Attack of the Giant Zucchini

Photo Credit: krossbow via Compfight cc

The Prairies are well known for the bounty of certain cash crops in the agriculture sector, but closer to home there is the bounty of our individual vegetable garden plots. And nothing is more prolific when it comes to produce than the legendary zucchini plant.

It is often the case that the zucchini squash starts out as a tasty tender morsel that can be eaten raw, skin and all, or cut up and stir fried in a succulent vegetable medley. But sometimes the plant conceals its progeny under a sheltering leaf hoping it will mature enough to produce the seeds of the next generation. Mother Nature’s process of natural selection has bestowed the gift of accelerated development on the young zucchini squash to assist in it’s self preservation. And then it happens. In a matter of days the tasty morsel morphs into a giant impervious monster thumbing its nose at its nurturing caretaker. At this point, rather than becoming overwhelmed the good-natured gardener cherishes the bounty that has been bestowed upon them and mobilizes their “community” in a magnanimous gesture of “sharing”.

Sharing is part of our culture at Prairie Spruce Commons and we will have a shared garden space on site where those members that love to get close to nature can cultivate and harvest produce of all kinds, including zucchini squash. And for those who just like to watch the cycles of nature unfold their extra sets of eyes will help to prevent the attack of the giant zucchini. And in case a few of the zucchini escape notice and grow large enough to squash a small animal, we can always turn them into chocolate zucchini cake using one of our favourite recipes.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Photo Credit: Matthew Oliphant via Compfight cc
  • ½ cup margarine
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup sour milk
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • ½ cup chocolate chips
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cream margarine, oil and sugar.
  3. Add eggs, vanilla and sour milk. Beat well.
  4. Mix together all dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture. Beat well.
  5. Stir in zucchini.
  6. Pour batter into greased 9 inch x 13 inch pan. Sprinkle top with chocolate chips.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes.

Dave and Lill

Curling Terms Heard at the Prairie Spruce Blender


As Joanne relayed last week, we had a great time at the Tartan Curling Blender last weekend. Here are some of the common curling terms we learned about while playing out the end of the season. Looking forward to doing this again next year!

  1. Hard – a term often yelled by the skip or third calling the sweepers to put their best efforts into sweeping the rock to keep it on course; or an expression from the skip or third who just likes to see their teammates sweat; or a measure of the surface tension of the ice as it rapidly encounters the posterior of a hapless curler who has lost their balance.
  2. Hurry – a synonym for “hard” yelled by the skip or third calling the sweepers to put their best efforts into sweeping the rock to keep it on course; or a measure of the pace with which some curlers make their way up to the bar after the game to top up their liquid courage in preparation for their next game.
  3. Blender – another name for a social mixer of the type hosted by the Tartan curling club on April 11; or an expression used by
    curlers to describe how they feel the day after they have exercised muscles that have been dormant for the last number of years , as in “I feel like I have been put through a blender”.Knud-leads-the-dancing-400x284
  4. Straw – a key component of early curling brooms that were made of straw and that was often responsible for littering the ice and causing curling rocks to go off course; or a device for sipping beverages in the bar after the game; or a term used perhaps in reference to the Prairie Spruce Commons curler who picked the short straw and gets to write the blog about the curling blender on April 11. 🙂

Thanks to my teammates and my valiant adversaries in what was a great afternoon of fun and socializing.



Community Warmth Shines Through the Cold

Dave here with a report from our Grand Opening last weekend! I’m pleased to say that the Grand Opening of the Information Center was a great success in terms of Daveattendance and media coverage and well as being a fun event for the community.

We decorated light standards near the Information Center and Eva brought Canada flags which we stuck in the nearby snow banks. There was a bit of a wind so the flags on the building plus the flags in the snowbanks caught everyone’s attention. Ruth brought a fire pot and firewood which proved to be a great focal point for folks gathered out of doors and contributed to creating the “crowd effect” we were looking for. The ribbon for the ribbon cutting ceremony was prominently draped across the sign with the rendering of our building. Malin came on her bicycle with her young daughter Nora in tow. Once we made a few technical adjustments for the ribbon cutting and following a brief celebratory speech, the ribbon was cut by little Nora and the enthusiastic crowd roared its approval.


 All of the Prairie Spruce community members except for a few who were out of town on that day attended the event alternating between the comfy interior of the Information Center, with its hot apple cider and yummy cookies, and the warm glow of the fire outside in the fire pot. Ward from Pattison MGM was there to mix and mingle and add to the fun. Knud’s friends and former co-workers, Dale and Susan, came for a visit and to find out more about our community. Another new face, a young lady named Lindsay was excited to learn as much as she could about our project. And familiar friend of Prairie Spruce, Maureen also popped in to show her support.

We were greatly encouraged to see Heather Polischuk from the Leader Post and Wayne Mantyka from CTV representing the media. Heather interviewed Dave and Erik and captured a bit of video in the Information Center. Wayne interviewed Henning and Lois on camera as well. The resulting media reports in the paper and on the television were very positive and will greatly serve to promote our community among the general public. Henning later reported that visits to our website increased from a daily average of 20 visits to a high of 140 visits following the media coverage!

Overall it was a cool day weather wise but the warmth of our community shone through. It was another great Prairie Spruce Commons event!


In the Alley

wilf-perreault-at-work-400x284“And where are YOU folks from?“ was the cheerful greeting from the woman at the visitor information desk. You could tell she was excited and we were about to learn why. Attendance records were being broken as people from around the Province were flocking to the exhibition at the Mackenzie Art Gallery. It was featuring the works of one of Saskatchewan’s most celebrated painters, Wilf Perreault, who is best known for a single subject – the everyday back alley.

It goes without saying that Wilf’s work is both unique and exquisite. His use of brilliant seasonal colors, daytime and nighttime scenes, and familiar locations all contribute to his popular appeal. But there is also a special significance to his subject matter. It reflects the transition in urban planning since the 1960’s away from the old style street-avenue grids to bays and crescents where back alleys have been replaced by easements.

A small slightly obscure wall plaque labeled “Transitions” appears next to one of the artist’s paintings. It describes how the artist’s work reminds us of the loss of an understated sense of community that alleys help to sustain. They provide space for chance encounters with neighbours and unorganized communal play among children. What’s more they reflect an era when cars and driveways were not the defining elements of civic life.

The sense of community that alleys helped to sustain in the past can be rediscovered through the intentional design and community attributes of cohousing and of Prairie Spruce Commons in particular. Our underground parking puts cars out of sight and out of mind and replaces pavement with green space, gardening areas, and children’s play areas. We even have an arts and crafts room for any “budding” artists in residence.


One is the Loneliest Number

Image Courtesy of Jon on Flickr

Did you hear the one about the young man who decided to test the quality of his personal connections with his Facebook friends? He invited them all to a party. But when the time came to party no one showed up and he was left all alone.

This anecdote isn’t intended to criticize Facebook but it speaks to the nature and quality of human relationships, an essential factor in loneliness. It ties into the “Connected-ness, Companionship and Community” theme of keynote speaker Michael Lavis at the annual “Celebration of Inclusion” hosted by the Regina and District Association for Community Living. The annual Inclusion Awards night recognizes individuals and organizations that increase opportunities for community members who have an intellectual disability to contribute in a real and meaningful way to life in our society.

Michael Lavis, the Executive Director of Creative Options Regina (COR) spoke on the topic of loneliness because some members of our society may have more difficulty than others in establishing close relationships with other people, people other than family members, with whom they are personally and emotionally connected. His presentation drew on research that suggests loneliness is on the rise. All demographics are affected and today 40% report feeling lonely, which is up from 20% in the 80’s. Among the causes and risk factors are segregation and having few or non-existent meaningful relationships.

Michael went on say loneliness has a wide range of negative effects on both physical and mental health. To combat it we need to increase our understanding of the value of positive supports and relationships in health and recovery. We need to look for signs of loneliness, make quality relationships a top priority, and create an environment conducive to such relationships.

Prairie Spruce Commons is just such an environment. It is a community that is intentionally designed to facilitate positive interactions amongst its members and which operates on the principles of being respectful, caring and sharing. We foster a sense of belonging. Have you found that sense of belonging?


Prairie Spruce Community Takes Shape – in 3D!

There are many dimensions to creating a healthy, vibrant cohousing community. Since inception, Prairie Spruce has focused on the following three broad dimensions:

  1. environmental stewardship and sustainable design;
  2. the enthusiastic sharing of talents and resources; and
  3. 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”.

New LEGO Architecture Studio KitIn 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!


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.