Sunday, March 31, 2013

Living in the Land of the Big Cheese

I have been learning a whole lot about mice lately - more than I really care to know.

We thought we had solved the problem of the marauding mice at Pacific Gardens, but now they've come back.

To put this all in perspective, when I first heard that we had rodent guests who had stayed too long at the party, I checked out the internet.

When I typed in, "Mice in Nanaimo", the names of two major local hotels topped the list - so we're not the only ones!

But it hasn't been much fun. We've spent hours filling holes, cleaning, meeting, setting traps, and checking crawl spaces and duct work for entry points.

And then Chad took control of the mouse patrol. He definitely likes to use humour to get his point across.

Chad's our strata council vice president, and as the one coordinating our efforts to get rid of the pesky varmints, dubbed himself mice president (MP).

He was quick to explain that as the royal Mice President he was just a figurehead that oversees everything in this land of the Big Cheese.

He called the group tackling the problem the Rodent Response Team, or the MLA (Mouse Liberation to-the-afterlife Army).

The people responding to questions and concerns from residents were MEOWs (Mice Extermination Outreach Workers).

And if people wanted to contact the MEOWs directly, they could e-mail them at

With the humour, however, came a detailed plan, and community members willing to carry it out. And it's working!

I just received the first report from the Rodent Response Team logger, Doris.

According to her splendid spread-sheet, 18 of our units have had no sightings of mice, and three have, but only sporadically.

That leaves four with serious problems, and these are being dealt with by having holes blocked to prevent entry, traps, cleaning, etc.

Round one in the fight against rodents!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

There Goes The Neighbourhood!

I was all set to write about what a wonderful neighbourhood we have here in Harewood, with friendly people, a caring community, and safe streets.

To label us as "Scarewood" - which crafty real estate agents had done in years past to persuade people to buy houses in the more lucrative north end - was not right.

This was a peaceful, stable, working-class, pedestrian-oriented neighbourhood, perfect for families, with little or no crime.

Then Godzilla came to Seventh Street, and everything changed.  A burnt-out helicopter and a car in flames, trains carrying nuclear missiles, army tanks -  yikes!

Godzilla, the radioactive monster last seen terrorizing Tokyo, had come to Harewood as the star in a movie that is filming here in Nanaimo.

However, in best Harewood fashion, this became a community-building experience. Crowds of people from the neighbourhood came out to watch the mayhem.

It was a thrill to watch the helicopter being burnt over and over again, and see the members of the army tackle the fierce - but invisible to us - beast.

Some of the residents of Pacific Gardens even got to be interviewed on TV. Soma, our nine-year-old, talked about how cool it was, and Susana, how exciting.

Of course, Godzilla's visit generated the usual e-mail debate at Pacific Gardens.  Should we invite him to our Thursday night potluck? And if he came, would we have enough food?

Of course, as one cynic pointed out, we might be the ones on the menu - this was Godzilla, after all.

Maybe Harewood should change its name to Hollywood. We always knew our neighbourhood deserved a starring role!


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dressed to Swag-Kill

I learned a new descriptive phrase the other night while out with our recently-founded walkers' group at Pacific Gardens - swag-kill.

For months several of us had been saying, "We really must get more exercise.  Maybe we should start a walking group."

Alas, the feet never seemed to get off the ground, until Bill put on his boots and just started doing it.

At 7:30 pm most nights of the week, he would walk out the door and explore the roads, lanes, cul-de-sacs - and yes, hills - in our neighbourhood.

Soon Sharon joined him, and then me.  First it was only for a half-hour, then 45 minutes, and now we walk and talk for a good hour or more.

It's amazing how fast the time goes when you're with friends, and how many people we meet and greet while we're on our way.

Perhaps it's the illuminated safety vests (acquired by Sharon at a thrift shop) that makes our little group stand out.  It's hard to miss seeing us, that's for sure.

One night while we were on our usual evening jaunt two young men approached Sharon and asked her where she got the vests.

"Those are really swag-kill," they told her. I had to check it out - were they saying we were some kind of fashionistas?

According to the Urban Dictionary, swaggerists - people like us who wear swag-kill outfits - are beautiful people and classy in any/all situations.

That description certainly fits - and it's enough incentive to keep me walking!


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Musique de Pond

We knew spring was coming for sure when we heard it. It started out as the occasional peep, then grew to a chorus, and now, it's a roar of sound.

The frogs in our pond are giving us their annual spring performance.  At night it's so loud that if you're talking to someone on the phone, they'll ask: "What's that noise in the background?"

I can even hear it from my bedroom on the other side of the building.  It is powerful, yet soothing - a harbinger of the warm days to come, an annual ritual of the season, and somehow, strangely romantic.

It is, as Mykl calls it, the "Musique de Pond". He's made a recording of it, but to capture the full effect, you need to hear it in person, preferably late at night, when the moon and stars are out.

The frogs join the mating ducks, the budding trees, the growing grass (and weeds!), the sporadic showers, the crocuses and yes, daffodils, in celebrating the coming of spring.

Time to put away the woolies and the wellies, clean out the garden shed, look through the seed catalogues and the gardening books, clean off the patio, and take a sneak peak at your summer wardrobe.

There may be a few more weeks of intermittent rain and gloom, but we know the days of sunshine, seeding, and new life will soon be here, serenaded by the Musique de Pond!


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Busy, Busy Bees at PGCC

I'm feeling really creaky and stiff today, but not because I went nude bungee jumping! :-) No, it's because I was one of the many busy, busy bees participating in a spring work party at PGCC yesterday.

In usual Pacific Gardens fashion, we started it off with a potluck brunch, featuring yummy pancakes and waffles, with all kinds of scrumptious toppings, including Mykl's tasty banana syrup, as well as raspberry preserves and organic maple syrup.

Add to that some good strong hot coffee, a fruit smoothie, Sharon's excellent scones, and we were well-fueled to tackle the spring cleaning inside and the gardening and landscaping outside.

And we did a lot in a few hours. Sharon and David steam-cleaned 52 dining-room and office chairs.  Bill and Norah cleaned out the bugs trapped in our dining-hall lights, and replaced bulbs.

Trey, Joel, Braeden and Soma leaped, tumbled and ran through the building, watering the many plants both upstairs and downstairs.  As Braeden said, looking at all the plants: "No wonder it's called Pacific Gardens!"

I vacuumed the floors in the music room, the office, and one of the guest bedrooms, and mopped the floors in the kitchen and the elevator, and cleaned the ovens.

Chad and Kari led a team of enthusiastic volunteers who did everything from filling in the potholes on our gravel driveway to shovelling several loads of topsoil donated by Dirk Becker.

Of course we finished off the day's work with another delicious meal, this time featuring a hearty vegetable lentil soup made by Sharon, and homemade bread baked by John using wheat grown on Vancouver Island.

When I went home to do my own housework, I found myself humming the lyrics of that old tune: "Oh, we ain't got a barrel of money/Maybe we're ragged and funny/But we'll travel along/Singin' a song/Side by side."


Friday, March 8, 2013

A Month in the Life of Pacific Gardens

While Pacific Gardens still was under construction, we shareholder / developers used to discuss our vision of what it would be like to live in cohousing.

Kathryn recounted her experience of living in a housing cooperative* in London, Ontario. She said it had been a really cool place. It was a hub of interesting and fun activities, not just for the people who lived there, but for the larger community as well. She envisaged that Pacific Gardens would play a similar role in Nanaimo.

When I saw the March issue of The Bloomin’ News, the newsletter that Sharon publishes, it brought home to me the fact that Kathryn’s dream had come true. Just check out a month in the life of Pacific Gardens; in this case it was February 2013:

  • 3 birthday parties, the youngest 1, the oldest 83
  • 1 NVC [Non-Violent Communication] workshop
  • seeds have sprouted in cold frames
  • Family Sing
  • 2 residents got pneumonia
  • at least one "Ladies Night" get together
  • Nanaimo Green Party AGM
  • a flood [involving the central hot water heater]
  • someone learned a new magic trick
  • someone went nude bungee jumping [offsite, at the Nanaimo River!]
  • one Qi Gong lesson
  • 4 men's group sessions
  • work progressed in "front yard" by pond
  • a fun group game of Encore [described in Kathryn's blog post entitled With A Song in My Heart]
  • we successfully defended the community against Smart Meters for the 4th time [Proud Members of Team Tinfoil and Team Tinfoil Stands Firm]
  • 3 pairs of ducks nested
  • a small walking club began
  • we purchased 20 new chairs for the dining hall
  • 8 yoga classes
  • the floor seams were repaired
  • the snowdrops and crocus bloomed
  • 1500 plus people viewed one of our Facebook posts!
  • 5 community meetings
  • 4 meditation sessions
  • a community circle
  • a book club meeting
  • 4 community potlucks [you are welcome to join us for our potlucks at 6:00 pm on Thursdays]
  • 1 Council of Canadians meeting
  • the garden was visited by several deer
  • 2 residents were hospitalized
  • the frogs began singing
  • potholes [in the parking lot] were refilled
  • neighbours enjoyed each other
  • the community got stronger

  • What modest Sharon did not include in her list was that a useful newsletter was published to help residents keep on top of what was going on. Thank you, Sharon!

    * For the sake of clarity, there are some technical differences between a cohousing complex and a housing cooperative, but in practical terms there are many similarities.

    Friday, March 1, 2013

    With A Song In My Heart

    Yesterday began as one of those days that epitomize the February blahs.  It was cold, rainy, grey, and miserable.

    A friend from back East who telephoned to chat accused me of lying when I said the crocuses were out (really, truly, they are!).

    I had nothing more exciting for my day's plans than laundry, list-making, and compost-dumping (which I didn't do, because it was too awful outside).

    Even the usual Pacific Gardens potluck karma was out of whack.  The food was good, mostly vegetarian, but only about 10 people showed up.


    But the evening soon had some fun and sparkle with our very own version of Canadian Idol, using the cards from a game called Encore.

    Each card had a word on it that we had to use in a song.  Sounds easy, but it wasn't always. Trying to find that elusive musical word was a challenge at times.

    It could also be very funny.  John had us laughing till tears ran down our faces with his comic rendition of a song with the word "finger" in it.

    David tried to convince us that his multi-versed sea shanty with the word "landlubber" in it was close enough to the word "lover".

    We also found that our neighbours had some wonderful musical talent. Bill revealed himself to be a crooner to rival Michael BublĂ©.

    Susana had an impressive knowledge of African-American spirituals from her participation in the Everybody Sings group.

    Ron was able to recall they lyrics to those top 10 hits we thought we'd all forgotten, while my specialty was Broadway musicals.

    Jasson chimed in, too, and Chad came up with some creative choruses.

    After an hour of singing, jokes and laughter, I went home in a much better mood and with a song in my heart.

    This is why I like living in community.