Lime Saddle Commune


Communities Magazine




                                 First issue of Communities Magazine 50 years ago.                                                Ninth issue with my daughter's hand-print picture on the cover.


Lime Saddle Commune was organized by my first wife and I and two brothers, Vince and George Zager, late in 1971. There were originally 12 of us, 8 adults and 4 children on 20 acres of marginal land in Butte County northern California. Vince had inherited the Modern Utopian magazine from its editor who quit and so our first organizing project outside of becoming as self-sufficient food-wise as we could, growing our own food organically, even selling surplus in town to neighbors, was to create Communities Magazine as a central clearinghouse of communal information. This we did and miraculously, Communities Magazine is still being published today, 40 years later as of this date in 2012. Lime Saddle Commune went the way of almost all '60's and '70's communes as the 2nd great communitarian movement in America failed for much the same reasons as did the first wave. You can't create a society in miniature with different lifestyles and politics without having people extremely committed to the cooperative lifestyle, something Americans were never taught at home or in school. Religious commitment can do it so the religiously based communitarians have survived but not "normal" Americans who will run into ego clashes in short order trying to cooperatively manage their lives. And this is what happened at Lime Saddle. Ego conflicts more than anything else cause our commune's demise. My wife and I had left Lime Saddle about 2 years before it finally fell apart.

It was a "learning experience". I found out I personally cannot hack communal living, do not want to ever again have a group making major decisions in my life for me if I am not disabled and infirm. So I changed my co-operative community emphasis, communitarian, not communal. At least not for me, unless it's family. That's another thing one finds out in the American communitarian movement outside of the religious communities. Family, biological family, survives while communal families do not. At least not in America. The Israeli kibbutz movement found the same thing to be true to their communal kibbutzim. Biological families survive. Non-biological communal families do not as a rule. My communitarian visions are for co-operative living but not at the communal household level but at the individual and family level. Co-housing for example vs. communes. Still, those who can live communally and desire to do so have my blessing. It's all part of the communitarian movement.

I visited the former Lime Saddle Commune property in 2011 to see what it looked like after 40 years and to especially see how my over-built cabin had held up. As the son of a carpenter I was the only one on the commune who had any carpentry experience and I over-built the small cabin, everything made thicker than needed. I expected to see it still standing but it wasn't. It was totally gone as were all the cabins we communal members had built around our central farmhouse. It turned out that one of the intervening owners of the Lime Saddle property was a junkyard junkie who had filled all the cabins up with stuff he collected over 17 years I was told and he let it all go to rot which rotted out the cabins, even mine. Actually, it was a surprising visit in another way which was the lack of development I expected to see around that area in the 40 year lapse between our times there and now. Our land looked less, not more developed than when we were there. And no real development happening in the surrounding area either. One school built and gone to seed and abandoned down the road was about it. Strange for California.

The South Fork of Salmon Creek in Humboldt County was my next organizing venture. Organized as a compromise between communal and homestead living it too failed as a land trust organization although as private property ownership continues on today.