Friday, March 29, 2019

Prairie Hill, the "E-Harmony of Housing"

Serendipity some might call it. Karma or destiny, maybe? Finding a new way of living and a soul mate in one fell swoop is almost too much good fortune to believe. But it seems to have happened not once but three times here at Prairie Hill. Six individuals looking for a better way to live became three couples finding just that.

The first couple, Barb and Del, met in 2012. Del joined a group that gathered, hoping to create a cohousing community founded on the principles of sustainability and shared resources. As Barb described it, she and Del sort of "danced around each other" for four years, agreeing to not risk jeopardizing the fulfillment of their cohousing dreams to explore their personal relationship. They worked side-by-side through all the ups and downs, frustrations and victories, to develop the plan that would someday be Prairie Hill. Throughout that process, their connection and feelings for each other grew and they recognized their synergy.
The small group of believers began to grow and Prairie Hill began to take shape. In 2016, when the major pieces of planning for Prairie Hill were in place, Del and Barb decided to explore their relationship on a deeper level beyond cohousing and found the loves of their lives, the first couple brought together by Iowa City Cohousing. Now they live here at the top of the hill where they can see what a strong partnership can achieve.

The second pair, Marcia and Craig, came together in the middle of the development stage of Prairie Hill. Marcia had been part of its planning for a year or so when an inquiry came to the membership from a man in Decorah. He had taught social work at the college level and was a Sustainability Coordinator. He was clearly a good fit for Prairie Hill. Craig had found Iowa City Cohousing on the internet and it seemed to fit his desires for an environmentally conscientious, socially responsible community. Little did he know it would answer a desire he wasn't yet aware of. Craig came for a visit and even before there was a road graded or a foundation poured he embraced the dream. He joined committees getting to know the other members, but there was one member in particular who caught his eye.
Marcia's husband had died five years before. She managed a household, ran her landscaping business, volunteered and enjoyed satisfying hobbies. Her life was settled. Then Craig arrived and all that didn't seem enough anymore. She and Craig will marry in April, 2019, and all we Prairie Hillers will help them celebrate.

Jeanette and Dick are the most recent couple to find each other through Prairie Hill. Dick lived in northeast Iowa near Dubuque and Jeanette in south central east Iowa, south of Fairfield. It would seem highly unlikely that they would ever meet but lightning struck once more. Like Marcia, Jeanette had nursed her husband Don through a devastating illness that ended in his death a short time before. Dick had recently divorced and hoped that there was something more out there for him. Through "a miracle" both made their way to the same August 2018 information meeting and open house where they toured homes and met with members of our sociable group. And there they met each other. Each recognized a surprising connection to the other and they shared phone numbers. Their first date was to the Iowa State Fair, where they spent the whole day together. No "red flags" were evident but Jeanette felt it was too soon after Don's death to have a new relationship. She told Dick he should make some lady friends in Dubuque. But he kept calling her "to talk about Prairie Hill," and they saw each other at Prairie Hill events.
Soon Jeanette realized that Dick was very special and it would be a mistake to walk away from the possibility of a real relationship. Now Dick and Jeanette occupy the 515 square foot studio apartment and are very much in love and so happy together. They enjoy playing chess or pool in the Common House living room and both have added richly to the community of Prairie Hill.

Now we can't promise you that lightning will strike again, but it can't hurt to give the Fates a chance. Every person who has become a part of the Prairie Hill community has brought skills, passions, and talents that make all our lives better for having them here. Come visit Prairie Hill and find out what a special place it is.

Donna Rupp

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Our First Spring Equinox Celebration!

We gathered on the west side of the common house,
 where garages will be built soon.
 It was the least muddy and flat place 
we found for the large group of us. 

Dick built a wonderful fire.

Some of us brought drums we had made ourselves,
 and there was a harmonica and a rain stick.

Val read three haiku about spring.

Val and John gave us a strong rhythm, with Buddy looking on.

 We enjoyed the fire for awhile.

Some of us wrote wishes onto paper
and threw them into the flames.

Then before dark,
we all filled two large planters (see supplies on left) 
with topsoil, compost, and flowers - 
tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and pansies. 

They'll grace our entrances to the common house.

 And then we roasted marshmallows
 around the fire to make some-mores. 

And basked in the light of the super moon, 
which came in and out of the clouds.

We sat for a long time, even though we were cold.
It felt good to sit there together
around the fire
with the moon

Happy Spring!

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Origami! First Class in the Reorganized Activity Room

Our activity room in the common house has been used for months as an exercise room (see the different machines in the background). But the other side of the room was used for temporary storage until this week, when places were found for everything on the floor and cabinets.  Now we have a large place for all kinds of activities. To celebrate this new space, we had our first craft activity today! Carolyn, standing in photo above, has been doing origami for at least 10 years, and she taught us to make boxes with lids.

 Here is Val, starting on her box.

One of Carolyn's favorite boxes is triangular, as you can see above. Next time maybe we'll learn to make it too. Other activities down the road are painting, weaving, bread-making and spinning. Who knows what else? The sky's the limit (and the dimensions of the room)!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Benefits of Frigid Weather

As I look back on this month, our first February spent in our new home at Prairie Hill Cohousing, I keep thinking of cold. My new friends and neighbors tell me this is an unusually cold and snowy
February. I hope so, because one overnight low earlier this month was minus 26. When I mention this to a neighbor, he says it was the coldest day in these parts in 25 years.

Of course, those are outdoor temperatures and, as my wise partner, Valerie, notes, most of those sub-zero numbers occur at 3 or 4 in the morning, when we are nestled under the down quilt gifted us by our new friend, Jeanette. Fortunately, the "split" heat pump is working well. We heard that at -10, it gets a bit less effective. During that 26-below night, we were a toasty 65 degrees. The split was set at 70.

And there are other benefits to the frigid weather. Like eight eagles posted the next morning like sentinels in the river birth trees across from our studio in the Common House, at the edge of Benton Hill Park. Their white breasts seemed as wide as bed sheets and their stillness made them look like sculptures.

I stepped outside for two minutes to photograph them. Val rapped on the window, summoning me inside. I was reminded that at -5 degrees, any exposed skin is subject to frostbite. Once back inside now, making a cup of coffee, I went on the Internet and discovered it was 51 degrees back in Auburn, where we lived this time a year ago. What's the fun in that?

So, what does one do on a below-zero day at Prairie Hill Cohousing? For one thing, jigsaw puzzles. We have completed a 300-piece, a 500-piece and a 1,008 piece puzzle.  I use the word "we" loosely because my contribution for all three puzzles was probably fewer than two dozen pieces.

Also I have watched one couple play chess, and there is the activity room, where I have logged several hours on the stationery bike and the treadmill.

As I head downstairs in the Common House to ride the bike, it is snowing outside. I grab the book, America, America, by Iowa City author Ethan Canin. I am in the final pages of this novel, and I am hoping Ethan is upstairs in his nearby home, coffee cup handy, working on the next one.

John Bowman

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.