Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More Kudos to G•O Logic

By now, most folks who are involved with our community or have been following our progress are well aware that G•O Logic (Alan Gibson and Matt O'Malia) have designed and will be building the homes in our community. The prototype house they constructed on Crocker Road in Belfast — a visit to which is always one of the most popular parts of our monthly Open House events — has been garnering much acclaim, and more and more people are sitting up and taking notice. Witness these tidbits from a recent newsletter sent around by the company:

Passive House Certification

In Maine, the standard for green design and construction has been officially raised with the completion and certification of The GO Home in Belfast, which is the first Passive House Certified Home in Maine and only the 12th Passive House in the entire United States. This smart and small 1500 square foot, three-bedroom residence packs an elegant design punch, while achieving super energy efficiency at construction costs comparable to a standard home. As a passive house, the homeowners will see a 90% reduction in their heating bill, resulting in a cool $300 dollars per year for space heating, while enjoying all the comforts of the super insulated building shell during the winter months. Alan Gibson and Matthew O’Malia will be traveling to Portland, Oregon next month to receive the Passive House Certification in person at the annual Passive House Convention, where they have also been invited to be guest panelists, as well as present their current work. For more information about Passive Houses visit:

The GO Home’s This New House television d├ębut!

In This New House, a new magazine-style series on DIY Network, co-hosts Amy Matthews and This Old House's Kevin O'Connor bring viewers inside homes across the U.S. that feature innovative building materials, techniques and gadgets. At 8 pm on October 13th on the DIY network, The GO Home will be featured on This New House episode: Why Passive Houses Rock. Licensed contractor and host Amy Matthews visits our certified Passive House in Belfast, Maine and discuss the technology of the GO Home, the fact that there is no furnace and it’s affordability. For more information visit:

Unity College Residence Hall

Unity College has announced that GO Logic has been awarded the contract for the design of a one-of-a-kind residence hall on an American college campus. G•O Logic will design a Unity College residence hall to the Passive House standard. If the construction achieves the standard, it will be the first Passive House residence hall constructed on a college or university campus in the United States. In June, Unity College was awarded a grant from The Kendeda Fund to construct a “cottage style” residence based on principles of passive house design. The project entails an educational component involving Unity College students in the design, construction, and monitoring of the facility through curricular and co-curricular activities.

Small Business of the Year Award 2010

GO Logic is proud to have been awarded the Belfast Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year Award 2010. The Small Business of the Year Award recognizes the smaller business that operate in Waldo County. This award reflects something special about the business, whether it is a unique style or approach, new technology, special services, or some other criteria that distinguishes the business from others similar to it. GO Logic will receive the award at the 50th Annual Awards Dinner set for October 21 at the Point Lookout Resort. For More Information visit:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lessons From The Geese — Coleen O'Connell

Today as I was sorting through the piles of papers that have been accumulating over the past years when I came across a piece by Milton Olson. It was at once a reading for this season as geese fly overhead, AND a reminder for our cohousing community as we continue to migrate toward groundbreaking.

Here is some wisdom from the geese:

Observation: As each goose flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the birds that follow. By flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of one another. As Elizabeth and Coleen close on their houses, they are providing the uplift for Wendy & Hans, Denise & John, Bill & Sarah and others to get their homes ready for sale and sell them.

Observation: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others. Arielle and Rob are longing for Belfast from their Chicago home. How can we secure them jobs so they can return? They do have the good sense of geese. They know where they need to be.

Observation: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skills, capabilities, and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources. The Steering Committee, though committed to the end, is getting much needed help from those willing to step into leadership as “champs” of certain tasks that need doing. We are going to do this thing together!

Observation: The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core of values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek. In general, BC&E is an upbeat and encouraging group. Feeling appreciated for hard work is a common sharing.

Observation: When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong. Surely Chuck’s heart surgery this past summer engaged many as he recovered and found his form again.

We'll continue helping each other as we work toward breaking ground in the spring. The work we are all doing now is the foundation for the neighborhood we will be once we are moved in. As the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together. If you're of a like mind, join our flock and fly with us!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Deciding to Join — Mary-Anne Clancy

In mid-July, almost a month to the day of our first Open House, I asked David how he’d rate our chances of joining Belfast Cohousing as equity members. We were driving home from our first potluck and general meeting and he took his eyes off the road and turned to me.

“70 percent”, he said.

It would be another month before we signed the paperwork and handed over our check, but that exchange on Route 9 was the first time either of us put a number on something we’d known almost from the first.

"That was fun, ” I said after the June Open House. “I really liked the people we talked to.”

“They seemed genuine, ” agreed David. “Everyone was very gracious. ”

We’d been drawn to Belfast Cohousing by the concept of a group of people dedicated to sustainable living and community farming. Who made up that community was the question. The answer began when we walked through the farmhouse door.

Jeffrey welcomed us, spending much of the next hour explaining the project and answering our many questions with humor and no reservations. Lindsey, Allison, and Sawyer took us on a tour of the land, soldiering on despite the slugs that squished between Lindsey’s feet and her flip-flops.

When it came time to visit the prototype, Abby jumped into our car, ignored the dog hair, and answered even more questions. After the presentation at the prototype, Coleen took the time to show us the architect’s drawings and explain the various housing units, even as it became evident that tour time was up. Outside, Chuck talked to us about how impressed he’d been by the process that cohousing used to make decisions. Abby and Geoff lingered in the parking lot and continued to talk to us, despite having two small children who were more than ready to go home.

The July potluck, general meeting and open house further convinced us as we met and talked to Judith, Wendy, Hans, Marion, Jim, Steve and Barbara, Elizabeth, Paul, Craig, Jon and Joline, Mike and Margie, Bill and Sarah. We began the two and a half hour ride home, exchanging stories on who we’d talked to and what they’d said.

I was struck by how a close-knit group who obviously enjoyed being with each other had taken the time to make us feel so welcome. David was surprised by how open the men he’d met had been about their concerns and the risk they were taking. Those concerns had been paramount in our discussions, but once we knew that others shared them, they began moving into the background.

The following week, we had lunch in Lubec with Geoff, Abby, Noah, Clare, Mike and Margie. We came away with the overwhelming feeling we were going to join. Reading the operating agreement and attending the clarity session were almost superfluous.

It was then that I remembered a phrase from The Waking by Theodore Roethke: “We think by feeling. What is there to know? It is the best explanation I know of how we made our decision as quickly and surely as we did. Now, when people ask me how we came to join Belfast Cohousing, I say: “Do you know Roethke?"

The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Theodore Roethke

Community Apples — Susie

One of my favorite Maine fall traditions is apple picking and the subsequent apple sauce, butters, pies and crisps that get made with fresh fall apples. I usually track down a local orchard that has pick-your-own and spend an afternoon wandering through precise lines of trees to select good looking fruit. Northern Spy, Macintosh, Granny Smith... Some are better for sauce, some are better for pies, some I just like to eat right off the tree. It's one of those quintessential Maine fall activities that I remember from my childhood, and always brings a sense of rightness to the season for me.

This year, I haven't had a chance to get to the orchard I usually do. Schedules have been tight, it's a bit of a drive, and with a busy fall, I haven't quite felt like I had the time. When I get a call from my friend (and cohousing future-neighbor) Emily, pleading for people to come pick apples from trees in their backyard, it was perfect timing. "We have so many good apples, and they're just falling to the ground," she said, and asked if we wanted to come over to get some. Emily and James live only a few minutes drive away, and there's something really awesome about picking apples from a tree in a friend's yard - organic, hyper local, and of unknown (but tasty) variety, adding a bit of mystery to spice up the apple sauce.

The picking was a combination of gymnastics (James climbing up into the branches, shaking them so the fruit from the top falls onto the tarp below), education (their two year old teaching me about the "bad" apples with the rotten spots that must be chucked into the woods for the animals to eat) and just genuine fun with friends. We pick two big bags of apples for sauce and a smaller bag of the "good eating apples," and call it a job well done. Relaxing dinner and conversation ensues, and we leave for home later in the evening with a trunk of apples and bellies full of dinner.

It's exciting to think that I managed to score two free bags of apples, plus a fantastic evening with friends, all because of my coho connections. It's even more exciting to think about how we'll be growing our own fruit trees on the cohousing land, and in a few years, we'll be able to have a big community gathering of apple picking and pie, cider and sauce making.

Here's my recipe for apple butter made with a slow cooker - easy as... pie?

Cook a bunch of apples into apple sauce: - wash them, cut into quarters (leave the peel and core - this adds pectin and flavor) - fill a big pot with enough water to cover them, and then add 1T of apple cider vinegar - when they're soft, drain them, let them cool a few minutes, and then run them through a food mill until you have apple sauce - spice and sweeten to taste (I usually use honey, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and allspice) - stir to mix well.

Cook apple sauce in slow cooker: - on high for 4 or so hours - leave lid off or significantly cracked (so moisture can escape) - stir regularly (every ten minutes) and scrape the sides down so the apple butter doesn't form into goo on the edges of the pan - check consistency by putting a small dollop on a plate, spreading it out and letting it cool. - when it's the thickness and consistency you like, turn off the slow cooker and let it cool.

This makes excellent gifts when canned in half pint jars, and can be used as cookie or cake filling, jam for toast, hot topping for vanilla ice cream or, if you're sneaky about it, eating right from the jar as a decadent alternative to apple sauce.