Saying no.

Nursery:  Before we say “no” to the Nursery season, we are saying “yes” to the last day for spring plant sales. Saturday May 26th from 10am–2pm.  We have a FREE table too…and some small $5 goji berries.
This is by far the very best time of the year to take a peek around the homestead and enjoy the maturing food-scape that inspired our perennial edible plants nursery.


It is so hard to say “no” to all those things you really know that we as a culture need to say “yes” to.  Why is it so hard?

Like that question Gord poses, “Hey Ann, I love your brain and the red hair that covers it… want to go and discuss global world issues?”   Ann’s answer “No.  I have to get the carrots planted!”  –––  Ann chiming in here…I usually jump at the opportunity to talk about global and local issues and how everything is connected.  I’ve just been way behind in the garden this year.  Just last night I read an article on systems thinking by Richard Heinberg that was quite good.  He also talked about people that focus on systems thinking are also the most pessimistic about our global predicament.  Another favourite source of entertainment is listening the local CBC radio program called the political panel (7:40 am Friday mornings).  We have both been quite entertained lately by BC and Alberta politics over pipelines, tankers and fossil fuels.  Bottom line though, is we only have 2 decades to get to ZERO carbon emissions.  We are not particularly hopeful given the local and global politics playing out combined with our collective inability to change our consumption.

Or the other question Gord poses, “Ann, I think I have a tick in a spot I can’t see.  Want to take a peek?”   Ann’s answer “No.  I can’t see anything until I go get my glasses on…even then maybe not”.

After ticks are found and removed, another favourite pastime is reading articles together…like a recent one on tourism.  Apparently tourism accounts for about 8% of total emissions.  We have learned however, that many of our acquaintances, and even friends and family, do not like us to talk about aviation.  Apparently there are THREE taboo subjects…religion, politics, and aviation.  Well maybe a fourth…the subject of fecal transplants are also not well received, despite some hard science on the topic–if we had a soap box to stand on, perhaps we could tout the science… then again we could perhaps use a stool.

This past two months we have been over the top busy and Gord has had to learn to say “no” but of course never to Ann.  Saying no to community groups on toilet design, saying no to more community groups on emergency preparedness meetings, almost even saying no to some of the editing requests on the book, and rescheduling the much desired time to hang with the kids.  For Gord the water design work of Eco-sense has become so busy that it is now a going concern.  Four new home potable rain harvesting systems, a design of a small water system for an 8 home strata, potential of 3 more designs, and then the composting toilet projects.  In our culture we look at this with the utmost respect, that you are too busy for the important things for life.  Here’s a neat little video on slowing down and appreciating the work of making textiles.

[INSERT picture of Pump curves and filter schematics here]. (This is where Gord is too busy to do his final edit and insert his photo…currently, he’s in the lower garden installing a filter, for the pond water so that we can hook up irrigation that wont plug up.).

Gord did say yes to do a 5 hour workshop on Salt Spring Island around compost toilets, greywater, rainwater and the responsible water alternatives that we apply around here on the homestead.  The course was well attended, with participants comings for hugs afterwards.  Gord was glad for saying yes.

We’ve been busier than we like to be…with deadlines of everything fast approaching.  However, this is temporary, and we are looking forward to slowing down.  We are going camping again this summer for a local backpacking trip…either in Strathcona park, or Nootka Island.  We are very lucky to have some friends looking after the homestead while we are away.  Nina, chickens, chicks, ducks, and all the food gardens will be in good hands.  One of our ducks is also sitting on a dozen eggs.  If all goes well there will be a bunch of ducklings emerging on June 17th +/-.

DSC03506We are loving and enjoying spring more every year.  The beauty of this place is growing exponentially…this is one exponential curve we like.

Here’s a quick list of some interesting articles and videos on technology…which has been another topic of conversation around here this spring.  The first is an article describing how technology can not bail us out of this predicament.  Better Technology Isn’t the solution to ecological collapse.  Then a Video with Jeremy Rifkin discussing how technology could help us transition to a zero carbon world.  Both are well thought out…I guess time will tell.  Feel free to post other technology links in the comments.

Gord and Ann



Observations and Climbing Vines


Eco-Hut in the morning sun

A short entry this week, as it has been busy with the instant and welcomed sight of the sun and the cozy warm temperatures.   Observations from the hill are an addictive pass time as Ann and I share our new and entertaining stories of the landscape and observations with each other.  Gord likes to think that he  notices many of the same subtle things as Ann, but really Ann usually kicks his butt at noticing things.  This year though he is feeling pretty proud of his observation skills.  (rants at the end of our post)

DSC03070Our recent workshop held in the Eco-Sense MUDRoom on Resilient Food Systems  was fully booked.   This 3 hr course lasted for 4.5 enthusiastic hours as the questions kept coming.  We will allow more time next time we offer this course.

This year, the non native European Paper Wasps (Polistes dominula) are so numerous that it is mind boggling… and somewhat frightening.  We have not yet observed a single native yellowjacket or native paper wasp.  These normally docile garden carnivores are a huge gift for the garden as they are responsible for the control of aphids, cabbage worms, and pretty much every other small life form.  Normally they only get goofy (aggressive) near the end of summer.  This year is not the case, as they cover everything… they are fighting amongst themselves, and a little testy with us.  (This is where Ann edited out Gord’s testicle joke).   Last year Ann received two stings between her fingers and consequently suffered with a swollen itchy mitt almost up to her elbow.  When Gord gets stung, it hurts, but then we can never see where… Ann thinks he’s just making some ploy to get attention. (Guys these days eh?)

One of last years nests…painted around it. Not aggressive at all.

Unfortunately, we will need to knock the populations back a bit pretty quickly but we are attempting to hold off until after the main fruit tree blossoms are completed.   How carnivorous are they?  Gord watched one almost cut a caterpillar in half, three times the size of the wasp… then try to carry it away.  We like them around, but this is just too many.  We will remove small selected nests in the evening with a small bagless shop vacuum.  The selected nest are under our chairs, by the front door, next to the cob oven, at the outside garden sink, and about half of the nests in the greenhouse.  Walking into the greenhouse is like entering a swarming hive.  Anyone else have this issue this year?


spraying everything in the nursery with compost tea

Plant Sales:  Every Saturday from 10am-2pm we will continue with the farm sales of perennial edible plants until the end of May.

Climbing Vines form an important part of our food systems.

  • Just this week, we planted more thornless blackberries… one of our very favourite berries.  These are easy to control, ready before Himalayan blackberries, even better flavour (hard to imagine, but true), larger fruit, less seedy, and very abundant and did I mention that these do NOT make you bleed?  Trellis the vines, or simply cut canes at about 6-8 feet tall.  Could also tie to a sunny fence.
  • Logan berries.  We love these too and plant them on the same trellis as the thornless blackberries.  Ready about 2 weeks before the thornless blackberries.
  • Hops.  We have large CASCADE hop plants for $25.  These plants will produce this year.  Good for beer and for bedtime teas.
  • Kiwi’s.  We have Fuzzy, Hardy, and Arctic.  Hardy’s are our favourite as they are productive, easy to grow, partly shade tolerant (half sun), and have no fuzz.  VERY yummy.  Arctic kiwi’s grow in the shade and are very beautiful, also fuzz-less, and tasty.  Most are male and female except for the hardy Assai.
  • NEW this year:  Apios Americana (common names include ground nut, potatoes bean, Indian potato).  Nitrogen fixing vine that produces small potatoes like tubers with a very choice nutty flavour. These are perennials that grow like tall runner beans.  I’m going to try growing mine in a large container as the rabbits like the vines, and voles like the tubers.  Small plants take 2 years to produce a crop.  only $6.
  • Chinese Yam  or Cinnamon-vine.  Very nutritious and potato like.  Perennial beautiful vines with glossing heart shaped leaves.  Grow in large containers as the large and ugly tubers will go down very deep.  These can be invasive in some soils. $16. 


We now have a free table with lots of great plants that need a home.  Why Free you ask?  Well, some of them are unnamed varieties, (tag went missing), some we have too many of, and some just need a bit of love.

And an Update on the Essential Composting Toilet book.   The copy editor has read and reviewed it, and sent her initial comments.  All Gord’s diagrams will need to be edited and have all the Canadian English replaced with the US spellings.  What does this mean?  Four more solid days sitting, and 3 days to re-upload all the images again.  Does this not seem arrogant and crazy.   Can our American neighbours not comprehend the word colour over color?   Yeesh!

And one more tiny little rant regarding Used Victoria.  We have used this service over the past few years to help advertise our plants… we even pay for some ads, but most are free.  Anyways, we may not be able to do this anymore as they are calling Eco-Sense a commercial seller.  Are we?

  • We are a very small farm open only 4 hours per week about 4 months per year.
  • We are not even a corporation… we operate as an un-incorporated partnership.

The Used Victoria ads (free and paid) have been a primary marketing tool for us… Now what?

No wonder small farms give up…

Ann and Gord

Comparing Resilient Homesteads in Different Climates

First off…3 notices, then on to the blog post:

Plant sales:  Saturday’s (until the end of spring) from 10am – 2pm at the Eco-Sense Homestead.  Plant list here.

Resilient Food Systems workshop two dates:

Meeting long time FaceBook friends for the FIRST TIME:  We had a wonderful opportunity to spend almost a whole week with a couple we had been internet dating on Facebook for several years.  The couple are farmers from the USA, and for many complex reasons, spent two years in Tasmania.   They arrived here at Eco-Sense on their journey back home to Minnesota where they will take over the family farm.  His parents wanted it to be stewarded wisely and kept out of the hands of Industrial Agriculture.  They had already spent many years working with and falling in love with their land.

30440689_10216008531234107_8722421087402459136_n.jpgOver the years we were often awed by the variety of skills and toughness these two demonstrated on their farm from dealing with holistic animal husbandry, personal injury, and their culture.  Let’s just say it’s a bit different in rural Minnesota than here on the west coast.  A few years back they introduced us to Non-Violent Communication, which likely helped to save our own relationship.  Never did we think we would ever have the opportunity to meet these fine folks.

One of the interesting conversations (among many) that arose was how we all defined “Homesteading”.  Gord was the odd person out while Ann, Stephanie, and Daniel outvoted him.  Gord said that Eco-Sense didn’t qualify as a homestead because life was too easy.  (This is where Ann chimes in and says, “My life is not friggen easy…just saying”).  Does a harsh lifestyle define an intricate part of homesteading, or is it all about building your home, self provisioning your foods, energy and water, all while being proficient and skilled across a broad range of tasks?  Looks like the latter is the case.  (Yes Gord, we do have electricity for lights, fridge, freezer, propane, irrigation pumps, running water and hot showers.  But these last 2 months without much firewood has led to being very cold, and only a hot shower when the sun comes out to heat the water…see post from a few weeks back)


Wilder Family – Ann’s ancestors

I (Ann) have been recently reading the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Now THEY were homesteaders.  Their life has a lot of similarities to my life…A LOT.  I also happen to have this homesteading thing in my blood as I am a direct descendant of James and Angeline Wilder (Almanzo Wilder’s parents).  My grandmother’s grandmother, Laura Ann Wilder married name Howard, was Almanzo Wilder’s oldest sister.  My dad’s name is Howard.  The book Farmer Boy is all about the Wilder homestead.  Coincidentally, Laura and Almanzo Wilder homesteaded not far from where our friends Daniel and Stephanie live. Link to photo of the Wilders here.


Perennial leeks, (Dug), Josta berries, currants

Back to our story of two climatically different homesteads:  What struck us is that both Eco-Sense and New Story Farm, are trying to acheive the same goals, though here at Eco-Sense, we don’t have flat land, 3 feet of black soil, or rain in the summer to irrigate crops.  However, we have a gentler climate and can grow food year round.  We can also grow lemons and olives and tea.  Their farm is surrounded by industrial mono crop agriculture and a human culture that looks at permaculture with confused expressions as they apply glyphosate to their crops and wonder why our friends are not in church.   Here on the west coast we are lucky to live in a region where we have more in common with the folks surrounding us, and can grow our food all year round making our life easier, but it is so much harder to earn an income from the abundance that comes from three feet of soil.  We have to admit to having some soil envy…but hey…we have rocks and evergreen trees and hills and mountains.


chore time – together

Another interesting discussion was around online identities and the “face” people put forward as part of their online image.  All four of us have sadly learned that many of the permaculture folks that post pretty pictures, or tales of their courses and travels may not measure up in real life.   Very few walk their own talk.  Daniel and Stephanie are as genuine and real as they appeared to be online, in fact more so.  How refreshing.  In fact, they practice Gord’s favorite form of communication… they speak “German” which means they are direct and blunt.   Being asked what they thought of us… well lets just say our feelings were not hurt.

Daniel and Stephanie Zetah visit their crazy ass friends to the north.

A common thread with our new REAL FRIENDS and neighbours slightly to the south, and a couple thousand kilometres to the east of us, is that resiliency looks the same… it looks like building human community and stewarding the land.  No chemicals, poly culture crops, plant and animal systems integrated together, and increasing farm biodiversity.   They, like us, have come from professional backgrounds; theirs being economics and graphic design.  Steph did up a new website for our book, Essential Composting Toilets.  They critique and question the dominant culture and values and compare this to the science around health, climate change, economics, ecology, and over all well being. They  used their critical thinking skills to move away from the single currency of cash, and into a more integrated economic system that includes social, intellectual, cultural, and natural capitals.

So there you go, facebook is good for something…meeting some very interesting wonderful friends.  We hope we meet again…but since we have all vowed not to fly…it will have to be a slow journey.


Ann and Gord



Perfect Spring Weather for Planting

What are Ann and I doing today?   What else other than planting more trees!  We have been plann(t)ing this for about two years, and well, when the weather is chill and damp, and the house is chill, and the only thing that is hot (other than Ann in gumboots and a big wool sweater) are more nuts and pears in the ground.
So though it may seem cool, damp and grey, this is the BEST time to be planting your perennial food crops.  The Eco-Sense nursery is open every Saturday this spring from 10am-2pm for plant sales of of all our favourite fruit, nut, and berry bushes.


Spring Last year

We are well stocked with plants we have propagated and grafted ourselves and purchased from other suppliers.  Here’s a partial list.


Plums are in bloom

Fruit Trees:  Apples, Plums, Pears, Apricots, Cherries, Figs, and Peaches.

Special Fruit Trees:  Medlar, Mulberry (limited stock), Quince, PawPaw, Persimmon, etc.  We also have 1 pollinating pair of the hard to find Cornelian Cherry that we have grown from seed.  ($60 for the pair)

Nut Trees: small almonds, Hazelnuts, Pecans, Walnuts, small Yellowhorn, Chestnuts, and even the very beautiful Russian Almond.  Bigger yellowhorns will be here late April.

Berry bushes: Currents (red, white, black), Gooseberry, Josta Berry, Elderberry, Evergreen Huckleberry, Raspberry (Cascade Delight)

IMG_20170828_104809_001Climbers:  Cascade Hops, Kiwi (Fuzzy, hardy, and arctic), Thornless blackberry, Logan berry, Cinnamon (Chinese) Yam, and Grapes

Berry Producing Nitrogen Fixers: Autumn Olive, Goumi, Sea Berry, Silver Berry


Mountain Pepper

Teas and Herbs: Tea (Sochi and Korean), Sechuan pepper, Japanesse pepper, Mountain Pepper, Siberian Ginseng, Wooly Tea Tree, Wintergreen

Vegetable plants like Hosta and edible BAMBOO

Lots of varieties with excellent information sheets in the nursery to help choose the right fruit and the right pollinators.  Inventory list here.  Prices INCLUDE the GST.

SPECIAL  The $5 (Gord Screwed Up) table for  unnamed varieties and stuff that GORD lost the tag to… and its a shame to discard it for no name, is edible and would want to a new home that gives it better attention than GORD gave it.  We also have Desert King figs ($15) and most grapes ($10) on sale.  (BTW…Gord wrote this …not Ann.  Actually the ducks are to blame for many missing plant labels.)

DSC03432Special Plant Workshop on Resilient Food Systems: Fruit Nut, and Berry Crops:  (only a few spots left).  WHEN: Sunday April 22 (Earth Day…also Gord’s birthday). TIME: 9am-noon.

DETAILS:  Explore the different food producing trees that are ideal for OUR climate and YOUR home and lifestyle. Presentation with Q&A to learn about fruit trees, nut trees, berries bushes, vines and support plants to create a sustaining eco-system to nourish the land, our bellies, and our souls.

Answer such plant questions as soil types, water requirements, sun exposure, weather toughness, crop timing, pollination, guilds (what likes to grow together), and how to process, store, and eat.


The MUD room @ Eco-Sense – Classroom for Radical Learning

Classroom session followed by a guided tour to see plants in action.

For anyone that wishes to hang around after the 3 hour class, bring your lunch and we can all sit and chat.

Plant nursery will be open following lunch.  Register Here:   $20


  • We have our first Wwoofer coming in April…and keeping with our values she is  local (Washington) and did not fly here.  🙂
  • We have sourced out replacement sweet chestnut stock and are accepting serious orders with deposits… the more people that order a tree or 20, the better.  Named varieties include Bisalta No. 3, Szego, Prococe Migoule, Bouche de Betizac.  If we order 200 trees, we can minimize the shipping costs, but expected pricing on trees between 36″ to 84″ is likely in the $40-$60 range.
  • We are just nailing down the details of have ongoing live on-site help for 3 months this summer to help in the nursery.
  • We are planning another camping trip this summer and have some dog, chicken, duck, and garden loving friends housesitting for 10 days this summer.   Woohoo.
  • Still waiting on the final news for when our book on Composting Toilets will be published.  Stay tuned for upcoming news and workshops.


    We love camping!



Time to grow food

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Here on the West Coast, we can grow food year round…with a bit of practice and preparation that is.  We moved onto our land and into a 27 ft travel trailer Feb. 1,  2006.  Since that time we have built … Continue reading

Making it Real: A post on the “other stuff”

On social media and blog posts we often see just the good stuff.  The fun, the happy, the success!  Of course this is not reality, and we all know this.  But so often we can’t help but compare our own lives to those we admire and are left with the feelings of not measuring up or feeling bad about our own life.  So today in this short post we thought we would share a snippet of our “other stuff”.

Cover Image emailed

Book to be published fall 2018

We have just spent the better part of the last 5 months writing a book on a topic we are quite passionate about…compost toilets.  Interestingly, we had said no to the publisher the first time we were asked to write this book…but eventually our resolve weakened and we agreed to write the book when the time lines were extended another year.  The book is pretty much done now, and we are very pleased with the result.  We have dreams that it will truly be a book to take the topic of compost toilets “From Waste Stream to Mainstream” and help countless people and communities locally and globally find ways to safely deal with human “resources” in an era of rapidly declining water resources.  Our first book will be published early this fall and the sales and big bucks should start rolling in.  Ha.  In the meantime, our cash flow has plummeted.  Our combined total Eco-Sense net income for the past five months has been less than $3,000.  (Nursery sales, consulting, tours, workshops, presentations, etc).


Gord bundled up at his desk this morning…feet on pillow, sunbeams coming in, compost toilet books on coffee table, and if you zoom in on his screen you see a toilet.

Cash flow being very poor is only one piece… we have been so busy and focussed on the book, that a few other things didn’t happen that should have happened.   Don’t you hate that word “should”.  But in our case, we should have got more wood in the wood shed…it was a VERY cold winter…rationing wood.  At lease our CO2 emissions have been even lower than normal.  Thank goodness the temperatures are rising and the solar is heating the home and providing much of our heat.  The solar thermal evacuated tubes are making LOTS of hot water to pump through the floors keeping our home at a lovely 17 deg C.  Interesting experiment for sure, and we kind of like the indoor toque look.  Still rather cold for sitting on ones butt at a desk.  Ann has taken the heating pad used for the baby chicks and is splurging on electricity to pre heat the bed.  (Note that we could have found and purchased more wood, but with the bank account now empty, we decided to just make due).


Chickens have gone into egg production overdrive…and you’ve got to love fresh oca and beets from the garden (grown in raised garden beds with simple hoop covers).  Gord and Nina photo bombed my food photo.  We have SO much food.

Gord also “should” have got busy hunting for venison…or even some front yard rabbits, but was too busy and focused last fall.  Even our dog Nina has found the time in her busy nap schedule to hunt some food.  sheesh…

So, we have been scrambling to get the spring nursery season going and start our workshop series in the MUD room @ Eco-Sense.  (details of workshops here) Last year our spring nursery season got off to a fantastic start with LOTS of people and good sales.  We were actually TOO busy to properly serve all our customers.  We did everything the same this year…except hardly anyone came…and last week NO ONE came.  Sad day!  We have no idea what happened.  We have more stock, healthy plants, bigger plants and lower prices for many items given their larger sizes.  So, we’ve been brainstorming what happened and why?


Fresh lemonade from our own lemons.  Life is good!

Anyways, we’ve been finding that the nursery is A LOT of work and isn’t particularly profitable when all the costs are factored in.  We may downsize and just specialize with a few plants…like nut trees and a few others that we can propagate easily here.  This would likely mean not have the regular nursery hours.  We are finding that most of our sales happen by private appointment now anyways.  BUT, in the meantime, we are still moving forward with the spring season.  Here’s our list of plants and we will continue with the Saturday 10am-2pm open house for sales of perennial edible plants for the next little while.

Now the reality check on the reality check…

WE ARE SO LUCKY and GRATEFUL for our lives.  We are healthy and happy, have great friends and a wonderful community, kids are doing great, our parents and siblings are doing great, and we have very rewarding day to day lives living in a beautiful place with meaningful work in alignment with our values.  We have excellent and abundant food, clean water, and don’t live in fear of violence or rape.  We have so much more security and happiness than most people on this earth.  We continue with our passion to live in a way to reduce our impact to people and the planet and we do this from a place of LOVE and not GUILT.


Cob oven pizza with the kids.

Life isn’t perfect, we have our challenges, and we are grateful for our incredible life with all it’s ups and downs.

So despite our bank account being empty, life is pretty full.   Note: we still have some emergency savings and are doing just fine…despite the indoor toques.

Ann and Gord



Spring Workshops

MUDroom UNBOXEDThe MUD ROOM is now open with our first workshops of the spring season.

Radicle LearningResilient Food Systems with Fruit, Nut, and Berry bushes:

  • TWO DATES (Pick one): March 23 from 9am-noon  or April 22 from 9am-noon
  • Explore the different food producing trees that are ideal for OUR climate and YOUR home and lifestyle.  Presentation with Q&A to learn about fruit trees, nut trees, berries bushes, vines and support plants to create a sustaining eco-system to nourish the land, our bellies, and our souls.  Answer such plant questions as soil types, water requirements, sun exposure, weather toughness, crop timing, pollination, guilds (what likes to grow together), and how to process, store, and eat.
  • Why…
  • Classroom session followed by a guided tour to see plants in action.
  • For anyone that wishes to hang around after the 3 hour class, bring your lunch and we can all sit and chat.  Plant nursery will be open following lunch.
  • Book online with EVENTBRITE March 23.  April 22
  • $20



Raised Garden Beds and Garden Wash Stand for Compost Tea:

  • March 25 from 1-4 pm
  • Part 1:  Learn about all the different raised garden beds used at Eco-Sense.  In the Classroom, we explore the benefits of raised garden beds with discussion centered around:
    • Concrete Curvey Beds,
    • Galvalume beds,
    • wire and textile beds,
    • and wood.
  • Materials used, where to buy, construction methods, hoop covers, and the pros and cons of the different types.  We also spend some time in the garden looking at the different examples and how they fit into the landscape.  Information handout included.  Note: Hands on building of garden beds is NOT part of this workshop.
  • Part 2: The Garden wash stand with compost tea production.  In the Classroom, we will discuss all the wonderful features of this simple, affordable garden wash stand design that produces a steady supply of rich compost tea and a yearly harvest of worm castings.  Then we move out to the garden to see one in action and together assemble a complete unit.   This wash stand will be offered for sale ($350).  If more then one person would like it we will draw names. Handout also inlcuded.
  • Book online with EVENTBRITE. March 25.
  • $35



Responsible Water Alternatives:

  • April 1 from 1pm-3pm
  • Gord’s most popular water presention for integrating greywater, compost toilets, living roofs, soil, landscape, and food systems in a changing climate.  How to plan for extreme weather events of too much and too little water.
  • Book online with EVENTBRITE.  CANCELLED!   April 1
  • $25

Stay tuned for postings of more Eco-Sense Workshops:

  • Compost Toilets – for home owners and a separate workshop for regulatory officials (after June release date of the Essential Composting Toilet book)

    Cover Image emailed

    Book to be published in June 2018

  • Rain Water Harvesting
  • Fermentation

If you would like to discuss hosting your own workshop for RADICAL LEARNING in the MUD ROOM please email Ann (at) Eco-Sense (dot) ca to arrange the details.


First Plant sales of SPRING

It felt like spring, and then it snowed… and then spring arrived again… and then this morning some more wet snow flakes. But it’s time.  Time to open the nursery for our first spring sales for perennial edible plants.

With the arctic hitting all time warm records for February with temperatures ABOVE freezing and  there is still no day light…is just nuts.  Climate change is here and it’s happening faster than even the worst case scenarios.  But what can we do?  Planting food producing hardy trees is a great step… you can’t go wrong with this.

Farm schedule for sales of perennial edible plants:

When: Every Saturday this spring starting March 3rd from 10am-2pm.

Where:  3295 Compton Road, East Highlands, Victoria, BC

Details:  Even if you are not buying plants you can still come out to have a look at chickens, ducks, gardens, earthen architecture, the Eco-Hut, or to just hang out and have a conversation with other people.  If you don’t plan on buying plants, please park at the bottom of the hill and walk up.  Please do not bring dogs as they are upsetting for our ducks and our dog Nina will go into show-off mode and start racing around.  THANKS!

Parking is limited at top, so please park to make room for others beside you.

Discounts:  For purchases over $500 there is a 10% discount.  If you are planning a larger order you can also book a private appointment. or

Plant list:  We have lots of new plants and many varieties of apples, plums, pears, cherries, walnuts, hazelnuts, currants, berries, hostas, persimmons, mulberries, chestnuts, apricots, nitrogen fixers, tea, kiwis, bamboo, grapes, peaches, Sichuan peppers, and many bare root plants.  All of our listed prices include GST.  Here’s our list:  

Queensland Blue winter squash – yummy and rich. Good baked, boiled, in soups, in loaves, and even in smoothies.

Other items:  We have some eggs, squash, garlic (for eating or planting), and cover crops (yellow and green peas).

Eggs from heritage chickens…different sizes and different colours. Beautiful dark orange yolks.

See you on Saturday.

What’s Happening?

What’s happening at the Eco-Sense homestead?  LOTS!

OUR FIRST BOOK.  We have been heads down most of the winter writing our first book; Essential Composting Toilets published by New Society Publishing.  A very timely topic given the rising awareness of water both locally and globally and the desire by many for increased resilience.  Writing a book is a HUGE time commitment that seriously restricts cash flow and many other basic tasks.  It’s a good thing we don’t actually have to buy much food.  Final manuscript is due mid March with publication happening a couple months later.

Cover Image emailed

The Eco-Sense Perennial Edible Plant nursery is scheduled to begin the spring season on Saturday March 3rd from 10am-2pm.  We had hoped to open sooner, but with the freezing weather, there is no point.  The nursery is well stocked with new plants that are just arriving.  We have brought in lots of large bare root trees as many people are planting larger trees to get their food production happening sooner rather than later.  Here’s our up to date plant list with prices…and remember all prices INCLUDE the 5% GST.

Our Friends Tayler, Solara and Flora have left Eco-Sense and moved to a walkable neighbourhood in the City where they operate their landscaping business Hatchet and Seed.  This move left us wondering…what to do with all that space?  We have come up with a creative solution.

Welcome to the…


We have turned this beautiful space into an inspirational place for meetings, workshops, and presentations for RADICAL LEARNING.
Radicle LearningContact for booking information.  Full details can be found on a new link on our blog.  


The MUD room with the gorgeous table that Gord built out of scraps of wood.  We can sit 10 people at the table or remove the table and set up seating for 15 to watch a video presentation.  Kitchen is well set up for food workshops.

Art Work:  Our cob walls are adorned with artwork created by the very talented David Baird (Gord’s Dad).  Gord has inherited his dad’s creativity.    Check out David Baird’s site here.  I continue to be blown away by the beauty and quality of his carvings.  All of the pieces displayed in the MUD room are for sale.



Please share this information with people in your networks who teach courses or give presentations and who may be looking for a unique and special place for RADICAL LEARNING.

Eco-Sense workshops: In the weeks ahead we will be posting a series of workshops and presentations.  Feel free to SHARE YOUR IDEAS with us.  Feedback is welcome.


That’s it for now.


Winter Lemons at Eco-Sense


Responding to the Urgency of Climate Change

Saanich Councillor Vic Derman sent his memo “Responding to Climate Change”, to Ann two weeks before he passed away in March 2017. I asked Vic if I could also use it in a submission to Highlands council with Highlands specific recommendations. He responded with “Please feel free to use the letter as the basis for what you submit to Highlands Council.”

At the time it was decided that Highlands would wait until it first appeared on the Saanich agenda and then go to Highlands. Then Vic unexpectedly passed away and everything was understandably on hold until after his life celebration. :(Then it was delayed for other reasons…then it was delayed until after the Saanich bi-election…then I decided to move forward with it as it had been 8 months since his passing. Vic wanted it out there and for his memo to be useful and inspire action. His memo to Saanich references the appendix he wrote for climate actions which is not yet a public document…That is for Saanich to make public and I hope they do.


Saanich councillor Vic Derman Passed away in 2017

Given that his memo is now 8 months old and that myself and Councillor Gord Baird were using it as an introduction for specific recommendations here in the Highlands in our own memo, we felt it was prudent to run Vic’s memo by a climate scientist for “informal review”.
There were four edits to the text which are highlighted in RED below. The most significant change was in paragraph four where Sea Level Rise (SLR) is discussed. Vic originally said that a near 3m SLR could result by 2050-2060 and this was changed to end of the century. 3 meters by 2050-2060 is not fully supported by the scientific literature, however, it it discussed by climate experts as within the realm of possible. We thought it would be prudent to stick with more generally accepted numbers which are already catastrophic as we are currently witnessing.


Climate change poses an ever growing, potentially critical, threat to human society and all species on our planet.  At the climate change talks in Paris, politicians established an ideal goal of staying under 1.5 degrees C rise in global temperature and recognized that, at an absolute maximum, global temperature rise should be kept under 2 degrees C rise. While laudable, these goals are not realistic without a very dramatic acceleration of our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Last fall, the CRD held a Forum of Councils on climate change. Several knowledgeable climate experts confirmed that we have already put enough carbon in the atmosphere to guarantee a 1.6 C rise, likely in under two decades.  This means that limiting temperature rise to 1.5 would require sucking massive amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere. Doing so would be very expensive, if it could be accomplished at all.

Furthermore, as we move to the 1.6 C increase, natural feedback loops such as methane release from melting permafrost will contribute at least an additional .3 C rise. A recent article in the journal Nature indicates that the contribution of these natural feedback loops may have been underestimated. To sum up, we are, very likely, already effectively committed to a rise of 1.9 degrees or more, very close to, or beyond, the 2 degree C absolute maximum. Best estimates suggest that accomplishing the GHG mitigation commitments established in Paris, which most nations are not yet on track to do, would result in an increase between 2.5 to 3.5 degrees C. That is very risky and very dangerous territory.

More rapid sea level rise is one, but only one, of the potential consequences we face if climate change is allowed to follow its current trajectory. A few years ago, generally accepted estimates indicated a maximum sea level rise by 2100 of about 33 centimetres or 1/3 of a metre. By 2015, these estimates had been revised to indicate a rise of about 1 metre. Recently, study of West Antarctic ice shelves revealed potential deterioration at a much more rapid pace than expected causing researchers to suggest sea level rise of 2 – 3 metres by century’s end. (Vic is referring to this study  A three metre rise, would be catastrophic and would eliminate, or put at severe risk, many trillions of dollars of assets.Protecting them would be extremely expensive if it were possible at all. Concurrently, society would face a huge influx of “sea rise refugees” as low lying coastal areas were inundated or became otherwise unlivable.

Even if a 2 – 3 metre sea level rise occurs less quickly, severe environmental damage will almost certainly result from a temperature rise exceeding 2 degrees C. Unwisely, we are doing substantial damage to our planet’s life support systems. Equally alarming are the potential fiscal and social impacts. A recent article suggests that attempts to control ocean albedo and “save” the arctic by using technology to “re-freeze” could cost about $5 trillion. This is an enormous amount of money, but is only a small part of the economic costs of responding inadequately to climate change. It is completely false to suggest that we cannot afford to respond to climate change. Instead, it is clear that we cannot afford to not respond.

As to social consequences, a society with hundreds of millions of refugees that also faces problems such as substantially “re-working” agriculture is unlikely to be stable. Unfortunately, it is much more likely to be modelled on the four horsemen of the apocalypse. It is difficult to believe that we would allow such an outcome to happen.

We are severely mortgaging the future of today’s children and those who follow. I doubt any of us would consciously choose to deny these children hope for a decent future but that’s exactly the consequence of our failure to adequately respond. We need the kind of massive, focused effort that society demonstrated in World War II, if we are to having any hope of avoiding the worst that climate change has to offer. Without question, there is a need for much greater action on the part of federal and provincial governments. However, collectively, actions of individual cities and municipalities are at least as important. Hopefully, Saanich and its Council will become true leaders in the massive, focused effort needed in response to the challenge we face. The time we have to respond is becoming very short.


  1. That Council commit to much more aggressively reducing GHG emissions (At least 80% reduction by 2040) and commit to establishing clear targets and “milestones” necessary to insure such a commitment is accomplished.
  2. That Council consider adopting the need to respond aggressively to climate change as the #1 priority in its strategic planning and that Council then work with staff to establish a climate change lens that insures decisions will be shaped by that priority.
  3. That Council direct staff to design and present to council a program of actions necessary to accomplish Council’s much more aggressive commitment, targets and milestones. (A description of potential actions is included as appendices)
  4. That in an open letter, Council copy this report to the Prime Minister of Canada and the Premier of British Columbia as well as to other relevant federal and provincial politicians along with a very strongly worded request for much more aggressive, focused federal and provincial action.

Councillor Vic Derman


Below is the resulting memo from councillors Gord Baird and Ann Baird presented to Highlands council on Oct 16, 2017.   Link

Since Vic’s passing in March, the climate has continued to heat up with hurricanes, wild fires, and floods in a relentless and unprecedented scale.  Millions are displaced and traumatized, with entire islands obliterated, and many have died.  Many will never recover.  It has become a moral imperative to act.

Building upon Councillor Derman’s memo, and our recent participation at the Livable Cities Forum, we would like to suggest that Highlands council take the urgency of climate change very seriously.  Highlands is very well positioned with policy and tools to make decisions that reflect the extreme urgency of the climate situation.  Our Highlands Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) has two excellent sustainability tools; the Decision Making Framework DMF (page 24) and the Appraisal Form (AF).

 Sustainable Highlands Decision Making Framework (DMF):  Currently we have policy  II-110 requiring the DMF to “be used to analyze operational plan items brought forward from council’s approved Strategic Priorities” AND the two page DMF states right at the top that this tool can be used “to help assess any type of action, (plan, action, project, research, procurement, practice new or old) by using the Sustainable Highlands sustainability framework to inform decision making.”

Highlands Sustainability Appraisal Form (AF):  Currently we have Policy V-3506 that requires “all rezoning/OCP amendment applications be required to fill out…” and this form “may be used in other instances.”

The red highlighted text explains where these tools can be additionally used with no need to change our existing policies.  We suggest that: 

  1. Council members (and staff) look for opportunities to utilize these tools to better inform decisions that are deemed to have significant mitigation and adaptation implications.
  2. Council considers forwarding items of significant climate mitigation and adaptation implications to SSSC and/or SLUSC to gather more perspectives when utilizing these subjective tools.
  3. Council gives more weight to the information produced from the use of these tools when making decisions. 

Additionally, the following recommendations arise from the Livable Cities Forum that both Councillors Baird attended: 

Ann’s notes:

Gord’s notes: 

  1. That council direct staff to look into applying for a FCM grant to cover three integrated items and to report back to council with details, time frames, and costs if grant application is successful.  A new staff member dedicated to working with consultants on creating and implementing adaptation, mitigation, and resilience plans.  (FCM pays 80% Salary).  (Remaining 20% to be included in 2018 budget discussions).  Grant would also include funds to work towards the following:
    • Create an adaptation and mitigation plan including a risk assessment.
    • Commit to creating a policy stating these risks and what we realistically can and cannot do to mitigate these risks.
    • A full municipal natural asset initiative (MNAI) to begin in 2018/2019.
  2. That council direct staff to include a heading called Climate Change Implications in every staff report to council.  (This section could include any of risk/ adaptation/ mitigation implications, or ICSP tools as appropriate.  Even if staff leaves this section blank, this gives the opportunity for discussion at the council table.)
  3. That council direct staff to write a letter to South Island Prosperity Project (SIPP) indicating that Highlands will only continue membership in SIPP if the constitution is changed to include the wording “promoting local economic resilience through the opportunities arising from mitigating and adapting to climate change” AND that the ideas of working towards a circular economy are embedded in the vision for SIPP.  Council further directs staff to send this same letter to all the SIPP funding partners.
  4. That council direct staff to identify and bring back to council ongoing educational opportunities that strengthen corporate fluency and awareness of climate change, risks, adaptation, mitigation, and resiliency, for both staff and council.

Respectfully Submitted. 

Ann Baird, Councillor                                 Gord Baird, Councillor

It was an interesting discussion at the council table.  Recommendations 1 and 4 passed.  Item 2 was defeated.  Item 3 was changed to writing the letter to SIPP and funding partners but no mention of withdrawal from SIPP.