There’s both a batch of homemade beer and a vat of homemade sauerkraut aging in the boiler room of Nubanusit Neighborhood & Farm in Peterborough, New Hampshire – and it’s not even close to Oktoberfest. The maple trees were tapped months ago, and sap boiled down to thick syrup for the villagers, according to Richard Pendleton, a resident and co-founder of the cohousing community, part of a growing movement in most of New England.
In many ways cohousing mimics turn-of-the-century America, when extended families were the norm, and people of all ages took collective responsibility for the well-being of themselves and neighbors. Help was always available and people trusted each other. Children never lacked for playmates; the word “playdate” didn’t even appear in the dictionary.
Two of the neighbors in Nubanusit own horses, so a couple of kids are learning to ride. They all take turns gathering eggs from the resident hens and feeding the chickens that scramble, squawking for grain. Last year a half-dozen households split the cost of an electric lawn mower that almost everyoneborrows; and outdoor clotheslines rippling with clean laundry color the yards.
The concept of cohousing began in Denmark in the late 1980s and the trend made its way not long after to the U.S. A tract in Boulder, Colorado, was among one of the first to open in 1987, according to the Cohousing Associationof the United States. California and Washington state followed in tandem, with earliest housing established between 1991 and 1994.
Massachusetts wasted no time. Its first villages opened in 1994 and 1995. Today Massachusetts has 16 cohousing sites being formed, built, or operating.