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Looking for folks interested in building community here in the mountains of Western NC  RSS feed

 
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I've posted several times on Permies and also listed on IC.org regarding looking for folks interested in starting an Intentional Community/Eco-Village here in NC mountains.  But,  I haven't gotten much response and I wonder if there just aren't many folks interested these days. There seems to be more of a movement to city cooperatives and cohousing.

I have 32 acres in a sheltered, peaceful valley here where I have lived for the past 14 years.  Hydropower provides off-grid electricity for buildings.  I have a well establish 1/4 garden that has been providing healthy food and sharing it with the local community at a Tailgate market, restaurant and health food store.  I also have a trout pond that I stock with Rainbow trout.  

I love this life but am getting older (by the day) and hope that this one day will be a thriving community and can carry on the work I've started here.  I've been working on establishing some temporary housing for folks while we build permanent housing. There is a sawmill here and plenty of trees that need harvesting (white pine)  I'm currently building an earth bermed house (stacked block) with a living roof (solar, radiant floor heating, etc).  Been working on it for a couple of years.  I've hosted several dozen volunteers over the years to help with projects here, but this is a lot of work in itself and they come and go.  I feel it takes a village to host young folks interested in this way of life and a community can best accomplish this.

I'm looking for folks interested in living a peaceful, healthy lifestyle, so this isn't a place to hang out and do drugs, etc.  There is enough beauty and quiet that should meet anyone's needs here.  I understand that finances are an issue for many folks especially if they have debt.  To some degree, I think it takes a leap of faith to change to a different way of life.  There is no buy-in to become part of this community and the community at this point could pay for work beyond one's commitment here or find an outside job.  I'm open to ideas if people have them.  Now is a good time of year to get some work done now that the garden is slowed down (covered over right now with row cover).  Maybe someone has ideas about how to connect with folks interested in joining a community and how to encourage this.  I did attend the Communities Conference at Twin Oaks this past summer and that was a great learning experience, but even there, I didn't meet many folks interested in joining a community.  Please see my listing on IC.org for more info (Coweeta Heritage Center/Talking Rock Farm). best wishes,   PaulChew

 
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Hi Paul Chew!

I've looked at some more of your posts and would like to know more about how your community currently works.

From what it sounds like the community is consensus-based. Is this an accurate description, and what finer nuances are there to the functioning of your community?

About the in-kind labor for paying for yearly dues. If we setup an operation/business on the community land, would money from that be okay for paying dues?

I like that you have trout ponds. Do you have other fish ponds, as well?
 
Paul Chew
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Dave Burton wrote:Hi Paul Chew!

I've looked at some more of your posts and would like to know more about how your community currently works.

From what it sounds like the community is consensus-based. Is this an accurate description, and what finer nuances are there to the functioning of your community?

About the in-kind labor for paying for yearly dues. If we set up an operation/business on the community land, would money from that be okay for paying dues?

I like that you have trout ponds. Do you have other fish ponds, as well?




Hi Dave, Thanks for your interest in Coweeta Heritage Center/ Talking Rock Farm.

I'm not sure I know how this posting works.  I wrote a long reply and submitted but then it never showed up.  I will make a shorter reply to your questions.

First, the "community" right now is me and my cat!  Not much problem getting consensus with my cat, except in regard to what cat food she likes and when she wants to go out. I think not having other permanent members is just one obstacle to starting up a community.  Many folks want to join an established community perhaps.  To join the community, folks need to go through a process to become permanent members (I won't go into detail here). I think this is pretty common for most communities.  

As far as meeting one's commitment to the community, I'm fine with folks doing a variety of things including running their own business.  I currently make wooden spoons, have a market garden, etc.  I wouldn't mind turning these over to the community at some point.  The community would need to be compensated for any resources that someone used in their business (ie workshop time, use of equipment, etc).  I think this could be worked out pretty easily.  

Much like Twin Oaks, folks could meet their contributions through time through their in-kind labor.  Also, building needed structures could utilize community labor.  The community would own the land and all infrastructure.  

To some degree, there could be income sharing, but I think this would come through the community itself adjusting a families contribution based on need.  From visiting Twin Oaks, I learned that it is difficult or almost impossible for a single parent or even family to join based on policies that the community has adopted.  Considering that our children are our future, I hope this community would be more welcoming to families.  I understand there are economic or other reasons for this.  

Building retirement would be another important function of the exchange.  As we get older, we will work less, so important to either have savings or time bankrolled in the community.  Can we count on social security being there or even our saving in a bank?  Loans to the community could also be a source of retirement (exchanged for yearly commitment) or withdrawn if someone left the community.  

One on my motivations for building a community is that I feel this is a real investment for the future, that hopefully won't just disappear in a downturn.  So, I would rather invest in the community than have money in stocks or sitting in a bank even if it is FIDC insured.  

I just have one small pond for trout (cold water).  I just stocked with 1,000 fingerlings.  Last year a snapping turtle ate the young fish that I put in a cage to raise up.  I relocated the turtle so perhaps this year will be different.  

If anyone is interested, Coweeta Heritage Center/Talking Rock Farm is listed on IC.org or they can email me for more info: coweeta@gmail.com.  I always welcome visitors to come visit.  
 
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Greetings, Paul, (and Dave!),
I'll just jump into the conversation, for a moment, to say that, from my experience living in International Community, there is an vast expanse to bridge at the time a project transitions from one owner to a group dynamic. It may be the most vital time for ultimate success of failure; between the legalities of land "ownership" and decision-making authority, it's a massive ordeal...May you proceed with wisdom.
-Patrick

 
Paul Chew
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Patrick Stanton wrote:Greetings, Paul, (and Dave!),
I'll just jump into the conversation, for a moment, to say that, from my experience living in International Community, there is a vast expanse to bridge at the time a project transitions from one owner to a group dynamic. It may be the most vital time for the ultimate success or failure; between the legalities of land "ownership" and decision-making authority, it's a massive ordeal...May you proceed with wisdom.
-Patrick



Thanks, Patrick,  I tend to jump into things feet first.  Sometimes, when I think about a project later I might think that if I'd known what was involved, I wouldn't have ever started.  That isn't saying that I wouldn't have wanted to do it.  

I think the important thing at this point is envisioning what future you want.  How you feel a community could (not should) be structured, and what values you hold onto (dearly).  I've given considerable thought to what I would like in a community and how it could be organized.  I've already done a lot of infrastructure work here (build it and they will come).  I feel there may be many hurdles to overcome in the future such as you mentioned.  My sense is that these will get worked out.  Partly, I just don't have the time and energy to worry about everything at this point.  A framework is an important first step.  So, I feel that what one begins with is a formal agreement for working together.  I'm not asking folks to invest money in this ahead of time (the land is paid for).   If it doesn't work, they can walk away with at least the experience and knowledge they have gained while part of such a fledgling endeavor.  

I've worked with dozens of volunteers here and I know there can be lots of pitfalls and difficulties.  I'm hoping that working with folks who have a real commitment to the land and community, that there  will be more of a long-term hope for things to prosper and grow.  I do a lot of gardening.  The work you put into a garden is an investment in the future. You have to remind yourself that what I'm doing today is not just for today but partly for the future.  I feel the same thing can be true for growing a community.  Investing time, money and energy in the present will potentially reap future rewards.  

I have a friend whose daughter hiked the AT.  I asked the young woman what she learned from her long hike.  She replied: "I learned I'm tougher than I thought."  I think this is a valuable lesson to learn.  We are capable of doing more than we think we can.  Therefore, I naively walk forward into a future that is uncertain with determination.  From the looks of it, society will have a tough go of it no matter where you are.  

Part of my goal is to try to prepare for that uncertain future.  (Without trying to anticipate all the potential pitfalls).  I've installed and operated a hydro system over many years, maintained roads, built rock walls, built sheds and cabins.  Most things aren't rocket science.  I assume that either success or failure (or both) can develop confidence.  I believe that confidence is what we need to face an uncertain future or to embark on an uncertain journey.  Just my thoughts.  The ability to struggle is perhaps an important aspect of this.   This comes down to how determined you are to reach whatever goal you have set (despite whatever detours you may take along the way).  And perhaps not trying or attempting something is worse than failing!  

Thanks again Patrick!  I would love to continue this conversation with folks.  And more about helping folks "bridge the gap"

Obvously, I have too much time on my hands here.  Well, its snowing outside.




 
Patrick Stanton
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Paul,
Well, there's some snow here, as well; but, then again, it is Vermont...
To expand on what I wrote (and, hopefully, reply well to your thoughts), I would say that there is, as I've seen, a moment when the original owner is faced with the dilemma of ceding control of his property (that he stewarded for years, often) to the emerging group of communitarians, or trying to run a project where he has ultimate authority in the context of a more landlord/tenant relation. Both can work, both can fail; but the roads are, of course, mutually exclusive. Really, the entire birth of the community is in that gestalt...
 
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