UnINTENTIONAL community to Village-Making

Village at the Bend started out as what was jokingly referred to as an "Unintentional Community" - a happenstance convergence of like-minded folks who joined together in the shared work of creating a better world through sustainability projects such as biodiesel, local food and eco-industrial enterprise. Over a period of years these folks essentially bought up the neighborhood surrounding the core 140 acres owned by founders Tami Schwerin and Lyle Estill.  Folks have come and gone, but a core group remains. 

When Zafer Estill and Chris Lucash died six weeks apart in 2016, we became a village. Chris's death was unwelcome but expected, and he was well tended in his dying time by this circle of community who lent support, read, sang and played music to, held and surrounded Chris and his family as the monster industrial disease ALS brought him to his end. 

Zafer Estill died suddenly and unexpectedly from an unintended heroin overdose. He was fearless and much loved - 19 years old in Colorado studying business at college - when he decided to give a new drug a try, fell asleep and never woke up.  His heartbroken family and community gathered round and buried Beloved Z in our shared woods. Six weeks later, Chris would join him there, becoming the ground of our work in village making.

"How we die, how we care for dying people, and how we carry our dead:                          this work makes our village life, or breaks it." - Stephen Jenkinson

Every village has a heart-center. Often this is a tree that the people gather round. Through learning the lives and deaths of Chris and Z, we witnessed our own consequence and their's as we gathered in the wake of their lives. Our work is in obligation to them and to those who come after us all. The stories of their incredible lives and tragic deaths - how western society failed them -- how we can do better -- that is the Tree they planted in the center of this Village for us - and the one we eat the fruit of to keep us going, the one we find shade under when the heat of this work burns us, and the one we gather 'round. 


Asset Mapping and being additive

As we felt this new world stirring beneath our feet, we began talk of seeking out any thing beneficial to our vision, and focused on putting it to use -  getting it up on its feet, or out from under the brambles, or from under that pile in the woodshed. We called it "deploying assets." Undeployed assets seem to be a bane to the active village-maker. Eventually we discovered that this insistence we called "asset-mapping" is an actual thing, called Asset-Based Community- Development (ABCD). It's a bottom-up way of working that focuses on strengths and assets, rather than deficiencies. 

If we ask people to look for deficits, they will usually find them, and their view of situations will be coloured by this. If we ask people to look for successes, they will usually find them, and their view of situations will be coloured by this (Kral, 1989).

Typical approaches to developing community begin with a needs analysis that focuses us on  lack - the half empty glass. In creating a needs map the focus is on problems. Kretzmann (2010) suggests some potential consequences of focusing on deficiency: people may begin to internalise this in a vicious cycle of feeling incompetent.  As a community internalizes toxicity and deficiency, members may stop turning to each other for support and can become scared of their own community, living in a mindset of scarcity. Relationships within the community also start to deteriorate.

Scarcity = Abundance - Trust

At the Bend, we've focused on abundance and trust. We have always looked around in astonishment of the unlikely convergence of our blessings and tragedies, even in the face of the tragic death's of our loved ones. Our dead became those who made us obligated to seeing the gifts in each other, so we may bring this world to life and keep it breathing toward that Better Day. 

At the Bend, we have always considered the way's in which individual people are "additive." For example, we have two chefs and two massage therapists in our village, and so we our cup runeth over in these areas. What a gift for our growing microeconomy to have a choice between such talents. Asset's are not only something you can hold in your hand. Assets and asset-mapping extends to our human-relationships, and building relationships between assets (human and otherwise) within our community is a natural part of mapping all asset's within the Bend. When we have an event here, the star teacher may need a massage, a fresh bouquet at the air bnb, and a personal chef made dinner supplied by the farm, and our farmer. We connect the dots of hyperlocal economy here wherever we can, bringing in the talents and skills of our villagers, so we make deeper connections, discovering our strengths and resources while our village grows stronger. 

Microenterprise & Hyperlocal Economy

We are endeavoring to create a hyperlocal economy. The micro- enterprises growing here are emerging from the ground up - they are claiming us, not the other way around. Through asset mapping our community and our resources, and by proceeding in trust together, we have been midwifing a number of micro-enterprises including a permaculture farm, a village-making teaching house, a green burial ground including home funeral and death doula offerings, a contracting business, a family school, an air bnb rental and a farmstand. We encourage each other to plug in to the energy here, and offer our shoulder to the wheel of achieving our dreams. In so doing, we hire each other for our needs, and invest in our visions for the future. Encouraging craft and ideas, investing in development of personal skills and infrastructure,  to allow our village and it's people to grow and be served in right livelihood from within. 



Culture is the expression of a particular people, speaking a unique language, singing a hyperlocal ancestral song of Place. Deep culture isn't apple pie and baseball, it's tending to the Dead of a place, to the spirits of the land - it's having Learned all the many unwanted things that lead you on the way to go, the way to knowing how your people, and the beings and plants that inhabit that place sustain you and those who claim you, making your lives possible. Culture forges children into trustworthy adult human beings who have Learned they have consequence in this world and to their people. Culture may certainly include food and the styling of stitches or beads, but all the many human cultures across the globe have a chance to flourish because Place claims people, and people obey Place. From there the people learn who they are allowed to become, and in their gratitude and grief, they sing their song of ceremony and dance together. Culture does not have to be appropriated by people who have lost their own or who find themselves homeless in a strange land with forgotten ancestry. Culture can grow anew, out of the ground right where you find your feet, as every unique culture has done throughout the 200,000 years homo sapiens have lived upon this green planet. May we gather together our people among a place that claims us, and refuse to let go - and trust - that across time, and with care, culture may spark roots there.