Monday, August 20, 2007

Crow House Collective

The Crow House Collective in the Alberta neighborhood in Portland, Oregon is disbanding after two years of shared living, as members are getting ready to launch on various endeavors and international travel experiences. Members may regroup in a different location when they return. The current residents of the Crow House include Hope, Emile, Christa, Laura, Matt, and Christopher. Their ages range from the early 20's to early 40's. The Crow House is planted in the middle of the Alberta Arts District. What would otherwise be a very expensive area, this shared living experience drops the price of rent to only $300 each per month. Bills are split 6 ways, delicious home cooked meals ( usually shared ) are an everyday experience, and group outings are always being planned. Other than Hope and Emile ( a couple ) sharing a room, each resident gets their own private room. The basement has been transformed and devided into an art space, music rehearsal room, shared internet station / movie room, and even a guest room for me during August 2007. There is at least one backyard camp fire each week, usually including music and sometimes even wine. Before their decision to disband, they had 6 egg-producing chickens, a garden attempt which was hindered by a large tree, a compost system, rasberry bushes galore, many visitors, and now lots of memories. Living with 5 other people has its share of challenges, but the positives outweigh the negatives exponentially. Sharing a living space enables residents to learn new skills from each other ( new recipies, different ways to clean dishes, how to play an instrument, etc ). The financial savings coupled with sharing chores frees up many hours each week to work on personal projects, make art and music, plan for the future, and enjoy life.

Thanks to the members of the Crow House for being such generous hosts during my visit to Portland.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Go ByCycle

Check out It is a point to point mapquest-like mapping program which navigates cyclists through the city along established bicycle routes. Right now, it is only available in Portland, Oregon, and Milwaukie, Wisconsin, but there is hope that it will be available next year in Austin, TX and other potential municipalities.While cycling is one of the greatest ways to save money, stay healthy, and protect the environment, route safety is a big barrier for most commuters. This is where helps most.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Carpenter John

John Steup has figured out that remodelling/restoring his family's home can perhaps be the smartest use of time while in between jobs. John treats this project as he does any other job, with fervor, passion, and selfless devotion. He understands that it can pay him and his family back exponentially, especially when considering the money they are saving and value added to their home when comparing it to and factoring in the compound interest of financing someone else to do it for them. It helps that John has previous carpentry experience and an artistic and instictive vision for his home. John has chosen to make ethical choices in materials used for his home, purchasing much of his supplies from the Rebuilding Center in Portland Oregon. John's situation demontrates that by having a number of skills on the backburner can and will come in handy in times of necessity. It also gives him distance from the rat race and more time to spend with his family, while carefully scouting out work that fits his values. During the remodelling process recently, he uncovered a newspaper from 1929 ( the year the house was built ) in the framing of the house. On one of the pages was this quote :

If you want to succeed in the world you must make your own opportunities as you go on. The man who waits for some seventh wave to toss him on dry land, will find that the seventh wave is a long time a-coming. You can commit no greater folly than to sit by the roadside until someone comes along and invites you to ride with him to wealth or influence. - John B. Gough as seen in the Friday November 8th 1929 edition of THE OREGON DAILY JOURNAl found in the framing of John's house.

Makin' it in the City

Friend and former housemate, Jason Butler, has maximized the capacity of his small lawn by removing the surrounding grass and concrete driveway and transforming the space into an intensive, carefully thought out vegetable garden. He is harvesting tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, chard, squash, many kinds of herbs, berries, and much more. He also has two egg-producing chickens, which run freely through the garden for much of the day. Living in the inner city, Jason and his fiance, Melissa, haven given up their car. By cycling and walking everywhere, and by growing their own food, they save thousands of dollars every year, which frees up time for them to work on various creative projects. They were lucky to find their house in NE Portland a few years ago before the inflated housing prices descended upon that area.