Monday, July 20, 2009

shifting thoughts

we've been discussing this notion of buying a farm with large enough buildings for several families every chance we get over the past week or so. imagining this or that aspect of it. talking about details of everything from how to construct it (should it be a company or what's called an andel in danish or something else?) to how it would work in practical everyday terms.

one of the things we envision is that although the buildings would support three, maybe four families living in separately, we would have one big kitchen that would be shared by all. because part of the whole idea is to get away from the notion that we need so much stuff. if we shared a big kitchen and passed around the cooking duties on a rotating basis, we'd make the burden lighter on ourselves and on the environment.

in discussing all of this, i've found myself thinking about how thinking shifts incrementally. the transition for being a single family in a single family dwelling to living together with several other families and sharing at least parts of the dwelling will be a big one. and how can we mentally make the leap--because that's what it will take to make the leap in actuality, right?

so i thought about the things i'm right now, at this very minute, willing to change:

  1. sharing the cooking duties. i find it difficult to be inspired to cook for three at times and think i would enjoy more cooking for a larger group, so i look forward to when it's "my" turn to do the cooking.
  2. sharing a car. i only find that i need the car a couple of times a week anyway, so i'm totally ready to be in a situation with a shared car. and as part of this, i'm completely cool with letting someone else decide what kind of car and all that jazz. 
  3. having a big kitchen garden and truly embracing eating more locally. eating and enjoying what's in season when it's in season appeals. big time.
these are the things that are a bit harder to imagine changing:
  1. what if the others don't take care when they're using "my" beloved kitchen-aid appliances?
  2. do i really want to share my starbucks mug collection and my favorite red plates with everyone? on the other hand, do i want to hide them away and NOT use them on an everyday basis just because i'm unwilling to share?
  3. what if someone objects to the colors of paint i like and the decorating style i would choose (what if they want everything white!!??)
and these are the things i'm really struggling with:
  1. giving up my beautiful blue room. it's my sanctuary. it's where i'm creative. it's perfect (to me) in every way. will i have a similar space to call my own? is it too selfish to think you need your own space?
  2. i don't want to live without a bathtub again....7 years was enough.
  3. i love having a job where i travel, but is that actually something i can defend in light of what we now know about global warming? i will miss jetting across the world. a lot.
  4. what if we don't find the right people--people we can share this living situation with and who we can be friends with and feel comfortable with long term? and how will we know that they're that when we commit to entering into the project together?
  5. i'm really not ready to leave this house yet. i've got a lot of mental shifting work do there. but hopefully it's already begun and by the time it happens (perhaps a year from now), i'll be ready.
if you're already in the midst of such a project, we'd love to hear from you and what your thoughts and fears were before you entered into it and how you dealt with those.


Liz Fulcher, The Fragrant Muse said...

I admire the concept, I really do. Yet while I'm nodding my approval, I know I couldn't live this way. Not anymore.

With each passing year I appreciate more deeply my independence and the sanctuary I have built around me in the form of my family, comfortable home, special things, privacy and quiet. Especially the quiet.

Young people are expected to 'do without', share and compromise their personal comfort until they have earned a place in life where such sacrifices are no longer necessary. I have now reach that place and would not wish to go back.

I suspect the project would work well with young families very committed to the purpose with a high degree of compatibility, maturity, understanding. Toss in frequent "family meetings" to keep communication clear and a healthy level of tolerance.

I_am_Tulsa said...

The last decade or so a lot of Japanese people are giving up the city to plant their roots in small villages, farms etc. A lot of the old Japanese style cooking and way of living has been Earth friendly and the countryside is a much more natural place for people to go back that lifestyle. I am very interested in doing this myself! I hope you guys find the perfect spot...I'm sure the rest will follow!

As you mentioned on your other blog, I really don't have much skills when it comes to living off the land. I wish I had spent more time with my grandmother...she had a wealth of knowledge!

Unknown said...

Mentioning the Japanese is great, they can teach us a lot when it comes to "living together". Most Americans think (and are taught) to look out for number 1 ME! The Japanese are much better at considering the whole, and what's good for the community.

Not only do you need committed people, you need some type of plan for when someone wants out...or just becomes a burden (decides they're not taking a cooking turn, or whatever).

I remembered a word I was trying to say earlier, its like a commune!

Gail said...

We are kinda in a project like that. We have moved to the family farm. My family in one house and one sister in another.

My hubby and I work outside the home and work hard on weekends and afternoons to try to catch up.

It is a lot of work. It must be shared by all. The harvest is your reward.

Lynne said...

I can't believe you are doing this... seems we are sisters on different contints. Or something.

We have been planning something like this with some friends of ours for the past 8 years. We saw a great plot about 6 years ago, but they weren't ready to take the plunge so we let it go. Then Greg and I moved onto a friend's farm, and agreed to buy a portion of it. All great, except it turned out he didn't actually own the farm.... So, one ex-friend later, we moved to Moorreesburg.

Now the original couple are ready to make the move and are looking at properties near Robertson (wine country!) with the idea that they, us and one or possibly two other families will live there together, each in our own house on opposite corners of the property (we're not planning to share as much as you are).

And Greg and I will finally get the chance to build the straw bale house we have been dreaming of... we have the plans drawn up and we have files of research on solar power, wind power, composting toilets etc etc etc.

So exciting! If you get chosen for that tourism thing, it will be one more thing to talk about when we meet.

Michelle said...

Hi Julie & JP - there are a couple of cohousing projects I'm familiar with - one in Oakland CA and one here in Madison, WI. Here are some links to their materials... food for thought?