I want to put my feelers out there and see how many other people in Missoula (or those thinking about moving here) might be looking for the same thing I am: Generally, a place to live and practice an ecologically healthy, autonomous, egalitarian community lifestyle in or very near to town. (At least within biking distance of Missoula.)
More specifically, here are some "ideal" qualities in the place / group I'm looking for:
Leaderless / consensus decision making. I don't want to live under a feifdom or an oligarchy, and I certainly don't want to be a dictator. This means there would need to be a mutual willingness to take the time to hash things out as a group to reach agreements that are livable to everyone when conflicts arise. Yes, consensus can take time, but I find that preferable to the "efficiency" a ruling elite, and I'd like to find others who share this as a priority.
Balance between private and communal spaces, soft boundaries. For my own personal sanity, at minimum, I do best with a room that's "just mine" with a door I can close and be left alone when I need space. In terms of gardening, it would be nice to have a commons for everyone, as well as a general, softly defined area that's "mine" to experiment with (and each person having a spot to grow what they want if they so desire), but without having to draw arbitrary hard lines or build fences that say "do not cross here". So a certain degree of "bendability" on everyone's part, combined with a common desire to foster an ecologically harmonious landscape.
Somewhere in the range of 4-12 committed people. This because fewer than 4 doesn't make for much of a "community", but above a dozen, things get ridiculously complicated (and if we're talking about one house, likely impractical, depeding on the size of the building). Probably best to start on the low end of the range, and grow slowly.
Affordable. I seek to minimize time spent in the wage slave system, so money is pretty tight for me (at least partly by choice)... Renting tends to be simplest in the short term, but leaves you with nothing to show for it at the end of the day. Buying means we'd need to be in it for the long haul, and dealing with the legal implications of how to organize (forming a non-profit / land trust / co-op, etc.) Another more radical possibility would be to form a squatting collective, which I would also be open to if I find enough other compatible people also into that idea. Of course it's risky with all sorts of potential pitfalls, and unlikely to last, but weighed against the risk of renting and being kicked out anyway, worth considering as a possibility.
As far as possible from overbearing landlords. I used to think renting from impersonal, distant corporations and property management companies was the worst thing in the world. Then I rented a room in an 8-bedroom house that was owned by one of the roommates who appeared to have intentions in sync with my own goals of environmentally friendly living; there was a nice little garden plot for each person, beautiful food forest type landscaping, and lots of common areas with the potential to socialize and congretate. He ended up being an uptight authoritarian who made rules everyone else hated, arbitrarily changed them as it suited him, and drove all the "nice" roommates away. Exeprience has taught me it's actually a lot easier to deal with apathetic companies who are mainly just concerned with having the rent paid on time, and otherwise generally leave you alone. YMMV.
People who can be relatively chill, respectful of one another.
Minimal or no coercion. I don't like chore checklists, or being around people who want to tell others "you have to do such-and-such." But this also means finding a group where everyone is mature enough to clean up after themselves, have a similar "range" of what they can tolerate in terms of overall cleanliness / messiness in common spaces, and self-motivated enough to do things that need to be done. Also some ability to allow for others whose tastes and "standards" may not be quite the same as your own. I like to think of myself as having these qualities, and would like to find others who share them.
Common desire to live relatively "free" of corporate media propaganda, prioritizing human interactions over entertainment. In other words, I'd rather live in a place where the television is NOT the central focus, if it exists at all. Don't take this to mean I'm against having it around altogether; I enjoy movies, and actually have a decent sized DVD collection myself. If possible though, I'd rather have the "movie watching" area physically separated from the place where people prepare meals, drink morning tea, have group conversations, etc. Or at least be in a place where the tv isn't on all the time overshadowing everything. Rather than try to impose my ways on people, I'd like to find others who understand and share these aesthetics, which is why I've come to realize it's important to communicate up front what I'm looking for.
Animal friendly. I have a cat, who I treasure more than anything in the world. He and I would love to be in a place inhabited by (friendly, non-aggressive) dogs, chickens, and wild creatures of all sorts.
Looking at this list, I know it's a fairly tall order to find a place/group that would satisfy every one of these criteria, but it provides a target to shoot for, even if everything doesn't turn out exactly according to this vision. Not looking to move into anything immediately, and will probably stay where I'm at until at least the end of winter. Right now, I just want to solicit feedback and find connections with others who share similar dreams to manifest, and with luck, maybe a group can form and we can begin planning.
I might crosspost this to craigslist in the future, but for now, permies.com seems like the best place to begin looking.
One point I want to further clarify: When I say "within bicycling distance of Missoula", I'm talking about being close to enough to commute in and out of town on a fairly regular basis.
So... while a place 50 miles away would certainly be within possible bicycling distance if you ride for most of the day, that's not what I'm looking for. Preferably, I'd be able to bike to downtown in under an hour. At the speed I bicycle, that would mean less than 10 miles from town. (Maybe 15 miles if we stretch it a bit, and everything else about a place that far away happened to be near-perfect.)
A place in the middle of town would be awesome for convenience, but maybe less advantageous in terms of what we'd be able to do with it in terms of keeping animals, building restrictions, and likely amount of space to garden. As far as I'm concerned, all opportunities that also fit criteria I already listed are worth considering.
Oh sure, it's a tiny ad, but under the right circumstances, it gets bigger.
Building Your Permaculture Property | Free Permaculture Summit | April 23-25