You might remember my interview from December with Jay, a man who lives in a Matchbox Tiny House in Boneyard Studios. I asked him for recommendations of other tiny dwellers, and he, surprisingly, suggested his sister. Jay's sister Jude doesn't just live small like other people I feature here; she embraces it. She has lived in several tiny structures for the past seven years, including a yurt, cabin, dome and now, a school bus.
The community Jude lives in is fascinating. She and her partner Yadi are part of an income-sharing intentional community called East Wind. The community supports each other through two industries: East Wind Nut Butters and Utopian Rope Sandals. Their work is busy and everyone reaps the benefits.
This interview is unique, not only because of the structure this couple lives in, but also for the story about the people who live in it.
Square Feet: 200
Make, Model, Year: School Bus
It has been parked here for more than a decade.
Years Living Small: 7
I have lived in the community for seven years and Yadi has lived here for four.
Currently Living: East Wind Community, Tecumseh, Missouri
East Wind is a community of seventy people living and working together. We live on more than 1,000 acres in the beautiful Missouri Ozarks, home to a farm with thriving gardens, orchards, a ranch and a sustainable forestry program. This community is a way of life that emphasizes cooperation, equality and personal freedom.
At East Wind, peoples' living spaces mostly serve the role of a bedroom. We all share a community kitchen, bathhouse, workspaces, gardens, etc.
Why did you decide to move into this community?
We were searching for a more fulfilling way of life, and we found it. It seems that many people today desire more out of life but aren’t aware of all the possibilities available to them. Once we heard about this community, we had to check it out for ourselves.
What was the process like to move into the bus?
It was as simple as a roll of the dice. When a member moves away from East Wind or moves to another available space, their previous residence goes “up for roll.” Any members who are interested in moving into that space have the opportunity to get together and roll the dice. The person who rolls the highest number is then able to live in the space until they decide to leave the community or move to another residence. Since I moved to East Wind seven years ago, I’ve lived in a yurt, a cabin, a dome, three rooms in dormitory-style buildings and, now, an old school bus.
How do you balance work and living in a community?
All of the work that we do here directly supports our little community, and the unique talents, skills and visions of East Winders can manifest in any form that we individually or collectively desire. We’re each our own boss, and we’re each able to choose how and when we want to contribute (as long as we’re all contributing our fair share). When our fellow communitarians put in a hard day of work, the results are tangible and we are all able to enjoy the benefits (whether those benefits are a hot cooked meal, a fixed automobile, a flourishing garden or a successful business). This daily sense of symbiosis, cooperation, and purpose strengthens our sense of community and our appreciation of the individuals we share it with.
East Winders of all types, from cooks to gardeners to machinists, are able to do what they love and develop skills in areas of interest while contributing to the community as a whole. Maintaining an intentional community and providing for the needs and desires of 70 people isn't always easy, but it's a labor of love and a great learning experience for all of us.
Yadi is an extremely talented handyman and can build or fix pretty much anything.
Some of my focuses include cultivating, harvesting and making natural medicine and medicinal foods (including kombucha, sprouts, kimchi, herbal teas and tinctures).
What are your hobbies?
Because we can choose to do what we love for work, there’s not a very defined line between our work and our hobbies. Some things that we enjoy include woodworking, gardening, planting trees, cooking nutritious and delicious foods, practicing holistic health and natural medicine, hanging out by the creek, hiking, traveling, taking photos, writing, reading, massage, learning, teaching and generally experiencing life and all that it has to offer.
What has been the most rewarding thing about living in a community?
There are so many rewarding things about living in community. The freedom to choose how to use your own time and energy on a daily basis is definitely one of them. East Wind is a wonderful place to learn and grow; I’ve learned more practical skills and more about myself and the world around me in my seven years here than in my previous 20 years of life. Living in the woods has allowed me to develop and deepen my connection with the natural world and to understand how to better live in harmony with nature. Living communally has allowed me to meet and develop meaningful connections with many wonderful people (including my much beloved partner, Yadi) and has been an invaluable lesson in human nature. The opportunity to contribute to the community in my own way has allowed me to cultivate a passion and sense of purpose in regards to work.
What is the most challenging thing?
One of the most challenging things about living in the community is trying to get along with 70 other people, some of them who might have completely different ideas on how they want to live and what direction they want to see the community grow in. Unequal labor contribution is another major frustration. Ultimately, it’s been a valuable lesson in cooperation and tolerance.
What is your advice to people who want to live small or hit the road?
Do it. Make the most of your life. Anything is possible.
What’s next? Any news you want to share?
We definitely have a lot to look forward to. Ultimately, we want to start a small community of our own. The focus of this community will be a free learning center, where people from all walks of life can come and take classes and courses on a wide range of subjects including natural building, tiny house building, woodworking, natural medicine, nutrition, permaculture, community and more. The center will also include a free health clinic focused on holistic health and natural medicine. The learning center will be primarily run by members of the community, and all classes will be free to everyone (although donations will be accepted).
Right now, we still need the funds to make this vision a reality. Fortunately, we have a plan to make that happen: we’re going to build houses. This spring, we plan to start construction on our first tiny house. We hope to build a dozen tiny houses on wheels within the next couple of years and sell them at affordable prices to people looking to live more simply (if you’re looking to purchase a tiny house or have one custom built, feel free to get in touch with us). After that, we hope to purchase (and eventually sell) small plots of raw land and build log cabins. These plots of land will be lovingly developed in a permaculture fashion, complete with fruit and nut trees, perennial plants, rainwater catchment, composting toilets, solar power, etc.
I’ve also recently become involved with Garden Medicinals, a cooperatively run business that specializes in medicinal and culinary herb seeds. We’re expanding to include herbal medicine and more, and I’m excited to help our little business grow and flourish. We're about to launch a new website where you can purchase seeds, supplies and herbal medicine. It will also include practical and easy-to-understand information about cultivating and harvesting herbs, making natural medicine, and using many medicinal and edible herbs.
We’re feeling really good about all of our current endeavors and future plans, and we’re determined to save up enough funding to purchase a 200-acre plot of raw land (with creek access) on which our community of 10-20 people and learning center will some day be situated.