Composting Toilet Workshops (and rainwater too)


It has been a wild and wooly ride this past year as we have completed the book.  The result of which is a host of requests to put on workshops and presentations of all things dry (at least in regards to toilets) and a few things wet.

I (Gord) have been pretty much invisible over the last year. But there are huge good changes underway.  Obviously the Composting Toilets and Greywater Manual was huge.  The Essential Composting Toilets book is also huge, and will be out in early October.

To compost securely here is an IBC Tote system created for the various clustered housing projects presently under design.

 

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CSA Rainwater Harvesting Standards CoverThe other huge thing which has consumed most of my time is designing potable water rain harvesting systems.  In May the Standards Council of Canada released the first CSA/ICC standards for Rainwater Harvesting.   I will be writing a review of this on our Rainwater BC website soon.

So in good fashion (which means likely to be edited in part or wholly by Ann), here are a couple information highlights:

3 day Compost Toilet Workshop – August 17th-19 (Yup I get to talk shit for three days) – Links are here.

Please note, this is a multi day event spanning across the weekend:
August 17th 7:00pm – 9:00pm
August 18th 10:00am – 5:00pm
August 19th 10:00am – 4:00pm
(food and accommodation upgrades available)

If you want to get a taste of what to expect… Javan Bernakevitch recorded me shooting the shit with him. The link is here.

Other workshops include a 5 hour presentation on Gabriola Island in October (Time and location TBA.  The full day workshops on Galiano, Salt Spring and Pender have had a huge turnout… even bigger than Trumps inauguration.   Yup more than 20 people at each event.

Rainwater Harvesting Workshop in September.  See link Here fore details.

More to write, but Ann is calling me. Not sure what I did wrong, but Ann will write about it very soon I am sure.

Cheers,

Gord

My body’s first experience with CANCER


Today I got the good news. We (Gord and I) sat in the doctors office waiting for the results of my breast biopsy. One month earlier I had a mammogram. After all it had only been 30 years since that excruciating torture machine had last squished my young dense breasts into a pancake. The doctor at that time had said, I have never seen such dense breasts…a mammogram will not be able to show anything. Well duh I thought. Anyways, my current doctor, after examining my 51 year old sagging breasts suggested it was time to have another mammogram. I of course broke out into a sweat at the crystal clear memory of almost punching the mammography technician. I think I actually would have at the time, except for the vice attached to my breast essentially immobilizing my right hook.

Cooking meals from scratch on the fire…many items grown at home

I had this recent mammogram two days before leaving on our kayaking trip. Upon return, there were 3 phone messages, an email, and even some paper mail stating that they needed to have a closer look at something they saw. Yikes. Two days after I returned the call, I was at the pancake machine again…but this time, crepes were on the menu. Thank god for older sagging breasts that were in the mood for crepes.

Well, the magnified mammogram showed something, and the same day I was at the ultrasound machine. I should note that I cannot feel a lump or anything during a breast self examination…all is normal in there as far I can tell.
So another week passes and I am back at the crepe machine, and then another crepe machine where me and the machine can get cozy spooning for what seemed like eternity…with a drill inserted deep into my breast. This lengthy procedure took over 40 minutes and god knows how many x-rays. My breast was frozen with a little needle in preparation for insertion of the large needle into just the right spot for four tissue samples to be removed. Quickest biopsy ever they commented…mostly due to me not breathing for 40 minutes.
They sent me home with an ice pack taped on my still bleeding boob…tape was required as I didn’t have a bra to stuff the icepack into (don’t own a bra). And just for fun, the tape extended across the sensitive skin on my breast and into my armpit…my unshaved armpit, thus providing one of those moments where I wished I had shaved (don’t own a razor). (Note: this may be too much information, but I am sharing this personal information for a reason that will become clear later)
Next on the menu was a week long wait to get the results of my biopsy. It was an interesting week and I didn’t really think about this too much…not much I could do with so little information so I’ll just deal with whatever comes my way when I know more. However, saying this I still had my own silent rants about toxic chemicals, the cancer industry, and thinking maybe just not having treatment and let nature take it’s course…not that I have a death wish or anything I just loath the whole system where cancer contributes to growing our economy. I don’t seem to have a big fear of death…or maybe I do, and just don’t know it yet. ??? Anyways, I spent my week growing food, preparing wonderful meals from the garden, looking after the homestead, reading, going to council meetings, thinking about my community, participating in potlucks, watching hummingbirds, feeling gratitude for my life and my privilege, having afternoon naps in the heat wave, paying just enough attention to world events to be highly disturbed but not surprised, etc. Life is very good.
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I love our gardens

So back to today. Doctor walks into the room saying “I have good news” and goes on to explain what they found. She said I could cry, but I had no desire to do so…neither did Gord. We were not worked up waiting for the biopsy results. It was going to be what it was going to be. Dr looked at me strangely when I didn’t cry.
The details: I have a rare form of LCIS (lobular carcinoma In Situ)…sort of a cancer. Apparently I have a 1% per year rising rate of increased cancer rate due to this…but still most women don’t develop cancer from this diagnosis. Basically, I have learned that cancer cells formed, but my body contained them and they are not spreading…at this time. The current debate is whether or not to even call this diagnosis cancer. I will be seeing a surgeon to discuss removing the “in situ” packages or doing nothing and just watching. Historically, women with this condition often underwent full mastectomies, but this is no longer the case.
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My new bathtub in the garden…I love it!

 

The Dr. then went on to say that I should go out a buy a lottery ticket, because this diagnosis is the best one I could have possibly had for my lump. LUCKY ME.

But wait a moment…LUCK? REALY? My body did what 100,000 years of human evolution programmed it to do when faced with replication oopses. How much is luck, and how much of this is my lifestyle? In the process of DNA and cell replication, mistakes are made all the time, but our bodies know how to fix these. When our bodies don’t work right and miss something, sometimes cancers can result. It’s your genetics, it your gene expression, it’s your biome, it’s your history, AND it’s your lifestyle. All of these play a role. In my case I have good genes…not a lot of family history. I’ve also been chemically sensitive my whole life and avoid toxic chemicals…especially those found in personal care products and building materials. I also choose to live very differently than most people in our culture…and not just with not having a bra or a razor. I would go even further to suggest that I live much closer to a “natural” human in many ways including the following:

 

  • I grow and forage most of my own food and eat an omnivorous seasonal diet. I used the word forage as this seems appropriate for how I gather my food. Our gardens are quite natural in their randomness and seemingly overgrown way. Many things go to seed thus there are food surprises everywhere. I disturb the soil very little. No till gardening. Looks kind of messy, but there is literally food everywhere.
  • My gut micro biome is biologically diverse. I eat lots of raw fruit and veggies, eat home fermented foods, drink raw goats milk and make my own raw milk cheese, don’t eat meat from industrial agriculture but do eat meat about 3 times per week in summer and 5 times per week in winter (rabbits, chicken (rooster), deer, local pork), I eat nutrient dense food, I don’t eat in restaurants, I eat very little processed food, what I don’t grow is mostly organic, I eat a bit more fats and very little refined carbohydrates or sugar, etc. I don’t eat glyphosate. My body was engineered over hundreds of thousands of years to be an omniviour…I’m not going to argue with that.
  • My skin micro biome is also biologically diverse. I don’t use soap on my body, I don’t wear deodorant, I don’t smear chemicals or sunscreen on my body. I rarely get skin infections or get sick. I spend the day with my hands and body in contact with healthy soils. I bath with warm water in the shower. (I do use shampoo)
  • I spend about 3/4 of my day “unplugged” with half being outside in nature and the rest inside doing domestic activities. I get lots of exercise.
  • I get lots of sleep and quiet time to think. My life wasn’t always like this, but I have worked really hard to make this happen and I have had some luck along the way.

Drying tomatoes

So this is the story I live and that I tell myself. I do have some control and can make choices to support my body to give me the best chance of being healthy. Perhaps this note would have been very different if I had a different diagnosis, but I will stick with this story of looking after my body as being at least part of the reason why I was able to isolate those cancer cells. If I believe it, then it must be true. We all know that story is much more powerful than facts. If facts mattered we would act on climate change and our bodies wouldn’t be contaminated with toxic chemicals.

My challenge to you:
  1. Eat healthy. Avoid/limit sugar and refined carbohydrates. Eat fermented foods. Eat whole foods. Eat a seasonal diet. Eat organic if you can. Avoid processed food (prepared foods that have more than 1 ingredient on a label). Limit restaurant food unless it is of the highest quality. Grow a garden/ have a garden plot/ or go to farmers markets.
  2. Go to your bathroom and laundry room and look at all your products; cleaning products, body products, hair products, laundry products, etc. How many do you have? Do you need all of these or have you been influenced by marketing to think you “need” them? Read the ingredients. Do any of them have fragrance or perfume in them? Preservatives? Many of these are linked to breast cancer and are endocrine disrupters. Do not put these on your body or breath their fumes. Seriously, these are toxic. Check out the David Suzuki Foundation dirty dozen for a quick reference on how to read the ingredient lists. Dare to be different. Dare to be informed by facts. Dare to change the culture.
  3. Reduce the plastic in your life.
  4. Get lots of sleep
  5. Exercise in nature. Fall in love with mother Earth.

Do the best you can, have fun, laugh, and hope for a bit of luck.

Gord photo bombing the shot of the solar roof top gardens

 

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


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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?

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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. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apios_americana
  • 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.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_yam 

 

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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

Thanks,

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

IN OTHER NEWS:

  • 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.

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    We love camping!

 

Gallery

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).

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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).

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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?

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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.

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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… https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/03/02/590056872/from-almonds-to-rice-climate-change-could-slash-california-crop-yields-by-2050
  • 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.  ann@eco-sense.ca or gord@eco-sense.ca

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.