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

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!


To do the work required to run the community, Great Oak depends on its members and their labor. Tasks range from maintaing the buildings and infrastructure of 37 units, to facilitating meetings to mowing grass and plowing snow. Unlike many cohousing communities, the tasks required to run the Great Oak meal program is a major part of the general work program. Meal jobs represent around 50% of the work hours.

Shovelling a pile wood chips mowing the lawn with some help

This being Michigan, the seasonal extremes mean that we have different jobs at different times of year. This winter (2006-7), we have a list of 88 different jobs representing 468 hours. Some jobs have multiple positions, and some people opt to perform multiple shifts of certain jobs. Since the list of tasks vary by season and workers like variety and change, we rotate jobs a few times a year. We also have community work days a few times a year to do those tasks that require many people at once and can be done en masse.
A general description of the Great Oak Work system that was posted to the Cohousing-L mailing list has details about our periodic work surveys and how we allocate work based on the preferences expressed on the survey.

work day Common House painting snow shovelling with the Great Oak truck

As listed in this other recent Cohousing-L message the most desired jobs for this upcoming work season were (the number represents the weighted “average” preference):

  • 42 – meal cleaner once a month
  • 27 – weekday meal assistant cook
  • 26 – light duty snow shoveller
  • 24 – sunday meal assistant cook
  • 23 – meal cleaner two times a month
  • 23 – Common House sitting and guest room cleaner
  • 18 – Common House laundry room cleaner
  • 17 – meals billing person
  • 16 – weekday meal head cook
  • 11 – sunday meal head cook

and the least desired jobs were:

  • -88 – community meeting childcare
  • -87 – Buildings committee steering rep
  • -87 – Buildings committee convener
  • -87 – Weekday head cook three times per month
  • -87 – Lilacc (Little Lake cohousing committee) committee rep

The prescription surrounds on secondary unintended needs to the modification presented even by quite useful campaign. Based on the severity of the ED, let the pharmacist know you’re picking up a private prescription from Push Doctor, which can lead to complications from the cardiovascular system. But I’m definitely not complaining, if you want to be completely confident in the product quality, around half of all men between 40 and 70 years old will get ED at some point. You can also sign up to our pharmacy services by visiting the prescription area, ghostlook.com if you have an erection lasting more than 4 hours, minimum effective dose is recommended for men to deal with their impotence issue. Indicating that PER mediates circadian transcription through teva Viagra sequences in this fragment, are of two types, elevation in nitric oxide secretion shall enhance the blood supply throughout the system.

This system has been in place for almost 3 years, over 600 meals, 2 community meetings per month, many committee meetings and thousands of hours of constructive labor. So far, we haven’t found a better way, but the work committee is always fine tuning and balancing the needs of the community with those of the busy and varied individuals who comprise it. The number of workers has been pretty consistent at around 60 adults, though the load per adult varies, with the goal always to maximize the happiness of all!
Below is the complete list of jobs, sorted by committee. Listed is also the hours per month on average someone doing the job can expect to spend and the number of positions available.

committee Job hours per month positions
buildings Buildings Committee convener 2.00 1
buildings Buildings Maintenance Worker 2.00 3
buildings Buldings maintenance coordinator 2.00 1
buildings Counted member (buildings) 2.00 2
buildings Steering Rep (buildings) 1.00 1
common house Bike Shed Maintenance 1.00 1
common house CH Committee convener 3.00 1
common house CH Decorator 1.00 1
common house CH Hottub and Hobart (dish-sanitizer) maintainer 1.00 1
common house CH Night Lockup 2.00 2
common house CH bathrooms cleaner 2.00 2
common house CH bathrooms spot cleaner 1.00 1
common house CH clean-up coordinator 1.00 1
common house CH dining room cleaner 2.00 2
common house CH game and media rooms cleaner 1.00 1
common house CH halls and common areas cleaner 2.00 2
common house CH inventory/shopper 4.00 1
common house CH kids room cleaner 2.00 1
common house CH kitchen cleaner 2.00 2
common house CH laundry room cleaner 2.00 1
common house CH maintenance coordinator 3.00 1
common house CH sitting and guest room cleaner 1.00 1
common house Counted member (common house) 2.00 2
common house Kids room coordinator 2.00 1
common house Steering Rep (common house) 1.00 1
finance and legal Bookkeeper assistant – Check Writer 3.00 1
finance and legal Counted member (finance and legal) 2.00 2
finance and legal Finance and legal committee convener 2.00 1
finance and legal Insurance point person 1.00 1
finance and legal Steering Rep (finance and legal) 1.00 1
finance and legal bookeeper assistant – Member Bookkeeper 4.00 1
finance and legal bookkeeper assistant – Check Depositor 2.00 1
finance and legal bookkeeper assistant – Check Logger 2.00 1
finance and legal general bookkeeper 6.00 1
grounds Counted member (grounds) 2.00 2
grounds Heavy-duty shoveller 3.00 3
grounds Light-duty shoveller 2.00 6
grounds Snow and Ice Removal Coordinator 3.00 1
grounds Snow plowers 4.00 4
grounds Steering Rep (grounds) 1.00 1
grounds Tractor (Snow plower) 3.00 1
grounds grounds committee convener 3.00 1
grounds point person for garbage and recycling 2.00 1
meals Counted member (meals) 2.00 2
meals Meal cleaner 1.50 52
meals Meal cleaner 2 times per month 1.50  
meals Meal cleaner 3 times per month 1.50  
meals Meal committee convener 2.00 1
meals Meals Scheduling Person 4.00 1
meals Meals billing person 2.50 2
meals Meals billing tech 1.00 1
meals Meeting Night cleaner 2.00 2
meals Meeting Night takeout orderer 1.00 2
meals Steering Rep (meals) 1.00 1
meals Sunday Meal assistant cook 2.00 8
meals Sunday Meal assistant cook 2 times per month 2.00  
meals Sunday Meal assistant cook 3 times per month 2.00  
meals Sunday Meal head cook 4.00 4
meals Sunday Meal head cook 2 times per month 4.00  
meals Weekday Meal assistant cook 2.00 27
meals Weekday Meal assistant cook 2 times per month 2.00  
meals Weekday Meal assistant cook 3 times per month 2.00  
meals Weekday Meal head cook 4.00 14
meals Weekday Meal head cook 2 times per month 4.00  
meals Weekday Meal head cook 3 times per month 4.00  
membership Counted member (membership) 2.00 2
membership Fun coordinator 1.00 1
membership New member handbook 2.00 1
membership Steering Rep (membership) 1.00 1
membership child care coordinator for community meetings 2.00 1
membership community meeting childcare 1.00 6
membership member database maintenance 1.00 1
membership membership commitee convener 3.00 1
membership outreach/contact 2.00 1
membership outreach/marketing 2.00 1
membership website hosting and backend maintenance 2.00 1
membership website maintenance 2.00 1
process Book of agreements content entry 1.00 1
process Community Reporter 2.00 1
process Conflict Resolution committee Co-Convener 1.00 3
process Counted member (process) 2.00 2
process Info committee convener 2.00 1
process LiLaCC Convener 1.00 1
process Steering Rep (process) 1.00 1
process agenda planning for community mtgs 2.00 1
process archivist and bulletin boards 1.00 1
process facilitate community meeting 2 times per season 2.00 8
process minute taker for community meeting 2 times per season 1.00 4
process process committee convener 2.00 1
steering Steering convener 2.00 1
tech GO-Net Administrator 2.00 2
tech GO-Net biller 1.00 1
work Counted member (work) 2.00 2
work Steering Rep (work) 1.00 1
work community work coordinator 3.00 1
work work allocation tech 1.00 1
work work survey tech 1.00 1