-on demonstration of these scientific concepts: aeration, nutrient cycle, photosynthesis, the function of aerobic bacteria, providing habitat for the local fauna, while providing ourselves with a source of clean water.
The next step is to also set up a slow sand filter called a Biosand Filter. This is a filter that uses aerobic bacteria in a barrel of sand and gravel to make the water clean enough to drink. It is used in many countries where access to a well is limited. We built one in California, in the previous community where we lived, because we did not have well water and this filter produced much cleaner water than can be stored in rainwater catchment. It worked well for a number of years.
In hot Virginia summers, it is crucial that we have a cool place to sit and relax. It brings people together, slows us down, and help us to appreciate the beauty of the land we live on and the plants that keep us thriving. Although the creek is not yet finished, we started using the pond almost immediately to cool down when the afternoons are too hot.
Spring in Ozark County has arrived with the thunderous roar of hail and heavy rain. The rainfall has caused a record shattering high water crest for Norfork Lake and has heavily damaged a number of bridges including Tecumseh Bridge which is only a few miles from East Wind. Some plants and trees have sustained hail damage, but the bigger issue has been the long periods of overcast and rain that don’t allow for sufficient sunlight and warmth for good growth as well as making it more difficult to work in the beds and prepare for transplanting all the summer crops out of the greenhouse. May is usually the busiest time of the year in the garden and hundreds and hundreds of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants will need to be transplanted in the coming week.
Veteran Garden Managers Richard and Petey are leading up the 2017 season. First visiting East Wind within one month of each other these greenthumbs have been members for just under a decade. Richard has held an affinity for identifying trees and observing plants since he was a child. Petey has a passion for holistic gardening and a fondness for the living world. Sharing a desire for nutrient dense homegrown food this duo, with the support and help of many other East Winders both past and present, established the Lower Garden and effectively doubled the size of East Wind’s gardens. In combination with the seventy foot hoophouse built in the fall of 2015 East Wind’s vegetable production has increased greatly in the last five years. Homegrown tomatoes are now available year round (including canned, of course). Homegrown potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, okra, sweet peppers, and strawberries are all available at least six months out of the year.
This season’s garden plan is similar to last season’s in terms of amounts grown. The hoophouse has early slicer tomatoes, three varieties of heat resistant broccoli hybrids, Romanesco broccoli, early cauliflower, and a number of cabbage varieties in the ground and beginning to bear fruit. Cucumbers and sweet peppers are also coming along. Lettuces, arugula, and salad turnips have been produced continuously via succession planting through the Winter into Spring. The hoophouse’s crops were completely protected from the 3/4 inch hail East Wind experienced recently.
Out in the Main Garden and Lower Garden peas, carrots, beets, turnips, lettuce, potatoes, garlic, onions, bush beans, cucumbers, zucchinis, and parsnips are all in the ground. The first strawberry of the year was picked in mid April and the expanded patch promises to be very productive this season once we get some warmer and dryer weather. Richard is pleased to find that chestnut trees he began planting in 2010 have started to produce. The onion patch is located in the Lower Garden this year and transplants of onions planted in late Fall out of the hoophouse are off to a strong start compared to onions started late Winter in the greenhouse. Unfortunately, during the heaviest storm water saturated the ground of the greenhouse and this was just enough for one table of tomatoes to fall over. Only one or two plants were destroyed immediately and many are damaged, but the survivors should recover just fine. The increasingly erratic climate in this warming world is one more thing that needs to be expected and planned for.
All in all it looks like another great garden season for East Wind. Petey is excited to have more storage areas like our new dry storage building (blog post coming soon, stay tuned!) and a small climate controlled insulated storage room. More produce, more storage, more wholesome food throughout the year. The enjoyment of gardening goes hand in hand with the enjoyment of eating fresh picked homegrown vegetables. A big thank you to everyone who helps out in the garden!
Post and pictures by Sumner
Folks at the Compersia Community were kind enough to send us pictures of their new home. Here’s a few with comments from some of the community members.
As if in greeting, these trees burst into bloom the week that we moved in.
The kids enjoying a sleepover in the basement.
No FEC commune is complete without a Twin Oaks hammock.
Our yard backs up right to Rock Creek Park and we are visited nearly every day by a pack of deer and a pair of foxes making their rounds.
GPaul dances for baby Emma’s amusement.
Jenny in a pile of children.
Meren enjoys the climbable surfaces of the new house.
Barnaby and commune friends Gabi and Jenne face off at light saber point.
Games night at Compersia. Nerds of the world, unite!
Courtney performs at Art-o-matic, an area community arts event.