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How does your life within your community work?

 
pollinator
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Location: Western Canadian mtn valley, zone 6b, 750mm (30") precip
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As I post this, I’m thinking of “community” as the broader population in your geographic area, rather than specifically the permaculture community found either online or in your area.  I think this would be a fascinating subject.

Do you relate to a few or numerous other households in your community?  Are there forms of communication, sharing, mutual-aid that you participate in?  Are there formal or semi-formal institutions, societies, religious or spiritual groups and these sorts of things (with an ongoing function) in your community that nurture socializing, shared aims, projects?  How about fairs, marketplaces, festivals? Do you mainly relate to other permaculturists?  Or are you focused entirely within your relationship and/or family, on your own property?

I’m sure what I’ve suggested aren’t the only possible ways of living within your area, so feel free to express how it is with you.

 
Posts: 83
Location: London, UK
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Joel Bercardin wrote:As I post this, I’m thinking of “community” as the broader population in your geographic area, rather than specifically the permaculture community found either online or in your area.  I think this would be a fascinating subject.

Do you relate to a few or numerous other households in your community?  Are there forms of communication, sharing, mutual-aid that you participate in?  Are there formal or semi-formal institutions, societies, religious or spiritual groups and these sorts of things (with an ongoing function) in your community that nurture socializing, shared aims, projects?  How about fairs, mtarketplaces, festivals? Do you mainly relate to other permaculturists?  Or are you focused entirely within your relationship and/or family, on your own property?

I’m sure what I’ve suggested aren’t the only possible ways of living within your area, so feel free to express how it is with you.


Interesting idea for a thread, Joel!  👍

I live in the outerskirts of London, i.e. not too built up with high rises etc. and with green spaces (a National park, common, parks + gardens).

Locally there's an environmental/sustainable charity that actively involves the community with quite a few projects.
https://www.sustainablemerton.org/

I have done voluntary work for a local guild that cares for the elderly, those on the poverty line and those with mental health issues.  (Previously involved with other charity work too; notably with Foodcycle that provides hot meals - from surplus/unwanted supermarket food - for those in need).  I recently wanted to take part in a new foodbank but had to accept that, being elderly with high blood pressure, I was not fit enough for all the box heaving that it necessarily involves!  Here in UK the number of foodbanks has risen by 73% over the past 5 years = approx 2,000!   This is the shameful result (you may know) of a decade of austerity cuts under the Tory government.....don't get me started!  🤐

There are outlets for groups in libraries, for instance - I joined a philosophy group and, currently, a writing group.  I dearly wish there was a spiritual group (there were many in North London but I am now based in South London).  That said there is always meetup i.e. a chance to find these in more central London (although I dislike going into town, the air pollution is very noticeable there now and exceeds the WHO safety guidelines!)

I am pleased to say that there are at least 3 local food markets at weekends offering a welcome array of artisan breads, organic veg, assorted cheeses, fresh fish and meats etc.

I envy the lifestyle of so many on this forum.  I always meant to live out in the countryside and be fairly self sufficient.  I made inroads into that dream in my 20s by going WWOOFing (I see this site is familiar with that movement!) and even got accepted into a commune in Wales!  At the last hurdle though I got cold feet mostly because I don't drive or own a car (country transport being fairly infrequent and, although I cycle, it would entail long distances to local shops) + (somewhat ashamed to admit it) the diet in the commune was largely just veg and pulses (not even co-starring much other protein by way of eggs and cheese, which put me off!)  Plus a man had me marked out as his territory (sexually) and I wasn't interested in going down that road!  That said, I am content as a semi-recluse (and long established celibate) in the sanctity of my little flat and have a lovely, naturalistic garden (photos of which I have posted on this forum).

How about yourself Joel?



 
master pollinator
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I try and do a lot for the community. I belong to a group of local citizens that try and change government policy on the local and state level for the mentally challenged, as well as intervention in drug addiction. We have helped to change some policies I think.

And I try to attend area churches for their pot luck suppers, public suppers which are slightly different in that they raise money for people in difficult times, and Katie and I support a woman in our church who has a son who has cancer. They can barely afford the gas to drive back and forth to his treatments, so I try and help pay for some of that each week. If I had a child that was sick like that, I would want to be there too, so I help give.

But I also do Rock the Flock, which is a big festival on our farm. We invite anyone the Second Saturday of August, and then have up to 8 different bands play, cook food, have bounce houses for the kids, have lawn games and whatnot. It is all to raise money for a drug addiction service that charges no money for anyone that tries to get clean. The best part is I am friends with the local Sheriff, so they bring up the Early Release Prisoner's and they end up cooking the burgers and hot dogs donated by a local restaurant, and so those guys get to see, the community still supports them; still loves them. As my wife Katie says, "We do not have much, but we have room", so we share our view, share our farm, have a nice concert, and raise money for a good cause. It is a lot of work before and after the concert, but all worth it.

I think Katie and I do quite a bit in our area, which has the distinction of being the poorest town in all of the United States per capita. The poverty rate here is incredible here. So even though we may do a lot, it is nowhere near enough, but a person cannot see a problem, and then just stand back and do nothing either. At 4:07 in the video I talk about this very concept and why Katie and I try and help with the opiate crisis. The end of the video shows the scenery and why we hold the concert there...sunsets are incredible.

This is a video of the Rock the Flock event so that people can see the scale of it, see some of our farm, but it is a church event..so be warned, the content is slightly religious...



 
Posts: 81
Location: Lasqueti Island, British Columbia
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so for me living in a small community( full time residents @ 400 people) I get to see the impacts of my helping quite easily. I work as a sawmill operator and know every person who comes in and purchases wood. Often times i know what they are doing with the wood as well.

Our community hall has been built by community members and it is run by community members. It is heated with wood heat and so every year we need to help with bucking/splitting firewood for the wood shed. It is usually put out on our community email list, and we get a small group of 10 or so people come and help with the task. No one is paid. It is fun event and we often have tea/mead/ some baking made by a community member during and afterwards. I find it helps knowing who everyone is, this makes it more a gathering of friends than anything.

We hold other events throughout the year most of which are all volunteer run. This year i helped at our fall fair by being on the pig smoking team. It involves about 6 or so people getting together to kill/scrap/butcher a pig which than goes onto a big pig spit(built by a community member) to smoke over fruit wood. It is yummy and we catch the dripping in pans below the meat to cook feral sheep meat in. All of this is volunteer with no one getting paid. Most of the community comes out to this event and everyone gets to see who is on the food teams.

Really the biggest part of this community is being able to say hi fred and know where they live and what they do. When we drive past people most everyone waves. Hitch hiking is an easy way to get around the island.

Another group i am involved in is the Nature Conservancy. It has a board of about 8 or so people and we help educate/inform/purchase land, etc. Last year we acquired from the land owner a parcel of 28 acres of land which is now a provincial park and is helping to maintain some of the last remaining intact Coastal Douglas Fir along with a very stunning view of the salish sea. We also found some interesting lichen and we have found some bats.

Another group i am involved in is called the Lasqueti Community Association( membership around 60 people). Of this member based group(pay 5 dollars to become a member and also to have a say in community based decisions). One of the branches of this group is the Official Community Plan(OCP) Steering Committee. We are currently try to rewrite the OCP plan and make it easy to read and also organized in a way which doesn't make one fall asleep. We have held countless committee meetings and have come up with public forums where we gather the community's input on the current objectives as well as any objectives people from the community have put forth to be discussed(ie keep as is,keep with revisions, remove). it has been going for 1 1/2 years now and we are preparing our final reports which will be presented to the LCA collective and than it will be presented to the Local Trust Committee(ie the Island Trust).

Needless to say i can easily see the effect i have within the community either by what people say or by my own observations. The feedback is there.

hopefully this is helpful


 
master pollinator
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Great topic!

When we first moved to our spot, I wasn't aware how community life functioned in my area. Coming from New Jersey, I wasn't  involved in community life much at all. Heck, I didn't even know my neighbors! Over the years since moving to Hawaii I've been incorporated into parts of my community....sometimes the community reached out to me, other times I reached out to them. By my community I mean my region 10 miles in all directions from my farm. So this includes from the small town of Naalehu to the community of Oceanview.

My community hosts several types of groups. Churches. Community/senior centers. Community groups - O'Kau Kakou (a group of local residents helping other local residents) and other groups that do coastline cleanups, tree planting for local reforestation, invasive plant removal projects. General clubs/groups -- quilting, gardening, tai chi, yoga, artistic painting, sumi-e, meditation, book club, antique car, ham radio, hula, fiber crafts.  Sports- t ball, soccer. Plus our local Volcanos National Park conducts walking tours and other community park events.

The are several gathering spots for socializing - coffee "shops", farmers market, churches, community center, farmers market, community center, parks.

Various community groups sponsor public events -- craft fairs, cultural fairs, music events, holiday celebrations & parades, holiday meals.

Community life sometimes also involves helping one another. People often come together to help erect a storage building, build a handicapped ramp, paint an old house, clean up an old cemetery, move cattle out of a wildfire area.

My own efforts also include growing food for those in need, plus teaching people how to grow food. I also have established a food trading system among many of the residents, where people come together with their own surplus and go home with its & bits from others.

So what do I get out of community life? A sense of satisfaction in sharing and helping others out....a sense of belonging. The knowledge that somebody out there is aware that I exist and they care about that to some degree. The security knowing that someone will come help me if I'm in real need. The ability to benefit from the surplus of others via my trading and sharing network. I guess that's all called a support network.
 
Joel Bercardin
pollinator
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Amy Francis wrote:How about yourself Joel?


Thanks for your post (above), Amy, so as you request I'll pitch-in...

In my valley, there’s been a long tradition of neighbour helping neighbour. It was continued, with a characteristic style, in the 1970s when a substantial hippie wave came in, and many of those people settled more or less permanently.  I actually started another thread a few years back about ‘barn-raising” type events. These are project-oriented days where friends are invited to work together on one or more defined projects; for example, work toward the building of a cabin for someone, getting firewood cut with the following fall/winter in mind, putting in a drainage ditch & pipeline just above a house, and things like that.

These events have been key learning experiences about useful methods and techniques for some of the newer people to the homesteading way of life.  In fact, they’re also informative about newer and better ways of doing things for people who’ve been “on the land” for most or all of their lives.  Then too, one of our community halls has sponsored hands-on how-to sessions (on weekends) teaching new people specific key rural skills.

Of course, bartering goods & services between individuals or households happens a lot.  For instances, I’ve traded such hands-on help as fence building or (repair) welding for organic raised turkeys or garlic.  I was called on recently to re-do 40-year-old kitchen sink plumbing for an 80-year-old lady who’d been laid up with a fractured pelvis, but just did that one as a freebie.

Fall garden/farm festivals also have a long history here. In recent decades,, there have been weekly summer outdoor markets for such things as crafts, value-added organic-food products, herbal remedies. However the weekly events don’t draw that much action (as our population isn’t very large), and I tend to skip those — but I do go to the fall fairs and, like a lot if people I know, I’ve won many ribbons in competitions (in my own case, for sweet peppers, strawberries, potatoes).

Not only in my valley but through much of the region, resident-based environmental protection and forestry-reform societies have been organized.  I’ve been involved in several of the local ones for twenty years or so, and feel a great bond with many of the other people committed to these efforts.

Over the years, grassroots services like daycare, home-schooling circles, and alternative primary school have been established.  Not only that, but there’s been a lot of parent involvement with the conventional (government-funded) primary, junior-secondary, and secondary schools as well.  Back in the day when I was doing a lot of freelance work for magazines & newspapers, I was not only requested to give workshops in that sort of writing, but even asked to give a little talk to primary-school students about it.

In the valley here, there are spiritual groups, Christian-fellowship groups, etc.  There are book clubs.  There are yoga and pilates classes, exercise-dance classes, and a volunteer group who maintain an outdoor community hockey rink, and another who maintain local XC-skiing trails during winter.  We’ve got a community brass band, various rock or reggae or funk or country-rock bands, choirs, drumming circles.  No-alcohol dances are announced by internet, posters, and word of mouth every so often.  More in an at-home way, I play a little guitar with friends when we get the opportunity.

Offhand, I can think of a couple of really nice thematic circles that we, in my household, are involved in.  One is potluck suppers that rotate through a circle of homes, usually involving maybe six to twelve people (and the meals, from locally grown food, are really great).  Another is a circle among the women who rotate from one homestead to another and help each other with weeding tough garden patches while visiting and laughing.
 
Amy Francis
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Thanks Joel for your rich and descriptive reply!  Wow!  A very rich community life by all accounts.  

It got me thinking.....it may be obvious but it seems to me that there's a big difference between city and country life re. help/sharing, yes?  At the risk of generalising, people in cities can well be more isolated i.e. not get to know their neighbours - quite common!  I guess there may also be more of a need for pooling practical skills (proving to be mutually beneficial) out in the countryside.  I have always thought that country folk are more friendly....try saying 'hallo' randomly in the city and see what reactions you get!  Jeez!!!

As mentioned, I live in a fairly built up area (outerskirts of London).  Guess what?  I tried introducing a barter scheme down my street once.  Went house to house finding out who would be interested, what they could offer and what they would like/needed but it never took off!  Might be several reasons e.g. I think city people like to keep to themselves more (a privacy thing) and maybe just because it was unprecedented/unusual!  (I did use it though i.e. borrowed a hairdryer, to fix the henna in my hair, in exchange for a chess lesson!) Maybe it needed an intro evening though, i.e. where people on the scheme could meet up .... that has just occurred to me!  Der!!!
 
Joel Bercardin
pollinator
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Location: Western Canadian mtn valley, zone 6b, 750mm (30") precip
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One thing that’s been brought home to me, once again, in the last few weeks is that women in our community have a remarkable sort of involvement and responsiveness. A couple women in the last while have had health mishaps — one fell and fractured her pelvis, another had a wood-chopping accident and sliced some flesh off the end of her thumb. Now, true, we do have paramedical response in our valley, so on that score the people with these issues were well supported in the immediate sense. But the local friendship web among the women got communication going and, in each case, developed a plan tor in-home support. My wife has been part of it.  It's consisted of transportation (when required), homemade meals, bringing in the firewood for the next 24 hours, doing any necessary housework, and more.  And there’s quite a history of this occurring in our community.

It’s my impression that the women generally do a better job with this sort of personal support than the guys tend to do.  They’re impressively efficient about it, too.
 
pollinator
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Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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I live on 40 acres 20 minutes from the capitol of my state, Wyoming. So still not impressively large. We have a community of people that live on our section of land. I have almost all of their phone numbers and we have a Facebook group we share information on. We can call upon each other for assistance.

I started a permaculture/homesteading group ages ago and have met people I'm still in touch with, even though the group died. Great source of information there.

Our Church has a large group of large and small farmers/ranchers and that's the best source of support and information I have. We share tools, information and labor. It's awesome.

Part of the Church and also partly not of the Church is the local Ladies group. We share plants, plant knowledge, canning, cooking, etc knowledge. They are all amazing!
 
Joel Bercardin
pollinator
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I have to admit that before I moved, with my first wife, out of the big city into a mountainous, wooded rural area, I sometimes entertained visions of an extreme homestead self-sufficiency. And before things really gelled realistically in our rugged new environment, I returned at times to those sorts of thoughts.  I experienced a time of of feeling embarrassingly unskilled, and put my efforts into changing that... "catching up" so as to fit in, in my new natural and social environment.

But with a whole lot of experience now, I look back on that isolationist attitude as very unrealistic.  Oh, yeah, I've known a few men, with hermit-like tendencies, who were skilled enough to live by choice without much in the way of social connections — for a while. But various combinations of economic necessity and loneliness, in the end, did connect or reconnect them with a larger community in some ways. Your experience about this may vary, but besides sad and lonely old coots whose spouses either left them or died, and who maybe now view themselves as too ornery to be consorted with, I can probably count on two fingers the homesteaders I've known who choose to live in isolation.

And given that, I'm surprised at the small number of Permies members who've decided to share something about their lives within their communities. But my appreciation goes out to the ones who have.
 
Posts: 77
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Joel Bercardin wrote:
And given that, I'm surprised at the small number of Permies members who've decided to share something about their lives within their communities. But my appreciation goes out to the ones who have.


OK, I can give you an account from my community which probably quite differs from the situation of most: First, because I am in Europe, second because my "homestead" is really a small suburban garden (my whole ground, including house, shed etc. is maybe 6,200 square feet.

Twenty years ago I itched to leave my small flat in Munich without garden or balcony (in a nice area, though) and move to something WITH a garden. Before I had always lived with my parents in houses with small gardens but no veggies or similar. My aunt lived in a different communities (which today is part of the metropolitan area of Munich) with lots of flowers, veggies, fruit trees so when we looked for a house we looked in that area - prices are crazy around Munich and the north was a bit more affordable.

So we ended up in a small town (about 5,000 inhabitants, first mentioned 1,200 years ago) with train connection to Munich (we did not own a car) and a very good infrastructure.
There are: elemenatary school, kindergarten, pharmacy, dentist, GP, supermarket, hairdresser, residence for the aged, gas station, volunteer fire brigade, etc., there is a natural pool (http://w2.tourismus-dachauer-land.de/freizeit-und-sport/wassersport/naturbad-vierkirchen.html) where the water is filtered in a separate pond, and when you swim you are among dragonflies and newts.
It was largely built and is run by volunteer helpers.

There are lots of associations in our community where you can get to know each other: sports, gardening, tradition, music, fishing, veterans, church, senior citizens, environment (I am a member of the board), adult education center (where I held a course in Spanish for beginners last fall) etc.
The mayor is on first name terms with most of the citizens.

The senior citizen group helps out with doctor appointments, there is a social fund for those with little financial income, there is a group volunteering with the refugees (lots of communities have a container / built shelter for refugees, in our town there are mostly african refugees).

The school community is closely knit, I used to be engaged a lot when my kids still went to the local elementary school (now they go to the next town by bus). I knew basically all the children and their parents. The church (catholic, but there is a community room for lutheran as well) also has activities and I participated in lots although I don't go to mass (crafting with the kids, sunday breakfasts etc.).

The community has quite changed over the last 20 years. New houses have been built, new companies have opened in the business park nearby (even international companies), and there are some districts where the house owners commute (well, most people commute to work) and only come to sleep and they have terrible "gardens" (gravel or only lawn).
At least two little dairy farms have closed (in the middle of the town) which is very sad - probably due to old age and lack of return.
There are still about three dairy farmers and some other farmers (one is even organic).

Direct neighbours:
We have a very good relation. We exchange meals, baked goods, excess produce, jams etc. We keep an eye on each other, help out with giving rides to other locations, open the house when the (obligatory) chimney sweepers has to check and the neighbour is out at work. Last summer I reparted honey to the direct neighbours to thank them for their flowers (and because I had to enter one garden when my bees swarmed).

So all in all I would say I live in a very good place. It could be much better, but I prefer it to the more sterile, anonym suburbs in the south of Munich which are wealthier but also more haughty.
And I believe in community; I don't understand those "preppers" who think they will make it on their own.  

 
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Great topic! I especially like what Amy Francis said - I think Londoners are pretty special, in the outskirts or central :) it's really one of my favourite European cities (along with Vienna and Barcelona), and together with Barcelona it seems to have that special community vibe. Vienna maybe not so much, or I haven't seen it, but I love the fact that it has amazing wildlife areas and is so airy, elegant and spacious, while other cities seem a bit claustrophobic.

I'm planning to move out of my suburban area to a village or a smaller town, where I could have a larger garden and more farm animals. But I'm a single woman and the plan is adjusted to that; of course I will plan room for other people, guests family etc, but now it's only me so that's how I'm planning the plan ;)

Amy Francis wrote:At the risk of generalising, people in cities can well be more isolated i.e. not get to know their neighbours - quite common!  I guess there may also be more of a need for pooling practical skills (proving to be mutually beneficial) out in the countryside.



I agree... I'm involved with one gallery/cafe which is trying to create a community by arranging lots of social events about various topics, like books, ecology, etc, but I feel like all they do is talk. There isn't much else to do; you can't harvest crops together, build a shed, do some earthworks, etc. On one hand, you can find a lot more cultural events in the city; cinemas, theatres, galleries, etc, and your social circle may seem larger, but most of these relationships are superficial.
Minorities seem happier in cities, as it's easier to find a support group, and if you're vegan you can cook with other vegans, buy all vegan stuff, if you're queer you can find tons of queer clubs and bars but then you won't meet these people on the street, or you won't recognize them in the crowd.

My countryside/suburban options don't include any conscious intentional communities, or anyone with more permaculture-ish lifestyle; these homesteads are rather isolated, spread everywhere. So the places I'm looking at right now are half abandoned villages where people often do nothing; it's a very sad form of learned helplessness, pushing them into frustration and antisocial behaviours. Other type are city people who buy land and a house in the village only for a summer retreat, and they abandon it for the rest of the year. And the truly local people who live off the land, are families, closely tied together for generations, and often very traditional.
So I'd have to deal with these three types; and I'm an academic artist by profession, which is often misunderstood by all kinds of people. Artists are often considered impractical and careless (as many of them are like that sadly), so I'm trying to improve this both ways - make "academic art" more accessible through my practice, and teach young artists how to be more sustainable and environmentally aware (which is a useful skill if they really want to be artists, and not end up in advertising agency or something like that). To do so, I'm including a very professional art studio in my future plan!
 
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