Friday, July 26, 2013

The Kids' Room.

There had been some complaints that the kids were starting to graffiti up the walls in the common space.

Mia thought that the kids needed a creative outlet. So Tanis and Mia helped the kids draw silhouettes of themselves on the walls in the kids’ room.

And the kids decorated themselves with their own personal touch.




But I feared that a one day outlet may not fix the issue.

I suggested painting frames on the wall.

Then the kids could be excited to display their works of art on the walls. If they draw on paper for the frames, or worst case scenario,  in the frames,  it still keeps the scribbling off of the atrium walls and instead, inside of the kids’ playroom.

So, Mykl and I painted these up:


And it had the intended effect.  So far…

Here are some of the kids drawing pictures to put in the frames.



The impromptu-ness of friendships in co-housing.

I unabashedly love Pacific Gardens Cohousing.

I love that after I finish my shift of work I can walk out of my front door and find someone to corner for tea, or drinks, or a discussion.

I love that Roz made me a birthday breakfast this morning. Crepe Suzette and mimosas. :)

I love that I can be in my garden and get invited to supper on the back patio.

I love that Mia puts on these teas to help people network and to help Jane learn English.

I love that Kaj works so tirelessly to make this place beautiful. All while having a generous sense of humour about it all.

I love that I can skip out back and snack on some of the raspberries in the back patch.

Or that I can grab some green onions from the community herb garden.

Or that someone will leave a big bag of lettuce to share when their garden is over-producing.

I love that people have such a forgiving attitude.

My children recently swiped a cardboard box that they found in the atrium during pot luck last Thursday and turned it into a cat condo. An email the next morning revealed that that box had been set aside to sort out someone’s recycling. My boys learned that objects found in the atrium aren’t free for the taking. Even if it is something as “unimportant” as a cardboard box.

I don’t attend these really, but I love that someone starts a fire and that it acts as a beacon for others to come and congregate.

I love that the kids have randomly inspired dance parties.

I love that the kids LOVE to be in nature so much.

I love my new family here in Pacific Gardens.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Raising Sparrows In My Deck at Pacific Gardens

Every morning I am awakened by the loud chirping of baby birds. This is usually around dawn and then goes on for the rest of the day. It is quite a chorus and they are very persistent in making their needs known…more food please!! This is the second family of house sparrows being raised in the birdhouse on our deck. I have been fascinated watching the various comings and goings of the parents.

Dad, the more colourful one, often sits on the top of the birdhouse or on the eaves of the house and seems to keep watch. As there are some cats around, I think this is a wise move. Mom comes flying in with some tasty morsel and as soon as she does, Dad flies off. They seem to come and go in rotation. I have found that they work amazingly well as a team. Both are feeding the young and take their responsibilities very seriously.

I am now learning of their different calls. The parents have a more mature kind of chirp and Dad seems to show off with a variety of very melodic tones. Sometimes he is very loud and boisterous. Other females have been hanging around, so I’m not sure if he is trying to attract them, or say keep away from my babies!! The babies are not melodic, just loud and wanting attention. It is just like the young of all species, that they cry or make lots of noise when they are hungry. So interesting to watch what happens in nature, and see that humans behave in the same way.

The babies kept inside the birdhouse for the longest time and I could only hear them. Now I see a beak peeking out every once in awhile, but as soon as they hear me open the door, they retreat and there isn’t a peep out of the babies. I am always amazed how they learn to keep quiet when they perceive danger. Who taught them? The Pacific Chorus Frogs do that as well. They can be making a huge racket and as soon as a car drives in or our footsteps crunch on the gravel, there is total silence. Amazing co-ordination!

I realized that in this hot weather our pond has dried up, so there isn’t fresh water readily available to the birds. I put out two water dishes with rocks in them, so they can drink and bathe while tending to the babies. I envision a very tall bird-bath in my garden, one that cats can’t access, but it will serve all the birds, bees, butterflies that regularly visit my flowers.

These baby birds are lucky that both parents are able to take care of them and keep feeding those hungry bellies. When one or both die, it probably means the death of the babies. That is one reason I don’t like to see domestic cats killing birds, as the cats don’t need the food, but they are having a devastating effect on the world-wide song bird population.

The most vulnerable time will be when the babies are flopping around, sometimes on the ground, while they exercise their wings and try to get air-borne. It is still summer, who knows, maybe this romantic couple will try for another family as soon as these babies leave the nest. They were certainly amorous when they found the nest box. It has been so much fun raising a family on my deck. I hope they make it!


Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Home Truth Learned in a Community Circle

I know I tend to present a rather sunny picture of how we all get along here, but to be honest, it isn't always great.

Sometimes life at Pacific Gardens is not so pacific - in fact, it can get downright mean and miserable. Lately the most miserable bit has been our meetings.

They've started late, been cancelled at the last minute, and gone over time.  Agendas have come out late, or been hijacked.

People have shouted at each other, belittled others (ouch!), repeatedly blocked resolution of issues, and used intimidation to get their own way.

It's pretty distressing for those of us who believe in consensus and cooperation.  So we're trying to get help from facilitators in other cohousing communities.

But in the meantime, Bill called for a Community Circle to talk about meetings and participation.  A meeting to talk about meetings, you ask - why would you do that?

Because Community Circles are different.  They're held together by what is known as the four intentions.  The first is listening from the heart.

No judging, just accepting and seeking understanding as each person speaks their own truth in the circle, giving them your full attention.

The second is speaking from the heart, telling your own story, using "I" statements, if you choose words. Sometimes silence says what you really feel.

The third is being lean of speech.  No need to repeat what others say. This is one intention that several members of our group have difficulties with!

The final intention is spontaneity.  Don't plan what you're going to say in response to what someone else is saying. Just speak from the heart and all will be well.

So, each speaker holding an eagle feather, we talked about what bothered us about the meetings.  People don't listen. They keep blocking. There's power struggles.

Round the feather went, and then it came to David Li. Still learning to speak English, he struggled to express himself, but each time he held the feather, the message was the same.

He loved this place.  It was warm, like a family.  It was so beautiful, with the gardens, and the pond, and the wild ducks, and the deer.  He was happy to live here.

David gave us a home truth that evening. Assume best intent, and you will be happy. And it made me think, maybe that was the problem with our meetings.

We went into them from a negative place.  Perhaps all the negative events in the larger world were affecting our collective psyches, and we couldn't see what we had here.

But David could see it, and in the way of the circle, he gave that gift to us. And that gives me hope that we will get through this storm, as we have others.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Green Thumbs in a Green Place

When I first moved here almost four years ago, Pacific Gardens did not look like a garden - it looked like the Gobi desert.

My moving van got stuck in a dust-filled rut trying to reach my door.  Clouds of brown dust hung over the grounds. Not a flower or blade of grass could be seen.

But now I look out and see a clover-studded green lawn, berry-laden bushes, and garden beds full of lettuce, kale, chard and other veggies.

Flowers of every colour and description appear in profusion - red, orange, yellow, mauve, white - with purple lavender in each front  garden.

It took the work of many green thumbs to make this a green place, and a great deal of determination to make it so beautiful.

We were not well-served by those who were supposed to help us build Pacific Gardens and create our landscaping.

An unscrupulous contractor took away the rich topsoil from the years of farming on our site to another development they were working on nearby.

The thin soil that they left was littered with stones, sticks, and bits of plastic and debris left over from the construction.

The person hired to lay down a form of permanent rye grass for our lawn gave us a variety that grew faster than weeds - and had some in it.

Plants were put in the wrong place.  Those that needed strong sunlight were put in shaded areas, those that needed a dark, cool place were placed in hot sunny ones.

Some died; others had strange blights or diseases. Some were just wrong for what we wanted, which were indigenous and food-producing plants.

For a lot of people, this could have been really discouraging.  For our Pacific Gardeners, it was a challenge - and one they met.

They planted, they weeded, they watered, they mowed, they mulched, they moved plants and shrubs and even trees.

They composted with a vengeance.  They called on friends in Nanaimo and beyond for donations of manure and straw and grass clippings and leaves.

The city of Nanaimo donated a small mountain of topsoil, which took many, many full wheelbarrows and shovels to move to the garden beds.

Kaj built a roomy shed for all the tools and equipment, making sure not to disturb a bird's nest that got built inside while he was constructing it!

The result of all that hard work is plain to see, with a herb garden, raised beds, vegetables galore, a plethora of flowers, and happy birds and bees too.

As a non-gardener, I have observed this happening, and am awed and incredibly grateful for the transformation of what was a desert into a blooming garden.

To all the green thumbs at Pacific Gardens, thank you so much!

This is just another reason why I love living here.