Eco-Village Dreaming

in ecotrain •  6 months ago  (edited)


Many years ago now, I lived in a ramshackle community of some thirty to forty itinerants and possibly three times as many dogs, that would greet me happily at the gate with tails wagging as if they were pleased to help me with lugging shopping over a muddy field to where the home fires were burning. It was one of the most welcoming sights, to see the home fires burning. No matter how stressful the day, everything would diffuse around a gallon drum of burning hazel and oak, a smoke and a cider or two and a laugh and a yarn. The trucks and caravans, all installed with woodfires, would be puffing away, their insides warmed against the cold winter.

Ramshackle, chaotic and lovely community life - surrounded by woods and warmed by people

When we moved to Australia, it felt like there was a huge hole inside of me for a long time. I missed communal living, for all it's failings (there was a lot of alcohol, for one, which could make people act in ways you don't really need to deal with in an ordinary and peaceful life - and I don't miss 3 am disco blaring from the end caravan when they'd been out at the pub). I missed the Sunday night dinners, where we would all cook a roast - carrots and peas in one truck, meat in another, gravy and potatoes in another, all brought together in one living space for us to eat together, a miracle of timing and shared purpose. I missed cups of tea in a converted Mercedes bus with the afternoon light on our laps. I missed foraging for wild mushrooms and sharing huge puffballs rolled in egg and breadcrumbs and fried with butter. I missed going wooding with the girls, walking into the forest and lugging limbs up the hill with muddied boots. I missed the water runs, where someone would go to the local church or service station with everyone's 25L water container and fill up the week's supply so when you'd come home, you didn't have to worry about it. I missed sharing. I missed someone always having your back, whether it was because you were short a few quid and needed milk and bread or if you needed a lift into town because your car had broken down, or maybe your generator wasn't working and someone would come to the rescue. It took us years to get used to a life where it was just us, one house, on five acres.

Our beautiful Bedford TK - doing #tinyhomemovement before the #tinyhomemovement

For many years, I have been dreaming of an eco-community that can replace what we lost when we left the UK. Although there were many failings with the ramshackle, chaotic and unsustainable way that our community ran, the potential of it always had me dreaming. Thus, the @ecotrain question of the week, posed by @eco-alex, tempted me. What three things, it asks, do you think are important in an eco-village of tomorrow? You can read the QOTW here.


We live such isolated lives. We seem to have moved away from tribal living, where people support each other in all kinds of ways, to living behind walls and talking through computer screens in the hope of filling that void that longs for people around to help you get through the day to day. Mental health issues are at an all time high, and can be at least in part attributed to loneliness and isolated, though we might have neighbours right over the fence.

In a community, one shares skills and wisdoms. A job shared is a job halved. It is much easier to find creative and practical solutions to life if there are more heads to work on it! I love the idea of having multiple skills in the community so that others can pass on what they know, as well as teaching these skills to children. I watch my nephew run across the road to talk electronic circuits with the ex-electrician across the street, or beg to hang out in Jamie's garage to learn mechanics, or help me make hot cross buns at Easter. There are so many more skills that many people can teach that one or two parents simply can't. Many of these life skills simply cannot be taught at schools, or aren't, as as a teacher myself, I know that most of my real skills come from learning from the people around me. I long for a revolution in the education system, and I think eco-communities can help bring this about.

I must say I had to come back and edit this post to link to @stortebeker's post here as he explains how a community should be diverse - a point I couldn't agree more on! We all bring a diverse range of skills, abilities and qualities that can make a community rich and create something quite magical and strong in the world!

The man teaching the locals a better way to chop wood, Myanmar 2017

'A healthy social life is found only, when in the mirror of each soul the whole community finds its reflection, and when in the whole community the virtue of each one is living' - Rudolph Steiner

The community must, of course, share the same values, but I assume anyone wanting to join an eco-village would know what they are signing up for. Whilst I love the idea of freedom in theory, I would expect some kind of contract that community members would sign up for, considering their adherance to certain values of the eco-village. It's no good building a sustainable, earth conscious village of natural materials and renewable energy if your new family is going to burn tires on the weekend or run a petrol generator all night because their solar isn't connected yet. As much as I loathe the word 'contract', there needs to be some kind of organised 'action plan' should disputes arise, and how best to manage them. In the tiny idyll we lived in, we did have huge disputes, including the night one guy stole our ax and in a drunken rage, took it to his girlfriends truck and hacked the kitchen to matchsticks whilst she stood crying in the rain with babe in arms. It was not pretty, and justice was swift - he was soon evicted. Whilst we would hope that a community founded with members who share the same values would never have to deal with such a thing, you cannot anticipate human behaviour, but what you can anticipate is how to best deal with it in a way that is fair for all.

Land Ownership

In England, we squatted land for the privilege of not paying rent and council tax and all of the other expenses that came along with living in a house, the way the government wants you to. We found disused council land or private land that may have been owned for a long time but the owners had no use for it or hadn't been using it in years. Eventually, the eviction notice would come. There are bailiffs that give you 24 hours to vacate. This means uprooting your vehicle, your children from school, your job, your entire life to shift to another site, which can be incredibly stressful and upsetting, especially when no one was causing harm to the property and it would continue to sit there unused when we had left nothing behind but tire tracks.

How beautiful would it be to live here, with such a view? Why do we settle for claustrophobic housing estates?

The tiny house movement is an answer to home ownership that many young people are looking at in Australia. Less likely to opt in to a mortgage than the generations before, due to the huge demand and costs of housing in an ever growing population, or just an unwillingness to spend years paying off a house with huge amounts of debt. Many councils are looking at options and possibilities for accommodating tiny houses, such as changing the laws for living in a caravan on your property. Yet all of that is still uncertain and unstable, and for those who want to put down permanent roots, impossible, especially if they don't want a home on wheels but to construct an entire eco-village with alternative buildings made of earth and other natural resources.

Land ownership, therefore, is an important part of an eco-village. It needs to be affordable and legally airtight to protect it's community members from eviction. As I thought about this topic, I came across the plans for an eco-village in Australia that has found a way to buy land and begin a community - you can check it out here and there are other communities too that have seem to have found ways around this problem.

Sustainability Through Alternative Garden Creation & Management

Here's the bit that I love the most - the bit that I'm most passionate about. I am lucky enough to have 5 acres of land with some fruit trees and a big vegetable garden, and a gaggle of chooks. I often have more food than I can eat myself and love to share it with the wider community. In my ideal world, people who don't have a garden would come and work in my garden in exchange for produce, but that's the role of community gardens, and in this time poor world, people don't even have the time to tend those, nor the understanding that a garden makes your wallet fatter, your heart fuller and your health better.


If I won Tattslotto (Australia's lottery) and had enough cash to buy land and develop it for an eco-village, I always say that I would make each street centre around a community garden. That way, nature becomes the focus rather than walls and roads and fences. Rather than straight streets and grids, I like the idea of circles where the houses face common land that is worked by the community, either in a roster system or voluntarily based. Those that cannot work the land due to age or injury fulfil other roles here, such as cooking classes or minding children, or working out calenders and records to help it run smoothly. This of course becomes an income source for the community too. I have been listening to podcasts on rewilding where the majority of the land is left to return to nature and the animals are culled to sell at a farm gate. An eco-community to me both restores and stewards the land, as well as cultivates it for value that can be given back to the community that nourishes and nurtures it. There are endless options for how a organic garden (or biodynamic, or permaculture based, or Korean Natural Farming, or any and all of these methods) can feed families as well as be sold to buy needed resources. Workshops would be one - teaching 'outsiders' how to grow mushrooms, for example, or vegetarian cooking classes. Because there is no better feeling than sharing abundance with others.

What three things would you include in an eco-village?

Feel free to join in the conversation - all are invited!


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I love that you used a Rudolf Steiner quote! A nice little reminder of my school years.

The story of the axe wielder was actually a good example of dealing with things the anarchy way. Eviction was pretty much how things were done way back when. It's never nice to have to deal with these sorts of things, but with the community support it can be done.

Interesting to discover you were a new age traveller over in the UK. They were often given as bad a reputation as possible. I guess it helps garner support for the regular eviction orders.

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I love that Steiner quote and it seemed apt!! Oh yes the ax wielding friend was the first time I had a panic attack. I ended up in hospital. I was fine and knew that he wouldn't hurt me but boy my body told me otherwise!!!!!!

Yes, they were given a bad rep that's for sure. Ironic considering the rise of the tiny house movement now!!! There was definitely a big push to get rid of anyone anti-establishment. When I met Jamie, he lived in a truck, so he'd been part of that movement and lived on a few sites. I used to go visit him when he was parked up on site in Brighton, so that was my first taste of that world, which really took my fancy to be honest!! When I moved over we lived in a house for a few years so that we could give our relationship a head start without all the stress and complications of site life. Then we moved back onto one for about a year whilst we saved to come back to Australia.

There's quite a big history and quite a lot of stories that come out of the new traveller movement, that's for sure. Still miss it. It's not as common now - its harder to do I think. And people get sick of being evicted. It's hard. Yet there's that hankering back to the days of old where you could live on the land without being forced into homes and walls you don't acdtually want to be in.

The Battle of the Bean Field was one of the first victories for the establishment against the news age travellers movement. Do you know it? Since then it has gotten harder for them. The Irish travellers seem to be a bit more established and I think have a bit more knowledge of the law. They still get labelled with the reputation, but my experience with them was nothing like their reputation. I don't know if there are any Romanies in the UK any more.

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Know it?? I have the book!!! Yes, there ARE still Romany in UK. Did you know Australia has Romany??

FASCINATING podcast on ABC conversations... will find and DM it to you later.

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I didn't know Australia has them! There is still hope!!

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Glad u posted! Im flying home to south india today.. will read this properly
On the way! Xxx

Safe travels back to Karuna.... not calling Karuna your "home" anymore, since you are well on the road to manifesting the new one. :) Let go of the old.. x

Thanks for the pertinent reminder! Xx

Who knew you had such a hippy past LOL... Enjoyed your perspectives and am savouring them slowing while I also respond.

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Aw, thanks. Yes, I have a hippy past, I'm sure that was a little hard to guess, haha. xx I still miss it a lot, but I don't miss waking up at 3 am to Joelene on repeat.

haha... I suddenly had a bad 80s flashback when you said the word "Joelene"... LOL I think I need another coffee to deal with the crap that surfaced along with that memory.

Haha the 80s flashbacks can be brutal can't they? Its why I dont do 80s revival parties lol. But actually I do really love the song, just not 300 times to the sound of people inhaling balloons and falling out of caravans.

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I really like the sound of the ideal version, though I have worries about the downsides. But I’ve always kind of daydreamed of this lifestyle. The things I would look for would be: 1) shared meal preparation, 2) a central area that was for communal activities like the space for gardening like you mentioned, but also a safe play area for kids and a place to walk, sit, talk, visit that is completely free of cars, and 3) an entire plan for sustainability and keeping resource use to a minimum.

Sounds absolutely perfect. Shared meal preparation would be a dream for a lot of us women who have to cook every single night . Imagine only having to do it once a week? I did really love cooking for a lot of people. There is something about people appreciating food and doing the washing up for you so it really appeals to me haha xx

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Cooking yes. Washing up no. I'd need a couple of dishwashers (for hygiene since hand washing is balls and inefficient) then it would be sweet!

I feel like you'd do well in "the walking dead" scenario (current season, not the earlier ones). That's all very cooperative. I checked out that link. Maleny would be alright. I expect the council will somehow fuck it up though.

Hang on... is the new TWD out????? Just watched the latest episode of Fear The Walking Dead. Of course someone will fuck it up!! Thats why I long for an apocalypse..dead cheap land for an eco village! 🤣🤣🤣

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Season 9. I tend to wait and binge.

Such a great read, @riverflows! Got me quite enthusiastic! I know, land ownership is an issue with so many sides...! Honestly, that would be a topic in and of itself, because I really don't know what's worse: endless committee discussions without any resolution possible, or "benevolent chief" who somehow changes along the way to be not so benevolent.
I really enjoyed your discussion on common areas and gardens. (Now that I think about it, this could be also a great topic on its own.) After all, shouldn't this be the purpose of public areas? Instead of a zone outside the private domain, and thus outside anyone's responsibility?

Yes!!! We have a Facebook group that is encouraging people to plant fruit trees on nature strios, which are essentially public property owned by the council. Thus, the householder takes care of the tree, but the fruit is public property. We have a empty bit of council land over our fence and next year i am going to petotion them to plant a community orchard there. I am happy to prune and care for the trees if they foot the initial cost. More community food spaces!!

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Lucky you, for the luxury of having fruit trees on public property. I remember in Hungary a few years ago, town councils were vehemently against them. In fact, they even cut down fruit trees that had been planted decades ago to replace them with ornamentals. The reason? Because "fruit trees throw garbage," meaning their ripe fruit. Talking about insanity...

That is CRAZY. Melbourne values its fruit trees. Its the post war Greek and Italian communities... I think they made it a thing!

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Oh, Hungarians used to value their fruit trees. That's how they got planted in the first place. But that was before the current trend drove everyone insane.

-Communal living definitely needs some basic written rules and a contract.
-I would love a 'no loudspeakers' policy! Use your headphones!
-Some kind of a general philosophical idea that defines at least loosely the way of living.

No loudspeakers lol. Except by community agreement for a party!! Agreed, nothing worse than being forced to listen to the neighbours music.

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Wonderfull unfortunately this type of life is getting harder to live these days. But it will return 💯🐒

I learned something new about you that you were part of that van-life, minihome movement (before it was a movement) and lived in a mobile community squatting on land. I love your free spirit and I could totally see how you would still long for community life even though you have developed a wonderful place for yourself now! There are so many benefits to living in a community and I love @eco-alex 's ideas for a sustainable eco-village and also love that he is calling on other people's ideas which can only help in creating the place you want! I'm going to get mine out this weekend - it's partially done just have to polish it up!
Thanks for sharing that part of your life!

You are welcome! Id like to think there's still a free spirit in me, despite being tied to work and so on! I know you understand as you are a free spirit too!!!

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Love this, especially the description of the traveler community 🙂

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Thanks @raj808. I don't call it that in Steemposts but I know UK folk will recognise a traveller site when they see one!

This is the world I long for. I believe I'm following eco-alex.
Great article. I almost felt like I was in this place you described where kids ran to neighbors to learn what you couldn't teach.

Thankyou! My nephew has been calling us all week, desperate for us to take him fishing today. They can be such insatiable learners! No wonder it takes a village to raise a child!

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