I’ve been thinking of you a lot, but particularly I wanted to share with you the story of one of the greatest adventures of my life. Yes, even greater than that time I took you for the mule ride down the rim of the Grand Canyon.
I’m living in a neat place called Liberty Village which I helped develop. This is a cool idea called a cohousing community, where all the neighbors worked together to build the community and now live here together with lots of things which we share like tools and gardens and even fresh eggs from chickens here. Every family here has its own home which they bought themselves and every home is a little bit different, different enough that every home has a distinctive character, just like all the homes in Buffalo were very similar in size, but each had its own builder features that made it unique.
I’ve been working on developing this community since 1990 which is the longest single project I’ve ever taken on. But it’s been the most rewarding project I’ve ever started also. Maybe you figured out I would be a builder someday since I was always trying to build stuff when I was a kid. But the great part of this is stuff I never had in mind when I started planning the project with just a few folks I met here in Frederick. The great part is all the people who have come together to live here and every one of them has added something unique.
When I first met the group, I was just thinking about the economy of getting a lot of people together to buy a large piece of land and plan a small community with our homes clustered together so we could keep the rest of the land with lots of trees and open space. Not like a Buffalo type subdivision all carved up with streets, and not like a Godfather type fenced enclave either, but an open space clustered community, kind of like a small village with plenty of space for kids to play or walk around or ride bicycles, just like I used to do in Buffalo, but much safer because we’d be away from heavy traffic. In fact, one of the guys here became a bicycling mentor to me long before we found the property. He helped me by taking me out for bike rides on the local roads and I got a lot stronger riding with him until we were doing 100 mile bike rides together across the state. That’s kind of how the people here get together and help each other become better people. Happens all the time.
Anyhow, we started looking for land together to build this community and found a small farm which no one was farming any more. It had a great old home that was all brick like a 16th century English Manor House. It was built in 1753 actually and was one of the first homes in this area, before there was even a town here. Well, that was too big for any of us and we all wanted newer homes so that’s what we finally developed and built. In fact, we built duplex homes, side by side so we could save money on construction costs and save energy by not being as exposed to the winter cold and summer heat. Over half our land will never be built on because we have preserved it forever for woodland and even planted over 800 new trees to create a forest that will be here for our kids and grandkids. Well, not mine, but somebody’s.
Another thing I was never planning on but just happened is our gardens. At first, just a couple neighbors wanted to plant gardens for vegetables for their families. The next year, their garden was over twice as big and several folks were gardening together. Now there are a lot of gardeners, all planting and growing fresh vegetables and sharing their surplus and we often get fresh fruit and vegetables for our community dinner table. And a couple chicken coops providing fresh eggs every day.
That’s another one of the greatest things here. We have community meals together every week. This happens all year long. One of the neighbors plans a meal schedule and folks team up and plan a menu and share the meal prep, cooking, serving and even cleaning up together. The rest of us, which is now over 60 neighbors, come together for dinner and enjoy eating and conversation and watching each other’s kids growing up. There’s about two dozen kids here now. They have a great time playing together, riding bikes, skate boards, scooters, just like I did with all my brothers and sisters.
I wish you could visit here with us, but at least my daughter Rebecca has been able to come and visit and she liked it a lot. MaryAnn also came here and celebrated her 70th birthday here in our Common House. That’s a separate home which we all own together and use for common events like dinners, meetings, movies, sometimes for childcare or even separate family celebrations like MaryAnn’s birthday. All 9 of my brothers and sisters came together here to celebrate with MaryAnn and brought all their kids also. I guess we had at least 60 people here for a family celebration and I wish you could have been with us to join in.
So that’s the story of how I/we started Liberty Village. Without the others, it never would have happened. I’d much rather work with a team and when we got together on this, we just made it happen.
Love you, Mom, wish you were still with us.