RE: Re: self-sufficient community
From: jekke xonee (jessicagopher.ccbr.umn.edu)
Date: Tue, 23 Jan 1996 10:37:14 -0600
It was I who raised the general issue of self-sufficiency last week and 
I've been stimulated by all the replies to that issue.  As a new 
subscriber to this list, I'd like to make a brief self-introduction so 
you know the origins of remarks to follow:

I am a member of a large, interconnected community (or "tribe" as we 
often refer to ourselves) spread between the Twin Cities in Minnesota 
running as far east as Menomonie Wisconsin (and probably beyond).  We are 
a community more by shared activities and history rather than contiguous 
housing, gathering togther for a day or a weekend for the first maple syrup 
run, or a summer solstice ritual and party, or harvest party, or canoe trip, 
or ski trips to the great northern wilderness.  We have built stuff together, 
fed each other, and in general, have evolved into a group that knows 
how to enjoy ourselves and each other, that laughs, loves and plays a 
lot together.

In other words, we are an "intentional" community in the sense that it 
probably is safe to say that all members in it want community in their 
lives and will do what they can to help bring it about, but we are not a 
"planned" community in the sense that anyone sat down with a builder and 
designed a housing complex out of which it would be expected that a 
social community would emerge.  It has just happened and will continue 
to happen.

It may happen that some of us will jointly purchase a parcel of land in 
rural Wisconsin.  It may happen that others of us will live together in 
the Twin Cities in a household of several adults and children.  Although 
I can't predict the future much less design it, I get the strong sense 
that we are more than less likely to evolve into shared living 
arrangements, shared property ownership, etc etc, and if that happens, we 
will need to deal with many of the issues that those of you involved in 
the more structured cohousing arrangements already have faced (like 
zoning, and taxes, and financing, and making group decisions, and 
relations with neighbors who are not actively participating in your 
vision).  Hearing your stories, listening to you speak of your 
experiences, learning of legal and financial instruments that already 
exist to handle some if not all of this stuff, was my primary reason for 
joining this list.

But maybe I have something to offer you as well, and that is my own and 
my community's experience with trying to attain self-sufficiency.

A few years ago, I embarked on a plan to obtain as much of my household's 
food as I could either by growing it myself or by purchasing it directly 
from local sources.  (What is local?  Good question.  I decided that if I 
could get to the source and back home in one day with time left over for 
fun and relaxation, it was local.  Of course, I was using a car, not the 
most self-sufficient means of transportation, but then I'm not totally 
self-sufficient).  I don't remember now why I embarked on this plan.  
Maybe it was to protect my household from some future food scarcity due 
to ruination of the California and Florida land base, or due to the 
dwindling fossil fuels required to transport it around;  maybe it was to 
protect my household from unknown food contaminants.  I don't know.  

I do know that I very quickly became bonded to this process because of 
the way it made me feel.  There is a very very different 
feeling you get when you bring up two dozen potatoes from your root 
cellar in the basement, and cook them up with the sauerkraut you made, 
with the onions you grew, sprinkled with the ground lamb you purchased 
from the woman who raises them, than it is to open a box or a can or a 
jar of something plucked off some grocery store shelf, and you don't know 
its history, you don't know its life.  Providing your own food gives you 
a relationship to it, and enhances your feeling of connectedness to the 
entire Universe.  It is community with the world.  It's like the 
difference between anonymous sex with a stranger and sex with someone you 
know and love.

I also know that long before the planet runs out of fossil fuels, my 
professional-job-in-the-system (I'm a statistician at the University of 
Minnesota School of Public Health) will disappear because there are 
simply too many claimants to the shrinking federal budget that funds my 
position, and no matter how good my office is at doing what we do, the 
law of averages will win out.  What next, I ask?  Get into the 
corporate realm which increasingly demands more of its employees for 
less?  Compete with newly degreed eager beavers who are willing to give 
their lives to the corporation in return for financial security within 
this system?  I don't think so.  I don't want to live that way, and at 
my age (40), I have to ask:  If you don't start living the way you 
really want now, when do you?  

But if I don't want to spend the majority of my hours in the system, I 
will have to provide for my basic needs some other way, and that again 
brings me to self-sufficiency.  I am very interested in food, growing it, 
preserving it, eating it.  But the thought of constructing a dwelling 
fills me with terror (and this is after living in a house that was 
undergoing constant renovation for six years):  I don't have faith in my 
ability to do that.  Fortunately, my community includes many people who 
can do those things.  They have transformed a chicken coop into a sauna, 
built basic shelters on some of the wilderness land that some purchased a 
few years back, help each other out fixing up houses.  Many of them earn
their livings within the system in the building trades.  If I provide 
them with food, and they provide me with shelter, and we love each other 
in the process, is that not deep community?  


Rob Sandelin said:

> ............................................. the target audience for
> cohousing has been the middle class, few of whom have much interest of even
> giving 5% of their time or income to charity, much less all of it to the
> community.

Rather than saying that self-sufficiency means "**giving** my time and 
income **to** the community", I would say that self-sufficiency means 
"**sharing** the resources I have to offer **with** the community".

It makes a difference. 

jekke xonee

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