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Early history of the Community
I met Ellen in the States. As I said I was organising the Sydney Zen group and I decided to go over there and hook up with this Zen master, a bloke in Hawaii. He was an American. So I just went over there to get into it a bit more and that’s where I met Ellen. She was the business manager of this place so it weren’t just meditating!
And anyway, yeah, one thing lead to another and we got married in Vancouver which is where she was from and I said ‘Look I’m going to go live on this hippy commune back in Australia,’ and she was silly enough to come along. And we knew nobody in the area, didn’t really know Dudley and Carol all that well and Ray, they were the only three people here. Oh they were the only committed members. There were a bunch of other people sort of blundering around and thinking they might join but…and so yeah we got here in ’79, September ’79 and of course, I mean, there was work to be done and we just got stuck into that. I think after about six months I said ‘Well ok, we’d like to join, I think this is a place we can live,’ and of course they were just getting set up and it cost $2000 for a membership.
And then we were members but of course back in those days there were no procedures. We’ve got all sorts of procedures now but in those days it was sort of making everything up as you go along and bouncing around. The actual business entity that owned the property, well actually Dudley and Carol owned it, but there was this business entity that they’d just got an off-the-shelf legal structure for, like a little shopping centre you know, same thing. And so in the years that followed we set it up to reflect more realistically our goals, which is, that we’re a non-profit co-operative. That’s what owns the land. And so when somebody joins, they pay a joining fee and they become a director of the co-operative and the co-operative owns the land. But I don’t, we don’t own this house. We’re a multiple-occupancy so there’s just one title and if Ellen and I decided to leave we couldn’t just put the house on the market. We could only sell it to someone who had been through the process of joining, which is a year long thing, you’ve got to live here at least a year before you can join. That way you get to see what we’re like and we get to see what you’re like, the good, the bad and the ugly. You know the dark side and the bright side which exists with everything, yeah.
Ellen and I lived in a little room at the end of the old cow bales. We were running around looking for tents but by the time we got here the main house was almost habitable and so Carol and Dudley were living in one room of that, and her son Adam and Ray, Ray Flanagan they were living in another little room which is now the pantry. Their room is now the TV room, we’ve gone up market. And so Dudley and Carol vacated the old cow bales and Ellen and I got that, and so we lived there for four years.
And there was just so much to be done, you’ve got no idea! There was not even a water supply for the community house. Water came up from the creek, from the creek in buckets. That was the first job every morning, fill the water dispenser. So one of the things, we got here in September I think, by Christmas I’d bashed through the lantana in the valley, up this valley here, and put a one inch poly pipeline down, put it in a hole in the creek and turned on the tap and nothing come out down the bottom. Syphon problems. That was the beginning of a great learning experience about air in pipelines and syphons. And the funny thing was Ellen and I went down to Sydney for Christmas, came back, turned on the tap and water came out. So it had sorted itself out all by itself.
One of the great strengths of this place for the business model that we have is that, despite the extreme dry conditions recently we’ve still got water up there; it’s stored in the soil because the regenerating forest is like a big sponge. And even though we’ve hardly had any rain for three or four months, it’s slowly releasing, coming down the creek and we’ve got a pipe stuck in a two cubic metre, quite a small hole, in a rock pool and that’s why I’m still irrigating the paddocks and that’s why we’re still getting milk because we’re harvesting that water. That’s one of the great strengths of the property. The weakness is of course is it’s very steep and hard to farm. We’re farming 15% of it, the other 85% we’re trying to get back to forest.