Friday, February 15, 2019

A Day at Prairie Hill - Who Said Winter Was Boring!?

 While our eagle friends calmly perch in a tree above the common house,

 coffee cake made by Carolyn is waiting in the dining room for anyone who is hungry,

 or you can take a few minutes to catch up on reading in the coffee nook.

 In the meantime, Donna has provided us with the internal mailboxes we've been wishing for,

 and the Apex Construction crew is continuing on the new garages

 as well as the new duplex.

 Inside, John takes advantage of the exercise equipment in the activity room,

 and Marcia and Craig have a ping pong match nearby.

 Last night, our Valentine's Date Night Out ended up being at least as fun for Prairie Hill members who got to play with the kids as the parents who got a night out. There was good food,

and good fun.

It's a comforting place to be when the temperatures bottom out and snow covers the landscape. It may be cold outside, but the climate at Prairie Hill Cohousing is definitely warm!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Date Night - A Valentines Day Opportunity for Parents

Our monthly outreach to the wider community this February is something quite different from the norm. We've been talking for a long time about how fun it would be to offer child care to parents who seldom get a chance to go out alone. Though we don't have many children at Prairie Hill yet, we're hoping for more. We have a wonderful Kids' Room in the common house and a spacious area for both quiet and lively activities. And we have an abundance of adults who enjoy hanging out with kids. Put these all together, and it's a recipe for a happy event.

Thursday, February 14th is Valentines Day, and we have scheduled our first date night for parents then. There will be a number of experienced grandparent and parent cohousing members at the common house to host children, starting at 5:30 and ending at 9:00. We'll provide some snacks, but it's also good for parents to bring something they know their children like. We'll provide some beds for the little ones who need to go to sleep before their parents get back. And we'll have activities for different age groups. If you want to take advantage of this opportunity, you can reserve a place by contacting us at We are limiting the number of children to 10-12, any age. Please let us know by Wednesday, Feb. 13th, if you'd like to participate.

Reaching Out to the Wider Community

Change is always risky, and those of us who moved to Prairie Hill in the past year were trusting that we would like living here, even though we wouldn't know until we tried it. The truth is that in general we're finding our community life here more fun and fulfilling than we ever dreamed, despite the full schedule of committee work  that seems to be a necessity at this stage of our development. The concept of  cohousing is working well, with a healthy balance of privacy and community. And in the winter, when we're kept inside more by weather, it's comforting to have others just a few steps away.

Even so, we've felt from the beginning that we want to be closely connected to the wider community rather than becoming insular. To promote this interaction, we've been hosting events once a month that bring a variety of subjects and speakers to Prairie Hill. These events are open to the public, and we love the influx of visitors who come.

Usually we begin with a potluck in our common house dining room. That's a good way to have informal conversations.

Then comes the featured activity or talk. Over the years (even before we began living at Prairie Hill) we've focused on a wide pallet of subjects: edible landscaping, solar collectors, downsizing, getting a loan, raising worms, children's playgrounds, sustainable building design, and a host of other things.

Our most recent friends-of-cohousing evening featured the ecovillage of Findhorn in Scotland. Blair Frank, a frequent visitor to Findhorn, told us of his experiences there, and we were especially interested because many of their themes (community, sustainability, permaculture, attunement to the land) are ones we share. One of the things Blair told us is that during meetings at Findhorn, there is often a candle burning in the center of the group that helps them focus on the things they share, bringing them together. Blair and his wife Mary left us with a gift: a beautiful candle holder and candle made at Findhorn. And often we have been remembering to light the candle when we're having an important meeting.

Friday, January 18, 2019

In the Winter at Prairie Hill

Winter has arrived at Prairie Hill. As I write this, the weekend Iowa City weather forecast calls for temperatures plunging to 1 and 2 degrees below zero. Snow - up to 8 inches of it - is coming tonight.

Meanwhile, at a Friends of Prairie Hill potluck last night in the Common House, there was talk of an outing to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum in West Branch, "when the weather gets better." And, we started to plan an April trip to Cedar Rapids to see an Iowa Kernels baseball game.

That led to my friend, Dick, and I musing about our favorite baseball movies. ("Field of Dreams" gets my vote, with "Bull Durham" a close second.)

So, even as the winds howl outside and daytime highs struggle to top 20 degrees, thoughts of sunny Spring dance around a Maypole in our heads. By the same token, this, the day after poet Mary Oliver's death, I am reminded to embrace Winter's relentless cold and icy persona. In her poem "Red Bird," Oliver offers me hope:

...for whatever reason - 
perhaps because winter is so long
and the sky so black-blue,

or perhaps because the heart narrows
as often as it opens - 
I am grateful

that the red bird comes all winter - 
as nothing else can do.

So, I'll bundle up in that poem today as I brace for the rest of this wondrous season.

John Bowman

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

It's Happening!

From Annie Tucker, whose home (and her husband David's) is on the left of this duplex:

When I was little and would draw a house, I'd draw a square and then a triangle on top for the roof. When a house is being built, the trusses are what make the triangle shape. Today the trusses are being put up on our unit. Now we can see the beginning of the walls AND the roof! Very exciting!!

And on Wednesday, more progress:

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Making Astragalus Tincture

I used to raise medicinal and culinary herbs from my farm in Cedar County, sell them at the Iowa City Farmers Market, and give workshops about how to make them into medicines. Just recently a friend of Prairie Hill gave us a valuable gift: a bucket-full of astragalus roots. Astragalus is an important herb, and takes years to grow to harvest time. The most common form of medicine made from astragalus roots is a tincture. And so Jeanette, Val and I made a gallon of astragalus tincture one Sunday afternoon. This will be enough to keep everyone at Prairie Hill healthy for years to come!

First the roots were scrubbed clean, then dried enough so there was no surface water. Then we cut them into small pieces and/or peeled off the bark in strips, whatever we could do to expose the greatest amount of root to the other ingredient, 151 proof Everclear. This is the strongest, most potent alcohol sold here in Iowa City.

Once we cut up the roots, we filled a gallon glass jar to the top with the roots. The few that were left looked like they had some potential to start new plants, so I planted them in my front yard. The ones in the jar were then covered with the Everclear. The three large bottles of the alcohol were exactly enough to get to the top of the jar. That seemed a good sign somehow, and we smiled.

Now the tincture sits on a shelf in our common house pantry, waiting for at least three months for the medicinal part of the roots to leach into the Everclear. Sometime in the spring, we'll decant the tincture, and then anyone who wants some can have a little dropper-bottle of it to put in their medicine cabinet. Since you use only a few drops at a time, this huge quantity should last well into the 2020's.

Here are some of the benefits of astragalus:

  • Immune system booster
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Slows or prevents growth of tumors
  • Protects cardiovascular system
  • Relieves insulin resistance related to diabetes
  • Slows the progress of kidney disease.
As with most medicinal herbs, astragalus tends to nourish and support the body in a wider way than the targeted and dramatic action of drugs. So it's effects are gradual. And since you take only a few drops at a time, it is a safe addition to the preventive helpers we all call on.

Nan Fawcett

Surviving the Blizzard

Note: your blog host has gotten too busy this past month, and good posts like this one have been waiting to go up. This post was written by Val Bowman a week ago. But tonight it is snowing again!

Winter storm or 'near blizzard' conditions predicted for today. So far it's just rain. We took Kara to a Days Inn near the airport in Des Moines a day early for her flight home to California tonight. But when I look out my window, I see Jeanette walking Cooper and Sophie, the new tree in Donna's yard decorated with lights, a beacon in the early morning light, and the woods at the top of the hill that shelters any number of small animal friends. Later today I will walk a few steps to Nan's house for a massage and later we'll gather in the Common House kitchen to make a tincture of astragalus with her. And tonight we'll walk carefully up the hill (holding the railing) to Marcia's house to watch Strangers in Good Company.

As I was writing this, John called me to the window to see our Osprey hawk! Posing on Dick's truck and then flying to the top of our light pole which overlooks my bird feeder. No breakfast diners there, thank goodness. Life at Prairie Hill.

Blizzard Tips:

  • Stay indoors during the storm. Prolonged exposure to cold can cause hypothermia.
  • Walk and drive carefully on icy sidewalks and roads. Many injuries and accidents are caused by slippery conditions.
  • Before driving, let someone know your destination, route, and expected time of arrival. If your car gets stuck, it'll be easier to find you
  • If you lose feeling and color in your nose, ears, hands or feet, cover the exposed area, avoid rubbing your skin, and seek medical help immediately. You may have frostbite.
  • When shoveling snow, take breaks and lift lighter loads. Working too hard can lead to heart attacks.
  • Stay dry. Wet clothes make you lose body heat, increasing your risk of hypothermia.