Monday, June 20, 2016

The International Cohousing Community, or It's a Small World After All!

By Gloria Zmolek

Plain and simple, cohousing is about community. Cohousing is about building a village where everyone knows each other and shares and cares for each other in their neighborhood. I joined the Prairie Hill cohousing community in February this year for that very reason. I wanted to live in a neighborhood where everybody knew my name and had my back when I needed it and I, in turn, would have theirs.
Since I’ve joined, one of the gifts that I did not anticipate was that I would become an integral part of not only a small community in Iowa City but a part of a larger community, the international cohousing community of the world. Cohousing got it’s start in 1972 in Denmark and initially spread to Sweden and the Netherlands. Now more and more communities are developing in France, Spain, Belgium, the UK and Italy. The concept was introduced to the US by architects Katie McCamant and Charles Durrett in the 80’s. Currently there are over 160 cohousing communities. While I have not taken the opportunity to visit any of these communities in the states, many of our members have and I look forward to doing so in the future. Those communities include Madison, North Carolina………...
Most recently I was visiting in Sweden and decided to reach out to cohousing communities there. I was warmly welcomed to Kollektivhuset Sockenstugan, one of four cohousing communities in Stockholm. Ingrid Eckerman graciously hosted me for the day patiently giving me a tour and explaining in great detail how their community functioned. I got to help cook the meal for the community that evening and met so many wonderful people. It made my visit to Sweden so very special. Quite simply, when you become part of a cohousing community, you are warmly welcomed in cohousing communities everywhere.
Me with my cooking crew
Traditional afternoon coffee (Ingrid is on the left)
Delectable vegetarian dish we prepared
View of the common house from Ingrid’s room
At the first members meeting I attended on returning from Europe, we were informed that we had been contacted by Kuranda eCohousing Community in Queensland, Australia because Charles Durrett had recommended us as a cohousing group who had excellent ideas for promoting our community in order to increase our membership. I contacted Cathy Retter and we decided to meet via Skype to exchange ideas about building our respective communities. Members Del Holland, Nan Fawcett, Barb Bailey and I met an my house and we Skyped with Cathy for over an hour about the challenges and successes of our organization. It was very exciting to get to become acquainted with like-minded people living on the other side of the planet. After the conversation, Cathy wrote me a short note: “That was really lovely of you to arrange this call Gloria. I feel really inspired. Good luck with it all. “ We are now Facebook friends and I know we will remain in contact to share our joys and woes and someday I hope to visit the Kuranda eCohousing community in Australia.
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Skypin' with Cathy

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Work Day on Prairie Hill

On Memorial Day, cohousing members came together to work on some projects at our building site. One task was to carry logs from the cleared site up to the top of the property, the area where our future gardens and orchards will be. These logs will be used for benches, play equipment, fences and lining paths.

Mary Beth's Birthday Cake

Another project was to mark some of the building locations. This was done with bamboo poles topped with white flags. The location of the commonhouse, the northwest stacked flat, and the duplex south of that stacked flat are now all marked off. Also marked are the corners of the townhouses and the most easterly stacked flat. It is great to be able to better visualize the layout of our community. In contrast to looking at a flat map, we can now stand just where each building will be on the actual land, take in the relative height of each and appreciate the different views.  

Dame's Rocket in our patch of woods