Prairie Spruce Potatoes in our Garden, and in Bed?

About 20 years ago, when I was a new bride, my mother-in-law Eva saw me peeling store bought potatoes. She promised to bring me in some potatoes from the farm the next time she came to town. Having grown up on a farm with the obligatory giant farm garden, I was none too fond of store bought potatoes and was happy at the prospect of real potatoes.


As promised, Eva showed up a few days later with a 5 gallon pail of potatoes. I was wondering if they would be red potatoes (best for making perogies) or white potatoes (best for baked potatoes). It never crossed my mind, that there were any other kinds of potatoes. Apparently there are; she had brought me a pail of Bintje potatoes.

They look delightful, don’t they. What you don’t know is that the size you are seeing them right now is pretty close to real size. The big ones are about the size of you thumb. I kept a smile plastered on my face as I thought these were the potatoes we left in the garden in the fall because they were toooooooo small. Keep smiling… I am not peeling those things. Keep smiling… maybe I can bake them or something. Keep smiling…what am I going to do with 5 gallons of teeny tiny potatoes.

I soon discovered that the absolute best way to eat Bintje potatoes is at Eva’s house. She boils them with the peels on and Knud peels them while they are still super hot. The potatoes are then put in a bowl, covered with a potato doily (yes, they have one – don’t you?) and put into the bed under the feather quilt until the rest of supper is ready.

I have become a Bintje potato purist as I don’t bother with butter or gravy, I just eat them plain. Sometimes I even skip dessert and just have more potatoes. Well, on the off chance someone in the family reads this, I guess I should correct that. I eat dessert and then eat more potatoes.

If you ask Eva, I’m sure she would make them for you at our next community shared meal. If you ask Knud, he might even tell you the story of how those potatoes got to Canada. These types of stories are of course best told in community, and around a table filled with great food. Let us know if you’d like to be part of our next community meal.


Three Generations Under One Cohousing Roof


Prairie Spruce is a multigenerational cohousing community.  This usually means that the community of residents as a whole consists of children, adults and seniors. At Prairie Spruce, multigenerational cohousing takes on a somewhat unique flavour, albeit common within cohousing communities: we have different generations of the same family moving into their own private condo units within the community. Roger will be living there as well as his parents Dave and Lill. Murray is moving in, along with his sister Lois and mother, Loraine.

My family is the only one that will have three generations living in Prairie Spruce. Henning, my husband, and I will be moving in with our son, Erik. Henning’s parents, Eva and Knud, will be moving in also. Before you think I am just the best daughter-in-law in the world, you should know three things. First, I am very lucky that I get along very well with my in-laws. They are very nice people. Second, they will be living on the first floor and we will be living on the second floor. Third, they will be looking after my dog part time as he likes to be outside in the summer and they just happen to have a terrace. We are all looking forward to the benefits of living separately within the same condo; living apart, together.

The three Mortensen generations spent some time last Monday morning working together at the Information Centre, roto-tilling the ground in preparation for planting potatoes and zucchini. We’re looking forward to sharing the fruits (vegetables?) of our labour with the community, neighbours and our extended cohousing family.


There Are Still Good People Out There

You don’t always appreciate the community that surrounds you until something happens…
My 84-year-old father was in the hospital from December 2 to January 31. During that time, my  78-year-old mother was living alone on the family farm. My parents have been married for over 50 years and have rarely been apart. Living two hours away, I was concerned for her mental and physical wellbeing.
I should have known everything would be alright. My parents live half a mile away from the farm that my grandparents homesteaded in 1918. Everyone in the area looks after one another. Lorne, the neighbour, who lives a mile away, has been plowing my parent’s yard all winter. He has driven past the farm everyday since my father was admitted to hospital. He knew if the garage doors were open, my mother was in town visiting my father, and that everything was OK. It wasn’t until I began to write this blog that I realized that Lorne made a special trip every day past my parents house. His route to town is in the opposite direction.
When my father was finally released, Lorne picked him up at the hospital and drove him home. He made sure dad made it up the three steps into the house. When I tried to thank him for all his help, he just gave me a quick hug and said, “There are still good people out there.”
This is what I miss about small town life, and also what I dream of having in cohousing. I don’t want someone to look after me; I want someone to look out for me. Based on our core values of being respectful, caring and sharing, I know that Prairie Spruce will provide me with the community my parents have and the community I’m yearning for.


Christmases Past, Present and Future

Christmas at Lancaster Cohousing

When I was a little girl, Christmas was amazing. We would go to town and drive around and look at the Christmas lights. We would stop at our friend’s house for snacks, and then go to the church Christmas program. The highlight of the evening was a big meal at my grandmother’s house. All my cousins would be there. There were so many people that we ate sitting on the stairs. It was magical.

My cousins have grown up, got married, and moved away. The only time I see them is at weddings and funerals. Christmas is quieter now. It is still wonderful – Christmas service at the church, a beautiful meal, singing and dancing around the tree. (Yeah we really do that.) There were only 7 of us for Christmas this year and it seemed a bit lonely.

What will Christmas in cohousing be like? I haven’t talked to anyone yet but I imagine a quiet morning with my family. Then games in the afternoon in the common house – everything from Scrabble to Hamsterolle to Euchre. The day would finish with a big potluck supper with everyone’s favorites – turkey, roast pork, mushroom stew, salmon and a lot of things I haven’t even heard of yet.

What do you think Christmas will be like in cohousing? How would you make the holidays special at Prairie Spruce Commons?


The Benefits of Raising a Family in Cohousing

The first cohousing community was started in Denmark in the 1960s in part from the belief that “it takes a village to raise a child”. When Bodil Graae, Danish author and journalist, published an article in 1967 called “Children Should Have One Hundred Parents”, the benefit of cohousing became clear. Those benefits are all the more poignant today.

Many children today grow up in large cities far away from their extended family. Families are also generally smaller today than they used to be. Individuals and families benefit from the help, support and the feeling of “belonging” that a nearby extended family may give. Cohousing communities can act as that oft missing extended family in our increasingly isolated daily lives.

Children in a cohousing community grow up with many people of different ages and cultures around them. This is a unique advantage because these children will grow up to be open minded and social, and with an interest in and respect for people of all ages and cultures. These children will also have many role models who may teach, mentor and inspire them throughout their childhood and beyond.

A cohousing community also provides safe areas such as play rooms, craft rooms, gardens and outdoor play areas where children can interact with each other and learn at the same time. These facilities generally reduce the need for families to enrol in extra activities outside of the community during the week, which then allows more time for families to be together. When activities such as swimming classes and soccer practice do take the children outside the home, families can take turns transporting children. 

As a parent, I’m really excited about the opportunities that cohousing and Prairie Spruce Commons will provide. For my little one: access to awesome shared spaces, in-community friends to play with and additional non-parent mentors. For myself, the shared parenting resources, babysitting and the additional quality time for myself and my family means less stress and a happier lifestyle. Win-win!


Trick or Treat!

Halloween has a long, and frankly fascinating history. For example, did you know that “trick or treat” originated in Canada? The first recorded instance of the expression dates back to 1927 (according to Wikipedia).

Since the middle of the 20th century, Halloween has lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones and has evolved into mainly a youth- and family-focussed holiday. Yet, even without the grotesque ghouls and demons of Halloweens past, present day trick or treating can still make parents anxious: too much candy, tainted treats, crosswalks in the dark. As children get more independent and want to venture out on their own there is also a worry of who they will meet on the path.

When I grew up in rural Saskatchewan, we did not go house to house at Halloween. We would gather at the school gym where the boy scouts along with the community gathered for a costume parade, games and sharing of treats. Treats from the community were collected at the church or through the scouts. During the festivities of the evening, parents would fill paper bags with treats with apples, peanuts, candy kisses, and other goodies. Everyone went home with similar treats, and all having experienced a great evening of safe fun – in community.

Living at Prairie Spruce opens our family up to this type of experience again. Baked goods, fruit leather, or apples as Halloween treats – I’d never dream of doing that now, but it would make sense at Prairie Spruce. It will be a comfortable safe haven for future Halloween and other family holiday fun!


Halloween Pumpkins
Image Courtesy of Justin on Flickr

Welcome Home JoAnne

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.

Cohousers Find a Home Away from Home

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.


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.