The Learning Curve


When you specialize in being a generalist, you set yourself up for a whole lot of learning.

How I describe Ann’s skills:  high level bookeeping; biologist; cheese maker; fermenter; dishwasher; goat teet squeezer; grower, harvester, and cooker of  food; councillor; nursery person; farm manager; Gord manager; assumption checker/elephant observer (also known as an elephant pointer outer or general s**t disturber); critical thinker; chainsaw owner; lifestyle consulting, and soon to be book author.

How do I describe myself… I don’t dare.   I’ll leave that up to Ann if she so wishes.

When asked what I do for a living I really don’t have a clue what to say.  When I do try and respond it always starts with… “I follow my own interests and do whatever I want”.  I often say that I clean the public washroom, collect the compost toilet materials, and distribute the s**t… and I am a councillor where I (like Ann) disturb it a little too.

One thing is certain, I feel uncomfortable stating my skills.  I would rather speak to my interests.  My interests are plants, rain water harvesting, grey water, provincial policy, electronics, sustainable building and designing and building integrated systems (heating/cooling), composting toilets, water filtration,  carpentry/cabinetry, public speaking, teaching, and beer and wine making, digging holes.

Inevitably interests lend to energizing my learning, an appetite not easily satiated.  The most recent two learning opportunities are the step towards earning my EOCP in Small Water Systems, and presenting on the topics of small scale agricultural pond pumping design and grey water re-use and other responsible water alternatives.

Small Water Systems Operation and Management – EOCP certification

SWS Operation and Management is a course that will enhance my abilities to effect change on the topic and issues surrounding water, a passion of mine.  Hopefully in the next several months after exams are over I will have earned the qualifications to install, operate and maintain water systems for populations under 1000 people.    The materials cover a wonderful broad range of skills from how to work a community through the process of creating an aquifer protection permit area, to pumps, wells, filtration and laboratory testing, and setting water rates.    A nice addition to my work surounding Rainwater harvesting, grey water and composting toilets.

Farm Water Management Seminar – free

Thanks to Tayler Krawczyk of Hatchet & Seed for inflicting the second learning opportunity.  A seminar on Small scale farm water management.  Tayler will be presenting two sessions covering his research work on keyline water  management  and the installation of irrigation ponds.   His ask of me… cover the topic on how to choose a pump for the small scale farm pond.  Small scale means in this case 60-70 gpm pumping, much different than the 27gpm rainwater systems.  I am happy to say the learning curve is looking much better than a pump curve.

The seminar is 4 sessions (noted below), is free and open to anyone.  All costs are covered by the BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative and the CRD.

Registration Link

9:00am – 11:00am – Keyline Water Management

Tayler Krawczyk, Hatchet & Seed and Sara Duncan, p.Ag.
About “Keyline Water Management Project”
Introduction to ‘Keyline Geometry’
Using contour maps for farm water planning (CRD WebMap Demo)
Keyline plowing to reduce compaction & manage water
Monitoring results to date – Sara Duncan, p. Ag.
Alternative drainage techniques for bottom-lands
Q & A

11:15am – 12:30pm – Irrigation Pond Design

Tayler Krawczyk, Hatchet & Seed
Review of regulations: water licensing (Water Sustainable Act) & Dam Safety Board regulations; municipal soil movement
Sizing the pond (irrigation, evaporation %, seepage, environmental reserves)
Using topographic maps
Siting (usage & catchment analysis)
Spillways and other design features
What to do with excess fill material?
Construction & earthmoving
Q & A

1:30pm – 2:45pm – Pumping from Your Farm Pond

Gord Baird – Eco-Sense, Highlands Councillor, CRD Water Commission Board Member
Tools for assessing your needs and sizing your pump; Basic components of a pond pump system; Advantages and limitations of solar pumping
Case studies: pump systems for drip and micro-spray; Q & A

3:00pm – 4:30pm – Greywater Re-Use & Other Methods of Conservation for Small-Scale Agriculture

Gord Baird, Eco-Sense, CRD Water Commission Board Member
Regulation; Design considerations; In practice; Q & A

Nursery Update:

Sales are by appointment only through the winter.  Special orders for the spring can be arranged.  Specialty grafting can be pre booked.  We’ll keep some of our postings up on Used Victoria as there are usually good gifts for that season coming up

Take care till next week… when Ann will have her rant on what gone wrong with the Environmental movement and the activists.

Gord   (and Ann if she sneaks in and edits after the fact).

A quick post


YES, we are open this Sunday (Oct 30th) from 10am- 2pm for sales of Perennial Edible plants.  3295 Compton road in the East Highlands.

Here’s our up to date plant list with most of our most popular plants IN STOCK.

Here’s some photos from yesterday.

 

Finally, The Nursery is Open


Last Sunday we closed our nursery in anticipation of the big storm…which never happened.  It was however a good practice run to think about how we would prepare for, and try to mitigate for, extreme rain and wind.  Very grateful that nothing much materialized.

We are all ready for this weeks open house for sales of perennial edible plants.

WHEN: Sunday Oct 23 from 10am-2pm
Sunday Oct 30 from 10am-2pm

WHERE: 3295 Compton road in the East Highlands

We are well stocked with all the hard to find food forestry edible perennial plants.  The whole idea of creating edible forest gardens or food forests is REALLY catching on.  People are doing it small scale in their yards, farms are creating larger landscapes of food forests, and municipalities are landscaping with edible perennials for beauty and function.

Check out this recent project with the City of Colwood that Eco-Sense has had the privilege of participating in.   http://www.colwood.ca/news-events/news/2016-10-06-000000/painter-trail-official-opening-celebrating-new-connections

Here’s the up to date list of plants available at Eco-Sense:  Plant List

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Council initiative of the week:
The entire council of Highlands is not supporting the CRD Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) update as it currently stands.  All municipalities in the region need to give it support in order for the document to come into legal effect.  The whole idea is for the region to collectively decide how and where to grow.  The fact is that people are moving to this region, and we need to plan responsibly for this.

The one final sticking point in the RGS is about using water servicing as a growth management tool.  Historically the RGS did have this tool, and the revised RGS is proposing to remove this tool to limit growth.  Initially there were many municipalities that were opposed to removing water servicing as a growth management tool as it would make it more difficult to control sprawl into forested areas a long ways out of town.  But now, only Highlands is saying no.  So Highlands may have to go this alone meaning forced mediation…and if that doesn’t work, then forced arbitration.  For all of this, Highlands would have to pay half of the legal cost.  This potential legal cost… this is a really BIG deal for such a tiny community to feel so strongly that we would hold up the entire region by not supporting the RGS.  The specifics as to the impacts seems to be lost on all the other municipalities sadly.

Gord and Ann have coined a new term for the RGS:  the Rapid Growth Strategy.

mary-lake-trail-2800_origMary Lake Park:  A group in the Highlands is working their butts off to try and buy a piece of land to turn into a park here in the Highlands.  This project is led by Bob McMinn, who at 92 seems unstoppable.  He has assembled a team of dedicated volunteers working to make this a reality.  This park land is simply amazing and would complete a 25km trail loop through the Highlands.  Check out their website and follow their progress.

See some of you on Sunday,

Ann and Gord

BC Storm – Nursery closed Sun Oct 16


A notice to all that we will be closed Sunday October 16th

Why?  Potentially the biggest storm to hit this part of the world, at least since 1962, with potentially 150kmh winds and lots of rain…enough rain to fill the pond for the first time EVER.  We will be open the following Sunday Oct 23rd from 10am-2pm.  People can also make private appointments to buy plants.  email gord@eco-sense.ca

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For DISTRICT OF HIGHLANDS Residents  PLEASE SEE BELOW

This is a quick note with some useful links to get info & share info for the storms for the next couple days.
PLEASE share with other Highlanders.

Ryan Hobbs the Highlands Emergency Co-ordinator has a twitter feed noted below, and has updated information on the Highlands District Website (also below).
Ann and Gord’s Twitter Feed Ann & Gord‏ @BairdEcoSense https://mobile.twitter.com/BairdEcoSense
Highlands Emergency Preparedness Twitter feed https://mobile.twitter.com/HighlandsEP
Highlands Fire Department Twitter feed https://mobile.twitter.com/HighlandsFire
Highlands Fire Rescue Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/HighlandsFireDept/?fref=ts
Highlands Sustainability Group Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/308466883984/

Things to think about:

  • Steep driveway:  Park a car at the bottom in case the rains wash the driveway out
  • Sand bags might be needed … Brock White in Langford has stock of thousands of polypropylene sand bags (unfilled)
  • Water purification…
    – boil 1 minute, or
    – Water Tabs, or
    – 3 drops of Lugol’s strong iodine per litre shake and let stand 30 minutes, or
    – 2 drops of Lugol’s strong iodine per litre and stand over night
  • Top up propane
  • Chainsaw:  ensure you have your oil/gas mix all ready, sharpen the saw, top up chain oil, and test the saw.
  • Check in with your neighbours

More detailed information found here at the DOH Emergency Response section ( http://highlands.bc.ca/183/Emergency-Preparedness )

Wish you all well

Ann and Gord

Too many Positives


dsc02639Yup, you read the title correctly… and that’s NOT just Ann ranting about positive feedback loops.  It has been a whirlwind of positive ripples over the past few months.

The one negative impact of all the positives is we only have 3 Open House Plant Sale days at Eco-Sense scheduled this fall…

  • Sunday October 9th   10am-2pm (Thanksgiving weekend)
  • Sunday October 16th 10am-2pm
  • Sunday October 23rd 10am-2pm
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Hardy Kiwi – Ann’s new favourite fruit

Farm Gate Sales of Perennial Edible Plants:  Same deal as last year.  If you are planning to buy plants, please drive up to the top and find a parking spot.  If you are not buying plants you are still most welcome to come and walk around our permaculture homestead but we ask that you park at the lower gate and walk up.  We also ask that you do not bring dogs as we have free ranging ducks.  Formal tours do not occur during our open house days as we stay close to the nursery, however we do enjoy conversations on anything from composting toilets to political rants and everything in-between as time permits.  Our annual gardens are still producing incredible abundance in their very chaotic fashion…we’ve been a wee bit busy lately, so hopefully we don’t lose anyone in the overgrown gardens.

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Attending our friends Tayler and Solara’s amazing  zero waste, local food potluck wedding set in spectacular gardens with their amazing friends and family.

Where to start… hmm maybe with point form:

  • BC Manual for Composting Toilets & Grey Water is live on the Province’s Septic and Sewage Regulation website.  Know what that means?  Yup you don’t have to have a septic system if you have a properly designed alternative.    The actual manual is here.  It is now legal to S**T in a bucket.
  • Ann’s push to have Deborah Harford of SFU ACT give a presentation to the CRD has been accepted and the CRD and the elected officials in the region will have an amazing opportunity.  Deborah will present to the CRD Forum of Councils – sharing critical information to bring our region up to speed on the science, the tools for mitigation and adaptation, and the deep shit we are in (Ann’s addition).    Ann was instrumental in this and I am proud of her. (Ann’s addition:  There were a few others (Councillor Vic Derman from Saanich and some CRD staff) pushing with me for this event.)  Way to go collaboration!
  • Painter Trail Food Forest Park.  Colwood has started planting their 1 acre Painter Trail food forest park.  We are very excited for the beauty and the food that this will create for Colwood for generations to come.  Way to go Colwood for leading the way. Photos just released from Colwood:  http://www.colwood.ca/news-events/news/2016-10-06-000000/painter-trail-official-opening-celebrating-new-connections

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    Squash and Grapes in a food forest – Summer abundance

  • House Performance.  The house is performing exceptionally well.   We have gone 8 months without added heat inputs from a fire.  The sun provides for our needs. Last fire we had was the 1st week of February 2016.  All of this accomplished in a hand built MUD house made without toxic building materials.  Way to go MUD! (Modern Utopian Dwelling)
  • UBCM (Union of BC Municipalities) is an annual event where all elected officials in communities across BC gather to vote on policy resolutions we collectively want to endorse as united local governments.  We also have the opportunity to meet provincial ministers and discuss issues.  Unfortunately we are also subjected to political propaganda.  Ann and Gord’s council reports will be available and linked below when they are live on the District of Highlands website.
    • Rainwater Harvesting was discussed in a meeting with District of Highlands and  Minister of Environment Mary Polak in regard to MOE pushing the policy forward – Minister Polak is on it.

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      Guess what this is?

    • Rainwater for Potable Use.  After the results of a resolution on rain harvesting as potable water source was passed, discussions and connections between Gord and Manager of Watershed Stewardship (MoFLNRO), and Island Health ensued and it is looking like a draft policy may soon get started and offered to the Province as starting guidelines.
    • Municipal Natural Assets – Ann engaged the panel group that presented on Municipal Natural Asset Initiative (The town of Gibsons is leading the way), and they have requested the Highlands sustainability appraisal form to see if it fits in their search for finding a tool to encorporate multiple forms of capital.  Also it looks as though they may be in interested in Highlands becoming one of the pilot projects to included natural assets as municipal infrastructure.  Natural assets include: ground water aquifers; streams and wetlands for storm water management; forests and soils for cleaning the air and sequestering carbon; etc.  Highlands Appraisal form here (2 pages):    Way to go Highlands!
    • Safe Soil resolution passed.  Gord co-presented at the Provincial Policy Session on Soil Movement alongside some pretty amazing provincial staff including MoCSCD’s Manager of Policy and Legislation, MOE’s Sr. Contaminated Sites Officer, the MOE’s Wildlife Conservation Specialist, MOTI’s Environmental Roadside Manager, and Saanich’s Environmental Education Officer.  An honour.  Way to go Gord!
    • UBCM Resolutions.  There were close to 200 and many were very exciting…for us nerdy policy types.  Here’s a few:  Professional Reliance Model, Protection of Old Growth on Vancouver Island, Rainwater for Potable Use, Take Site C to the Utilities Commission, Safe Soils (to control invasive species), Affordable student housing, First Nations invited to participate at UBCM, Higher fees for bylaw enforcement, Local Improvement charges to finance green energy, Watershed protection, Mines Act permit notification, etc.  Way to go BC Communities!
    • Ann’s council report detailing her rants and personal experience at UBCM…it’s a bit edgy.  Here    Gord can attest to Ann’s rants.  They normally occur at regular intervals  for extended periods of time… but for the first time Gord actually measured the length of one of her rants – the length was 22.5 kms – the distance from the the Victoria Conference Centre to home.  Needless to say, Gord couldn’t drive quick enough!
    • Gord’s council report detailing his week at UBCM.  Here

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      Sweet potatoes growing on the roof between the Solar PV and Solar Thermal.

  • Essential Composting Toilet Systems.  Ann and I have been asked to write the “Essential Composting Toilet Systems” a how-to book by New Society Publishers.
  • The Pond is now holding water… lots of water.  Ducks are happy.  Thanks to our friends Ingo, Tayler and Shawn for helping put the membrane in.  Way to go Friends!
  • Fall plant shipments will be arriving Friday October 7th, re-supplying the goumis, mulberries, autumn olives, aronia, hazelnuts and more that we ran out of.
    • Blight Resistant Hazelnuts… after waiting on the list for two years, our order has come through – kinda wish we had ordered more than 100 though.
    • Pond Plants.  We now have a pond and therefore we can now supply and sell pond plants.  dsc02546
  • FOOD.  We mostly did our own food while at the convention and either took our own lunch or ate at Nourish where they prepare simple but very yummy real food with many local and organic ingredients. First time in 2 years for Ann eating out.   Way to go Nourish!
  • SPECIAL THANKS to our 6 week house mates, who fed the dog, put the chickens away, collected eggs and most of all helped dispose of zucchini.  This helped make our week at UBCM a little easier.   Our house mates needed a short term place to stay as they wait to move into their home after moving to Victoria from Vancouver.  Lindsay works for the David Suzuki Foundation…she’s the Queen of Green…so this is a good fit for us here at Eco-Sense.  Check out her blog:  http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/queen-of-green/
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Gord helping out in the kitchen, complete with drill for making kebobs – in his stylish manpron (man apron). And yes that is a mink pelt hand towel hanging at his waist.

Ok, that’s it for this week.  Hope to see some of you on Sunday from 10am-2pm.

Gord and Ann

Concrete Curvy beds – Are these Green?


STAYING HOME.  We have decided to go on holiday, and like the majority of people in our culture, we decided to have a carbon footprint to add to our holiday joy.    We thought about a plane trip somewhere wonderful… but there was no place to go that was as beautiful as our own home.  We thought of a tent camping trip through the Rockies, but the last time we did that we saw slopes of climate ravaged dead pine and way too many luxury RVs.  So we figured out a way to play the carbon footprint game right here at home.  A way we could do our part to feel like one of the gang.

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View to zone 1 from front door.

Bring on the CONCRETE (and sarcasm).  We decided to make raised garden beds at the front of the house, and we chose to use the highest carbon footprint construction material we could get our hands on.  Woohoo!  After all, if you are going to pump greenhouse gases into the air, you might as well do it right the first time.    So we thought we would skip the cedar  and move right into the concrete.   The carbon emitted from the concrete industry is like putting the atmosphere on crack(ed) and fracked greenhouse gas.

Cedar as option 1.  Our first option was wooden beds.  Not fancy, but O’NATURAL.  It seems more eco… (and usually is).  Based on our experience, we would have to replace the beds every 6 years or so, and there was concern over disturbing the perennials we had planned on planting – olive, persimmon, tumeric, lemon, and ginger.  We also thought about getting older and having to rebuild it too many times over our short lives.  We thought cedar would be a lower carbon footprint… but dammit, we wanted permanence and concrete.

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Ann contemplating the carbon footprint.

This is what we found when Gord put his nerdy hat on.  Basing our calculations on 240 board feet of red cedar, that pre-milled comes in at a weight (based on 12% moisture) of approx 453 kg, with a carbon footprint of 0.119 kg/kg,  means the beds would account for 54.74 kg of ghg equivalents (GHGe).   This does not include nails, metal brackets, or anchors that would be required to assemble and anchor it to the ground – add in 5 kg of metal at a multiplier of 4.0 kg and you can add another 20 kg of GHGe for a one time total of 74.74 kg GHGe.    Now, based on replacing them every 6 years (from experience with our other beds), we would expect to go through 6 replacement cycles over our life span  (Gord being 83).    This equates to 448 kg of GHGe attached with the front beds over time.     This does not account for the time and effort it takes to remove the plants that have been established, rebuild the beds, and replant – consuming probably 4 – 5 days of labour each time.  (and the extra beer consumed).  There is one additional caveat to this calculation as most embodied GHGe equations addressing wood carbon footprint do not include the carbon sequestered in the wood – for every m3 of cedar there is 632 kg of carbon stored… that is released upon decay.  In our above scenario we are dealing with 0.566 m3 (357 kg of carbon) which could be assumed to release 20% of its store every 6 years  (357 X 20% X 6 = 428 kg of carbon over its life span).  The real number of the GHGe over its lifespan could be closer to 876 kg.  CEDAR OPTION = 0.876 tonnes of GHG’s

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Homemade lime “el fresco” paint made with earth pigments

Concrete.  Ann and I are not fond of concrete strictly due to its impact on the environment.   With our evil Dr. Evil hats on our head, it would seem logical that concrete may be the easiest for us yet the worst environmental solution.

We used 341 kg of portland cement at a carbon footprint of 272 kg of GHGe.  Add 40 kg of metal lath and steel rod (combined) with a GHGe of 160kg, and the sand 2267 kg which has a GHGe of approx 5 kg, and the total GHGe would be 436 kg.  CONCRETE OPTION = 0.436 tonnes of GHG’s

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Beauty and function to last a LONG time…just like the cob house.

And the WINNER IS CONCRETE.  So over a period of 36 years, between the two options, the option with a lower initial carbon footprint and the one with the larger, get flipped on their head.  Where they differ is that the beds of concrete will continue to produce food past our life time, and hence will have been a better carbon investment.  The concrete also adds to the thermal mass to create a micro climate on the south wall of the cob house – thus we can grow turmeric, ginger, olives, lemons, and MORE WINTER VEGGIES.

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Gord contemplating his carbon footprint.

We are not justifying the use of concrete in no way, as concrete used to an excess without care, and without a long term vision is a frivilous waste of carbon.  This is so clearly prevalent when we look to its use in the various bridges and buildings built with life spans of 30-40 years (BC Place Stadium; bridges crumbling in Quebec), monster homes, and much of the indulgent infrastructure in our civilzation.  Excess use is not the point I am driving home, but instead conscientious use… appropriate technology for the job.

DSC02524OUR CARBON FOOTPRINT.  We have had many discussions over the years of what it would take for us to further reduce our personal carbon footprint (which is between 3-4 tonnes each.  Canadian average is about 20 tonnes).  We would have to give up technology (like computers, pumps, solar panels, etc); household appliances (like washing machine, propane stove, etc); workshop tools like table saw, drills, mitre saws, planer, sander, grinder, etc), and of course our farm truck and diesel smart car and COFFEE.  OMG…not the coffee.   All of this would mean we would no longer be able to be a farm selling perennial edible permaculture plants, we could not be on muncipal council without a car or computer and especially the  coffee, and we could not even clean the public composting toilet (as we bring the humanure here in the truck to compost).    So in summary, we are just as trapped in this civilization as as everyone else (which is why the SYSTEM needs to change).  So, we continue on growing most of our food, helping others grow food, give our tours, teach, consult about better ecological design, and bring many new conversations to the council table as we help to set local and greener policies to impact as much as we possibly can.

DSC02517So maybe we failed; maybe we impacted the climate; maybe we created awareness?  We don’t know.  Maybe next time we’ll choose the option thatpromotes the clear cut of old growth cedar to achieve our mischievous deeds.  Or maybe grow some black locust which lasts much longer than cedar and grows faster AND it feeds the soil with nitrogen…but alas, black locust is invasive.  Always pros and cons.

Resources Gord used to make these calculations:

https://fpinnovations.ca/ResearchProgram/environment-sustainability/epd-program/Documents/western-red-cedar-lumber.pdf
http://www.co2list.org/files/carbon.htm
http://www.vtt.fi/inf/pdf/technology/2013/T115.pdf
http://www.sustainableaggregates.com/sourcesofaggregates/landbased/carbon/carbon_energy_use.htm
http://www.translatorscafe.com/cafe/EN/units-converter/volume-lumber/4-1/
http://www.naturallywood.com/sites/default/files/UK-Carbon-Footprint-Factsheet.pdf

PS:   We did consider stone, and did not include this in the update.  The use of it would actually involve about similar concrete usage in the creation of the foundation and the mortar.     YOUTUBE videos of the process   Part 1   and Part 2.

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We co-created an abundant, biologically diverse, and beautiful home that is a “being in place”.

Regenerative Design: Food, Water, Energy, and Lifestyle


Free Time?

It has been a couple weeks since we closed the nursery for the season and some may wonder “what will Ann and Gord do with all that free time”?    Well, it allows us to focus on another aspect of what we love to do.  These past three weeks our time has been focused on some really wonderful projects within the region that draw upon our knowledge and passion around water systems, policy, food systems, and teaching.  Hmmm… where to begin?

Food Systems as Parkland

We are working with a local municipality to assist them in the creation of a park; a 1 acre fully planted food forest with integrated systems.   This public park addresses public accessibility, food producing perennial plants, water systems, education, beauty, carbon sequestration, habitat creation, and food security, to establish what we consider to be the first regional park that FULLY incorporates permaculture at a large scale.

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Artist Rendition – Conceptual Food Forest Park

Potentially  systems will incorporate storm water runnoff from roads  into large scale hugelkulture beds, dry planting zones, deer control methods from fencing to planting, living fences, high school student and community involvement, and education – just some of the areas covered in this project.  Diverting cars off roads by having a park and trail systems that are a more direct route to commercial areas, and thus drawing pedestrians and cyclists through the food forest and off the roads, as well as providing a park space for a new potential small scale community focused commercial development, all the while sequestering carbon in the landscape.   What am I missing… oh yes, about 1/3 of the municipal staff from planning, engineering, parks, public works, have dropped in here at Eco-Sense, and are seeing the concept  of INTERCONNECTED SYSTEMS as applied to food, water, energy, lifestyle… and some of our poor humour… and everything  else.    What an inspiring project to be asked to participate in.

High points of the municipal tours:

  • Engineers on each tour looking at Gord’s outside tables, checking the stability and then getting down to see how it is anchored to the ground
  • watching heads shake in disbelief while discussing the top-up of water cisterns using the cold well water diverting first through the house hydronic system, then to the cisterns to achieve air conditioning as part of irrigating crops.
  • watching the same heads shake in disbelief learning about the solar hot water heat dump used in food dehydration.
  • seeing staff that had already been through the day before, coming by again the second day, and enjoying plums off the trees at the end of June.
  • being asked if we would be willing to have some of their staff participate in creating the raised concrete curvy beds…  when we do our next batch in the next few weeks.DSC00515
  • finishing the last of two tours, on a day before the long weekend and getting another email at 3:59 pm to schedule one more tour for Mayor, some Council and more staff.
  • It is a pleasure to see an integrated  and cohesive group, and I keep meaning to compare their efforts of making a municipality run to how soil organisms make the plants grow.

Rainwater as Emergency Potable Water

Another local government has also engaged the services of Eco-Sense  in an effort to complete their existing but poorly functioning rainwater harvesting system and make it potable.  This would seem to be a fairly strait forward task ensuring that you store the water clean and then properly treat it to a potable water standard.    However, the initial design followed the  “silo effect” wherein it had been nicely done by an engineer, but without the understanding  of the bigger picture usage patterns and needs.

Rainwater Collection

Designing systems that are appropriate effective and resilient… as in  natural systems

This project was designed as post disaster assembly centre to serve many people where a UV system was installed to meet the potential demand of water flow for this rare situation.  The reality is that the office’s daily use is so vastly less that they can not create enough water flow to keep the UV sterilizers cool, causing the UV system to overheat and dump the water.   Consequently, the water is lost, water that is presently trucked in.    Not an efficient or resilient system.   In addition the system at 10,000  gallons (1/2 potable & 1/2 non-potable) is used to flush toilets and urinals – so in event of an emergency assembly during a disaster, the water would run out in a couple days as it would be consumed by flushing.  The foresight in planning has been exceptionally good by these folks, and again I am very pleased to even have the chance to watch how they continue to care for the community they serve.

The goal for this system:  Create a system where rainwater can be harvested, robustly pre-filtered and stored clean, reducing the need for trucked water, and during an emergency, water usage is diverted away from non-potable uses (flushing toilets) and treated for more pressing needs.  Perhaps composting toilets will be utilized as part of the emergency plan?

BC Ministry of Health (MOH) Manual of Composting Toilet and Grey Water Systems

Back in April the draft document was posted for public review.  Thank you to all that read the 135 pages of policy.  Ian Ralston took that information, updated the manual and presented the final draft to MOH.   Two weeks ago the MOH signed off on the document and we are just awaiting the legislation.    I am pleased to say that some of the requirements have been softened and are more in line with the science.

Aquifer Protection Development Permit Areas (DPA)

As a council here in the District of Highlands, we have been very concerned about protection of ground water quality and quantity.  Most Highlands residents use ground water from individual water wells.  Prior councils engaged a consultant several years ago to study our aquifers and report on their health and the impacts of climate change; the current council engaged the UVic Environmental Law Centre (ELC) to review the ground water reports, our municipal policies, and the new BC Water Sustainability Act; then we had our amazing Highlands Select Committees look at everything and make recommendations.

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Learning the Local Government Act

Now the next stage is to summarize the input and *hopefully* create a Development Permit Area that ensures that any land use must safegaurd the ground water, that contaminants do not flow into aquifers, and that all neighbouring properties to new developments have no negative impacts on their quality and quantity of ground water.  Gord is writing up a draft for Highlands council to consider and hopefully Highlands sets an Aquifer Protection DPA policy to fit community values. Potential failure?  Always a potential…especially as climate change is moving so much faster.

How fast is the Climate Changing?    Vic Derman, a long time Saanich Councillor and the Chair of the CRD Environmental Services Committee, wrote a report on climate change    that he presented 2 weeks ago.  Watch the video section starting at 5.4.  CRD Video

Rationale: In January 2016, CRD Board Chair Barb Desjardins asked the Environment Committee to provide a report detailing how the region should respond to climate change. The Board Chair’s request is opportune. Recent evidence suggests that climate change is accelerating and poses an ever growing, potentially critical, threat to human society and all species on our planet. Only three 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 the West Antarctic ice sheet revealed deterioration at a much more rapid pace than expected causing researchers to suggest sea level rise of 2 metres by century’s end. A subsequent review of this data by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a U.S. governmental agency in the Department of Commerce, concluded that a near 3 metre rise could be expected, quite possibly by 2050 – 2060 as described in the following quote:
“. . . In a presentation at the Risk Management Society’s RIMS 2016 conference in San Diego April 12, a top scientific official with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that recent, as-yet-unpublished data from Antarctica suggests that sea levels could rise three meters — almost ten feet — by the middle of the century. Margaret Davidson, NOAA’s senior advisor for coastal inundation and resilience science and services, told conference attendees that “the latest field data out of West Antarctic is kind of an OMG thing.” Davidson said that data shows sea level rise could reach three meters by 2050 or 2060, a much steeper rise happening far sooner than even the most catastrophic scenarios currently available in peer-reviewed journals and the far more conservative estimates published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That steep a rise in sea level would put significant parts of many California cities underwater in just two or three decades. . . .”
These projections have yet to be fully reviewed and accepted by the broader scientific community. Nevertheless, if correct, they suggest a catastrophic outcome if serious mitigation does not occur very quickly. Severe environmental damage would almost certainly result. Equally alarming are the potential fiscal and social impacts. A three metre rise would eliminate, or put at severe risk, hundreds of trillion dollars of assets. Protecting them would be extremely expensive if it were possible at all. Meanwhile, society would likely face hundreds of millions of “sea rise refugees” as low lying coastal areas were inundated or became otherwise unlivable. Another metric is equally alarming. Delegates at the recent Paris conference on climate change agreed that society cannot exceed an absolute maximum of 2 degrees Celsius (C) warming without risking run away climate change. However, the conference also agreed that keeping warming to 1.5 degrees C would better limit damage and provide a much greater margin of safety. Subsequently, a researcher at Concordia University created a “climate change clock” to indicate when these targets might be reached. His answer: Without a substantial increase in efforts to mitigate, 1.5 C will be reached in about 15 years (2031) with 2.0 degrees being reached in about 26 years (2042). These dates suggest very short time lines to accomplish the paradigm shift that all communities, including our own, may well face. To date, our responses to global warming could best be characterized as incremental and slow. Given the likelihood we are facing an increasingly urgent crisis, we must consider the need for an immediate and much more massive response.”
Here is a link worth checking out…it includes a short email between Margaret Davidson and Eric Rignot.  https://climatecrocks.com/2016/04/21/caution-new-sea-level-story-may-be-a-step-too-far/

So as nursery season closes, and Ann and I become bored with all our extra time (HaHa), desiccated by drought and loneliness from the closed nursery, we put on our other hats and dive into activities that wet our whistles and fill our vessels.

 

 

The End of the Spring Season *SALE*


This Saturday June 11, 2016 marks the end of our spring season for sales of perennial edible plants.  As most people know, the summer is not the best time to put perennial plants into the ground (unless they are babied in the warmer weather).

DSC02437Our farm business continues to be viable…financially, socially, and personally.  This marks the end of our third spring season, with sales rising every year.  Thank you everyone!  As noted the financial piece is only one way that we measure success.  Yes, our farm is financially viable, but just as important to us is that we make our permaculture homestead open to everyone to come by and visit and to simply look around on these nursery open house days.  People seem to really enjoy themselves and this makes us happy.  The final piece for us is that we enjoy the people that come to visit and the ensuing conversations about plants, life, philosophy and technical topics.  So it is with sadness that the spring season is ending, (Gord’s input – and excitement to be able to sleep in…)  however the fall season is only a few months away.

DSC02209Even though we are closed for the nursery in the summer we do make private bookings for plant sales ALL YEAR round for people who cannot make it to the scheduled Nursery hours.  But please note that these private nursery bookings are for the nursery only and not for free private tours.  If you would like to book a paid private tour over the summer, please send an email to ann@eco-sense.ca.  Two hour tours start at $200 for small groups of 1-5 people and go up to $275 for 20 people.

THIS WEEK AT THE NURSERY we have discounts on select plants…see below for items:  plant list here  (All prices include GST and Note: no credit cards – only cash, cheque, or on the spot email transfer)

TOONIES

  • Small strawberry plants…everbearing WITH strawberries…only $2 for a 4′ pot
  • some OCA plants left $2
  • Pepper and tomato and tomatillo plants – our extras in 4″ pots are for sale only $2 each.
  • Small comfrey (nibbled on by ducks).  $2

TENS (in 1 gallon pots)

  • grapes – various varieties
  • small Figs – Desert Kings
  • Thornless Blackberries
  • Hops in 1 gallon pots
  • Small Josta Berry
  • Russian Olive (not an olive – berry producing nitrogen fixing tree)
  • Echinacea – purple cone flower

     

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Last years OCA patch – looks like clover.  The tubers are harvesting late in the fall – our favourite tuber.

TWENTIES (in 1 gallon pots)

  • Alaskan Blueberries
  • Dwarf Cherries (Valentin, Romeo, Juliet, cupid)
  • Small Goji (Firecracker and Dynamite)

We also have:  See our plant list here

  • a new batch of hard to find sweet potato slips for sale ($4 per slip).  Note that these amazing sweet tubers do extremely well in our climate but do require being grown in a very hot environment.  We grow them in a raised mound under a poly tunnel.  Our tubers have kept easily all through the winter.  This is the perfect time to plant them out.
  • A large variety of large fruit trees and some with fruit on them.  Many varieties of pears, plums, cherries, apples, apricots, almonds, FIGS, quince, paw paws, etc.
  • A large variety of berry bushes and some with fruit.  Currants (red, black, pink, white), Sea berries (seabuckthorn), goji’s, gooseberries, elderberries, saskatoons, haskaps (honey berries),  Josta berries, and more.
  • A large variety of vining fruit like thornless black berries, logan berries, kiwi’s (hardy, arctic, and fuzzy), grapes, etc.
  • Nuts:  Walnuts, pecans, almonds, chestnuts, yellow horn, etc.  Our new batch of blight resistant Hazelnuts is expected this fall (we ordered them 2 years ago).

The end of the spring season also brings a bit more time to our lives.  Add this to a reduced meeting schedule for July and August for our council duties and we will finally have time to get some incomplete projects done around the farmstead. (Ann’s input – No Gord … that means there is no sleeping in!)

Tour and Presentation season:  Starting this evening (June 8th) presentations start to ramp up with Gord’s presentation on all things water in East Sooke, then the Victoria Master Gardners’ tour on Sunday, Camosun Trade and Technical groups Monday and Tuesday… and later on the BCFTA (BC Fruit Testers Association).

Kudos to the RDN:  The RDN has created an “Aquifer Protection DPA” which set stringent requirements for both subdivisions and residential building.  LINK.  No subdivision or development activities may occur within the DPA without first obtaining a Development Permit from the RDN
SUBDIVISIONS:

  • must asses aquifer characteristics at the most stressed time of the year including cross sectional analysis of the aquifer;
  • perform a 72 hr pump down test;
  • assess ability of the aquifer to provide a sustainable water supply without impacting adjacent rural properties 
or agricultural activities;
  • identify recharge locations

RESIDENTIAL – All new dwelling units must include an external rainwater harvesting system which includes the following:

  • external equipment for collecting and distributing rainwater from the dwelling
    unit roof;
  • a storage tank(s) with a minimum storage capacity of 18,000 litres which is
    designed for rainwater collection and is rated for potable use;
  • a pumping system, an overflow handling system; and, the ability for future connection to the dwelling unit.

Thanks for reading and hope to see some of you on Saturday.

Ann and Gord

 

 

Building for Climate Change


Feeling grateful for the rain this week.  Our soils, with their abundant organic materials are soaking it up and holding onto it.  Anyone still interested in buying some perennial edible plants?  This milder wetter weather is still good for getting a few more perennial plants into the ground.  Come on out to Eco-Sense on Saturday June 4th from 10am – 2pm.  3295 compton road.  As sales have slowed down, we are thinking of this as being the second to last open house.

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The start of MUD house building

For those paying attention to climate change, the news is filled with no end of horrors for people and the planet which can be really tough to process, but on a more positive spin, we are very pleased with the performance of our cob home.  The two foot thick load bearing cob walls made out of MUD (Modern Utopian Dwelling), are performing exceptionally well in our warmer climate (as are our olives, almonds, lemons, ginger and apricots).  Not only are our walls engineered for earthquakes, but they are fireproof, and keep out the sounds of howling gales.  This house does not shake in a wind storm.  But even better than all of that is it has now been 3 months since we had our last fire in the wood gasifier, and even back in mid February, we were only having occasional fires to supplement the solar hot water.  In our home, we use solar hot water both for domestic use (showers and sinks), and also to heat the home through warm water pumped though pipes in the earthen floors.  We have had enough solar hot water production to provide for all of our hot water and heating requirements.  This of course supplements the passive solar heating we gain from building our cob home in the sun and our efficient building design.

Gord and solar HW

Gord teaching about Solar Hot Water

Some of our friends may remember that research study we did back in 2010/2011 with a grant from Vancity and the Real Estate Foundation.  We had all kinds of sensors in the walls and data loggers to monitor wall performance and energy use for one full calendar year.  It was the year when high tech met low tech to show how and why cob buildings can last for many centuries and how they perform from an energy perspective.

 

 

Energy Composition

Energy graph would be very different this year (black= solar PV; Blue = solar thermal; Red = wood)

Our home performed exceptionally well that year even though it technically has an r-value of only R-24 (now much higher).  This research was performed in a year that had unusually low solar insolation (9% LESS SUNLIGHT in a 12 month period than average – which mostly occurred in the shoulder seasons – Spring and Fall).  Here are the links to two of the research reports.   Eco-Sense and the future of Green Building – Affordable, Sustainable Homes  and the technical information with lots of graphs

 

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Eco-Hut – plant sales office and example of off-grid tiny home made with recycled materials, earthen plasters and finishing, blown in cellulose.

This all brings us to a new video series just released a couple days ago.  Four short mini documentaries on Earthen Architecture…it’s very well done, but we think they could also have included a fifth episode on earthen infill methods like “light clay” and cellulose (like our Eco-Hut).

Here’s the links to the videos.  Eco-Sense features in part one on Cob, and we have the last say at the end of episode 4.  Very inspiring videos.  https://groundworkseries.com

Here’s some quotes from others:

Pat Hennebury from Cob works referring to living in a cob house – “It’s like living in a hug”.

Meror Krayenhoff, SIREWALL rammed earth builder – “We’re willing to jog for cancer, but we’re going to paint our houses with carcinogenic paint. I’d like to think most people wouldn’t make those decisions if they knew all the toxic materials that are in their buildings, and the short life spans. Why don’t we have a building code that all houses must be healthy; no carcinogens, no pthalates, has to last 200 years (min.) and be net zero energy. If we could get all the housing in Canada to be net zero and have to last for 100s of years, we’d be so far ahead of every other nation. I would assert that the logical, reasonable way forward in dealing with cancer is to address the cause, not the symptom.”

Tweaking:  As noted above, the insulative value of the house is much higher now, as we took data from our research and plugged the weak spots.  Hence the north wall was studded out and blown cellulose applied turning the otherwise R-8 wall into R-40.  Without testing, we suspect we now run at an effective R-30 for the whole house as a unit.

Another tweak, in the effort to just be nerds, was to figure how to cool the house in summer.  During irrigation season our rain water storage gets used up, and we then slowly top up our irrigation tanks from the well.  The well water is about 6-7 C.  As we designed our hydronics to handle an open loop (choosing appropriate pumps and materials that don’t oxidize), we flush out the hydronics at the start of the season,and re-route the irrigation top-up.   Each evening the well top up has to run through the earthen floors enroute to the storage cisterns, thus cooling the house.  Precautions  in place with proper double check valves.  If we were to re-design the house, we would have installed a parallel set of potable water tubing alongside the hydronic tubing when we installed the floors.

Baird council initiative of the week:  Where to begin…lots going on.

Ann:  To read Ann’s update to Highlands council on these topics click here:

  • Attended the CRD Climate Action Inter-Municipal Steering committee.  Lots of discussion on sea level rise and I discussed the presentation to Highlands council by Deborah Harford (Executive director of SFU’s ACT – Adaptation to Climate Change Team) – Other municipalities are also looking into having a similar presentation.
  • Private meeting with the new executive director for SIPP (South Island Prosperity Project) and a new board member to discuss Highlands perspectives of what we would like to see for economic development in the region.

Council Failure of the week:  Nothing this week… and like the last time this happened, we noted were were not trying hard enough.

Update on Broom composting project for our community:  As readers may be aware, we initiated a project to take broom and gorse collected from the Highlands Broom bash, where volunteers clip the broom in bloom, bring it back to the Community  Hall site, chip it (with thanks to Colin O’Hare and his company Sky View Tree Care).    After chipping, we allow to sit for two months, then bring in a little horse manure and do what we do best… stir the Sh*t.   Four months later we have the most amazing spongy and moist material we have ever come across.

 

The final intended use of this material is for the community gardens that will be developed on this same site in about 1 years time.  That is full circle, taking an invasive species that is one of our largest fuel sources for wildfire, that when harvested and composted is a huge source of potassium and phosphorous, and a major moisture retention media, and using it to grow food for the community.  That’s more than just Fire Smart.  What a way to end an update.

All the best,   Ann and Gord

Working on the Front Yard


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We are finishing off zone 1:  For those not familiar with permaculture zones, zone 1 refers to the growing and living area just outside our doors and closest to our homes.  This is prime real estate for beauty and function.  (Gord almost meets these criteria, therefore he is only a transient part of zone 1 for a few weeks).    We have already utilized most of this area over the last 10 years, but the final piece is the area in front of the cob house between the two front doors that used to be occupied by an enormous and dangerous rose bush.  This area gets smoking HOT in the summer and even gets full sun in the winter.  Absolutely ideal for creating micro climates for perennial and annual plants that like it hot and also like winter protection AND for growing winter greens.  We spend the most of our ‘relaxing’ time in zone 1, so it makes sense to create more beauty and food to nourish our bodies and our minds.

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Remove the rose bush and dismant the rock work around the well.  Build a proper well cover and build a sitting bench to shade and protect propane tanks and also contain winterized irrigation connections.  Then we can design and build new raised curvy beds.

Nursery: Open from 10am – 2pm SATURDAY May 28th.  3295 Compton Road.  Email for private appointment.  (gord@eco-sense.ca or ann@eco-sense.ca)

Great deals on small items:

  • We have potted strawberries ($2)
  • Oca plants ($3)
  • Asparagus (singles in 1 gal pots – $3)
  • A few HEALTHY heritage tomato plants (1 gal pots – $5 and 4″ pots – $3)
  • Pepper plants (4″ pots $3 – 4 types)

Sale Items:

  • NATIVE PLANTS ON SALE FOR THE REST OF THE SPRING SEASON:  30% off
    • Labrador Tea, Sweet Gale, Alaskan Blueberry, Alder, Willow, Garry Oak, Maple, Oregon Grape, Lingon Berry, Nodding Onion, Salmon Berry, Yarrow.
  • 10% off of select plants  – Comfey, Grapes, Sweet Grass and others – for the rest of the Spring season (this means less plants for us to look after all summer).

Eco-Sense Video of the Week:  School of Permaculture filmed Gord last summer showing how we dry food with water.  Here’s the 3 minute video:  

DSC00513Eco-Sense Photo from the Past:
Building our first Curvy Bed

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Lemon tree covered with new blossoms.  Curvey Beds at front of house create amazing micro climates.

Gord’s thoughts and rants: He’s tired of people that get labeled environmentalists!

It is clear there are only two groups of people out there in the  “real” world. The “Forces of No, leaf licking, socialist, environmentalist types”, and the rest of the sane world.

When CBC reports on this pipeline or that dam, and those who are against it, they unconditionally ALWAYS regard those who oppose it as environmentalists. My question is who are those environmentalists?  Who are the real people who oppose mines, dams, pipelines, and toxic crap?

If you are a Mom and your groundwater  fed kitchen tap now catches fire and your kids can’t drink it due to fracking… does it make you an environmentalist to oppose the fracking industry?

If you are a farmer and your best fields are about to be flooded, and you oppose a dam… does that make you an environmentalist?

If you are a forester and your working window is curtailed due to earlier closures in the season, and for longer periods, and you have concerns of the climate impacting your living… does that make you an environmentalist?

If you pull your drinking water from the ground and

  • the neighbouring golf course uses glyphosate and fertilizers and makes your water no longer safe… does that count?
  • The province allows a toxic mine in your water shed and risks your drinking water… does that count?

What if your culture, your community, or those who have relied on shellfish, can no longer harvest because of sewage outfall… oil spill… mine tailing contamination… ocean acidification and soft shells, does your opposition make you an environmentalist?

What if you are a researcher and are studying mass extinction and species collapse… or you live on low lying islands that are being hammered by storms and swallowed by the seas… or a farmer that has not seen rain in four years, does that make you an environmentalist?

Please explain, as obviously I do not understand. This past week in the news we have seen the media report on the Kinder Morgan approval, and watched Brad Wall (premier of Saskatchewan), apparently dismiss the same science he relies on for his communications, transportation, and health care. Those damn environmentalists… those damn “Forces of NO”.  For reference, Brad Wall referred to climate science as “some misguided dogma that has no basis in reality.”

Here is an excerpt from a person on Facebook to Gord in reference to the discussion on Brad Wall’s throne speech. The response placed in context was a person who spent two years to get the OK and funding to build an outside public flush toilet, and had a single conversation with Brad Wall, and thus confirmed without a shadow of a doubt that Mr. Wall was a nice person and I should just send him a letter stating my concern. (WARNING… foul language).   (Paul from Duncan): “You live in your world while the rest of us live in the real world stop your whining and complaining and do something about it it took me 2 years and I got something done instead of living in the stone age welfare socialism selfserving crap you enjoy because of the world you don’t like kiss my hard working tax paying ass.”

Why does our culture simplify the issue into Us and Them… the real world folks and then the  “environmentalists” (or otherwise Moms and Dads, foresters, farmers, First Nations, scientists, fisherman, neighbours).  To the CBC: Why run from the complexity, why not actually take your responsibility as a public media source and properly and clearly frame the issue rather than be lazy and dumb it down?

Next time you hear the news report on something and refer to the environmentalists… think about that…think about what that really means.  How about every time you hear the word “environmentalists”, just substitute the word “people” and see what happens.

Gord and Ann