Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Change Is Coming!

Change means:
  • to make or become different
  • to make or become a different substance entirely; to transform
  • to alter in terms of, i.e. "the ferns began to change shape"

We live in times of rapid change. Change has become so much a part of our culture that it taxes even the most agile of us. If we don't nurture a capacity for flexibility, our sense of wellbeing can be severely threatened. Feeling secure and somewhat in control of our lives and our immediate surroundings is a basic human need. One way to address this need is to hold tight to the current situation. It might not be perfect, but at least we're used to it! Another approach is to look at different scenarios that provide better support for ourselves and our families, then take a deep breath, and decide to make a big change that puts us in a better place.

One characteristic that probably exemplifies all of our Iowa City Cohousing members is the capacity to make a large change in their way of living. These individual decisions may have been motivated by the need to live more sustainably, to lessen our contribution to the planet's ecological crisis, to live in a cooperative community with more than the immediate family, to downsize our homes, or all of these factors together. Everyone feels a yen for change sometimes. But if that desire is not strong enough to risk real disruption in our life, that inner nudge toward change remains just an idea. The need for something different has to be strong enough to cut through our natural inertia.

Our current group of 14 families have overcome the resistance to change and made the big leap. We've committed ourselves to creating a thriving, beautiful, inspiring community on a wonderful piece of land. We've been working at this for what seems like a very long time! Years. Learning patience and keeping up our spirits has been necessary since the process of completing such a big project is complex and can drag out.

But finally, we are ready to begin! We have received the construction loan (the last big hurdle) and our contractor is ordering materials to begin the infrastructure. We're grateful to our engineers for all the work they've done on this project over the years and for continuing to advise us. And grateful to our architects for continuing to adjust and refine. We members are also grateful to each other for sticking with this project through thick and thin, and we are ready to celebrate! Stay tuned to find out about a ground-breaking ceremony in the near future. And in the meantime, keep your eyes on that sweet piece of land off Miller Avenue.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Big Year for Winter Squash Plants!

One of Prairie Hill's members, David Tucker, began the first horticultural project on our land this summer. In a protected area on top of our acreage, he planted some winter squash seeds. When I was showing a prospective member around the site two months ago, these squash were already growing luxuriously. I can only imagine what they look like now, a few days before our first threat of frost. If we were already living at Prairie Hill, David's squash would probably grace our dinner table for months!

Last night at our Iowa City Cohousing board meeting at my house, I showed the other board members the patch of ground that was planned to be a garden with many vegetables, and which my own winter squash has completely taken over. Obviously this is a stupendous squash year. Here's a picture of my garden (turned squash patch) as well as a poem I wrote about it:

The Take-Over

Each morning I look through my upstairs window
   onto the green phenomenon below:
   squash vines running rampant over my garden plot.
Since mid-summer, it has been a marvel,
   these beautiful green arms
   reaching out, uncurling,
   stretching over the landscape
   covering every other growing thing.
There is a vibrancy in this daily, almost hourly, growth,
   a pulsing, unstoppable tide of life unfolding before my eyes.
Who knew that three small hills of seeds
   would find the perfect setting to expand exponentially?

Surprisingly I feel no regret for all the vegetables that fell to this giant,
   smothered under the lush foliage: lettuces, beans, carrots,
   even my hardy tomato plants.
Former garden plans become insignificant compared to this explosion of life.
Almost jubilantly the vines ignore boundaries
   creeping over lawn
   climbing up fruit trees
   stretching into the woods.
And oh, the orange and gold treasures
   hidden beneath the leaves,
   round ribbed smooth fruits of a season’s task,  
   transformation of sun and rain and soil
   into plump heavy seed-carrying bodies.

If it weren’t already October,
   my mind might be busy with fantasies and fears:
   waking one morning, trapped in a tangle of
   green ropey bindings,
   doors and windows blocked,
   the green take-over compete.
But frost is around the corner,
   and this species particularly vulnerable.
Instead I celebrate my good fortune
   to witness Life in such abundance.

Nan Fawcett

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Wonderful News for Cohousing Home-Buyers! Fannie Mae Approves Cohousing Loans!

We have just received the following announcement from the National Cohousing Association. It is cause for celebration! The members of Prairie Hill's "condo docs committee" are particularly gratified., This group of four women have met for many hours over the last three months to craft our community's official by-laws, something that loaning institutions must approve before a loan is granted. Using another cohousing community's document as a guide, the committee has carefully chosen language that not only upholds our own values (cooperation, consensus, shared responsibility) but also is acceptable to the broader state and national structures of which we are a part (such as Fannie Mae). This decision by Fannie Mae is a huge step forward for the cohousing movement in this country, and in our own community the Condo Docs Committee members are smiling.

Here is the announcement:

Fannie Mae Language Supporting Loans for Cohousing Homes
Fannie Mae, the entity that sets the standards for home mortgages across the country, has confirmed that they will do loans on cohousing homes. They have included cohousing in their Project Standards Requirements FAQs.

Click here to link to the Fannie Mae Project Standards Requirements FAQs, and scroll down to Question #22.

Click here to link to the web page where the FAQ is posted at the Fannie Mae Single Family Business Portal Project Standards

Click here to link to the State of Cohousing in the U.S., which provides a description and overview of cohousing.

Here is the Fannie Mae language:
Q22. What are cohousing communities and are cohousing units eligible for Fannie Mae financing?
Cohousing communities are typically characterized by private unit ownership within a community that has explicit arrangements for shared community life and the responsibility for and ownership of common elements and amenities. While these types of communities are often marketed to consumers as cohousing communities, they are typically legally organized as a condominium, cooperative, or PUD project. Other legal structures may also exist for cohousing communities which may not meet Fannie Mae eligibility requirements such as common interest apartments. Mortgages secured by units in cohousing communities may be eligible for delivery to Fannie Mae provided the cohousing project and the subject property unit meet all Selling Guide provisions including any applicable policies related to project standards, deed restrictions, and insurance. Lenders may contact the Project Standards Team with questions about project eligibility for cohousing communities.