Frequently Asked Questions!

 

So, Earthworm Housing Co-operative.  What's that?

 

What..? A housing cooperative is a “non hierarchical property management company”.  It's an organisation which lets people work together to manage the accommodation they live in without having to buy it. If you have never heard of “co-operatives” before, you might want to pop over to http://www.cda.coop/coopprinciples.htm  for a very general outline of what it means to be a co-operative. The rest of this website is full of specifics about Earthworm Housing Co-operative.

 

Where..? We are situated in Herefordshire on the outskirts of the village of Leintwardine, close to the borders with Wales and Shropshire and very close to the River Teme. We are 8 miles from Ludlow and Knighton, 14 miles from Leominster, 25 miles from Hereford, 27 miles from Shrewsbury and our nearest big cities are about 2 hours drive away (Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool or Manchester).  Herefordshire is one of the most sparsely populated counties in England, but we aren't really a remote location. For more information about our locality click on “what we offer” above and read on.

 

How..? Earthworm Housing Co-op has existed since 1988 when it took over the long established Wheatstone Commune (click on 'history' above if you're actually more interested in what this place used to be, than what it is now).  Earthworm is a fully mutual housing co-op – all members pay rent and all members share the decisions about how this rent is spent.  Were putting off gardening our seven acres until we've significantly improved our three unique buildings.  More about how it works in “how we self-organise” and "Work commitment", which drop down as options when you hover on "what we offer" above.

 

Who..? There have been over 85 members since 1988. In November 2011 there was a complete change in membership and control of the housing co-op. The current members are working to refurbish and renovate the co-op, so that it becomes more comfortable, sound, fuel-efficient, stable and sustainable. 

 

None of us live in yurts or benders - we are no longer a ‘super-low-impact vegan co-op’, we use and own motor vehicles and we are committed to living in the buildings and working in the buildings and on the land. There's lots more information about our plans on the rest of this website, which we hope will lead to more people getting in touch with an interest in becoming members or volunteering.

 

Though we're a housing provider, we also run this housing co-op as a business, together.  If you are _just_ seeking cheapish housing this is not the place for you, but if you want to help manage and utilise the land and buildings you live in, it might be.

 

When all the residences are finished we'll turn our attention to the 4-rooms+camping conference facility that could exist here, running short courses and gatherings.

 

If you're more interested in what happened before we arrived, there's an article about the history of the place on pages 8,9 and 10 of issue 65 at the Leintwardine Life website

 

 

What sort of Buildings. do you have? The main property is 'Wheatstone House' which was built in 1909, along with a stable block comprising workshops with a flat above and a smaller “lodge house” which all together can be home for up to 15 adults plus children, in a mixed model with some self contained flats and a spacious shared house too. We are substantially improving the accommodation and moderately changing the layout. There is also a 30-year-old timber-framed barn, 3 polytunnels from the '90s, a hundred-year-old green house and a nice modern static caravan.  We share orcahrds, gardes, woodland and a few good workshop spaces too.

 

What sort of Land do you have?  Our seven acres contains an acre+ kitchen garden, two well established orchards, lots of soft fruit and mature trees. We have our own wetland system which deals with the water from washing and flushing. We also have dry-composting toilets, but you don't have to use them.  We also have small areas of meadow and an acre of woodland.  There's more information about our land and our plans for it, in the “land” section on this website.

 

We've been receiving enquiries and applications for membership for over 5 years now, and some things come up so often, its worth making them clearer here on the website.

 

Q: I don't want to join and pay rent. Can I just come and volunteer please?

 

A: Let's talk. It depends how useful/easy-to-work-with/friendly you are! We don't yet have the capacity to manage volunteers all the time, but we have had some great weeks and weekends with volunteers staying.

Even if you are/become a good friend, we still ask for a donation (up to £3 a day is reasonable) towards food/bills, and if you're staying in the winter we'll empower you to process some of your own firewood too. The maximum stay for a volunteer is usually two weeks.  There are times when a volunteer is so spectacularly useful and amazing, that we hide the donation jar, being too embarrassed to ask for any money from someone who has volunteered such phenomenal skill and time.

 

Volunteers that none of us know yet come and stay for just 3-5 nights first, then they go away for a while, and we get in touch if we want some more!

 

Q: Is your co-op a place where I can build my little dream-home/bender/wooden cabin in the woods?

 

A: No. We have three amazing buildings and we are committed to reinhabiting them fully, before we'd consider putting new structures up. Even then, we don't want to put more structures up – we want to grow more firewood, food, craft materials and flowers, not erect more buildings on our land, even if they're very beautiful/low-impact.

 

Q: Can I live in my caravan/truck while we sort the buildings out?

 

A: Maybe. Lots more discussion required, and if you want to be a member you will still pay a whole rent (at least £240 a month) and a share of bills (£20-50 per month). We have planning permission for our one static, but this is not available for rent, and we won't consider a second one until the buildings are full. Maybe not even then.

 

Q: Do I really have to fill out the membership questionairre before you'll even meet me?

 

A: Yes.  If you want to apply for membership, that's how it works.  If you just want to volunteer, chat us by e-mail, maybe arranging some phone calls too, but if you think you might want to live here please read this website and follow the process outlined in "Membership", which you can click into by hovering on "who we're looking for".

 

Q: It says all the applicants come for a weekend visit together. I'm really put off by the idea of a group visit - can I come on my own instead?


A: We do a group visit because it's very hard for all our members to commit to being here at the same time to meet applicants, and seeing everyone together speeds up the process a lot. But if it puts you off completely, let us know when you apply and we'll try to arrange an individual visit for you instead. You may end up having to come for extra visits to make sure you meet all of us.

 

Q: I can't make it for the group visit weekend, can I come another time instead?


A: It's really difficult for us to find times, especially weekends, when all of us are here to meet prospective members. We've set the date for the visit in advance so that we can all commit to being here and the visit can happen shortly after the application deadline. If you really, genuinely can't make it (e.g. your best friend is getting married that day), let us know and if we shortlist you we'll try to arrange a separate visit. But please don't take advantage of our flexibility just because you'd rather do something else that weekend! - slowing down the process costs the co-op money and slows down our renovation project.

 

 

Q: Can I just come and have a nosy please?

 

A:  Only if you can convince us by phone or e-mail that you're harmless, and will even bring something positive (a cake?)!  If you just want some new friends be warned; we're all very busy and this is not a commune, it's a "co-operative housing project".  We're a busy property management company.  We do show people around by arrangement sometimes, especially old members and curious architects/building-historians - get in touch by e-mailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

Q: Why can't I come and meet you all and see the place before I fill out the application form?

 

A: four reasons:

  - this website gives you a good enough idea to decide to spend 20 minutes writing thoughtfully or not.

  - filling out forms sometimes is part of our culture of decision making and sharing information and control. If it's beyond you, you won't fit in here!

  - the form is very useful to us as a simple process/format to compare the many, diverse applicants fairly.

  - we're all very busy, and might not be there when you visit.  Having something written down is invaluable.

The membership application process takes up a lot of our time, and we would rather operate at a slow and steady pace than have people bounce in unpredictably.  We give the process time because it is very important to us to find the right people for the co-op.

 

Q: I hear you host amazing work-weeks, parties and events - when's the next one and can I come?

 

A: Sorry to say, we're not yet at the stage where we can have really open public events.  In the future our camping and hostelry services will be available for hire for events, courses, gatherings, etc but for the next few years it's all a bit too strange (scaffolding, floorless-rooms, wierd temporary systems etc).  Sorry to be arsey, but like the gangsters used to say, "if you don't know, I can't tell you!"

 

 

Q: How much work do you do for the co-op?  It says members have to do 3 hours a week on this website, but it also says that members currently do up to 24 hours a week?!

 

A:  Yup, the current members are averaging 10-20 hours a week working on the renovation of the buildings.  This "renovatoin phase" will last a few years, after which that average will go down, and our own personal livlihoods and projects will get more of our time again.  We're selecting new members with a realistic view of what this co-op needs right now.  In the future, it'll be more suitable for more types of people, but right now, it's a building site, and most of us have become part-time builders or part-time administrators for the renovation.

 

More to come, probably...  (Do e-mail questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and you'll either get a personal reply, or see something pop up here!)  We also welcome reports of typos and ambiguities within this website.