Less is More: Sharing as a Catalyst for Downsizing

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. 


Life Beside a Child

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.


Life Beyond Bigfoot


Prairie Spruce Commons is committed to reducing our environmental footprint. Part of this commitment includes designing our building to use complementary power sources like solar power, but what does this really mean? Thanks to an information session with Ken Compton, local solar and wind energy expert, we are gaining more of an understanding of our options.

Life Beyond Bigfoot : Solar & Net-Metering

It is our intention to build so we are ready for future installation of solar voltaic panels. The panels have a 25 year life expectancy (production > 80%). We intend to produce power under Saskpower’s net-metering program.

Suncatcher Solar provides the following information about solar power output in Saskatchewan:

The amount of electricity you can produce depends on the size of the solar array and the amount of sunshine you receive in your area. For example, a solar power system with a 4.8 kW array (20 solar panels @ 240 Watts each) will produce an average of about 700 kWh per month in central Saskatchewan, Canada.  You can find out how much electricity you need by looking at your current power bills.

Why we will use complementary power sources:

  • Reducing our cost of living: S ask Power has applied for an annual rate increase of 5% for the next two years.
  • When possible, generating power for sale:  The Sask Power Net Metering Program makes this possible.
  • Reducing our CO2 production and elevating our province’s energy status: Saskatchewan generates almost 75% of our electricity from coal fired electric plants and is currently Canada’s worst polluter per capita.

Walking the Neighbourhood – Wascana Park

Wascana Lake Close by Prairie Spruce Cohousing
Photo courtesy of Blake Handley on Flickr

When I was walking around Wascana Lake this morning, it occurred to me that we do not have to go far for truly beautiful scenery.  The lake was a glistening blue, and the ducks and geese were enjoying a lazy swim.   On the north side of the lake, the folks who were sitting on the benches had a peaceful view of blue sky and water framed by green trees.  Around on the south side, in front of the Legislative Buildings, the flower beds were at their best.

No need to drive miles for spectacular landscape when it is just a short walk from Badham Boulevard, summer or winter!


Haskap Berry Crumble Wins!

Winning Recipe in the Crumble Rumble

Prairie Spruce Crumble Rumble Tasters
Prairie Spruce Crumble Rumble Tasters

Our Creating Community: Let’s Get Ready to Crumble event on Tuesday evening was a resounding hit. Our friends and guests sampled 4 delicious crumbles and the Haskap Berry Crumble created by Laurie Gillies took first place. Laurie credits the win to her mom, Vickie Gillies, “who makes the best crumbles, crisps and cobblers ever”.We’ve posted the winning recipe below.

If you are like many of the taste testers, the Haskap berry may be new to you. While Haskaps are well known in Russia and Japan, they are quite new to Canada. They LOVE our prairie climate. The University of Saskatchewan have bred a hybrid of the Russian and Japanese plants that are very hardy in Saskatchewan.

It only seems appropriate that the Haskap Berry Crumble was the winner. Like cohousing, it is new to Saskatchewan and proving to be healthy, hardy, and delicious. You can go online to Haskap Canada at haskap.ca to find out where you can find them and how to purchase seedlings and grow your own. In Regina, Laurie and Jim carry the berries at Nature’s Best. Laurie’s brother-in-law and sister-in-law grow Haskap on their farm, Heavenly Blue Honeysuckle Orchards near Birch Hills, just south of Prince Albert.

Here is Laurie’s Winning Recipe

Haskap Berry Crumble


Prairie Spruce Haskap Berry Crumble Cake


8 cups of Haskap berries (drained, see below)
1/2 cup sugar
teaspoon of lemon juice
2 TB cornstarch


1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon each of cinnamon and ginger
8 TB butter


Heat oven to 350. Mix up the filling. Adjust ingredients to your taste. Put in a glass or ceramic baking dish. Mix up the topping and crumble it over the filling.Bake about half an hour.

Laurie’s Tips

Haskaps are one of the world’s SuperFruits and this one is super juicy! So drain the Haskap berries before you add them to the recipe. I set them in a strainer over a bowl and weighted it down for a few hours. I took one and a half litres of juice out of my berries before I baked and they still had amazing flavor and nutrition. Drink the juice, or freeze it into ice cubes to add to smoothies, homemade ice cream treats, or your glass of water. Yum!

Walking the Neighbourhood – The Naked Bean

Sunday was a sultry humid summer day in Regina. We decided to stroll down Badham Boulevard from the future site of Prairie Spruce Commons Cohousing to the Naked Bean Espresso Bar and Café. Our choice was iced tea sodas (berryberry and green tea), but there was also a brisk business in ice cream cones and floats today.

What a friendly, relaxing place to have your favourite tea or coffee, whether you are meeting friends or having quiet time on your own. Aren’t we lucky to have the Naked Bean in the Prairie Spruce neighbourhood!?


Save Money on Water, Natural Gas and Electricity…

Save money on water: we’re Grey Water ready.

  • Grey water systems use water from the sinks, dishwasher, showers and baths and pumps it back to use for the toilet and taps outside.
  • Grey water systems can save you up to 30% on your water bill annually.
  • In a world that is slowly running out of water, grey water systems reduce your water consumption by up to 30%, that’s a lot of water saved!

Save money on gas. Geothermal/radiant in-floor heating and cooling has many benefits.

  • It’s cleaner than a forced-air system because you aren’t blowing dust around.
  • Gas boilers usually have to be replaced of need to be fixed in a major way every ten years, radiant in-floor heating can last up to fifty years, needing very little upkeep or maintenance.
  • The payback on the investment of radiant heating for houses and small buildings is said to be between five and seven years. For a condominium even a generous eight to ten years isn’t a bad payoff period when you consider we live in our house for several decades on end.
  • In-floor heating is more efficient because it heats where you are, near the floor.
  • The cost savings over a conventional heating and cooling system annually are approximately 30-60%.

Save money on electricity. Why we believe solar is a brilliant idea.

Don’t forget we’ll be talking about solar photovoltaic power with local expert Ken Compton at Nature’s Best this Wednesday August 20th. Hope you’ll join us there!

Field Notes from the Regina Folk Fest

There, on one of those short lawn chairs, squished between my friends on a clear and damp August prairie night and listening to good music with thousands, it was easy to love the culture of the Regina Folk Festival. Enjoying tasty local food, visiting, laughing, hoolahooping and sharing stories of the great storm from the night before… Even encountering a pod of crocheters looping long adorations to be placed in praise and protection of trees. It’s all part of the Folk Fest culture.

The more I think about the tapestry of culture (in families, workplaces, movements, bio-regions, community-based organizations), the more I think that creating culture is about what we value, and are committed to.  It’s about how we make decisions, and do things. It’s about how we negotiate, transact, adjust and apply all of that every day. We, Prairie Spruce Commons Co-Housers, are designing our house, creating community, and building our culture all at once.  The Prairie Spruce culture is being lived out through everyday experiences of being respectful, caring and sharing. This summer, fun has also been part of our culture, whether it’s been at  our booth at the Farmer’s Market, sitting around the fire on a gorgeous summer evening, or researching Fruit Crumble recipe’s for our Lets Get Ready to Crumble event next Tuesday August 19th.  

I feel lucky to have this chance to be part of, not only designing and building Prairie Spruce Commons, but also learning about creating culture from events like the Regina Folk Festival, other cohousing projects, and other community-based organizations.

Thanks to each and all of my Prairie Spruce community who ran the Prairie Spruce Commons Info and Visiting Booth at the Folk Festival. I hear it was a blast! Acknowledgement, praise and noticing where energies are placed is an important part of community and culture building too!




The Value and Cost of Cohousing in Regina

People we meet consistently express their support for the concept of cohousing and the design of Prairie Spruce Commons, but we also commonly hear questions about the unit prices. We want to share the following with you to help you understand the pricing for units.

Prairie Spruce Cohousing Pricing
Photo courtesy of Ken Teegardin on Flickr

Let’s start with the costs of developing cohousing in Regina. There are two categories of costs for our project.  The first category is the price we are paying the developer for the land and the building. The second category is our development overhead, or soft costs.  Our chosen strategy for developing Prairie Spruce was (and still is) to buy new housing product that meets the following criteria:

  • designed to meet our cohousing and personal household needs;
  • equal to or better than the local market product in terms of quality and specification;
  • wholesale discounted at -10% from  retail price.

Note that we have used Canterbury Commons II as our quality and specifications benchmark. Canterbury Commons II is a local retail housing product, built and sold very recently by the same developer we are partnering with.The discount allows us an additional 10% to cover our direct soft costs for marketing, membership and project management.

The resulting combination of hard costs (wholesale purchase of building and land) and soft costs amounts to the total cost for the project. This total cost is distributed proportionally over the individual unit prices. These unit prices are consistent with local prices for new housing product in Regina. Furthermore, the unit prices are calculated to ensure no profit or a loss for Prairie Spruce.

Prairie Spruce Cohousing WalkabilityWhen evaluating our prices, be sure you are comparing apples to apples. First, keep in mind the desirable location and the lower long term cost of ownership that results from living within walking distance to downtown and the other amenities in the neighbourhood. For example, you can live without a car, or with one fewer car thereby saving lots of money.

Secondly, while Cohousing units are proportionally a little smaller than standard housing units, the extensive space provided by the common house amenities makes the overall square footage available to residents substantially larger. The way you should adjust for that is to apportion a square footage share of the common house to each unit and use that as a comparable unit size.  As an example at Prairie Spruce, the owner of a 950 sq. ft. private unit ALSO owns a 1/27 share in a 4,100 sq ft common house.  This results in 1,100 sq ft of space.  When comparing to a non-cohousing product you must compare this unit to a traditional 1,100 sq ft unit.

Third, let’s consider the value and quality of the housing we are building. Our developer is building a high quality, long lasting building.  In Prairie Spruce Commons this includes things like:
• better insulation (r40 walls/r60 ceilings);
• increased ceiling heights above 8 ft.;
• improved sound insulation between units (STF 50 to STF 60);
• high efficiency centralized boiler;
• in floor radiant heating and cooling;
• triplepane windows

Our Green initiatives involve things like:
• building a better building to use less fuel to heat and cool;
• including recycling and composting facilities;
• using fibre glass windows because they last longer and PVC pollutes;
• electing to not use granite countertops because of huge energy required in production;
• installing wiring for Solar Photovoltaics and future energy savings; and
• installing plumbing for Greywater recycling and future savings in waste water management

Finally, it should be noted that new housing product costs more than older housing stock.  This is because new buildings are more energy efficient, better built, and will therefore last longer.

In summary, Prairie Spruce Commons is purchasing the land and building from our developer. We have designed the building and the developer has figured out the cost of getting it built. We have summed these two costs and divided the total cost into the number of units. Note, that there is no profit added to the costs before determining unit prices; the prices are set in order to fully cover the building of each unit.  These prices are a reflection of total costs incurred in building Prairie Spruce Commons on Badham Boulevard.

If you are interested in living with the Prairie Spruce Commons community but feeling daunted by the prices, please talk to us. We can direct you to options for first home buyers, our Conditional Equity Memberships, as well as other purchase options we are considering.

We Believe in Community First


Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of what really matters in life. We believe the people around us matter the most, we believe in community first. We like helping others. We like reaching out, hosting social engagements, doing community service, or even just hosting a fruit crumble competition (we’re pretty proud of that last one).

“Community is a sign that love is possible in a materialistic world where people so often either ignore or fight each other. It is a sign that we don’t need a lot of money to be happy–in fact, the opposite.” 
― Jean VanierCommunity And Growth