Hexagon Women’s Land Proposal
Written and compiled by Kathleen May
Mission: Hexagon seeks to provide marginalized women access to our land, offering affordable housing units, either permanent or mobile, where they can live, work, and volunteer.
Vision: Hexagon will be a sustainable, democratic, permaculture-based community of women with the shared goal to alleviate poverty and abuse, nurture our relationship with the earth and animals, and live comfortably but reasonably. Part communal and part private, Hexagon envisions a radical new way of living in solidarity with one another and the planet.
Values: anti-oppression, community, connection, feminism, the environment, sustainability, self-reliance, living in synergy with nature, activism, gardening and growing, healing
Hexagon Women’s Land
The purpose of this proposal is to offer something both concrete and accessible to those interested in learning more about Hexagon. At this point in time, Hexagon is a well-established imagining, and we are seeking investors and volunteers to support this project through donations of time, money, land, energy, or other gifts. Our contention is that women know what is best for women, and those directly involved in the project, meaning those who will be occupying and cultivating the land, should be the ones working in tandem with nature to make decisions.
The intention of Hexagon is multiple. Initially, it is to cultivate a space that can be later developed as a means to alleviate homelessness for women in Muskoka, Ontario, Canada. Right now, we are seeking investors to donate the land so we can begin building. We are pursuing support (which includes brainstorming, commitment of volunteerism, supplies, labour, expertise, financial support, and more) to make this land a reality. Ideally, Hexagon will be built entirely by women, by female tradespeople, experts, volunteers, and other hired persons. We seek support from all progressive people in Muskoka, from citizens, to business owners, to town councilors.
The homes on Hexagon will be made with recycled/repurposed, donated, and environmentally sound materials and practises. This means sourcing certain supplies that may cost more initially but stand up to the elements and create a sense of security and responsibility, as well as support businesses that respect the earth. Hexagon also promotes permaculture, which means observing and replicating nature where nothing is wasted, everything has use and value. Therefore the concept of ‘waste’ is foreign and efforts must be made to make use of all materials in our surroundings. Our relationship with the land is a working one: no blasting or clearcutting of trees, no major ‘development’ of the land. We will work with what we are offered and make best use of it as it currently exists.
Hexagon portends that women fleeing homelessness and abuse deserve more than bare-minimum standards of ‘needs met’. Rather than women renting rooms in houses where they have very little space and control, or renting units in apartments where noise and immersion in other people’s’ crises can be very triggering, we believe women need their own space, suited to their particular needs, close to nature to soothe the chaos that comes as a result of trauma. Many studies now reveal the benefits of being in nature, gardening, being barefoot in soil, eating organic produce, artistic creation, community, and most importantly, security. Hexagon will offer women the peace of mind of affordable, permanent housing suitable to their needs, with the added benefits of community, skill-building, and the knowledge that their investment (rent) in the land offers more women the same opportunities afforded them.
Hexagon requires a donation of land to exist. We are currently researching how other Women’s Lands have been built and flourished over the years to see how we can work with current laws but still offer something completely unique to serve as a prototype for the area. Ideally, the land would be donated to Hexagon as an organization, where we are given decision-making power, while understanding that progress must be made and updates frequently given. We believe we could cultivate a powerful relationship with the town of Huntsville and district of Muskoka, given that we share the goal of easing the varied burdens of homelessness–the largest burden being on the women suffering.
Initially, Hexagon would consist of a core group of women intending to build and live on the property. These would be women currently experiencing homelessness or a history of abuse. A home on the land is equal to a ‘vote’ in Hexagon. Founders–the core group–have an additional vote, and any decision-making ‘ties’ would be voted in favour of what is best for the Earth. A woman has to live on the land for one year before receiving a full vote: in the first year, she may participate in all discussions and advocate for herself or the project to influence other votes but may not vote herself. This is to ensure the vision of Hexagon remains strong.
Common expenses such as insurance will be paid from a business account. Into this account will be monies such as rent, profits from selling goods, and grants. As the intention of Hexagon is not to make money but to grow, any money not needed for expenses and upgrades will be used to offset the initial expenses of new residents or ‘rent scholarships’ for those in need. Eventually, we intend to purchase additional land and grow.
Opportunities for living on the land include: building your own home with the help of other Hexagon members, paying tradeswomen to build your home to Hexagon environmental and community standards, bringing a previously built ‘tiny house on a trailer’ to the property. Hexagon also intends to offer a portion of land for ‘rent’ to women camping, RVing, or otherwise ‘Wild living’ in order to learn about Hexagon prior to living there, or simply to experience it.
Options for building will include carbon-neutral energy exchange, ‘off-grid’ capability (solar panels, mini wind turbines, other technologies), high RH insulation techniques that are environmentally friendly, use of natural cooling and heating dynamics such as thermodynamics, passive solar, etc. We understand these are high standards to meet but we feel they are imperative for creating a balanced relationship with the earth. As long as women are actively working toward these investments, Hexagon will support them. We are encouraging women to reject traditional housing ‘rules’, and choose more organic, natural building designs and materials. Overlarge, inorganic, rectangular structures with improperly positioned lighting are the antithesis of what Hexagon envisions. Small, domed, earth-based structures, erected where it makes sense for the earth and the woman (not simply what is expedient or high in demand), will create an environment of solidarity with our surroundings. At Hexagon, we are not ‘on’ the land, we are of it.
Work on Hexagon
Work on Hexagon is available based on need. Women who work in the larger community and enjoy their jobs will be encouraged to keep them. We are invested in supporting Huntsville as a community within a community; it is not our intention to be completely removed or considered separate. However, more common will be the fact that women do not have consistent, positive, paying work. Often women who are homeless or fleeing abuse are on social assistance such as Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program or other income supports. Women’s value lies not in their socially perceived ‘productivity’; it is not enough to simply exchange labour and emotional energy for money. Women need to see the end result of their work and feel good about it. Hexagon offers many opportunities for this, and women can be paid in money, goods such as harvests of produce, or in exchange for reduced rent.
Work will vary based on season, availability, ability, and other factors. Some opportunities may include: preparing land for building, assisting in building homes or outbuildings, gardening, beekeeping, tending animals, childcare, errands or other assistance for those less able, property maintenance, communal cooking, and much more.
Hexagon is more than simply land dotted with unique homes. Hexagon will also have a communal building that will serve as the main gathering place for residents. This building will boast commercial kitchen for communal dining and projects like canning, dehydrating, and preserving, a large fireplace, a space for yoga and other exercises, and more. Hexagon meetings will take place here.
On the land will also be chickens, bees, goats, and other small farm animals. These animals are not raised for consumption but will be cared for lovingly in exchange for their gifts and skills.
At Hexagon we are not farmers, but gardeners. The distinction lies in the arrangement of the lands. Land will not be cleared for large crops, but we will make use of the land as it exists and adopt the value of permaculture, growing what the land will allow. Any food we don’t consume or sell at Farmer’s Markets will be donated. To this end, a greenhouse will extend our growing season and heighten our self-reliance.
I am currently in communication with several women-only communities, land trusts, and co-operatives, compiling as much information as possible on the realities of living in this way. Each community has a well-established but ‘living’ governance, meaning that the rules may be added, removed, or changed, based on what is appropriate for the land and the women at the time. However, this is not a set of by-laws enforced without context. The rules of Hexagon are inspired by the laws of nature and are meant to maintain a peaceful and cooperative existence.
For the first round of residents, we intend to offer the land to women over the age of 18 and with a child-free policy for the time being.
The pet policy at Hexagon will initially be indoor pets only. This is to ascertain that the other animals, chicken, goats, etc, are comfortable and safe before introducing domestic animals. We hope that the women of Hexagon will enjoy tending and befriending the land animals.
As Hexagon is an intentional women-only space, male visitors are not permitted. To this end, all labour and skilled trade will be performed by women. If needs necessitate a male visitor, he will be accompanied by a Hexagon founder at all times.
Hexagon is founded on the ideals of peace, sovereignty, and mutuality. As such, any animals we offer space to on the land are not for consumption. We may enjoy their gifts (eggs, honey) so long as we take care of them. We do not believe in ‘outliving usefulness’ and will keep all animals to their natural or necessary deaths. In addition, no animals will be cooked or eaten in the shared spaces. This rule is in the context of our current climate; we foresee a time where it may become necessary to consume animals, and this rule, as all rules, is malleable.
As the nature of Hexagon is cooperative, all women will be expected to participate in shared chores. The simplest way to do this is to offer a range of choices and have women sign-up. Residence at Hexagon is offered on the basis of understanding that the resident will be working on the land, according to her abilities. Failure to do so will be met with a number of restorative attempts, the final attempt, avoided at all costs, being eviction from the land.
The key to Hexagon is respect. We anticipate that Hexagon will house every variety of women sharing every type of experience. Having respect for shared space and women’s experiences is a prerequisite to community living. Group meetings will take place monthly and on an emergency basis.
Feminism: feminism is the pursuit of liberation from male supremacy (patriarchy)
Permaculture: the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient
Women-only: spaces that are intentionally designated for adult human female people
Hexagon: inspired by the cells created by bees in a hive, the hexagon is the most efficient shape in nature
Land: refers to the ‘property’ purchased or given for the use of Hexagon Women’s Land
Own/ownership: refers to legal standards only. For women of Hexagon, we do not own the land but accept it as a gift and live in harmony and partnership with it. It does not belong to us to do as we please, but it has very clear boundaries for us to respect and work within.
‘Needs met’: ‘needs met’ is the bare minimum of survival and does not even approach human thriving. The needs include food, water, shelter (warmth), access to emergency healthcare, and socialization. ‘Needs met’ is the low threshold currently offered by emergency housing.
Homelessness: it’s important to recognize that homelessness for women looks different than it does for men, and looks different in Muskoka compared to Toronto. Homelessness is the lack of safe, consistent housing–it is the displacement of women in a patriarchal society. This impacts women who may own property but the dwelling is condemned or not winterized or the expenses of which go beyond what the woman can afford; women who live with abusive partners but have no say in the finances; women currently or frequently living in women’s shelter or homeless shelter, ‘couchsurfing’, etc. Part of Hexagon’s mission is to raise awareness of the realities of homelessness for women, which includes the unacceptably high risk of rape.
Women have always sought the company of other women when trying to heal physical or mental wounds. The women-only intention of Hexagon is to offer a female-focused, positive, empowering space for women who have suffered from abuse or from the harmful repercussions of living in a patriarchy. Hexagon offers women sanctity and a place to begin to see the power and strength and wisdom of women, something so often derided in our culture. Statistically, men are, by a huge margin, more likely to abuse/assault/rape women than other women. Male violence is a global problem, and women have a right to see a space free of that burden to heal and grow, learn skills, and find their own strength.
Who makes the decisions?
Decisions are made communally by degree of investment. This does not mean financial investment and money has no place in the decision-making process. The Founders of Hexagon can exercise a certain amount of veto power due to their investment in the process and their original creative vision. Residents of one year enjoy a vote. Potential residents and those who have not lived on the land for a year may express opinions and will be heard but may not vote. “Unanimity minus one” appears to be the most common decision-making process for land co-operatives.
What about power, water, food?
Initially, Hexagon may be using provincial power, but we hope to exercise energy sovereignty as soon as possible, using solar, wind, and simply building more efficiently. Hexagon will draw water from a drilled well and practise rain catchment. Food will be the individual’s responsibility but there will be shared harvest and bounties from the animals on the land.
Is the point to be completely isolated from the rest of Huntsville?
The point is not to be completely isolated from the rest of Huntsville or Muskoka. The idea is to be a community within a community. Hexagon will be a regular feature at community events and farmer’s markets, and we may have a storefront at some point, inviting the community to see what we are about! Many women will continue to work in Huntsville, and we will contribute to the local economy as any other citizens would. We do not intend to be completely isolated, but a certain level of discretion is necessary for security.
How much does it cost to live there?
Our intention is to offer housing that is less expensive than a room-for-rent in Huntsville, which is currently in the range of $500-600 per month. This is exorbitant, especially when considering that is an entire Ontario Work benefits cheque. If we can provide a home (not just a room) for $500 per month and help with some of the other costs, such as food, in exchange for the resident working on the land (if she is able) or assisting her in finding satisfactory work in the community, we believe that is a laudable, and achievable, goal.
(If you have questions, suggestions, or want to donate $150 000 to buy a plot of land, please comment below)