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Our visit to Bryn Gweled in Bucks County, Pa - 9/23/12


On a bright Sunday in September, Bryn Gweled homesteads opened their doors to visitors for the very first time. What a glorious event. Begun in 1940 by a group of Quakers and others, Bryn Gweled is a cooperative community, home to 81 -  2 acre homesteads where the land is leased but the homes are owned. Two acres was meant to be the minimum amount of land a small family needed to be relatively self-sufficient. The rest of the acreage is community land comprised of roads, a community garden, playing fields and community center, and what has become a small forest. Although they are self-governing, they are also a part of Southampton and are under that township’s rule.

Each community member pays a small monthly fee for the upkeep of their community and is encouraged to take part in the community committees as well as being good neighbors. Homesteaders, on their own, have created tool shares and community composting, to name but a couple of innovations.

       
The homesteads that were open for the visit were diverse. Some grew their own food either on their homestead or in the community garden. Others raised a variety of barnyard animals – chickens, geese, ducks and pigs. There was a sheep farm which offered wool for spinning or knitting and they were also experimenting with felted woolen mattress pads. There were also several beekeepers with honey for sale.

Some homesteaders had amazing gardens, others offered views of their passive house style homes and solar arrays. We met a wonderful older couple who were one of the original homesteaders, having moved there in 1949. They lived in a tent until they built their home themselves out of material salvaged from when Vine street was being widened and all the houses had to be torn down. They joked that neighbors always knew when they were going to have an addition to their family as that also an entailed an addition to their home. 

The people were friendly and open to sharing their unique experiences whether it was their unique homestead or explaining why they chose to relocate there or the process of joining the community and the involvement required. Overall, it was a fascinating place to visit and probably an interesting place to live

Sheep    Home Spun Wool