Arachnophobia at the Farmers’ Market

Or Spiders, Spiders, Everywhere…

I grew up on a farm.  Bugs didn’t bother me*. I ate a lot of dirt as a child.

I remember being very confused, in elementary school, as my friend freaked out because there was a moth on the steps in front of us. “What’s the big deal?  It’s just a moth.”, I thought.

Karma has such a sense of humour.

Fast forward 20 years, I’m on my honeymoon. We are staying at my husband’s grandparents’ house. We have the upstairs bedroom with a balcony that looks out on the harbour.

How beautiful… How romantic…

Until it’s time for bed,  and I realize that there spiders all over the room. Mormor (grandma) and Morfar (grandpa) had opened the doors to the balcony to air out the room for us and the spiders had moved in.

There were millions of spiders… ok maybe not millions, but a lot. I just remember sitting in the middle of the bed crying hysterically, as my darling, and somewhat surprised, husband tried to explain to his grandma why his new wife was freaking out. Mormor simply got out the broom and dustpan and swept the walls and ceiling for me. I loved her from that point onward.

Today, I surrounded myself with 137 spiders.

Spiders I can live with

No, I’m not in therapy.

I was getting ready for Prairie Spruce’s return to the Regina Farmers’ Market on Saturday, June 30. I planted 137 spider plants that we will be giving away at the Farmers’ Markets over the summer. (Yeah, I did to count; it was bugging me.)

 

 

 

So why isn’t Prairie Spruce giving away… well…  prairie spruce.

One reason we don’t give away prairie spruce trees is that prairie spruce trees don’t exist. (I googled it, and quit looking after page 10). We picked the name, Prairie Spruce, based on our location, values, and beliefs. You can learn more about our choice here.

Come early or you may get the very last one. It was so cute and so tiny, I planted it in a shot glass.

 

 

Spider plants are much easier to grow than spruce trees. (I googled that too.)

Spider plants are one of the top plants for indoor air-purification. According to NASA, spider plants are very good at removing formaldehyde.  Here is a link to the original NASA report, “Indoor Landscape Plants for Indoor Pollution Abatement”.

 

 

 

 

 

So if you would like to learn some more about cohousing, and get a free, air-purifying, spider plant, come visit us at the Regina Farmers’ Market. We are planning to be there

  • Saturday, June 30 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 26 for a Market Under the Stars, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Wednesday, August 21, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

All dates are weather permitting.

Joanne

*To be 100% truthful (and in case my sister reads this), I have an issue with wood ticks which dates back to a vivid memory of my first embedded wood tick. In pre-internet times, no one really knew how to remove a wood tick. “Pour gasoline on it.”, they said. “No, put a match to it.” Lucky for me, my parents didn’t follow that advice, especially in that order. My first trip to Emergency was traumatizing at age 6. Wood ticks are not bugs in my world; they are the Devil’s spawn.

 

Compassionate Communications

We feel lucky to have Jodi Woollam as our teacher and facilitator in learning Compassionate Communications. It’s not easy to find teachers who know this stuff and Jodi lives and works in ‘our town’. jodi.woollam.ca

Jodi leading the first Compassionate Communication workshop

Here are some reflections from our cohousers after the first workshop.

“Learning Compassionate Communications is helping me to understand how important it is for me to be aware of and look after my own needs in a kind and respectful ways.”

“I thought it might all be over my head but it wasn’t and my Prairie Spruce Community helped and supported me in learning.”

“Participating in the Compassionate Communications Workshop with Jodi Woollam helped me see that I want to develop emotional vocabulary.”

What do you need?

The clearer we are about what is motivating our actions the more intentional, self-aware and conscious of others, we can be about how we go about it. Click here for the blog: Four Guides to Improve Communications.

Communicating well isn’t something we are born with, it takes time, awareness, help, feedback, intention, self-awareness, and willingness to fall flat on our faces and try again and again.

I feel lucky to be part of Prairie Spruce Commons Cohousing Community who values learning and growing both individually and as a community.

If you’re considering becoming a member of Prairie Spruce Commons Cohousing now is a great time while units are still available and the community is getting ready for our second workshop in Compassionate Communications in October 2018.

In the future, we hope our Common House might become a place where cohousers together with neighbours and members of the wider community gather to learn in areas such as Compassionate Communications, Composting, Container Gardening and who knows what all else.

For more information about Compassionate Communications and Marshall B. Rosenberg, the founder please contact the Centre for Nonviolent Communications at www.CNVC.org

Ruth

Dreams Com(ing) True

Saturday, May 12 was a very exciting day for everyone at Prairie Spruce. It was the first time we had a chance to go inside our new home.

We started out on the first floor in the common dining and lounge area. Everyone was looking around and enjoying the amount of light coming in from the many windows, thinking about where the kitchen would be, and how great drinks on the terrace were going to be. (OK, maybe I was the only one thinking about drinks on the deck.)

Checking out the kitchen and dining room. The windows to the left open onto the terrace.
Prairie Spruce first-floor members checking out the in-floor heating and cooling.

Those members whose units are on the first floor got to look longingly through the framing at their units.  The hoses for the in-floor heating and cooling (red in the picture ) were laid out, but not cemented in yet, so they couldn’t tour their units. They were able to tour the units on the second floor that have the same design, so they could still get a feel for the size and design of their units.

Then everyone went upstairs to explore the second and third floors.

Lois checking out the view from her 3rd-floor unit. She claims that she will have the best view of fireworks. I think I’ll try the 3rd-floor terrace first.
Dave, Brenda, and Ruth trying out the hallways which include an alcove at each doorway that adds architectural interest. Don’t they look like they belong on an album cover? But the band name… need to figure it out. Suggestions?
This is what most of the second and third floors look like right now – just studs with the promise of something spectacular. Eva, Prairie Spruce member, said, “There are so many different floor plans – Fantastic. My unit is bigger than I expected”.
Darcy from Fiorante Homes and Commercial discussing something with Knud, Eva, and JoAnne. Everyone looks happy.
JoAnne talking to Wayne Mantyka from CTV. Prairie Spruce was on the news on Sunday night. Click here to watch it

There are still units available. It’s time your dreams came true too.

Joanne

P.S. A big thanks to Ken Jones for taking all the photos during the tour. You did an awesome job!

Patience Grasshopper

According to Google this phrase is from a 1970’s TV show “Kung Fu” starring David Carradine. I use it my classroom when students start asking questions that I’m going to answer later in the class. I even have a t-shirt.

But lately, I’m the one lacking patience. As the building progresses, I want to move in…today. I’m ready to take my sleeping bag and start living in my unit. There are stairs, windows, and a roof now. I’m so excited about moving into Prairie Spruce, I can hardly stand it.

Busy on a Sunday morning

So today, to maintain my sanity, I pretended that I already lived there. I drove over to the building on Badham and was surprised to see Flex Roofing and Everflow Eves and Exteriors working on the roof on a Sunday morning. I was pleased to realize that I will never have to reshingle a roof again. Prairie Spruce is putting on 40-year shingles. By the time they need to be replaced, I’ll be…. well…. old enough to not to have to help. Maybe I’ll provide the lemonade and cookies for the workers.

 

 

First butterfly of the spring

After admiring the building from all sides, I decided to go for a walk around Wascana Lake. It’s only a couple of blocks from Prairie Spruce to the park and it was a beautiful day for a walk. I imagined going for walk every night after supper and how nice it would be to see the seasons change throughout the year: the first butterflies and the goslings in the spring; the flowers and boats in the summer; and the fall colors.

No longer will parking be a pain for big events like Canada day or the Dragon Boat Festival. We will have a perfect vantage point for fireworks displays. Instead of having to go early to get a good spot for the fireworks, waiting forever for it to get dark, and then fighting traffic to get home, I can just walk down the hallway, maybe with a glass of wine in hand, and watch the fireworks from the second or third-floor balconies.

I think the Universe is teasing me and trying to teach me to be patient. On Friday, I saw a man walking his boat down Albert Street. That was not a typo. He had a small one-person sailboat on a trailer and he was walking on the sidewalk with it. It reminded me of my kayak and how much fun it will be to paddle around the lake. I might even take some lessons from the marina. It would be good to learn how to get in and out of a kayak gracefully.

Relaxing in the park

During my walk today, I was getting hot and thought how nice it would be to stretch out in my hammock in the shade between two big trees in the park. Just as that little voice in my head was saying that’s ridiculous, no one would do that in the park,  I came around the corner and saw two people in hammocks stretched between the tree.

Patience is not the ability to wait but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting. Joyce Meyer

PS I was just informed by my son that the kayak is his and will be moving to BC soon. I hope someone at Prairie Spruce has a canoe.

Those Danes are a Pretty Clever People

My first batch of Preemie Octopi is already on their way to a NICU.

Some of my favorite things originated in Denmark: wienerbrod*, cohousing, my husband and his family, and, my latest passion, preemie octopi.

The Octo Project started in Denmark in 2013.  The tentacles of the crocheted octopi resemble the umbilical cord and seem to calm the tiny babies and reduce their heart rates.  One parent reported that her baby had pulled out her breathing tube 3 times in one night but stopped as soon as she was given an octopus. When I saw a post on Facebook about preemie octopi, I knew I had to get involved.

Crochet heart for Science Class

I’ve been crocheting since I was a teenager. I started with granny squares and ugly, ill-fitting sweaters. I moved on to items for my science class. Now I’m obsessed with preemie “octos.” My (weird) skills are finally being put to a good use.

I’m now part of  Octopus for a Preemie Canada group. I’ve finished nine octopi so far. It takes me 3 to 4 days to make an octopus as the stitches have to be super tight to make sure the stuffing doesn’t come out. Once I’m done, I sent them off for inspection, washing, and packaging. My octopi are on their way to a neonatal intensive care unit. Maybe to save a few tiny lives.

One of the fun things about my octopi is that I get to name them. I’ve named them after friends, nice nurses at the hospital, the favorite names of my very British sister-in-law, and even Charles Emerson Winchester the Third. (My son’s choice; I think I raised him right.) I want to share that fun.

Everyone that shares this post in the next week will get their name in a draw to win naming rights to one of the four octopi I’ve made for Prairie Spruce. Share this post and put your pick for a name in the comments. When these four beauties are sent for inspection, they will carry the names picked by the winners. ( Yes, one of them is still under construction, but she really, really wanted to be in the picture)

Joanne

*Weinerbrod – what a Danish is supposed to be like.

 

“Christmas Future” in Prairie Spruce Commons Cohousing

Here is part three of Christmas Past, Present, and  Future at Prairie Spruce.

In eager anticipation of living in Prairie Spruce Commons in 2018 I recently asked members of our community to share their vision for “Christmas Future” in cohousing. Responses varied from traditional to more “out of the box” thinking, but all promised to be fun and festive.

Picture a BIG Prairie Spruce Christmas tree surrounded by many helping hands, lots of laughter, conversations, and music. People have brought their hand crafted or store bought favourite decorations and share the stories behind each special piece: “my partner gave me this on our anniversary”, “my grandchildren made this for me in kindergarten”, “this came from the old country”, “this belonged to my mother and it reminds me of her in a special way at Christmas”.

Picture and smell the aroma of a turkey feast with all the trimmings in the common dining room. Other favourite dishes from many cultures, including vegetarian fare like the twelve meatless dishes from the Ukrainian tradition or fragrant curried dishes from India also grace the tables. In-house craft wine and beer is on tap, or festive favourites like eggnog and hot apple cider supplement the specialty coffees and herbal teas being offered. Deserts too numerous to mention are available for sampling on a continuous basis.

Picture people coming together for a house concert, watching Christmas movie classics like “A Christmas Carol”, playing cards and board games, working on puzzles or gathering around the piano to sing Christmas carols. At times the Prairie Spruce choir branches out into the neighbourhood singing Christmas carols and bringing seasons greetings to neighbours, local residents, and businesses.

Prairie Spruce members caroling at College Park II

Picture our own community performances. “One of the things I am nuts about during the holidays is staging “The Sound of Music” sing-long-version, complete with costumes. I can already picture community members in the roles of Captain Von Trapp and Maria and then of course there are the nuns and we can only imagine who will step up (some willing and even not so willing) for those outfits.” It may take a bit of courage on our parts but this promises to be a laugh riot.

Of course, Christmas is also about family and friends. So, in addition to the full community events picture smaller households coming together to share personal Christmas celebrations. At the same time out of town visitors, occupying the guest suites or being hosted within “guest” bedrooms in private units, add to the dynamic of the celebrations and extend the community in special ways. Sometime between Christmas and New Years community members with large extended families occupy the common kitchen and dining room to host their annual all-generations get together. A highlight is impromptu performances of children singing and playing musical instruments. Cohousing community members are welcomed to attend.

Picture other community members returning home under bright stars on a holiday winter night. As they enter Prairie Spruce Commons they hear the sounds of celebration and resolve to meet in the dining room the next morning. There they catch up with friends and enjoy coffee or tea and fresh cinnamon buns and haskap jam made with berries from the Prairie Spruce community garden.

So, “Christmas Future” in Prairie Spruce Commons cohousing is something we look forward to. It promises to create many fond memories and new traditions. Of course, Christmas is just one of many holiday traditions we expect to observe in cohousing. As an inclusive and diverse community founded upon the values of respect, caring and sharing we anticipate community members will be eager to share other personal traditions as well. As I think of cohousing I am reminded of a song by the group Timbuk 3 “The Future’s So Bright (I gotta wear shades)”.

 

Christmas Present – Transitions

This is the second part of the three-part series on Christmas past, present, and future.

In my head I keep hearing Tevye,  from Fiddler on the Roof, sing “Tradition”, but my mind keeps changing it to “Transition.” This Christmas is all about transitions. 

Erik Mortensen

I am currently living in a rented house with my husband and in-laws as Prairie Spruce is built. Almost everything I own is packed away in the garage –  including all our Christmas decorations. I’m not feeling too festive right now.

Our son, Erik, is away at school in Vancouver and won’t be home until Dec 17. I’m like a little kid – only ONE more sleep until he is home. It just feels a bit odd not having him around to help with decorating and Christmas baking. 

 

Nisse – I love her hat!

But there are a lot of good things about this Christmas too. 

Our rented house is going to be Christmas Central pretty soon. Eva, my mother-in-law, has done an amazing job of decorating the house. There are little Danish nisser everywhere. They look a bit like elves but are small creatures more closely related to trolls. Years ago on the farm, they would cause all sorts of troubles (think gremlins). The farmer’s wife would put out a bowl of rice pudding for them, and all would be well.

Christmas cookies

Everything in the house is red and white and beautiful. There are already jars of Christmas cookies sitting on the counter. Sadly, they are taped shut. Probably a good idea.

Once Erik gets home, we have plans to go out shopping for new clothes for him. Normally this would not be something I look forward too, but this momma is missing her boy… a lot. It will be great to spend time with him and I might just be able to guilt him into helping me mark exams, although I’m not holding out a lot of hope for that.

Thomas, my brother-in-law,  will be arriving a few days after Erik gets home. In the past, Thomas stayed with the in-laws and we would see him a bit over Christmas. It was a bit of a hassle as Henning and I would work all day, and then either drive out to the farm near Edenwold for the evening or make supper for everyone at our house. Now we will all be together every night, and we don’t have to travel. I’ll still have to cook sometimes, but there will be plenty of help around. It’s really starting to remind me of Christmas when I was a child – busy, and lots of family around. 

On Christmas Eve, we will be joined by my mom and her significant other. They will stay in our bedroom overnight. So we will kick Thomas off the futon, and he will kick Erik off the couch. I told Erik he could sleep in the bathtub for one night. Erik is over 6 feet, so I think we will find an air mattress for him.  

perogies

Murray and Lois, fellow cohousers, will be joining us too. They have some Danish in their background, so it is fun sharing a traditional Danish Christmas with them. We have roast pork with crispy, crunchy skin, caramel potatoes, red cabbage, and perogies. The last part is my influence. I grew up in Yorkton – that should be explanation enough. We will eat huge amounts of rice pudding because somewhere in the bowl is a whole almond. The person who finds the almond wins a prize. The normal tactic is to hide the almond in your mouth and not let anyone know you have it. That way the rest of the people keep eating and looking for the almond. We go to evening service at church and then end the night with singing and dancing around the Christmas tree. This is the second year they have celebrated Christmas Eve with us. The more the merrier.  

Erik and Joanne

Maybe all these transitions will lead to new and wonderful traditions. Gone are my humbug feelings, bring on the holidays….

And only one more sleep until Erik gets home.

Merry Christmas.

Joanne

 

Remembering Christmas Past

This is the first part of a three parts series on Christmas – past, present, and future.

Advent Wreath

When I was a child in the late forties, what comes first to mind thinking of Christmas was all the paper stars with electric lights hanging in everyone’s windows from the first week of December.

In Copenhagen, we lived in an apartment directly across from a five-story apartment complex. The lights were dazzling to a seven-year-old’s eyes. Every home also had an advent wreath made with fir branches with four white candles hanging in red ribbons from a hook. One candle was lit every Sunday until they all were lit on the fourth Sunday before Christmas.

Klejner

The month of December was busy with baking of spice cookies, shortbread cookierings (meant to be used as decoration hung on the tree with red ribbons), klejner (a deep-fried twisted cookie), and different kinds of yeast bread filled with dried fruit.

A nice memory also was the evenings spent with aunts and cousins making paper decorations to be hung on the tree. We made braided hearts and cones of colored paper, and long rows of paper circles joined together as garlands. We cut out angels from white heavy paper and made stars out of narrow strings of paper (these were difficult to make but well worth it. While we children were cutting, braiding and gluing, our aunts were busy making table decorations with evergreen branches, silk bows, pine cones, and a big candle that would last the whole month.

On the 22nd of December, we would go out and buy our fresh Christmas tree to be decorated next day. Because we always used live candles on Christmas Eve on the tree, it was important that the tree be fresh and watched always when the candles were lit. In my whole life, I have never seen a tree burn down, but you had to be to be careful and be prepared with water and a fire extinguisher.

Danish Flags

We had very few, but precious, glass ornaments to hang on the tree, but gladly hung our paper hearts and cones to be filled with candy, peppernusse, nuts and raisins, and not least the shortbread cookierings with red ribbons. All these were decorations to be eaten. As the crowning glory on the tree was the silver star on top, and the garlands of Danish flags wound around the body of the tree.

Coming home in the dark, after the four-pm church service on Christmas Eve, hopefully the snow would be falling, but often not, more likely rain, we would be met with this wonderful aroma from mom’s cooking. She would go to church with us Christmas day.

Our Christmas meal consisted of either goose, duck, or a pork roast with the rind sliced, salted and cooked real crisp. Caramel potatoes were served with white potatoes and brown gravy. The vegetables were pickled red cabbage and peas and carrots. For dessert, we had rice pudding which consisted of rice, milk, whipping cream, chopped almonds, and warm cherry or strawberry sauce on top. In one of the bowls, a whole shelled almond was hidden, and the lucky one would get a prize.

After we had had our fill, it was time to dance around the tree. It is not like dancing, but we would hold hands and form a circle as we sang our favorite Christmas songs and walked around the tree looking out for signs of trouble with candles and paper decorations.

When we were tired from all that singing and walking, we were given gifts. We did not get many, but what we got were precious. Of course, we told our parents our most wanted wish. We were seldom disappointed. We always knew where they came from. My parents never went for the Santa Claus story. It did happen when we were the whole family of aunts, uncles and cousins gathered at grandma’s place that Santa put in an appearance, so we all played along. My best gift would be the money I received so we could go to the used bookstore and I could choose whatever books I liked until the money was gone. Then I was in Paradise.

Regina, Canada, Christmas 2017, Glaedelig Jul Eva Mortensen

Getting to Know the Neighbours

Bur Oak, photo courtesy Matt Levin, Wikimedia Commons

Cohousers are all about community, neighbourhood and lowering our carbon footprint.

As our beautiful building takes shape in Regina’s Canterbury Park neighbourhood, we are getting to know our neighbours.

A sweet arrangement has been made with our neighbours to the east at College Park II Retirement Residence (CP2). We do volunteer work at CP2 in exchange for use of their space for our meetings.

My chosen volunteer work at CP2 is watering trees and picking up garbage from the front and back gardens of this two-block property.

Trees are essential members of any neighbourhood. I notice happiness in getting to know and care for these young trees. Two of our tree neighbour species are Bur Oak and Little Leaf Linden.

Bur oak is a slow-growing, tall deciduous tree with a mature height of 30 to 45 feet and a spread of 20 feet. It has an annual growth rate of 2 to 12 inches and a lifespan of 100+ years. It is native to the eastern prairies.

Little-leaf linden (Tilia cordata) is a medium to large shade tree with a symmetrical canopy that looks at home in formal or casual landscapes. It is easy to care for and needs little or no pruning. In summer it produces clusters of fragrant yellow flowers that attract bees. In late summer, dangling clusters of nutlets replace the flowers.

Earlier this fall Brenda and I were visiting in Vancouver where Nicole my goddaughter introduced me to the Treegator watering system.  Treegators are everywhere.  I ordered one and tried it out the other day when it was still warm.

www.treegator.com

This simple watering system allows young trees to get a good drink and at the same time conserves water and that makes me happy.

Win-win-win.

Ruth

Wildlife Photographer

As a wildlife photographer I really don’t have many skills. I haven’t got a lot of patience, I haven’t got a lot of photography experience, and I like to be moving around. But on a recent trip to a vacant farm yard somewhere in Saskatchewan I finally figured out wildlife photography. You have to have wildlife subjects that want to have their pictures taken. In fact in the case of the attached picture of the moose they run right up to you, pose and give you a perfect photo, well at least by my amateur wildlife photography standards.

Then less than an hour later while walking across the same vacant yard you notice a mule deer about 25 yards away watching you walk towards her. Again as an amateur wildlife photographer with your camera now safely stowed in the truck 25 yards behind you, you do the only sensible thing to do, which is to turn around and walk back to the truck to get your camera to take some more photographs. This of course works because you have a subject that wants their picture taken. The attached mule deer photo is one of several that were taken with a co-operative wildlife subject.

I think with such great photos I will be able to join my cohousing communities elite photography group, well my fingers are crossed anyways.