I’ve been playing with this idea for a while:

For a long time I realized that the problem with moving is that you leave people behind. I want my people with me always. Ok, not in my house, but on my street, in my community. I want to gather all my loved ones from everywhere they’ve flown and pack them up with me and take them with me when I go. Yes, it’s true; I want to start a commune. Not the kind of commune where everyone lives in the same big house and wears patchwork clothes and shower irregularly and stink of patchouli (I hate the smell of patchouli) and eats only tofu and sleeps with each other. Not like that. That just sounds icky. Well, I guess the patchwork clothes do sound kinda cool… NO! Not that. Something different.

I’ve been thinking about it. I want to buy a big piece of land somewhere. Somewhere with mountains. Maybe New Mexico. Maybe Oregon. Maybe Washington. And I want people to buy in. Not every resident would have to invest a significant chunk of money, but I would want the majority of people living there to have bought in. Because I don’t want Kristin and I to become petty dictators (and we would, oh how we would, give us some power and we would go MAD with it) but because I would want the people living there to be invested in it. Something holding them there so that if things got difficult they couldn’t just walk away. And when I say buy in, I don’t mean that people would give the commune all their money and worldly possessions, I mean, that they would contribute a set sum either in one payment at the beginning, or on a payment schedule – like buying a house. But I also don’t mean that people would buy individual plots of land and own individual houses, but that they would buy into something like a corporation or coop – the land and the buildings owned jointly by the group as a whole – the individual residences put into trust or some such. Hopefully the people invited to participate wouldn’t only be there because they put money in it… but, still, as much as I hate it, money’s important. Plus, with more people than just Kristin and I contributing to the cost of the land, the whole enterprise would be debt-free that much sooner.

Ok, so people invest. And we begin building. I envision something like a tiny town, a hamlet, with a community center – kitchen, great room, rec room, craft room, guest rooms – and individual residences circled around it. I imagine small private gardens and larger community gardens and vegetable plots and a fish pond and a playground. I imagine animals: pets, goats, horses, chickens, turkeys – I’m not sure about geese, though, geese are mean – maybe a sty of pigs. But mostly I see people and an aesthetic. I see people whose skills and strengths complement each other, who love each other and the community they’re creating, who believe in consensus and cooperation and dialogue. Every time I meet someone new I think about how they would fit into my future commune. I joke about it, but still I do it. So far I’ve got a very diverse group of people and talents in mind. I’ve got computer geeks and technophiles and teachers and chefs and carpenters and mechanics and designers and animal lovers and engineers and gardeners and musicians and writers. And, of course, I’ve got therapists to help us talk though problems (ha ha).

I can see us all together, building something beautiful. Something coherent and patchworky. Something green and sustainable. I want the commune built of straw bales and bamboo and recycled materials. A (in Portland) has been talking about ways we could use wind and solar energy to power the commune, and how we could harness methane from composting toilets. I want our gardens to be organic and our livestock to be organic and hormone/antibiotic free. Though I don’t fool myself that the commune could be completely self-sustaining, eventually I want us to grow all our own produce (or at least 90%) and meat and dairy (I’m still on the lookout for a butcher). I figure that once we have to raise and butcher our own meat, even though the commune won’t be completely vegetarian, our meat consumption will be far lower than it would be if we were buying meat. I would like to provide opportunities and support for people who would prefer to work on the commune as well as support for people who would prefer to work jobs in the larger community around the commune.

Are any of you surprised about how much of a dreamer and idealist I truly am?

This vision I’ve had has always been relegated to a distant and hazy future. Something Kristin and I talk about in context of winning the lottery or what we’d do if the world were a perfect place. But I’ve been giving it more thought. Maybe it doesn’t need to start so big or be so far in the future. Something like what I want is complex and would have to grow slowly and organically. It would take a lot of time and a lot of planning and work. So why not get started sooner rather than later? I’m thinking that maybe, after we’re both done with school and have better jobs, maybe we can start looking around for some land. Maybe in 5-6 years we can get a group of friends together and buy the land and get started in a smaller way. I’m inspired by the tantalizing hints Bri’s been dropping about the possibility that they and some friends might be getting together to buy and renovate apartment building. Maybe it’s possible.

Anybody want in?

Posted by Trista @ 11:12 AM

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Here we are in, but do you think it could turn into something like poltgamists have? Would people be trying to get a peek at the big GAY community from the outside? Would we eventually be on the news and turn into outcasts? If so then I don't know!

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 12:54 PM #

It's definitely possible. What you describe sounds a lot like cohousing,
which is basically people who choose to live in an intentional community without giving up the option of having some private spaces, and, well, pretty much what you describe (although I don't think many of them raise their own meat animals, but it's not outside the realms of possibility).

Both W. and I--even before we met each other--wanted to live in something like cohousing "when we grow up." Sadly, we keep getting older without growing up. But perhaps it's time to start working on it, since I am starting to doubt that I'll ever actually be a grown-up.

Posted by Blogger Jest @ 1:19 PM #

JEST!! That's perfect. I had no idea that such a thing existed. Well, there's a place like that here in Salt Lake, but I don't know much about it and I kinda thought it was just some strange thing put together by some strange dreamer like me. But now I see that there's a movement! Precedent! and it started in Denmark. How perfect! I'm Danish, so maybe I was channelling my people. I love this idea and now I'm wondering if when Kristin and I move we can rent a place in one of these cohousing communities. I was checking out the website and it seems that sometimes there are rentals...


And Merr... I don't think we'd become freaks, and I don't think we'd all be gay, so welcome to the community! It'll be great. You can watch the community's kids (providing that's what you want to do...)

Posted by Blogger Trista @ 2:03 PM #

I can already tell that I am going to fixate on this for days on end...

Fascinating, Trista.

I have thought of something like this before... but never as a real possibility.

I think there should be YURTS!!!

Posted by Blogger Kiker @ 2:54 PM #


Posted by Blogger Trista @ 3:07 PM #

Damn, someone already beat me to it - yes, it's cohousing. And Cait, Natalie and I live in cohousing. I tell ya, you MUST come visit.

Posted by Blogger Jen @ 3:28 PM #

You've been peeking into my head, haven't you? This has been a fantasy of mine every since reading the Ishmael books by Daniel Quinn (Ishmael, My Ishmael, & The Story of B). He talks about the New Tribal Movement which gets rather more complicated than cohousing, but cohousing is a definite start (& an attractive one, I might add). I've actually been thinking of writing a post on it...will have to percolate a bit. I would be there in a HEARTBEAT. However, as discussed in the comments of your last post, I just don't see us leaving Maine. But we could certainly learn from example if y'all get something going...

Posted by Blogger Brooke @ 3:52 PM #

This has always been a secret dream of mine. Something I never pursued but would definitely jump in if the opportunity ever knocked on my door!

Posted by Blogger K. @ 4:05 PM #

I've got it.

Start your own religion.

Just don't stockpile guns, or else the ATF people will raid you. And stay away from Kool-Aid, too.

(Seriously, that sounds like a nice place you're dreaming of.)

Posted by Blogger Lorem ipsum @ 4:54 PM #

You know I am in!
Not sure if I ever told you this, but from the ages of 5 months to 3 years old my Mother & I lived in a tree house with 4 other families in Monterey. Well not the tree house that you might imagine- it was more like a big house on stilts.
Everyone had their own room, but we shared a kitchen and common rooms. Everyone pitched in for cooking & chiildcare. It was awesome.
A part of me craves that kind of experience for my yet to be created child.

of course I am also in the thick of 'Tales of the City' so somebody HAS to be appointed Mrs. Madrigal...

Posted by Blogger Calliope @ 5:07 PM #

There's a lot to the idea that I like.

Shortly after I moved to DC, I contemplated the co-housing community where I think Jen, Cait & Natalie live (never told you guys that did I?), but I wasn't quite over my bad co-op housing experience yet. And I was just out of a very difficult relationship and decided I wanted to hide under the porch and lick my wounds. I didn't trust that a community like that would let me.

I can't really envision living in a community like that, because I have a hard time imagining the right mix of people and space and location. But if it came into being and I was looking at a real option, instead of imagining a possibility, I would consider it.

The idea is especially appealling as I imagine retirement one day in the farther-off future. Maybe except for the raising our own meat. I have no commitment to that. (Just being honest here.)

Posted by Anonymous Liza @ 6:46 PM #

I'm so pleased that I could help egg on your commune-lust! My friends and I are still throwing around ideas for the money pit house but logistics are proving difficult. Timing and money, mostly. But who knows? Today Wes found out that the factory MIGHT be able to do his work this summer after all. And we found out that one of the sets of friends hasn't yet signed the contract on the other place they might get. So we think this means I MUST be pregnant and everything is going to work out perfectly.

Sadly, I will never be leaving my giant, loveable NYC and therefore can't be part of your commune. But maybe we could have a little vacation home there if it was cheap enough. But please don't let our yurt be anywhere NEAR the butcher. I would be horrified to see animals and know that they might be eaten. Wes is hardcore vegetarian and I would be if I was not a giant hypocrite who needed beef satay once a month or so. We never, ever cook meat in our house, anyway.

And can it be not too far from a major airport that is cheap to fly to from New York, please?

Posted by Anonymous bri @ 7:58 PM #

Cali, you did WHAT????


Posted by Blogger Lorem ipsum @ 5:58 AM #

Cali-I will attempt to be Mrs. Madrigal. Though I can't guarantee that my....gardening skills will be as good as hers.

Brooke - there is a co-housing community in your neck of the woods.

Trista- I'm down with things like this, but....I need oceans/water.

Posted by Blogger J @ 6:57 AM #

It sounds like an American version of a Kibbutz.

I wrote a HUGE paper in Philosophy class in college about it, the good, the bad and the ugly. I'll try to find it for you.

But it sounds dreamy. And if we move to Portland, we can come visit!

Posted by Blogger Shelli @ 12:52 PM #

My mom and her husband are about to move into a co-housing community. I will keep y'all posted on anything interesting I hear. :-)

Posted by Blogger Lo @ 4:46 PM #

We have properties like this only about 3 hours away. They are called MOPs - Multiple Occupancy Properties. They are often totally self sufficient.
I volunteer to do the butchering! I grew up on the farm and skin a mean goat :-)

Posted by Blogger mermaidgrrrl @ 6:15 PM #
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