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.


Well-Appointed Kitchens in Each Prairie Spruce Unit!

On an airline flight I am usually absorbed in the view from the window, or the storyline in a book, or the action on the in-flight entertainment screen. On a recent trip east I was absorbed in a conversation with my seatmate. To ensure his privacy, I will call him Jack. Like so many things in life, your air flight seatmate can be the luck of the draw; some enjoyable, some less so.

Jack was in the ‘enjoyable’ category.  We started our conversation wide and slowly circled in to the particulars of our lives. As we moved into the particulars, I told Jack about the plans of our household to live in Prairie Spruce Commons Cohousing. To my delight, Jack had already heard about Prairie Spruce. He had stopped by our table at the Regina Farmers Market, and he had seen recent media coverage about Prairie Spruce.


Jack and his friends are regulars at the North YMCA, and after a morning workout they go for coffee. They have had conversations about Prairie Spruce over their morning coffees.  Jack was particularly interested to learn about our workshop that will be filled with great tools and workshop projects. The big puzzle for Jack and his friends was how we were going to cope with using a common kitchen.

There seems to be a widespread misconception that Prairie Spruce will have only a common kitchen, but this is not the case. Each unit has a fully equipped, well appointed kitchen, as well as a living-dining area.  The Common House kitchen and dining area is for community events. It can also be reserved for personal or family events; for example our immediate extended family now numbers in the low 30’s and there are ten children under seven! This is too many for our current home, and it will be too many for our unit at Prairie Spruce Commons, but the Common House kitchen and dining room will be perfect for this crowd.

Do you have questions that have been puzzling you about Prairie Spruce?We would love to hear from you.


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

Global TV – Take Two!

Global News Regina visited our Information Centre over Easter and we got a great spot on the news last Saturday.

They liked us so much that they decided to do a more in depth story for this coming weekend. So this past Monday, Raquel Fletcher and her camera crew came to a community potluck at Lois’, for a second round of filming and interviews. Needless to say, it was a super meal! Raquel even said she was tempted to move in just for our cooking.

Global promised us that a longer feature on cohousing and Prairie Spruce will be on  this Saturday and Sunday at 6:30 as a part of Global TV’s Focus Saskatchewan. Definitely tune in to watch, and let us know what you think!


P.S. For those of you who are thinking I was not very nice as I didn’t bother to get the camera person’s name….well you’re right and I do feel bad.  It was a bit of a faux pas… but in cohousing fashion, at least I didn’t forget to invite him to have supper with us!

A "Tom Sawyer" Turkey Dinner

Tom_Sawyer-238x284Everyone knows the story of Tom Sawyer, a clever young boy who convinces his friends to do his work for him. It is a work of fiction, but the story it seems has inspired many…

About two weeks ago, Murray announced that he was going to cook a turkey for a birthday dinner our community would host while Chris, one of our project managers, was going to be in town. Our Prairie Spruce community rallied behind Murray’s idea and other members quickly offered to make something for the meal. I offered to make extra stuffing. Henning offered to bring perogies. Salads and desserts were volunteered. The Gagnons were going to make some delicious homemade cranberry sauce.

In the lead into the dinner prep, Murray mentioned it would be good to have some help so our host Lois stepped up to help cook the potatoes and Dave volunteered to come early to carve the turkey.3064997632_d930edb767

As with any prairie potluck, there was food in abundance. Jean and Faye brought a spinach salad with strawberries, avocados and poppy seeds. Henning brought perogies whose silky smooth dough and delicious filling drove even those who normally are gluten free or vegetarians to try a couple. Joyce treated us to two types of custard and someone made the best apple crisp I have ever had. Warren offered up cheesecake. Several bottles of wine appeared out of assorted bags and boxes.

Suzanne arrived with a large pan. It was topped with golden brown crumbs and was filled with a smooth, creamy-looking concoction. Hmm, I wondered what it was, some type of delightful potato casserole? Perhaps another dessert? A new vegetarian dish for me to sample? It smelled wonderful. I asked her what it was. Turnip Fluff was her answer. Oh…

I have spent my entire life hating turnips. My mom would boil them to a nasty, pale orange mush and force us to “just try a little.” To this day, some 30 years later, my mom still wants me to “just try a little” of her boiled turnips. As an adult, I can just smile, say “no thanks” and pass them to my dad who really likes them. My dad is English –  you can draw your own conclusions from that.

But life is about trying new things, so I tried “just a little” of Suzanne’s Turnip Fluff. It was delicious. It was fluffy. It was wonderful. I experienced a personal epiphany – turnips are not nasty; they are really quite good. I went back for seconds – a much bigger helping this time. (I wonder what she can do with Brussel sprouts – my second least favorite vegetable?)

When it was time for cleanup in the kitchen, Murray had to retire to the living room to attend the marketing meeting. Fortunately, Ruth came to the rescue. She offered to clean up while the rest of us attended the meeting.

We teased Murray, our “Tom Sawyer of the North”, quite a bit that night about his turkey dinner. But the reality is, we were all Tom Sawyers that night. By splitting up the work, delegating cooking and cleaning, we all benefitted in a way that could only have been possible through group effort. Only one of us had to make the cranberry sauce, only one of us had to bring the turnip fluff and only one of us had to do the dishes. But we ALL had fun. We all got to enjoy the meal and enjoy each others company.

I’m looking forward to Murray’s next party. 🙂



Cohousing Recipes: Vegan Mexican Bean Salad

This is the second in a four part series of cohousing recipes. As part of Joanne’s role as community meal prepper last week, she wanted to prepare items that reflected the diversity of food values and choices within the community. Being a self-described “meatatarian”, she is somewhat unaccustomed to preparing non-omnivore meals but she wanted to be respectful of her friends’ personal values and dietary requirements. The series is meant to showcase the respect and love we can show one another, simply by caring about what people can, and choose to eat in community.

Joanne says: Our cohousing group also includes a vegan family. I’m 99% sure this salad is vegan and 100% sure it is delicious. It is pretty good the second day too. Not sure about day 3; it’s never lasted that long. This is from the Wealth of Health website.

Vegan Mexican Bean Saladvegan-mexican-bean-salad-400x284



  • 1 can (19 oz/540 mL) black beans, drained and rinsed (no-salt added)
  • 1 can (14 oz/398 mL) whole-kernel corn, drained (no-salt added)
  • 1 large mango, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup quartered grape tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro


  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp each salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp each ground cumin and chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp celery seeds


  1. Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix well.
  2. Whisk together dressing ingredients and mix into salad.

Cohousing Recipes: Caramel Pretzel Sticks

I used to make 7 or 8 different things for Christmas. Now I only make 2 – perogies and caramel pretzel sticks. I have already made perogies with Prairie Spruce members. If Lois and Murray help me another 4 times AND are willing to keep the recipe a secret, I might divulge my formula for super silky perogy dough.

Luckily I have no such attachment to my caramel pretzel stick recipe. I found it in a Taste of Home recipe book. Before Christmas, I spent a very long day and made about 85 caramel pretzels. With the big kitchen in the common area, and some willing cohousers, we could make hundreds in one day to share.

Caramel Pretzel SticksCaramel-Pretzel-Sticks


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 1 cup butter cubed
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 package (10 oz) pretzel rods (Try Sobeys or Bulk Barn)
  • 6 to 12 oz white candy coating
  • 6 to 12 oz milk chocolate candy coating
  • 3/4 finely chopped walnuts – optional

In a large heavy saucepan combine sugar, butter, and corn syrup. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue boiling, without stirring, at a moderate-steady rate for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and then stir in the milk.

Reduce to medium-low; cook and stir until candy thermometer reads 245 (firm ball stage). Keep warm. I find this steps takes a long time as I use low heat so the caramel doesn’t burn. I then put it in my slow cooker to keep warm. 

Pour 2 cups of the caramel mixture into a 2 cup glass measuring cup. (I wedge my slow cooker into a larger pot at an angle.) Quickly dip each pretzel halfway into caramel. Allow excess to drip off. Place on well buttered baking sheets; let sit until hardened. I use parchment paper.

In the microwave, melt the white candy coating; stir until smooth. Dip half of the caramel pretzels in the coating. Repeat with milk chocolate coating and dip the rest. Voila!


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.


Prairie Spruce Commons is Sustainably Built

Several participants at our ‘Journey to the Heart of CommunitySustainabilityOpen House last month told us they were drawn to the event because of the words ‘Sustainably Built’ in our advertising in the Leader Post. This got me thinking more about the sustainable features of Prairie Spruce Commons. Sustainability is an economic, social, and environmental concept that involves meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The following are examples of some of the sustainability features of Prairie Spruce Commons.

Social Sustainability:

  • lots of shared common spaces;
  • respecting needs for private space and time;
  • exceeding sound proofing requirements between floor and between units;
  • perfecting our consensus decision-making skills;
  • widening the circle with Friends of Prairie Spruce and others who are interested in growing community;
  • meeting Universal Design standards to make it safer, easier, and more convenient for everyone; and
  • having fun together in community!

Environmental Sustainability

Economic Sustainability

  • reduction in energy costs because of exceptional energy efficient design of building;
  • reduction in upkeep in maintenance costs due to use of quality materials with longer lifespans;
  • lower required equipment and resource ownership through sharing (e.g. snowblowers);
  • car sharing option reducing maintenance and insurance costs;  and
  • lower food costs through community gardening and meal sharing.

You can clearly see our enthusiasm for sustainability in our Badham Boulevard Video on Vimeo.


Thanks Giving for Good Neighbours

Thanksgivings weekend, the weather is beautiful and I have a lot to be thankful for: family, Bekah’s returning health, this beautiful and generous planet – for starters. But this weekend I was also thankful for friends in community…

It goes like this.  Last week I learned that the City of Regina has a Leaf-Yard-Waste Program. It’s all very simple in principle: get some big biodegradable brown paper garden bags (we got ours at the Co-op); stuff them full of all the leaves and grass and plants you are cleaning up as you put your garden to bed for the winter; haul it to one of the depots in various neighbourhoods. From there, it gets hauled to a farm and turned into soil.

While the leaf and yard waste depot is just three blocks from home, I knew I needed a truck to get the stuff there. Being a farm girl I have had truck envy for a very long time. But hey! Murray, one of our Prairie Spruce Commons neighbours, has a truck and he was willing to help us. How lucky is that!?

A couple of days ago I was cleaning up in a long neglected corner downstairs.  I hauled out Brenda’s old canner and told her it was going.  She didn’t take to my idea at first but then she brightened up and said: “Well we’re moving to Prairie Spruce Commons and I bet Joanne (another farm girl) will have a canner!”

See in cohousing, people help each other out and we are willing to share stuff, including trucks. And hopefully canners too!