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How do you know Who you can Live with?  RSS feed

 
                    
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This has been heavily on my mind as we are discussing how to go about incorporating more human dwellers into our farm. 

Several of our nearest neighbors/friends are attempting to create an intentional community.  They are a group of friends who decided to buy land together, and are now in the process of figuring out how to live with each other.  One of the members recently told me that his beliefs are pretty much communist/socialist, and another member is a capitalist libertarian.  It took them several years to figure out that this causes some serious problems.  Can these two people with essentially mutually exclusive viewpoints live together?  Should they, even though they are good friends? 

What are some basic "deal breakers" when deciding whether a community member is a good match for the community?  I think that apples should live with apples, and oranges should stick with oranges, as trying to satisfy two extremes is only going to create way more work/grief for everyone involved. 

What questions do you ask to get to "really" know a person?  What's important to know about in a community member?  What is something you could compromise on, and what are things that just wouldn't work?

Deal breakers for us (includes interns):  cigarette smoking, not eating animal products, and a habit of waking up late in the day.  We have our reasons, and we expect that we'll be able to find non-smoking people who like to eat meat, and prefer to start working on stuff early in the day.  We need the people who live here right from the beginning to have similar work habits, lifestyle choices, and diet.  Of course we plan to get more detailed than this, but these seem to be three big ones that immediately come up for us. 

Things we can compromise or that matter less:  religious viewpoints to a degree, and age. 
 
paul wheaton
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Diana Leafe Christian (IC goddess) says "make it difficult to get in and easy to get out".

Paul Wheaton (large obnoxious man) says "people change - so even if you like them when they move in, they might sprout horns later"

(ooooo ..... talking about myself in the third person .... so this is what bob dole feels like ....)

I think this is the most important thing.  How can you be sure people will get along in the long run. 

You could spend three years getting to know them by spending every day with them.  Maybe even have sex with them.  And then make the commitment and use consensus to make decisions.  That should make things silky smooth for the rest of your life, right?  At least, this is how marriage works and I would like to point out here that I think it is good that we have "divorce" because the only other alternative is "until death do us part" and we might see a statistic showing that married people tend to not live as long.

Back to your question:  how do you know?  I think it isn't a boolean (yes/no, on/off, true/false, in/out) as much as it is a spectrum ( A 91% on the "good fit scale"

(And then they change  - which, I suppose, is a different topic)

Most IC's have a probationary period.  There is a round or two of interviews and then they come out for a weekend.  Later, they move in and six months later there will be a decision about whether to keep them or not. 

I have spent enormous tracks of time thinking about this and bombarding people with my concerns and theories in this space (including driving Diana nuts with it).  My theories and ideas in this space are considered generally unacceptable.  Maybe I should start a new thread.


 
Fred Morgan
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One thing I have found when working with people is to listen for selfishness. A person who wants everything their way isn't going to work out well in a community.

When I meet with a person the first time, if they first things they talk about are what they are going to get from the relationship, I generally are not impressed.

But, if a person starts off talking about how they can contribute to the well being of all, many things can be worked out just fine.

 
Jennifer Smith
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Well let's see...Tomorrow starts housemate #3  What do they all have in common...

...all female, all have own car, clean and agree to keep house clean, two agree to pay electric bill, one had no job.  One Phillipino, one Jew, one Caucasion,... one lesbian, one smoker, one with pets, all younger than myself (but most people are anymore) all single, one afraid of horses (before not now)

I guess that is my criteria...and they all leave, quickly... does that something about me?
 
Fred Morgan
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Jennifer Smith  "listenstohorses" wrote:
Well let's see...Tomorrow starts housemate #3  What do they all have in common...

...all female, all have own car, clean and agree to keep house clean, two agree to pay electric bill, one had no job.  One Phillipino, one Jew, one Caucasion,... one lesbian, one smoker, one with pets, all younger than myself (but most people are anymore) all single, one afraid of horses (before not now)

I guess that is my criteria...and they all leave, quickly... does that something about me?


Perhaps if you hadn't awoken them at 3 am with a bucket of cold water they might have stayed? 
 
Jennifer Smith
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I was actually nice enough, or so I thought. 

I don't even expect them to work as hard as I do... but I have little patience for extra work for me or the waste of my resources.

 
                    
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It's true, people change.  Especially when their environment changes, and I'd assume a person's whole environment would change once they became a part of a communal living situation.  This is why I believe an unchanging and agreed upon document that could be always referenced for guidance would be necessary. 

Some perhaps (hopefully) soon-to-be neighbors came over last night and we talked for hours about all of this community/farming/permie stuff.  It was amazing and really informative.  I'm having more hope for the future of this valley every day. 

Jen, you're talking about renting out a room to someone, though, right?  I think that's different than the successful IC situation I'm attempting to envision. 

I'll point out here that I haven't lived with my parents since I was 15.  First a dormitory in highschool (which was a whole learning experience in and of itself) and then lots of different apartments on the east coast.  I've lived with many kinds of people for the sake of splitting rent: men, women, lesbians, musicians, older people, younger people, college professors, architects, film makers, friends, strangers......Some of them smoked, some of them were vegans, I didn't care what time of day they got up because we had totally different agendas.  I cared if they didn't do the dishes..... 

What we need here are people who are willing to be a completely integrated long term/permanent part of our farm, and that's a really big commitment.  I agree that a 'trial' period is essential to finding out someone's true colors.  Six months to a year is a good amount of time for politeness and excitement to wear down enough for reality to set in. 

Partner and I have decided to go on a "community tour" in California.  Occidental arts and ecology center is high on the list.  Any others anybody can recommend?


One thing I have found when working with people is to listen for selfishness. A person who wants everything their way isn't going to work out well in a community.


I could argue that the capitalist/libertarian viewpoint is an essentially selfish one.  Each man for himself just doesn't seem to vibe if you claim to want to live in a close knit and interdependent community. 

I'm not saying all communal situations must operate under strict "share all our wealth collectively" guidelines, but....in this particular situation I'm watching over at the neighbors, it's creating a situation of "haves and have nots" ie the people who made more money this year can help pay the land payment and whatever else they need, while the people who made less are struggling to afford feeding themselves.  And that's obviously causing a lot of tension between people.  Maybe if everyone in the group were comfortable with this situation and everyone were capable of supporting themselves equally, it could work.  But that's not the case, because they haven't structured it this way.  (I'll point out that my neighbors are an especially bad example because of their lack of structure, period.  Good to learn from, anyway.)

I see that in any given farm, there are going to be the enterprises that make money, and activities that don't bring in much (or any) cash directly but help support the farm as a whole.  So do the people who are running the cash enterprise have more of a right to how the money is used?  Or do they have a responsibility to the land and farm as a whole to give a bunch of that cash back to the group project? 

I'm into everyone getting a reasonable 'allowance" for personal use, and the rest of the capital gets plowed back into the projects.  This is assuming that the farm is meeting everyone's basic needs, and the only thing a person would need cash for is a nifty new pair of boots, or something. 

Difficult to get in, easy to get out.  Even after a number of years.  The option of 'divorce' is essential. 
 
Jennifer Smith
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marina wrote:
Jen, you're talking about renting out a room to someone, though, right? I think that's different than the successful IC situation I'm attempting to envision. 

I would love to have a more permanant hand but am willing to settle for someone who can be here now for what help I can get. 

My ideal roomie would have a job and be able to pay the electric bill, as I find they are more apt to turn off lights if it is their bill and I do not have to fret or nag. 

No rent but to help keep the place up and to live here while I travel as needed.  That ideal roomie would have a home forever.  We have plans for a second home at a later date as needed. 

My current mate has agreed to stay on for 6 months...we will see.
 
Fred Morgan
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Jennifer Smith  "listenstohorses" wrote:
I was actually nice enough, or so I thought. 

I don't even expect them to work as hard as I do... but I have little patience for extra work for me or the waste of my resources.




One thing I often find is that if someone has their own spread, or own business, or own home, they seem to understand. But if someone doesn't, well I want to know why. Often it is because they don't know about preserving resources and putting in more than you take out.

 
Joe Skeletor
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Hey Marina,
I found this book at a thrift store, it may be of interest to you regarding this subject

-"A Walden Two Experiment; The First Five Years of Twin Oaks Community."

http://www.amazon.com/Walden-Experiment-First-Years-Community/dp/0688050204/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264523367&sr=1-p

Much of the book deals with the difficulties of finding the 'right' people, and all the rules they tried in order to keep people out that just wanted to slack. Written in the 70's, but I think it's still relevant.  Highly recommended, and its $0.01 + shipping on Amazon.
 
paul wheaton
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I think a good approach is to figure out a system where you can embrace that people change and people are gonna be icky. 

My impression is that consensus requires that everybody be on the top 5% of the population.  If even one person is a bit off, then it starts to fall apart. 

 
                          
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Marina, two communities within visiting distance of you (I think) that seem to have some fairly resilient structures in place are Emerald Earth in Boonville, CA and Lost Valley near Dexter, OR.
 
                    
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Thanks for the tips, Kerrick.  Emerald Earth has been recommended to me by several people, it's totally on "the list!"

I taught a fermentation class during a PDC at Lost Valley a couple summers ago.  My friend Rick Valley lives there.  It's a really nice place that they are working to re-forest (the whole property was clear-cut by the group they bought it from).  They are making money while spreading knowledge about permaculture and living in community!  What more can you ask for?  I hope we have a chance to go visit again. 
 
paul wheaton
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Rick is great. 

He was a guest instructor at my PDC

At the last convergence, Rick walked over and somebody sitting next to me attempted to introduce us.  I said "not only do I already know Rick, but I have a Rick Valley story that I have told at least 20 times."  He said he really needed to here this.  So I told it.  He confirmed it ..... and I should really start a new thread about that .....
 
                    
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ha!  It was the rick I know then!  That story is pretty telling of "mob mentality," in my opinion. 
 
Scott Reil
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Well I know I'M ok. I'm just not sure about the rest of you...



HG
 
Susan Noyes
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Kerrick McCoy wrote:Marina, two communities within visiting distance of you (I think) that seem to have some fairly resilient structures in place are Emerald Earth in Boonville, CA and Lost Valley near Dexter, OR.


I am thinking about internships and IC's and wonder if this would be a good thread to discuss Emerald Earth, Lost Valley, Bullock Brothers Farm and Earthhaven Ecovillage from someone who has visited these and other farms and permaculture enterprises?
 
Patrick Thornson
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I'd like to hear from anyone who has been to Bullock Brothers Farm or Skeeter's place. I would like to go somewhere not too far away by car.

The fear is that I'd get somewhere to learn permaculture and find the people- too rigid ( vegan or something), religious (sorry, just not my thang) or just petty control stuff going on in the community.
 
Tyler Ludens
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You might try just going on a tour before you commit to living there...
 
Patrick Thornson
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I'd never jump into the deep water without checking the water first.
I've been invited to skeeter's place in Aug but we are really short staffed at work. If I can drive down and back in a day and a half maybe it'll be doable.
 
ellen rosner
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Patrick Thornson wrote:I'd never jump into the deep water without checking the water first.
I've been invited to skeeter's place in Aug but we are really short staffed at work. If I can drive down and back in a day and a half maybe it'll be doable.


yes, definitely check the water before jumping in. A friend of mine went to an eco-intentional village - which on the web looked like it was everything she wanted.
What she hadn't considered were the personalities involved. What she found was controlling personalities, her self attacked, ie going to meeetings to "find out what is wrong with her". She stayed longer than I would have, wanting to make it work. I think it was a traumatizing experience for her.

As for me, philosphically - I like the idea of an intentional community. But the truth is I don't get along with people all that well, so it wouldn't work for me.
 
Patrick Thornson
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In families,clubs,work places there can always be 1 or2 stinkers who ruin it all. That's life.
Mainly people are good though,don't you think?
People who share your values are easiest to live with.
 
George Lafayette
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paul wheaton wrote:Diana Leafe Christian (IC goddess) says "make it difficult to get in and easy to get out".


That is what we do. Its worked for us since 1968.

When we teach courses about communal living, people often ask us "how do you find the right people?" We laugh. We are not the right people, in fact we say that if we can do it, anybody can.

You are limited to the people who show up at your door. So some of them must be the right people. [Some of them are the wrong people].

If you want to live here, the final step is living with us for two weeks - this is a course - a residential laboratory course in consensus based communal living. It costs money. Per person. You have "guides", three classroom sessions, and we schedule all your time so that you spend time with (almost) everybody in the community and take part in most (or all) of the common activities. [yes, plenty of sleep is also on your schedule] As part of the course you must do a project that makes a visible permanent improvement to our physical plant - usually a project you cannot do alone but must do with the assistance (and agreement) of the group using our "one no vote" system ( a form of consensus)

At the end of that time if you want to live with us, you have a pretty good idea if you want to, and if we want to live with you. Same for us, about you. If you want to live here after you finish your residential course, you have to get agreement of everybody who lives here. Some high percentage of people who want to live with us wind up living with us.

We aren't big on rules, only have a few. We have asked people to leave - its rare. Mostly people can see when they don't fit and they move on, sometimes we sit down with folks and say “are you happy here? Is this working for you?”

And if you endanger the group or threaten the survival of the group, you will be gone in hours. We'll help you pack. <smile>

What I've seen is that in a large enough group (we are ~60 people) everyone can find their spot and contribute their special skills to the group. Its pretty obvious about the folks who weld, drive trucks, fix tractors, sweat pipe. Here is a far less obvious case.

We had someone who lived here for a long time (decades) who was a good project manager, but in terms of social skills was, in a lot of ways, a complete *$$hole. I’ll call them “X”. However, X had a true gift for dealing with other *$$holes - typically bureaucrats - zoning, insurance, DMV - X could be just as tenacious and detail oriented and, frankly, annoying. So sometimes you'd get into a situation with someone at the county office who just wasn't being friendly or helpful - and after some point we’d say "ahah! this is a case for X. “

There are other more obvious cases - we have a woman who was born here - she was born very prematurely and although very sweet she doesn't have a lot of mental abilities - but she walks to the store everyday and runs errands for people, she will wait at the front gate for the UPS truck or Fedex - she is a valuable member of the community although she can't swing a hammer, drive a car, or do heavy lifting. There was a fellow who lived in one of our houses who was a game designer, and he has Asperger’s syndrome – so very strange social skills – but he was very enthusiastic about washing dishes – and if you’ve every lived communally you know that people who like to clean the kitchen are very popular.

The last thing is that we've noticed that in every group, there is someone who is the biggest *$$hole. And if they leave (or you kick them out), you are now one step closer to being the biggest *$$hole yourself.
 
ellen rosner
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So, George, where is this commune?

George Alchemy wrote:
paul wheaton wrote:Diana Leafe Christian (IC goddess) says "make it difficult to get in and easy to get out".


That is what we do. Its worked for us since 1968.

When we teach courses about communal living, people often ask us "how do you find the right people?" We laugh. We are not the right people, in fact we say that if we can do it, anybody can.

You are limited to the people who show up at your door. So some of them must be the right people. [Some of them are the wrong people].

If you want to live here, the final step is living with us for two weeks - this is a course - a residential laboratory course in consensus based communal living. It costs money. Per person. You have "guides", three classroom sessions, and we schedule all your time so that you spend time with (almost) everybody in the community and take part in most (or all) of the common activities. [yes, plenty of sleep is also on your schedule] As part of the course you must do a project that makes a visible permanent improvement to our physical plant - usually a project you cannot do alone but must do with the assistance (and agreement) of the group using our "one no vote" system ( a form of consensus)

At the end of that time if you want to live with us, you have a pretty good idea if you want to, and if we want to live with you. Same for us, about you. If you want to live here after you finish your residential course, you have to get agreement of everybody who lives here. Some high percentage of people who want to live with us wind up living with us.

We aren't big on rules, only have a few. We have asked people to leave - its rare. Mostly people can see when they don't fit and they move on, sometimes we sit down with folks and say “are you happy here? Is this working for you?”

And if you endanger the group or threaten the survival of the group, you will be gone in hours. We'll help you pack. <smile>

What I've seen is that in a large enough group (we are ~60 people) everyone can find their spot and contribute their special skills to the group. Its pretty obvious about the folks who weld, drive trucks, fix tractors, sweat pipe. Here is a far less obvious case.

We had someone who lived here for a long time (decades) who was a good project manager, but in terms of social skills was, in a lot of ways, a complete *$$hole. I’ll call them “X”. However, X had a true gift for dealing with other *$$holes - typically bureaucrats - zoning, insurance, DMV - X could be just as tenacious and detail oriented and, frankly, annoying. So sometimes you'd get into a situation with someone at the county office who just wasn't being friendly or helpful - and after some point we’d say "ahah! this is a case for X. “

There are other more obvious cases - we have a woman who was born here - she was born very prematurely and although very sweet she doesn't have a lot of mental abilities - but she walks to the store everyday and runs errands for people, she will wait at the front gate for the UPS truck or Fedex - she is a valuable member of the community although she can't swing a hammer, drive a car, or do heavy lifting. There was a fellow who lived in one of our houses who was a game designer, and he has Asperger’s syndrome – so very strange social skills – but he was very enthusiastic about washing dishes – and if you’ve every lived communally you know that people who like to clean the kitchen are very popular.

The last thing is that we've noticed that in every group, there is someone who is the biggest *$$hole. And if they leave (or you kick them out), you are now one step closer to being the biggest *$$hole yourself.
 
George Lafayette
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ellen rosner wrote:So, George, where is this commune?


In the San Francisco bay area:
The Lafayette Morehouse
The Oakland Morehouse

We also have two houses in Hawaii, and there is a morehouse in Atlanta.
 
ellen rosner
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thanks.
I'm now reading about Morehouse online. Interesting.


George Alchemy wrote:
ellen rosner wrote:So, George, where is this commune?


In the San Francisco bay area:
The Lafayette Morehouse
The Oakland Morehouse

We also have two houses in Hawaii, and there is a morehouse in Atlanta.
 
Acetylsalicylic acid is aspirin. This could be handy too:
Video of all the permaculture design course and appropriate technology course (about 177 hours)
https://permies.com/wiki/65386/paul-wheaton/digital-market/Video-PDC-ATC-hours-HD
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