Growing up on a farm outside Yorkton, there was always community. The same families had lived in the area for generations. We knew all the neighbourhood kids; we rode the bus with them every day and rode our bikes to their houses for “play dates”. The community celebrated weddings, births, and graduations with potlucks at the curling rink. We worked together to build Quonsets, run the curling rink, and harvest the crops. We mourned together the loss of family members or crops destroyed by hailstorms.
When I moved to Regina, I lost that sense of community. I have lived in the same house for 16 years, and I hardly know my neighbours. We exchange pleasantries, but I’ve never been invited into their homes or asked to help shell peas. Sadly, I’ve never invited them over for tea or asked them to help make perogies.
As we work together on Prairie Spruce Commons, I am thrilled to be regaining that long lost sense of community. We are already celebrating birthdays together and we should be moved in just in time to celebrate my son’s grade 12 graduation. I have already visited many of the homes of my fellow cohousers. I admit I’ve even been invited in for a glass of wine when I showed up for a meeting on the wrong night!
Very few things build community as well as preparing and sharing food. Here is the recipe that we used at our recent corn roast. I got the recipe from Ruth’s sister who also loaned me the slow cooker to make it. I do not know this fine cook, but word went out that Prairie Spruce needed a good recipe for beef on a bun and an hour later I had everything I needed.
Ruth’s Sister’s Slow Cooker BBQ Beef on a Bun
4 lbs beef roast
1 cup ketchup
1 cup BBQ sauce
4 cups celery (that is not a typo)
2 cups water
1 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 – 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
Combine all ingredients except the beef and simmer for 20 minutes. Pour over beef and bake at 350 for 5 hours or 8-9 hours on high in a slow cooker. Shred and enjoy.
What is your favourite thing to bring to a potluck?
JoAnne is the newest community member to join our family and future residents group. We asked her why she felt that Prairie Spruce Cohousing was right for her, and this is what she shared with us.
One thing that struck me when I was contemplating joining Prairie Spruce Commons is that the best times of my life have been when I have been immersed in a community. I grew up in a remote area of the Cypress Hills in Saskatchewan and our sharing and caring with our neighbours was not only a survival mechanism, but also a way of life. No one was financially rich, as farming was a hard way to make a living in those hills, but we had enough and were rich in happiness with family and neighbours.
Later, after I was married, we lived in a small community for 12 years. I was so immersed in the community that it was hard to leave the many deep friendships. A lesson learned was that if you want to live in a vibrant thriving community, you have to be contributing and participating for that to happen. Another community that I got involved with was the Whitmore Park United Church and after several years we moved away to be closer to my daughter’s school. My daughters and I missed the caring and loving group that was ‘the village’ for my girls to grow up in.
Now I realize that my community is my work colleagues and my company, something that we know we strategically and consciously work on in order to succeed. Prairie Spruce Commons is community. The idea of co-housing and a close-knit community are something that I know is for me.
There are many dimensions to creating a healthy, vibrant cohousing community. Since inception, Prairie Spruce has focused on the following three broad dimensions:
environmental stewardship and sustainable design;
the enthusiastic sharing of talents and resources; and
the development of personal friendships among community members.
Recently however, Prairie Spruce Commons began thinking about the project’s “dimensions” in a physical, more literal sense. Community members were contemplating a quick and cost-effective way to produce a three-dimensional model of the Prairie Spruce building design. It didn’t take long for someone to mention the word “LEGO”.
In any family with children, Lego building blocks seem to be a staple of the toy box. And it turns out, Lego is not just for kids these days. The Saskatchewan Lego Users Group are adult fans of Lego who work both independently and cooperatively to share a common love of the brick. The Danish toy company Lego has even launched the Lego Architecture Studio – a new monochromatic set of building blocks aimed at the architecture and design community. With the prospect of plentiful building block supplies and the expertise of family and friends, it was decided that Lego was the way to go for the Prairie Spruce 3D model.
Within a few days the 3-D model began to take shape. The brilliant array of colors, the articulation of the architectural features and the attention to small details brought the building to life in a dramatic fashion. Plus the hands-on construction effort, together with movable features such as opening and closing windows and doors added a tactile element to the model. For the first time community members could actually touch their dream.
The positive impact of the model building quickly became apparent when it made its debut at the Regina Farmers Market a few weeks ago. By all accounts it was a real “head turner” and to no one’s surprise, it was a hit with the kids. As an intergenerational community, we fully expect Legos to be part of our cohousing life for years to come. We’ll make sure there is enough Lego to go around, whether you’re an adult or child fan of the brick!
When I was young I loved the sun. It gave me summers to ride my bike and an excuse for ice cream. These days I have a love/hate relationship to the sun. I love the sun for the warmth and light it brings, but hate it for the skin cancer it can cause. I slather on lotion to protect myself from the harmful UV that it bathes us in. I love it for the summer but am bitter with it for disappearing for the winter. I love it for the energy that it has given us, for the plants that grew and died and gave us oil and natural gas. I love it for the wind that it creates by heating some parts of the earth more then others. I love it when I look at a green pepper or a red tomato.
Lately, I have found a new reason to love the sun, the electricity it can create for us. I am talking about photovoltaic solar panels. These wonderful devices create electricity that I can use. They are simple to install, have long life spans and short payback periods. In looking for the panels that will adorn Prairie Spruce Commons soon, I have examined the cost and feasibility of installing 40 solar panels on the roof and getting them net metered. The panels have a life expectancy of 25 years. That is, the panels that begin making use of 97% of the suns power have steadily declined until at 25 years they are only producing 80% and are thus considered at the end of life. This does not mean that they fail after 25 years, just that they have lost efficiency. The current cost of panels and electricity lead me to calculate a payback period of 13 years! And this is a conservative estimate since I haven’t factored in any escalation in cost of electricity. In other words, the ~13000 KWH that those 40 panels produce will save enough from our power bill that in under 13 years they are totally paid for. After that they will continue to produce power and save me money into the future. At some point I might want to replace the old panels with newer ones with peak efficiency but if I don’t the old ones will continue to produce power into the foreseeable future. The best part, is the fact that once installed they will work with a minimum of maintenance. A quick rinse and squeegee to clear off dust and bird poop on a regular basis and you have free energy.
The solar panels produce electricity and the power gets sent out to the grid while your meter turns backwards. You use electricity as you normally would, though much more sparingly as you conserve power knowing what is involved in creating it. At the end of the year your meter is checked and if you have used more then you have produced you pay for the extra power you purchased. If you produce more then you use, good for you, but you won’t get a cheque for your extra power, this is not a power producing arrangement. That is possible but requires different equipment and agreements with the power company.
Saving money through the use of solar panels is nice.
The feeling of well-being knowing you are doing good for the environment, priceless!
No woman is an island entire of itself; every woman is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less (with thanks to John Donne)
November 2013 we three women; Ruth, Brenda, and Rebekah, realized it was soon going to be time to move from our beautiful home on Rae Street. We were facing another winter and we had out grown our desire to keep our ramp and parking pad clear of snow on a daily basis. We began looking at condo options with underground parking and we were not thrilled by what the future seemed to hold for us. Then we found Prairie Spruce Commons Cohousing.
It was almost impossible to believe: a community of dedicated, fun loving people who had been working for several years to manifest a multigenerational cohousing community in Regina. By January 2014 we were Equity Members and by March, thanks to the genius of Chris Kailing of Pattison MGM, we had a unit (109) that was designed to meet our very particular accessibility needs. 109 is a gorgeous unit in a stunning building full of light and colour and community.
September 1, 2014 Rebekah became suddenly and seriously ill. Since then we have been practically living at the Intensive Care Unit at the Regina General Hospital. In this time that has been so full of worry we have been surrounded by the love and support of our wonderful community which now includes the community of Prairie Spruce Commons. It comforts me to contemplate living into our life in Unit 109, to imagine Rebekah being strong and healthy again, and to dream of her laughter filling the common house.
A very nice thing about cohousing is that when you travel you can always find a place that feels like home. This summer my family visited the West Coast and I knew right away that we had to check out the Windsong Cohousing community in Langley, BC.
We had heard many great things about this community which was built in 1996 and was the first cohousing community to be built in Canada. Our visit there went far beyond our expectations. What an inspiration! It is such a beautiful and inviting building and we were greeted by a very friendly bunch of people who showed us around and answered our questions. They also told us stories about their experiences living in a cohousing community. For example, one woman told me that her children grew up at Windsong and they cannot imagine living any other way. Many children growing up in a cohousing community are naturally open to different cultures and languages and find it easy to socialize with people of all ages. Both children and adults also learn how to solve conflicts through collaborative and non-violent communication.
We could tell the people at Windsong really belonged to a community. Children played together in the yard outside or in the playroom inside. A couple of neighbours had coffee together in the gathering space outside their units. In the common house kitchen some members were preparing a community meal for the evening. To get an idea of their experiences, please watch the inspiring short video below.
Visiting Windsong, meeting with its members and hearing stories from families who lived there for over 15 years made us realize how important our participation in Prairie Spruce Commons is.
In today’s common suburbanism, it’s far too easy to live an anonymous, solitary life. Get in your car, open the garage door, drive to work, do the 9-to-5, drive back home, open the garage, close the garage, flick on the TV…
But there’s an alternative! Imagine being able to walk or bike to and from work downtown, at the University of Regina, or at the General Hospital, and then coming home to a community where everyone knows your name and considers you an important part of their lives. This is the vision I and many of my future neighbours have for Prairie Spruce Cohousing.
I’m looking forward to greeting and having regular conversations with my fellow residents on my way to my own private condo unit. I’m looking forward to having my spirits lifted by my friends and neighbours. I’m looking forward to activities inside and outside of Prairie Spruce Common House. The opportunity to take part in community meals, for example, will give me free time to spend with my family or to go for a walk beside Wascana Lake before supper. When I leave on a vacation, I’ll know with certainty that my home and property will be secure and well taken care of since I’ll personally know everyone in the building.
There are but some of the meaningful advantages to life in cohousing and I’m sure I’ll discover more!
It is amazing how much I don’t notice in my surroundings. I have been to Nature’s Best Market hundreds of times but I never realized the smoothie bar utilizes solar power. At the west end of the smoothie bar there is a beautiful wall installation showing the solar input and what it is powering.
Laurie Gillies, co-owner of Nature’s Best and member of Prairie Spruce Commons, provided our community a tour of the installation. The silver-outlets are solely solar powered (the red arrow in the photo is pointing to a solar outlet). The blenders are used for hours each day so utilizing energy from the sun rather than from a coal fire generating plant provides the benefit of a delicious, nutritious smoothie, and leaves the oxygen in the air for us to breathe.
The solar radiation map for Canada makes it obvious that we have an abundance of sun in southern Saskatchewan. At Prairie Spruce we are committing to building and living in a green building that reduces energy consumption through high-efficiency fibreglass frame windows, increasing the insulation value in walls and ceilings, utilizing solar power, and using in-floor heating and cooling. Somehow, getting up close and personal with the solar installation at Nature’s Best has made what we are creating at Prairie Spruce more real to me and even more desirable.
I still remember that bright crisp spring day we had the outdoor auction sale to help Mom downsize from her country home and move into an apartment in town. Dad passed away the year before and Mom’s deteriorating health made it impossible for her to stay in the home where she and Dad spent their last years together. In the days leading up to the sale we had “cleaned house” and filled several large disposal bins with “things” destined for the landfill. How did they accumulate all this stuff, I mused.
Now, several decades later, my wife and I are asking the same question of us. We have accumulated a lot of “things”. Our contemporary culture sometimes refers to them as “toys” as in the saying “he who dies with the most toys wins”. Well things (or toys) cost a lot of money to acquire, they cost money to repair, and to store, and to insure from theft. We become invested both financially and psychologically in possessions that complicate and add stress to our lives and that some would argue begin to own us instead of us owning them.
Cohousing and specifically Prairie Spruce Commons offers a better way based on our principle of sharing. By sharing each household no longer requires its own lawn mower, its own snow blower, or its own array of mechanical and wood working power tools. No longer does any household require its own specialized kitchen appliances (such as a food dehydrator or meat grinder, or meat slicer). And no longer does any household require its own specialized office equipment (such as a large format or large throughput computer printer or laminator or paper shredder). All of these “things” and more can be available as common amenities for our community members to share. And having fewer personal possessions translates into less consumption and offers a wide array of environmental and cost benefits.
Now, imagine living in a community where members not only share some possessions but also come together and share the work effort often associated with those possessions. At Prairie Spruce Commons we come together and share our time and talent within our community as well as outside of our community. Won’t you come and share along with us? We guarantee your snow blower is going to miss you.
When was the last time you had fun with wooden eggs, felt carrots, and a cloth bag? I love the energy, imagination, and perspective a two-year-old brings to any setting. At the recent Prairie Spruce Solar Power Small Talk, it was my delight to sit beside Nora and explore the opportunities for play with her as my guide. Wooden eggs make a nice strong sound when you crack them on your chair before opening them and pouring them into your pan. Felt watermelons are not messy, and a felt carrot does not require peeling.
It is exciting to anticipate the multi-generational future of Prairie Spruce Commons Cohousing, and prepare for the benefits of all ages playing, working, and living together.
If you are a family looking for a community, we are a community looking for you.