Updated: Oct 12, 2019
or How to find joy in house and yard work.
A few years ago, a friend of mine had an idea. She proposed that our group of three single friends get together and do workbees at each other’s homes. Every second weekend, we’d meet at one of our three homes and help with whatever needed to be done. One member of our group, Gabriel, had a lot of gardening and practical know-how. He owned a property out of town, and had a large garden and huge yard. My friend Estelle and I owned houses in the city, but we didn’t have all the skills and knowledge necessary to repair and upkeep our homes and yards. So Gabriel would help us with small repair and maintenance jobs, and Estelle and I would be willing labourers, doing simple jobs like cleaning, weeding, mowing, painting, and the like. The work was never hard, and this manual labour, usually perceived as necessary drudgery, became so much more pleasant because we were doing it with friends. It was so pleasant that a few friends actually asked to join us. One of them, Ray, was a student who lived in residence and probably couldn’t even have fitted us into his dorm room. He joined us not to get our help, but simply because it sounded like fun. And it was! Weeding on my own was a long and tedious job. But doing so with Estelle, we were chatting all the way through, so time just flew by. And I so appreciated Gabriel sharing both his skills and his knowledge. I learned so much from him, like how weeds can actually help in the garden (possibly the topic for another blog post?) And he helped me fix or replace things which I could never have done myself. I would have had to hire a stranger to do these jobs.
Of course, the best part of those workbees was the potluck meal. That was always the highlight of the day, to see, smell, and savour what everyone had brought. I remember one evening at my home, after a half-day of working together and crossing tasks off my to-do list. After a delicious dinner, we had an impromptu sing-along, and one of our join-in guests shared his musical talents, playing along on a tin whistle I had lying around.
My house, usually so quiet, was filled with the feeling and sounds of community, of people coming together and enjoying each other’s company.
Unfortunately, those workbees only went on for a few months. It wasn’t easy to keep the momentum going, being too spread out—our three homes were located in South St. Vital, North St. B., and near Steinbach. I never forgot those workbees, though, and the community-building they brought about. I’ve since thrown out the idea to other friends a few times, but have only once been taken up on it. But now, I’ve found in Prairie Rivers Cohousing a group of like-minded people who see the value in coming together, people with whom I can share tasks, and whose company I can enjoy. One of the beauties of cohousing is that when you bring together a diverse group of people, you're amassing a large pool of knowledge, skills, and experience, and these are people whom you can turn to for help, and from whom you can learn. And besides this practical aspect, there's also the social component. Almost any task is more fun if you can do it alongside other people. More hands not only make light work, but also more fun!