Thursday, 26 February 2015


Interesting communal living 


Those who find themselves on the pioneering growth edge of communal living are calling for a return to our roots.

Countless movements are stepping up, harnessing the power of today’s technology as a means for sharing ideas, knowledge, and resources, and are advocating for a cultural resurgence of a new form of village living. Learning from both the successes and missteps of our parents’ generation, conscious Millennials and Gen-Xers are uniquely poised to ReInhabit the Village in ways the world has never seen. Make no mistake, these aren’t your daddy’s hippy communes.

These will be carefully planned communal living settlements that work with the land to streamline energy flows and maximize quality of life. The use of natural building techniques will reduce costs and increase unique architectural appeal. These villages will operationalize functioning business models that keep them generative and affordable to their inhabitants. They will employ a combination of age-old relations models with new cutting edge social technology tools to facilitate clear agreements and open communication. Finally, they will be contributing to the emergence of living solutions for the crises we are facing on this planet. It should also be noted that the Villages of tomorrow won’t just look like rural eco-villages, but rather we can be ReInhabiting our Urban Villages as well. There are plenty of opportunities to apply the motivations shared below in our Cities and Townships.

This list is meant to inspire the villager in you. It is a call to action to get involved in your local community. If you don’t know how, you are in luck, the good people over at ReInhabiting the Village are working on it for you by creating a resource hub specifically designed to uplift all those who are working toward and interested in community building.

The 10 reasons are;

1) Interconnection Trumps Isolation Any Day
The new villages will be composed of interconnected individuals, which is by no means a new concept. The term village certainly evokes an image of individuals and families working collaboratively toward a common vision. The major different this time around will be the interconnection between villages. It seems fair to generalize that the communes of yesteryear were often reactionary alternatives to the status quo of the time, many of which ended up existing in liminal geographies, off-grid, isolated as separate from the larger “system”. The villages of tomorrow, however, will instead be highly interconnected with one another through unprecedented capacities of telecommunications technology as well as through emerging platforms like ReInhabiting the Village, Project Nuevo Mundo, and One Community. There is no need for the villages of today and tomorrow to “Re-Invent the Wheel”, instead let us learn from one another and mutually uplift one another. We have all the tools necessary to begin building activated land nodes of regenerative village living that can serve as functioning models to the rest of the world on how to live in right relationship with ourselves, one another, and the planet. So what are we waiting for? Let’s get connected!

2) Get More out of your Time and Energy
When you add your energy, your time, your labor and your resources into the collective pool, you are able to receive greater abundance than is possible when working alone or in a small family unit. Some friends come to mind who live on a 7 acre plot of land with 2 homes, a guest house, a pool house, lush gardens, a tool shop, and a healing retreat center. Ten people co-own and share this space, and not a single one of them could have created this type of living situation for themselves on their own. Of course, this does requires a dramatic shift in thinking from a “Mine” mentality to an “Ours” mentality. Fortunately, this expansion of perspective has beneficial side effects for the planet as the door is opened for what some would call “Enlightened Self Interest”, which is simply an understanding that what’s good for the All is good for the self. When we contribute to the All, we receive far more abundance for far longer than when we act for the little self.
3) Returning to the Heart
As we transition out of post-industrial society into the throes of the Information Age, our world has become highly intellectualized. Indeed it was our large brains and our capacity for complex thought that allowed us to evolve beyond the Sub-Saharan African plains and into nearly every climactic zone of the planet, however, as we settle into a place of authentic reflection of where we are Now, as a species, we may notice something very important missing. Feelings are denied or manipulated, empathy is an art left untaught to the masses, IQ tests and SAT scores are given precedence over more nonlinear and emotional forms of expression. The villages of tomorrow will rewrite these priorities and be designed with an understanding of the multi-dimensionality of our humanness. Empathy as a practice and as a way of being will be taught and valued. Unexamined wounds will be given the loving attention that they deserve. Personal growth and healing are encouraged and facilitated to enable, empower, and activate whole communities of heart-centered homo-sentients..

4) Reconnecting with the Land
Dig your hands in the dirt. Plant your feet firmly on the earth. Nap under the shade of an oak tree while magpies chatter overhead. Take your child on a walk with a butterfly net and study insects. Appreciate the bountiful harvests and healthy lifestyles possible when embracing community gardening. Learn the names of animals that share the land with you and watch the way they live their lives. Observe the ways the seasons change in the place where you live. When we get off the concrete and into the meadow at dusk, magical things happen. Seriously.

5) The Meaning of ‘Family’ Changes
Family takes on a whole new meaning when you share living space with people intimately. It becomes more inclusive and includes more of the people you love who are always around you. While lineage, bloodline, and ancestry are important as means of understanding who we are as individuals, the concept of family will extend far beyond those directly genetically connected with you when you live in The Village. It’s difficult to explain much more than that, but when you feel it, it will make sense. Ultimately, we are all One Human Family.

6) Be Supported in Living your Purpose
The Village understands that everyone has their place and purpose. When we are taught to do the soul searching necessary to truly arrive at a clear understanding of what we have been put on this planet to do, it makes it easier to recognize and to align our lives with this purpose when it shows up. When collaborative groups embrace this as an ideal and consistently hold space for people to operate from their highest, the outcome is a mutual uplifting of the collective (See Reason #1). You know your community is winning when it’s people are able to give their greatest gifts, to sing their deepest heart song, and to radiate the true joy of their being

7) Wisdom is Transferred from Elders to Youth 
Would you like to be able to raise your children in alignment with your core values and know that these values are being impressed upon them because they are regularly learning from your elders? The Villages of tomorrow will make intentional spaces for these interactions as a normal part of everyday life. This simple transmission from Elder to Youth (and vice versa) is the way stories, knowledge, and cultural wisdom has been passed from generation to generation for millennia. Yet, for some reason, our society is marginalizing our elderly into the cultural zones of ‘assisted living homes’ and ‘retirement communities’ instead of bringing them more fully into the center of our multi-generational circles. It is time we remembered how to honor those who have come before as much as we put our energies into paving a bright future for those who will come after.
8) Resilience, Resilience, Resilience
When communities become less dependant on external systems they become less vulnerable and increasingly resilient. The capitalist economic world system, the global food system, the electrical grid, the military industrial complex, and a wide variety of other non-local systems each hold us in some varying degree of dependence. By identifying these dependencies, and actively working to disentangle them through capacity building, we develop resilience. Resilience as a term and concept is currently experiencing an overwhelming amount of attention within the scholarly literatures of many fields of study. For the purposes of the village, resilience refers to a group’s ability to prepare for, mitigate, and bounce back from systemic ‘shocks’. The more interconnected we are, the more resilient we are. The more food we grow ourselves, the more resilient we are. The more knowledge we are empowered by, the more resilient we are. The more we generate energy from alternative sources and compost the majority of our waste, the more resilient we are. Even though its a rather elusive and invisible concept, resilience is an extremely important thing for communities to have, especially when the you-know-what hits the fan!

9) Shared Resources, Knowledge, Models, Tools, and Templates
With so much amazing work being done building the villages of tomorrow, we don’t have to create alone . There is no reason to fumble around in the dark for new concepts and processes that have already been tested by candlelight elsewhere. This cross-project sharing is the primary objective of the ReInhabiting the Village project, a multi-media resource hub that will support the growth and expansion of an entire network of Villages. We urge you, reader, to take a moment and watch the kickstarter video for this project and become a backer if it resonates with you.

10) Creating New Culture
We have an amazing opportunity to look at the concept of creating culture as a dialogic process. With an awareness of how cultural processes and social conditioning work, we can be active creators of our reality and our futures rather than passive bystanders constantly having the 10,000 things of the world happening to us. What are the new stories of human life on planet Earth that we want to pulse into the imagisphere? How do we codify these stories into shared core values and grounded daily practices? Bring these stories and songs, these rites and rituals, with you when you arrive in councilship for your village. And so shall we create a new culture, a new way, and a new world, TOGETHER!

10 Reasons to Create Community (Common Unity)

Monday, 27 June 2011

Floda31 Sweden

Just found out about this. Read the full brief of their creative community here. Brilliant!

Friday, 3 June 2011

lay of the land

I love these architectural models. Great ideas for mapping out the contours and lay of the land. The first one has used corrugated cardboard and the second is from newsprint. I saw these at a little exhibition at CAT (centre for alternative technologies) in Wales on a recent visit. 

Thursday, 2 June 2011

the settlement mind mapping v.1

I just found these mind maps that myself, dom and mum had done to try to see how our personal vision for the project might complement and overlap. It's nice to look back and see how ideas change and develop and to see what remains as the overwhelming aim. We should do these every six months or so. We did these January 2010 which is an age ago, perhaps it's time for a new version all? And Dad, we are still waiting for yours! x

Monday, 30 May 2011

Lammas Project Wales

We recently made a little research trip for our down under dream around Wales. Wales is really leading the way in terms of sustainable living in Britain. During our tour one of the places we visited was the Lammas Project in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Lammas is a cooperative that is pioneering the way for eco communities in Wales and beyond. It is the first eco-village to have applied and been granted planning permission prior to establishing the community and so have set a legal precedent and created a model for other sustainable communities in Wales. Their website is an incredible resource for anyone interested in this way of life. They are so generous in their openness about the arduous process they went through and it's truly fascinating reading through the mountains of documents on the site.

The Tir y Gafel site is the first and model Lammas ecovillage development.  We visited last Saturday and took the morning site tour which was truly inspirational. This site is about 18months old and already they have done wonders with the land. Tir y Gafel had been grazing land for sheep and cattle for generations before the farm was forced to sell off part of their land. The plot was subdivided into nine plots about 5-6 acres each. There is also a government funded community centre that will be a place to bring together the local community and the eco-village and for the Lammas families to share their knowledge and experiences of sustainable living.

this shows one of the many ponds they have built which is fed from a stream that runs across the land. The site also has a natural spring water supply and a 100 year old hydro turbine which they are restoring and which will provide the majority of electricity for the nine small holdings. 

This is the community hub building. A strawbale construction with a turf roof. All the timber is from the land mostly from the conifer forest that they are replanting with native trees for coppicing for future timber supply.

The stone floor has a pretty standard underfloor heating wires underneath which will be powered by the hydro turbine. There is also a ceramic wood burner and solar heating.

The ceiling has a cavity between the straw bale layer and plaster render which will be able to be closed off. This cavity is needed for the heat exchange to avoid condensation. 

Sun trap with roof solar cells

This is the ceramic wood burner. Coppiced willow will be the fuel source. The ceramic burner is made from ceramic bricks like those used to make kilns. Instead of the smoke and heat running straight up the chimney, the smoke draws up to the point where you can see a hole about 8 feet from the ground, then it is brought back down again and then only then up through the chimney, by that stage the air has left most of its heat in the ceramic bricks which will slowly release itself into the building. It's supposed to be incredibly fuel efficient.

This shows one of the shower cubicles. 

Compost loo raised up for easy access to the compost. The base is lined with strawbales. The straws apparently does something to the urine so that it's not necessary to separate wee and poo. 

Hay Bale Construction: One of the families started out with the construction of a barn to gain experience of self building. They wanted to only use materials within a 5 mile radius and because there is no straw in Wales they went with hay instead. This is controversial since hay is a food source and very attractive to rodents and other pests. The other problem with it is that it is so dense it was very difficult to stake and shape and they said they would not consider using it for their dwelling. 

This is the vegetable garden on the same plot. Unfortunately I didn't get a photo in their polytunnel which was where the most abundant crops were. Nearly all the families have polytunnels. In these harsh conditions in windy, wet and cold Pembrokeshire polytunnels seem to be the way to go. 

They almost managed to build the barn using all wood nails and joints, until the weather started changing and they had to throw the roof up in a hurry.  

Cob House Construction: the next plot we were shown was this one where the family had build a cob (earth) house from the clay soil dug from the very same site. It has a straw bale and turf roof. 

Their productive gardens and polytunnel which was made by them using hazel as a frame with a sheet of plastic wrapped over it. A more natural looking poly tunnel if such a thing can be said. 

Again, the timber was harvested from the conifer forest at the top of the land. By clearing some of the conifers the native trees have started to thrive.

Their bath was just beautiful. You can just make out the stove where you build your fire that heats up the water. The bath is just filled up by hose pipe then heated with the fire under the bath. 

Timber frame stud building with straw bale interior walls built up on stone mushrooms to stop the rodents as this will become a storage/workshop space.

This house was probably my favourite in terms of liveability. It was lovely and light, had a lot of height and was open plan with a mezzanine bedroom. This was also their first hand built home so they started with what will become the workshop/storage for their woodwork/pottery/crafts and produce. 
Quite experimentally they have chosen to insulate the floor and ceiling with raw sheeps fleece. Normally it is treated for this use. Using it raw could have some ramifications with pest infestations. They have left manholes in the ceiling and flooring to allow them to check on the material and eventually replace it if necessary. I'm wondering if the retention of all that natural lanolin might actually protect the fleece. Considering the glut of wool in Britain and the pittance that a producer receives for a fleece it would be good news if we could use such a material unprocessed for insulation. 

Unfortunately we didn't get to see all the building on the site. There is also an earth sheltered house that I would have loved to have seen but the owners were away. There are some pictures on the Lammas website that is the most amazing resource for anyone interested in building an eco house or starting up an eco project. I can't wait to see more Lammas projects. Thank you Lammas for sharing with the world your wonderful ideas and creativity!

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Note to self

This is a bit of a note to self, but aren't all blog posts really?

Can't wait for this Natural Dye Symposium, to be held in Fitzroy Melbourne in June 2012. I know it's a year away, but with our big move down under the year is going to fly by and I'm already planning a few events to make our settling in period smooth as silk!

I'm also planning on booking this workshop with the most inspirational eco dye artist India Flint in December this year also in Melbourne.

We are a little in limbo until my partner is granted his visa, then we can book flight, book workshops, find land and start making our maker's farm a reality!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Community Fruits

I got all warm and fuzzy listening to a great report on ABC's Bush Telegraph Podcast broadcast on 21/2. It was about a fantastic initiative set up in Castlemaine, Victoria whereby a group of people are helping the local community help themselves to post-flood laden fruit trees in public areas just ripe for the picking. They are also going around to local growers and ordinary folk who might just have a pear tree in their garden that needs harvesting, pruning and a little tender loving care so that it may continue to produce fruit for future generations and at the same time feed the local community right now.

What a wonderful project and one that can be replicated across the world as we all strive to grow our own, buy local and eat local and help take the strain of the global food economy. One of their programmes is called Urban Food Maps, I'm still trying to find out the link to the original Castlemaine project. Such a project would work so well in London, there are countless fruit trees in parks that could be harvested. Our local Hackney City Farm has recently started a community edible garden that will be open to the public for harvesting and I have just discovered that there is a group called Hackney Harvest that mobilise the community to sites where harvesting is open and trees need planting. Why have I only just discovered this!

Well, blow me down, I have also just found out that this Australian initiative also exists right here in London and is called The London Orchard Project. It's great to know that all those plums are not going to waste this year!

Spiritual House

I found an inspiring article today in Frame Magazine about a contemporary designed building used to "accommodate spiritual, social and political gatherings for Pan Aboriginal groups across North America...The white cedar structure is a network of lamellar arches prefabricated from a computer model...As you enter, you smell the sage and sweet grass that are burned during meetings and counselling sessions." Imagine having such a peaceful space for contemplation and a cleansing of the senses... Read the article here
It's a magnificent building but practically speaking.. could a straw bale house be created from this kind of framework? with a render to the inside & outside..

Places of interest

I just discovered Fryers Forest which is an eco-village in central Victoria. I was surprised to learn that one of the founders of Permaculture was from Western Australia and this eco-village has been designed and developed by him entirely on his Permaculture principles. The eco village currently has homes for 27 villagers and includes a community orchard, three artificial lakes stocked with fish and a community house.

It would also be well worth a visit to Melliodora, for research/inspiration. This is a site located in the spa town Hepburn Springs, to quote: "It is one of the best documented and well known permaculture demonstration sites in Australia. The passive solar house, mixed food gardens, orchards, dams and livestock, and creek revegetation show how permaculture design can help to restore and improve land, provide for residents' needs and enjoyment in a cool inland climate."

And all this right in the neighbourhood of the area we are looking to establish our makers farm!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

The dream visualisation revised edition

It was nearly two years ago that the first dream visualisation came to light and since then we have only really established a date for leaving the UK and have been working on a few practicalities like how to move/leave a growing UK based business etc... but I have been steadily growing impatient for change! What I needed was a renewed vision. So I set about sketching and this is what came of it. I was quite surprised by the amount of detail my minds eye could conjure. 

Here you can see we have some alpacas. Beautiful creatures for a small hobby farm, lovely soft wool for shearing and spinning and felting. We also have a few goats, for their versatility on a farm, their milk and their friendly cheeky spirit.
On the right here you can see in more detail the artist studios, up on higher ground, looking out across the valley a perfect spot for the star gazing and inspiration gathering. It's a passive solar structure of straw bale construction, not so much inspired but lifted from the pages of the beautiful book "The Hybrid House"
This is my family's dwelling, a strawbale/rammed earth construction with a green roof and a pebble and tile mosaic wall. I've taken some inspiration here for the look of part of this house from a book called "The Art of Natural Building". See the kitchen garden and outdoor clay oven.

In this detail you can also see the creek that runs through the property, with a tree house, for the children of course. The edible garden will be designed in line with permaculture principles and you can see there is a fruit orchard with an abundant juicy harvest.
This detail shows Dwelling number two with its Le Corbusier style roof. The creek runs into a beautiful pond with a deck over looking the lilies. The balcony over looks the valley below. It's a straw bale construction with a kitchen garden. (Mum and Dad, I've just drawn this in for the sake of the vision continuity, you'll have a more accurate vision of your own house I'm sure!)
Some of the workshops will have their own constructions, like the Green Woodworking Studios, based on those we saw at the inspiring Ruskin Mill College in Nailsworth, UK. As it states on the article I have linked to above, at the college "students help harvest and fell timber in the local woodlands to provide a source of unseasoned material (green wood) for use in the workshop. As the wood contains a high level of moisture it is easy to split and shape. Green wood working uses hand tools and simple human powered devices - pole lathes, shaving horses, axes, draw knives and chisels. Students craft a range of objects from simple gardening dibbers to bowls, stools and chairs...". I've always admired the beautiful circular Dovecotes dotted around Normandy and I can imagine one could work beautifully as a pottery studio...

This image shows the accommodation available for visitors, artists in residence, friends and family from the UK or workshop participants. There is a yurt, also a communal space for gatherings when not in use, a gypsy wagon and an artistically decorated static caravan. This is situated on the creek with it's conveniently placed swimming hole complete with tyre swing. There is also space for a few tipi tents. 

So there you have it, a vision from the mind of an optimist, a dreamer... perhaps naive, perhaps ambitious but I am nevertheless setting an intention for a space of great creativity, beauty, productivity, health, growth and happiness.