Necessity of Interdependence 
     In the United States the median household works over half of it's time to pay taxes and interest to bankers.  How can we have the nerve to consider ourselves "free" when over half the fruits of our labor are conscripted by the parasites!   Give me a break!  Even the slaveholders had to provide food and shelter and that burden falls upon us.  Those remaining dollars get sucked up by multi-national corporations, agri-business and health care which is designed to bankrupt you if nothing else can.
The Disaster That Is Suburbia
     This situation is a function of, among other things, the socioeconomic structures which, if I didn't know better ;-) , would appear to be designed to insure that the middle class in this country lived isolated lives with no sense of community and had little or no chance to accumulate anything other than debt.    Inefficiencies (lost money) are everywhere! Look at the very design of suburbia!   Absolute insurance that you must own two automobiles per household to get to work  and provide for any other goods and services because there is nothing at all you could possibly walk to.  Not a park, a coffee shop, newspaper stand, bar or restaurant.  Not a shipping center or a DVD or tool rental place. Not a library or a swimming pool.   Not a gym or an office copy center.
     You might have been able to squeak by with one automobile when it only took one person per household in the workforce.   Those days are long gone. Funny how that works!   
   This is not an accident and the fact that we fail to change the design of how we live is nothing but a failure of both imagination and responsibility on our part.     If we fail to take responsibility for the sane design of our lives, there are governments, corporations, and banks and all sorts of "Think Tanks" that I assure you will design our neighborhoods and zoning laws not for your benefit but theirs.   
   We need new models.   Desperately need new models!   Even if we didn't have the monumental threats of Peak Oil and Climate Change, record unemployment which is actually over 22%! , and a worldwide financial crisis,  we desperately need to regenerate resilient communities that have their own substantial internal economies and food production systems because I can assure you that the corporations are going to continue to outsource any and all jobs they can.  
   Forget government ! How much change have you seen from Mr. Change? No! He Can't!  should be the slogan for the next election!  The sooner we realize government is not going to solve our problems the sooner we can get to work solving them interdependently.   Just hope government stays out of the way is about the best thing that could happen.   Government should be a tenth the size of the one we have and when we step up to the plate and start solving some of these problems ourselves, the arguments for big government are going to look pretty silly.
    I actually think we will be able to put the government back into the hands of the people only when we regain financial (including recovering more personal time) control of our lives which will come at the expense of the banks, corporations and government (ordered by influence) .   Any power they presently have is because we blindly serve their interests with our labor and our dollars.
    Live debt free and you are no longer the direct slave of the bankers.  Don't hold dollars or the bankers will steal their value through inflation.  Own your energy and food needs and you need so little income that your tax dollars are perhaps a third or a fourth of what they otherwise would be.   Invest in community and you will get a far more satisfying daily experience and if the US does undergo a USSR style collapse along the lines predicted by Dmitry Orlov, that community will be your lifeline and your security.  
    If this project succeeds on a larger scale, I assure you it won't be because of anything other than one thing ; It provides a quality of life (experience not stuff), that is superior to what we presently have and does so at a lower economic cost.      I maintain that given the host of designed in inefficiencies that this is not a very difficult task economically as long as you think outside the present box, or rather cage they have designed for us.   I consider myself a practical idealist and think with enough vision and perseverance that a Utopia beyond what any of us can presently envision is possible is indeed attainable.   
    The "Secret Sauce" is to make individual automobile ownership unnecessary.  This is done by residents working from home or in the hamlet's job areas and  designing the Common House to provide a single community owned business model that is what I would call "Life Support".   Instead of a separate bakery, coffee shop, restaurant, or shipping center, a single multi-function model emerges.  This is much the same way the 7-11 convenience store was designed as a multi-function after normal business hours store model. This was a totally new category of store, so the Hamlet General Store is designed in the same spirit.   As community needs change, services provided and associated personnel / hours are accordingly reconfigured.   This "right sizing" to fit the needs of the community insures optimal efficiency from a business point of view.  Any excess profit is redistributed as the community chooses.   
     Because the 20 households which are footing the bill for the community are providing the housing for the support staff, as well as providing food and transportation facilities for the support staff, the dollars required to provide a high standard of living for the support staff are minimal.  Teenagers and retired persons living in the community can work part time at day care, farming, food preparation, and other service functions.   A community credit system using personal ID cards for food, automobile use, exchange of services, allows a local "currency" system that allows a fair accounting and flexibility should an older or highly paid individual to contribute more of a balance of money and others to pull
their weight, or satisfy their personal desire to contribute through a heavier portion of community work. 
Unconventional Financing
     Banks like to see cookie cutter "fee simple" run of the mill projects.   Conventional, this ain't..... YET! Therein lies the need to be creative and the opportunity to be ethical by not participating in feeding the parasites.  The goal is to attract two to four well heeled participants or short term outside private financing for the additional construction.   I intend to finance the sale of the underlying land and the common house, as well as the greenhouse, 2,400 square foot storage building and farm equipment and some of the automobiles.   An additional 2.5 million dollars would likely need to be fronted for the additional construction and remodeling.  
     This unconventionality gives the creative options of putting the farm and associated equipment, buildings, and even the transportation pool under the umbrella of the tax deductible mortgage note. Interest on food and transportation expense and infrastructure further reduce the tax bite.   Who's to say that interest rate can't be 3% and refinanced periodically to be sure it's 99% interest? Let's beat the bastards at their own game! You don't have to cheat. You DO have to be creative!
     Development of the 52 acres is designed as a two step process.  The first stage is a small village hamlet of about 20 units  with three additional units for a full time farmer, deli-kitchen chef, and a Jack of All Trades - Maintenance, Errands, General Manager, Floater.  Residents may choose to work part time in the deli, day-care, farm, or other service positions.   This Village Hamlet  is centered on my present 7,600 square foot home which will become the Common House with a Deli-Restaurant-Coffeshop-Pub-Newstand, a Office Center with copy and scan services, shipping services, dvd and tool rental, shopping services.     The common house has a pool, gym, kitchen, dining, walk in root cellar / refrigerator / freezer,  library, laundry, child care, schooling and recreation rooms as well as specialty rooms such a video editing suites and a computer with internet access for those residents which only occasionally have need for a computer or internet access.
     The 20 units are purchasing into the common house, the housing for the support staff, the farmland, the greenhouse, and the 2,400 square foot shop/barn building.    There is a lease on demand automobile fleet with a mix of sedans, a truck and a van.   The expectation is that residents are either work from home or work in the hamlet as support staff and that an automobile is something that is used once every one or two weeks.  The Goal is that 95% of the things you normally need to hop into an automobile to purchase are available in the support services provided by the Common House.
    There are obstacles to designing something that is not automobile centric.   Most present zoning codes mandate streets and parking that is incompatible with an optimized pedestrian community design.  For the last year and a half Greg Ramsey of Village Habitat  have been working with Dekalb County on a more flexible zoning district designation.   It has been a pleasant surprise how many commissioners are hip to some of the directions we need to go and are working with us to insure that we have enough flexibility to evolve community design rather than mandate designs that everyone will know are bad in 10 years that almost no one knows are bad today at the peak of oil availability.

Designing Spaces and Structures That Support "Life"
     "A Timeless Way of Building" by Christopher Alexander explores a facet of human behavior that is crucial to designing spaces and environments. I'll paraphrase.
   Within the course of the day different needs arise which if readily met allow us to feel most alive and happy.   We may feel a need to be alone or to have social interaction.  We may have a need for a "nature fix" to play with our favorite pet.  To take a walk or a nap.  To watch children play or to be nowhere near children!   If the environment has spaces which facilitate the ready expression of these needs we feel alive and happy.  If the time and effort to reach the park is too high we just become frustrated and forego the satisfaction entirely.   If we can't readily walk down to the community coffee shop for a bit of social interaction, we just grin and bear it.  We pile up frustration upon frustration feeling less alive when our environments do not readily support  the full expression  the changing unpredictable forces that ebb and flow within us every day and call for immediate expression and satisfaction if we are to have integrity and wholeness.
      The goal of the design of this village hamlet is to provide the spaces that allow the full gamut of human needs to be expressed and fully realized in a readily accessible environment. 

Pictures Below are Not From The Project But Examples of The Spaces and Feelings That Must Be Supported by the Farm Village Hamlet.
 

































 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving a Legacy
    I believe it is an absolute travesty that one generation cannot leave to the next a debt free residence in a village, a share in a working farm - net food sufficiency, and energy self sufficiency.   When I die I want to leave behind a thriving community, and if I have surviving dependents who need assistance, some unused community credits to care for them.   Otherwise I want to pretty much die broke.   I love those lines from George Bernard Shaw's introductory dedication to the play "Man and Superman"

This is the true joy in life: the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. The
being a force of nature, instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining
that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the
whole community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die - for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its
own sake. Life is no "brief candle" to me; it is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the
moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

And also the only real tragedy in life is the being used by personally minded men for purposes which you recognize to be base. All the rest is at worst mere misfortune or mortality: this alone is misery, slavery, hell on earth; and the revolt against it is the only force that offers a manís work to the poor artist, whom our personally minded rich people would so willingly employ as pandar, buffoon, beauty monger, sentimentalizer and the like.

 This EcoVillage concept is designed with these goals at the forefront.   
   The challenges of the next two decades are unprecedented.  Peak Oil, Climate Change, and the likely collapse of the financial system will wreak havoc on the socioeconomic landscape.   Our very survival as individuals will be challenged.   I firmly believe the ONLY answer to these problems is a shift to developing new socioeconomic models based upon Interdependence, Sustainable Local Food Production, and Pedestrian Village Lifestyles that reverse the automobile-centric lifestyles US citizens currently live.
     The good news is that in spite of these challenges, I believe it's possible for humankind to actually Thrive in a manner simply not possible with our extremely wasteful isolated individual lifestyles.
    
  My two core values are Growth and Contribution.   I desire to be in association with others who have a burning desire to contribute something constructive and of value to humankind.   I have felt an internal unmet need for community.    It seems to me that the

     It is my personal belief that we are born with a personal predisposition towards contribution as our highest human value.  I feel this internally and I feel it makes perfect evolutionary sense.  An individual was no match for a mammoth or bison, but collectively we are the most formidable force on the earth.  I believe human survival and evolution cannot be thought of except as the evolution of an interdependent group of humans.       


 The background for this is of immense importance to the health and welfare of our individual persons, our families; nuclear and extended, and the health of our communities, and I believe even the health of our democracy and personal freedoms are hanging in the balance.   We are living in a fast changing world where it usually takes two adults to support a family.   You may be making $100,000 a year today and tomorrow your job is outsourced to India.  These are scary volatile times for the individual and the nuclear family.
      I believe there is a new model that is actually the "old" , "original" model that mankind evolved under that offers a far more secure social and economic structure that will allow us to regain both time and security and enhance the quality of our lives.   The math works, and with appropriate house design, the social aspects work.  
    Let's start with the current situation.  Below is a breakdown of the expenses of an average American family from a government report.  

Income Before Taxes  $49,430      
Number of People per Household 2.5      
Number of Wage Earners 1.4 $16.97 <Hourly Income
Average Number of Vehicles 2      
         
Total Non Tax Expendatures $40,675   Running $19,772
Item Total % % Total $ / Person
Housing Total Inc Utilities $13,282 26.9% 26.9% $5,313
Presumed Federal, State, Propt Taxes $8,755 17.7% 44.6% $3,502
Transportation Total $7,759 15.7% 60.3% $3,104
Food Total $5,375 10.9% 71.2% $2,150
Pensions Life Ins - Social Sec $3,899 7.9% 79.0% $1,560
Health Care $2,350 4.8% 83.8% $940
Entertainment  $2,079 4.2% 88.0% $832
Apparel and Services $1,749 3.5% 91.5% $700
Cash Contribuitions $1,277 2.6% 94.1% $511
Miscellaneous $792 1.6% 95.7% $317
Education $752 1.5% 97.2% $301
Personal Care Products / Services $526 1.1% 98.3% $210
Alcoholic Beverages $376 0.8% 99.1% $150
Tobacco $320 0.6% 99.7% $128
Reading $139 0.3% 100.0% $56

     One can easily see that food is one of the least expensive items.  The bulk of the expense is in housing, taxes, and transportation.  
       My goal is to come up with a new model that is:
            1) More Financially Secure
            2) Reduces the work day from 8 hours + 1 hour drive time to
                 4 to 6 hours with no drive time..... giving time for social activities and
                 other personal pursuits.

    Let me use a personal illustration.  I am an entrepreneur who works from home.  With a full time secretary the salary I was paying was over $36,000 per year.   My biggest personal expense was a mortgage for $465,000.  My monthly mortgage payments were over $3,000 per month.    I was astonished to find out that if I put the cost of that one employee as additional payment towards principle, that I could pay off my mortgage totally in only 6 years!  
       What to do to cover the bases labor wise?  I have some extra space I am not using. ( Don't most houses! )  By fixing up a small apartment   

Goals
1) A Broad Range of Implementations From Extended Family Home to Community
2) Preference Towards Simple Models Compatible With Single Family Zoning Ordinances
3) Advantages:
    a) Security - Physical and Economic

 

The Confused Animal  
    I have been trying to come up with an explanation for why humans appear to be so insane since sometime in my mid teens.   Philosophy hasn't been much help to me but studying anthropology and evolutionary biology has been quite fruitful.   First of all you need to understand that all animals in the wild, including undomesticated humans survive primarily off of what I call their "emotional intelligences."  Healthy animals in the wild are guided by their emotional preferences which natural selection has fine tuned for "workability".   Some squirrels probably didn't think gathering acorns in the fall was "fun"..... and they and their genes didn't stick around very long.  The squirrel isn't thinking "gee, winter's coming, I better stash some food" any more than when I see a naked woman I am saying, gee my genes are telling me that if I don't procreate, this could be the end of the line for them.  For reasons unknown to me I am aroused and it's more like "Looks like FUN to ME!" is calling the shots.  Emotional intelligence is in control and the only reason I have those preferences is because they happen to work for the perpetuation of life and those emotional biases carried genetically.  
     The next thing that is crucial to understand that we have been brainwashed by our screwed up culture into believing that we are supposed to be "independent".   We hear "survival of the fittest" and we think in individual terms.  Most of the domestication or socialization of humans is beating this unnatural notion of independent survival into their being.   When you study some of the literature on present day hunter gatherer clans, quite a different story emerges.   Colin Turnbull in his excellent book "The Forest People" wrote that life as part of a pygmy  clan was very easy, however if one of them couldn't get along and was kicked out of the tribe it amounted to a death sentence if he could not find another tribe to take up with.     Evolution has fine tuned our  genes and our primary emotional intelligences and preferences for "interdependent survival" not "independent survival".  
      If being "on your own" in the world amounted to a death sentence for our ancestors, you can see why it should put us in a state of fear just as the natural fear of heights, loud noises and the like are adaptive, so too would be the insecurity that would go with independence.  Could this be why people driven to accumulate wealth never really have enough or feel secure.   All natural appetites for food or sex can be satiated.  It's as though we have been brainwashed into the futile effort of satiating our true human need for companionship and a vehicle for our own personal need for contribution with something that can never fill the bill.  That is truly a sad and pathetic state.
    All of a sudden a lot of apparently quirky human behavior starts to make a LOT of sense from a standpoint of being adaptive.  For example, the need for agreement.   You might see what looked in the distance like a bear to you and I thought was an elephant. You say, "see that bear in the distance".   I look and see what looks like an elephant and say, yeah and leave it at that because I don't care if we agree or not.  The need to agree insures that the organism that is surviving, the clan; has all the eyes and ears of the clan networked and in communication.  The human tendency to gossip is no different.
    Another thing that started to make sense was that I knew deep down inside that I got a bigger charge off of doing something for others I cared about than for myself.  I came to that realization one morning when I was reviewing my "values".  There were maybe ten of them among them health, growth, contribution, financial security, etc.  Then it hit me.   Most of those "values" weren't so much inherent true "values" but more "capacities".   Ultimately I could only identify two on the list as true values that resonated with my being; Growth and Contribution. 
      If you had 40 individuals surviving interdependently it makes perfect sense that something that benefited the group should indeed have a larger emotional payoff than something that benefited the individual.    Look at our heroes and you frequently see the theme of an individual who sacrifices himself for his companions.   Sadly governments make cannon fodder of idealistic young men off of this natural tendency.   Evil bastards!
    Now I'll be the first to admit that I am a poorly "socialized" or "domesticated" human.   I consider it one of my better traits and I am attempting to become less domesticated all the time.    One time I remember being frustrated thinking "If only I had more discipline, I could conquer the world".   Let me tell you something.   No animal in the wild has any concept of discipline.   It's totally unnatural.  Talk to an animal trainer and they will tell you that the most effective trainers work through enrolling the animal into wanting to do the activity like play or a game.
    There are two motivations; push and pull.   Pull is internal and natural, push is social conditioning.   Sick maladjusted humans are so socialized into pushing themselves around they have lost their ability to even remember what "pull" is.   They had it naturally as children, but if they have been properly domesticated, they go through life pushing themselves and others around.   Pull feeds your energy level. Push drains it.    In Alice Miller's book
"For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-rearing and the Roots of Violence" she states that in studying the upbringing of some of the worst Nazis that the only common thread was being brought up in strict "model" German households.   The emotional lobotomy of the socialization process appears to be able to sever the link to one's natural moral instincts.   If done exceedingly well you get a monster.
Optimizing The Human Experience
   If you go into a plant nursery most of the plants will have a little plastic card identifying the plant and how to optimally culture that particular species.   Instructions like "needs full sun and well drained sandy soil, water infrequently, etc".    I have come to the conclusion that if you want to identify the dominant conditions that will allow the human species to thrive, that at the top of the list would be interdependence.    This whole independence thing started with agriculture.  It made it possible for the first time to live stationary independent lives where we could accumulate wealth.   It gave us cities, governments, armies, libraries, and all of the offspring of technology including ...... nuclear weapons.   No longer was our security our immediate clan.   Instead of banding together to bring down a wooly mammoth, we were conquering each other.  
    Most people haven't a clue just how far the intuitions of banks, government, and corporations have evolved to align themselves in a predatory relationship against the individual.  These institutions have had control over the educational system and the media and programmed our paradigms so most accept their subjugation as "natural".   The median household in the United States turns over half of their earnings to the banks and government !  They haven't a clue as to how the monetary system actually works because they have been brainwashed into false concepts of the nature of money.   It is my belief that these institutions have systematically engineered our socioeconomic "norms" to their benefit and our detriment.   Divide and conquer seems to be high on the list of weapons that have been employed.   Pressures to break up the nuclear family, put women into the workforce and the very design of suburbia is to isolate us one from another.   The extreme inefficiencies of individual survival guarantee we have to work extended hours to survive and that we will never be able to accumulate individual wealth.