Fences Down: Creating Community in the City


Friday, August 13, 2010. We taped an engaging show with about a half-dozen members of a residential community formed between three adjoining houses in southeast Portland. The fence in between two parcels had been torn down, and a concrete driveway broken into chunks and used elsewhere in the landscape.

The earth below is being freed to breathe again. The land between the houses is being planted in annual and perennial gardens and fruit trees, while chickens scratch where a garage once stood. In addition to the two early-twentieth century homes, there’s a recent straw bale “accessory dwelling unit” built in the same architectural style. Rainwater is caught in barrels or channeled to a dry well in the landscape. Beside the cob oven and artist studio are young fig trees, and an experiment in a “pee bale” behind the tools shed. It is Back to the Land right in the middle of a metropolitan suburb, half a block from a busy thoroughfare.

100813_circle_300.jpgI joined the young residents in a tree-shaded outdoor circle to tape a conversation-in-the-round. Their story is not just of shared land, but of shared lives. We talked about how their living community is growing organically. We talked of their shared work projects, what it’s like to live this way, how they make decisions, when they meet, how they find new residents.

After the conversation, we taped a quick tour through their landscape: Naga Nataka the layout and the chickens, Matt Iverson the gardens and orchards, Matt Phillips the new straw-bale house, Lisa Anne the studio with living roof and gardens (formerly a gravel parking area for cars), and Megan Bradley the bike canopy (they share one automobile among ten people!).

100813_lunch_300.jpgThis group shares a meal together about five days a week. After taping the show Robyn and I were invited to share in a colorful and delicious communal lunch mostly of vegetables grown on site. We sat on the outside deck, compared notes on kombucha-making and kefir (non-milk) tea, and how such communities-in-place could meet essential needs for elders, young parents, children, and so many others feeling isolated in their homes.

We topped our meal with homemade blackberry tapioca pudding and the warmth of meeting new friends who are restoring community, neighborliness, sharing and the land to a new level of wholeness.

Watch Fences Down! Fostering Community in an Urban Neighborhood (episode 179). Treehugger Review.


  1. great initiative for building ecologically safe community. Adoption of prayer/salat five times a day could be considered as well.I am promoting this for transforming ecologically hostile leisure.

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