Cohousing's many ideals include the sharing of resources, both human and otherwise. Neighbors borrow tools, hand down clothing, and swap sporting equipment. Everything from a stick of butter to a three-course meal might move at any time between houses or out onto the green. Money is sometimes exchanged for a drying rack here or a CSA share there (the children seem to find countless ways to exercise their entrepreneurial arms!), but barter and good old-fashioned neighborliness are more the coin of the day. While asking for something needed and giving what can be given is much easier when neighbors aren't strangers, it doesn't just stop at sharing the material.

Cohousing members are open to wearing many hats that serve the community. After retirement, a family therapist is project coordinator. After a day in the fields, an organic farmer is group facilitator. After a few hours with her grandchildren, a grandmother is operations leader. Though it never hurts, one doesn't have to be an electrician to be on the Operations and Maintenance circle, or a gardener to be on the Land Use circle, or a social worker to be on the Membership circle. As the saying goes, "Fresh eyes just may see the obvious," and might be exactly what a circle needs to progress at any point in time.

The picture of community at Champlain Valley Cohousing shows doctors, lawyers, teachers, executives, tech workers, social workers, artists, and engineers all harvesting the fallen tree, moving the chicken coop, or raising the yurt. (Again, it doesn't hurt that the forester wields his chainsaw, the wildlife biologist relocates the wasp nest, and the project manager organizes all the details). Cooks, bakers, and spontaneous music makers add just the right finishing touches to make hours already well spent even more satisfying. While flexibility is one of our greatest individual and group assets, some of us do enjoy doing what we do best.

With a diversity of skills, interests, and experiences, cohousing members seem to share a willingness to loosen our grip on a version of the American Dream that has left too many isolated in their independence. We are open to flexing our collective muscle and pooling our resources in order to make our whole more than just the sum of our parts. An interesting consequence is that we as individuals somehow become more whole as well, adding integrity and strength to interlaced and progressing spirals of both member and community assets.

- Missy

Some CVC Member Bios:

Larilee Suiter

Grew up roaming the hills, woods, and pond edges of a 60-acre dairy farm on the North Shore of Long Island. (Sprawl has now eliminated anything rural on Long Island). The natural world was my playground, and eating fresh food from our garden was a baseline assumption. Both parents attended Cornell Agricultural School and passed on an appreciation for and a curiosity about flora and fauna, geology, indeed, the whole mysterious cosmos.

College at Duke, Grad School at LSU studying philosophy, psychology and finally Clinical Social Work. Moved to Wilmington Delaware for next 40 years where Bill and I shared the wonder of guiding two delightful offspring into independence. Witnessing Dan's (now married to Emily) and Kari's life journeys continues to be an astounding privilege. Worked for 37 years in private practice as a psychotherapist. Took up skiing (not easy in Delaware) and white water canoeing and windsurfing. Camped a lot, traveled to 49 of the 50 states, sang with the Unitarian Choir and other musical performing groups, birded along the Atlantic flyway, and advocated for non-violent conflict resolution.

Moved to Vermont in December '02, at last, back to my imprinted landscape. I am determined to own less, to share more, to re-learn to play my flute, to canoe and hike a lot, to compose music and write two books, to be mesmerized by the Northern Lights, to construct a cohousing community of physical and interpersonal beauty, and to live in such a way that my work and play are indistinguishable.

My spirit is most renewed by participating in growth - my own growth, the growth of children and all vulnerable little critters, the growth of gardens and forests, and the evolution and growth of local and international social systems. My hope in community is to tap into the synergy, linking my energy with others of similar interests and values.

Debbie Ramsdell

I am very lucky to have lived in Charlotte since 1966 and was astounded at my good luck of discovering a cohousing community developing in my own hometown! That is really how I came to cohousing - by living where one was being formed - not by looking for one.

I attended the University of Vermont as an out-of-state student and then lived in Boston for a few years before getting smart enough to move back to Vermont in 1965. That year I married my first husband and moved to Charlotte where he had grown up. We had two children: Lynn and Seth. They are now both in their thirties and married, and I have one beautiful grandchild named Safi. That marriage ended in divorce after 12 years, and I continued to live in Charlotte with the children and to work fulltime at various office jobs while they went to school. We had quite a nice, active life and took trips as often as we could to Europe, Alaska, Mexico, Bermuda, etc., but were always happy to return to Vermont.

After 13 years of being on my own, I met and married my second husband who moved into my home in Charlotte. We had nine wonderful years together, bicycling, hiking, skiing, etc. Unfortunately, late in 1996 he was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer, that had already spread to his liver, and he passed away two and a half years later in 1999.

Since then, I have become involved in politics, serving on the Selectboard in Charlotte and working for legalizing medical marijuana in Vermont as well as other issues at the statehouse in Montpelier. I bicycle weekly with a group of friends (known as the Silver Streakers), and I try to hike and ski as much as I can the rest of the year. I am taking piano lessons. In fact, it seems that several members and prospective members of Champlain Valley Cohousing are pianists.

I am enjoying living in a community with people who like to garden and do other things that I want to learn more about. I realize that I enjoy doing most things much more with other people than alone and am looking forward to working with my cohousing neighbors on all kinds of projects and activities. I also look forward to being part of each other's families and for the opportunity to help and be helped by everyone in the community. I am especially looking forward to preparing and eating meals together in the common house.

Lucy Beck

The built environment has always fascinated me, but so have the people who inhabit it. A lifelong New Yorker, I worked for 23 years in the Department of Occupational Therapy at New York University Medical Center, Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine. As Clinical Specialist in Barrier Free Design, I helped newly physically disabled adults modify their homes for accessibility. I loved the challenges of helping people and their families problem solve renovations that would lead them back into function and a new life. I also really enjoyed working with a revolving cast of contractors and architects. During this time my husband Bob and I were renovating and gardening in a brownstone in Brooklyn, and raising our only child, Ben. I became aware of cohousing some time during that period in tandem with learning about the communities being designed in Scandinavia to include the severely disabled.

That period in my life ended after the death of my beloved husband in 2001 from a particularly deadly bone marrow cancer. With the added instability brought on 3 months later by the attacks on the World Trade Center, my son and I decided to abandon the public schools and try home schooling. I took early retirement, and for the next three years we negotiated our way around the core subjects of high school and the dynamics of parent as teacher! In 2004 Ben was admitted to Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, Vermont. Driving him up for the first time, was the first time I had ever been in Vermont, and I loved what I saw - a more laid back lifestyle, much less density, politically progressive, a haven for creative people, and beautiful, beautiful country.

I began thinking about the next phase of my life, even while going back to work as an administrator in a large art gallery in New York (naturally, starting with overseeing a huge renovation!). Ideas about what I would want to see for myself as an older person came very much to the fore. I found myself hungry for, and passionate about, creating community. I feel strongly that the nuclear, isolated family in the increasingly large residence, increasingly far from the place of business or school, creating more dependency on the car, is both a social and ecological disaster waiting to happen for this country. I also wanted to be in the country, but not isolated.

I decided to investigate where cohousing was at in this day and age, and discovered that Champlain Valley Cohousing had just broken ground. In the fall of 2005, I stopped by to visit, and in short order found myself falling in love with the land and the welcoming people who make up the Champlain Valley Cohousing. Now happily in residence since September 2006, I find myself back full circle, having an opportunity to participate once again in designing an environment, this time for myself and others, with those others. I am also gardening, and cooking, and enjoy being surrounded by people of all ages with whom to share and create.

Rick Cusick and Marlee Ford

from city rats to country mice

Rick and I moved from Brooklyn, NY, to an attached home at CVC in January of 2007. We met in Philadelphia in the 90's, moved together to San Francisco, and then lived in NY for about eight years. We loved loved loved our life in Brooklyn - the fabulous friends, food, creative energy, diversity, intensity - until Nina was born. And then nothing felt more important to us than having grass she could roll in, mud to muck around in, clean air to breathe, a place to play with friends where she was safe and free, and the ability to play without it being scheduled for her.

Now we don't think we could ever live in a city again. To be surrounded by such natural beauty makes every day feel like the sacred gift that it is. We often go for walks or bike rides with Nina in the early morning and again at dusk, bringing us a deep sense of well-being as we learn about the joys of living in rhythm with nature.

Our second child, Massimo, was born at our home here at cohousing. The support from our neighbors during and after the birth was storybook perfect.

We suspect that we would not be happy living in the country without cohousing, as we are both very social and so would feel too isolated. We are enjoying the opportunities that exist here for building deep connection with others, for learning about ourselves, and growing through this connection.

Rick and I agree that we are most proud of the fact that we have learned to be loving, joyful, respectful partners and parents, as well as trustworthy and supportive friends to others. Love, work, and knowledge are the foundations of our happiness.

Cohousing allows us to live more fully the deeply held values that we talk about. As soon as we learned about cohousing, we knew we had found the way we wanted to live; we just needed to pick the right place. We and our friends have always talked about living together in a village, a place where we could build deep connection, gathering at the end of the day to feast on food and conversation, to play music and dance, and to share our children. After visiting CVC, we felt like we had found that village, and it was already full of wonderful folks we would be happy to build friendships and community with.

Cohousing also resonates deeply with our ecological values. We are happy to be moving into a lifestyle where we will be recognizing and respecting the interdependence of all life through sustainable living. In conjunction with this, we are so happy to be moving into the country, where going for a walk in beautiful nature means a walk out our front door, rather than a train ride or car ride out of the city!

We are also very excited about the benefits of cohousing for children. We believe strongly in child-centered societies as we regard caring for children as among our most sacred duties. The first time we visited a cohousing community, we were so struck by the freedom and safety the children have. We love that our kids can choose their activities and play without needing to schedule play dates or sign up for classes.

Dennis, Trisa, and Andrew Gay

Dennis became a Vedantist during his teenage years. Vedanta is the philosophical basis of Hinduism and Buddhism. He resided in a Vedanta Temple in Chicago for three years and travelled north India as a monk for 10 weeks in 1977 during which he was initiated into yoga meditation. Never having found his true purpose, Dennis has been a med lab tech, EMT, engineer, programmer, homeopath, brother, son, husband and father. He is currently owner of New England Data, LLC which does data processing and web programming. He and Trisa share a deep appreciation of sustainable community and "alternative" energy useage. Favorite pasttime: making children laugh at complete and utter silliness (and often trying to do the same with grown-ups).

Trisa had her first honey bee hive at the age of 6, and her current hive is located in Shelburne. Her honey bees are exceptionally healthy and she wishes to get the word out that maintaining hives with no artificial intervention is practical and a true wonder of nature. She practiced Api-therapy (localized honey bee sting) for arthritis patients for a number of years. She received her BA (English) from Brown University, and Homeopathy Certification from New England School of Homeopathy. She is a certified Muscular Therapist. Her current passion is designing an ultra-energy efficient "monolithic dome" home using the principles of Feng Shui. She designed and had built a 5-star energy rated home in Morrisville. An avid micro-gardner, she has been an active participant at the Shelburne Community Gardens. When not busy being a full-time wife and mother, she volunteers at the Waldorf School.

Andrew is an active fourth grader at the Lake Champlain Waldorf School. He has attended three different Vermont Waldorf Schools since the age of three. His current interests include building things from Legos that no one has ever seen before, reading and learning to play the viola.

The Eisenman Family

Our family moved from California to join the Champlain Valley Cohousing community in July 2007. We have two children, a daughter born in 2003 and a son born in 2006. We spent six years in the San Francisco Bay Area, followed by one year in Grass Valley, California.

We have been interested in cohousing for many years. Jenny discovered it while living in Denmark during her twenties; Per began envisioning creating community with friends in high school.

We like living with other people who experience joy from nature and who are committed to caring for and being connected to each other as well as the natural world. As parents who strive to provide a TV/media-free environment for our children, we appreciate living among others who respect our approach. We cannot imagine a better situation for our children - they love having friends just outside their front door and they have a strong sense of connection to all of their neighbors. They are also able to experience a freedom and autonomy on our shared land that simply wouldn't be possible in many other settings.

Jenny was born and raised in the Midwest and is forty-one years old. An Oberlin College graduate and an educational therapist by training, she currently works as the implementation and training manager for an educational software publisher. Apart from having a professional life she loves, she enjoys good food, good theater, walks in nature, and time spent with friends and family.

Per was born in Norway thirty-eight years ago and raised in New Hampshire, is a trained special education teacher who teaches at the Lake Champlain Waldorf School. Prior to embarking on his work as a Waldorf teacher, he worked for eleven years in public education. Per has been interested in Rudolf Steiner's philosophy since he was a teenager. He graduated from Oberlin College in 1998 and earned a Master's in Education in 2006. He particularly enjoys outdoor education, dancing contact improvisation, and facilitating group process. Per's love for the outdoors is rooted in his childhood - as a boy, he was able to run outside and explore the many acres of woods in his backyard. He is grateful for the fact that his children are having this experience in childhood as well.

Our daughter is a lively, sensitive, and curious nine-year-old. She is a social person who values and appreciates her friendships. When not playing with friends, she enjoys writing stories, drawing, dancing, and being a mother's helper for babies and small children. She attends the Lake Champlain Waldorf School.

Our son is an inquisitive and enthusiastic six-year-old. He loves books, drawing, Legos, being with friends, and having adventures in nature. He also attends the Lake Champlain Waldorf School.

We feel blessed to be here. It is gratifying to be a part of a community in which our whole family has been able to put down roots and continue to grow.

Carina Cartelli, Joe Lasek, and family

We first visited Common Pastures late in 2004 and we knew right away that this was the place that we would firmly establish our family's roots. We became partners at Common Pastures on the summer solstice of 2005 and one year later we purchased our lot here in 2006. After many months of planning and more months of construction, we completed our single-family home here. We fulfilled our dream of building a timber frame home that is Energy Star 5-star-plus rated, powered by solar electric/solar hot water panels and heated/cooled by a geothermal system.

Over the past few years we have focused more on incorporating landscaping practices that allow us to derive as much food as possible from our land and attracting the wonderful birds, bees and critters needed to sustain a productive and vibrant landscape.

While we have cherished living out our deepest ecological values, we have found that the most important aspect of living in community is the deep and varied connections our family has made. We have enjoyed sharing time and personal gifts with our neighbors whether working, singing, dancing or playing games. Our children have flourished among friends, both young and old. They walk out the door all times of day to find ready play mates, mastering their own social lives with minimal management by mom and dad. This is something wonderful and rare in this day and age, and we are extremely grateful for it.

Of course, having the opportunity to live in a sublimely peaceful setting in rural Vermont, with ready access to a vibrant small urban center has also been influential in our decision to become members of this particular community.

Mary Van Vleck

As a young wife and mother, I lived in Burlington and was a typical housewife - mother of two, a school and community volunteer. Raising two children at home and often lonely, with my own parents and siblings in other states, I remember feeling that this nuclear family style was not to my liking: there had to be a better way to live and to raise children. In 1978 I was divorced and moved to Massachusetts soon after, where I became a technical writer, then taught middle school science in Lincoln, MA. After ten years of teaching, I retired (on the early side) and got involved with local land conservation efforts, birding, and a weekly watercolor group. Life was good.

In the twenty years I was in Massachusetts, my son and daughter went through high school, college, then post graduate work, and both are now married with two children each. Peter is in California and Heather's family is in South Burlington. For the past few years I'd been considering returning to Vermont, to be near Heather and the Green and Adirondack mountains, and a community that I love. When Heather learned that a cohousing group was forming in Charlotte, she sent me an ad in the fall of 2003. I called immediately and soon met the brave and energetic people who had begun this big venture. After a grand tour of the property with Larilee, and a dinner party at her house, I was sold. In short, I jumped in with both feet. Finally, in May 2006, I said my good byes in Lincoln and moved to Vermont.

It has been exciting to be one of the early residents here, witnessing the transformation of our property from overgrown pastures of milkweed, goldenrod and grasses, to a vibrant, energy-efficient community. We now have fifteen attached and free-standing homes occupied, and a fourth house is under construction, scheduled for occupancy in the spring. We range in age from infants to the grandmotherly types with eight young families in residence.

There is a wonderful sense of comraderie that continues to evolve as new people join; it is a benefit that I did not and could not have anticipated. We have a fantastic group of people, and I feel so lucky. Two mothers, who recently moved here, have both said to me: "I LOVE this place!! My children are so happy." We share meals together a few times a week, outside on the picnic tables all summer long, and as the weather has turned colder, we gather in each other's homes. It is amazing how many superb cooks live here: our potluck dinners are always delicious and nutritious.

A big event for me this year has been the design and construction of my own timber frame house in the SE corner of the building complex. Construction began in February, and I moved in August 2nd. Since then I have spent entire days settling in, feeling a bit like a hermit for a while. When I need company, I simply walk outside, to the playground, the gardens, or to a friend's home.

In short, I love being a part of this community. There is still much to do, as we evolve, making decisions as we go that will affect the future of our community; the Common House design is being hammered out, and we're slowly bringing farm animals here and planning additional gardens; already we have some sheep, pigs, and a flock of chickens. New people continue to visit, and some have stayed. It is truly one of the best adventures of my life.

Wolfger Schneider

Born at the beginning of World War II into a self-sufficient, nearly late medieval farming village in Germany, surprisingly formed my current view of human settlements 70 years later. Helping create that view was living in the mid-Atlantic region of the US with its rapid, unplanned growth of car-centric human settlements while getting an education and raising three lovely children.

Seven years of electrical engineering studies at Drexel University were an excellent foundation for my 40 years of work at the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University in the Baltimore-Washington area. I designed specialized electronic systems for submarines to spacecraft to biomedical instrumentation. The one aspect of my jobs that was most meaningful was the required systems thinking. This view of evaluating and creating solutions for problems started with my reading of Donella Meadow's Limits to Growth (1972) which explains The Club of Rome Report on the future of human life on this finite world.

After having practiced human created engineering, I now believe that the best engineering on the planet has already been done and evidence of its products are all around us in nature for us to learn from, appreciate, and respect. We need to learn to live within that marvelous system design and implementation without ruining or destroying it, as we are currently doing with our unsustainable numbers, our hubris, and our capitalist economic system ever dependent on growth in a limited world .

After retirement, my wife's vision of her future did not match mine and she left, freeing me to search a new path in my life. I embarked upon a 13,000 mile trip (wolfgerstrip.blogspot.com/2008_02_01_archive.html) across the US and parts of Canada to find a desirable new location for my envisioned lifestyle. Surprisingly, Vermont was my final choice, in part because it was cold, wet, and had not yet experienced the crazy growth madness of other previously desirable places.

I arrived at CVC while bicycling along Lake Champlain looking for a place to live and was enamored by the design of the community and the friendliness of those greeting me. I almost immediately decided to buy a lot and build a small net-zero energy house surrounded by gardens for beauty and kitchen. As fortune would have it, one of the residents was a house designer and together we designed a somewhat unique house for Vermont (wolfgershouse2.blogspot.com/). Three years later the designer, Dora, became my life partner and we now enjoy living here even though she misses the bathtub she recommended for the house which I found to be a waste of energy originally.

Co-housing, I believe, is about as close as I will be able to come to that medieval farming village yearning. It attracts people who have decided that living in a rural community is a more natural way than living on isolated individual lots in the suburbs or apartments in the city. Sharing 125 acres of forests and agricultural land offers many opportunities for a community to be more self-reliant and thus more resilient to any impending societal upheaval.

Matthew

Since arriving at cohousing, we have made amazing progress in realizing our farming goals. While we have much to do and much to learn, we're excited about the opportunity to work and live here. Prior to our return to Vermont, we lived on a beautiful farm just across the lake from Charlotte, between Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks, forming wonderful relations with some folks committed to creating healthier ecosystems. We were drawn back to the Champlain region from the southwest, where my wife and I managed in one short season to grow a small organic urban farm, and develop some great friendships. At that time, I had vague plans to return to school for landscape architecture, after an earlier investigation into ecological design on the west coast. My wife came out to meet me, and led me back east. We had lived in Burlington several years earlier, arriving as volunteer laborers on organic farms. We considered farming at the Intervale, but scaled back to a backyard market garden in the Old North End. Before Vermont, my wife and I had worked together in California and Oregon. I met my wife after cycling from Ohio to Ontario to work at a farm and learning center, where she was then an apprentice. I had recently left an education center in Appalachia, completing my graduate work in environmental education. I intended to complete my degree by working overseas, but with help from some friends in graduate school, became committed to creating "sustainable" community closer to home, beginning by planting a small garden and helping to build sustainable housing. This desire to help create more ecologically healthy communities, combined with our interest in agriculture and cooperative production, attracted me to the CVC project. The energy, commitment, and quality of the group of people we found has kept us involved.

Earlier formative chapters include some distance cycling, many days and nights on a sailboat and rural island in the Bahamas, teaching of and exploring the most incredible creatures and systems, and studying botany; and enjoying a modest but supportive upbringing with my loving mother, brother, aunts, uncles and cousins in Ohio, with visits to my father and family in Florida. The best things for me involve planting and tending our land and livestock, simple and appropriate tools, good company and food, hard work and creative expression, and generally exploring. And though I always enjoy more time to see my family and old friends, I love living here and am excited, and often overwhelmed, by the work we have chosen and accomplished.

Catherine Bock

I moved to CVC in the fall of 2014, after living in many different communities in the US, Sweden, Germany and Canada. I feel like I have finally found the place I have dreamed of - a community that strives to live and work together but also allows individuals their own private space.

I grew up in Palo Alto, California, with my Austrian father and German mother and four siblings. I always felt very connected in the wilderness enjoying the creek near our house, the hills around Palo Alto, and our summers in Lake Tahoe.

When I read Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring in eighth grade, I was terrified that the natural world I loved so much was being destroyed by human activity. That was the beginning of my environmental activism, which has annoyed many a friend and politician over the years. One of the things that led me to look into co-housing communities is that living collectively reduces my carbon footprint. So when my son invited me to move closer to Burlington, I came to visit, discovered CVC on a Google search, and decided to buy a unit - half an hour after I visited on a 17-degree January, 2014, day. No one believed I was serious.

After getting a BS in Biochemistry and finishing all the premed requisites, I never applied to med school because I got a job working on an environmental studies program in Sweden. I ended up getting married to a Swede and spending a total of 28 years living there. After working in a few preschools in Sweden, I began studying alternative medicine, which led me to spend a year in Hamburg, Germany, and then three years back in the US where I got my Naturopathic Doctors degree in 1980. I raised my three children and ran a naturopathic clinic in Sweden until March, 2010, when I returned to California to help my mother.

When I moved to CVC, I was excited to begin farming with the community children right away. After a few weeks, I was reminded that making unilateral decisions was not compatible with living in this community. There were meetings I needed to attend to get my plans approved. I couldn't just build animal housing and get goats and chickens. I began wondering what I had gotten myself into by moving here.

Then I spent a few weeks drawing plans and gathering information for a goat project so I could write a proposal to the Land Use circle. I went to their meeting to discuss my proposal. That was when I realized how helpful it was to get input from others allowing me to add things I had forgotten and improve my proposal. It made me reflect on how many mistakes I could have avoided in my life if I would have had the opportunity to allow others to help me think through my projects before I got carried away by my enthusiasm.

The goat proposal has been approved, and I have been working with four of the older children to plan for them to get their own kid in the spring. We are all very excited, and they made a great presentation to the rest of the community explaining everything we have learned about goats.

I couldn't have imagined a better place to retire: Beautiful scenery, friendly neighbors, and a self-governing community that believes in trying to minimize their carbon footprint. In addition, I have land to raise animals, and food and forests to wander in, plus many children (and adults) to play and work with.

Copyright 2014