My heart is full and content on the Blackberry Farm today. I went to the Farm’s monthly square dance last night and cooked and ate wonderful, lovingly prepared food. I danced to a great live band and met friends of friends and talked with my neighbors late into the night. This morning while on my morning walk with our dogs–their black noses leading the way, reading the nightly news–we came across a group of eight or so folks bundled up against the morning chill, bent over, silent, a dog in the foreground chewing a stick: the Sunday tai chi class. Today we’ll feast on leftover salsa made from the bursting-ripe cherry tomatoes grown on the farm, fruits so sweet I can finally grasp why one would consider making tomato wine…All this to say, community is on my mind, community is what fills me up, and my part of the Tiny House journey right now is researching ecovillages and pocket neighborhoods and cohousing (a word that’s a take on the translation of “living community”) and how to create and participate in community while being an introverted, sometimes-socially-anxious person who’s repelled by loud noises and is easily over-stimulated.
Are our Tiny Houses built yet? Yes, almost entirely!—in our minds and in the SketchUp world, that is. Apart from the window design and electrical and plumbing systems, which Donovan is working on madly every spare moment of his time, my house is complete and perfect in its custom-fit comfort.
I’ve been waylaid on my Tiny House journey by a bigger calling, which is community connection. After spending a week at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in northeast Missouri, I returned with the conviction that our Tiny Houses should be entirely off-grid, that I want to catch more rainwater for gardening, and that I want to share more resources. Almost immediately, I created a “Free Store,” (a place to share resources) on the Blackberry Farm behind the new laundromat. Every morning for several weeks I obsessed over Ross Chapin’s beautiful, inspiring book, Pocket Neighborhoods, and have begun paying attention to the affect that design has on encouraging or blocking connections. In this vein, I’ve begun pruning the wily orchard behind our house to create a more inviting space. I set up a canopy in a semi-private space near the back door, and beneath it placed several folding chairs and a giant wire spool from the electrical warehouse to use as a table. I’ve erected a simple bench near the pond where in less than 24 hours I had a healing phone conversation and a psychedelic sunrise experience, watching the sky brighten from above and, in the pond’s reflection, from below, peaking in a flush of starlings erupting from the tree canopy that flowed over me like black confetti through the sky.
Dancing Rabbit is full of Tiny Houses, though mostly not the type on wheels. The place abounds with small, creative, beautiful, mostly resident-built dwellings, many of which are made of natural and reclaimed materials acquired locally, like straw bales, clay, and “imperfect” pieces of wood and sheet metal. Many homes there are not equipped with bathrooms or kitchens, so the residents meet those needs in shared common spaces, and solitude can be found on the hundreds of acres of mowed trails across the prairie.
So, now I am seeing my beautiful, simple Tiny House in connection with other tiny and more moderate-sized homes surrounding a common green space, gardens, and a common house—with a shared kitchen for sharing several meals a week, along with a tool shed, a free store, a children’s playroom, work shop, and whatever other desires the co-members come up with. While I’m eager to make some of these visions happen now, my deeper desire is to be on a piece of land that’s ours, along with some other like-minded folks. We have a great relationship with the owners of our current home-space, but there is, naturally, a limit to the direction I’d like the community to take. I vacillate between feeling joyful for our current situation, deeply appreciative of the opportunity to share in this rather unintentional community, and feeling trapped by the limitations of a single-family-owned land.
Then I look around:
Beautiful land, delicious abundance, and a place to build our Tiny Dreams.
So, time to re-focus on our mission here:
To continue to design, research, connect, garden, grow, scavenge wood and parts from jobs and dumpsters, dream, and appreciate the progress we’ve made and all the opportunities available to us.