October 2006

life in community , news , performances

Halloween is a holiday celebrated seriously at Great Oak, and 2006 was no exception. Click on the picture for our album of pictures from this groovy holiday:
Great Oak Halloween 2006 album

This year, the resident Great Oak band played, after trick-or-treating, scary favorites like “Monster Boogie” in front of the Common House — the crowd kept warm by dancing or huddling around the brazier!

Great Oak Band at Halloween 2006 Great Oak Band outside CH at Halloween 2006

37 households provide a lot of treats, but if that isn’t enough, Sunward Cohousing, Touchstone Cohousing and Eagle Point apartments are all nearby with a large host of welcoming haunted houses.

news , transport

When Great Oak was initally built, direct-bury Category 5 copper cable was run between the Common House and each building, with two 4-pair cables running into each unit. Unfortunately, as we’ve started using up the pairs, we’ve found that some of the cables have been compromised (possibly cut into during or after construction). The worst affected building is down to 4-8 working pairs out of the initial 24 pairs that was originally installed! Since this is the basic communications infrastructure of the community that has been compromised, we had to fix it, and we decided to run new cables to the worst-affected building but this time in conduit. So we found a contracter, USA Utilities, who came out with a directional boring machine that bored from the Common House west entrance (closest to the network closet) to the affected building, under the Common House South lawn and only had to disturb one flower bed where the CH foundation didn’t allow for any deeper burial of the conduit. In about 2 hours they had covered the 280-foot span at a depth of 2.5 feet on average, and pulled the conduit through with a pull rope so we can pull more Cat-5 cable through (direct bury and with a ground wire). This of course doesn’t come cheap – $1980 for the run. We have to budget in future for other buildings which aren’t as badly off but are in peril in any case!

Pictures as a documentation of our effort may be found by clicking the picture below:

Great Oak conduit laying

We will run the cable through this conduit at a future date…more details when that happens!

art , life in community , news

As Great Oak members moved in we often heard comments that folks had more art works than they had wall space to hang them. At the same time, members were talking about the large empty wall in the common house dining room. Putting these two threads together we created an art wall that enables members to loan some of their favorite works for display in this common area. There has been a wide range of art walls since, some with a theme but not always.
Willie's nature photography

One of the most popular showed paintings, photographs and other works that members had brought back from their vacations. Along with this display, we held a contest asking adults and children to identify the locations of the works. This culminated with an award ceremony at our annual anniversary celebration – everyone that entered the contest got a prize!

Another featured three of the large paintings done by Heather, our artist in residence. The bold colors and dramatic strokes of these works were very appealing and appreciated by many who saw them. And, the works of children, those currently living in Great Oak, and examples of work done by our older members in their younger days, gave us a colorful and interesting wall.
Art wall with Heather's paintings
Each art wall is usually on display for several months and new ideas for themes are always welcome.
More photo graphs will be added to our Art Wall photo gallery

news , scio township , transport

Scio township, where Great Oak is located, so far, does not have good public transportation — the closest AATA public bus stop is 1.3 miles away at Wagner and Jackson. However, the township is trying to make public transportation more available as it can. To that end, The People’s Express is available for qualifying Scio Township residents to receive Transportation rides for $1.00, through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Income limits are in effect. For details, see http://www.twp.scio.mi.us/news/transportation.

life in community , news

Work days, typically on two adjacent Saturdays, twice a year — in the Fall and in the Spring — are an occasion for the community to tackle and complete larger tasks that benefit from coordinated mass labor. Tasks this Fall ranged from weeding garden beds, putting the hoses away for the winter, various maintenance tasks in the Common house including touch-up painting, improving the stairs on the kids’ room loft, deep cleaning the kitchen, polishing the Marmoleum floor to more ambitious projects like installing a staircase up a hill (click the picture for the full album):
building stairs Fall 2006 work day Great Oak 2006 Fall Work day completed staircase

to Laura and Keith’s fantastic handiwork of staining the concrete in the Common House foyer:

Great Oak 2006 Fall work day concrete staining Great Oak 2006 Fall Work day completed concrete stain

A majority of the adults in the community participated over the two work days and the sense of accomplishment is palpable and tangible!

energy , life in community , news

The Great Oak Common House has a Solar Hot water system installed to augment our natural gas burning hot water heater. The system produces “clean” energy using the sun and reduces our dependence on our natural gas supplier DTE. Details about the installation are available on our CH Solar Hot Water webpage. The system has been operational for over a year now. Our original estimates showed that we should expect on average to produce the equivalent of about 144 ccF of natural gas and if the price of natural gas remained constant, that should be about a $144 that isn’t paid to DTE. At that rate, it would take about 26 years to pay off the initial investment.

From September 1, 2005 through September 30, 2006, the system has produced in excess of 200 ccF and reduced our DTE bill by over $280! so we’re doing about twice as well as anticipated in terms of payback time, and that doesn’t even highlight the pollution we’re reducing.

According to Carbonfund.org’s calculator burning 200 ccF of natural gas will spew approximately 1.18 tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and offsetting that in a carbon market will yield anywhere from $6 to $16 at current rates.

CH SDHW collectors

Our solar hot water system produces clean energy, even in sunshine-poor Michigan, and even saves the community money by being independent of ever-rising natural gas prices.

life in community , news

Cohousing is an ideal setting for experimental and small-scale entrepreneurial ventures. At Great Oak we’ve had kids selling lemonade, rocks and things of a similar ilk. Andrew and Catherine delivered maple-glazed scones on a couple of Sunday mornings, and I think the success was overwhelming! This might have inspired Megan to try selling muffins, which were extremely popular and well-received. After all, who can resist freshly baked goods delivered to your door! Tammy has offered her handmade truffles in a variety of flavours (mint, coffee, ginger, chilli pepper and others) for Mother’s, Father’s day and soon for Halloween. It not only allows her to do something she loves, but also at an intimate, financially solvent and satisfyingly convenient and appreciative setting.

To help us work off the extra calories from all these delicious treats, Megan has been teaching Nia fitness classes in the Common House on Saturday mornings!