Three WATER Workshops


Three WATER workshops at Eco-Sense now posted for fall/winter 2018:

03c3a8_9e33325d05fb4751beb4d8f1f401acda~mv2Essential Composting Toilets – Nov. 3  10am-4pm
Responsible Water Alternatives – Nov. 17  10am-4pm
Rain Water Harvesting – Dec. 1  10am-4pm

Eco-Sense Eventbrite page is here.  Click on any link to register online.

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Outside view of the MUD room @ Eco-Sense classroom

All workshops are small with only 12 people and are held in the MUD Room.  High quality screen for presentation.  See photos of MUD room here.

Also included in $90 course fee:

  • Short tour of the homestead – weather permitting.
  • Organic home made LUNCH with vegetarian and gluten free options. Coffee and tea.
Design Example Drawing

In ground concrete tanks

About Gord:

  • Co-Author of the book “Essential Composting Toilets” published by New Society Publishers in Oct 2018
  • Technical editor for the Manual of Composting Toilets and Greywater Practice for the province of BC
  • Accredited Professional with the American Rain Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA)
  • Co-creator/builder of the award-winning Eco-Sense home; awarded Living Building Challenge petal recognition in 2010.
  • Councillor District of Highlands 2014-present
  • Sits as a Water commissiosoner on both the Juan de Fuca and CRD water commissions

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HOW to Buy our book:

  1. Buy this book dirrectly from the publisher using this link, and we will get a small commission.
  2. Buy from us at our workshops or speaking engagements (note that we do not ship our books)
  3. Buy from your local bookstore
  4. Buy online from Amazon
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Inside the classroom with BIG screen TV for quality presentations.  Maximum group size of 12.

 

 

Food Forestry for a Changing Climate – FREE


Presentation: ‘Food Forests – an ecological approach to planting for the future.’ Presented by Gord Baird of Eco-sense Nursery

*Thanks to the  Highlands Community Garden Group for organizing this FREE event*

highlands-comm-hallSunday, October 14th 10:00 – 12:30 at the Highlands Community Hall. 729 Finlayson Arm Rd (adjacent to the community garden)

Gord Baird, Highland resident and council member,  will be presenting a workshop on the design, goals and benefits of food forests and their importance in  climate change adaptation and food resiliency. The information provided will be useful for home gardeners and will guide our ongoing development of the food forest at the Community Garden. Information on plants suitable for Highlands eco systems will be provided.Document.jpeg

Gord has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the design and development of food forests including his own at Eco-sense and with the City of Colwood. We are excited to be able to offer this free workshop through an Edible Tree grant awarded to the Highlands Community Garden by Tree Canada.

The workshop is open to all District and regional residents, free of charge. Please pass the word on to anyone with an interest in growing food locally and building food security.

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Hardy kiwi

Links and Thoughts


Hi, here’s a quick update with a few links and thoughts.  But first, a reminder of our plant sales at the Eco-Sense nursery on SUNDAY from 10am-2pm.  Come on out and walk through the gardens, visit with us, and buy some perennial food plants for your garden.  Fall is the best time for planting.  IF you can’t make it on SUNDAY, not to worry.  Just send us an email to set up your private appointment to see the nursery and buy some plants.  ann@eco-sense.ca

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Photo by Daniel Naylor. Us in the garden with leek flowers planted for the bees. These blossoms are like our non-toxic fireworks.  I’m wearing my wooden jewelry made by Gord.

Tours at Eco-Sense coming to a close

We had made a decision a couple years ago to wind down tours of the Eco-Sense homestead, and only focus on those specific groups with climate and horticulture interests.   We are now moving even further away from tours.  We will still have our workshops here and our gardens will still be open for people to freely walk around during our “nursery” days.  Being open to the public has its benefits and we love the enthusiasm of excited people seeing our home, but with all of our other activities these days, it’s just too busy.  We’ll probably still have the very odd tour, but only for smaller groups of unscented (fragrance fee) people.  We are still shocked how many people use fragrances and are completely unaware of how stinky they are.  Laundry products are the worst for toxic chemicals.

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Hazelnuts drying. Our first nut crop. YUM

Links and some general comments at the bottom:

Ground breaking research about glyphosate and bees and bacteria.

  • This herbicide is also used as a pre-harvest desiccant on many crops to kill the plant and make machine harvest easier. Used on many carbohydrate crops. (potatoes, legumes, and grains…just to name a few).
  • This study explores the gut micro-biome of bees and how they are negatively impacted by glyphosate. This is bad…really bad. Life without pollinators is death.
  • Common sense extrapolation tells us that humans also have similar bacteria in our gut that are also impacted. Life with a compromised micro biome is a recipe for chronic illness.
  • This is why it’s essential to stop the use of the herbicide glyphosate (roundup) and other toxic chemicals. In the meantime, only eat organic food.
  • http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2018/09/18/1803880115

Is limiting temperature to 2 deg C rise in global average temperatures possible? Yes. Barely.  Data from IPCC notes:

  • This would require 4 things:
    1. Global cooperation and a price on carbon
    2. Carbon capture and storage technologies which we still can’t do at any scale,
    3. Negative emissions.  Also don’t have a plan
    4. Zero use of fossil fuels (use bioenergy, solar, wind, nuclear)
  • Quote from the UN Chief – we have less than two years to avoid runaway climate change:  “Climate change is the defining issue of our time, and we are at a defining moment,” he said. “Scientists have been telling us for decades. Over and over again. Far too many leaders have refused to listen. If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change,” Guterres said.
  • The longer we wait for meaningful action, the worse the scenarios. The opportunity presented has almost passed…  We’ve barely begun…we’re still building pipelines for fracks sake…and fracking…
  • This short video in this link explains it very well.
    https://www.cicero.oslo.no/…/news/a-journey-from-5c-to-2c

Three papers have been recently published that lead to the conclusion that human-induced climate change poses a much more urgent and serious threat to life on Earth than many have thought who have been relying primarily on the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This paper first reviews these papers and then examines the ethical questions of the issues discussed in these papers.” https://ethicsandclimate.org/2018/09/21/new-evidence-that-climate-change-poses-a-much-greater-threat-to-humanity-than-recently-understood-because-the-intergovernmental-panel-on-climate-change-has-been-systematically-underestimating-climate/

Comment on this story from Christopher Majka, ecologist, policy analyst, and writer from Nova Scotia:  “It’s hard to overstate the the gravity of what is emerging about the seriousness of our climate predicament. As the paper [Donald A. Brown’s paper in Ethics and Climate Change] notes, even if all “the GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions reductions commitments or Nationally Determined Commitments (NDCs) made by governments so far under the Paris Agreement are complied with, the Earth’s temperature is expected to rise to 3.4ºC by 2100 without taking into account “long-term” carbon cycle feedbacks.” If those feedbacks are factored in, the probable temperature increase will be close to 5ºC (above pre-industrial levels).

“The report points out that “even if warming reaches 3°C, most of Bangladesh and Florida would drown, while major coastal cities – Shanghai, Lagos, Mumbai – would be swamped likely creating larger flows of climate refugees. Most regions of the world would see a significant drop in food production and increasing number of extreme weather events, whether heat waves, floods or storms.”

“One of the three papers by the Breakthrough Institute concludes that a, “Warming of 4°C or more could reduce the global human population by 80% or 90%, and the World Bank reports, “there is no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C temperature rise would be possible.” Quoting Professor Kevin Anderson, the report claims a 4°C future “is incompatible with an organized global community and is likely to be beyond adaptation by the majority of people.”

“Many of us may have feared and/or suspected such things, but this series of scientific papers are increasingly indicating that these are not simply worst-case scenarios, but rather probable outcomes of our current policies.

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Ann with an invasive but beautiful European Wall Lizard

So technically, based on the science it is possible, but structurally it’s highly, HIGHLY unlikely.  The technical science shows us how it’s possible and there are solutions out there. The structures of our cultures, of our slow behaviour change, the structures of our financial systems, corporate/capital systems, the structural determinism of our fossil fuel infrastructure, the structures of our political systems, and those in our educational systems are all basically ensuring the enshrinement of the status quo.  Basically there are embedded feedback loops to maintain the structure of how human civilization operates.  We know what we need to do, but we are just not doing it.  Well, maybe, just maybe we will shift the structure of our political system in BC with our vote next month on Proportional Representation.

If we shed our filters of optimism and pessimism and we allow realism to infiltrate our thinking, it’s not looking so good.  We see that the worst case GHGe scenarios as projected by the IPCC are playing out.

Combine all this with the current reality of what is happening now at 1.1 deg rise in global average temp. Horrifying. Now think of where we are heading with the IPCC projections of rise of 3.5-5 deg by 2100? OMG! This is bad. Civilization cannot sustain this. These papers linked above paint that picture pretty clearly…and the IPCC projections DON’T consider many feedbacks.

Time to view some of this data with our own filters of realism.

Our window for meaningful action is almost past…

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One of Gord’s compost bins for composting human manure.  Excellent way to build soil and sequester carbon.

Given all of this and how dire the situation is, it is utterly mind blowing how most of us are carrying on with business as usual.  Seriously!  The facts are clear that on this global and local pathway of ever more consumption and higher greenhouse gas emissions, we are literally destabilizing our planet leading to conditions NOT COMPATIBLE with human civilization and the ultimate culling of the human population…and perhaps ultimately extinction of mammals and complex life.  Our lives and certainly the lives of our children are at stake.

Here’s a few photos taken today of our dying Douglas Fir Trees on our 7.5 acres.  We have lost about 20 MORE tree this year alone.  We are in an area extremely vulnerable to fire…these dead trees just make it worse.  Climate change is hitting home.  The good news is that the Garry oaks are thriving.  Ann is busy throwing acorns around.  This winter we will lay down many of the dead firs in order to feed the soil and reduce the fire risk.  We will leave some firs standing for the woodpeckers and cavity nesting birds.

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So what to do?  Many people believe it’s game over and many still are trying to do what is humanly possible to create the required change to maintain a livable planet.

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This years squash harvest from the roof of the steel container.

Our approach continues to be the same strategy regardless of whether we believe the climate systems have tipped into irreversible climate disruption or there is hope to save the biosphere, civilization, or mammals (humans).

We are focusing on building personal and community resilience.  Learning skills, planting trees, building soil, protecting nature, building local relationships, and working on food and water systems.  We are also focusing on risk mitigation for our land, our Highlands community, and our region.  This is where we feel empowered.  This work goes a long ways to help us create a meaningful and joyous life.

This culture is dying…one way or another.  In the words of Stephen Jenkinson:  The sound of awakening is a sob.

Ann and Gord

Sucked In!


We are no longer campaigning for re-election in the BC local elections.

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Thank goodness we didn’t have to pull out our campaign sign – the one from the exhibit at the Royal BC Museum.

Yup, you heard that right.  Our campaign has been cancelled and we are no longer in a competitive race for council, let alone against each other.  Can you imagine living in this house if only one of us got elected?  We live in a tiny community that has always had one of the highest voter turnouts in the whole province.  However, as of closing date for the candidate nominations, (Sept. 14th) there were 6 councillors (us being two of them) and one mayoral candidate, and all but one of those were incumbents.  Highlands has an acclaimed council.

IMG_5582.jpgSo what makes a community not exercise democracy in an election?  Good question, and this blog post will provide our personal perspective of what makes the Highlands a little different.

People get sucked in.  Yup, it happened to us.

When we look back to our introduction to the community it started 13 years ago when we were looking for a place to call home.  We sent a letter to potential communities (specifically the planners and some community groups) indicating what we wanted to do, and seeking a response as to how “open” they would be to crazy people who wanted to build a mud house with solar panels, compost toilets, rain water, living roofs and to grow food.   When it came to the Highlands, it was Eric with the Highlands Stewardship Foundation (HSF) that reached out and told us we (and our educational water, energy, food and lifestyle project), would be most welcome here.  Little did we realize it was a ploy to suck us in a few years later to be treasurer and secretary for the HSF.  Obviously positions they needed filled.

DSCN2448.JPGHow did this happen?  Well when we were young and naive and had an open house for the community to drop by and see the beginnings of our first cob structure (the cob workshop), Libby showed up with locally grown ground beef donated for hamburgers.   Our neighbour Janet, who volunteered in our first cob workshop introduced us to Libby.  Janet also regularly dropped by with extra eggs from her chickens.  Then Libby’s Dad, Bob who is now 94, showed up as a volunteer to help tamp concrete for the foundation of the cob house alongside our family: Emily 6, Parker 9, and Ann’s mom and dad, Merrily and Howie.  Bob was Highlands first mayor 25 years ago and has been a leader on just about every volunteer project, organization, and work party in the Highlands.  Be like Bob.

 

 

 

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Highlands quilt square – by Carolyn Acs – for the CRD 50 year anniversary.

What was the next thing that sucked?  When somehow we were gently convinced by Bob to build a cob composting toilet at the local lake.  How could we say no to Bob?  We are not sure how he convinced the council of the day, but Bob has a history of making things happen.   Well, our yes, led to a hard labour sentence of 400 volunteer hours when we really could have used the money.  Gord was sick of eating cabbage and carrots.  All of this to build a public park bathroom that has become a tourist destination.  The cob bathroom with compost toilet has become a symbol of something that feeds us in a different way.  It feeds a few trees too and sequesters some carbon in the soil.  This is when the big money started rolling in.  For the past 6 years we have had the bathroom cleaning contract…finally some paid work in the community even if it means scrubbing the bathroom floor.  This same cob bathroom was chosen without our knowledge to be the Highlands quilted square in the CRD 50 year celebration.

Public Cob bathroom with composting toilet

Public compost toilet/change room – 400 hr volunteer project

Our friend Pattie, I think the third Highlander we met, spent many hours interviewing us for various well written articles in the local paper.  This was our very positive first introduction to the media. Over the years, thanks to Pattie’s articles, we have had hundreds of hours spent giving media interviews… which has become one of our biggest volunteer projects.  We also introduced Pattie to dinner with cabbage and carrot soup…they were lean but happy times.

mary-lake-spirit-nature-walks.jpgThen Ann got sucked in to look after all the financials for the “Save Mary Lake” campaign where she was literally processing 1000’s upon 1000’s of small donations, doing tax filings and attending endless meeting.  The Save Mary Lake campaign was lead by Bob…and eight years later, Bob is still hard at work with this project with the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary still making progress towards the permanent protection of this beautiful and ecologically rich oasis.  Donations are still required for this conservation project.  Bob is unbelievably persistent.  In fact Bob once described himself as a dog with a bone when he gets and idea in his head. Lots of photos here:

5040623-binBut amidst these early naive episodes where either Ann or Gord would say “Sure” to various volunteer projects in the Highlands, there were wonderful things that started to happen in return.  Ripples.  When we hoped to register for the Living Building Challenge (LBC) for our Eco-Sense home we didn’t think we could find the $1000 fee, but Neville (an HSF director), without us knowing, put up half the monies to allow us to register.  Then our other friends in the HSF (Warren, Eric, Len, Lin, and Greg), followed up with the other half.    We had tears as we had no funds to do this ourselves.  The result was we became the first project rated on the LBC internationally, and the first home ever to receive petal recognition (Oct 2010) and for many years to follow, our home was called, the “world’s greenest modern house”.  Link to case study on our home.

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Earth plasters inside and out

Then when we were looking for windows to make our greenhouse, Neville stepped in again.  He was just doing an energy upgrade on his home and we picked up all his old windows for a very reasonable price.

Somewhere’s in the middle of this, a neighbour spoke poorly about us for using recycled materials to build our house.   They also shunned our kids for showing up at a birthday party with homemade gifts and a potted plant rather than buying stuff.  Another neighbour upon hearing this neighbourhood gossip was immediately interested in us as potential friend material.    Ingo has become one of our best friends, and dug up 3 of his apple trees that he didn’t have room for and helped us plant them in our yard.  Hence our passion for tree crops was initiated.  This marked the beginning our of food forest, our perennial edible plant nursery and the Eco-Sense farm.  Now we have TOO much food.

But we have figured out a way to deal with that excess food.  We share it in the community and we swap it for things we don’t grow.  This has resulted in learning and experiencing the gift and sharing economy.  We have also been known to take food to council meetings to share with staff, council, and community members.

Goodwin Farm pre Impact

Farm pre impact – Red outlines indicates logged, burned, and filled areas. Eco-Sense on the right; Thetis Lakes Park on the left.

About 6 years ago something happened right next door to us that really sucked…it sucked our energy.  The farm across the street became a dumping ground for fill.  Sound familiar?  Bothered by the failings of the system to protect our community, our ecosystems, and our ground water and playing chicken with 40,000 dump trucks on our narrow winding roads, we ran for council.  It’s been eye opening to see how “the system” works and doesn’t work, but ultimately it’s been a rewarding council experience that sucked up our time, and made us even closer to our community.  So four years into this, we have now been acclaimed for another four year sentence.

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Land marked OK Industries has applied for a mining permit with the Province of BC

Highlands citizens are currently united over the latest threat to our community, our ecosystems, and our water.  No one wants a mine in the Highlands and a couple years ago, our council denied the rezoning of 65 acres of biologically diverse land complete with wetlands and rare species.  We underwent a full public engagement process along with a financial review to explore the impacts and implications of allowing 25-35 years of land clearing, blasting, grinding, and processing of rock for sand and gravel.  This land is adjacent to Thetis lakes park and residential neighbourhoods, and even a nature based daycare.  Highlands council and virtually ALL of our citizens said no to this proposed land use.  So, what happened after we said a collective and very firm NO?  Well, the company that owns the land then went above municipal jurisdiction and applied for a mining permit with the provincial government.  IF granted this would allow the mining operation to begin and override many of our municipal bylaws.  Check out the community created Facebook page It’s #notOK to learn more.

On a more positive note, our small community fares pretty good from a financial perspective when compared to the other 152 communities in BC.   The Canadian Federation of Independant Business over the past 7 years has ranked our community very well.  5 years ago we were 41st, 4 years ago we were 8th, 3 years ago we were 3rd, two years ago we were 2nd, and last year we were #1.   We would like to say that this is due to our council.  But reality sucks.  It’s due to prior councils, this council, our staff, and our community volunteers including our volunteer fire department.

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Ann and Warren talking at the Eco-Sense booth at a community event.

If it were not for all the volunteers that participate, that get sucked in to committees, work parties, the fling, the craft fair, the volunteer fire department, the coffee house, the informative talks, garden groups, bingo nights, broom pulls, clean ups, Easter eggs hunts, park protection, apple pruning, picking, juicing, the HSF, HDCA, HPRA, HHPA, VNB, the horse club, looking after the heritage homestead, … we would be taxing their money rather than their time.  Our volunteers are to thank otherwise we would not be the BEST IN BC…on so many levels.  Volunteers are good for financial capital, social capital, human capital, natural capital, and manufactured capital.  But most importantly being a volunteer helps contribute to our individual sense of well being and belonging.

This fall our Highlands community is celebrating 25 years with a big party with the focus on ALL of our volunteers.  Volunteers are what make the Highlands a special community we are proud to call home.

Ann and Gord

 

We are running for Council…


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Gord, Ann, and Nina sitting in our cob patio.  Photo by Daniel Nayler

Local Government Elections:  It’s official, both of us have put our name in again to run for council in the District of Highlands.  Voting day in BC is Oct 20th.  Please get informed and vote.  Local politics is the most critical for your family and your community.  Here’s a list of just a FEW of the responsibilities that local governments participate in:

  • Climate adaptation, GHGe reductions, risk management, resilience, community energy projects, etc
  • Fire departments, emergency services
  • local food, organic food, etc
  • transportation (speed limits, safety, EV’s, transit, walkable communities, etc)
  • waste treatment (resource recovery), dumps, compost, recycling, keeping toxic materials away
  • providing potable water, protecting surface water, ground water
  • creating parks, protecting nature, biodiversity,  (forest and riparian areas, etc)
  • Land use, noise, blasting, tree cutting, density, soil deposit, invasive species
  • Housing, density, type, how big, tiny homes, affordable housing, secondary suites, green building, sustainable energy, step code, etc
  • Resource extraction (mines, logging, rock crushing, LNG, etc but note that many local bylaws can be TRUMPED by higher levels of government.  Don’t you hate that word?
  • Invasive species
  • BYLAW enforcement, policing, etc
  • Strategies to create stronger communities, community engagement, etc
  • Social programs, disabilities, meeting places, well being, education, etc
  • Economic development
  • and the list goes on and on and on…AND all are important to our community.
  • And finally the creation of a seemingly unlimited number of acronyms.

Appraisal formDecision making can be quite complex.  Here in the Highlands we have tools to help us think through many of the integrated impacts.  Check this out…it’s only two pages.  It’s based on the subjective flows of capital in each of financial, manufactured, natural, human, and social capital.  Appraisal Form.

Our Garden of Eden:  Just tonight we wandered through our gardens (Natural Capital) and were simply blown away by beauty AND the abundance of snakes, apples, fruits, berries, and copious quantities of food, and numbers of birds, and insects everywhere.  Ten years ago, this land where our house sits was a barren landscape.  It just shows what can be done when we focus on building soil.

 

Plant Nursery is OPEN:  (every Sunday for 4 weeks) 

  • Sunday Sept 16th from 10am-2pm
  • 3295 Compton Road, East Highlands, Victoria
  • We are well stocked with lots of perennial edible plants.  Here’s our list
  • Parking up top for those buying plants, parking in lower garden for others coming to walk the gardens.
  • Also available by private appointment.  ann@eco-sense.ca   gord@eco-sense.ca
  • Please do not bring dogs as we have ducks and chickens
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Photo by Daniel Nayler

What’s new in food?

  • Lots.  Our new favourite snack food is Dried zucchini chips: grated *zucchini with a dressing of ground sesame, *leeks, *garlic, *parsley, *lemon, tamari soy, and *apple cider vinegar and mixed together and dried in our solar dryer.  *items are from our garden.
  • Lots of hazelnuts are drying (see photo).  We got them before the squirrels
  • We have been eating ourselves silly with berries, plums, apples, grapes, asian pears, and now cornelian cherries, and autumn olives (little red fruits)
  • Almost daily greek salads with everything except the olive oil from the garden (feta cheese is homemade from neighbours goat milk). 

 

Feeling grateful and so incredibly lucky.

Hope to see some of you on Sunday here at the garden on the hill.

Ann and Gord