La Lune Nette Commune

Near St. Claude, French Jura-Mountains/2001.06.08-2001.07.14


"Be quite now! you don't have the talking stick!" (Andreas). La Lune Nette (French Jura Mountains) was simple and pleasant (or simply pleasant or pleasantly simple). We felt very comfortable here, and became attached to the place and the nice people. It was sad to move on...

So how does a community maintain a good atmosphere? Our voyage will be successful if we figure out these kind of important co-living matters that are hard or even impossible to explain or learn from books. Was it the combination of people? Different types of people arrived and left almost every week, yet the nice atmosphere stayed. Was it the way things were organized? Things were not solid - at first we were told that people here live by the four elements (earth, water, air, fire). Each element is associated with different household duties, for example: fire - chop and collect wood, earth - pick and buy food, etc. Every person staying here has to participate in the daily household chores and choose one element each week to go by. Anyway - after the first week, this whole system seemed to be forgotten both by residents and guests (though the actual chores were not).. It was the first community where we participated in weekly meetings that were actually productive (using a talking stick). There was no common religion or faith, no guru/leader, some were relaxed, some were intense... maybe it was as simple as everybody playing ping-pong every night.

Getting There

The journey from La Valette, the previous community, to La Lune Nette, was unexpected, as hitching tends to be.

Two rides and two hours got us only 9 kilometers to an awful junction with no shoulder. 01_ride-with-scottish-family_momo-ofek_20010608 (57KB) Just when we were ready to walk back a Scottish family traveling and living in their van pulled up and let us in their cozy bedroom full of toys and books. It turned out that so far their travel plans didn't work out very well, and they were lost, not sure where to go next. When we told them where we were going and what we were up to, they decided to come along, and drove us right to the doorstep - the whole 8 hour ride! They left after a few days because the mother claimed she couldn't eat anything but white buns with butter and ham, of which there was none (allergies... hmm... sometimes omnivores are more picky than vegans!).

We were offered a very nice bedroom (full of intact animal skins) with a window right over the gushing river and with a view of the forest. One of the toilets was a real Turkish one - the one you squat on rather then sit (believed to be healthier) - and OfeK felt very comfortable with it, compared to barely squatting on regular ones. The members even use water and not toilet-paper just like him! (he he).

Introducing La Lune Nette

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In 1996 a few Swiss-Germans formed an association and bought a big building that used to be a glass(es) factory (connected to the name somehow). From the stories we heard most links between the people were made in Rainbow gatherings. The building is literally on a flowing river that goes through a beautiful natural forest. Today there are 3 permanent members:

Sylvain is an artist who makes and sells unique and beautiful Indian and Shamanistic objects, tepees, and he also plays various instruments. He looks like a French Indian Chief and for 15 years he lived around Europe with a traveling tribe in the rhythm of the four elements. We saw some photos taken from their daily life with many tepees in the different seasons.

Heinz, is also a tepee maker (different style), and has a mobile 'Artisano' booth selling in fairs and festivals commercialized Native-American style objects and anything else he finds fit. He lived for 8 years in the famous Spanish ecovillage 'Matavenero', and he showed us slides of the place and also slides from trips he had made around the world - one going by land to India via Iran!

Marianne goes part of the year to work in Switzerland in a drug rehabilitation center. She has 3 cool daughters - Linda, Erell, and Sira who keep the place busy with boys with their parents' cars in the afternoons. They go to the regional school, but with no TV at home, there is somewhat of a balance between being participating responsible non-smoking community-girls and being regular teenage girls, humming and artificially-dancing to stupid pop songs in English they don't understand, wearing skimpy clothing, reading fashion mags, etc.

Besides the members there are Henry, who hangs around and plays his guitar, and Eleonor a watercolor artist who rent a room and are part of the communal life. And then there are also long-term guests and friends, some visit for a few months every year. There was Jean-Daniel and Marco - professional modern jugglers, Blake from Oregon who came to relax and have time to write poetry and paint, and Clo, a friend of Eleonor's who enjoys spending a part of every year here.

And there are guests like us, WWOOFers and travelers who can choose to pay a small fee or work in exchange for room and food. There's also a family living upstairs with 2 children, but they just rent, and are not part of the community.

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Dinner is the communal meal - it begins with singing a song (Ta plante.. The river is flowing.. Goodbye horse..) while holding hands and sometimes ends with cookies or cake (if Erika had time).

   Momo playing in the Tepee workshop with Jonathan. Marco, Jean, and Jean-Dainiel are drumming in the background.

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Momo with Erell who wants to be an actress in action movies.

   Sira is 10 years old and full of life. She really loved Momo, who admired her of course, and would spend a lot of time with her (always asking permission..).

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Once Flourant put Momo on the bicycle she would protest vocally if he ever stopped pushing or tried to take her off. I had to replace him once in a while when he needed a smoke break.

   Momo with Heinz and a chicken and Heinz and Blake at dinner. One day Momo pounced on Heinz, taking a bite from his nose, making him bleed all over the place!

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This is Jonathan, he came with his brother and parents from Germany and we had pleasant parents' talk.

   There is a 10m drop in the river next to the house, and a turbine generates up to 20kW (after a few rainy days), feeding the regular grid (a battery-less system). OfeK is turning it on because it started to rain.

The Garden and Gastronomy

36_garden_20010704 (137KB)In the self-description we read about La Lune Nette, it said there is a Fukuoka inspired garden (though it seemed Sylvain was the only one interested in this). After reading 'The Natural Way of Farming' by Fukuoka, we became eager to see more of how different people in different climates put his philosophy into practice (Get an idea of what Fukuoka/Natural Farming is here). We had already seen a little in Il-Gabbruccino, but it was winter then. Here it was turning summer and the garden was absolutely marvelous - lots of weeds and herbs and flowers and vegetables all growing together in harmony. 35_wild-salad_20010703 (72KB)The not-so-big garden is organized in hexagon plots, each one assigned to a resident who puts a few hours a week into it. Most of the food is still bought on the weekly market in town, however OfeK insisted that salad ingredients should not be bought and almost everyday picked the salad in the picture, all edible wild herbs and flowers.

33_drying-rejected-pairs_20010625 (150KB) 34_drying-rejected-pairs_20010625 (74KB)We met Martin and Ines (expecting a kid) for the second time (first time was in La Valette), making a stop here on their way back home to Germany. They plan to soon buy cheap farm-land in eastern Germany and form an eco-commune with some friends. One Saturday, we all went to the market, and Martin found a bunch of crates full of nice pears that could not be sold because of a little spot or whatever other silly reason. We took four crates (we were wrong to think it would be enough) back home for drying. We thought maybe we should build another dryer like the one we built in FalconBlanco but Martin and Ines suggested to try something more simple. We just put them straight in the sun on some hay on a few tables and after two days we had delicious dry pears! (When you dry fruit in the open there is a risk of insect infestation making it full of worms and moths by winter. In our case it didn't matter since they would probably all be eaten by winter).

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Bread is made once a week and gets eaten very quickly no matter how many loafs were made (the trick is to make small loafs - slices are small, more loafs). It is made of sourdough that is maintained from week to week, whole organic wheat and/or rye flour, salt and some palm oil on the pans.

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Bruno had some extra time on his hands making this vegan-lobster salad.

   OfeK's sushi.

   Erika's stew (for 30 persons) over the open fire in the tepee.

Working Hours

We acquired a deeper practical and spiritual understanding of tepees. We learned that a tepee is a complete versatile home, and not just a Native-American tent in hippie festivals! Erika (OfeK helped sometimes) participated in every stage in the production of a tepee and read a good book about tepee life and history (The American Tipi by the Laubin couple). 57_cool-measure_20010709 (54KB)They had high quality tools to work with: Singer manual sewing machines from 1906 (with original instruction manual), the measuring tool in the picture, a manual cereal flaker we used every morning to flake oats for breakfast, big and old carpentry machines, axes, etc. Making tepees is fun-work, and in the system these were built, many people can work on it together at the same time, chatting, listening to music, and taking ping-pong breaks.

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The first tepee was 7m diameter, to be used as a common tepee for meetings, parties, meals, etc. We took over where the last working volunteers left. The tepee was sewn all by hand, not even with the manual sewing machine.

55_11m-tipi-production_20010709 (58KB) 56_11m-tipi-production_20010709 (66KB)The second tepee was ordered by some group in Spain, and was half-finished by the time we left. This was an 11m diameter tepee (both tepees are unusually big) intended for ceremonial use.

26_painting-old-chicken-house_erika_2001622 (27KB)Another project was renovating a big room that used to be the chicken-house and might turn into a library.16_cutting-grass_ofek_20010620 (147KB) We repaired windows and put new glass in them with mastic. We then painted the whole room with lime mixed with natural earth pigment. We also worked a little in the garden, and helped with the renovation of the roof to turn the attic into two bedrooms.

Special Happenings

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We had a modest party, celebrating Momo's 365th day, and for some reason Momo found this an excuse to make her first four steps. We made a raw vegan cake (crust is from crushed dates and nuts, filling is grated apples, bananas and strawberries from the garden) and sugar-free date oatmeal cookies.

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One weekend a group of actors stayed with us and performed a short play about clown life. They are from around Paris, and usually perform in apartments and small parties. They put a lot of time into the stage props and the lightings but it was very short (and in French). Another time a French Celtic band came for dinner and played for us in the tepee through the night.

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It was three o'clock after mid-night with a full moon. We all woke up and quietly went into the forest. Next to the river, a dome from branches and blankets was made, linked to a a big fire by a trail marked with rocks. Henri and David volunteered to keep the fire going and heat the volcanic stones. We crawled into the small dome filling it completely without any place to move. A few glowing red rocks were brought into the middle of the dome and water and tea were poured onto them. We breathed in the hot steams, and until sunrise, we sang, prayed, and sweated together. It was an emotional, personal, cleansing and uniting night and when we crawled out in the morning, naked and sweaty and exhausted, and jumped into the cold river, it felt just like it supposed to feel - to be born again.

Bio-Fair with Heinz

Heinz was asked by a bio-fair in the area to put up two tepees (BIOCOMPATIBLE houses..) as an ornament for the event. In exchange they would not charge him for his Artisano booth. He kindly invited us to join him that weekend. We helped him load up the van and drove there the night before, sleeping in the town's park.

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Early the next morning, we put up one standard tepee and one baby tepee for backpacking (water proof, you can make a fire inside, and there's no need to sit all cold inside like in a regular tent) and the booth.

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In front of the tepees was a yurt, another BIOCOMPATIBLE home from Mongolia. A few times a day they told stories inside and had a musical movement performance, using big air-conditioner tunnels to resemble a caterpillar (or maybe something else).

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We noticed Heinz doesn't guard his stand too diligently, he said "The Great Spirit is watching...". So when people came OfeK was selling instead seeing for himself how easy (yet not fair) it is to market to children. Here are some of the customers. The silly bamboo slide was probably the best selling product in the whole fair.

bioexpo/14_solar-toys_20010701 (100KB)Other stands had all kinds of BIOCOMPATIBLE objects. BIOCOMPATIBLE cellular phone electro magnetic absorbers, BIOCOMPATIBLE water filters, hammocks, hemp and organic clothes, kitchen gadgets, shoes, build-yourself solar toy kits (picture), and bio-organizations. Food was great and we never had to leave the grounds: Organic fresh bread stand, nut butter stand, organic vegan sorbet stand, organic produce stands, chocolate crepes stand, and an organic cafeteria.

bioexpo/05_momo-hat_20010630 (69KB) bioexpo/06_momo-box_20010630 (104KB)A memorable event took place the second day. Erika went to our van in the parking lot to get something and came back pale. One of the windows was smashed and her backpack was gone. Oh no! What are we going to do? OfeK was content saying the thief probably needed his shoes and Momo's clothes and the old overused night-diapers more than we did (the only "valuables" in it). She is naked and he is barefoot most of the time anyhow! The laptop was also in the car, but the thief seemed to be pretty dumb, pulling the backpack through the window instead of just opening one of the doors. We looked the whole evening in garbage cans in the area, at least for the nice backpack - the only real valuable.
That night OfeK had a dream that somehow hinted that the backpack might be in the forest next to the parking lot. In the morning just before we had to leave, Erika decided to give it a try and went into the dark woods. She returned with something on her back! She found everything in a pile not too far from the car - not a single thing missing. It's too bad, we thought we would manage just fine with one backpack, traveling even more light that we already are.

On the way back we were told we are just going to stop for one night at a friend's house. This just-a-friend's-house turned to be the most joyful and beautiful garden that we had ever seen, though we feel it needs a small EvoluLog of its own. Until then...

...Encore! More mo2Photos

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No copyright! (but be nice please...) composed by OfeK.