Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Thinking Communal?


We have been playing with the idea of a commune. Yes, a commune. No this isn't 1969. Yes, I think it plays in 2009. Well, actually a few years from now, but in the not too distant future I think it isn't going to sound as far fetched as it does right now.

My youngest is talking about doing a commune with friends. Then I read an article in the New York Times that looked at a subdivision that actually encircles a working farm and operates more as a collective. The idea is to raise what you eat, in a sustainable, localized manner. But then I started thinking - why not take this concept a step further and combine other resources - such as cars, trucks, gardening equipment, workout rooms, pools, picnic areas, barns, corrals, pastures, along with a giant organic farm area, orchard, and a hothouse for winter growing?

Each owner would have their own property for their house, so they could sell it if that is what they needed, or chose to do. The community part would be owned by everyone with homeowner "dues", such as we pay our condo association to maintain common grounds. Of course, I see this like-minded group of people also sharing in most of the "grounds" duties, as they would be the type of people that would want, and like, that lifestyle.

In this dream I live near my two children, with the grandchildren's play area in the center of the three houses. Our house is small. If we are living near our children, we only need a small house. Small, green, and conducive to living in long after we would normally be shipped off to a retirement home.

I came from a big German family that actually lived this way in Sacramento. I grew up running over acres of land owned by our family, with my great-grandmother living in her own home, in the middle of several of her children's homes. Gardens were big, canning was communal, children were safe and free to roam. I would go from house to house asking what they were having for dinner before deciding who would have the honor of feeding me that night.

So I am keeping my eye open for land in Oregon and Washington. It's beautiful, often partly wooded, fairly inexpensive, and close to big urban areas. You never know, by the time this dream is even remotely realized, our children may want to live near us. Or maybe someone else will.

What do you think?

40 comments:

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

I for one think this is a fabulous idea. For many years I have toyed with a similar idea for a "retirement" community... not one like Sun City, but one where we look out for one another and enjoy similar activities, have space to garden, walk, exercise. It would be nice if a golf course were near. This would work for me as we have no children, grandchildren, but pets would be a necessity.

~JarieLyn~ said...

Hi Nancy,

That's an interesting concept. My sister's husband's family all live on one big property with each owning their own lot. I think there's about five families who all live next door to each other on family owned property. It's kind of like a big farm in California. It works for them. My sister and her husband do not live like that but his sister and their kids and his in-laws all live close together.

Brian Miller said...

i think it is a pretty cool idea as well. know some families that do this in the city. creating alomost a commune out of their neighborhood, each person providing for another. think thats how neighbors are supposed to be but...

Jeninacide said...

Sounds good to me! Free babysitting, right?

Although- I am going to have to become a vegetarian because there is NO WAY that I am willing to slaughter my own animals. Is that the plan? I bet Dad would slaughter the animals if the other option would be living meat free!

CrazyCris said...

Sounds like a lovely idea and one I wish i could do with my family!

Joanne said...

I like this idea, or some variation of it. The thought of my family being connected in some common way is definitely appealing.

California Girl said...

My closest friends and I have talked about doing this for years. We originally wanted to live in Baja on the beach in communal fashion. Most of us grew up in So Cal and the guys surfed and we all adore each other. It's so depressing. I recently bought "Gringos in Paradise" by a retired magazine editor and his wife who moved from NYC to a town near Puerta Vallarta six yrs ago. It was inpiring. Trouble with Mexico now is, all the damn drug wars.

Another friend of mine here in the east, brought up this idea the other day. She thinks some type of communal life in a small city would also be great.

I think this could be a major Boomer trend because we grew up in the Sixties and we totally get the concept.

JeannetteLS said...

Sometimes family won't work, but friends might. Three of my friends and I are now seriously considering pooling our meager resources to have a communal arrangement in about five years. Four meager incomes and assets, we figured, translate into something quite comfortable, to take us into our seventies. Only one needs to be near family, so that's okay. The rest of us feel that, as long as we can afford property in her area, we'd be happy with that. I think more and more boomers will be creating coops/commune-like arrangements. The idea reaches beyond any one concept--I think to that spirit of cooperation and helping one another that got us going back in the late sixties and early seventies. I hope you can do it!

ellen abbott said...

I love this idea. I would love to live this idea. In Mexico they do a similar thing, every family has their own house with a central courtyard and perhaps a central kitchen.

We have lost much in this modern age where everyone travels far and wide and often. We are strangers to each other and strangers to our own families even.

I would do it in a heartbeat.

Herrad said...

Hi Nancy,
Brilliant idea, just the sort of place I would like to live in.

Sounds like our idea, Richie and me, great plan hope you can make it real.
Love,
Herrad

Chris Wolf said...

Several communes have been started in the upstate new York state area. Trouble was always our human-ness. People still have greed, jealousy, affairs, resentment and all the horrible things we do to each other, which is so disappointing. Perhaps more so when it's "family". The trouble I have read about seems to stem from abdicating responsibility because "someone else" could do the yukky jobs. Even someone on this comment section looked at it as "free babysitting". And so if starts...

I keep hoping, I keep reading about this idea, and I wish you the best of luck.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Sounds fantastic to me. & if it's oregon, let us know!

Whitney Lee said...

I think it's fantastic. We have talked about doing something of the sort with my sister and some of our closer friends. It makes so much sense. Share what can be shared and give everyone an opportunity to contribute in a way best suited to their strengths.

Reya Mellicker said...

It sounds like the perfect solution for many of us from this generation. Sounds so human! Tribal and modern at the same time.

why not??

Sylvia said...

That's a wonderful idea. How I wish my mom would think like that! In my grandparents' farm it worked that way and it was so good. But my mom keeps insisting that she prefers to go to a Care Home... How absurd is that?! I just can't stand the idea of seeing her being cared for by unknown people, lonely, away from all of us who love her. Communities of good people are brilliant! YES!

Nancy said...

Sounds like a great idea! I dont know about Washington though, its so rainy here. Which I guess would be good for crops and all that but maybe Oregon would be a happier place. Otherwise you'd all need to pool your money to have a sun room with those lightboxes in it to combat seasonal depression!!!!

DJan said...

I think the idea is great in concept and difficult in reality. The hard part about family is that there will always be children who need to go out on their own, and then you will either not see them or visits become necessary (which is what we mostly do now).

For me, the whole idea of living simply and smaller fits into my reality as a retired person. We rent, ride the bus when we can, buy only what we need, and fit our recreation into our existing budget. My husband was an only child, and communal living does not fit into his life.

In Boulder I knew some people who built an intentional community, and it was great -- for awhile. I don't think it still exists.

judemiller1 said...

Fabulous idea. I also lived my childhood near my grandma and my great grandma and ran to see them everyday. What a great way to live.

Pyzahn said...

Yes, I've talked about this as well with some friends. There are many things I like about the concept: sharing of resources, fellowship, safety, like-minded neighbors.

The last one is the kicker. You will be living in such a tight community with other folks, you need to be sure there is a compatibility factor. Maybe it could be like the venerable high rises in NYC where you get to vote in your neighbors.

Please keep us posted if you move forward with such a project.

Lydia said...

Brilliant! My husband keeps saying he's ready for the kind of place his grandparents moved to after they were finished with the burdens of a large house and property. People move to senior centers thinking that will fit the bill. I don't think it does. Something like you are describing would be much more nurturing. (Along that line, a small clinic would be a dream also.)
But I also would not be any part of slaughtering animals...and must always have my own pets. And I certainly am partial to Oregon over Washington!

Spiritual Journey said...

In Asia, I grew up where all the extended families live close to each other, where children played together in the backyard. Backyard means hectares of land with lots of fruit-bearing trees, garden, chickens, ducks, pigs, cows, and other farm animals. I experienced it and loved it. I currently live in a much city-fied area and somehow, I miss my childhood environment where there's a lot of human contact, unlike now, we don't even know our neighbor's names.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I wrote a book about a family that builds such a community! And although many agents requested the manuscript, I think I was ahead of my time. I'm thinking of updating the novel and sending it around again. You may have offered the encouragement I need. Thanks.

Obviously, I agree with you, it's a terrific idea.

Bon'O said...

There are a growing number of these semi-communal, self-sustaining communities growing nationwide. I'm already in Oregon (where we're currently having a week in the mid-to-upper 90s, btw), with only child and family currently on the other coast.......sign me up!!

robert said...

Good morning,
what a wonderful idea that is! Spending three decades in Germany, growing up between trees and cows, you may only imagen how alluring the entry of yours is.
Thank you very much for this post.

TheChicGeek said...

I have known families that live like this too. It sounds wonderful!

Marguerite said...

That is the way my grandparents lived also. You were so lucky to grow up living this way. Great idea, still today.

I lived in several communes in the early 70's. One was on a 100 acre organic farm with friends. It was wonderful.

Hilary said...

In times past, generations of a family lived together.....it worked, and there is a reason for that.
Didn't need nursing homes, or babysitters for that matter. Maybe we should get back to that.

susan said...

Having lived communally (city not country) for about eight years I definitely have fond memories of the good times. There's a lot more room to develop as a person when you don't have all your time consumed by the requirements of keeping up the payments on all the things that can be shared. A multi-generational commune definitely has a better chance of long-term success and i think yours is a great idea.

Lori ann said...

My in~laws and Chuck and I have the SAME idea! we have all been discussing it for a few years. I love it. It makes perfect sense. I've always loved the idea of communal living and bartering. I guess we've been talking about it for so long my kids have all gotten used to the idea, they are just waiting for it to happen... our problem is we need the ocean and that may be a problem...☺

"Jo" said...

This sounds like a great idea, although I don't know what a community would be like. I've always lived in the city, and in Rotterdam is very little space (think New York but smaller). However, we used to visit a camping site often and I remember that, as a child, I felt at best when we were there. Plenty of space and the freedom to run around, play, make friends, et cetera. It's different from the community you descibe but on the other hand it's similar as well; frequent visitors (like us) always knew each other, visited each other, looked out for each other's children and "fed" other children when they were familiar to them or happened to have made friends with their own kids(yay for barbecue). Comparing this to your experience of a community, I sort of understand and totally support it. It's not a bad idea at all.

LEIGH said...

This sounds heaven!

I'll join everyone who wants to be in this kind of "tribe". :-)

Phoebe Miriah Kirby said...

I thought my strange friend was kidding when he asked my husband and I to come with him to Canada and join his commune. He forgot Josh was a marine, so when we reminded him he was so sad.
Now, he is living in his commune, happy as pie. I would have loved to live with him in his peaceful community. Harvest my own food and bake my own bread.
I think you should definitely pursue this idea, and make it reality.

Pam said...

I think this sounds like a wonderful idea.

I'm Julia said...

The idea of being surrounded by family is a nice one... and folks don't have to be "kin" to be family :-)

Pat said...

There is a place somewhere out West, and for the life of me I can't remember where or the name of it. But it is a self contained community - the people built their homes, they work in that little community, etc. so it's like a commune. I think it was built in the 70's.

My family always talks about buying a large parcel of land and building houses for all of us on it.

LEIGH said...

Sounds heaven to me!

Hilary said...

It sounds like a dream.. and a realizable one at that. :)

Erika C. said...

This sounds wonderful, wonderful! Keep us posted. I have thought of this too but never got much further than dreaming.

love,
Erika

amacheria said...

What a wonderful idea. My family (five younger brothers) has kicked this around, but I'm not sure a few would not be able to get beyond the petty childhood issue. I could do this with certain friends (and my family owns cheap land in the Texas Panhandle...hmmmmmm).

eag said...

Great idea!Just choose your neighbours carefully and make sure there's a get out clause even with family.Hope it works for you...gotta have big dreams!