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News from Prairie Hill

Dear Friends,

We, like many of you, are spending these last days of winter pouring over seed catalogs and dreaming of bountiful gardens filled with zinnias and nasturtiums and snowpeas and kale, luscious juicy tomatoes, and other wondrous things.

We are also busy making plans for our last two Prairie Hill buildings. We’re excited that so many people are interested in these, but we don’t want anyone to be left out. We still have room for you, but if you're thinking about making the move to Prairie Hill, please don't delay!

Come join us for a Zoom event soon. We can talk gardening and building plans and share some of the best things about spring in Iowa.

Upcoming events at Prairie Hill

Information Meeting
Wednesday, March 3
6:00-7:30 p.m.

Come learn more about cohousing. Meet some of the people who live at Prairie Hill. Ask us your questions about available homes. To get a link to this event, send a text to Val Bowman at 916-751-9188 or write to us at

Weekend Brunch Meet and Greet
Saturday, March 20
10:00-11:30 a.m.

Stop by and chat with Prairie Hill residents and other people interested in the project. Find out why we like cohousing and start thinking about your next move. To get the link, send a text to Val Bowman at 916-751-9188 or write to us at

Looking forward to garden season
by Marcia Mosher

No one enjoys spring like Iowans who have lived through an Iowa winter. My husband Craig and I just returned from a quick escape to Florida. People there seemed to hardly notice spring! They have no idea what they're missing! We here in Iowa treasure the first snowdrops and early crocus poking up through the snow and celebrate the return of the birds to our backyard feeders. 

Hilltop community garden

I love gardening, so when I moved to Prairie Hill, creating a vegetable garden was a high priority for me. We wanted to create a community garden at the top of our hill, but we've had to learn to share the territory with the deer, rabbits and groundhogs who call this area home. The first year, we caught a garden-marauding groundhog in a live trap and took him over to Terry Trueblood Park to make a new home. It's taken several years to outsmart these little guys with a combination of fences, but I think we have a system now—at least our garden was safe last year. We now have thirteen gardeners who have divided up the garden space. We all have different ideas of what to plant and how to garden but this is what makes it fun and interesting. We learn from each other and share our harvests.

Adopt-a-plot pocket gardens

Lots of us also love flower gardens. As people moved into Prairie Hill, it was clear that we needed some kind of system for allocating garden space. The answer was the creation of adopt-a-plots. Homeowners figure out where they'd like to garden and then ask the Land Circle if they can claim the area as an adopt-a-plot. The Land Circle will almost always be pleased to offer it to them. This system has worked well and added to the beauty of our land. When you get a great group of people together there will always be fun surprises.

Kids building mathematical models with Francis Gurtz.

We’ve all heard, and probably experienced, that two heads are better than one. Living in a cohousing community offers lots of opportunities for practicing the art of deep listening. Even when opinions differ widely, if everyone is willing to remain open and curious we can often find common ground and spark creative new ideas.

Working together to hone our communication skills

Recently, Prairie Hill residents adopted a set of interpersonal agreements to encourage community connection, build trust, and guide our actions in challenging situations. No one expects perfection on these points, but we each pledge to try our best and to be understanding of our own and others’ imperfect attempts.

Warming tips for a frigid day

by Dan O'Rourke

A few days ago, as the polar vortex raged outside here at Prairie Hill, the temperature hovered around zero, and in spite of heaters that actually worked, I felt cold. So, I turned to a well-tried survival technique I used while living in a 6th-floor walkup apartment in a 19th century tenement on the lower east side of Manhattan, with a funky, noisy radiator that never got hot enough, and a cheap Polish landlord:  I lit candles, and fired up the oven, to bake something delicious. Eggs, flour, sugar, cornmeal, olive oil, vanilla, lemons. This was going to be a great cornbread pound cake. While all the ingredients were getting friendly in the mixing bowl, I got down to the last two ingredients and discovered a problem. I had the baking powder, but no baking soda. Oy.

That’s the familiar moment when science blurs and you try to convince yourself it doesn’t really matter, does it? A quarter of a teaspoon of baking soda?  Will it make a difference leaving it out? I could borrow from a neighbor. Everyone has baking soda. But I hate to ask for help (I’m working on that). And then it dawned on me: the Common House kitchen! It’s mine for the mining. We have a lending pantry; it must have baking soda.

Closed to group activities because of the pandemic, the Common House still provides space for individuals and couples for laundry, exercise, sewing, relaxation and the occasional jigsaw puzzle. There I found Val, all alone, bundled in a huge sweater that made her look like the Michelin Man, picking out puzzle pieces, attempting to recreate a Renaissance map of the world. Giving her space and silence, I quietly dashed into the kitchen and started the search. When I came out with my 1/3 teaspoon of baking soda, waving my suspicious looking baggie with white powder, I jubilantly exclaimed to Val:  Cohousing works!

We cheered and laughed together. Masked, and ten feet apart, we had a warming moment, just the two of us — on a bitter cold day, in our shared communal space. Unexpected, intimate, fun. As spontaneous and unpredictable as the snowfall that was starting outdoors. The benefits of community life are often just downright practical. But the little “I-Thou” moments that sometimes accompany the practicality are gloriously divine.

Video interview offers candid glimpse into cohousing life

John Bowman interviews Del Holland and Jen Popple about their experiences at Prairie Hill. Their perspectives are unique. Del is a member of the Prairie Hill Board of Managers. He's been involved in the project for many years and has worked closely with the construction crews building our homes. Jen moved to Prairie Hill with her wife and two young children about a year ago. In a household with both parents juggling faculty careers and family life, life gets a little crazy sometimes. 
Link to video

New members share thoughts on the decision to move to Prairie Hill

Shami Morse

My sister told me about Prairie Hill one evening last December. That night, I read most of the website and submitted a request for information. Val Bowman called the next day, and by the end of the conversation, it seemed like we were old friends. When I visited in mid-January, Val and others not only answered my questions and shared (socially distanced) meals, but also offered quick tours of their homes and walked the land with me. I had lived in Iowa City for many years, so I already knew it’s one of the best places in the world to call home.

Val has been my “buddy” throughout the process. With her help, I joined a virtual information meeting, a circle meeting, and an informal call just to meet more community members. On January 25th, I was accepted into membership at the monthly All Member Meeting. Now we are finishing up the legal, financial, and practical details. My home is already constructed, but I still get to select the flooring, cabinets, fixtures, and paint. (I’m grateful that so much research has already been done to find environmentally friendly options.) So I’m almost ready to begin the next chapter of my life: I’ll be moving from Omaha within a few months.

Gina Sharar

About ten years ago, I walked a portion of the Camino Portuguese from the Portuguese border with Spain to Santiago de Compostela. A seed was planted then for living a simpler life and a life of community. Cohousing offers both of these. Granted, our life at Prairie Hill won’t be as simple as my walk along the camino, but it most certainly is forcing me to simplify! Every day something new is added to the curb in front of our house. I’m guessing people have started cruising our street to see what else they can add to their growing piles of stuff. They need to go walk the camino!

Through various meetings with my buddy and others who have helped us with the membership process, I've met a wonderfully welcoming and stimulating group of individuals! I was initially worried that I might find myself surrounded by too much community—that my valued private time would be infringed upon. But I've learned that many of us feel the same way and that privacy is respected and cherished as much as time together. A perfect yin-yang! I look forward to new growth and to becoming a better human being, which a tight community discreetly encourages. I look forward to impromptu visits for a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, a chat… I pray I can be of use, and that someone at the end of the day will say, “Thank you, Gina, for being part of this community.” That's what I label a rich life!

Janet Lane

I'm currently living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My five children and eight grandchildren live in Chicago and Iowa City. Since the life of COVID isolation, I have decided (with the help of some enthusiastic children’s loving persuasion) to seek a new home closer to their active lives. “It's time,” I said, missing their smiles, hugs, and growing experiences. 

My daughters—research masters that they are—found Prairie Hill Cohousing. “This sounds just like you, Mom!” The more I read, website browsed, and Zoomed to meet residents, I had to agree. I immediately felt a calming and connected feeling. What a meaningful way to spend the next journey in my life!! Let the paperwork and helpful relationships begin! 

And so they have. I am now in the process of choosing flooring, cabinets, paint and tile. Thank goodness for the advice of knowledgeable new friends and the research from my children. This has been a fun and enlightening experience. I will visit Prairie Hill for the first time this month and am arranging to move in early June. Appreciation goes out to all the smiling faces offering reassuring comments and invitations to be involved. I am looking forward to embracing my new life and community.

Ice fishermen out on the lake at Kent Park. Pretty soon we'll be paddleboarding there!
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Iowa City Cohousing · 140 Prairie Hill Ln · Iowa City, IA 52246-2029 · USA

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