great resources for intentional community and alternative life styles

I have a friend who is going to be writing an article about intentional community and alternative life styles and I wanted to give her some resources to help her out.  So I thought I would write them in a blog post.  So here are my favorite resources

Federation of Intentional Communities has been around for decades and is the go-to place for all things community.  Their website and directory is phenomenal.  http://www.ic.org

I love the new trend in simple living.  Of course I like my blog, www.simplifiedliving.info where I give tips on organizing and simplifying your life. Lately I’ve been doing a bit of research on the trend where people call themselves “minimalists”.  I am writing more and more articles specifically on how to have a mindset so that it is easier to be organized because you are living more simply.  My facebook page is pretty cool also. http://www.facebook.com/simplifiedlivingnow

Fayetteville has been a place where I have been able to live a consistently alternative life style.  Robert and I moved here 16 years ago in a Bluebird bus and were welcomed at what was called the Josh Brown Farm, now home of Ozarks Alternatives, a real farm.  I was there for about 12 years, right up until the time that Josh Brown and his family moved to Costa Rica, turning the 27 acre with about 30 homes on it over to some managers who have continued to do a good job.  Affordable housing was the name of the game.  I lived all over the farm, living in a tent, a tiny trailer, a motor home, what would be called a “micro-house” and a one bedroom house.  I paid from $20 a month to $200, some of which I traded.  This was a fantastic place for my children to grow up–Mahriyanna was 1 1/2 when we arrived, and having a safe place for kids to run around in a great neighborhood–well that would take a book itself to write about.

East Wind Community http://ozarkalternatives.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/fall-csa-2/ is a place that I lived for about six months.  The tragic ending of my provisional membership is a long story–but I learned so much there in the short time I lived there with my son Christopher who was five at the time.  This community is close enough to visit. You need to know someone there, or connect in a way that they feel safe having you in their home in order to visit.  I went there with my kids about four or five years ago just to touch base again. We went home with a lot of very cheap peanut butter because you can buy seconds there at their nut butter factory!

I think that trading for rent is a very wonderful way to go. When I left the Josh Brown farm, I was able to work things out with an employer who I cleaned and organized for. She had an apartment behind her house that she normally rented out, but she had experienced disappointment with many renters who trashed the place. So we had a great agreement where I worked 6 hours a week and paid the utilities. I was especially happy to work in her garden and yard and see the place transform–I got to enjoy the fruits of my labor too!

Finding someone to owner finance your home really makes a difference.  There are few people who will do that, but we have found two different people who did this for us.  We built up sweat equity for our down payment for our land in the country near Kingston and then made cash payments after that.  Our home in Fayetteville, the first dome that was built here, was also owner financed by someone who did not want to sell the place to someone who would tear it down and build a conventional house. We cherish our unique home and have become good friends with the owner, who is the boyfriend of the person who I used to trade for my rent.  Building trust by following through on what you say you will do in a world where so many people fail to do that can offer many opportunities.

The trend towards urban homesteads is really getting big. When I first heard about this, I was stoked.  I remember the book 5 acres and independence.  Now people are saying they can be self sufficient with a city lot. I’ve been reading about these folks for years http://urbanhomestead.org/  I am glad to revisit their site and get some ideas.

We aspire to have an urban homestead here.  We have a wood stove, chickens, lots of building supplies that we are collecting, dreams to have aquaponics systems and grow all kinds of food inside and out.  We are going to work on a system based on this really simple approach http://www.aces.edu/dept/fisheries/education/documents/barrel-ponics.pdf

My goal is to eventually live on our land at Living Springs www.christiancommunities.com  This is a great place to live because our neighbors are more intentional than most places. People who have bought land that is part of about 600 acres that was bought by Bob and Joan Rutz want to be more cooperative. Most are Christians, but sharing this value of following Jesus is not mandatory.  In fact, before we bought our land, we had not surrendered our lives to Christ, and still we were welcomed into the intentional neighborhood. One of the great things about Living Springs is the community building where there are showers, washing machine, electricity and a place to have gatherings which people who live on the land can utilize. There is also a wonderful lake, and over the years a great volleyball court has been created. This is the power of intentional neighborhood.

My dream is to have a school where people learn everything they need to know to live a healthy life, including diet, simple living, wilderness survival skills, spiritual healing, how to have a vibrant, real relationship with Jesus, communication, conflict resolution, parenting, and how to start a community.  My big dream is that there will be all kinds of great things happening at Living Springs and the entire 600 acres will be filled with ministries and smaller communities that will be a rich culture and life for all.

This past summer I went on a tour of Christian Intentional Communities.  The early Christians, for the first 300 years, lived in intentional neighborhoods and communities.  They had to live in close contact with each other for two reasons:  In order to follow Jesus teachings–and they passionately wanted to follow Jesus teachings, community was necessary.  No one forced them to live this way. It was a choice.

The second reason is because they were so intensely persecuted.  They needed each other just like the people who live in countries where Christians are persecuted even to this day.  The trend for Christians to live in intentional community is intensifying as Jesus followers are realizing that so many aspects of the faith they grew up with are not meaningful and relevant. Living together, simplifying their lives so they can share and identify with those who are needy, serving and sharing spiritual practices together, and even growing food and creating businesses so they can help each other and their neighborhoods is important to the folks I visited.  I was so inspired by my month long trip where I stayed a week at each community: Koinonia Farms, Reba Place Fellowship, Plow Creek Community, and The Simple Way.

I think that visiting communities is one of the most important things that an aspiring communitarian can do. If you go to places like the Ozark Area Community Congress, a yearly gathering of folks who are interested in alternative life styles, you are sure to meet someone from some community that you might like to visit. That is how I got to visit East Wind–because a person from East Wind attended my workshop on conflict resolution and he thought I might be a good addition to the community.

There is a trend toward the idea of community of communities. When a community is smaller, things are more intimate and more values are easily shared.  Then when communities can connect with other communities, there is a richness and cooperation and shared resources even like cooperative health insurance.  Here is a link to this concept https://www.facebook.com/communityofcommunities

Well, since I have been researching and experiencing intentional communities and alternative life styles for the past 40 years, I could go on for a long time!  Things like in the past experimenting with poly-fidelity–which is group marriage–that is definitely alternative! Even though I know that monogamy is the way I want to go if I ever get married again, having that experience definitely contributed to a lot of growth.  Home schooling, having home births eating healthy, being vegetarian, not giving our children vaccinations, using natural methods for healing, concern for the environment, wanting to grow our own food, attachment parenting, never depending on the government for any kind of aid or income, and living a super simple life where I have not had a regular 9-5 job with benefits in my life–all that is pretty alternative.  I feel very encouraged that all these trends are becoming popular. At last I am not an outcast.

I have come to the conclusion that living a simple life and focusing on what is most important to me-my relationships with my family and community–is the best alternative lifestyle I can ever life. We all share a passion for following Jesus and living a life that serves and exemplifies his teachings–and that is so wonderful.  We want to invite more people into our circle — but we are still not able to do that for various reasons. But we have a very rich life right here, right now!

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