Friday, February 22, 2013

Team Tinfoil Stands Firm

On Monday we received an e-mail from Susana with the subject line: "CORIX WAS HERE TODAY! BC Hydro will be meeting with the community soon."

Once again Corix was trying to instal smart meters at Pacific Gardens, despite our expressed wishes not to have them in our building. Fortunately our  agreed-upon warning strategy worked.

Here is Susana's report of what happened:

"Kara sounded the alarm....dinner bells....thank you so much Kara!! She managed to give us warning before Corix was out of their vehicles.

There was an installer and a supervisor. They were in marked Corix vehicles and installer in uniform. Several of us met them at the door and refused the meters. Supervisor did all the talking, and assured us they would not install, but wanted to take a photo in the electrical room to prove that they had showed up.

In hindsight, we should have told them to take a photo of the front door, just like the other 3 times Corix has been here. They are more persuasive now, and we let them in just to take a photo of the room. It seemed innocent, as we have letters on all meters showing refusals.

The installer started going through each letter to photograph it, and the individual meters, so they could match up letters with account holders. They wanted to deal with each resident independently. This was NOT OK with us, and not what they had asked to do.  We told them that we are a community, and they must deal with us as a group. A copy of the letter sent on behalf of the Strata was handed to the supervisor.

John asked them 3 times to leave, which they ignored. When we said that we would only deal with BC Hydro and no longer with Corix, the supervisor said he would get a Hydro rep. to meet with us, maybe next week. Finally they left after having photographed several of the letters and meters.

Be prepared for a meeting with BC Hydro. We need to stand firm and not let them bully us. Windsong Cohousing in Langley, speaks as a group. If one Smart Meter is installed, it affects the community, so they are standing together. Let's do the same.

Thank you to everyone who has signed letters. These are very important. If anyone sees any Corix, Hydro or other installers, please ring the dinner bells throughout the building, both floors, as Kara so wonderfully did, which worked like a charm!!"

The members of Team Tinfoil will be on the alert for the sound of dinner bells.  We'll keep you posted as to what happens next in this ongoing saga!


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Potluck Karma At Pacific Gardens

As those of you who have been following this blog for a while know, Pacific Gardens has potlucks on a regular basis - usually once a week.

We also have some fabulous cooks, and even a chef, our fabulous Mykl Love, who does amazing feats of cookery with not-so-common ingredients such as nettles and spelt.

So it's always a treat to enter the dining-room on Thursday nights when we have our community potluck and see what's spread out on the table for us to eat.

Our potlucks are truly spontaneous - sort of like us.  We do not plan ahead for what we're going to have, or try to calculate the number of servings. People bring what they feel like.

And that's what makes it so interesting.  We never know what the special dish of the evening is going to be - a super salad, a yummy dessert, a hearty soup, fish, meat or fowl.

I've noticed, though, since we all started eating together, there seems to be some kind of potluck karma operating, as if we were a bunch of collective Jamie Olivers working in the same kitchen.

Some of it I can understand - on warm summer evenings people will naturally want to eat lots of salads and fresh fruits instead of exerting themselves over a hot stove.

But at other times, it's the battle of the borschts, with five different kinds of the tasty beet soup on the table, or yams fried, roasted, mashed and baked, pickles sweet, sour, mustard, dill, crinkly or sliced.

A few weeks ago everyone brought pasta. Clearly, there was a deep carb deficit in the psyche of Pacific Gardens, as it was followed the next week by an excess of desserts, so many there were leftovers - and believe me, that doesn't happen often.

I'm wondering what it's going to be tonight!


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Fun with Finances at Pacific Gardens

Pacific Gardens is a cohousing community, but it is also a condominium, so each year we are required to present a budget at our Annual General Meeting outlining our income and expenses and all that tedious financial stuff.

Now in other stratas I've lived in, the hapless owners got the budget delivered to them before the AGM, full of incomprehensible columns of figures, and at the meeting, were given a cursory explanation of what it all meant, before voting on it.

Not so at Pacific Gardens.  We do it differently.  First, we include everyone in discussions about the budget - owners, renters, and children. Second, we explain why we spend what we do in a way that people can understand. And third, we try to make it fun!

So, on Friday afternoon, we had a Fun with Finances table out in the atrium, with pie charts, wall posters, a list of frequently asked questions, quizzes, a draw for a prize, plus tea and ginger cookies.

This all took place amidst the usual bustle of activity in the atrium - children doing cartwheels, Matt replacing burnt-out bulbs in the hallway lights, and me distributing containers of soup left over from the Thursday night potluck.

Mia made sure that everyone who passed by got asked what they would like to see in this year's budget.  Anna, four, asked if there was money for bubbles. Her older brother, Joel, wanted a peach tree in the garden. Soma hoped we could have monkey bars for the kids to play on.

The adults mostly wanted to keep their strata fees the same, but when they saw how big the slices were for our hydro and insurance payments on the big colourful pie chart on the wall, they realized that might not be possible!

I used to be a reporter, and I was always told, "follow the money" when I was trying to figure out what was happening for a story.  If people were trying to hide how money was spent, you knew something wasn't right.

And if leaders of governments and organizations were open and honest about their finances and made a real effort to explain what they were doing, you knew they could be trusted.

Finances and budgets may seem boring, but how they're handled can tell you something about what a community is like to live in - whether it's run democratically, or just for a few, whether everyone's concerns are heard and respected, or ignored.

That's why we try to make finances fun at Pacific Gardens, because we want everybody who lives here to feel included.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Our Cohousing Correspondent in Mexico

Pacific Gardens is spreading its influence far and wide - we now have a cohousing correspondent in Mexico, Roz, the authoress of our Officel Etiquetta and the hostess of our Elderberry dinner.

Roz is escaping the gloom of our rainy clime to soak up the scene on the beach in the approporiately-named La Playa.  She has been sending us regular reports of her days spent eating fabulous food, meeting wonderful people, and enjoying the sunshine.

I'm not saying I'm jealous or anything, but really, when you look at pictures like this (and it's one of many she's e-mailed us), I do get a bit green-eyed, even more than usual!

Roz has a wonderful idea, however. She writes: "I think we have it all wrong...we should live in a country where it is easy to grow food all year long, where we do not need as much electrical power, where musika abounds from early morning till into the evening, where one makes instant friends...and then holiday in the summer months of our winterland!

Let's sell and come here to build a Cohousing development!!! Mucho purchasers for sure!!!"

I think she's on to something, don't you?