Thursday July 3rd
Katwil is a Cohousing Community in rural Colrain, Western Massachusetts. Cohousing communities are small, close knit urban, suburban and sometimes rural neighborhood that are owned and managed by the residents themselves. They are ideal places to raise families and grow older. Cohousing communities have existed in Denmark since the 1960’s. In the US the first cohousing community was in Davis, CA. At the time of this writing there are over 135 completed or building cohousing communities in the US. In Sonoma County there are 3 cohousing communities: Yulupa on the east side of Santa Rosa, Frog Song in Cotati and Three Acre Woods in Sebastopol. There are hundreds of cohousing communities worldwide, especially in Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada and the US but also in Germany, France, Belgium, Austria, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. In her book “Finding Community”, Diana Leafe Christian describes the nuts and bolts of cohousing, the various forms of cohousing, the benefits and the challenges. What is the appeal for cohousing for our family? I don’t think I can provide a more eloquent answer than Chuck Durett quoted in Communities Magazine, 1991:
“The common denominator of thousands of people I know who live in cohousing…..is that these folks believe that it’s more readily possible to live lighter on the planet if they cooperate with their neighbors, and their lives are easier, more economical, more interesting and more fun.”
Paul and Judy first became interested in cohousing when Monique joined our family in 2006. We began by visiting the Sonoma County communities. We liked what we saw, and wanting to learn more. We signed up for a tour of 11 Bay Area cohousing communities in one weekend. This incredible whirlwind tour taught us that there are many flavors of cohousing and ways to create community. Each community has a different mission, different culture, different physical layout, different community guidelines… But they share the same general goals and approaches: an environmental concern for the planet, a wholesome and safe environment to raise a family or grow older, close social connections lending to healthier lives, shared resources and economies of scale reduce the cost of living, experiencing a sense of connection and support with like minded friends, community members growing as individuals and community members simply having a lot of fun. We thought this might be the environment we wanted to be a part of and raise our daughter in. But we needed to find the right community for us, The Hadley family, strange as we are. Over the next few years when we went on our annual driving vacations up to WA to visit family, we toured cohousing communities up and down the west coast. It was fascinating to see the variety of ways diverse groups of people had created their communities. In total we visit 24 cohousing communities. At the end of the day though, we had not quite found the right community for our family. Through this process we came to realize that for our family, we had really grown to love the urban hobby farm lifestyle we had created on our little ½ acre in Santa Rosa on Benjamins Road. Farming had become a way of life, even if it was “part-time” and “just a hobby”. The vegetable garden was a place of respite, we loved working the soil, tending the berries were as delight (so too was harvesting!), pruning fruit trees was fun and always good humordly pit husband against wife because each of us thought we knew better, we loved to watch the antics of our chickens and most of all had become very attached to our Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats. Besides, could we abandon milking and cheese making? Making fermented sourdough bread, canning, lacto fermented soda and fermented sauerkraut? We realized that what we were really seeking was a “Farming Cohousing Community”. Sadly, there was none. So, we thought cohousing probably would not be in our future and we stopped looking…
That is, until December 2013. One evening on the internet Judy came across a farming cohousing in New Hampshire. One thing led to another and we learned that our search had only been on the west coast. On the east coast however there actually were a few farming cohousing communities, most of them in the New England States. Of these, one resonated with us more than any other: Katywil in rural Western Massachusetts. Katywil is a cohousing farm community in the early stages of development. At the current time 5 families are living there and another five, like us, are in the process. We own our individual lots and share the rest of the 112 acres which includes arable farmland, pasture to raise animals and lots of trees and wooded areas. The magnificent view from where I am typing this right now at Kathy and Jim’s house is down the North River valley to the Catamount Mountains.
Eventually there will be a total of 18 families here. The community is located in Colrain Massachusetts, a small town in the eastern Berkshire mountains of western Mass. While it is rural, it is 10 minutes from Shelburne Falls, 20 minutes from Greenfield and about 40 minutes from Amherst and Brattleboro. These areas are rich with music, social, arts and academic activities. Email conversations with Nancy at Katywil turned in to phone conversations, and eventually a visit. Still however we did not think this would be a possibility any time soon.
Until February 2014. And therein began my blog…