Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Taste of Communal Living…"Living Well With Less”

Steve has returned from a week at Griffith full of enthusiasm and new ideas.  He has just completed the first stage of research on his PhD - investigating alternative community and household models that encourage co-operation.  The research – a collection of 6 papers – is now ready to be published and has a title, The Hexagram!  It is all very exciting. You can download the papers that will form this collection at:

It is also exciting for me to hear his professor is encouraging him to start his field work.  Eco-villages, Transition Towns and Intentional Communities are spread across the globe so Steve will need help navigating what is very familiar territory for me!!  I’ve volunteered to be his research assistant, documenter, photographer and travel plan coordinator!    There was once a time in my life where I was quite well paid for this kind of work…but I’m happy to settle for a seat next to him on any plane ride he takes!  I think that was a yes

While in Griffith, Steve made phone contact with Kaye Healey who has converted her home to a communal living project for women over 50.

Kaye has invited us for afternoon tea and so we set out for Eden Farm eager to hear her experiences and learn from her journey.  Eden Farm is situated in the Southern Highlands and we set off early, looking forward to making a day of it.  After a late lunch in Bowral we make our way to the project.

2012 10 21 Eden Farm

We find the mud brick house set in a 5 ha block to be both comfortable and welcoming.  In fact the large open plan house reminds me of our own house in Hornsby.  It has the 2012 10 21 (3 of 30)lived in feel of a place where you want to sink into the cushions, curl up with a good & a cup of tea and relax…watching the world go by.

Over a cup of tea and a slice of the apple pie we have picked up in town, Kaye begins to tell us her story.  She explains the setup she has created is modelled on the benefactor model.  A model where the house has one owner <herself> who shares her space with other women.  This is an example of an intentional community as all those who are invited to stay here are single women over 50.  These women are carefully selected by Kaye after first getting to know them both on-line and over the phone.  Kaye explains that she quickly gets the sense of who someone is by just listening to the sound of their voice. Being quite perceptive myself, I can related to this.  On my travels I am quick to spot the travellers I connect with and have formed lifelong friendships with perfect strangers almost instantly. 

The home is setup with shared spaces but also with lots of private spaces.  We learn that many of the women who come here are introverts, people who crave time alone far more than those of us who are extroverts.

The women come together at night to share a communal meal, which is prepared in turn by each of the residents.  You are left to your own devices during the rest of the day but many of the women will choose to help Kaye with the veggie garden, the chooks or the sheep.  She stresses there are no rules and many women come here to escape the hustle and bustle of their lives…some to read….others to write and a few who want a different kind of therapy.  Ironically, this is part of Kaye’s background…but the kind of therapy she provides now is the space she shares and the communal living arrangement she has created.

We are taken outside and marvel at the work that has been done on the place in the short period of 5 years.  I know many older women who often complain they are bored and that they have nothing to do…so I find what Kaye has done immensely inspirational.  If only, more people were willing to give of their time and volunteer their talents as they got older and had more time on their hands our communities would be healthier & happier places. 

Over our conversation I find out Kaye is an Aquarian…born just a few days before I was but in a different decade.  She seems to recognise the free spirit in me and I realise why she is futuristic in her thinking.  We are thankful for all that she has shared and for giving us our first insight in to the fact that one person can indeed make a difference.

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