Let's start a commune ...

Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

.... or, actually, let's throw around IDEAS about how a group of people could live in harmony & wisdom. I would be in charge, of course.

Which areas of life remain autonomous? Living space, child-rearing?
How are decisions made?
How much land do you need?
What standard of living is sought?
How is work parceled out?
How are differing abilities factored into the main?

Ida, MI

IMHO the old tried and true is the best place to start. Each family has a home and provides for many of their own needs independantly. Then they would have a specialty of some sort to make extra cash to buy or trade for the specialties of others. One might make shoes, which he sells out of a storefront of his home, another might be a mechanic-tinker type that fixes things, etc. etc. You would probably have most of the same specialties as you do in regular socioty just on a smaller scale and some specialties would be broadened or lumped together. I have seen estimates that a family could be be self sustaining for most of their food on as little as an acre of ground, indeed the chineses used to support large extended families on just a couple of acres.

Greensboro, AL


The Farm, at Summertown, Tn is one.

Josephine, Arlington, TX(Zone 8a)

Very interesting!!!

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

I have always found merit in the Co-Housing concepts. The one in Asheville (NC) has a large community kitchen and dining area. Each member cooks, serves and cleans one day a month, charges just for the ingredients, and can eat there for cost the remainder of the month, leaving time for children and family activities.

In addition, the community owns jointly things like lawn mowers, tillers, chain saws, etc. instead of every household owning their own. Many co-housing communities also share a large garden, maybe raise fish, have a theater and library... many possibilities.

One advantage over a commune is individual investment. In Co-Housing, folks have ownership individually in their own houses plus a joint ownership in community buildings and turf. In many Communes, someone can just walk away as they don't own anything.


Rocky Mount, VA(Zone 7a)


Greensboro, AL

Dyson: Sounds like something one might run into whilst traveling through Sherwood Forest.

Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

Sounds wonderfully relaxed but I think I had more upscale sustainable living in mind!

Greensboro, AL

I went to an anniversary at Summertown once. The residents were talking about how it took several years of hardship to get to a point where they could live comfortably. I still remember some of the women talking about frozen diapers with no way to wash them! But they did persevere--at least some of them did.

Cleveland, GA(Zone 7a)

It is still an interesting concept. Doesn't it make you wonder what happened to all the communes started in the 60's and 70's? I would think in order to make people want to stay and work hard, they would have to make an investment, sort of "buy into" the land or something. Then if they wanted to leave the commune would have to buy them out. It would have to be enough money (or equity) to make people take it seriously as a way of life, and not just a 'what the heck? I'll give it a go' attitude.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Heck, I've been looking for almost a year for someone to live on this homestead, no investment just some work involved.

No one seems willing to exchange work for either equity or at least a place to live.

San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

If you have not already read the classic from BF Skinner entitled "Walden Two", I highly recommend it.


I've known a few folks who had lived in communes in the 60's and 70's, including a couple that were part of the Farm in Summertown. In some cases, the folks matured out of some of the "youthful and idealistic" concepts of their chosen commune. In other cases, it was the political turmoil in the running of the commune that caused members to leave. Some felt that the social equity that was desired was not achieved. Other communes are still operating after all this time.

Charlevoix, MI(Zone 4b)

Wow, Darius. If I didn't have my own place and a family, I'd be on the next train down!!


Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

No kidding, darius, plus I'd love to help you achieve your dream.

Ida, MI

Very attractive offer as far as I'm concerned too Darius, But like Michelle problem being I have commitments to my own family and little chunk of paradise I'm working on as well. So what kind of deal are you offering? Maybe you could convince me or someone else to chuck it all, you sure have a lovely piece of property there, perfect for what your envisioning, big enough for another house? Most of the folks who would be interested in your offer will be independant types who like their own space.

Greensboro, AL

Darius: You may have more people skills than me, but I would spend a lot of time (1) screening people, and (2) specifying rules to promote mutual respect. In my experience, people on the move are people with problems. Otherwise, they would be working on their own life trajectories. Not always true of course. There are sometimes, when people need to get out of the situations they are in and rebuild their lives. On the other hand, I have just been the target of scammers. I don't think im particularly naive.
they said they were "Christians", Gulf War Vetrans, Sister dying of cancer, Lots of technical experience, all made up to convince me they would do a good job and needed work. There are a lot of really psychologically damaged people out there. I wish you the best of luck.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Gloria, you are correct about the need for thorough screening, and specific objectives/guidelines.

One of my thoughts is getting a college student (hopefully in horticulture) who would get a private room & bath, high speed internet, cable tv, unlimited (but shared) long distance telephone, plus some meals in exchange for some specific amount of weekly labor. Some of that labor could be in the greenhouse I haven't yet built, and of course in the garden.

Another thought is to find someone who wants to learn construction, which I have taught for many years. The young man across the street approached me with the idea that he'd exchange his labor working here if I'd teach him construction and help him with house plans for his future home. But, he's now 17 and is consumed with girls and fast cars.

There are 19 acres here in an elongated parcel. Only some has road and creek frontage, but there are some great views higher up. My sister owns it and will leave it to her only daughter but she's willing to have someone live here and build their own house for some exchange. It's too steep for farming unless there's some terracing put in... so we'd have to share the flat garden area here by our house. Actually, I haven't walked much of it so I really don't know what the land is like except near the house and outbuildings.

Thumbnail by darius
Greensboro, AL

I think the idea of apprenticeships is a very good thing. I teach you. You will learn something you really need and hopefully teach someone else. I taught adult literacy here for a while. The by-word was, "Each one teach one."
One idea is to go to the high school counselor or coach. They have worked with kids over the years and have an idea of those that would appreciate what you are offering.
I don't have kids of my own. but my experience with teaching them is, 4th or 5th graders are so smart you would not believe their insatiable minds. Teenagers are almost impossible to teach. As you mentioned with that 17 year old. If there is a local college, you are more likely to find someone. You might check with counselors or faculty at a local junior college if there is one. Good luck.

Rutledge, MO(Zone 5a)


I'm new here (and am a beginning gardener), and glad I have something I *do* know about to contribute! I live in an intentional community that focuses on sustainability, Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage. Two resources that might be of interest to readers of this thread:

-an organization called the Fellowship for Intentional Community http://www.ic.org which publishes a Communities Directory that lists thousands of different communities, and has an online searchable database.

-and a book I'd recommend to anyone looking to make or join a community: "Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities" by Diana Leafe Christian.

that's probably enough for my first post, eh? ;-)


San Francisco Bay Ar, CA(Zone 9b)

Welcome aboard bunster! Thank you for the reference link and book suggestion. I'd love to hear more about how your community is setup and functions.

Rose Lodge, OR(Zone 8b)

Post away, bunster bucko! You have rare, real-life info for us.

Rutledge, MO(Zone 5a)

Gosh, thanks for the nice welcome!

A short summary follows, but you can also check out our website for lots more info: http://dancingrabbit.org

We do humanure composting, build "alternatively" (strawbale, cob, recycled/reused lumber, etc.), garden organically (some folks are very into permaculture, forest gardening, perennial crops, etc.), are off the electrical grid completely (solar and wind-- hydro not an option here), run our vehicles on biodiesel, make decisions by consensus, and, gosh, lots of other stuff. I'm happy to answer questions about anything...

Our 280 acres are owned by a land trust, and folks here are responsible for their own finances, gardening, eating, cooking, building, etc. Many people choose to join or form co-ops of various kinds (food, phone, DSL, vehicle). So we're not a commune as most people think of it-- there's no leader, you don't have to think or eat or act a particular way to live here. You have to abide by our sustainability covenants, but that's it. We do try to encourage each other to look at our life choices (diet, travel, and so on) from a sustainability perspective, but we certainly do NOT agree on everything. Or anything, it can seem sometimes ;-)

There are also two income-sharing sub-communities (all income is pooled and decisions about money are made by consensus). I'm not part of either of those, so my knowledge on it is more theoretical. I explain it to folks by saying it's what many people do when they get partnered/married (share money), just with more people.

Summerkid, you specifically mentioned disability in your first message. I'm disabled now (became ill while I was living here) and while I was on my own for money, etc. (see above) everyone has been incredibly supportive. There are various rotational chores I'm not able to do anymore, which everyone has been great about, and people go out of their way to try to include me in activities, and have meetings or events at my house if I'm not up for going out, etc. It's been an interesting adjustment for all of us, since when I first came here in 2000 I was gardening and doing construction and being on a zillion committees and editing the newsletter, etc. etc.

Since my health is pretty unpredictable, it may sometimes take me a while to answer, but I like "spreading the word", so ask away!

yours in sustainability,

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Yay for you, Bunster! Please keep posting.

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