Creating a Neighborhood in a Fantastic Landscape
Is a Collaborative Community for Me?
Marijke and I have had a lifelong experience working with consensus based boards, community organization and collaboratively at the farm itself where we work with our guests, and coworkers in a consensus mode as needed. Overall, whether we are figuring out a budget, next week’s maintenance priorities, or which seed to plant where, we build consensus. Often this process takes less than a minute of discussion, sometimes we have to take the time to sit down and talk out our ideas and find common ground.
We have also been party to 50 years of attendance at Huntington’s Town Meetings, where in a single day the Town finds common ground on budgets, road and school priorities and even positions on state and national politics, and we have a festive lunch with great food. We are always amazed at how much we get done at Town Meeting and how joyful it is to come together with our neighbors to address important issues and concerns—the social rewards of Town Meeting are huge, it is a day of good humor, laughter and community solidarity.
In the process, we have reached the following conclusion:
- The process works best with firm ground rules. People commit themselves to the process and its rules, we adhere to Robert’s Rules of Order, leadership that keeps us focused, on track, and playing by the rules is key for our success.
- People don’t always agree with the outcome but they accept it because they were part of the decision-making process. Many of us have learned to trust the wisdom of the town at Town Meeting even when that wisdom does not go our way; social cohesion and community consensus is more important than getting our way.
- A tolerance for the unknown and ambiguity is critical if ideas and their alternatives are going to be explored and developed, sometimes with surprising and very positive outcomes.
- Trust in ourselves and others, with the good of the whole community in mind, while the rights and privileges of the individual is honored.
- That consensus decision making is not for everybody. The process requires openness and being vulnerable, letting go of any need to control.
- The Amish, the Quakers, and small-town Vermonters discovered this form of teamwork long ago; their survival as a unique society depends on a culture of cooperation.
We see the Commons as part of a new and growing commitment to a more democratic, humanistic and cooperative economic model worldwide and here in the U.S. This is practiced between mature democracies that seek to create strong networks of cooperation and support around, for example, international trade. In our case we have studied the participatory governance process inherent in Cohousing principles that derives its structure and inspiration from the neighborhoods in Scandinavia where the practice first took hold.
As members join the Commons, a productive dynamic will emerge as people reach an understanding of how to best live and work together while serving the needs of the individual and family. When individuals explore options, conduct research and make decisions together the experience is incredibly empowering; as ideas and values are translated into concrete decisions and direst action. We believe that this mutual planning and building--creating something tangible, useful and long- lasting for the benefit of current residents and generations to come—is arguably life’s most rewarding process.
Community networks do not erase or diminish one’s sense of independence or individuality. On the contrary, we believe, that when everyone has a special contribution and role in the group that only they can fulfill—including children and the elderly—the individual is strengthened and enhanced because each of us plays an important role and contributes to the larger community while remaining true to ourselves and our values.
The Commons represents an extended family of sorts, with every person committed to the sustenance, support, and continued flourishing of the community, each individual has an important and distinct part to play in its flourishing.
This process of mutual empowerment generates wisdom, both for those who might not have as much to offer on a given project and for those who think they know everything about it! It also delivers the unexpected dividend of satisfaction and joy that extends far beyond good housing and a pretty garden—it is a powerful motivator, the engine that builds community.
Though consensus decision-making may at first seem less efficient, it actually saves time over the long run. When people work out decisions together and take ownership of the process and its outcomes, they achieve a sense of motivated and organized teamwork. As a result, future obstacles are better identified and potential problems more easily solved—any engineer or operations manager knows how much time and cost they can save through seamless teamwork and meticulous planning on the front end. Shared resources also means fewer expenses, less time spent on work, and more time spent on the fun and discovery of creative collaboration and the endless bounty of nature.
At our core we are idealistic and trusting. We are about building a better world, one neighborhood, one house, one garden, one person at a time. There is solidarity to be had with others who feel the same way and are acting upon it, whether it be our close neighbors, families in nearby Huntington, or people in Washington, DC., and Beijing. The Commons is a cause for optimism and celebration in a very tense time
Community engagement is not for everybody. Many people shy away from a model that requires such direct participation and creativity. But others see it as a means to create a more sustainable, humane and joyful future for themselves and their families.
Is a Collaborative Community for Me?
If that’s you, let’s talk. Contact us today to learn more about living and thriving at Windekind Commons. Welcome aboard!
The Benefit of Common Land and Resources
Ownership of Common Land offers families a vast number of land use options. In the vicinity of the residential areas of the Common, there is direct access to three ponds, two streams, over 1,000 feet of stone walls, six perennial gardens, the garden railroad, lawn, and acres of woodland that hosts an enormous diversity of wild life, plants, and trees.
The future potential for more gardens, ponds, walls, wildlife sanctuaries, and scenic areas for people to meet, gather, and take on mutual projects is enormous. Spacing between homes is generous enough to ensure room for privacy with plenty of room for your more individual interests.
Common Land can also be used for income-producing purposes, like a market garden, and as a location for a community- based studio, shop or offices. The 11.7 acre meadow offers families the opportunity to create larger and perhaps commercial gardens, raise livestock and develop other permaculture- based garden and agricultural activity. Families have the option of operating on their own in the meadow or they can join forces with other families, creating mini-farm cooperatives that sell produce to the community and elsewhere.
To exercise these options a member or members would build consensus for their project with the entire community by bringing their ideas to the Board. The community would also develop a financial plan, for example if a portion of the meadow were used for a private operation there would be a lease arrangement that would be fair to both the operator and the Community as a whole.
Common Land also provides timber for building or for sale. The upper northeastern portion of Common Land hosts a high grade stand of hard woods, that can be selectively harvested for building and commercial purposes. The stand could be developed into a productive sugar bush.
Ownership of Common Land means direct access to many recreational options because of the vast network of about 25 miles of well-developed and maintained hiking, biking, and Nordic ski trails in the area. These trails go deep into the 20,000-acre Camel’s Hump State Park area reaching high semi alpine areas in the mountains. They also link with other trail systems, some of which go clear to Canada.
On their private parcels, families can also create their own lawns and gardens and build accessory structures including small commercial spaces, such as a studio, a shop, and a place to grow a business. We are deeply committed to diversity, and will encourage many types of entrepreneurial activity, all in the interest of growing a vibrant local economy that blends in with other nearby town and state efforts.
Cost and Home Build Options
The overall cost of owning a parcel and the 1/8 share of 131 acres of Commons land range from $110,000 to $170,000 including all development costs. This means that driveways, septic, water, power,phone, and all local and state permits are in place for you when you are ready to build.
You can see their boundaries above outlined by gray lines with the proposed building envelop.
We have developed build packages that go from $225,000 depending on square footage and quality of construction. A completed new house and the costs of the lot could be in the $310,000 range and up. The costs of Campanula, is, for example, $380,000.
We also encourage perspective members to create build options in which they save on costs by putting a lot of their own labor into the project.
Historically, we have taken the lead in our building projects and hired professional help as needed, Breidablick was built this way while Campanula was more of a joint effort, with home labor mixing with Professional. We want to create an approach where you, as a home owner and builder can participate at a level that you are comfortable with, saving costs and adding your own touches to your home and its landscape while having access to professional help as needed. This approach is celebrated at the Commons, you actively participates with other professionals in the creation of your own home and its landscape.
If you decide to join in, our experienced team of designers and builders will work closely with you to support all aspects of the design and building process that you envision.
“It takes a Village to Raise a Child”
Children have a natural need to engage and explore the world around them, starting with immediate, protected, and accessible areas of the home and moving outward into nearby lawns, fields and streams. They seek to explore the world around them, spontaneously, with safety, and on their own terms. When children are active in the environment, they build an inner confidence that occurs with the mastery of skills, the simple shake of a rattle, touching a beloved pet, crawling, walking, and speech are all the starting points for an increasingly complex array of skill development.
At Windekind children have: built bird houses, caught frogs, dug a garden, planted seeds, written a stories, ran a train (with supervision) programed a computer and sung songs amongst a multitude of other activities. The farm has always been an ideal place where children, starting with our own, can learn and engage their environment and acquire the self confidence that comes along with it.
The beauty of human development is that it is interconnected and holistic, the practice of increasingly complex motor skills is a building block for cognitive development, as children seek to attach language to their physical experiences of walking, running, jumping, talking and sharing. Every gain in childhood is a building block and, therefore, a gain throughout life.
Our goal at the Commons is to create an environment that fuels learning and human development for every member. To do this, we often turn to nature, because nature is so present, abundant, and diverse and always changing at the farm. Today, for example, is a lovely spring day, a good day for a child to climb a tree, visit a brook, plant a seed, build a wall, take a picture, and use a garden tool. When they are older they will drive a tractor, start a flower bed or build a tree house.
Children make the gradual expansion from tame lawns and gardens toward more far-flung adventures with streams, wetlands, trails, bridges, and walls. They will walk, run, ride bikes in the summer and ski all winter long. Now they can toss a ball, hide, dig, find frogs, have picnics, build forts and little huts, roadways, models, gardens, and tool and doll collections.
There is the lovely African proverb that states “It takes a village to raise a child.” This is our credo, we are a village, in the mountains, eager to create a world where children thrive and grow, we are a kind of extended family in which we take care of each other, especially children. This means team work, attention to details, planning, and following up. It means knowing how to tie a shoe lace, plant a tree, take care of a pet, make music, write and dance and much more, for we are a diverse community with many skills, interests and knowledge that we are eager to share.
Human development is reciprocal; children affect adults just as we affect them. With the act of helping others grow and develop we do the same for ourselves. Our goal is to empower children and, in turn, they empower us to do what we do and often love. Children will someday be adults themselves, and the same process will repeat itself anew with the next generation.
Come and join in, and please bring children, they are the agents of our sustainable futures.