I run a mailing list for people in Georgia who are interested in creating communities, cohousing, etc. It’s a fairly private list, as it grew out of our homeschooling group. We don’t advertise its existence and are always rather surprised when someone from outside the HSing group asks to join.
Anyway, one of the members’ wives has absolutely no interest in intentional communities. She sees them as similar to gated communities with all their covenants, and she doesn’t want to have someone telling her how she can use her land, that she has to go participate in communal meals or meetings, that she can’t have some particular sort of pet, etc.
I can definitely relate to her objections. I have something of an allergy to authority and don’t tend to acknowledge many people or organizations as having any authority over me at all. I wouldn’t want to live in one of the corporate-feeling ICs where agreements are imposed, so to speak.
The kind of IC I’d like to be part of would have to grow organically. It would be made up of people who have developed strong relationships over time and are open to being interdependent to a greater or lesser extent. They might just want to live near each other and share some resources. They might choose to work together and share meals. They might just share garden space or barter labor for a share of the produce from a garden.
The level of interdependence would vary between different households, and would probably vary over time. Sharing resources when possible, though, benefits everyone. Tools, gardening space, skills—those kinds of things can be pooled pretty easily.
How many riding lawn mowers are actually needed among a few households? One. You take turns using it and keep it maintained, and there’s a great big hunk of resources that can be used in other ways. That’s true of many expensive tools.
We have a tiller that’s very useful when it’s needed but isn’t exactly in use every day. One of our neighbors wanted to borrow it, so he put in the labor to till our garden.
(I know from past experience that some people don’t take good care of tools, but let’s not get into that right now. We’ll assume that such things are worked out over time, as those who abuse privileges would find themselves somewhat isolated.)
We have geek skills aplenty in our household. I am the queen of vanquishing red-tape dragons and getting people organized. There are many other people who need those skills, and who have skills and knowledge that we don’t have. We’re all better off when we share them.
We have two professional writers in this household. curiousmay9 has a background in biology in addition to her programming skills. sambear is an excellent teacher. We lack foreign language skills. We could and would happily exchange tutoring time with other families.
When we lived on the other side of town, our network of friends knew that I was at home or otherwise available 99% of the time. Most of them worked during the day. If their kids were sick, or they just had a child-care crisis, they could usually bring their kids over to our house. We had the house set up so that littluns could be accommodated safely (something I want to do here), so I got to enjoy borrowed babies and they didn’t have to miss work.
In the future, I’d love to see the garden expanding. I’m not physically able to do that, and curiousmay9 doesn’t have the time for it. We do have the room, equipment, and money to spend on whatever’s needed. We’d love to have someone who had the time and enjoyed gardening join us in our little plot of land.
We’d like to try biodiesel at some point in the future, but I don’t know how much sense it makes on a one-household scale. We’re very interested in alternative power, too. We could find room for some livestock if we had the time and labor available to take care of it. Many hands make light work!
I dream of buying the property that backs up to ours. It has 7–8 acres of land, with a little house that has been empty for goodness knows how long. It isn’t being maintained and has all the windows broken and the doors torn up. It’s a cinderblock building, though, and still solid in the important ways. It would make an awfully tiny home, but a great community center. It could easily be fixed up to host events: games, meetings for any group, meals, parties, classes, house concerts, etc. It could be set up as a learning resource center, with a shared library and things like lab equipment that can be a bit pricey for one family.
The house at the end of our cul-de-sac is another dream. It was built at the same time our house was, and all this property was owned by one extended family then. It’s about the same size as this one, from what we can tell. It’s being rented out right now, and the tenant is not taking care of the place. It sat empty for a while before he moved in. We’re hoping that the owner decides it makes more sense to sell it, and when that time comes we WILL buy it if there’s any way for us to do so.
Those two properties would be a great start at converting our neighborhood into an intentional community. We have two friends who live across town but would like to be closer, and either of them might try to get into one of those properties or whatever else comes available over here.
Would we need to buy up the neighborhood? Nope. Just being near each other would work. We could share those resources, skills, etc. We could be available for those things neighbors took for granted at one time—babysitting, borrowing a cup of sugar, etc.—without having to get into contracts. We’d still have our own separate spaces but could come together as we like.
My earliest years were spent in and out of neighbors’ homes. They were senior citizens and childfree couples/singles and families with kids my age. As I grew older, I did a lot of babysitting. We didn’t plan events for holidays like the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve. They just happened naturally. People would take lawn chairs over to someone’s yard, food would appear and go on a grill, and fireworks were brought out and shared. When we lived near my mother’s family, somebody would start making music and it would spread in a beautiful way. What better way for kids to develop good social skills than by lots of interaction with “safe” people of all ages?
That’s what I miss. That’s what I want. Yes, it’s intentional community in that people who want to live that way would move near each other to be in the community.
What do you dream of?