You might've noticed I haven't been writing in this blog for a while.
That's because I've been in Tennessee, visiting (among other things) the Sequatchie Valley Institute near Whitwell, TN. A friend of my boyfriend's and mine is staying there to work as a gardener, and we decided to visit her and help out with some of the work they're doing, as well as attending a couple of workshops*.
Staying at SVI was a very different experience than staying at The Farm was --- for one thing, it was a very different type of environment, being on a densely forested, steep hillside rather than a flat, grassier area. (The Farm, I was told, had acquired most of its land from a defunct paper mill, and the land had been clear-cut several times during the mill's period of operation). There were also a lot fewer people there: six people living at Moonshadow, which was the part of SVI we were visiting --- there's also a house and gardens at the foot of the hill, called Sweet Gum, where a family of seven people lives --- plus the other visitors who came either for the workshops or the workday at Ulinawi. But, unlike at The Farm, the other visitors did not stay overnight, and even the people who lived there mostly seemed all to have their own, generously spaced, sleeping quarters, with people gradually filtering into the main communal building throughout the day to cook, eat, and hang out. Accordingly, I did not have to interact with people constantly, and the number of people I did see every day was a lot smaller. (Also, two of them were well-known to me, while at The Farm I was thrown together with about a dozen strangers for a very immersive, intensive experience).
Even with all that, though, I had a lot more trouble with overloading at SVI than I ever did at The Farm. I think the main reason for that is because we got there right before the busiest days --- the two workshops, when the most people would be around and the most structured activity would be going on. Also, I was pretty sick physically at the time, so it might also have been that my usual defenses were somewhat lowered.
I really liked the layout of Moonshadow, though: the one communal building with kitchen, fireplace, shower and offices, with smaller sleeping cabins scattered around it. For me, I think the ideal community has both shared spaces for cooking, eating, work and play, and also separate individual spaces to which people can retreat if they need to.
*A wildflower-identification hike and a shiitake-mushroom-growing workshop, both of which I ended up missing because I was sick.