Sunrise Small Living Group

Sunrise is a household of 9 adults and 3 childen at Twin Oaks. We are unique among Twin Oaks residences in that we use solar electricity and have particular social agreements. We have lived together since 1996. Sunrise SLG

Who Lives at Sunrise? (as of 1998)

McCune Male, Age 50 Member of Twin Oaks for 25 years Happily lovingly committed and married to Valerie. Deeply grateful for my loving contact with 8 month old Adrian, son of Cleo and Craig, who live in the other SLG at Kaweah.

Designer, builder, technician. Have participated in the design and construction of several major projects at Twin Oaks, including Kaweah Residence [the building which contains Sunrise SLG]. In charge of all utilities construction at Kaweah including solar hot water and electricity. Have led the way in the conversion to and nearly universal use of fuelwood at Twin Oaks for heating buildings. Have installed solar hot water systems, large and small, on most of our buildings.

Co-managed the startup of our Ropemaking business then managed it for 5 years, then remodeled the facilities. Forestry manager for 15 years. Current responsibilities include some design/construction projects and co-management of East Coast distribution of Communities Magazine and the Communities Directory.

Current tech interests include computers and internet. Hobbies include wildflower natural history, weather observation, personal growth psychology study, travel to Mexico, language study.

Gordon: I am a guy-type person; born in 1952; Canadian by birth and preference; short'n'skinny; curly brown hair; blue eyes; interested in business, music, sex, houseplants, martial arts, science, community living (not necessarily in that order).

Alexandra McGee is a 29 year old woman who cares about healthy group interaction. Living with people who can help her understand ecologically friendly technology is great.

Imani: I am 5 years old. I like to draw butterflies but I can't draw them. I like to play with my brother Elijah.

Elijah: I like sports. I like baseball, soccer, hockey, football, and basketball. I am 6. I like playing with my sister, but we have a lot of fights.

What are the Eco-Features of Sunrise?

Solar electricity: 10 bedrooms, 2 living rooms and one bathroom use solar electricity. As a result, we monitor our electricity use closely and use primarily flourescent lights. Unlike the rest of Twin Oaks, we agree to use laptop, not desktop, computers, and we restrict ourselves to low-wattage fans, stereos, etc If we lose power (for example, during winter when daylight hours are at a minimum), we go without electricity for 24 hours before turning on our back-up, on-the-grid power. This serves as good reinforcement and encouragement to remember to conserve.

Hot Water: 100% of our hot water is heated using renewable resources(solar and wood heat). Most Twin Oaks residences have some solar hot water but we are the only one without propane gas back-up. If we run out of solar hot water, our water will be cold unless we light a fire in our boiler to heat it. Our firewood is selectively harvested from Twin Oaks' 450 acres, or is salvaged scrap wood from our sawmill.

House-Heating and Cooling/Insulation: We use a very high-quality Danish wood-fired boiler for heating the house (also for heating water, as above). However, since the house is so well insulated and solar-featured, we don't need to use very much fuel to warm the house. Sunrise is insulated with cellulose, a more environmentally-friendly insulation than fibreglass or plastic foam. The R-value is very high, (attic is R50, walls are R35) helping to keep the heat in during winter, and out during the summer. We use quilted window shades and wooden shutters to cover each window during winter nights, to prevent heat loss through glass.

Passive Solar: The building is solar-oriented on an east-west axis. A careful clearing of trees was done to give full sunlight access. Window area on the south side of the building was made larger than on all other sides.

Natural Light: More than all of our other buildings, attention was paid to the use of natural light, for aesthetic as well as environmental reasons. In addition to large windows, we used skylights and light-tubes in hallways and north-facing upstairs rooms. These decrease our need for electricity and increase our connection with the natural world outside.

Permaculture Landscaping: Our yard is designed according to permaculture principles, which basically means it's designed for maximum positive impact on the environment. We have no lawn which would require a lawnmower to cut; instead we have planted edibles (many perennial ), which we hope will only need occasional mulching,composting, pruning and harvesting. In addition, they provide food for us. Our yard contains strawberries, gooseberries, tomatoes, blueberries, cucumbers, mint, chives, and several fruit trees. The kids especially enjoy finding ripe berries before anyone else!!

What are the Social Features of Sunrise?

Many households at Twin Oaks are more loosely organized than we are.

Weekly Dinners: We eat dinner together one evening a week , sharing the highlights of our day. Several members have been known to bake chocolate chip cookies or make home-made ice-cream to make the dinner more festive.

Group Events: "The group that plays together, stays together". As a household, we've gone on various outings together, including picnics at a nearby lake, and apple-picking at a neighbouring community (which provided an additional bonding experience--comparing poison ivy for the following week, which we all got from plants in the orchard!) We've also done several group projects, such as roofing a new building in the community, and helping our sister community Acorn finish the painting, drywall, etc, on their newest residence.

Weekly Time Together: We meet once a week for about a half-hour of personal check-ins, and about one hour of household business. This ranges from dealing with the mundane details of sharing a household (for example, fixing a squeaky door) to delving into more intense interpersonal issues, and talking about how our behaviors can affect one another. Particularly difficult issues have included the use of VCR's in private bedrooms, and our level of commitment to each other.

Weekly Cleaning: We spend a half-hour together each week, cleaning our public spaces alongside one another. We have a list of jobs that we rotate among us.

Communication Norms: Unlike other residences, we have agreed to talking directly to each other about any significant difficulties we're having with each other, and working out conflict between members of our household.

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