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Chop wood. Carry water. Together. Photo: Rubber Dragon via Flickr.

Are you old enough to remember community Work Bees? Or, did you come along after most of the homestead “work” got out-sourced to “professionals?”

I’m old enough to remember Work Bees. And, I’m interested in reintroducing them. We’re living in a period of the Great Forgetting and part of reclaiming resilience is becoming reskilled in many of the practices that were native to our grandparents’ lives.

Abuzz with activity

A community Work Bee sort of resembles a healthy beehive. If you study a functional hive, there’s a lot of activity and it’s all going on for the good of the whole community. No one bee exclusively profits and gains from the activity. The whole hive is strengthened by their work. Bees know how to structure win-win scenarios.

We held a Work Bee at our place this past weekend. We had about four cord of firewood blocked up on the ground. Some of the rounds were enormous. Just thinking of splitting this pile all by ourselves made our backs ache. So, we invited a handful of friends, borrowed two wood-splitters and had at it.

The work was punctuated by feasting on an old fashioned homemade baked bean dinner, complete with cole slaw, brown bread and rhubarb pie. Some people brought their musical instruments and, as the last pieces of cordwood were stacked, tunes began to waft on the evening breeze.


It was hot and the work was hard. But, the sense of camaraderie was amazing. There was laughter, sharing, consoling and caring between friends. People caught up on each others’ family news — so-and-so bought a new house, another is expecting a grandchild, and some others were planning a long-overdue vacation.

Barter happened naturally. One person needed an item and another had it to offer, in trade for something that they in turn needed. Items were lent, traded and gifted. Needs were met.

As the woodpile began to take form, we all admired it as if it were a great work of art. It was a monument to the power of community; to friendship.


I know that every time we throw a chunk of wood in the stove this winter, we’re going to remember this past weekend — and the stories, hugs and shared experience that made it happen.

Sure, we could have hired a service provider to come in and do this job for us — but we didn’t. And, because we didn’t, we got to know some of our friends and neighbors a whole lot better.

We sweated together. We ate together. A shoulder to shoulder, boots on the ground kind of friendship. We invested in the kind of friendship that’ll be there when the going gets rough. We did a whole heck of a lot more than build a woodpile. We built community: local, resilient, and thriving.

The next time that you have a big task looming large, consider hosting a Work Bee. Invite some of your tenacious friends, cook up some of their favorite foods, and spend a day together. Wood splitting is only one possibility. Consider a Work Bee for putting up your new barn, building and/or repairing a fence, double digging a garden, roofing a shed, canning tomatoes — the possibilities are endless.

It’s a great way to strengthen local communities though deep authenticity. And that’s something to buzz about.

–Sherry L. Ackerman, Ph.D., Transition Voice