Ask and Ye shall receive

I married into a Danish family. My in-laws and husband were all born in Denmark. Despite living in Canada for 40 years, they still maintain many Danish traditions. Most of my favorites involve food.  I have been introduced to smørrebrød – open faced sandwiches that must be eaten with a knife and fork. I have come to love herring and the occasional shot of aquavit. There is always risalamande (rice pudding with almonds) at Christmas.

Saskatchewan Cherries
Saskatchewan Cherries

It is usually topped with cherry pie filling, but last year it was topped with homemade cherry preserves. It was amazing. Tart cherry goodness mixed with creamy rice sweetness, this was something that I had to learn how to make.

Making cherry preserves is not that easy. It takes a lot of work to pick and pit the cherries. So I asked the other members of Prairie Spruce to give us a hand. Not only did we get Prairie Spruce members out, we even got some friends of cohousing out to pick. There were seven of us picking cherries.

Ann, friend of Prairie Spruce
Ann, friend of Prairie Spruce

Ann told us about picking cherries at boarding school in England. She said they were let into the fenced in an orchard and not allowed out until all the cherries were picked.

 

Henning looking for bugs
Henning inspecting his pickings

Henning was a bit slower than Ann as his pail didn’t have a handle.  I don’t think he had quite as much experience picking berries either.

It didn’t take long for the cherry trees to be stripped bare.  Then we moved onto the other berries that needed to be picked. Murray and James picked a gallon or two of saskatoons and Knud picked raspberries.

Knud, Murray, and James
Knud, Murray, and James

The afternoon ended with tea and ice cream with fresh raspberries for all. Murray took home the saskatoons, hopefully, to make one of his famous fruit crisps. Eva had two huge bowls of cherries, ready to be pitted. I helped pit, but she was so much faster with her hairpin.

Ready to pit
Ready to pit

Sharing is one of the core values of Prairie Spruce Commons.

We share the workload.

We share what we grow, create, build and brew.

We share the fun.

 

 

 

Prairie Spruce as a Community – Part 2 of 2

Here is part two of a two-part series on community by Ann.

Community in the Future

The members of Prairie Spruce Commons are eagerly looking forward to moving into the condominium-style building on Badham Boulevard.

North east view
North-east view

After years of preparation, having personal and private space within a shared facility will finally be a reality.  The excellent location will mean that downtown appointments, a bus to the university, or a stroll through Wascana Park are all within easy walking distance.

Erik
Erik, help, the WiFi is down.

Morning coffee with a neighbour can be shared in the lounge or at a nearby coffeehouse, and an evening cribbage game is just down the hall.  Guests will be welcome to use one of two guest rooms.  Resources will be shared.  Need a wheelbarrow?  Look in the garden shed. Need help with a computer glitch?  Consult a neighbour who has computer expertise.

Have a yen for perogies?  Ask some friends to meet you in the common kitchen for a cooking bee.  Prairie Spruce residents will be secure in the knowledge that someone will check in when they are sick and pet-sit their dog when they are away for the weekend.

Mannie
Mannie is a dream to pet-sit.

 

Cohousing and community are a perfect fit.

Ann

 

Prairie Spruce as a Community – Part 1 of 2

Here is part one of a two-part series on community by Ann.

Community Defined

Community is a popular word in society today.  Many of the meanings attributed to the term apply to Prairie Spruce Commons Cohousing and its interpretation of community.

Sharing Cherries
Community

The Prairie Spruce community describes a group of people with shared goals, attitudes, and interests.  A self-organized network, this group has a common agenda and is committed to working collaboratively.  Diverse individual characteristics contribute to the strength of the group and enrich the attachment among the members.

Upon completion of the structure on Badham Boulevard in 2017, the community will live together – a neighbourhood within a building, a part of the larger community of Canterbury Park.

Prairie Spruce Commons
The building is only a small part of Prairie Spruce Commons

 

Community Now

After working together for the past five years, the members of Prairie Spruce Commons have already formed a strong sense of community.  The shared purpose of coming together to design and build the property on Badham Boulevard is an obvious starting point.   Sharing the workload among standing and ad hoc committees is essential.

Consensus
Consensus at work.

Collaborative decision-making ensures that each member of every household has an opportunity to express an opinion, to voice a concern, or to contribute a suggestion.   Lively discussion leads to informed choices and strong commitments.  Formed by an awareness of each personality and an appreciation of the individual, enduring friendships are made.

Discussion
Discussion
Discussion
Discussion

While achieving results in this enormous project has been hard work, the work has been filled with humour and fun.  In anticipation of the meals that will be prepared and eaten in the common house after move-in, the group has been eating a meal together once a month since the early days of the project.  The need to downsize has resulted in joint garage sales – more shared work, more shared fun – with the proceeds going towards the purchase of equipment for the common kitchen.  Birthdays, graduations, retirements, sickness among community members or the loss of a family member have been reasons to celebrate or commiserate as a group.  The Prairie Spruce community has been established.

The Loft: A Bird’s Eye View

In the final re-design of Prairie Spruce Commons Cohousing, a unique loft suite (779 sq ft) has been added above the common house in the northwest corner of the building.  This suite is suitable for a single person or a couple.  Let’s tour the suite.  Take the elevator in the lobby or the front staircase to the second floor and meet in the corridor.

Welcome to Suite 208.  This unit has ready access from both the elevator and the stairs.  The door on the left in the alcove just outside the threshold opens to the heat recovery ventilator (HRV) for this unit.  Ahead is the living room (12’-8” x 11’-6”), with three dormer windows facing west on the outside wall.  A closet with an overhead shelf and rod is located just inside the entry door, and the stairs to the loft are beside the closet.

 

As you turn to your right, the living room opens into the dining room (16’-9” x 8’-9”).  There are two windows facing north on the outside wall.  To take advantage of the space under the eaves on the west wall, a storage space (12’-9” x 2’-5”) has been created.  A storage closet (5’-7” x 2’-10”) is also tucked under the stairs.

Another right turn from the dining room leads into the kitchen (10’-4” x 12’-6”) and the adjacent bathroom (5’-0” x 9’6”).  The kitchen counter wraps around the north and east walls.  There are two windows facing north on the outside wall, with the sink located under the windows.  The stove and refrigerator are on the east wall.  Cupboard space is provided above and below the counter, and there is a pull-out pantry beside the refrigerator.  The bathroom has a vanity sink, toilet, and tub with shower.   Washroom walls are blocked for grab bars that can be added in the future.

The stairs to the loft are centrally located in the suite, just off the living room.  At the top of the stairs on the left, a mezzanine railing follows the line from the stairs to the north wall and opens to the living and dining room below.   The bedroom (11’-4’ x 9’-8”) fills the space above the kitchen.  Two windows face north on the outside wall.  The bedroom also includes a generous walk-in closet (4’0” x 9’4”).

With its corner location, this suite has an element of privacy but is also handy to the shared common kitchen, laundry room, and guest room on the main floor.  Additional storage space is available on the parking level, and both parking and storage have convenient elevator access.

If you are looking for a character condominium suite, a building that is designed for sustainability, and neighbours who are dedicated to environmental awareness and community living, Suite 208 might be the place for you.

Who is Involved and who is Committed?

Look at your breakfast, and you will see that the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.

My inlaws are committed, and I’m on my way to becoming a pig too.

Pig and Chicken Cartoon

Eva and Knud were the last family to join Prairie Spruce Commons, but the first family to sell their house. They sold the farm early this year and had a farm auction last week.

Auction at Mortensens
Farm Auction for Knud and Eva

Prairie Spruce members were there in person, and also provided a lot of support – both emotional and calorie-wise. Brenda, Ruth, and Rebekah  sent some amazing chocolate truffles and Laurie brought lemon cheesecake squares. There were lots of messages of support from members too.

Prairie Spruce Support Team - Vickie, Claire, Laurie, and Murray
Prairie Spruce Support Team – Vickie, Claire, Laurie, and Murray

Knud and Eva will be moving into Regina this summer, as they wait for the building to be finished. It will be a big change for them, but I plan to keep them busy helping me get our house ready for sale.

I wonder if I will  be disinherited (again) for this post.

Joanne

Farm Rainbow
The Mortensen Farm

 

Annual Canada Day Party at Prairie Spruce Commons

TED The very first TED conference was held in 1984 as a single event to show off compact discs, e-books, and 3D graphics.  It lost money. Now there are 17 TED page views on the internet every second. If you have never heard of TED talks, where have you been? They are amazing 15 to 20-minute videos on just about anything to do with technology, entertainment,  and design. There is even one on cohousing.

So from small beginnings, great things can happen. Prairie Spruce Commons held their first Canada Day Party on July 1.  It was small, very last minute, and involved a lot of hey.

Hey, Henning, we should go watch the fireworks tonight.

Hey, Henning, we should watch it from Badham Ave, just to see what it is like.

Hey, Henning, we should invite Murray and Lois.

Hey, Henning, we should put this on Wiggio and invite everyone.

Hey, everybody, I have a very patient husband.

Joanne and Henning at fireworks
Waiting with Henning for the fireworks.

So Murray, Lois, Henning and I went to our soon-to-be home, set up lawn chairs beside College Park II, and waited, and waited, and waited. I wasn’t sure about how much traffic there might be, so we met at 9 pm.

Lois and Murray waiting for fireworks
Lois and Murray waiting for fireworks.

While we waited, we discussed the next Canada Day celebration.  There needs to be food, perhaps a BBQ. There should be music, maybe even a live band. We could have a house concert –  once we have a house. There should be more people, more Prairie Spruce members and maybe some neighbours too.

The fireworks were awesome, (but someone forgot how to set her camera to shoot fireworks so the pictures were not awesome.) We were joined by some workers from College Park II.  We could see everything and imagined how much more fun it will be when we are all watching the fireworks from one of our three terraces or even from Lois’s third-floor apartment.

See you next year at the Second Annual Prairie Spruce Commons Canada Day Celebration!

Joanne

Garage Sale Success – Community in Action

Yesterday we had our first garage sale for Prairie Spruce. It was a resounding success. We all downsized and had a huge amount of fun doing it.

Garage sale
All sorts of things to see and buy.
Community members at the garage sale
Visiting in the shade

It was a very sunny day, so we set up a canopy, pulled out the awning on the camper and got down to some serious socializing. If you look carefully, Lois is not really visiting, but eyeing the pink and blue skirt she was about to purchase for the princely (princessly?)  sum of 25 cents. (If you know Lois, ask her what she bought at the sale.)

Erik
Erik, customer service specialist

Erik, my son, acted as the cashier for most of the day. He made some spectacular deals – usually on purpose.  He has great customer service skills. He was smiling and polite to everyone which is pretty impressive for an 18-year-old who was woken up at 6:30 a.m., by his mom,  to work at a garage sale. At one point, he delivered a large box of sealers to a lady across the street, brought back some money, and then went back across the street to give her the change. Dave and Knud did their share of deliveries too.

Many customers found just what they were looking for. We sold some antlers to a man who was collecting them for a carver who lives in northern Saskatchewan. What an awesome way to upcycle! There was a very happy lady who bought some multicolored Melmac plates. She said that she used to fight with her siblings over who got the red plate. She was planning to take them to a family reunion this summer. She was grinning from ear to ear. I wonder who will get the red plate? My friend’s mom found a tiny shelf that will be perfect for her granddaughter’s Scandinavian doll house.

Toys
Cowboy memories

When the customers were not keeping us busy, we entertained ourselves. It was fun seeing what for sale. This, for example, was a box of my brother-in-law’s cowboy and GI Joe toys from the seventies. Someone got some pretty neat toys.

I started laughing when my son asked his grandmother, “So what was this when it was at home?” He was referring to a rather fancy silver plate with a large hole in the middle of it. She really couldn’t explain what it was; I think that is why it ended up on the garage sale

Joanne
Me, warming up for the big duet with Dave.

At one point Dave and I broke into a resounding rendition of “Ride of the Valkyries” while wearing  Viking helmets, or at least we think that’s what it was. We laughed as we both admitted we were just singing based on what we knew from Bugs Bunny

There was lots of support from community members that were unable to help with the actual sale. The Gagnons showed up at noon with a wonderful lunch for all the workers – sandwiches, cakes, watermelon and cold drinks. Just as we were almost… sort of… maybe… getting peckish in the afternoon, Lil showed up with fresh coffee and banana bread. Ruth delivered a rhubarb cake the day before and JoAnne dropped off a giant watermelon. Amazing cooks are just one of the many benefits of cohousing. We will eat like royalty.

Cohousing is all about community. Everyone helped in whatever way they could. Together, we had a ton of fun doing something that  wouldn’t have been any fun to do alone. We even raised a bit of money. The current plan is that it will go towards a commercial dishwasher in the common kitchen.

The dishwasher will be my inspiration for the next garage sale – do I really need this vase, bowl, book, or would I rather be done supper dishes in 5 minutes.

I think I have to go downsize some more and get ready for the next garage sale.

Joanne

CBC and The Joy of Downsizing

I’m a big fan of CBC radio.

I grew up listening to GX94 Radio in Yorkton. It broadcast both the local weather and Chapel Time. Dad had to hear them. As children, my sister and I learned that one simply did not speak during either the weather or Chapel Time.

I spent many hours listening to  GX94 – country music, crop reports, the weather, and my favorite, Swap Shop, the forerunner of Kijiji. Not that I was particularly fond of any of theses things, but GX94 was the only station my walkman could pick up while I cut grass. (The walkman should give you a hint about how long ago it was.)

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My husband eventually saved me from country music, or so he claims. He introduced me to Morningside with Peter Gzowski on a road trip to Calgary. I’ve been hooked ever since.  (That was a while ago too; I miss Peter.)

I was listening to Tapestry with Mary Hynes earlier this year and she had an interview with Marie Kondo the author of two books on decluttering. Marie explains her method this way:

… you touch your old sweater, or book, or teapot, to see whether or not it “sparks joy”. If it does, you keep it. If it doesn’t, you thank it for its life of service to you… and then you let it go.

This has been my guiding principle as I get ready for moving into cohousing. It is working very well for me.  It has helped me determine what is really important and what I no longer need.

Here is the interview with Marie. It’s worth a listen.

Oh, by the way, Prairie Spruce is having their first garage sale this weekend. Check our facebook page for details.

Joanne

Twenty -nine Reasons to Celebrate

Right at the moment, there are twenty-nine people actively involved in Prairie Spruce Commons Cohousing.   To add to the significance of the number twenty-nine, Lois retired from her long-time career on February 29.  We never miss a reason to celebrate.  At our general meeting that evening, cohousing members presented Lois with flowers and wine.  Joanne contributed a carrot cake with lime icing.  According to her, the cake was one of the best she has ever made, and we agree that it was delicious!

Perhaps February 29 can become the first official holiday at Prairie Spruce.  On the other hand, new members will give us even more reasons to celebrate.  There is no doubt that we will have many February 29th celebrations in the future, but those festivities won’t just happen during leap years!

Here is Joanne’s recipe for you to try.

600x400_CL-0914-F-UltimateCarrotCake-C-a1406572266
The Ultimate Layered Carrot Cake, Photography by Jeff Coulson

This recipe is from Canadian Living – one of my most trusted sources for recipes.

The Ultimate Layered Carrot Cake

Ingredients

2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour

2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder

2 tsp (10 mL) cinnamon

1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda

3/4 tsp (4 mL) salt

1/2 tsp (2 mL) nutmeg

3 eggs

3/4 cup (175 mL) granulated sugar

3/4 cup (175 mL) packed brown sugar

3/4 cup (175 mL) vegetable oil

1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla

2 cups (500 mL) grated carrots, (about 2 large)

1 can (398 mL) crushed pineapple, drained

1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped pecans

Preparation

In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. In separate bowl, beat together eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil and vanilla until smooth; stir into flour mixture just until moistened. Stir in carrots, pineapple and pecans until combined. Scrape into 2 greased and floured 8-inch (1.2 L) round cake pans.

Bake in 350 F (180 C) oven until cake tester inserted in centres comes out clean, 35 to 38 minutes. Let cool in pans on rack. (Make- ahead: Cover with plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 2 days or overwrap with heavy-duty foil and freeze for up to 2 weeks; thaw before continuing with recipe.)

Ann

 

 

The Mortensens Take the Next Big Step

Eva and Knud Mortensen
Eva and Knud Mortensen 

Eva and Knud took a huge step on their cohousing journey when they sold their farm last month. They have lived on a farm between Balgonie and Edenwold for the last thirty years. Knud always dreamed of having a farm, and, since the mid-eighties, he has lived his dream. He grew oats, barley, peas, flax, and safflower as well as a huge vegetable garden. Eva turned the bleak open prairie into a delightful floral oasis with roses, lilies, lupine, and other perennials. There was an inner back garden, a gazebo, a rock garden, an orchard, and lawns. The farm was known as Knud and Eva’s Paradise.

But Paradise had acres and acres of lawns and lots and lots of flower beds. It became clear in the last five years that maintaining the farmyard was getting to be too much work for Eva and Knud.  To keep it looking good, they had to spend hours weeding flower beds and vegetable gardens. Eva wore out at least three riding lawnmowers in the past ten years. Erik, their grandson, helped out a bit, but they ended up hiring help for the last couple of years.

When their son Henning showed them the plans for Prairie Spruce, it didn’t take long for a decision to be made. It was time to sell the farm and move into a community that already seemed like family. It was the right decision. Their unit is on the first floor, right next to the garden.

Welcome to your new Paradise, Eva and Knud.

Bonfire
Members of Prarie Spruce relaxing around a bonfire in Paradise.