Why Cohousing? Kinship!

“Kinship is a rich bondedness that calls forth to the deepest parts of ourselves.  It is a mutuality of understanding, a sense of belonging, a union of spirits, a loving appreciation, and a deep communion which comes from having known experiences similar to the person with whom we are bonded”

–Joyce Rupp

Member Intro: Pierre

Pierre is a social person who has considered living in a communal milieu for some time. Born in the early fifties, “when everything of consequence was invented”, he is a former high school teacher still involved in education by overseeing high school students transitioning to Algonquin College.

A passionate tinkerer, Pierre loves to spend time in his extensive workshop, building, fixing and feeding his soul by using his skills to make his environment more pleasant and functional.  Recently divorced and currently involved with a wonderful lady friend, he’s quite a decent cook and baker , loves cycling and Blues music and plays a “passionate” Backgammon game.

“I enjoy being with people and sharing food, the outdoors and various entertainments, but I need private space & time, too, so cohousing looks like a good fit for me.”

I think we should make Pierre wear this for all our outreach events!

Guest Post: Hello / Goodbye

Today’s post was written by one of our founding members, Anne, who has decided that her true home is in Nova Scotia, but was kind enough to write a post about what had brought her to us.

Please note that any text in italics is mine, whereas the plain text is Anne’s.

photo credit: MichelleM @In Michelle’s Kitchen

If you have ever made popcorn on the stove in a pan with a glass lid and watched the kernels begin to pop and then pop faster and faster and soon fill the pot, you have had a glimpse of what my brain feels like from the inside. Ideas heat up and explode over each other all the time. [coolest popcorn distraction ever]

I first heard about cohousing around seventeen years ago, through a network called Sustainable Maritimes. I was subscribed (and still am) to its listserv. One day a notice came round about an event in Halifax, funded by CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp) and organized by some folks in the greater Halifax area who had heard about cohousing and wanted to create communities.

These folks, perhaps?

I think it was a two day event. I invited a forward thinking municipal councillor to go with me, and off we went. Follow through has never been my strong point. I realize now I ought to have been at the council meeting where she reported back on what we had learned.

Ronaye Matthews from British Columbia had been flown in to enlighten us. She is one of the folks who run Cohousing Development Consulting.

We learned about the process of getting Quayside Commons up and running, the difficulties, and the clever ideas like getting funding for some sustainable aspect of the community.

Quayside has been happily inhabited for 17 years.

We learned about process cards and practiced using them.

We heard about what people in Nova Scotia were hoping to do.

We learned about Roberts Creek Cohousing, formed by people who were, and were not, living on BC’s Sunshine Coast.  They did a lot of groundwork by email. Their neighbourhood is not around a courtyard, my ideal, but is little houses on little roads in the woods. They built their own sewage treatment system which they then turned over to the village.

A 3-minute walk to the main commercial centre of Robert’s Creek, and less than a 10-minute walk to the ocean.

At one point in the question period in the first session someone in the audience, from Antigonish, the town in Nova Scotia where co-ops are at the epicentre of community development, said,

“Well, we have been doing co-ops for decades!”

And then we went through a lot of back and forth about what makes cohousing different from co-ops, and the different ways communities in BC were structured legally.

I came away thinking,

“It’s Anne’s world!”

I had lived in many different shared situations: Rochdale College, a big house with a shared kitchen, a small house with two families and many kids. And I am a hermit, who loves company, so the idea of private homes and shared common spaces completely fills the bill.

I have done one too many loads of dirty dishes and gone out, only to come home with groceries ready to cook a meal and discovered a kitchen even messier than before I had cleaned it. And, I have never been good at having that conversation. And, I have walked out on messes I have made, too.

Comedian Justin Cousson apparently fought the “messy kitchen/roomie” battle with art.

Since that sudden, intense immersion in the cohousing concept, living mainly on my own in a very rural area, I have lurked on the cohousing.org list-serve, bought and read and given away a ton of books about cohousing, and talked far too much about it to people who really wished I would draw breath and let them say something.

I have a popcorn pot full of thoughts and imaginings about intentional communities, which I first heard about in grade ten social studies. I wrote an essay about some community in New England for that class back in something like 1964.  (Anyone else wondering if it was Caroline’s?)

I love the evolution of the Ecovillage at Ithaca, and think that Cape Breton might really be revitalized if we invited people to come to the island and followed that model, instead of letting our farm land be cut up into cottage lots.

Community Supported Agriculture, with cohousing neighbourhoods around the farm land, how brilliant is that?

Anne brought curry & raita to our last potluck. I can attest that she should cook for me more !

Cooking is more fun if I am cooking for a crowd. Sharing meals. helping out, being able to walk to a workshop or exercise room, seeing kids playing, it all looks so rosy.

And I believe Concorde will exist one day.

But really, my heart and home is in Cape Breton, in the home built for my great-grandfather’s sister.

Ottawa is a great city, and will be even better when the cohousing idea takes hold.  I wish you all the best on the journey towards the common house, and hope to visit one day.

If you are reading this on the Concorde website and wondering, “Would I like to meet these folks, and maybe even live with them?”   I’d say,

“Go for it!”

Beside Cohousing: Why I Fell in Love with Haitian Lakou

my 1st day in Haiti, in a rural kitchen

My name is Valerie and my interest in cohousing began when I lived in Haiti in 2005.  (After coup, before earthquake, for you fuzzy-in-recent-ish-history types)

It wasn’t called cohousing, but “Lakou.”  I’ll let the esteemed & incredible author Edwidge Danticat introduce you, in the first 40 seconds of this video:

Lakou, physically, are “communities of private homes clustered around shared space.”  The only word from the short form definition of cohousing that might not obviously apply is “intentional”.

Fishing Huts near St Marc, Haiti

That isn’t to say that the clusters were put together thoughtlessly, just not with the same type of “intent” implied by most Canada-raised folk using the word.  Rather, Lakou tend to be structured around how to best use the space you have for whatever you need that space to be. Bedrooms could become dining rooms, Nurseries could become rental units, and then those rooms could change again, ever adapting to the needs of the families living there.

It was Beautiful.

I mean… if you got into a slum where people didn’t really have ownership of anything, and the sewer-gutter was backed up and stinky, it wasn’t so beautiful. We’ve all seen those photos too many times, so I won’t share any of them here.

But the system of sharing and adapting and making room for everyone, that was beautiful.

The system of having grandpas and great grandmas and brand new babies all living, not under one roof necessarily, but within shouting distance certainly, that allowed true culture.

The system of kids having other kids around for play, adventures, chores; without an adult having to endlessly complete reward charts and permission slips, that was freedom.

The system of frequently sharing meals, which meant way fewer people-hours sitting in the hot sun over a hot pot, that was life-saving.

(At least for me.  I would’ve given myself food poisoning or burned all my eyebrows off trying to manage the unfamiliar ingredients and charcoal stoves.)

So, ya.  When by happenstance I visited a cohousing community in Michigan, I was hooked before dessert.  Back then, I was too young to make many choices about my own living situation beyond “have roommates = make rent”.  Now, finally, with Concorde, I can once again experience something akin to this beautiful piece of an amazing country.

For the record: I wasn’t in Haiti long enough to be able to say anything definitive about anything, and I want to be careful to not steal something that doesn’t belong to me.  So, for the record: I’m not actually trying to argue that we’re building a Lakou, just that it was inspiring.  All of the photos are my own or from a colleague, and we got permission to take them, though sadly, because of the nature of Haitian migration and 2005 telecommunication, I won’t be able to let the subjects of the photos – my erstwhile neighbours – know what I’m doing with their images now.  I hope and believe they will be happy with this portrayal if they ever do come across it. (& if they do, I really hope they reach out!)

Now, a song about Lakou by a group named after them:

 

Webmaster

photo from IMDB

My name is Valerie.  I signed up to be the webmaster.

However, it turns out that’s a loaded word, both in real life and the movies, so I’m downgrading my aspirations.  I’ll be the narrator. (At least until someone changes the password!)

We have some other people who are better at tech stuff, and others who are better at writing, (especially writing concisely) but none who are adequate at both AND have spare time.  So, dear reader, you are stuck with me.  I’m sorry.  As often as I can, I’ll cajole the others into writing.  They seem pretty keen to introduce the ideas and strategies we’re working on; just a little hesitant to introduce themselves or spend 90 minutes coming up with a catchy jingle to advertise our next social event. Ridiculous, right?  Anyway, leading by example, off I go to write my  real  intro piece, about what sparked my interest in Cohousing.

Ok, I admit starting to blog publicly does feel a bit like climbing into a retro sci-fi fish bowl.

Guest Post: Before “Cohousing”

Today’s post was written by one of our founding members, Caroline. 

Of all of us, she has probably the longest history with intentional communities so it seemed good to let her story be first.  

Please note that any text in italics is mine, whereas the plain text is Caroline’s.

In 1945 my parents helped a small group of progressive people found an “intentional community” in Chester County, outside of Philadelphia, called Tanguy Homesteads.

Thanks, Daily Mail, but not that Tan Guy!

The founders were mostly Quaker and largely white, but their goal was to be both interreligious and interracial.

This is what I think communists build!                    (Photo credit: Matt Bateman, Flickr)

They pooled their resources and bought a 200-acre farm, leased each family a 2-acre lot, and had community potlucks, folk dances and business meetings in the “Big House” — the locals apparently thought Tanguy folks were communists!

Pretty soon we had dug a community pond for swimming and skating in season, and there was a lot of Co-Op childcare in parenting. Eventually one family began a small automatically ratcheting wrench business that employed several other families’ members.

Our family were Associate Member for years, because we already owned some land nearby, but after my father‘s untimely death, my mother and her six children (I was the third) moved into a new home in 1957.

sweat equity

It was “Techbuilt” (somewhat like modular housing today) and the contractor was a member of Tanguy.  We put a lot of sweat equity into that house!

I attended the local junior high for grade 8, and started going to Westown Friends (Quaker) School In grade 9. By grade 11 I was a boarding student, though my home was only 2 miles away, and then I went to college in Boston, far away. These separations meant I really didn’t have very much of an “older teenage” or young adult view of the way the Tanguy community worked, but it was a terrific place to grow up.

I do remember many shared activities (games nights, “progressive” dinners, life-saving classes in the pond, a summer youth production of West Side Story, etc.), and my best friend lived just down the road.

Valerie's Friends from Haiti
My friend down the road: I’ll walk you home and then you walk me home and then I’ll walk you home…

Not surprisingly after such a cooperative-based upbringing, I’ve often lived in shared housing. Almost always these homes were owned by me and/or my late husband, so there wasn’t a completely equal basis to decision-making.  Still, I’m used to having neighbours who do more than share the proverbial cup of sugar and I look forward to being able to really build close relationships and cooperation within Concorde.

Tanguy Homesteads, Glen Mills, Pennsylvania circa 1970.

For the record: I was a member of Terra Firma in the 90s, before I went away to do research in England & before TF actually bought the homes where it is now based. I have also been a (fairly inactive) member of Convivium.

2018’s Last Summer Social

On October 20th, several of our members and interested “explorers” went for a walk and talk at the future site of the Botanical Garden of Canada.

Canadensis, is, like us, still in the early stages, so it will be exciting to see how it progresses, as it was a wonderful place for a Concorde Social .  It lines up perfectly with one of the preferences our group first united upon:   Urban With Nearby Nature.  

That means that while we love to be surrounded by flowers and leaves and rivers and sheep…

Shameless plug: Canadensis is right across the street from the Agriculture Museum, which I use my kid as an excuse to visit so often the newspaper took this picture!

….we still want to live in the city, with public transportation, walkable  errands and the spectrum of cuisines and cultural activities associated with an urban setting.

So, as I said, the Canadensis walk was perfect for us: free, no car required,  (though admittedly, it’s a bit of a trek from the closest bus stop) beautiful nature. some cultural displays and a picnic.  (Because it wouldn’t be a Concorde event without Somebody Sharing Something Scrumptious!)

Unfortunately, since October isn’t actually summer,  the picnic was while we were standing and we didn’t get to put our toes in the grass.

Still, despite a drizzly grey morning, it turned into a beautiful day and it gave one of our members, Jake, a chance to tell us about helping to build Canadensis a sun structure earlier this year.  He said it was like putting an egg carton together in the sky.  That makes a bit more sense once you’ve seen a picture, but all I have is this picture of Jake.

 

 

I’m looking forward to checking on their progress and using the picnic shelter for a proper sit-down picnic next year.

Maybe you, dear reader, will join us?

 

 

 

 

 

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The comment box below, or on any of our blog posts, is there for you to tell us what you want, what you really, really, want, (zig-a-zig-ah)  or think, about cohousing.

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But note that while we welcome relevant and respectful discussion, attacks – especially personal ones – are not helpful.  All comments will be moderated  and only those that are beneficial to discussion will be published.

Bienvenue!

Welcome to the new website of Concorde Cohousing.

Concorde Cohousing is a forming “co-housing” group in Ottawa Canada.

This website is currently under construction. (June 2018)

The rest of the website (especially an “about us” page, will be filled out as soon as we can get it done. In the meantime use the Contact page to reach us, or come out to an event.