Two years ago I did an AMA (now archived) and people still message me about it, so I thought I'd do another.

My name is Boone Wheeler, I'm 33 and male, and four years ago I quit my job and moved to East Wind Community (www.eastwind.org), an egalitarian, income-sharing, secular community in the beautiful Ozarks of Southern Missouri. We hold our land (1100 acres), resources (a profitable nut butter company), and labor (we do a ton of our own work) in common.

I work 35 hours a week, and in exchange have all my needs amply met. I choose my own work and am my own boss. I love it here, and wanted to let people know that there are viable alternatives to mainstream living. AMA!

The NYT Style Magazine recently did a piece on intentional communities, and East Wind was featured prominently - https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/16/t-magazine/intentional-communities.html

TRT News did a mini-doc about us two years ago - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpvClTxHBe8

I wrote this blog post when I first decided to move to community, it explains my reasons and motivations: http://boonewheeler.com/2015/05/19/why-i-am-joining-an-intentional-community/

Proof: https://imgur.com/gallery/CiDga

Old AMA: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/77o5hm/i_live_on_a_hippie_commune_intentional_community/

Comments: 876 • Responses: 118  • Date: 

brutik576 karma

From the pictures, it looks like an average member is in their 30s. I only see a few grey-haired folks. So what happens in 20 years, when half of the commune "retires"? Are you growing quickly enough where you have enough new members to support retirees? What about prescription costs and skyrocketing medical costs?

What happens if you get kicked out or leave at an older age? If you never worked in "Babylon", then you don't qualify for SS and have no money saved for retirement. I don't mean to sound judgemental, I am honestly trying to understand.

boonewheeler362 karma

We have a good number of older folks, but you're correct that the 25-35 range is the largest demographic. Many of the younger folks will leave before retiring here. I'd hazard that our membership is far healthier than average. We do have a member with cancer, but his medical bills are largely paid by Medicaid.

Seniority does play a role here, and its very unlikely a long term member would get kicked out. But I guess if it did happen, they'd have to figure it out.

intentionallife137 karma

Many of the younger folks will leave before retiring here.

This is something I'm very curious about. On the surface your community seems idyllic for many people. Why is it these communities are so tiny and rare? Why do so few move to them and even fewer end up staying for good? You must have seen a few people leave by now, and may have flirted with the idea yourself, so I'd find your thoughts quite interesting, thanks.

boonewheeler315 karma

No one's really asked about the downsides of community, but we're no utopia. Our culture is far healthier now than when I got here, and is continuing to get healthier, but there's still plenty of problems here. There's alcoholism, people being mean to each other, petty theft.

Modern life is traumatizing, and we all bring that trauma with us when we move here. Some people use this place as a way to ignore their trauma, others use it as a chance to heal.

People leave for all different reasons. It's a big question to answer fully, hopefully this is enough.

ShirtlessRambo-33 karma

Sounds a lot like a cult. People, please do your research before running off and joining one of these compounds.

boonewheeler28 karma

What makes a cult?

Iamaleafinthewind6 karma

Here's an article with some common traits to look for.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-to-identify-a-cult-six-expert-tips/

boonewheeler4 karma

Haha thanks. It was more of a rhetorical question ;)

DLVSH166 karma

How does a commune handle tech, WiFi, and electricity?

boonewheeler261 karma

For power, we're on the grid.

We have WiFi in our office building, which also includes wired "commie" (shared) computers and lounge space.

We do our own IT.

AudiGuy3point094 karma

Would someone be able to bring their own personal electronics and connect or is that frowned upon in some way?

boonewheeler188 karma

Nope, totally cool.

We do have a norm of no screens outside of the wifi zone though, which I think is great. Whenever I go out to Babylon and see everyone on their phones constantly, it makes me greatful that we don't do that.

Asuma0176 karma

Babylon? So is it a religious community?

boonewheeler276 karma

Haha no, East Wind is secular. Babylon is simply our somewhat tongue in cheek name for mainstream society.

agkldfjlfsdjfl62 karma

So, in the pictures I'm seeing all white people except for one black guy. Is that about right?

boonewheeler215 karma

Pretty right. We're very white. We have I think only three POC. I think it's mainly a consequence of being located in rural Missouri. And that our founders were all white. We're very open to POC here though.

Iamaleafinthewind58 karma

No renewables? I'd have thought intentional communities would be early adopters on that stuff.

boonewheeler124 karma

We have some solar, but not near enough to power all of community, especially our factory.

I looked into to seeing if we could produce our own power, and the sad answer I came up with was not really. I'm open to being educated though.

Solar is the one viable option here, but my research led me to conclude it was still very problematic. A 30 year lifespan coupled with toxic manufacturing techniques made it seem not a good choice.

Iamaleafinthewind148 karma

There's always small-scale wind turbines. The 30-yr timeframe on solar doesn't mean they stop working, it's just considered the end-of-life for commercial purposes. Panels lose about 1% a year in terms of efficiency, typically. So, at 30 yrs, they would still produce about 70% of the initial capacity.

So, basically every 10-15 years, you might want to buy some new panels to regain lost capacity and take advantage of tech improvements in the newer models.

I'd build the initial solar farm at maybe 130-140% of expected demand. Sell the extra into the grid, that way loss over time isn't seriously cutting into your energy budget.

As far as toxicity, carbon polluting energy sources are far worse for the environment. Recycling for used solar isn't a mature industry yet, but that's more because there aren't enough panels being disposed of to make it economically viable yet. Because they don't stop working at 25 or 30 years, like I mentioned. There's a lot of misinformation and fear-mongering around solar online; the fossil industry has been at that for a long time now. The problems with solar aren't as significant as they try to make them seem.

boonewheeler57 karma

Good to know.

Have any sources to link me to?

Iamaleafinthewind118 karma

Well, first thing you'd want to do is figure out your energy budget - how much is needed at peak, how much storage capacity is needed, etc.

To fund the project, look at some grant programs and the various tax credits or investment credits that your community might qualify for.

The https://www.dsireusa.org/ website lets you search for programs by zip code, and from there you can examine each to see what matches your situation.

Off the top of my head, you should check out the USDA's Rural Electricity for Ag Producers (REAP) program. They have grants and loans, I think, for entities that get most of their funds from agriculture.

I'd recommend finding a solar installer in your area, they'd know all the locally applicable programs, and would manage all the fiddly details for whatever budget.

Avg wind speed in your region is pretty low, so solar's the best bet. Get some Tesla Powerwalls for storage and you could attain off-grid sustainability, energy security, etc. in addition to saving a ton of money over time.

boonewheeler57 karma

Wow, thanks! I'll definitely look into all this later!

_donotforget_14 karma

Oh I don't have any sources- I just hung out with renewable energy faculty and students- besides look for local companies and maybe universities. SUNY ESF and SUNY Morrisville have programs whose faculty consult for companies and communities to find what options suit them best.

Something I did pick up is wind energy needs the right currents and type of wind- rippled topography results in turbulence, effecting where you can place the turbines. This is partially why NY renewables are pissy wealthy landowners on Lake Ontario blocked a wind farm- CNY is very hilly, and turbulent as a result; WNY is a flat swamp but heavily developed, so hard to find space for mills there- but offshore would've granted access to smooth and constant wind.

So if you go with wind, a single turbine could produce enough power for a factory- there's some in Western NY that use some- but you'll need surveys to help figure out if the Ozarks would negatively affect your turbine potential.

Iamaleafinthewind20 karma

Looked East Wind up on the maps and compared to DOE wind energy maps. They look like they are in a low lying area between hills, and MO in general has low average wind speeds. They could use wind, but it's probably not the best solution.

https://windexchange.energy.gov/maps-data/325

It looks like East Wind has some river frontage, an elevation change of maybe 10-12 feet if I'm reading the map right, so a low-head micro hydro system might work. Not my thing, so no idea how much power could be generated, or how much maintenance labor would be needed to remove debris from time to time, etc.

https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/planning-microhydropower-system

boonewheeler16 karma

Really appreciate all of this!

Nug_Flutie13 karma

do you guys refer to any and all common use stuff as "commie"? like people walking around commie this and commie that?

boonewheeler31 karma

Haha you nailed it. Commie honey, private dank (high quality) coffee.

Also UFG is 'up for grabs.'

JCMCX158 karma

Can someone visit with no intention of joining? I'm a merchant mariner by trade and as a result often have months of free time with little to do. Trading 35 hours of work for room and board sounds like a good way to kill 3 or 4 weeks.

I also have experience in ranching, cooking, IT work, and as an auto mechanic.

boonewheeler77 karma

Yep! Just email our membership team at [email protected]

fragilebird_m137 karma

What do you do for health insurance? Or just healthcare in general? (Something that truly needs a doctor)

boonewheeler190 karma

We use the traditional medical system when necessary, and simply pay cash out of pocket when doing so.

Edit: We also pay into PEACH, a major medical fund funded by other EW and other FEC communities. It will reimburse us for medical expenses over $5k. For example, it helped defray the cost of a $45k helicopter ride two years ago. /edit

We also grow and make a lot of our own medicines, tinctures and teas and such.

TofuTofu41 karma

Why don't you guys just get a corporate plan?

boonewheeler137 karma

Because paying out of pocket is cheaper. When you pay cash for medical services you often get hefty discounts.

Unexpected_Megafauna103 karma

What are the requirements to stay?

For example if someone stops working

Would that change if the person was sick?

How are disputes handled?

Are there plans for expansion or is the size controlled?

boonewheeler193 karma

The biggest one is that everyone does fair share, which is most directly measured by labor hours. Our labor quota is 35 hrs/wk and all labor is counted the same. We turn in our own labor sheets based on the honor system. There's reduced quota for older people, and retirement after 25 years. There's also medical retirement.

If someone just stops working, it would likely eventually lead to them getting kicked out. Failure to do fair share is one of the few things a full member can lose their membership for.

You can claim sick hours. Should someone claim more than three weeks worth (105 hours) medical committee would review it.

There are different dispute resolution processes. We have a Social Committee which offers mediation and such. For bigger issues we'll have a community meeting to talk about it.

Our population capacity is 71, and the general sentiment is that it shouldn't go any higher until we improve our infrastructure more. Upgrading or building a new dining hall for example.

Unexpected_Megafauna59 karma

You can claim sick hours. Should someone claim more than three weeks worth (105 hours) medical committee would review it.

What is the medical committee? Residents? What would they be reviewing?

Our population capacity is 71, and the general sentiment is that it shouldn't go any higher until we improve our infrastructure more. Upgrading or building a new dining hall for example.

Are there plans for these upgrades?

boonewheeler83 karma

It's comprised of three members, each elected yearly. They have the power to deny sick hours should they feel the need.

We're always making improvements, and while there are no immediate plans for a new dining hall, I wouldn't be surprised if one was built in the next, say, five years.

Unexpected_Megafauna30 karma

Thank you!

Whats your application process like?

Are residents expected to stay for a certain length of time?

boonewheeler93 karma

You're welcome!

The membership process goes as follows:

*Prospective member writes a letter of introduction to community

*If no red flags, prospective member gets invited to do a three week visitor period where they work quota and get to see if they like it here while we get to see if we think they'll fit in well.

*If they don't get bounced (concerned out), they become a provisional member (PM) if there's an open room, and go on the waiting list if there's not.

*At the six month mark of their membership there's a vote on their membership. If they don't make it they have to leave.

*At the one year mark there is their Full Member vote. If they pass they become a Full Member same as anyone else. If they don't pass they might be given another 6 months, or might just be asked to leave.

Members are free to leave at anytime - there's no expectation of stay.

Unexpected_Megafauna41 karma

Ok last question!

What are the rooms like?

Are there communal bathrooms?

What about the dining situation?

Edit: Crap that was 3 questions

boonewheeler112 karma

Most of the rooms are in dormitory buildings, with a large variety in floor plans. In general they're pretty small 120-150 sq. ft. We also have a number of tiny houses throughout the campus, which will have one or two people living there.

We poop in buckets, and there are three main poopers throughout community. The buckets are collected once a day and taken to the composting toilet yard.

We eat like kings. It's embarrassing how high up on the list of reasons I love East Wind our food is.

Dinner comes out at 6 every night. It's always different and delicious.

We grow a lot of our own food. We have large gardens - about 4 acres I think - and about 40 acres under pasture. We have a dairy program so there is always raw milk literally on tap and what we don't drink gets made into cheese. We raise, slaughter, butcher, and preserve our own pigs and cows. Our bacon is the best I've ever had.

We don't meet all of our own food needs though, and buy wholesale from Sysco which saves us a ton of money. We also source a lot of food locally, most notably a large quantity of organic chickens from local Mennonites.

Anyone who comes here is always amazed by how well we eat.

Lunch is not guaranteed, but lately has been coming out consistently.

Otherwise, the food and kitchens are open to all, so anyone can cook for themselves whatever they want.

ElJamoquio16 karma

We poop in buckets

All labor is valued equally - how many hours a week are spent gathering poop buckets?

boonewheeler33 karma

There's one comptoil shift a day. It usually takes about an hour and a half. You do get a bonus half hour to shower afterwards though.

lolbsters2 karma

Mennonites

People are mentioning poop buckets but this is the worst part to me. You guys aren't a cult but THAT definitely is. Ya'll shouldn't support those people, not when their communities have rampant child abuse.

boonewheeler2 karma

I wasn't aware. Will have to look into that.

DLS314123 karma

What about a couple? Do they live in the dorms too?

I noticed that some people have their own shelters/homes, how does that work? If someone came and wanted to join the community and build their own shelter, within the community, is that permissible?

boonewheeler29 karma

Couples each have their own room, though we do have a few tiny houses that are doubles, and are usually occupied by couples.

Probably, with the understanding that the structure would be a donation to community.

pzerr30 karma

How would you manage an illness or injury that would result in a person being completely unable to care for themself or work?

boonewheeler49 karma

We take care of them. We have a member who is medically retired. She's pretty self-sufficient, but she doesn't have to work. We help her if she needs.

lobsterharmonica16677 karma

Is there vacation?

boonewheeler18 karma

Yes! Every year on your membership anniversary you get three weeks worth of hours (105) added to your labor bank.

lobsterharmonica16673 karma

That's cool, and you also work overtime or switch hours with people?

boonewheeler9 karma

Yep. If you work over quota you bank those hours, allowing you to work under quota or leave the farm on hours in the future.

Those banked hours are also a secondary currency here. People will offer each other hours for favors, etc.

fragilebird_m95 karma

Could you outline your average day? Like a play by play of what you do?

boonewheeler237 karma

One of the things I love about living here is I don't have an average day. Being able to vary my work is something I really enjoy.

I have a bit of an average week though, which I'll walk you through.

Tuesday Afternoons I run a production shift in our nut butter factory, milling and packaging nut butter.

Wednesdays I make cheese, which takes all day. We have a successful dairy, and dairy processing is key to not letting it go to waste. I learned cheesemaking here.

Thursday evenings after dinner I do the dishes for a little over an hour.

Friday Afternoons I man the front desk, answering the phones. It's what I'm doing right now.

Throughout the rest of the week I'll usually do projects. I've become a key player in our building maintenance team, so will often be building or repairing buildings. I learned to do this here. Recently I switched rooms, and have spent the last month turning what was a terrible room into one I'm excited to live in. I'm in the middle of moving into it.

I'll usually attend our community meetings, which are held most Sundays at 2pm.

All of these are things I've chosen. I'm my own boss and make my own schedule.

jollyberries129 karma

Blessed are the cheesemakers.

boonewheeler39 karma

Haha that's an old picture, from when I first moved here!

boonewheeler23 karma

Haha thanks!

Wisgood29 karma

Is there any set schedule structure provided for the community on the average workweeks? I assume they taught you to be your own boss but how does that look day to day?

If you're secular, what kinds of things does the culture gather around on the average weekends?

boonewheeler104 karma

There are lots of different schedules! One for milking the cows, collecting the eggs, doing production in the factory, cleaning the kitchen, making lunch and dinner, etc. etc.

We have monthly community holidays. Quota is reduced by 8 hours for that week, and varying festivities are held.

Other than that, free time is largely spent socializing. People play games, watch movies. There's also quite a bit of sitting around drinking beer, shootin the shit.

BlaBlaBlaWhiskas68 karma

How much money did you have to gather before you could quit your job and go there? Also, thank you for this AMA!

boonewheeler113 karma

You're welcome!

I had saved up a couple thousand USD. However there's no buy in or financial cost to join East Wind. The savings was simply for my own peace of mind should it not work out here.

BlaBlaBlaWhiskas29 karma

Thanks for answering!! Oh, I see! It seems a great place indeed! If you don't mind answering two more questions: do you know if there is something similar in South America or Brazil? Are you and/or the community in touch with other similar communities?

boonewheeler50 karma

I don't know off hand about communities down there, but I do know they exist.

East Wind is part of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities - the FEC. https://www.thefec.org/

bulletm13 karma

Do you have a bank account?

What percentage of people there would you say are wealthy vs poor or broke (outside the community, like in savings)?

boonewheeler35 karma

Fuck banks.

I do have a credit union account though.

Hmm... really hard to say. Same as anywhere some people are good with their money, some people aren't. Some people spend their whole DF each month, other people save. It is okay to leave the farm and make money off the farm. Some people do that, others don't.

bulletm10 karma

Interesting thank you, I have always been fascinated with this idea, and this is a great AMA, appreciate you doing it.

boonewheeler11 karma

You're welcome, thanks for reading!

boonewheeler67 karma

I'm going to take a break for dinner, but will be back later.

Thanks for all the great questions!

PocoChanel64 karma

l know you say EW is a secular community, but are there religious people among you?

Are couples treated differently from singles?

How are the children raised?

boonewheeler100 karma

I know of at least one Christian here. But generally religion is pretty much never spoken of here, except in a more academic sense of like 'Buddhism says x' 'Hinduism says y'

Couples are not officially recognized by the system in any way. Socially of course, everyone knows who's with whom.

Children are raised at their parents discretion.

ikaramazovspoema42 karma

What about K-12 and continued education? Is there a formal system in place? Designated educators, curriculum?

boonewheeler96 karma

Parents can homeschool or send their kids to the public school. Right now there's only one school aged child, who goes to public school, so there's no curriculum here.

ButtweyBiscuitBass45 karma

Does childcare count towards labour hours? How about emotional labour like remember and decorating for special occasions etc? I'm always interested by how labour that was traditionally coded female is handled in these sorts of situations. Thanks for the AMA, it's really interesting!

boonewheeler23 karma

Childcare counts. So does decorating for parties. We explicitly value what you're talking about as equal. Conflict mediation counts, etc.

Sym0n56 karma

What's the drug situation like? Probably wrongly, I see hippy and I assume stoners (no judgement).

Are you in a legal state for weed (I'm UK so clueless on that)?

boonewheeler78 karma

Medical marijuana was recently legalized here in Missouri.

THE_EXAMPLE52 karma

How often do you leave the community?

Do you drive? If so how can you afford gas?

What’s the worst part about it all? Or what do you miss about living in a more conventional way?

boonewheeler115 karma

I leave pretty often, more than most.

We have a fleet of vehicles that any legal driver can sign out. We pay a car charge based on mileage, gas is included in that. Community pays for four trips to town a week, and going along is free.

Regarding downsides, I instead regard them as trade-offs. For me personally some of the trade-offs are the following:

-Being far from a metropolitan area. I enjoy social dancing and playing in ultimate frisbee leagues, and don't get to really do either of them here simply because there isn't the population density nearby to support such things. At the same time though, I'm part-owner of 1,100 acres and live in the woods, which I really enjoy. So it's both good and bad. But being far from metro areas is probably my 'worst part.'

-Autonomy. I'm a very autonomous person, I've never liked being told what to do. Here, I'm never told what to do and love it. I love being free to choose where, when, and how I contribute to community. At the same time, we make decisions collectively. Naturally, sometimes community decides other than what I vote for. I don't mind when this happens, but that's the trade-off of community living, you don't always get things exactly the way you want them.

-In a similar vein, I have much less money for personal purposes. I also have no expenses, which is lovely. For example I have loved going to Burning Man in the past, but that is now probably beyond my financial means, at least on a yearly basis. So again, it's a trade-off.

Allons-ycupcake36 karma

Would it be possible to have a remote work side gig that you do from the community building to earn personal spending money?

boonewheeler83 karma

If you didn't tell anyone about it, yes. Theoretically we're supposed to share all income. So if you were to do that, the "right" thing to do would be to give the money to community and take hours for it.

Allons-ycupcake56 karma

That is honestly the only thing that strikes me as a negative for the community, though I can understand the concern of someone's individual work risking them losing focus on their scheduled labor/sense of community. I would expect that personal hours would be completely personal, including any earnings (whether that be from traditional work, selling art, or even interest gained from a personal savings account). Of course, I suppose it could cause a class division of people who only have their stipend vs those with additional cash.

Thank you for answering and doing the AMA!

boonewheeler53 karma

Yeah its the last thing you mention, trying to avoid inequality.

You're welcome!

grundlegasm50 karma

have you had people join the community and realize pretty quickly that it wasn't for them?

boonewheeler91 karma

Haha yep.

Some people leave in the middle of the first night without saying anything.

chugalaefoo22 karma

Why do you think that is? Seems like a pretty large commitment to suddenly get cold feet.

boonewheeler27 karma

Who knows? They don't say anything haha.

I imagine it's different for different people, but the reality of EW is probably very different from what they had imagined.

555762346 karma

Can I join?

With housing costs the way they are in the west coast of the United States, it would be a great idea for maybe small groups of people, like 3-5, to get together and buy property they can live in. This could also be good for elderly people to live together instead of dying alone and lonely, single mothers could benefit from collective living too.

How in the world could I or anyone get the idea going that collective living could be the wave of the very near future?

How would a person start a collective in a city? How do you hold it together so people are invested in keeping it going and not have people floating in and out all the time? How do you make sure you have good, committed people?

boonewheeler50 karma

We are taking applications, so maybe!

The communities movement is going! There are lots of people already doing all different forms of cooperative living.

Your last set of questions I don't think anyone has the answers to. Those are things all projects deal with. Most communities that form don't last all that long. Something that makes East Wind pretty unique is that we've been here more than 45 years. I think a big part of that is our having a successful business.

Iamaleafinthewind11 karma

What do you think are some factors leading to East Wind's longevity / sustainability?

boonewheeler37 karma

I really think having a viable community business capable of meeting all of community's needs is the trick.

the_chilean45 karma

Is polyamory prevalent?

boonewheeler63 karma

Not prevalent, but it's here.

DiogLin28 karma

With a population of 71, wouldn't polyamory disturb the balance greatly?

boonewheeler38 karma

Nope.

DiogLin25 karma

Do people have relationships outside the farm?

boonewheeler33 karma

A few do.

DailyTacoBreak43 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA! I just watched the youtube link that you provided and love the honesty and inside look at your community.

I'm curious about visitors. Do the families and individuals living there have relatives and friends that visit?

Is it required that everyone be non-religious, or does the community accept diverse belief systems?

Do you ever hold workshops for non-community members, introducing them to your way of life, or teaching cheese-making, etc? Just wondering if the community opens to outsiders at times, or not. THank you again!

boonewheeler40 karma

You're welcome!

Yep! We have people visiting all the time.

We don't discriminate based on religion (or anything really). People probably wouldn't take kindly to someone being pushy about their beliefs, but people are free to believe as they wish here. One thing that most EWers have in common is that we're all quite autonomous.

We don't do workshops or anything like that, but we're very open to visitors. We often have college classes visit us, things like that.

WorriedSysAdmin35 karma

You said you pay healthcare cash out of pocket, has anyone come down with something major (heart attack, cancer, epilepsy) while you've been there? How would you handle the 250,000+ cost?

boonewheeler60 karma

Ah, great question. I should have mentioned this in my other reply, but we also pay into PEACH, a major medical fund funded by other EW and other FEC communities. It will reimburse us for medical expenses over $5k. For example, it helped defray the cost of a $45k helicopter ride two years ago.

boonewheeler34 karma

Alright y'all, I'm going to bed. Answering all these questions was more tiring than I would have thought. I'll check back in in the morning though. Have a good night!

coryrenton32 karma

Are you aware of any intentional communities that are ideologically indifferent, or even explicitly about generating financial wealth? What are some of the weirder ones you've heard about?

boonewheeler24 karma

There are all kinds of different communities, religious ones, etc. I'm not really familiar with all of them, sorry.

coryrenton8 karma

Are there any nearby that tend to have members defecting to your community or vice versa? How does attrition play out generally?

boonewheeler23 karma

Not really. Our members come from all over, and when they leave the go all over. There's no real generally. People are here until they want to be somewhere else. It happens for all kinds of reasons.

RealAbstractSquidII9 karma

Are pets permitted?

boonewheeler14 karma

Yep!

2_old_2B_clever30 karma

Hey there! I lived at Twin Oaks for 2 years, about a decade ago, nice to see a fellow FEC on here.

What's the gender ratio at East Wind like these days?

And what's monthly allowance at?

boonewheeler33 karma

Hey!

It's close to 2:1, men to women.

DF's are $150/mo

Tain10129 karma

How are relationships with people outside of the community? Family/Friends etc..

If everyone is choosing what they want to do, what happens to the least desirable jobs? Or a job only a few people can do? If nobody wants to do the dishes, who ends up doing them?

boonewheeler53 karma

Ah the dishes are an interesting exception. Precisely because no one wants to do the dishes, everyone has to do the dishes. We call it HTA (hard to assign). There are 7 HTA shifts a day, so 49 people are assigned one a week. I have Thursday night dishes. There's also pots, and then counters and floors.

edit: Whoops, forgot to answer your other question. I probably see my extended family less than I would otherwise, so that's a downside. That said, I have lots of friends off the farm.

AceDumpleJoy27 karma

Are dogs allowed?

boonewheeler43 karma

Yep, we have lots of dogs.

zianuray26 karma

Do you have any members who are retired military?

boonewheeler33 karma

Quite a few.

BobBillyBobertson24 karma

Very fascinated with this. I’m a Brewer by trade, and very much enjoy creating beer. Do you make your own beer on the commune? And if so, how many people are involved with production?

boonewheeler51 karma

We do brew our own beer! Pretty much just to put out for community holidays. People are free to brew their own, but that doesn't happen too often.

We have one person who does most of our brewing.

zianuray16 karma

How about mead? That's my preference for holidays. Thanks for this, I've been interested in Eastwind for several years.

boonewheeler19 karma

You'd be welcome to brew your own!

L1zardPr1ncess21 karma

Would artwork be considered part of "productive" work that you could claim in a community like yours? I could see how artisans that produce goods that can be used or sold by the community would count, but I'm curious to know if, for example, a painter or other visual artist would be able to produce art for the community's sake.

boonewheeler58 karma

If you can earn at least $10/hr and turn the proceeds over to community, that counts as hours.

A member recently asked for hours to do a mural for community, and people supported her in it.

borg2321 karma

Is the yurt doing OK in the Golden Valley? Or is it getting flooded out?

boonewheeler23 karma

It's doing great! Richard has it now if you know him.

pitiless_censor21 karma

Mostly just for curiosity--do yall read any of the older utopian literature, like Bellamy's Looking Backward, Morris' News from Nowhere, or something a little more recent like Walden 2? Some of those, especially Looking Backward, were crazy popular back in their day and spawned a ton of intentional communities. Kind of crazy nobody has heard of that book today since it was literally the second most popular novel of the 19th century

Also, is your community politically active in any way with the outside world? How are any political/governing/administrative decisions made within the community, or are any rules more enforced through norms?

I think it's really awesome that y'all can come together and do something like this. It gives me hope that we can all inhabit a far more egalitarian world some day.

boonewheeler29 karma

I started Walden Two, but couldn't take it. Hadn't heard of the others, have to look them up.

We are specifically apolitical as a community. Members are free to be political, but community as a whole is not.

We make decisions through direct democracy. We also have yearly elections for managers of areas. We have a book of legislation and policy that contains all the "rules". Other norms are just enforced through social pressure.

Thanks!

TransGirlNOLA19 karma

I’m so fascinated by this. If I didn’t have credit card debt I’d probably join in a heartbeat.

I’m curious, because duh: Are there any LGBTQ members that you know of?

boonewheeler20 karma

Yep, decent number. Probably around 10%.

phnx9118 karma

What exactly does income sharing mean? Are you allowed to keep any money for yourself (savings)?

boonewheeler47 karma

Great question. Most functionally it means that the profits of our businesses go into a common pot. Our main business is East Wind Nut Butters which provides almost all of our money. We have a yearly budgeting meeting to decide how we will spend our money for that year, which is then voted on. We review the budget quarterly.

We have personal property here, and all members receive $150/mo for personal spending. The norm is that if you have money from off the farm, you don't spend it on the farm.

Iamaleafinthewind14 karma

Are there exceptions to minimum wage laws for communities like yours? How do you deal with taxes, etc for the business? How is the business organized (LLC, S-Corp, Corp, B-Corp, etc.) ?

boonewheeler42 karma

We're all co-owners. No employees here. No wages.

It's a 501(d) not-for-profit corporation.

Der_papa-12 karma

So in the end you work 35 Hours a month for 150 cash ? Lmao the fuck man they rip you off

boonewheeler1 karma

Ah, but you leave out no expenses. And a fresh, home-cooked meal prepared for me every night. And someone to do my shopping for me. And someone to maintain my cars for me. And someone to grow healthy vegetables for me. And people to raise pigs and make bacon for me. And people to take care of money so I don't have to think about it for me.

DrGraffix18 karma

Can you briefly tell me a bit of your IT infrastructure?

boonewheeler22 karma

I'm not really familiar, sorry.

sharrkeybratwurst16 karma

Are you (or others in EW) a registered voter? Do you vote in local, state, national elections?

boonewheeler24 karma

I am a registered voter, but I only vote on direct ballot initiatives. I don't personally believe in representational democracy.

Many other EWers do vote though.

esauis16 karma

Is the land in some sort of trust? or is there an actual private owner? thanks!

boonewheeler36 karma

East Wind Community, Inc. owns it. All Full Members are equal owners of the corporation.

esauis24 karma

so does this mean when someone leaves, there's a slot for sale? or if adding an additional member, there's a redivision of share value? or are 'Full Members' the real owners, and everyone else is 'renting'?

edit: I say this because I believe most communes in the 60s-70s were owned by one or two hippies who had the cash and invited their buddies to hang for a decade, but then when it came to move on they told eveyone the party was over and cashed in. Communes are interesting to me in a capitalist society

boonewheeler25 karma

Our Bylaws are available to read on our website.

The short answer is that there are 71 spots 'on the system.' Provisional membership is one year long. Right now there are like 48 Full Members and some 18 PMs. We have one or two spots open right now.

When a FM drops membership, they don't get paid out. Like the FM's all own EW equally and collectively agree to collective decision making, but don't have like a share or anything.

I explain the path to membership in another answer.

Cold_Brew_Enthusiast15 karma

Thanks for sharing all of this, I am absolutely fascinated! Do you feel you'll remain personally fulfilled in this community indefinitely? I feel like the shared housing, shared meals, etc., would get really old after a few years. Also, do you have an interest in having a romantic partner -- and if there are no appropriate single folks available for you there, then what?

boonewheeler49 karma

I actually have the dream of founding a new community at some point. Basically iterate off of East Wind, make a few tweaks. But I probably won't do that til after I finish the book I'm working on.

I do have an interest in having a romantic partner. I'm talking with a few ladies who don't live here. But I've made the decision that cooperative living, especially while working towards sustainability, is the path for me. So I will continue to walk it, and the right lady will join me at some point. Or not.

Cold_Brew_Enthusiast11 karma

Thanks for answering! Could you see yourself ever owning your own home and land somewhere? The part I can't wrap my head around is living dorm-style as an adult. If everyone had a little cottage on the property, somehow that would make it seem less.... temporary?

boonewheeler9 karma

Everyone has their own private room, perhaps you misunderstood.

TheOpenOcean14 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA! What happens when people get too old/sick to contribute to the community? Do many people keep a stash of money or property (outside the commune) in case of emergency or the desire to leave?

boonewheeler33 karma

There's reduced quota for older people, and retirement after 25 years. There's also medical retirement. We don't throw people out because they get old or sick.

Some people have some money off the farm, others don't.

Cityplanner114 karma

What types of skills are in demand there?

boonewheeler32 karma

Practical ones. We could use a badass mechanic right now.

Also we could use someone to help run our business.

Exeunter11 karma

I'm curious about relationships in your commune - the only other one I know people in is a free-love sort of commune, is there a particular philosophy in yours? Do most people have relationships with others outside, or is it mostly within the commune? If within, are there ways relationships and sex are different than what we would expect?

boonewheeler25 karma

There's no community stance on relationships. What people do with whom is their own business, as long as it's consensual. Most relationships are between members, though a few people have relationships with people off the farm.

And no, not really. It's all pretty normal actually.

toothless_budgie11 karma

How do you handle a member who is not doing their share? Slacking off or just being difficult.

boonewheeler30 karma

It's a gradient. Starts off with social pressure. Then maybe a community meeting if that doesn't work.

When I first got here there were a few people who I felt did not do fair share, but they've all left. I'm happy to say I truly believe that everyone here now at least pulls their own weight.

DovBerele9 karma

I visited East Wind on LEX from Twin Oaks, around 15 years ago. From what I recall, the gender ratio was skewed really heavily towards men at the time. Is that still the case, and if so, has it caused any noticeable social issues?

Did you visit any other communities before you chose East Wind? What factored into your choice?

boonewheeler21 karma

It's was close to 50-50 like two years ago, but recently has become more like 2:1 men to women. I'd say it's a factor in social issues. Single women get a lot of male attention here.

I was scheduled to do a Twin Oaks visitor period before doing the one here, but Valerie cancelled me last minute after I had already quit my job to go there.

I did visit TO and Acorn after being here for a year, and I definitely made the right choice of the three. I really appreciate our autonomy compared to TO's bureaucracy.

skydreamer30319 karma

It kinda seems like women would be less safe or feel uncomfortable in that environment. Has there been any complaints from female members?

I feel like the worse the gender disparity the harder it will be for your community to even the odds.

boonewheeler9 karma

Everyone here is agreed that a more balanced gender ratio would be better. But what we're not sure about is how to achieve that. We do have a policy to accept the less represented gender as new members at a 3:1 ratio, but that only applies if we're on a waiting list, which we're not currently. Our next visitor period is all female though.

We pee outside, and as silly as it sounds I think this plays a factor in why there are less women here, among other things.

No official, well known complaints. A female acquaintance of mine moved here recently and told me a little about how the different guys here shot their shot. They all did it respectfully.

Abysal328 karma

How are the social Events / activities in your community?

Is there a lot of free lovin going on ? Or people just mainly monogamous?

Thanks for doing the AMA mate!! Great stuff

boonewheeler12 karma

I really like them. We do group yoga, tradesy songs around fires, poker night, group meditation, dance parties, karaoke, hang out at our gorgeous creek, board games, etc.

More monogamous, but there are non-monogamous people here.

Thanks!

actett8 karma

Is your community tax-exempt? If not, how do you all pay taxes if your income per week is so low? Does the whole community pay everyone’s taxes?

boonewheeler19 karma

We are federally tax exempt as a 501(d) not-for-profit (different than non-profit) corporation. Should we earn enough to have to pay individual income tax, community does pay it.

kactapuss8 karma

I noticed on the map there are 9 or so personal shelters that have a lock icon on them. Who lives in those? how does one get one of those? Is that an area of inequality if some people have nicer houses?

boonewheeler14 karma

Whenever a room or personal shelter is vacated, it goes up for roll. Anyone interested in it rolls a die, and it goes to the highest roller.

And yes, there is definitely some inequality when it comes to housing. I hope we build a new, nice, dorm building soon.

inund88 karma

What kind of hobbies *don't* work in your communities? Like you said there are some people who bring their own electronics, but what if you're a gamer? Or other expensive hobbies?

boonewheeler16 karma

We have a high end commie gaming rig. But yeah, expensive hobbies would be hard to maintain here. Horseback riding. Also ones that require access to a large population like league sports and social dancing.

JoeBidensLegHair8 karma

What are the philosophical or political underpinnings of the community? Along which sort of lines is the community designed on?

boonewheeler22 karma

This is a very interesting question, and one I don't think I can answer fully.

EW was founded by the founder of our sister community, Twin Oaks, and others. I'm not sure of the whole story, but Twin Oaks was modeled after Skinner's Walden Two. EW was too initially, but over time changed to its current state.

Our members our very diverse. One thing we have in common is that we're all very autonomous. I think we all value personal freedom, and find that here. I'd say our philosophy is live and let live. But that's just my opinion, there's 70 other ones here.

RyderJ8 karma

With gender segregation as the norm, is there any freedom for a married couple to stay together while visiting? My wife and I are experienced wwoofers, but have shied away from intentional communities due to the intrinsic lack of personal autonomy.

boonewheeler13 karma

Oh absolutely. The gender separation is just for visitors that don't know each other. Depending on how full things are when you were to come though, you might have to bring a tent if you wanted to stay together. But if your wife was the only woman you could share the women's space with her.

ilrasso8 karma

Does ideology ever get out of hand? I grew up in a commune, and one of the bad things I remember were the grown ups holding on to ideology over common sense.

boonewheeler14 karma

There's strangely little ideology here. I actually think one of the big things we lack is a common vision.

aXeworthy7 karma

If someone has a lot if money before they come to your community, are they ever asked to contribute any part of that?

boonewheeler13 karma

Nope. Back in the day you were expected to loan your money to community for the duration of your membership, but now we don't even ask about your money.

JesusChristopher7 karma

Are you worried about it turning into a cult in the future?

boonewheeler8 karma

Not at all.

Diamondsareagirlsbff7 karma

Is everyone coupled up? Does it have a young/ single culture?

boonewheeler21 karma

There's currently a gender imbalance, more men than women. Most of the women are coupled up, but there are a good number of single dudes.

_A_Day_In_The_Life_7 karma

how can you meet other women then?

boonewheeler24 karma

I attend monthly peyote ceremonies nearby. During the summer I go to festivals.

Pray haha

KingsKnight247 karma

Interesting. You are on reddit so I assume there’s technology of some sorts. Do you use electricity or is it more Amish based?

boonewheeler7 karma

We use technology, have wifi, and drive cars.

mragentgrover6 karma

Do you get to choose the work you do? For example I want to be the it guy etc.. ?

boonewheeler16 karma

We all choose our own work! One of my favorite things about living here. That said, there are managerships which are elected yearly. The IT guy would be the computer manager. What usually happens if two people want to do it is they just run as a team. There are some contested elections though.

IridescentBeef5 karma

How do you handle investment decisions? (For example, spend more money on nut butter equipment or better WiFi?). What percentage of members are related by blood? How was the capacity of 71 determined?

boonewheeler6 karma

Group discussion and vote.

Only a few.

Based on how many rooms we currently have.

embasa5 karma

How fast is the wifi?

boonewheeler9 karma

Not that fast. Used to be way worse though. All said, it's fast enough. I do really appreciate fiber though when I visit friends and family lol

yojerup4 karma

So you said the max capacity right now is 71? How many spots are open. I'm trying to work in Colorado for the winter (til the 19th of April) and then come join in the beginning of May and I would hate to miss out on this opportunity. This is Blake Johnson by the way

boonewheeler7 karma

I don't know exactly, but I think there's one or two spots open right now.

garyweasel24 karma

I used to camp and float near there often! It’s beautiful there. I also often thought about visiting East Wind because I have an interest in being a part of a egalitarian community.

In terms of a question... How much of that delicious nut butter do you eat in a year?

boonewheeler3 karma

Haha quite a bit. My favorite is our Raw Cashew.

wimwood4 karma

My husband’s common-law stepdad is a Wheeler and has also lived on communes, as recently as 3-5 years ago! He and my MIL are the picture of aging hippies. Do you have relatives in the PA/MD area???

boonewheeler4 karma

I grew up in NJ, but doubt we're closely related. I'm the only one in my family that I know of to live like this.

arionem3 karma

What do you mean by secular? Do you pray? What are your beliefs?

How is love life going in the commune?

boonewheeler7 karma

Secular in the sense that there's no community religion or mandatory spiritual beliefs. I'm not Christian but I do pray in my own way. It would take a while to explain my beliefs, but the short version is I feel a lot of alignment with the Perennial Philosophy.

I'm not currently seeing anyone here, but am talking with some ladies off the farm.

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BlackRockKitty11 karma

I know OP personally and can lend an unofficial vouch ¯_(ツ)_/¯

boonewheeler5 karma

Thanks!

skydreamer3032 karma

Why is there no indoor plumbing??

boonewheeler2 karma

There is, for sinks, showers, and baths, just not for toilets.

Logthisforlater2 karma

Sorry if this thread is closed, but how do you handle those with mental health disorders?

boonewheeler3 karma

On a case by case basis. If it's well handled, its not a problem.

But we're not equipped to deal with serious mental illness.

Huck841 karma

Are children living there? What resources are there for them?

boonewheeler2 karma

Yes, though only two right now.

Quite a few. Parents get hours for taking care of their kids, and other members help them out too.

[deleted]1 karma

[deleted]

boonewheeler6 karma

We have a broad age range, I think currently from 1 year to 68 years old. The largest demographic is probably 25-35 right now, but there's plenty of older people as well.

JesusChristopher1 karma

Do you recommend people who believe in socialism/communism try living in a commune, to try and live the way they believe?

boonewheeler2 karma

I guess that depends on what flavor of socialism/communism they believe in.

italianicecreamsalad1 karma

How can I join?

boonewheeler2 karma

The membership process goes as follows:

*Prospective member writes a letter of introduction to community

*If no red flags, prospective member gets invited to do a three week visitor period where they work quota and get to see if they like it here while we get to see if we think they'll fit in well.

*If they don't get bounced (concerned out), they become a provisional member (PM) if there's an open room, and go on the waiting list if there's not.

*At the six month mark of their membership there's a vote on their membership. If they don't make it they have to leave.

*At the one year mark there is their Full Member vote. If they pass they become a Full Member same as anyone else. If they don't pass they might be given another 6 months, or might just be asked to leave.

Instructions are on our website, www.eastwind.org

slammerbar-3 karma

Why do you all have such whacky names? Like freedom, moon shadow and love?

boonewheeler22 karma

Well, /u/slammerbar, I don't live with any of those people, so I can't directly answer. But in all kinds of alternative cultures people take on or are given new names. Perhaps its a way of taking ownership of one's self or a way of starting over. Perhaps they just don't like their given names. Maybe its just part of self-expression.

SirEarlBigtitsXXVII-3 karma

Do I have to be a hippie to join?

boonewheeler0 karma

Haha nope!