The Mortensens Take the Next Big Step

Eva and Knud Mortensen
Eva and Knud Mortensen 

Eva and Knud took a huge step on their cohousing journey when they sold their farm last month. They have lived on a farm between Balgonie and Edenwold for the last thirty years. Knud always dreamed of having a farm, and, since the mid-eighties, he has lived his dream. He grew oats, barley, peas, flax, and safflower as well as a huge vegetable garden. Eva turned the bleak open prairie into a delightful floral oasis with roses, lilies, lupine, and other perennials. There was an inner back garden, a gazebo, a rock garden, an orchard, and lawns. The farm was known as Knud and Eva’s Paradise.

But Paradise had acres and acres of lawns and lots and lots of flower beds. It became clear in the last five years that maintaining the farmyard was getting to be too much work for Eva and Knud.  To keep it looking good, they had to spend hours weeding flower beds and vegetable gardens. Eva wore out at least three riding lawnmowers in the past ten years. Erik, their grandson, helped out a bit, but they ended up hiring help for the last couple of years.

When their son Henning showed them the plans for Prairie Spruce, it didn’t take long for a decision to be made. It was time to sell the farm and move into a community that already seemed like family. It was the right decision. Their unit is on the first floor, right next to the garden.

Welcome to your new Paradise, Eva and Knud.

Members of Prarie Spruce relaxing around a bonfire in Paradise.

From the CBC website – ‘A feeling of belonging’: Group works on Regina’s 1st co-housing community


Dave Lareau, Lois Adams and Henning Mortensen are part of the Prairie Spruce Commons co-housing project set to break ground in Regina’s Canterbury Park area in the next few months. (Nichole Huck/CBC)

Dave Lareau can see the home of his dreams taking shape. And by design, it wasn’t something he envisioned alone.

Lareau is part of a group of people working on Prairie Spruce Commons, Regina’s first co-housing community.

“People were looking for a better living arrangement, both for themselves and for family members,” Lareau told CBC’s Morning Edition.

The co-housing project started after a number of families who knew of each other attended a visioning workshop by a local community-based organization.

“There were a good number of people there, and we talked about dreams for ourselves and for family,” he said. “Not knowing what co-housing was, we just kind of came out of the blue and talked about things that mattered to us. And luckily for us, one of the facilitators was familiar with the concept of co-housing.”

Lareau said there were some important aspects all the community members shared when it came to desired living: “A feeling of belonging. A sense of security. Kind of a small town feel.”

The vision behind Prairie Spruce Commons

The idea is to extend the group’s philosophy on community involvement into their living arrangements.

“Co-housing typically has a common house,” Lareau said. “It may be a stand-alone building or it may be fully integrated right into the residence. In our case, we have an apartment style — it will be a condominium when it’s all said and done.”

‘We tend to want to live more responsibly, use up fewer resources, consume less energy.’– Dave Lareau

At Prairie Spruce Commons, there will be a shared space, a common kitchen and dining room if people want to share meals, as well as a playing areas for kids, a lounge and a workshop.

“You don’t have to [share meals], each unit is self-contained, but there’s that potential to share and gather,” he said. “Culturally, people do some of their best work when they’re sharing a meal.”

Another key element that brought the people involved together was the desire to leave a smaller footprint through living in smaller accommodations.

“A lot of our people, they want to tread lightly on the earth and they recognize that although here in Saskatchewan we have lots of land, that doesn’t mean we should squander it. So we tend to want to live more responsibly, use up fewer resources, consume less energy.”

Lareau said another way they’re able to reduce the size of the building is by creating guest suites, rather than giving every unit an extra bedroom. If people have family or friends visiting, all they have to do is book the guest room ahead of time.

A home for young and old

Unlike the Wolf Willow co-housing development in Saskatoon, Prairie Spruce Commons is not a seniors’ residence

“From the get-go, we said we’d like ours to be intergenerational — not that there is anything wrong with the seniors model,” Lareau said. “Our goal is to mix the generations, feeling that there’s value in seniors and young children and middle-age people.”

“I think people are missing the connectedness of those old communities, the small towns.”– Dave Lareau

For Lareau, this co-housing project represents an evolution back to living in close-knit communities. But they’re also aware of potential concerns over being too close to their neighbours.

“I think people are missing the connectedness of those old communities, the small towns,” he said. “Nobody wants the busy body, in your face, poking their nose in your business. But people do want the support that they can provide to each other, and know your name and a little bit about your circumstances… You care about people.”

The plan originally called for 27 units, but it has now been changed to 21 units, 14 of which are already sold.

“It is scaled down,” Lareau said. “We just thought a lot of people jump in on vision and diagrams and whatever, and other people want to see construction happening. So we thought we’ve got to get going on this and make it happen.”

Lareau said he hopes to break ground on the property by June.

Thank you CBC for your coverage.

We’re Back…

My favorite lighting fixture. Luckily, each household gets to pick their own fixtures!

You probably haven’t heard a lot about us lately. We have been devoting our energy to behind the scenes work. With the help of our developer and architect, we right-sized the project. This means we were feeling a bit like Goldilocks. We went from twenty-seven units (too big) to eighteen units (too small) to twenty-one units (just right). We did some redesign to create more multi-use spaces. It is now time to work out some of the final details. I spent a very cool afternoon at Richardsons Lighting looking at options – who knew there were so many different fixtures.

Now we are waiting on the final construction diagrams from the architect. Once those are approved by the city, shovels should be in the ground by July. As we wait for the paperwork to be approved, we will update you on the progress as well as what we’ve been up to for the last while.



Way Opens For Construction to Begin

After a long haul of working, waiting, and yes worrying Prairie Spruce Commons is about to start construction. We now know and are ready to tell the world that construction will start in March 2016!



This breakthrough came on Summer Solstice weekend. The longest day of the year and a time of abundant growth and energy and not only in the plant world! There is a Quaker saying … Proceed as the way opens. While we are not a Quaker community we borrow from wisdom where we find it.  Bill Brent in his book Sacred Compass writes.  “To proceed as way opens means to wait for guidance, to avoid hasty judgment or action, to wait for future circumstances to help solve a problem.”

Cohousing is about building community and a building where we will live our lives in a beautifully designed house with private units (which include private kitchens … the most often asked question) and in the common house and garden. Way is opening for Prairie Spruce Commons to start construction… and so we are happy to send this invitation and announcement far and wide …

Purchase your unit in Regina’s first cohousing project, Prairie Spruce Commons.
●    Buy your unit before August 20, 2015.
●    A unit bought is a unit built.
●    Construction starts March 2016.

Join us now!


Conditional Membership Reminder

One of the most commonly heard comments in conversations with our supporters, as well as visitors to the Information Centre goes something like this:

“I love the idea and design of Prairie Spruce Commons, I see it in my future but I am not quite ready to join the community.”

Very often, this type of comment is followed by… “When do you think the construction will begin?”

These two common comments/queries are inseparable. The following statement by community member Joanne Mortensen makes the inevitable connection clear: “Construction will begin as soon as you and four other households commit to a home at Prairie Spruce Commons.”

That’s because we have agreed with our developer, Fiorante Homes and Commercial Limited, that construction will begin when 19 of the 27 beautifully designed, self-contained units in Prairie Spruce Commons are spoken for.

Our current community members (formally Equity Members) have each paid a downpayment equivalent of $35,000, have selected the units of our choice, are enjoying the fruits of community, and are working on promoting Prairie Spruce Commons so that others can join our community too. As current members, we want to do everything we possibly can to welcome our future neighbours into our community and to make your membership decision as easy as possible. We want you to say yes to your future in Prairie Spruce Commons!

To that end, we have come up with a lower financial threshold for joining the community, which also increases your certainty and security in the project moving forward. We call this “Conditional Equity Membership”. You can become a Conditional Equity member by making a downpayment of $5,000. Your full downpayment will not be required until 19 units are spoken for and construction is then scheduled to begin. Conditional Equity membership is a low risk way for you to ensure you have a future in Prairie Spruce Commons and Prairie spruce Commons has a future in Regina.

To learn more about Conditional Equity Membership, don’t hesitate to email us or give us a call at (306) 586-1363. To get a better sense of the elegant architectural design and this creative community, consider joining us at our 6th Design Workshop with Pattison MGM Architects on Saturday June 20th. Get in touch and will send you the details.


More Frequently Asked Questions: Money Matters

Over the past few months, we’ve been doing presentations at a number of local community groups (Regina Beta Sigma Phi Chapter, Rotary Club, Regina Green Drinks to name a few) as well as at our Information Centre. We always get several insightful questions at these presentations. Sometimes the questions require a more involved answer and the blog provides a good medium for a broader depth of exploration.

We’ve covered frequently asked questions with respect to design recently. Today we want to address a few of the more financially themed questions. Specifically:

  • How is the project being financed?
  • Can I get a mortgage?

Frequently Asked Question: Project Financing

Our community has established a partnership relationship with a local, well-respected developer in Fiorante Homes & Commercial. Consequently, there is no need for our community members to borrow money to secure the land. The land is already owned by the developer we are working with, and it is being held for us until such time as we are ready for construction (more on that in our next blog post).

Much of the necessary equity required to get construction loan funding will be provided by the developer, but a portion of it is being provided by the membership of Prairie Spruce Commons. As a community, we have agreed to make a deposit which has been negotiated with the developer, equal to 15% of the price we are paying for the land and building construction. Some of that deposit will go into escrow with the developer’s attorney, and some of it will be used to pay for soft costs, such as design fees.

That said, construction financing will be secured by Fiorante Homes & Commercial as they will undertake the construction as developer of the project. The developer will locate, negotiate and secure the construction financing from a local bank, likely from Conexus Credit Union. The developer will also sign and guarantee the construction loan, corporately and/or personally. Members of the Prairie Spruce community will not be required to guarantee the construction loan.

Frequently Asked Question: Mortgages

When the construction of the project is nearing completion, individual condominium units will each get proper appraisals, arranged by the take-out mortgage institution, as with any typical condo, to satisfy underwriting requirements. The ‘take-out mortgage’ is the final homeowner’s mortgage, and the mortgage lender will treat this like any other condo purchase. Thus, if a family qualifies for a home purchase, they will also qualify for a purchase at Prairie Spruce Commons.

As part of an early financial pre-qualification process, Prairie Spruce Commons has been working with the Conexus Credit Union to assess the viability of purchasing units for many of our interested home buyers. If you’re considering a purchase but are unsure whether you would qualify for a mortgage, we can help you setup a meeting with a Conexus Credit Union representative. Our willingness to work with Conexus on this matter also gives our developer-partner (Fiorante) the financial credibility of having solid buyers lined up from the construction lender’s perspective.

Should you have any other financially-related questions, don’t hesitate to ask. We are eager to address any questions you might have.



Our Next Design Workshop: June 20

Prairie Spruce members and potential members in a community design meeting with an architect.
Prairie Spruce members and potential members in a community design meeting with an architect.

In March and April 2015 Prairie Spruce Commons members met with Chris Kailing, our architect from Pattison MGM, to consider final adjustments to our building design. It was once again magical to watch Chris move rooms and spaces. Here’s just one example of how Chris used feedback from the community to improve our design.

Chris used the layout of one of the one-bedroom plus den units as a base then applied transparent overlays to sketch out the revised concept for the two-bedroom units. In essence he removed the hallway area near the bedrooms in the original design and leveraged the found space into a larger kitchen area, more closet space and a second full bath, instead of the half bath. That put a bedroom on each side of the unit, with the kitchen and living area in the middle of the unit.

The existing two-bedroom unit holders, and the entire community, are extremely pleased with the new design and the design process as a whole. A word of encouragement for any would-be two-bedroom buyers: there is only one two-bedroom unit still available to purchase, so act quickly!

With the success of our past Design Workshops with Pattison MGM, the Prairie Spruce community is also very much looking forward to the next Design Workshop scheduled for June 20. At this workshop, our architects will be reviewing progress to date on the construction drawings, presenting 3D images of the building interiors, as well as initiating discussion about common house and private unit finishes (for example, millwork and cabinetry).

Are you considering joining the community or getting an in-depth look at the building design? This is the perfect opportunity for getting all your critical questions answered while also getting to know your future neighbours. If the workshop is of interest, get in touch and we’ll fill you in on the workshop details.


The History Behind Prairie Spruce’s Heirloom Bintje Potatoes

In the last blog, I told the story of how I was introduced to Bintje potatoes. In this blog, I will tell the story of how Canada was introduced to Bintje potatoes.

A long time ago, in a small Danish town lived a man named Gunnar Paulson. He had a loving family, but wanted more out of life. He wanted adventure. He wanted land. He wanted a better life for his children. Some other people in the same small town had family members that had moved to Canada. These new Canadians wrote about the wide open spaces, the cheap farmland, and the beautiful summers…. and how much they missed Danish food. Canada sounded exotic. Canada sounded like an adventure. And as far as Gunnar knew, no one had been eaten by a bear, frozen to death, or died of loneliness. After many discussions with his wife, Gunnar decided to pack up his family and move to Wainwright, Alberta.


Just down the street from Gunnar lived a young Knud Mortensen. He was looking for a job. He was looking for adventure. Canada seemed like a great place to find both. With his parent’s blessing, he accompanied the Paulsons to Canada. Also accompanying the Paulsons were three Bintje potatoes. They were hidden in Gunnar’s jacket pocket as the family passed through Canadian customs. The potatoes, as well as the rest of the family and Knud, survived the trip to Wainwright. They grew and multiplied, both the Paulsons and the potatoes. Soon there were enough potatoes to share with Knud’s aunt and uncle who lived in Tilley, Alberta. Tanta (aunt) Marie looked after the potatoes with the same love and devotion as the Paulsons.

Knud, tired of working as a cook and laborer, returned to Denmark where he met and married Eva. Two boys and a doctorate in plant pathology followed soon after. When the opportunity to return to Canada to complete his post graduate work arose, Knud accepted. He assured Eva it would only be for a year and it would be a wonderful opportunity for the boys to learn English.

That was almost forty years ago. When Knud moved out to the farm, he got some Bintje potatoes from Tante Marie and began growing his own potatoes. When he moves into Prairie Spruce, the potatoes are coming along…but probably not in his pocket.

The one sure way of enjoying heirloom Binjte potatoes? Joining the Prairie Spruce Cohousing community, of course!


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.


Another Great Cathedral Arts Festival


The Cathedral Arts Festival (CAF) always winds up with a fantastic street fair. This year was no exception. There were over 300 vendors that lined the streets in the Cathedral neighbourhood. There were food vendors, artists, buskers, and of course Prairie Spruce Commons.

Our booth was hopping from 10:00am on. Over the course of the day, we gave out over 600 slushies! As was the case last year, Nature’s Best Market provided the supplies and the blender bike, while Erik provided the power. Based on his work this year, Erik’s job description has been upgraded from Blender Boy to Mixer Man.

One great thing about our cohousing community is the way we work together. Suzanne came up with the idea to make pinwheels to give away. Erik upgraded the design by solving a design flaw: our original pinwheel with a straight pin sticking out of it needed a bit more design. I added some graphics promoting Prairie Spruce and Warren helped assemble them. Cohousing is working together.

Another great thing about cohousing community is our members’ willingness to share their skills. One of my many skills (some would say quirks) is balloon twisting. I’m not great but I can make a mean flower and – ok I’m just good at one flower. But I can do a passable dog or sword. I am now mentoring both Murray and Dave in the fine art of balloon blowing. By the end of the day, they were awesome at burping balloons – yes, that really is the technical term.  Cohousing is mentoring.


A third great thing about our cohousing community is the acknowledgment that we all have different gifts. Eva volunteered to help at CAF, but she was a bit concerned about how she’d be able to contribute. It was soon clear that Eva was an important part of the booth team. Erik mixed the slushies on the blender bike. Eva portioned them out into cups. This freed up Suzanne to stand in front of the booth and hand out samples. Eva could then direct people back to the booth to talk to Murray, Lois, Dave, or Warren. Suzanne also kept an eye out for children in need of balloons which I made on request as the parents found out about cohousing. Cohousing is about supporting each other!

If we can have this much fun at a street fair, imagine what it will be like to live with us. Send us an email to find out how.