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.

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.