This is a crash course on MTP where the most common questions are answered (the ones that are asked year on year).
MONIMAIL TOWER PROJECT (“MTP” for short)
MTP is a registered charity. Its aims are education, to provide relief for those who are undergoing mental stress and provide a resource for these aims to take place. This work has always been done through horticultural and it’s related fields. We understand these aims in the broadest sense and many of our day to day activities help to fulfill them. For example we regularly have short and longer term volunteers who work with us in the garden and woods to gain experience in a supportive environment. We also run a range of workshops with a focus on horticulture or personal development, which are usually well attended by people from the local community.
As the Tower and its surrounds are classed as scheduled monument it’s restoration and up keep are also charitable aims. We only need to be fulfilling one of these aims at a time but we do need to fulfill them.
Ever since the early days of MTP there has been an intentional community living here and working the land. The resident community (TRC) for short. You will however find nothing in the constitution stating it as a requirement of MTP. Rather it is a “policy decision”
In the early years the people that worked the gardens and woods had no direct control over the project. In later years the resident community took on the legal and financial responsibility of managing the project. Nowadays the resident communitywith the aid of the trustees and the MTP members in the outside community manage the project.
The trustees carry the legal responsibility of managing the project and it finances in accordance with the constitution and charity law. The official office bearer posts are Chairman/woman, treasurer and the secretary. As a matter of policy we want them to have been active in the project for at least a year and we aim to have at least one external (non resident) trustee at all times.
JOINING PROCEDURE (MTP)
Membership is open to all cost is £5. We have regular meetings at least once a month, more frequently as required. We also have single agenda meetings for important larger subjects. As a member of MTP you will be allowed to take part in meetings (and be legal responsible for any decisions made) receive a copy of the minutes so be kept up to date on what is happening.
Note: If you are not a member you can request a copy of the minutes for a small fee. (suggested £1)
We all have an ethical, ecological and sustainability base to our lives. It is the chain that binds the diverse individuals that make up Monimail “The Project” We try to work and live together in a mutually cooperative way. We have a policy of no-smoking in the buildings. We also operate a no drugs policy.
THE RESIDENT COMMUNITY (TRC)
We have a resident community meeting once a month, when we spend some time together thinking about the practical, emotional, aspects of living at Monimail. This meeting is a place for airing any problems and for getting to know each other and how we work as a group better. Longer term visitors are welcome at these meetings.
We try to cook for each other once a week, so there are several communal meals each week. This means taking into account each others dietary limitations and preferences. Eating together as a community has always been important here.
The wider community: We try and reach out to the wider community through our contacts list via email. North Howe Transition Town (NHTT) and the web. We also offer small allotments through the allotment group.
We encourage greener modes of transport. Foot, bike, bus, train, and car share. We have a bike shed and community bikes that can be used by visitors for local trips to Cupar, Auctermuchty, Ladybank etc. We also have a car share, currently full with 7 members. The car share costs Â£100 per person and requires that all drivers be over 25 and if under 36 named on the policy. The car is booked on line and it’s usage cost is currently 40p per mile. We are looking into running it on bio-diesel. The is also a fife lift share scheme.
MANAGING THE HOUSEKEEPING MONEY (The free serf Society (serf)
We take turns at managing the housekeeping serf accounts (Currently Oli). Whoever has this job makes sure we don’t overspend and keeps accounts so we can all see where the money goes.
Each individual adults pays serf currently £18 per week and is payable to The Free Serf Society which is simply the name of our housekeeping account. This pays for electricity for the house, gas for cooking, The big calor gas tank to heat the tower, expendable household items such as dishcloths and basic food but not luxuries like soya or milk products or environmentally/ethically unsound items which we may wish to indulge our selves with from time to time! these we pay for individually. Personal visitors who stay for two weeks or less do not pay anything towards housekeeping expenses. Housekeeping is paid whether you are at the project or away on holiday or for work.
We try to operate an ethically sound food policy with the aim of reducing the negative impact our shopping and eating habits have on the environment and other people. To this end, we try to eat as far as possible out of our own garden and we don’t buy in much in the way of vegetables, which means eating what’s in season and being inventive with our surpluses. We do buy in vegetables when we need to of course but try to buy local (with in the EU) in season and organic, bearing in mind that even organic vegetables may have been imported from another continent, so we look at the labels. In the spring when organic onions come from Argentina we may make do with our own leeks instead. We do try not to be too hard-line. But we do aim for at least 80% with in the EU as a minimum. All this means that new members may find their diet changes significantly, and items such as red peppers and aubergines cease to be everyday vegetables. If you really want these things then you buy them yourself. Remember large areas of beautiful southern Spain have been covered in plastic to grow out of season vegetables for British supermarkets.
We make a Green City (serf) order every 2 or 3 months and this usually comes to £300 to £400.
The Tower Calor Gas bottle needs to be refilled periodically, a check has to be kept on the level in the tank and it must not be allowed to fall below half for safety reasons.
It costs a several hundred pounds to refill the tower gas. Whoever lives in the Tower is responsible for using the gas central heating economically!!! Not leaving it on unnecessarily like when your not in your room…… The tower is a huge heat sink the serf is primarily to heat you not the tower!
The Segal house calor gas bottles are refilled and swapped as required as they fuel the cooker only. (this doesn’t mean we aren’t careful with it’s usage. We are).
The phone and internet standing charge is shared between each member and “the project”. Each paying out their equal share. Usage is itemised with each resident and each member having their on project dial out number. 05,15,25,35,45,55,65,75,85,95.etc. A bill is issued separately to all resident members each quarter.
In addition, we avoid buying processed food or items with lots of packaging, particularly when this is hard to recycle and unnecessary. Of course we fall short of these ideals all the time! but at least we try. The only tinned item we regularly buy at present is tinned tomatoes. Look in the SERF file at past Green City orders if you want to get an idea of what we buy.
We use newspaper to light the fire, also plain cardboard. Metal and aluminum cans are washed and stored for recycling at Glenrothes. Printed cardboard, magazines and junk mail, and plastics marked with a 1 2 or 3 in a triangle and kept in separate plastics boxes in the utility area under the sink and taken to Cupar for recycling by whoever is going! lucky old them.
Any other items that could be reused, or made into something that could be reused is stored in the recycling store in the main hut.
We compost all our vegetable waste and there is a large yellow bucket in the kitchen for vegetable peelings etc. The compost bins are used in rotation so check which one is in use!
We don’t compost cooked food in the normal compost bins as this attracts rats. Cooked food is placed in the small white bucket on the left of the sink, then fed to the worms in the wormery. or burnt on the fire or in the large fire-pit if it could spread stuff or if it’s toxic (green potatoes).
Grass clippings and brash type compost is usually place in a larger compost heap at the base of the garden.
The composting toilet is composted in the compost loo bins in the orchard. These bins are used in rotation check which is in use! If you use the compost toilet sprinkle a little saw dust or ash on your poo. Try not pee in the compost loo. Pee before you enter the loo! (pee under a tree then poo in the loo) Try to use as little paper as you can practice your origami. If the compost loo needs emptying.. do it. The wash out the bucket using the hose on the back of the loo. Make sure the bucket is placed back securely and the lid put down so as to not attract rats!
We also have stores of leaf mould, manure, and rock dust that we share any surplus with the wider community through NHTT.
MANAGING THE MONEY (MTP)
The treasurer Has the responsibility of managing MTP finances in accordance with the constitution and charity law. This includes keeping an eye on rent, income, expenditure, donations, wwoofer costs (serf), the bank ledger, etc, and reporting any money issues to MTP meetings. As a matter of policy we need two signatures on MTP cheques preferably one resident and one external member. Likewise we also refrain from having couples sign the same cheques.
MTP phone calls use the MTP code. MTP is responsible for the electricity in the tower, The water bill, Tower council tax (currently exempt) and the public liability insurance etc. The three residents rooms in the tower have been added to the Segal house for council tax purposes.
We live cheaply because we grow and collect our own fuel wood for heating and grow quite a lot of what we eat. Itâs a kind of peasant lifestyle involving a good deal of labour, so be aware that life here may not suit you if you don’t enjoy physical work…..as a rough guide we spend about half a day a week working in the gardens or woods simply to supply ourselves with what we need. Anyone who stays here has to expect to do that amount of work as well as sharing in the cooking, cleaning rotas etc it’s not optional.
The cooking rota is everyone does a main evening communal meal at least once a week, also bakes bread if needed. If we have long term guests we encourage them to join in either on their own or with a helper. (wwoofers etc) If no one is cooking do a shared cook or fend for your self. Breakfast is fend for your self, Lunch is left overs, shared, or fend for your self.
Washing up is a chore and although the cook is responsible for doing it, in practice the people that eat do it (if they don’t then the cook needs to use less pans!). We wash up dry and put away before it turns in to a mountain (which happens very fast in communities) we have agreed that there will be no main meal washing up, drying or putting away left to do when we first come in for breakfast. so it’s always done and the work surfaces cleared before bed.
The cleaning rota requires every resident does at least two half hour slots in the communal areas per week. As we all use these areas we all make them dirty and untidy. The areas currently are the kitchen, dining room, porch, hall and stairs, office, utility room, down stairs shower and loo, upstairs bathroom, wwoofer room. When you’ve done a slot initial the rota
People who become resident members of Monimail Tower Project also share in managing the organisation and fulfilling it’s aims you are expected to put in about 2 days a week altogether; Working the garden, the woods, the maintenance, caring for visitors/wwoofers, meeting, responding to letters, keeping accounts, fund raising, organising events, making phone calls, etc. Ask to see a copy of the constitution and annual review if you want to know more.
JOINING PROCEDURE (TRC)
There isn’t one. But there are a few things People thinking about joining as resident members need to understand. All residents of the community are MTP members so need to understand the consequences and responsibility’s that come with the running of the charity. You need to be able to wear a MTP hat and a Community hat! (both at the same time helps!). It’s not hard as there is so much overlap. but it’s still a skill that needs learning.
People thinking about joining as resident members are asked to visit for a total of at least four weeks, spread over six months. This gives potential residents the chance to understand what life is like here and gives them and current residents the chance to decide if we suit each other. Many things affect this, including the balance of the community in regard to sexes, family’s, age, skills, time, etc. If the trustees and the resident group feel the group would benefit you will be invited to apply. If not don’t take it personally the make up and requirements of the resident group is apt to change and what was not needed at one point in time will no doubt be required again. Rather if you’re really drawn to the project be active in it as a non resident and bide your time. If you are accepted into TRC you will need to have a SCRO check.