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Flowers around Nubi by Lila (not Noel)

Yesterday I went through the neighborhood and took 67 pictures of different kinds of flowers all around Nubi. Here are a few of them.

If you’d like to see all of them, you can view a slideshow of all of them here on Flickr.

birdy morning

I couldn’t resist doing a birding loop around Nubi this morning. There was a lot to see/hear, but nothing really unusual and fewer warblers than I’d hoped. Fortunately there were some enjoyable highlights:

  • three (!) great blue herons on top of trees (!!!) near the start of the white dot trail
  • a male turkey displaying for some ladies near the hoop house
  • pileated woodpecker near the top of the cow lane
  • spotted sandpiper at the pond
  • really good looks at a yellowthroat and (separately) a chestnut-sided warbler, both more concerned with singing their hearts out than with being watched by some dork with binoculars

Full list from about an hour-long walk:
…Wild Turkey
…Great Blue Heron
…Spotted Sandpiper
…Mourning Dove
…Chimney Swift
…Pileated Woodpecker
…Eastern Phoebe
…Blue-headed Vireo
…Blue Jay
…American Crow
…Common Raven
…Barn Swallow
…Black-capped Chickadee
…White-breasted Nuthatch
…Wood Thrush
…American Robin
…European Starling
…Black-and-white Warbler
…Common Yellowthroat
…Chestnut-sided Warbler
…Black-throated Green Warbler
…Chipping Sparrow
…Song Sparrow
…Northern Cardinal
…Red-winged Blackbird
…Brown-headed Cowbird

(Birds I’ve seen/heard in last few days but missed this morning include: Baltimore Oriole, Indigo Bunting, Scarlet Tanager, Broad-winged Hawk, Barred Owl, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker….)

Dust Baths

Spring is finally here, and it is time for dust baths.

Monadnock Jazz

Jim with a Latin band at the Nubi pig roast

One of the unexpected things Jim learned about the Monadnock region when he moved to Nubi four years ago is the significant jazz presence in the area. As it turns out, nearby Brattleboro (just over the Vermont border) is a jazz mecca of sorts.

Coming from his former home on Long Island, 90 miles east of the world’s greatest jazz center, New York City, he was amazed and delighted to discover that his jazz life is richer (he plays and listens to more live performances) here in New Hampshire.

“If you are into jazz, this rural corridor from Northampton to Brattleboro—the Connecticut River Valley—is absolutely incredible both in terms of the numbers and the quality of jazz musicians.”

Jim uncovered the richness of Monadnock’s jazz world by first finding a sax teacher, then jamming weekly in Brattleboro, and slowly piecing together a jazz quintet. His story speaks to his own drive, and reveals one of the remarkable qualities of the Monadnock region: If you are willing to listen, look around, and wander in the woods a bit, you are bound to find many interesting and unique people.

“Right after we moved to Nubi, I saw a flyer downtown advertising a jazz concert in Chesham to raise money for an old church,” says Jim. “What the hell, I thought, I need to find out what’s going on with this jazz event in the middle of nowhere.”

Chesham is a tiny village (not much more than the church building), but it has a direct link to the area’s jazz network through Michael Riley, a resident painter who specializes in portraits of jazz musicians. Jim saw an exhibition of Riley’s work and also heard and met Scott Mullet, a Keene-based saxophone player, instructor, and director of the Keene State Jazz Band.

Jim began taking lessons from Mullet, who eventually convinced Jim to jam in weekly sessions at the Vermont Jazz Center in Brattleboro. “It was instant success for me,” says Jim. “I’ve been going for over three years now, playing in two ensembles: be bop and Latin jazz.”

Through the jam sessions Jim began talking with other musicians about starting something closer to home than the Vermont center. A Keene-based drummer expressed interest. Jim also learned about a jazz pianist living in the woods in Rindge. A retired linguistics professor and speech writer from Chicago, the piano player had relocated to New Hampshire, attracted by its libertarian streak. “I found him in an absolute back water in Rindge,” says Jim.

A few of these musicians played together at an open mike in Harlow’s Pub in Peterborough. Eventually they connected with a Keene-based bass player and put together all pieces: guitar, piano, bass, drums, and Jim on sax.

They debuted at Farmer’s Appreciation Night in Keene in February. “Here’s a jazz group, and I’m sorry that I don’t know their name…,” said the emcee introducing the act. “Then one of us spontaneously came up with Peterborough Jazz Quintet,” says Jim. “I don’t know if it will stick, but it works for the moment.” They play together every Friday night.

Giving back and growing roots

In addition to his work at the River Center, Tom is Nubi's snow man

Tom moved to Nubi during a period when he was experiencing some of the top stressors of contemporary life: divorce from his wife of 16 years, closing his business, single parenthood, relocating from another state, etc. “In Nubi I recognized a place where I would find instant community of the sort that is caring and supportive, not invasive,” says Tom.

With Nubi as a base, he began to expand his support network into the greater community. “I first got involved at the River Center because one of our neighbors handed me a brochure advertising a single parents support group.”

“After I was part of the support group for a while, they approached me to be on the board of trustees, recognizing me as an active person who enjoys being part of the community,” says Tom. In January of 2012, Tom joined the River Center board as a community member. He was elected to the Vice Chair position after 6-months and now, some 16 months later, Tom is chair of the River Center’s Board of Trustees.

Volunteering and giving back to his community had been important parts of Tom’s life growing up, and the crisis in his adult life allowed him to reconnect with these values.

“Throughout my childhood my mom was always very active in a volunteer capacity, mostly around environmental causes. Her dedication to a cause made a huge impression on me,” says Tom. A founder of the Friends of Crystal River organization with the mission to prevent development of the Crystal River in Northern Michigan, his mother engaged in a 20-year battle to incorporate the pristine waterway into the existing Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. In October of 2005, after an act of Congress, the Crystal River was finally protected from development.

Tom values Peterborough’s River Center for its wide variety of programs, from free tax preparation (participants saved a combined $1.3 million in 2012), career counseling, a wood bank, to parenting support groups and parenting classes. “The River Center is such an amazingly important resource for this small community, and it is so under-utilized and under-realized,” says Tom.

One challenge for the River Center is a perception that it serves just a specific segment of the population. “There is this societal pressure that if you are perceived to have challenges in your life then there is something wrong with you, that you’ve failed,” explains Tom. “The truth is, that the River Center’s programs are open to anyone, but you have to be willing to get out of your own way.”

The other great challenge of the River Center is raising enough funds to support its programs. “We are seeing greater and greater demand, yet are challenged daily to afford it,” says Tom. “Our primary financial support comes from the United Way, grants and fundraisers. We receive only $7,000 in federal funding for the year.”

Nubi has a number of ties to the River Center, including the Farm-to-Table program, which provides fresh local food to families and offers instruction on how to prepare and enjoy it. Our farmer and neighbor, Todd, also works with the River Center for the Children and the Arts Day food stand.

The River Center is establishing some new programs this year, including a support group for children of divorced parents, and a free summer film festival to be held outdoors in local towns.

Excited by the potential the River Center has to strengthen the community, Tom reflects, “The balance of living here and working there feeds my soul.”

Community from Nubi to Concord

Sue with Squirt and Magic at Nubi

It’s hard to meet anyone in Peterborough who doesn’t know Sue. Having lived in Peterborough for 41 years, she has deep ties to the community through her lively, fun and dedicated engagement with the Well School, with the Monadnock Tennis Club, Peterborough Players (a professional theater), and in her work on town committees.

But what many may not know about her is how her work radiates beyond the immediate Nubi neighborhood, and the surrounding town to impact the broader community of New Hampshire. “I have a need for making my life purposeful and contributing to bettering life for all of us,” reflects Sue.

“My story starts with the death of my husband in 1991,” says Sue. “I was living alone on a large farm house with 170 acres and 2 llamas. What would I do to recover from the depths of my devastation?”

The answer for Sue lay in discovering and pursuing two vastly different passions in her life: horses and leadership of nonprofit organizations.

“As I got stronger and began to recover, I visited a ranch in Moose, Wyoming,” says Sue. “The first day the cowboys put me on Squirt [a small paint horse]. Three years later I returned and begged them to let me buy him and bring him to New Hampshire.” This decision started Sue on the path of caring for and riding her own and other peoples’ horses and sharing her passion with others, including many kids and adults at Nubi. (See blog entry regarding the Horse Program for 2012.)

Before her husband’s death, Sue already knew that she loved contributing to nonprofit boards, as she was chairing the board of the Peterborough Players. But she wanted to expand this area of interest as a part of her recovery. “I retired from teaching and began a year-long program called ‘Leadership NH,’ started by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.” Participants spend a year attending monthly meetings, each with a different focus, featuring speakers on the arts, for example, or healthcare, law, the court system.

Sue learned a lot about how things get done in New Hampshire and got to know many leaders throughout the state. At the end of the program, she received a call from New Hampshire’s Attorney General. Though she initially panicked (thinking “What have I done?”), it turned out he was calling to ask her to interview for the board of a start-up health care foundation to serve the people of NH. As a trained nurse, Sue found this opportunity to be perfect.

“I rattled around the house and found an old black suit and my husband’s briefcase.” She learned they were interviewing over 250 people for only 15 positions. “I didn’t have any letters after my name or special experience, but I did let him know I’d love to be on the board.” A month later, the Attorney General called again to say, “I’ll take a chance on you.”

The work on the board of Endowment for Health has been central to Sue’s life for the last 12 years. Since that first year of working intensively to help start up the organization, Sue has been the chair twice and learned lots about nonprofit organizations and how to put forward a political agenda. She has also been involved on other boards, including for the boarding school she attended and recently she has joined the board of NHPR.

Sue needs to connect strongly with the nonprofits that she works with. “I love the challenge of solving problems. I love the leadership of a group. I have the skills of working together with others toward goals.”

As her friends began aging and moving into condos, Sue resisted joining them because she recognized how important it is for her to have an integral role in taking care of her horses. So when Nubi came along and offered a ready-made community of people and a farm, she was thrilled. She also appreciates that she is able to keep her private time and her many friendships beyond the neighborhood.

Within the neighborhood, Sue has been part of “Nubi Crones,” a group and listserv made up of the community’s self-identified wise older women. “We do things together, some social, some for the benefit of neighborhood.”

Nubi kids' climbing tree

Sue has no grandchildren, so having kids around her is uplifting. “I love the ‘talking tree,’ especially in the summer when the kids hide in it; I often hear a giggle, and they’ve even dropped a water bomb on me.” Sue particularly loves summers at Nubi, when kids are in the barn and she able to give lessons and share her love of horses.

Living full lives, a partial list of Nubi neighbor activities

I am continually amazed by the talents and diverse interests of my neighbors. So when I set out to explore how Nubi residents go about living full lives, I faced a challenge: How can I possibly capture the depth and breadth of everyone’s interests and commitments?

In addition to family and work obligations, neighbors contribute their time, energy, and creativity to life in the neighborhood. Beyond neighborhood commitments, neighbors are active in the arts, music, schools, committees, boards, sports, hobbies, politics, conservation, and more.

I decided to focus on three neighbors whose profiles follow in separate blog entries. These neighbors are meant to exemplify the whole group, but really their interests only hint at the range within the whole neighborhood.

To give a sense of this range, here is a simple list of many (though not all) of the organizations and activities that keep Nubi neighbors busy and engaged:

Running a 5K in Hancock

Book groups
Buddhist Sanga
Education (volunteering, substitute teaching, serving on boards of schools)
Episcopal church
Fiber arts (including knitting, weaving, felting, needle felting, and more)
Future of Peterborough Library
Harris Center for Conservation Education
Kirtan (sacred chant)
Martial arts (Kempo Karate, Tai Kwan Do)
Monadnock Conservancy
Musical Instruments (including piano, violin, viola, fiddle, accordion, recorder, sax, clarinet, trombone, flute)
Non-violent communication
Peterborough Grange (farming organization)
Peterborough Havurah
Peterborough Players (professional theater)
River Center (family and community resource center)
Sharon Arts Center
Singing (including in Monadnock Chorus, Chamber Singers, Norway Pond Singers, Junior Mints)
Sports (including swimming, running, biking, tennis, gymnastics, rowing, kayaking, alpine and Nordic skiing, climbing, baseball, soccer, and more)
Tax Aide (volunteer tax preparation)
Universalist Unitarian church
Visual arts (including water color painting, drawing, photography)
Wellness Center (a fitness and rehabilitation facility)
Yoga (a variety of styles)

Sappy with the promise of spring

Collecting sugar maple sap

Late winter at Nubi is full of promise. These warming days and cold nights create the perfect conditions for maple sap to begin running. We tap our sugar maples to make syrup; seedlings in the Nubi seed room sprout, offering the promise of green in the midst of lingering snow cover.

The arrival of transition and new life extends into our neighborhood news: We are celebrating the births of two infant boys in February. Baby Ambrose arrived in mid-February to his parents, Eartheart and Leaf, who are finishing up their Waldorf education certification at Antioch New England early this summer. Several days later, Baby Cirrus arrived, joining his brother and sister, Cadel and Senja, and their parents, Stacey and Justin.

Our newest neighbors

We are also pleased to announce that three new (adult) neighbors will be joining us in the coming months. The arrival of these new neighbors gives us occasion to celebrate and recognize yet another transition, Nubanusit Neighborhood & Farm is at last fully occupied.

As in all communities, we also experience loss. Both arrivals and departures are opportunities for reflection. How do we fulfill the promise of our lives? How do we live full, balanced, integrated lives in our time? At Waldorf Schools, where our daughters have been educated, the paradigm for describing a balanced life is one that includes use of the head, heart, and hands.

In upcoming blog posts (and the newsletter), we delve into how Nubi residents lead full and balanced lives. One neighbor has compiled a list of the many activities and organizations Nubi neighbors participate in. And we’ve developed three profiles of neighbors (Jim, Sue and Tom) whose interests take them in different and interesting directions. We hope this gives you a sense of how our lives in cohousing radiate into the world.

Real Estate Pulse in the Monadnock Region

Visitors to our cohousing neighborhood are occasionally curious about real estate in general in our region. I’ve gathered together facts and impressions as we begin 2013.

Where’s the interest?
As has been widely reported, real estate sales nationally are on the increase. In New Hampshire, unit sales were up 22% at the end of 2012 according to the NHAR. We have certainly seen an uptick in inquiries here at the neighborhood. For instance, we sold a two-bedroom quad near the river this month, and we have at least five individual inquiries to attend our Open House on Feb 3, with most interest in the remaining two-bedroom Quad overlooking the farm.

What’s on the market?
According to, there are 26 listings in Peterborough as of late January. The average home price is $262,814. Almost half of those listings are carried by two brokers, with the remaining listings carried by 15 other realtors and owners.

Curious to get impressions from a local realtor, I contacted Susan Robinson, Broker/Realtor©. She reported that real estate activity has been brisk since 2011 and that inventory (the number of homes on the market) is starting to come down. Sales of homes in the $200k to $450k range have been steady. Although New Hampshire has one of the lowest unemployment rates in New England—with primarily health care related, high tech, and education jobs—employment and affordable housing sometimes present a challenge in desirable areas like southwest NH. “People come to our region for reasons other than employment: they come for lifestyle, a sense of community, a way of life that they feel is more continuous, steady, dependable than many,” says Susan. We certainly strive to experience that here at Nubi.

The Nubi Farm Cart

Farmland Preservation
Homes aren’t the only properties that change hands. There is also a strong conservation ethic in our region, with growing attention to saving farmland for local food. Of course, preserving farmland was a major goal of the Nubanusit Neighborhood Cohousing project. We are lucky to have other local farm operations in the region, like Sunnyfield Farm. Only about 4% of the land in the Monadnock Region is categorized as having prime agricultural soil. Unfortunately, farmland is easy to develop as homes are a scarce commodity. Conservation organizations are seeing an uptick in interest in farmland conservation and they are taking steps to prioritize that work. The Monadnock Conservancy reports that from 2009-2011, an average of 33% of their land conservation projects were specifically farm-related. However in 2012, 81% were farm related.

We are thankful that others are seeing the importance of preserving farmland.

Building Community: Interview with Sage & Richard

Richard, Sage, Elsbeth & Catherine in Wyoming

In the almost five years that I’ve gotten to know Richard and Sage, who are Nubi co-founders and neighbors, I’ve often heard them refer to the Nubi project with both exasperation and love. I finally got a chance to ask them to reflect at more length on a recent winter’s morning when we sat and talked about their experiences and perspective on creating a cohousing community. Here are highlights from our conversation. —Johanna

What initially brought you to this project? What were your goals?

Sage: The project was about creating a community, a farm, and taking advantage of the opportunity we were given to live our values. We came across a book about cohousing in the early 90s, and it made so much sense to us. Cohousing seemed to offer an answer to challenges we had experienced, like disconnection from neighbors, and a lack of resource sharing. We had worked to change those things in our previous neighborhood. We bought and shared a snow blower with two neighbors. But we wanted to make that happen on a larger scale—to have it be part of the culture of our community.

When our kids were young, I just intuitively wanted them to see people doing real work, like gardening and carpentry. They would see us only at computers; not employing practical skills. I’m not inspired to sew or fix a car. I can think and research. What happens if the world changes dramatically? These skills do not position me very well. So being part of a larger community, being able to share resources and skills, having the sum of our community be greater than the parts—that really speaks to me.

Governor's House and site after demolition of inn buildings and site clearing

In 2003, Shelley Goguen Hulbert and Robin Hulbert first approached us with the idea of developing a cohousing community on an abandoned inn site in West Peterborough. Their energetic leadership and experience, especially in the first phases of the project, provided us the window to work our way gradually into the project. And early on, a committed group of people joined us. Their willingness gave us the courage to break ground.

Richard: We knew this was not a money maker, or a sure thing. We went into it for other returns, hoping to break even financially. We wanted to create community and to invest locally, and by “invest,” I don’t just mean in a narrow financial sense. We wanted to invest in the town where we live.

I’ve heard you refer to the vertical learning curve you experienced when you began the project. Can you reflect on some of the things you’ve learned?

Sage: The Nubi project was so beyond anything we’d done before; it really challenged us to stretch. Fortunately we learned that Richard and I work really well together. Not so much in the kitchen, but when it came to the project! Our styles and skills are complementary. We had to divide and conquer, so I managed our family life and focused on big picture issues like finances, and Richard managed the rest, focusing especially on the day-to-day issues of the project. I think I’m just coming to fully understand this opportunity now, but Richard was front and center when he took over construction management. He got the opportunity to grow, to dive into legal documents, to learn contractor and people management, etc.

Richard: I was surprised that it brought out strengths I wasn’t aware I had. People would say things to me like, “You are so calm and reasonable in tense situations.” Or, “Gee, you have such patience for and understanding of these legal documents, you should go for the bar.” It surprised me.

Sage & Richard tour buildings under construction

Sage: Early on in the process I learned to trust my intuition. I’ve always based decisions on intuition, but more cautiously; now I give it my full attention.

Richard: A deceptively simple thing I learned working with people on the project is that what they say matters. I’ve always been pretty good at picking up on people’s emotions and it can sometimes distract me from what they are saying. I started writing down their exact words to become a better listener. I learned that there is something important in what they are saying, even their choice of a particular word. In a meeting early on in the project, I remember I was able to write down one person’s exact words, and even when I was having an emotional reaction, I was able to understand him. I didn’t agree with him, but I could understand his perspective. Before I was preoccupied with trying to convince him of my position, but when I listened I finally understood, even if I disagreed.

I’ve also learned that we all don’t see the world in the same way. When I am walking people around the neighborhood I know they are picturing something in their minds—and it is not the same thing that I’m picturing! They are filling in the blanks. I don’t think it is a bad thing or a good thing, but something that is useful to know. This is one reason why it is really important to communicate your vision well.

In many ways the Nubi project seems risky, not just in a financial sense, but more broadly. What enabled you or inspired you to take that risk?

Richard: We went into the project knowing that we didn’t know what we were doing, so I wasn’t surprised when things occasionally got tough.

Sage: We established a basic level of financial protection for ourselves, and then talked through the pros and cons, our values and what our hearts said. All signs pointed to going ahead with it.

Kids and mud during construction

Richard: I think the project is about getting people to think differently, trying to model how one might develop land and farming in concert. We didn’t do it alone. I have to emphasize that when we went into it we were able to begin slowly and learn lots because our partners were initially the ‘hands on’ partners while we were on the periphery. Then as time went on we became more involved until we were solo.

Sage: I think it’s important to remember there are risks no matter what you do. I believe that wherever you live, you are making a choice, and that choice has pros and cons. Our culture has embedded in all of us a certain view of choices, so we don’t notice what we’ve given up. Living in suburbia, you may have a dream house, but you are giving up the ability to walk to town, or perhaps to have meaningful connections with neighbors.

What do you think leads people to examine their choices and assumptions and develop new ones?

Sage: Experiences like the market crash of 2008! I’ve been learning about that financial meltdown. It has reinforced for me that we need to take full responsibility for our lives in all ways. Ultimately, our choices rest with us. We must do the research, thinking, evaluation, and seeking opinions to make our own choices. In my personal experience I have found I can’t rely solely on the advice of professionals; these aren’t decisions that I want to fully hand over. If the financial crisis is teaching us anything, it’s that there is nobody out there making sure everything is okay, or some entity creating safe boundaries, so we need to take more responsibility. It’s an empowering thing.

Governor's House and site under construction

Richard: I have a very specific neighborhood example of assumptions people have that can be startling. Often people visit Nubi and comment, “You heat only with wood pellets, what is your back up?” I want to say to them, “You heat only with oil, what is your back up?” Our fuel comes from a factory 8 miles away, where does your oil come from?

Sage: A profound influence in my life is the Story of Stuff Project. Annie Leonard does a good job of laying out how you can not run a linear system with finite resources. Bill McKibben’s is another powerful voice. These voices inspire me. People start paying attention and getting curious. No matter where you are in the socio-economic system, there is risk and change that you can take. “No Impact Man” is an example of someone waking up to the reality of our situation and exploring, asking, what can I do?

How does this relate to financial decision-making?

Sage: A lot of what we’re currently doing on financial planning is identifying and naming our assumptions. So, for example, in traditional investing one of the key assumptions is about asset classes. We are coming to believe that these assumptions are putting the cart before the horse. Instead we’d like to start by thinking about our intentions.

Richard: Our current economy is based on the assumption of unlimited growth, which just isn’t sustainable or rational. We are relying on other parts of the world to make up the deficit. Mining in Africa to supply metals to make our iPads will run out eventually. Importing something like 60% of fruits and vegetables into the country using fossil fuels will not continue forever. So it is a smart investment to build up the local foods system. Becky Tarbottom, the late Executive Director of the Rainforest Action Network, said, “We are talking about re-embedding the economy within the limits of nature.”

Sage: Ask us again in a year! We are just tapping into resources and starting our research. I’ve found a group of like-minded women and we’re working together to explore these issues. An article that has been inspiring to us is “A New Foundation for Portfolio Management.”

Returning to Nubi, do you have advice for people embarking on a similar project?

Sage: Don’t do it! Buy from an existing cohousing community. But I do understand that people are often connected to particular land or a region.

Richard: Spend some time visiting other communities, and possibly living in one for some time before you embark on your own. When people dream about building a community they often forget that it is in the future. Between now and then is a lot of time, children get older, times change, etc. It may not be worth waiting 8 years to live in that imagined community when there are so many great choices out there today.

And what are the sweetest moments for you?

Sage: When I sit down at breakfast with the girls in summer and realize that everything we are eating is grown here. And pausing and reflecting on the enormous amount of work neighbors are pouring into the neighborhood—it’s humbling. And seeing how much we all have learned in the process—our meetings are well run now!

Richard: I really like the wide range of friendships I have both within and outside the community. I really look forward to seeing them and the kids at community meals and sharing work, like trail building, and play, like hiking and water battles, with them. I like how whenever new neighbors move in there is always a subtle change to the community; we are not static like a club, there is always change.