Sunday, May 29, 2016

A New Book about Sustainability in Eating

One of our newest members, Marcia Shaffer, has submitted the following post about a project that she's been working on for several years. What she doesn't say is that this book was her idea, and she has pursued it with undaunted dedication. It will be fun to see it completed! It's title is Taste a Little of the Summer, from Greg Brown's song "Canned Goods", and it is truly a local collection of wisdom!

A much anticipated book written by some cohousing members and supporters will soon be published. The idea for the book sprang from discussions at the Earth Care Working Group which promotes solutions to environmental problems. The focus for this book is eating locally, not only in the summer but year around. The reason we focused on this is the disconnection between the people who grow our food and the person eating it. There are huge transportation costs in bringing our food to us, and we have no control over the food between the time it is grown and the time we buy it at the grocery.

In our book there are articles by over 30 people who have learned how to live more gently on the earth. Some people have learned tricks to growing fruits and vegetables. Other people have learned how to preserve fruits and vegetables for winter consumption. The book also includes some favorite recipes for using what has been preserved. Reading between  the lines, you will find the pride and satisfaction our authors have in eating locally grown food.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Lovely Morning among the Flowers

 Despite biting wind and cold temperatures, a hardy group of cohousing members and friends made the trip to Rochester Cemetery Saturday morning. And found beauty. We wandered through acres of wildflowers and gorgeous huge oaks, peered at crumbling old tombstones, and marveled at the resilience and creativity of nature.

Below, we stood around the flat marker for "Granny.." who lived more than a hundred years ago.

And we walked up and over hills covered with shooting stars, columbine, ferns, solomon's seal, daisies, and scores of less well known flowers identified by the several wildflower experts in the group. Then half the group continued on to Cold Spring Pond, lunch in the cabin, and a tour of prairie and pollinator strips.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Prairie and Wildflower Field Trip - Saturday, May 14th!

The first of our two May field trips is coming up very quickly, THIS Saturday morning, May 14th! It is the month for new green and beautiful growth, and we have been noticing all the wildflowers on our housing site as well as in the woods of Benton Hill Park, just north of our land.

We'd like to protect and encourage these flowers! Here are some shots of them taken this morning:
 Jack in the Pulpit

 lush and colorful ground cover

Solomon's Seal

We are also planning to devote some of the area on top of our land to a prairie planting, which will include a wide variety of native plants. With all this in mind, our theme for this Saturday's field trip is Wildflowers and Prairies.

First Site: Rochester Cemetery
This is a must-see if you have any interest in wildflowers or prairie. It is quite famous, drawing people from all over. You can look it up on the web if you want to read more, but here's a line from one of the sites:  "A rare and precious patch of native Iowa prairie, one of the last and most spectacular living remnants of the vast, variegated prairie that once carpeted the state, of which now less than one-tenth of 1 percent remains."

(Above) Close-up and further view at Rochester Cemetery

Second Site: Cold Spring Pond and Prairie
Cold Spring Pond is the Fawcett family gathering spot. Ken Fawcett and friends have been maintaining a plot of prairie there for many years. It was burned just five weeks ago, and the plants are springing back with vigor. Ken is a progressive farmer who has also planted wide pollinator strips through the fields near the pond and prairie, as well as planting thousands of trees as riparian zones along the waterways. It is a beautiful place, and after walking around the site, we will eat lunch there (so bring your own bag lunch).

Third Site: Herbert Hoover Park Prairie
This park, in the middle of West Branch, has over 70 acres of prairie. There are well-maintained trails through it, good for stretching our legs before going back home. At this point, we are only about 10 minutes from Iowa City.

If you have an interest in going on this field trip, please send an email to Nan Fawcett at We will carpool from the old Dodge Street Hy-Vee parking lot at 9:30 am, and will probably return by around 2:00. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Prairie Hill Hopes to Go All-Electric

In our effort to make Prairie Hill Cohousing as sustainable as possible, we have chosen to have an all-electric community. A recent article in the Mother Jones magazine (link below) gives a hopeful picture of how we can positively affect climate change by shifting to electricity, especially as we move from non-renewable to renewable sources.

Below are some quotes from the article, which we urge you to read! And here is the link:

"It turns out that one of the most immediate societal changes for average Americans in a climate-savvy future would likely be the electrification of just about everything. In other words, the hope of the planet could lie in a force—electricity—we've known about for hundreds of years."

"We get energy from fossil fuels in two basic ways: either by burning it in a power plant to create electricity that gets used elsewhere, or by burning it directly where it's needed—i.e., your car's internal combustion engine or a gas-fueled stove. Williams' basic idea—which has also been advanced by other leading energy economists, particularly Stanford's Mark Jacobson—is to ax that second category as much as possible, while simultaneously "decarbonizing" the electric grid by replacing fossil fuels with wind, solar, and other renewables."

"How do we get on track? Williams argues that policymakers need to start spending less energy worrying about fuel efficiency for oil-powered cars and focus instead on speeding up the transition to electric vehicles. That's something the Obama administration has only scratched the surface of, so it could be an area of focus for the next president. Power grid operators, too, need to start planning for a future in which there could be major demand for electricity in sectors (i.e., electric cars, home heating, etc.) that are small now."