The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Community spaces

Community house

Did you know that the average American today has as much living area to him- or herself as an entire family of 3.3 did in 1950?  I've been thinking about small houses lately, both because of working on my Trailersteading ebook and because we've been the lucky recipients of a variety of out of town guests.  I suspect that many Americans build large homes for the sole purpose of housing guests or hosting gatherings two or three times a year.  But isn't there an easier way?


For us, there definitely is.  It turns out that the intentional community a mile down the road rents out their community house for a small fee and is happy to put up our house guests (and to host our Thanksgiving dinner).  To me, this is a no-brainer since our entire farm is my personal space and I can't handle having people other than Mark nearby for more than three or four hours a day once or twice a week.

River view

But even for the less antisocial, renting space for guests makes financial sense.  We're able to use the community house for an entire week for $100 --- just think how many guests we'd need to channel through here before it would make sense to move the guest quarters to our own land.  Plus, if one community house could take the pressure off ten or twenty families, that would mean a slew of trees that didn't need to be cut down to build guest rooms and tons of coal that didn't need to be turned into elecricity to heat usually-empty spaces.

Washing dishes

I suspect that if the Tiny House movement wants to reach beyond the small, vocal choir, our communities need to have facilities like this available to take the edge off.  What do you think?

Our chicken waterer makes it easy to leave town for a long Thanksgiving weekend without hiring a caretaker, but we opted to stay home.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Pet-friendly community houses are an added bonus! :)
Comment by mitsy Fri Nov 23 09:05:15 2012

Yep! I've always been a fan of community spaces (even though I am usually too antisocial to spend much time in them.) I went to an intentional community in southern Georgia that had a nice little community coffee shop setup with a bookshelf full of some of the most fascinating books.

The coffee was free and fair trade. To top it all off, there was a tin of community-made pecan bark on the table to take as you please (they were income-sharing, and confections were the community business. They had a huge pecan orchard to supply the pecans). It was a very nice experience. So while I tend to get anxious out in 'public,' it's still great to have the option to go to a communal area whenever you're ready to socialize. Like you say, it's much easier when you don't have to offer up your own private space to host people.

Comment by Sara Fri Nov 23 09:10:25 2012

Here in Japan, every city is divided into neighborhoods, and each neighborhood has a "meeting house" which you can use. Our neighborhood meeting house has a toilet, kitchen, medium sized room, blackboard, tables and cushions. There is also a TV, but it is analog and has no antenna... I'm not really sure why it's there. And on a recent cleaning, we found a very old wooden box with flags from a festival 50 years ago, and an old Karaoke machine.

We use them for community gatherings:

  1. Respect for the Aged Day (A.K.A. let's get drunk at noon just before the rice harvest)
  2. Emergency meetings- (What should we do about the proposed landfill at the headwaters of our river)
  3. Emergencies- mega-quake or landslide destroys part of village

We also keep emergency supplies in it- bottled water and a day or two of rations. If you want to rent it for a class or gathering, that is fine too. As long as you clean it up afterwards. They are truly wonderful things. Every community should have one.

Comment by Eric in Japan Fri Nov 23 10:08:09 2012

The RV park where we live has a great community room at the center of the park, used not only for gatherings of the people who live here but also available other times when we have friends out to visit and play board games.

Beyond that, divesting as much of our rarely-used space and getting into a right-sized space was one of our top motivations when we moved out of our house and into our trailer. There have been times I've missed a little bit of extra elbow room (mainly my bookshelves!)--but certainly not the additional 1000+ square feet beyond that I see in so many homes.

Comment by Seth Johnson Fri Nov 23 17:26:52 2012

I'm personally glad to have more space. I like a little breathing room and plenty of sunshine.
I think the miniature houses are cute and sweet. I've seen lots of creative miniature homes, but I don't think I'd want to raise a family in one. I've heard of community spaces or spaces you can rent for guests, and that is one idea I think is good. Having a place to rent for guests nearby is a great alternative to having to build a guest house yourself.

Comment by Anni Sat Nov 24 23:11:51 2012

Anna,I finally had the pleasure of meeting you and Mark about a mouth ago. Shannon and I enjoyed the hospitality of Mark and yourself.and the wonderful hospitality of the intentional community which came with a great meal along with deserts, books and a game, thanks to Anna and Mark. A wonderful old farm house heated with a fire burning, when we arrived. fully furnished with a very comfortable bed, and host that treat you like old friends. Memories that we will cherish for years. Thank you for the hospitality and the cherished memories, looking forward to our next visit.

Comment by Dawn Mon Nov 26 03:10:27 2012

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