Report From Kharma Farm, a Small Commune in Pennsylvania

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It wasn't easy, but the adults of Kharma Farm wouldn't trade their new life for anything.

After faithfully reading your magazine for years, we decided it was time to write and let you know about our attempts at “doin’ it” . . . or almost doin’ it, as the case may be.

By way of introduction, we are eight members–Lynn, Mary, Othello, Tia, Bob, Leslie, Daphne, and Woody–of an extended family called Kharma Farm. We became “extended” a couple of years ago in an attempt to buttress ourselves against the slings and arrows of a faltering economy . . . and our attempt–we’re glad to say–has been largely successful.

After buying forty acres in Potter County–otherwise known as God’s Country (just read the bumper stickers if you don’t believe it!)–we’re now living the good life. That means, among other things, killing ourselves to finish a dome started three years ago, so we can stuff eight people into it while we build a house and a barn.

Yeah, we know you can do anything you set your mind to, but couldn’t someone have told us about all the suffering and hard work and hours of expended energy and all the disappointments and problems? Sure, it’s all worth it (we didn’t say it wasn’t!), but damn if it wasn’t a hell of a struggle.

And the struggle ain’t over yet. We sweated out this month’s mortgage payment on the land, and the 30′ X 40′ pole house we’re erecting is unfinished for lack of funds.

Nonetheless, we did get some good news of late: Grit bought three articles we wrote and submitted, and the Star-Gazette has hired us to report local news. And we do have two other newspapers buying pieces from us on the political, social, and cultural goings-on in good old Potter County. But the pay is so out and out poor that (as you can see) we need no less than four papers buying our stuff to make just one living!

We were fortunate to find newspaper work after only two weeks of living here. It’s not the easiest sort of labor, particularly when you’re new in the area and don’t know anyone. We had trouble at first, when out on a story, just getting townspeople’s names right!

Speaking of townspeople, you’re probably wondering how they’ve received us. Well, some folks–naturally–were really fine about helping us out. Likewise, we sure go out of our way to help our neighbors whenever we can. We “downstaters” did, however, experience a few problems fitting into the society hereabouts. You betcha! (Extended families aren’t what you’d call the norm around here.) In fact, we had to write an article about ourselves just to straighten out all the rumors that were going around!

We’re still a little worried about the legality of building that house (our methods probably aren’t code-perfect) . . . not to mention the ramifications–legal and otherwise–of living together in this dome. Did you ever try to fit eight souls into a residence that measures only 28 feet in diameter? We’ve been experiencing the social aspects of that for months! We admit it is sort of cozy . . . and we have become extremely tolerant . . . and the kids love it . . . and it isn’t too bad . . . but where the devil do you put a darkroom? (We need one for our newspaper work.)

Seriously though, after six months of living here we can now honestly say that this is the best damn life we know of and we wouldn’t give it up for a million dollars. It was worth all the sweat and suffering and deprivation and tears and pain . . . not to mention the sense of loss we all felt when our 300-pound sow, Christine, failed to survive the trip to the country. At least now we have Pat and Dick–a couple of bull calves–to fill the freezer in a couple of months. (We helped a dairy farmer up the road erect his steel pre-fabbed barn and–as a result–got not only the two calves, but free milk until January 1. And Burdette Cowburn, our neighbor, is giving us all the hay and feed corn we’re gonna need in return for our giving him a hand with baling and loading his hay.)

We’ve had a lot of good luck with the bad, make no mistake. In conclusion, we’d just like to say that it sure is a fine feeling to read THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS® while sitting in a warm dome surrounded by friends . . . and to know that we don’t simply read or talk about living the good life anymore. We’re doing it!

You betcha! (A little phrase we learned after movin’ upstate.)

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