Hey folks —
If you’re on this site, it seems likely you’re somewhere on the spectrum between "things in the world seem amiss" and "holy guacamole the S is HTF tomorrow!" And further, you’re probably either pondering steps you can take to prepare for Life After or you’re well on your way to a Post-Life-As-Usual state of readiness.
Setting aside food, TEOTWAWKI (‘the end of the world as we know it’) supplies, and so forth is all well and good. And if your plan is to hole up somewhere (at least relatively) remote and ride things out, this post may be superfluous for you. But if, like most people, you’re going to need to ride out the bumps/crash where you are (e.g., can’t or won’t take kids out of current school in/near major city and move to the boondocks and start intensive gardening and homeschooling), then you won’t be able to live inside your I’m Ready For SHTF bubble while those around you suffer. They need your leadership/help, and I daresay you need them.
(I’m writing this in second person, but suffice it to say I’m well aware that everything I’m scribbling here applies to me as well.)
So: COMMUNITY. Building community is probably the hardest part of preparing for TEOTWAWKI, takes much longer than any other part of the prep, and yet is likely the most important part of a long-term strategy to thrive after the breakdown of old systems and ways of being. In about 8 weeks, the wife & I have set aside food, miscellaneous supplies and one firearm (I put my thoughts about that difficult decision into the "Definitive Firearms Thread" — post #286). And we have plenty of prep left to do, which’ll take months more. But we’ve been community-building for over 2 years and will still be working on it long after we’ve gotten 95% of the other prep finished.
Nearly 4 years ago, shortly after we married, my wife & I combined our households — I gave up my living arrangment in the lower Hudson Valley and she her apartment in Brooklyn — and bought a house near New Paltz, NY (2 hours north of NYC). We moved in over the summer and dug on the quiet and the enjoyment of owning your own house (ignoring for now the never-ending chores/upkeep that come w/owning a house <smile>). But by that winter E (my wife) was feeling the social isolation. As a Brooklynite, she was used to being surrounded by a sea of humanity, with social contact never more than a moment away. (I myself am okay with relative isolation. I can entertain myself and am fine with just a few specifically social occasions a month. But a happy wife makes a happy[er] me, so…)
We decided to take action and manifest community. Figuring we weren’t the only NYC expats new[ish] to the area, and figuring we couldn’t be the only ones that could do with more social contact, we created a thing called First Friday.
On the First Friday of each month, we open our house to any-and-all comers. It’s a low-key come-as-you-are affair — no need to go home and spiff up, or bring anything. Just finish work on Friday and hie yourself over to our house. We have simple food (y’know, chips’n’dips’n’cheese’n’crackers’n’carrot sticks) and provide a little wine/beer and a non-alcoholic bevvie. Just come on over and hang out and talk, listen to music, whatever. It goes from about 7 p.m. until whenever people leave. Some months, everybody’s gone by 10 p.m. Some months, it’s 1:30 a.m.
It started small since we didn’t know many people. I think the first gathering was 5 people including E and me. We encouraged people to bring their friends — and then those friends were encouraged to bring their friends — and within a few months we’d have as many a 20+ show up. Some people come once and that’s it. Others become regulars and are now good friends. (The buddy who helped me pick out my shotgun in Definitive Firearms post #286 is one.)
People have a real hunger for fellowship and community. No doubt church once filled this need — and for many people (like my parents) still does. But the churchgoing life is different now and I think its limiting to have one’s affinity group[s] tethered to religious tenets. IMO.
So we started with First Friday and things organically grew from there. A bunch of the guys decided it’d be cool to have Dudes Bowling Night once a month. So we did that. The womenfolk, mildly put out that we were leaving them all home every fourth Tuesday night, decided to form a women’s circle that meets on the same night. Deeper friendships and affiliations ensued. Activity groups (hiking, pottery, etc.) have spun off. Community projects arise (we had a firewood log-splitting ‘party’ last summer, and now one couple have taken small donations from various peeps and are building a wood-stove-powered community sauna, and so forth). A number of us followed the lead of one woman in the group and we are now volunteering with Big Brothers/Big Sisters (I’m actually awaiting placement with a "Little Brother".) We created a yahoo! message board to share info/coordinate activities. The community has 2 marriages coming this summer, and I’m DJing one reception, and E and I are the officiants at the other (first time…gulp!). You get the idea…
It’s this group of people that I’m working on Getting With The Program (Crash Course). A few are where I was last Summer (during the market meltdown was when I began seriously thinking "lordy, I gotta do something before TSHTF" [although at that point I didn’t know what ‘SHTF’ meant]) but not really mentally ready to contemplate What Might Be. One or two are right where I am, and one is waaay ahead of me. But a handful of people doing ad-hoc prep will not float a community that has about 30 "core" members and another 30 peripheral members. I want to get things to a higher level of organization/consciousness, and with all due speed. We might have 2 years before TEOTWAWKI, or maybe just 2 months (2 weeks?). Things are nutty now, but they could become absolutely apesh!t in a big hurry.
But like I said at the top, community-building is the hardest and longest of the prep tasks. At least we’re on the path. As far as getting folks on board, I just this morning ordered up the special-edition CC DVDs (with the material to help me present the CC to groups of people). I’ll be offering it up to peeps in our community. But I’m also getting hepped up to reserve the local community center and do a CC presentation to the community at large. See who comes outta the woodwork. Because the more prepped everyone is pre-SHTF, the more likely that an orderly way of being will endure the coming changes. So my current short/medium-term task re community is to get our peeps thinking in terms of SHTF prep (in addition to group pottery classes and bowling nights).
It kind of feels like *really* being a hub of community building could be a full-time job (and I already have about 1-1/2 of those <smile>). But if I can gather up a couple of other similarly-committed people then it gets much more manageable. And I don’t want to be the Big Honcho In Charge. No: I’d rather be the grain of sand that gets the pearl to coalesce. What’s that old phrase: You can accomplish great things if you don’t care who gets the credit? <smile>
I’m really hungry to hear what other folks are up to in the community building department. DTM is the frickin’ *man* and I’m pretty familiar w/his story, but what about the resta youse?
Thanks for listenin’…
Awesome story – what a unique and interesting approach.
We’ve got several "town" meetings coming up this next week, and I’m planning on going to them, and getting a feel for what people are talking about. I’ve ordered a copy of the "crash course" with presenters materials ‘just in case’.
One of these upcoming meetings is about a community garden, and I’m hoping it’ll provide an opportunity to really introduce permaculture, and the idea of getting a community market going. There has been a big push as of late to start buying and selling our produce locally – and I think that we have a receptive crowd for both permaculture, and the crash course.
That said – I’ll be taking some of your ideas with me! I think that a nice, casual meet-up at interval is a great way to put aside divisive things, and just be friends.
Cheers, and thanks for sharing!
Wife and I just moved from Idaho to Virginia about 9 months ago. I met Dogs and Cat through this website
after I found out they lived close by. Have hung out with Dogs a
couple times and look forward to getting to know him and his wife
more. They have a few years on my wife and I in life experience, so
its conforting to know someone like that is close by.
We didnt know any of our neighbors until a few weeks ago. We decided to make some cookies and then go hand them out and introduce ourselves. It felt awkward, but it was a great ice breaker. Since then we have had a couple of our neighbors over, gone out to eat with them, and gone shooting at the range with them. Working towards a "Crash Course" introduction. It feels better to just KNOW some of our neighbhors, even if they are not yet "getting ready."
Unfortunately we live in an apt where there are not alot of gardening opportunities, so hoping to maybe get a community garden.
It seems to me that community building/networking is often overlooked when we think ahead to what could be. In the end, it is strong communities, and strong relationships with others that define our health and well-being.
To this end, my wife and I have been involved with community-building for several years. We’ve done this in several ways: First, we have organized (well, my wife, mostly) our street in annual yard sales and block parties. This has allowed us to meet some of our closest community members. Secondly, we’ve met with a small group of folks for 2 years on a bi-weekly basis as an off-shoot to a discussion on mindfulness and sustainability. We have since formed a cohesiveness and bond and we know we can rely on each other in good times and bad. Finally, we have formed a local permaculture group and are affiliated with others.
Aboriginal peoples throughout the ages have depended on their tribes for their very existence. Our culture has broken away from the notion of needing community support – or, so we think. This goes well beyond just needing social interaction. We need each other’s brains, muscle, and support, and it would behoove everyone to reach out and start building community wherever they are.
As an aside: I haven’t seen the acronmym, TEOTWAWKI, since Y2k days. I remember some of the hysteria going into Y2k, and can’t help but see the similarities to today. I was a programmer working for an electric company during those times, and remember the long months of re-coding and testing that preceded the millennium change. Y2k could have indeed been TEOTWAWKI had not many people come together to avert it – and it was. While things are a bit different now, I can’t help but think back and wonder how much of TSHTF (the new acronym) can be averted if we can focus on coming together instead of being lone wolves.
Within your permaculture group, do you have "standard" crops that every grows, do you grow "complimentary" crops, or is it (like most everything) a bit of a compromise between the two?
Because everyone’s needs and space are different, it’s really tough to suggest the "right" thing for people to grow.
It seems that most people around here just do tomatoes and call it good.
That said, I’ve been seeing gardens springing up all over town since I’ve been home. Good sign!
that’s a really inspiring story, thanks.
I’m trying to help re-kick-start the LETS (Local Exchange Trading System) in my local area which seems rather challanging because there are people with a long history with it and who seem to prefer stagnation to progress. sometimes I wonder if there were not better ways to start building community, but the LETS seems such a good way to find people interested in (and lead people into) ‘waking-up’/watching the CC/whatever that I am sticking with it for now.
There are already alot of things going on in the town which are positive, and only so much energy one individual has, so for better of worse, I’ve chosen this route and I’m gonna see it out – as well as preparing myself and my family in the best way for us – ie: skilling up, stockpiling food and wood, learning to grow food, learning to save money (although I just blew 300 squid on a wedding ring – its gold, though, an everyone here is telling me to put my money in gold!).
I really like Sager’s informal way of building community, I have been organising social’s at a local pub for the LETS, so I guess it is just a matter of time before things settle (internal LETS politics) and positive thinkers and movers turn up to support the cause.
peace and love to all,
I’m not well-versed in permaculture. I’ve read a couple of books, attended a few meetings, and started a local group. Fools rush in…
As with most things in permaculture, one needs to take into account the microclimates of each site. Sun, shade, wind, soil, all make up a microclimate and my plot may be different than my next door neighbor’s. So, to answer your question, no one in the group plants all the same veges, nor the same way.
Complimentary crops are certainly a part of using what nature has designed. Some plants help others out, or they can be allelopaths and be harmful. Something I am just learning about.
As far as the increase in the number of gardens – this is good in many ways, and also a sign of the times. The down side is that it’s causing some seed shortages, but this can, and will be remedied (unless Monsanto gets its way). This also hightlights the importance of seed-saving…and not buying hybrid seeds.
Tomatoes? That’s how I got my green thumb started years ago. We all have to start somewhere.
Community buildinging is indeed where it is at! My husband and I are very social, but realized a few years ago we drive everywhere to be with our "community". So a few years back we made a conscious decision to do more with our neighbors. We live three miles from town in a small rural neighborhood of 60 plus homes. While we were certainly friendly with our neighbors, I would not call them friends. We both got involved in our community water board and have gotten to know everyone in our neighborhood (for better or worse). We got involved in the neighborhood Christmas/hanukah/Easter/Passover Celebrations (alot of fun). I used to drive to a dance class twice a week, now I walk 4 miles 5 times weekly with a group of women from the hood….and have done so for five years now. These are women much older than myself, and not that much in common on the surface (my goodness, one is a Republican!) but I have come to think of them fondly as my tribe.
The gardeners trade plants, tools and veggies. ALot of us loan out cars, bikes, kayaks. We had down clothes, toys, furniture. When we travel at holidays, we give our homes out to other folks visiting relatives. We housesit, pet sit, babysit, deliver food to the sick and shut in. It really does feel like a 1950’s Beaver Cleaver kind of place. Of course, there are few oddballs amongst us, who have never fit in, and like it that way. But if something bad befell them, we would probably help them too. I have helped neighbors harvest lavender, grapes, make wine, beer, bread. OF course, it probably would not have happened for me if I was 25 when I moved in, but at 35 I was ready to settle down and plant some roots. Having kids helps too. Some weekends I never leave the hood….walk over to one neighbor’s for dinner and a movie, have others over for brunch and croquet. It really is the good life. I am always telling people to live their life where they live…not drive to it.
Community buildinging is indeed where it is at! My husband and I are very social, but realized a few years ago we drive everywhere to be with our "community". So a few years back we made a conscious decision to do more with our neighbors.
Very nice. My wife and I are considering a move next Spring (if conditions in the world permit) to a place where there’s a neighborhood-ish feel. We currently live on a fairly remote road where there are numbers of houses but it’s not a walkable environment. Because if SHTF, we *won’t* be driving up and down and all over the place. It’ll probably be a question of bicycles and walking and such. And knowing/being tight with your neighbors will be a fine thing then.
Thanks for your thoughts, Sager
These are women much older than myself, and not that much in common on the surface (my goodness, one is a Republican!) but I have come to think of them fondly as my tribe.
It really does feel like a 1950’s Beaver Cleaver kind of place. Of course, there are few oddballs amongst us, who have never fit in, and like it that way.
OF course, it probably would not have happened for me if I was 25 when I moved in, but at 35 I was ready to settle down and plant some roots. Having kids helps too
I’m sorry, what’s wrong with being Republican? As a conservative, I have frequently felt that my views are not welcome in this community. In fact, when i went to the crash course conference a couple months ago, I didn’t feel like I could be myself without being crucified for my views.
In case you didn’t notice, the economy aspect of the 3E is much more in conservative territory, especially the part about fiat currency and central reserve banking being bad ideas. It doesn’t get much more conservative than Ron Paul. And Glen Beck (a – gasp- "right wing" talk show host!!!) has mentioned the CC, and is clearly on board with the financial aspects. He’s also said that he values freedom over everything else and if all hell breaks loose he’d rather be poor and learn to grow his own veggies and hunt than compromise his values for a job. In fact, I’ve found the 912 project, started by Glen Beck to focus on principles and values rather than on what party you are, to be a source of community for me.
I find it interesting that you later say that you find your neighborhood to feel like a 1950’s Beaver Cleaver kind of place…the kind of place that liberals often are critical of. And you also note that getting older and having kids makes you more receptive to this kind of atmosphere.
I propose you are probably a little more conservative that you’d like to admit, even to yourself. Typically we are liberal as young, idealistic kids and then we grow up and get some responsibility and wind up realizing that conservativism isn’t all evil.
I view the concepts of CC to be a blend between conservative and liberal. The conservatives will more easily understand an buy into the economic piece, because underlying conservative thought doesn’t trust the government in economic matters, and they are more likely to see the pitfalls of fiat currency. Conservatives also support gun ownership and tend to attract more survivalists, who have skills that would be handy in SHTF scenario. On the other hand, liberals are more likely to be in touch with the environmental aspect, and the concept of running out of natural resources. They are more likely to be knowlegable about alternative energy sources, and to know about organic gardening techniques.
So let’s not be judgmental of one another. The ideal community needs both. And if we really face SHTF, what party you’ve affiliated with in the past won’t matter.