The FEC is a union of egalitarian communities which have joined together in our common struggle to create a lifestyle based on equality, cooperation, and harmony with the earth.

Learn more about our member communities or start your own egalitarian commune! Review all of our communities past and present bylaws & policies in our Systems & Structures area

We want to hear from you! Contact our secretary at secretary@thefec.org

running, pain and gratitude

Yesterday, I ran three miles by myself. I have never done that before. I usually run three times a week with a friend of mine. We started this running program a few months ago called, "Couch to 5k." We missed one of our running dates, and I felt like I really needed some exercise, so I set out on my own.

As I ran, I started experiencing these cycling thoughts: 

I can't do this.
I'm not strong enough.
This hurts.
I want to stop. 
I'm not strong enough.
This hurts.
I can't do this.I don't want this.
I can't do this.

My running partner wasn't there to distract me; she wasn't there to tell me to keep going when I would say it was too hard. I kept running because I said to myself, "If I don't do this, then how am I going to get through anything else? How am I going to get through my darkness, my pain?" I told myself I had to do it to prove that I am strong enough. I kept pushing through it. After I had run for about twenty minutes, I went into this strange, disconnected state. I was just running, and I wasn't even sure why anymore. I wasn't feeding myself negative thoughts anymore. I was just running even though it hurt.

I realized that this experience is so incredibly analogous for my life. I feed myself those negative thoughts every time pain comes up in my life, but somehow I manage to push through it. I choose which thoughts to tell myself about the situation. I choose whether to push the pain away, and say, "I don't want this," or accept it, and find gratitude in my life.

East Wind Fire

For those of you who are reading this blog for updates on East Wind (which is why I originally started this blog), the most recent news from EW is that a couple days ago there was quite a fire that burned down the whole shower house. The shower house contained all the laundry facilities, all the showers and baths, the community clothes closet, the sewing room, and the massage room. It seems like a bit of a tragedy. I'm not as East Wind right now, but I can try to imagine how difficult it would be to lose all the bathing facilities, washer and dryers, and all the clothes in the community in the winter time.

Some people have started donating clothes, and Twin Oaks will soon be sending clothes to East Wind.

Here's a story of the fire, written by Jude, who currently lives at East Wind. She also took all these photos.

"at 2:30am on december 16th (pod's birthday), pod and i were in bed watching a movie when we began to hear distant cries for help. i instantly thought of yellow sun, who has been incapacitated with two broken ankles and a fractured back, and we both ran towards the showerhouse as fast as we could. i assumed that yellow sun had fallen, but as we ran up the hill, the screams changed from, "help! help!" to "fire! fire!" as soon as i made it to the showerhouse, i tried to enter through the back door that i'd walked through a million times before. i understood the seriousness of the situation when i opened the door and was met with such a thick cloud of smoke that i could not possibly enter the building. after this terrible realization, i ran to yellow sun's window and tore off the screen. though his room was already filled with smoke, he was still fully alert and ready to get the fuck out of there. 

5 months

I have been at Twin Oaks for five months now. The days have turned colder, and quieter since we don't have a visitor group in December, and there are less guests this time of year.

We all bundle up, build up the wood stoves, and eat our meals inside, except on the rare, slightly warm days that we still have.

We eat lots of greens; kale, spinach, lettuce, and many other Asian greens we grow in the greenhouse. We're also eating lots of potatoes and sweet potatoes, and the turnips and radishes are coming in. I spend one day a week now working in the greenhouse, and harvesting greens and leeks from outside.

My full member vote is coming up in a month, which involves writing my six month letter about my experience here so far.

I'm excited about living at Twin Oaks, and I am learning so much. Sometimes I wonder if Twin Oaks is too comfortable for me, and perhaps a more primitive, off the grid community will be in my future, but I don't think I am ready for that yet, and want to continue gaining lots of skills involving sustainability and simplicity. I also feel like I can continue to strive toward a lifestyle that fits with my ideals while still living here.

Plants seem to be my passion, whether they are wild, cultivated, or medicinal. I just joined the full garden crew, which means I made a full time commitment to the garden. I have also made a part time commitment to the Seed Growing business. I am excited to work in both gardens, and it has been incredibly interesting to me to learn how the techniques of growing plants for seed is so different than growing plants for food. I continue to learn about wild and medicinal plants in my free time, drawing them, and studying them.

Apeckalypse

By Janel Twin Oaks

In just a matter of weeks, Twin Oaks’ 150 laying hens have become frozen fodder for future community meals.

Janel and the Chickens

It all started late in the summer when new member Sapphyre and I decided to fill the much-needed poultry management position. We started doing research about proper chicken care--and the answers we found left us shocked. Suddenly, aspects of our fenced-in chicken yard that once seemed benign to my untrained eye began to pop out at me--the lack of top soil due to vegetation depletion, for instance, or the broken feathers on birds’ backs (indicating a possible feather mite infestation). Not to mention we realized that many of the hens were too old to efficiently produce eggs anymore.

Pop Gang

The job of running a hyper village is a rigorous one. Pretty much anyone who is willing to can take on an organizing or managerial responsibility.  There is a tremendous quantity of logistics and administrative work to keep this full service commune functioning. We have dozens of buildings in need of repair. There are half a dozen businesses which could all use more guidance and support.  Most weeks a 8 to 10 visitors some of whom want to live with us who have questions about how we do things and if their personal situation can be merged into ours. Add to this endless pocket dramas about romance, children, housing and other personal topics which frequent our little village and there is enough going on to hold almost anyones attention.

And as I have mentioned we are full. It is something like 3 years now we have had a waiting list (tho it has certainly thinned at points, it has never vanished in this time) and this means on top of the above described condition, we also have a space shortage and fewer degrees of freedom to relocate members when someone moves out. Pop Gang to the rescue!

Pop Gang is a group of members who are pulled from various community bodies (the planners, the membership team, recruiting, the room assignor and a member at large) to discuss things which can be done to make our crowded situation better. While this body is technically advisory, without any executive power in its collective state – what my experience of it is, is that when the Pop Gang agrees on a policy direction, the members take it back to their respective executive groups and make the change happen.

change...

So much has happened. Twin Oaks has become my home. Home. But maybe this feeling is temporary? I'm not sure. A couple weeks ago I was feeling unsure about wanting to be here, but now I am starting to settle in. Yes, there was an earthquake, and most of the scariness has passed for now. I am almost over it.

I have been taking joy in little things. Mostly plants, and animals, and watching the sun rise and set. Castor oil beans are beautiful, and watermelon and squash are delicious. Taking care of chickens has been very fulfilling.

I woke up before the sun was up yesterday, and I watched the sky change from blue and pink rivets to completely pink in five minutes. I looked away for a minute and the sky changed.

Things change so quickly. I will feel overcome with sadness at one moment, and then completely happy and content at some other moment. Some of it has to do with my changing relationship with Shua (Joshua is now Shua) lately, but I notice that I can see my perception and emotions changing, if if ever so slightly, from moment to moment.

Speaking to others has been difficult for me lately. Sometimes I hate speaking. I fear expectation in the other person for me to create a connection through words with them. I fear saying something weird, that doesn't make sense, and I see myself doing that a lot, and for some reason it bothers me. I am trying to be more okay with how I communicate.

I have been working about 45 hours and week, mostly agricultural, and it's been taking a toll on my back. But I love the work, and I love working outside. I tried to receive a massage from someone yesterday, me sitting cross legged, and it was hard for me to enjoy it because my back started aching.

A visitor’s-eye view of Acorn

Thanks to Ruth for a wonderful visit, and thanks for letting us share your perspective on the community.

My five-day visit to Acorn:

It’s great to meet a group of people – especially so many young ones – who have opted out of the capitalist rat race and are trying their best to live their values: community, sustainability, kindness. The few ramshackle buildings where people live and work are surrounded by oak, poplar and beech woods. There is both seriousness – they run a seed business that sustains the community – and playful: the path to a dance party last night was lit by a row of Christmas lights. The party took place in the “love shack” just past a collection of diverse and amazing tree houses. People mostly danced in a circle and for a while, four young women were dancing on a bouncy mattress in the corner. Daniel (ah, if I was only 40 years younger!) was walking around with a box of wine, playfully offering little cups of “the blood of Christ” to willing takers. He then put a big pillow under his shirt and asked people if they wanted to punch him, then made another round and offered well-padded hugs.

Although they joke about being a hippie commune, there actually isn’t a lot of public physical affection. People seem contained. One member described himself as being on the cusp of extrovert and introvert: he would not be comfortable talking to random strangers in a bar, but he loved living with people and was friendly with those in the community.

There is a lot of talent here: Delicious meals are routinely prepared by people who sign up ahead of time to make them. Although the booklet titled “READ ME” -  which must have been written a long time ago when there were children here – says the commune is vegetarian, that has evolved and there is meat or chicken at almost every supper and often also at lunch. People are on their own for breakfast.

Twin Oaks

I'm in my third week at Twin Oaks. I have been working a lot here, and haven't had much time to write. The work quota is 42 here. It was 35 at East Wind. I am realizing how much time I spent relaxing at East Wind, and here I have to schedule time for myself.

I haven't had much time to socialize other than during work, but working with other people seems to be a good way to get to know them. I went to a couple parties, but didn't feel very fulfilled by them. I seem to end up sitting with a large group of people listening to them talk to each other. I tend to be quiet in large groups, because I feel like if I'm not quiet then I am competing for attention. I think I will spend less time at parties, and more time socializing with one or two people at a time.

I am still adjusting to the scheduled work, but I am getting better at it. Sometimes I get anxiety about being late to a shift, or feel too tired to work, but know that I have already made the obligation. I have been getting through it though, and I have been communicating to others about my tendency to have low energy. I didn't notice it much at East Wind, because if I was tired, then I would just rest, but I can't always do that here. Because of that, I have been thinking lately about what the causes of my low energy might be.( I get plenty of sleep.) Anyway, I have been looking into it.

Most of my work has been gardening, and seeds. I continue to learn more and more about gardening, and I am excited to learn about saving seeds. I learned the whole process for tomatoes today. I have also been teaching myself and harvesting wild herbs. I am getting into the herb garden slowly. I plan to start my own little herb bed.

I am working on adjusting, making friends, learning, and taking care of myself. I know that in time, it will all be well, and this will feel like home soon. I really miss my friends at East Wind, but I am glad I am here right now.

life in community

Emma Goldman Finishing School is Seeking New Members

We are looking for new members at the Emma Goldman Finishing School (an egalitarian housing community in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle). We are, like a lot of people all over the place, trying to figure out how to have different relationships with each other and the world. We think the world is burning and the time to collaborate and try and struggle and work is now. We would love for a group of 2-5 people who know and love each other to move in, as this has worked well in the past and we have a number of openings. Individual members would be great, too.

Our community started fourteen years ago when a bunch of radicals pooled their resources together and bought a funky old twelve-bedroom house. They turned it into an egalitarian commune where people lived together and experimented with different economic and political models. For example: we save up money every month in the hopes of seeding other radical and egalitarian communities in Seattle, and have a time-based micro-economy where everyone's time is valued the same as everyone else's. Core to our project is that people need a strong home-base to be effective and healthy activists, organizers, and humans, and that we should try to live with each other in more egalitarian and humane ways. To that end, everyone who lives here has healthy food, transportation, health care, and a safe and cozy place to call home.

We are just one strategy amongst many social justice projects in this town, this country, and this world. We don't have all the answers. We don't even know all the questions. We are messed up and problematic in interesting and specific ways, and could write tell-all books about the missteps and heartaches of life at Emma's. Another way of saying this is that we are a human project made up of humans. At the very least, we are an excellent training ground in direct democracy, and all the messiness that horizontal structures bring. And on our good days, we're a lot more than that.

Twin Oaks' Annual Communities Conference 2011!

camping2.jpg

Hello, communitarians and friends! Janel from Twin Oaks here. We've already begun thinking about this year's Communities Conference, and let me just say that it is sure to be an unparalleled celebration of positive change!

Our annual conference is an excellent place for those interested in learning about the Intentional Communities movement. Whether you are looking for a community to call home, wish to network with others already in community or are simply curious about an alternative lifestyle to the "mainstream," come camp out at the beautiful Twin Oaks Community with fellow community-minded folks from August 19-21st! When not attending fascinating, challenging workshops on everything from sustainability to group communication, you'll find yourself making friends, swapping stories and admiring the forest from a homemade hammock.

For more information about the event, the content and the people, feel free to peruse our website. Oh, and do please check back in every once and while--we'll be blogging about our preparations from now on!

Communities Conference Website

Why I Live at Sandhill

This May, I will have lived in intentional community for 37 years, all at Sandhill Farm. That’s more than 60% of my life. While this experience has been profoundly inspirational and satisfying, it hasn’t been easy. My relationship with my home community is complex and has evolved over the years. In today’s blog I want to explore what’s precious about that.

At present, I divvy up my time mainly among four major commitments (there are other commitments tossed into the mixed salad of my life, yet these are far and away the biggest):

A. My Community

Sandhill is a rural, income-sharing community. We’re homesteaders who grow a large fraction of our own food and emphasize simple living and taking care of one another. As much as possible, we try to support whatever any member wants within the context of our common values of ecological consciousness, nonviolence, and a commitment to work through our issues with one another.

It’s officially busy season


I am not the only one whose excited.

It’s finally winter!!!!  And to prove it there is a light dusting of snow covering the gardens left from the last snowstorm.  I have been looking forward to winter for a good long time.  Temperatures have dropped from triple digits to the occasional single digit, which is cause enough to merrily sing the glories of winter. But, I have also been looking forward to the legendary busy season.


Ashley chipper as always picking orders at 5:00am Saturday morning.

I have been hearing the tales post late night customer order assembling (picking) marathons, and pleas on the message board to help ship orders.  As a new member who arrived for a visitor period just after Land Day picking is something you do for about a half an hour to an hour after breakfast.   And shipping is something that just magically happened — not something I learned.  But, the whole enchilada is different during busy season, so the legend goes.

New Communities Directory!

 

Communities Directory - print edition

Cover price: $35 with special price of $28 at store.ic.org.

Also available at a further discount when purchased with Communities magazine or Finding Community.

Communities Directory 2010 Cover
The sixth edition of the Communities Directory: A Comprehensive Guide to Intentional Communities and Cooperative Living is the essential reference tool for those interested in finding or creating community. Compiled by the nonprofit organization the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC) from directory.ic.org. This is the eagerly awaited new edition for 2010. Paperbound, 8-1/2 x 11 inches, 512 pages, ISBN 978-0-9718264-5-8.

The Sixth Edition is in stock and can be ordered now!

The Communities Directory is the door to an amazing range of choices in cooperative living today - some of which have been tested by time, and others that are on the cutting edge of experimentation. The Communities Directory is an encyclopedia of positive alternatives to a mainstream culture that is often fragmented and alienating. It is the inspiring stories of groups all over the world pioneering ways to share resources and live cooperatively.

2010 Fall Assembly a Rousing Success!

The 2010 Fall Assembly took place at East Wind, and as the title of this post indicates, it was a rousing success! The FEC fall assembly is a time for delegates from FEC communities to get together to both review the activities since the last assembly and look at our goals and plans until the next time we meet. This year at assembly, there were delegates attending from member communities Acorn, East Wind, Emma Goldman Finishing School, Sandhill, and Twin Oaks, and from Community-in-dialogue Community Autonomy.

To read more about the 2010 fall assembly, including a review of our activities since the spring assembly, PEACH news, the status of Community Autonomy, and the exciting world of the FEC 2011 budget, click below.

How are the bees?

This is a question I am asked often these days (& years…). For most of this summer, my answers were ambiguous: well, they seem to be alright, but they sure are not making much honey, they are swarming a lot; in general, they seem to be holding their own, but not really kicking butt, y’know what I mean?

Then a raised eyebrow and “any CCD?” (colony collapse disorder). No, no, I reassure them; fortunately, we have not had that scenario.

We currently have 20 hives (including 2 top bar hives). We harvested a little honey a few weeks ago: the second consecutive year of lowest ever honey harvest – average of 1.5 gallons of honey per hive (our average had been 5 gal/hive). Then I got worried: maybe we took too much honey and did not leave them enough for winter (that happened last year).

BUT – here it is Oct 2 and y’know what? Our bees are doing fantastic! Better than they have all year (maybe 2-3 years…): they have good brood & populations, energy in the hives is focused, and they are bringing in honey & pollen. It is being a beautiful fall: finally, some dry weather, comfortable temperatures, and lots of wildflowers (as well as our planted buckwheat). The change in the hives is remarkable.

My current theory: we have not done any of the “chemicals” for 10 years and now we are off all “treatments” – even organic ones. We are also not bringing in queens from the outside. I figger the bees are coming back to their equilibrium in this environment – which is a mixed one: there are conventional crops within their flying range – but not very many; however, some of the symptoms we saw this summer were eerily similar to effects of exposure to pesticides. Yikes! That’s scary.

AND – I am reading an AWESOME BOOK: I highly recommend it:

Is BDSM violence?

My community has non-violence as a core ideal.  This seems like an easy one to agree on.  But i remember finding myself uncomfortable when i was giving a tour to a group of Richmond vegans, who asked about how we killed the cows we eat.  ”With a shotgun” i replied.  ”hardly seems non-violent” one pointed out to me.

The current debate about non-violence is around BDSM.  Specifically, should the community conduct BDSM workshops at our annual Women’s Gathering.  This is not an issue about feminism as it is sometimes framed.  Twin Oaks does not have an agreement about being a feminist community, tho we often talk about our feminist principals in our presentations and our propaganda.  There is no generally agreed definition of feminism (i have always liked the idea that feminism was the practice of the philosophy of anarchism – but this will upset some folx).  But even if there were an agreed definition of feminism, Twin Oaks did not subscribe to this belief set at our inception and we do not embrace new philosophies easily now.  We are an “embrace diversity” community, which often means there is no consensus.

Many members argue compellingly that if there is consent in rough sex play, then it is not violent.  And one might think that this would be a away out of this bind, but our community history gets in our way.

Tomato Seed Saving

Tomato season is starting to slow down around here. In the last month or so, though, we’ve collected lots of seed!

Tomatoes are one of our crops which can only be used for either seed saving or for eating. To save the seed, we’ll select ripened tomatoes, puree them, and then let them ferment for four days. During fermentation, we speed up the process that occurs naturally in the tomato life cycle. The goo substance that holds the seeds in place will deteriorate, and the good seeds will collect at the bottom of the bucket. The tomato skin and flesh (and bad seed) will float.
It’s  important to stir the tomato mush several times a day to avoid mold production.

After four days of fermenting and stirring, comes the fun part!

To separate the seed from the tomato we implement a succession of water pours.

First I add water to the fermented tomato mush

First I add water to the fermented tomato mush

Step 2

After adding water, pour off floating tomato particles (we strain out the tomato to feed to the chickens). Add more water and repeat until only seed remains. Be careful not to loose any seed from the bottom of the bucket! If too much seed is escaping with the tomato particles, you can always go back at the end and repeat the process.

Seeds!

This batch is almost clean!

The Renaissance Homesteader

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and therefore had almost no relationship to practical skills or where my food came from. This persisted through college and a couple years working as a junior bureaucrat in Washington DC. When I moved to Sandhill at the ripe age of 24, things started to change.

While I still have plenty of the bureaucrat in me (I've been a community network administrator for since 1982), I am now somewhat handier than a person who can merely change a light bulb or boil water, and this competency has been a great source of satisfaction over the years.

What do I mean? Let me walk you through what I've been doing the last 30 hours, just as an example…

A. After checking email over my morning cup of coffee (no emergencies), I drafted a fundraising letter that I'll mail in the next two weeks to the 1000+ communities listed in the FIC's upcoming 6th edition of Communities Directory. I'll ask them to buy copies of the new book and also to help capitalize our Directory Endowment, the interest from which will allow us to pay for the labor needed to keep the data fresh and readily accessible. On average, I write at least one report or draft one proposal every day. The letter I composed in the morning allowed me to meet my quota for Tuesday.

B. After circulating that draft for review, I emailed a number of friends and acquaintances in Massachusetts, inviting them to attend the FIC fall organizational meetings, to be held Nov 12-14 at Mosaic Commons in Berlin (about 30 miles west of Boston). Failing that, I'll try to get together with folks one on one (as someone who is on the road 60% of the time, I spend a hefty portion of my time on logistics, and it's good to have my oar in those waters every day).

2010 Crops

It has been a long time since I have posted – one of the reasons is that it is being another very challenging year. This was the third consecutive very wet spring with the most rain and heavy rains I have seen in my 30 years here. When we planted crops in the fields, the heavy rains washed away a lot of the seed. The seed that remained often rotted before it could grow. We planted some of our sorghum and black beans three times – now they are very late. They will need good fall weather to mature.

This kind of weather is particularly difficult for organic farmers. Conventional farmers often no-till their seeds into the ground: they have a custom applicator spray an herbicide on the field and then plant with a no-till drill/planter and it’s done! Organic farmers rely on tillage to destroy weeds or green manure crops in preparation for planting. This means we need the soil to dry out enough to properly till the soil and kill weeds before planting. This year whenever we could work the ground, it usually rained again before we could plant. In that small window, conventional farmers planted their crops. When we finally did plant crops, we often had a heavy deluge – which made for erosion and poor germination. Then we could not get in the field to rotary hoe and cultivate – to control weeds; sometimes, the weeds took over the crops. (I now wish I had taken photos of several of our crop plantings that were so poor that we destroyed them and replanted; at the time, I found it so depressing that I did not remember how helpful photos can be).

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