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

 

Where’s the rain?


DSC02433We miss you rain.  This spring has been record breaking dry…and record breaking warm…and record breaking fires…and record breaking loss of arctic ice…and record breaking CO2…and record breaking stupid (The throne speech in Saskatchewan comes to mind).   Please come rain, and wash away our records… wash away our tears.

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Honey bee enjoying a lemon blossom

However, in spite of all the heartbreaking negative news, we carry on doing what we do and finding our sense of humour with how ridiculous the world is becoming…like Gord coming home from the hardware store and posting this on Facebook:  I walked into Rona yesterday and turned to my right to see pallets (4 or more) full of spray bottles of Roundup stacked and advertised like junk food at the check out. The sheer enormity of the volume of poison I was walking past made me shudder and I verbally swore “fuck” and shook my head… I am sure the person beside me thought I was nuts.  Just another example of human beings exterminating themselves with known carcinogens.
Anyways, here’s what we have been up to:

  • DSC02421new projects in the garden and on the land (photos below)
  • Saturday open house for sales of perennial edible plants.  WOW, are we ever meeting some amazing people that are coming out to visit and buy some plants.
    • Sat May 21, 2016 from 10am -2pm.  3295 Compton Road, East Highlands, Victoria.  
  • Gardening: Planting, weeding, mulching, watering, picking, drying, and EATING
    • celebrating our local food with every tasty mouthful.
  • Chickens and Ducks and 5 chicks and 1 duckling
  • Council meetings, committee meetings, and more meetings.
  • Tours and consulting
  • Ranting on Facebook and sharing information

DSC02437We are grateful to our land and feel so incredibly lucky to share this land with all the birds, and insects, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, plants and fungi…but we could do without all those ticks.  We are also grateful for our smiling dog Nina…yes this is a smile…she always gives us a toothy grin when happy.

Newest project:  Gord has built a cover over our cob seating area with the cob oven.  We will be making this seating area smaller and cozier with a roof to protect from the sun and the rain.  The photos show how Gord installed the two posts to support the roof, this is a process he uses a lot on fences, trellises and gazebos.

 

Gord’s political observations of local government officials:  

Political Chameleon

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Hardy Kiwi – shading the western side of the house AND producing LOTS of fruit.

It has been 1 1/2 years since we jumped into the political game… Yes – both of us.  On the outside of the system we were driven by injustice and inaction and took the plunge with the hopes of helping create a more resilient and adaptive community.  Our general view at the outset was less than stellar of political folks, thinking that many must get into the game for purposes outside of community service.  We are glad to see we had misconceptions, as most local elected officials we are meeting are genuine and caring people, working for the best interests of their community.  Many of these people share vastly different points of view than we do, but the key here is that they care and are genuine.  

That said there are others out there that we have come to see as chameleons and motived by other forces.  Folks whom may very well publicly share our views, but act very differently when away from the public eye.  Our respect for some has more than evaporated.  We have been attacked by some as being unrealistic when we speak to the elephant in the room around growth and climate change, we have seen some twist David Suzuki’s concept of the “right to clean water”  (under his Rights to Nature initiative) co-opted as the “right to piped water”… and then this person attacks those that see the issue as an environmental “right” to clean water in lakes, aquifers, wells, watersheds, and rainwater.  We have witnessed some withhold information from their council and not allow their councils to interact with municipal staff.  We have also witnessed the pull of financial interests, and too often some that are not prepared for meetings.  But thankfully I can only count those folks on one hand, and am so grateful that our own community of the Highlands does not have any of that going on.

Our council table is generally characterized as diverse, highly intelligent, with different perspectives, and an amazing amount of integrity and genuine care for the community.  I thank each and every one for that, and, for being a model that other councils/councillors in the CRD enquire about.  Metchosin has the same thing going on… an impressive example of a great functioning political system that allows for different points of views and genuine respect for one another… and pride.

I am proud to be on the Highlands Council.  Very proud.

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Apricot trees for sale

Disclosure:  So it appears that Councillors Gord Baird and Ann Baird are in a financial conflict of interest with the District of Highlands.  HA.  Last council meeting we both had to leave the room while council disclosed to the public that Eco-Sense (Ann and Gord), hold the contract for cleaning the public bathroom – A composting toilet in a small cob building at the local swimming lake.  All is now good…we can clean the bathroom with our financial secret fully disclosed in a public meeting.  Here’s the link to the council report stating how filthy rich we are getting.  

There it is… short and sweet.  Thanks for reading,

Ann and Gord

 

Gord’s nuts (and fruits) – not just crazy


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Gord helped with the community broom bash again this year.  Broom is an invasive and highly flammable plant.

Last week we left the update sparse, with the understanding that we were crazy busy  juggling a lot of balls.  This week we work at trying to catch up on much needed sleep to alleviate that deep ache in behind the eye balls.   And as for Gord… well we just won’t go any further except to say he is almost caught up on the list Ann has given him.   And for those who have been on a tour… you know what that means.

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Bees are thriving – Gord did a split and all seemed good.

Seeing the fruits (and nuts) of our labour.   This year brings more surprises than we have ever seen with virtually all our various plants fruiting from Seaberry, Haskap, Cornelian Cherry, Aronia, 13 types of plums, 11 types of apples, 5 types of pears, 8 types of black currants, 6 types of figs, 4 types of saskatoons, 5 types of kiwis, apricots, currants, goose berries, 6 types of mullberries, 4 types of elderberries, and a host of other edible plants filling in the spaces between.    That may sound a little nuts, but then there are Gord’s nuts.   The hazelnuts and almonds have set this year, and the walnuts are close.  The Russian almond set as well.  The chestnut are growing extremely quick, and likely will set next year.

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We are well stocked with most plants.  Here’s the thriving Sea Berries – Excellent berries, nitrogen fixing to feed other plants, and leaves make an awesome tea.

A special approach to the nursery stock this year.  Virtually all nurseries are compromised by time, and watering usually occurs in such a manner as to drench and move on.  This process often causes water to leach nutrients out.  Nurseries compensate by adding fertilizer to the pots, in excess to compensate for this leaching.  This year Gord has been making concoctions of compost tea… with kelp, sea minerals, comfrey, nettle, straw, EM, chicken manure, and composted/ing fish.  The result is a bacterial dense spray every 2 weeks.  The plants love it and we can see a difference.  The nursery is lush and diverse.

As usual, the nursery is open on Saturday May 14th from 10am – 2pm.  (Our 11th Anniversary).  If you cannot make it out on Saturdays and want to buy some plants, just send us an email to set up another time.  gord@eco-sense.ca

Eco-Sense photo memories from the past: Met online Sept 2004,  Engaged Dec 2004, Married on May 14, 2005, had 1st and 2nd anniversary living in the trailer building the Eco-Sense house.

Eco-Sense Video of the Week:  First Peak moment video of Ann and Gord talking about their plans to build the Eco-Sense home…our first video filming ever.  (Gord still has never watched it).

Baird Council Initiative of the week:  A couple weeks back Gord was pressing to have Deborah Harford, the Executive Director of SFU ACT (Adaptation to Climate Change Team) come speak to council and staff.  He was successful and this past Monday (May 9) Ms. Harford presented – covering the newest science on climate change that is being used in her policy work with governments in preparing adaptation plans.  Highlights?  OMG LOTS!  Governments have been working on data since 2010 that they had to prepare infrastructure (natural and human created) for 1 m sea level rise by 2100.  Five years after, with the newest science, that number has more than doubled.  How do you plan for adaptation when projections for sea level rise doubles in five years?  A 2m sea level rise by 2100 is the same thing as saying 1m sea level rise by 2050 (in 34 years a large percentage of human population globally could be/will be inundated.)  How the hell do you prepare for that?  When asked how theses agencies respond to this new benchmark… answer, “They have fear in their eyes.”

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Everything is better with a duck in your life.

Sea level rise locally is one aspect…then there are other risks such as fires, floods, droughts, food and water insecurity, climate refugees, and war (fighting over dwindling resources).

We also learned:

  • that loss of soil carbon accounts for 1/3 of global emissions.
  • Eco-System Valuation is an emerging trend, and being able to account for such on your balance sheet allows for better choices when faced with development that potentially impacts the eco-system services.
  • That every last bit of remaining habitat is critical as species try to adapt to a rapidly chaining climate
  • That municipalities only receive 8 cents of every Canadian tax dollar, yet we are responsible for almost all of the municipal infrastructure and adaptation to climate change.  I wonder where that other 92 cents of our tax dollars go?

OK, so all well and good, but what happened after the presentation by Ms. Harford was astounding.  Highlands had a consultant present to council and the community on their analysis and results on the cost/benefit analysis of a proposed aggregate mine in the community on 65 acres of park quality forested ecosystem (adjacent to Thetis Lakes Park).  The consultant was clearly uncomfortable recommending to our community that there was more benefit to the community to clear and blast (65 acres over 36 years) a biologically diverse thriving forest ecosystem that functionally is an extension of Thetis Lake Park.  The financial benefit to the Highlands would be realized slowly until year 36 when the lands would become “industrial” was stated to be more financially profitable than the natural capital that would be lost.   The consultant was visibly uncomfortable as he presented their conclusions.

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Benefits of climate change…eating peas earlier than ever before.

It gets better… the audience was full of community members and many actually thought that the consultant was the representative of the mine owner.  The questions and comments were tough and it was sadly clear that the report was based on status quo assumptions of business as usual, with not a single observation of climate change and what that will mean for the site, the services it provides for people and nature, or whether the economic fallout from climate change will even support such an extractive industry 36 years into the future.  One way or another we will be transitioning to a low carbon future…either willingly or through ecological and economic collapse.  Planning for a status quo industrial park in 36 years is insane given the current state of knowledge of the ecological, climatic, and economic projections.  If anyone would like to view the Highlands appraisal form that qualifies the flows of capital (natural, human, social, manufactured, and financial), check out this 4 page PDF.  Form was completed by the consultants and Ann’s notes are overlaid.

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Perennial edible plants – Food adaptation strategies.

Baird Council Failure of the week: (Or CRD FAILURE of the week).  A couple weeks back, Ann shared here in this blog, that she had managed to get the discussion on sea level rise onto the CRD Climate Action Inter-municipal Steering Committee agenda.   Her goal was to gain support in putting forward a recommendation to the CRD Environment Committee and the CRD Climate Action group to update their adaptation plans for sea level rise (currently it’s based on the old numbers of 1 m by 2100.)   This week, Ann was told no, that her agenda item was actually not going to appear on the agenda and that forecasts for sea level rise are set by the province…these are what the CRD bases their adaptation plans on.  Anyone have any faith in the provincial government to update their forecasts in line with the current science?  ACK!  Anyways, we have to let these things go and know that in order to keep doing what we do (and maintain sanity) we have to let go of attachment to outcome and just enjoy “stirring the pot”.

Stirring a really big pot,

Gord and Ann

 

Crazy busy…or maybe just crazy?


Hey everyone…well it’s Friday already and we haven’t had a chance yet to write our weekly blog post…so much to say…so little time.

We’ve been super busy with the nursery, watering, planting the gardens, council work, paid work, tours, massive numbers of emails and phone calls, and all the regular homesteading jobs.  More than enough to keep us insanely busy…too busy.

But not too busy to answer a question:  An interesting question often posed to us in light of the ever increasing realization that we may have passed a tipping point in the climate.  In this case the question comes after posting science on the effects of the Greenland Ice Sheet melt and the realiztion that 3 metre see level rise is no longer 100’s of years away but could be 35-40 years away.   “How de we realize this knowledge without feeling just really and truly fucked, pardon my language. The more that I know the more I struggle day-to-day with feeling joy, hope, and a sense of peace. Where’s the balance between acknowledging the terrible path we’re on and just living? How do you guys do it?”

Gord’s response:

Good question!  I would say that we started down this road about 8-9 years ago,  it looked bad. We were angry, scared, depressed, and lacking hope. Today, for me at least, I have somehow come to terms with what is still as bad as the info we recieved back then… just confirmed, no longer a worst case scenario. Joy is easy, it comes from many sources… kids, community, our own passions, and friends. Hope is not something I spend much time thinking about, it is an emotion that is somewhat self defeating – as hopes continue to be dashed with every new bit of info it spirals us into despair – accepting that things are the way they are allows me to shelve the hope – instead those energies and emotions are more productive for me to invest in the tangible things that provide happiness (kids, community and friends and teaching them something that can help make their lives better in difficult situations).

This does not mean I don’t get angry at the state of the world… it does mean I do not have empathy for those who don’t try, don’t learn, don’t care… and my heart breaks for the innocent people, cultures and lives. Ann and I have talked about how hard it is to go through the Kubler Ross stages of grief… in this case it is Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Its ok to feel a lack of joy, anger, depression… and feel it again and again. Sooner or later it gets better. And when it does it feels like a huge weight being lifted.

Ann’s Response:  Feeling grief is the appropriate response…things are bad and there is much suffering in the world.  Allow yourself to grieve and talk to other people who are also grieving.  Accept that most people around us are not yet ready to think about these things…it’s just not on their radar…yet.  We are facing the death of our civilization and things are going to change.  We have no idea how this will unfold and in what time frame… it’s ok not to know.  For now, it’s important to let go of attachment to outcome and just do your best to help yourself and your friends, family, community, or larger world community to do the work that needs to be done.  For us, this means learning skills, pointing out elephants, helping others, building relationships, protecting nature, hanging out in nature, creating more resilient food and water systems, simplify our lives, looking after our health, and enjoying the immense beauty in the moment.  Feel grateful for what ever you have right now.  Action is the antidote to despair…but don’t burn out.  

Thoughts on the fires in Fort Mac:  We have seen people lambasted on Facebook about any discussion that ties climate change and fires of this magnitude to the huge personal human tragedy that is unfolding.  The fact is that this is the largest batch of Canadian climate refugees in history, and the human, social and financial costs are immense.  I feel empathy for the people and for the lives of all the beings that were burned in the forests – however empathy does not exist for the bigger situation.  The science has been clear for decades that we are going to experience more and more of this due to the burning of fossil fuels, and consumptive culture.  Sadly, the fires of Fort Mac are symbolic, they are the elephant in the room, and this elephant will continue to traipse across the country and the world showing up shrouded by tragedy.  We need to acknowledge the elephant.

 

There’s lots of new material to post this week, but we think it will all keep just fine for next week.  Especially seeing as there will be some interesting council feedback from this coming Monday council meeting (May 9th)… when the elephant comes face to face with the expectations of industry and the proposal to mine 65 acres of beautiful forest here in the community.  Don’t even get me going on the scathing BC Auditor General’s report on Mining Compliance and how the Provincial government is likely legally culpable due to their complacency.   Video review of BC AG Report BC Auditor General Report on Mines Compliance and Enforcement

So there you have it…our no update update.

Nursery is open tomorrow:  Saturday May 7th from 10am – 2pm  Please come on out to say hi, visit, share some grief, walk the gardens, and buy some plants.

Gord and Ann

Peep and Quack


DSC02333New life has arrived at Eco-Sense.   With Spring comes the first chicks…but we cheated…sort of.  Olive, our hen (who was conceived and hatched here last year), has become a mom herself.  She sat on eggs for 27 days…and being 4-5 days past due, nothing was going to hatch…so sad listening to her sitting there making all the mom hens sounds.  Anyways, Ann broke down and purchased 6 chicks – she snuck them under Olive as she pulled out the past-due eggs (Ann’s sneaky… its amazing what she can hide in an omelette too).   One got squished, but the other five are thriving with their very attentive new mom.  Something so wonderful to see these chicks diving into momma hens feathers.

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DSC02337Bitty Boo, the muscovy female is still sitting on eggs and doing a fine job.

Nursery is in full swing with blossoms coming and going on so many of our plants.  Very beautiful to see new flowers for the first time…like our fruiting quince in the food forest.

Farm Gate Sales – Perennial Edible Plants:  Saturday April 30th from 10am – 2pm.  3295 Compton road, East Highlands, Victoria, BC

We have been busy mulching the nursery plants to keep them healthy, and reduce watering requirements.  As well, Gord has a new pump sprayer to fill with his various brews of home made fertilizers…plants are thriving – its a bacteria fest in the soil… or a bacteria feast for some.

Here’s some photos of the nursery:  Sea Berries, peppercorn trees/bushes, perennial leeks, dwarf cherries, Dug – the duck, Josta berries, currants, apple trees in full bloom, Toona tree (chop suey tree), edible hostas, and literally a couple hundred more edible perennial plants.  Our inventory sheet is here:    WE HAVE EGGS FOR SALE TOO!

Here’s some photos of our food forest:  Hardy kiwi, Fruiting Quince flower, Aronia flowers, Mulberry with lots of berries, Walnut with large catkins, etc.

Photos from the past…Eco-Sense cob root cellar.

Eco-Sense Video of the Week:  Here’s one of Gord giving a short Grey Water talk and showing our worm filter.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1OHFKO6HBw

Baird council Initiative of the week:  As a municipal councillor for the District of Highlands, Ann sits on the CRD Inter-municipal Climate Action Steering Committee.  Ann has just submitted an agenda item for discussion at their next meeting:

Topic: Planning for sea level rise. At our first meeting last year, our group was given a presentation on the ongoing work by the CRD on sea level rise. We were informed that the work was based on the provincial forecast of 1m rise in sea level by 2100 and did not include storm surge. The current science indicates that we need to adjust our projections. I would like our committee to discuss this and I would like to put forward a motion for the committee to recommend to the CRD Climate Action Program to update projections for Sea Level Rise (and storm surge) into the planing tools.

Background:   Recent paper by James Hanson (and 17 other leading climate scientists), that it entirely possible that we could experience multiple meter sea level rise mid century (2050). Published March 2016. http://www.atmos-chem-phys.net/16/3761/2016/
The insurance industry was just informed at RIMS 2016 (April 2016), that they should plan for a 3 meter rise in sea level by 2050-2060. This is based on NOAA data. Here is s short must read article. http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2016/04/12/405089.htm

And finally, to end this weeks blog post, here is a picture of our salad bar…LOVE.

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Feels like summer…Tastes Like Kale.


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Apple tree in full bloom

THE WEATHER has certainly been unseasonably warm (record breaking actually)…especially up here at the top of the hill at the Eco-Sense homestead.  We have been busy watering newly planted trees and shrubs and all the plants in the nursery.  Everyday we see more leaves, but with this heat it certainly feels like the grapes should be full out and Ann is feeling like all of her vegetable starts are way behind…but we have to remember, it’s only the middle of April.  Our garden is somewhat overgrown with all the weeds (many edible ones), and the brassicas have gone to full flower, much to the delight of the bees.  Olive our chicken, has been sitting on eggs and was due yesterday, but so far nothing…not a peep…and the duck Bitty-Boo is sitting on four eggs with another 21 days to go.

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Apricot tree is loaded this year – 3 types for sale in our nursery.

ECO- SENSE NURSERY is open every Saturday this spring from 10am – 2pm.  We continue to be busy with the nursery and lots of people are putting in their orders and setting up private appointments.  If you can’t make the Saturday time, just send Gord an email (gord@eco-sense.ca)… (or if your Gord editing this update… send it to ann@eco-sense.ca) to set up a private time (and best to ask Gord  to put your appointment time on our calendar – ha), thus the best reason to send your request to ann@eco-sense.ca).   3295 Compton Road, East Highlands, Victoria. Updated plant list:

TO DO LIST:  Our to do list is getting longer than there are hours in the day…and the tour requests are coming in more than ever before.  And on top of all of that, council duties are taking a great deal of time.   So for the first time, we are considering getting a woofer or two…we definitely need some help around here.  Stay tuned.

IMGP1403Eco-Sense photo from the past:  This shot was taken while building the cob house.  Gord is putting in one of our time capsules containing a print out of all of our blog posts from the early days.

Eco-Sense Video of the Week:  Here is a short 3 min video filmed while we were building the cob workshop: https://www.youtube.com/watchv=Ul05AzCkfrk&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL   Boy do Gord and I look young in this video…and our dog Boo was a puppy.

Food: Enjoying lots of kale these days…especially all the kale chips from our solar dryer.  (Kale, garlic, leeks, parsley, soy, lemon, ground sesame seeds, and apple cider vinegar).  We don’t by processed foods but are certainly not missing out on the yummy snack foods.  And speaking of kale…my potato patch sprouted kale grass so I took the scissors to it and gave it a haircut filling up 2 large bins of beautiful baby leaves.  I think I will let it grow and give it one more haircut before hilling up those spuds.

Gord’s lunch:  Gord has been testing the health of his gut microbiome…here is his lunch complete with two boiled eggs, pizza sauce fruit leather, feta cheese, raw Jerusalem artichokes, and fermented veggies (cucumber, kohlrabi, and pickled Jerusalem artichokes).  He survived just fine, must have been the wine.DSC02317

Rant of the week:  Well it turns out that fast food has been found contaminated with phthalates.  Here’s the article.  My guess is that the food picks up the phthalates from the air…air that is saturated with phthalates from scented laundry products and scented personal care products from the people working around the food. YUK. The majority of people use fragranced products every day (we know who you are because we can smell you)…I imagine that their food at home, even if cooked from whole food ingredients, also contains phthalates. It would be interesting to have some samples analyzed in a lab.
When we were going door to door campaigning for office during the municipal elections, we could tell just going into peoples yards that they used fragrances (phthlates), …and then when the doors opened, the smell would sometimes almost knock us down. Wow…so I can only imagine that those fragrances and all the associated chemicals permeate their food, and their lungs, and their skin. The data shows that most people have phthalates in their body fluids. Why do people use these products when the science indicates that they are endocrine disrupters (think thyroid, cancer, sleep disorders, stress regulation, reproductive disorders/infertility, etc, etc). Rant, rant, rant
Even people who do not use fragrances still carry clouds of fragrances around with them (secondary contamination)…simply going out in public we all pick up the chemicals and they permeate our skin, our hair, and our clothes.

Council Initiative of the week:  Not so much Gord’s council initiative, but one that he was involved in.  One of the topics on the CRD Regional Water Supply Commission is water conservation.  Some folks at the table are not at all in favour of it… the more you conserve, the less you can sell, and hell if we have it in the reservoir why not use it… and how dare we restrict people’s access to water.  This past week after several months of working towards it, the new Water Conservation Bylaw was up for final discussion and approval.    In good fashion, Gord walk’s into the room, and thumbs his nose at water conservation by pouring a glass of water… and water on the table… and computer and chair full of water.  This would be classified as a wasteful use and would be classified as a bylaw infraction.  My words to the councillor beside me… as I wear my Eco-Sense shirt and sandals.. “Ahh… fuck water conservation… this is my last chance to waste it”.

Obviously for those who know me… this was rather funny, almost causing the councillor from Colwood to spit out his own water.  The Bylaw passed, with the inclusion to references to Climate Change and the need to develop a culture of conservation in light of it.  Thanks Zeb and Ben.

Council Failure of the week:  Sit down for this one… there wasn’t one.   Guess it means we were not trying hard enough.  Better luck next time.

Rainwater and Filtration:  Hopefully in July we’ll be able to begin focusing on rainwater systems… as our spring has been crazy.   We are very happy with our new ceramic filters too (for the house and the Eco-Hut).  If you are trying to wrap your head around water filtration, trying to minimize waste, not use electricity, and avoid BPA found in some nanofiber filters, ceramic filters are a great option.  Gord is now a local dealer for Doulton (Berkey) ceramic filters.  (Ann’s note:  This is news to me…it’s a good thing I read your edit of my update…I guess this means I’ll be doing the paperwork?  Disclosure…I did know that Gord had been asked to be a dealer…I just didn’t know he accepted.  Maybe we should write more updates together…it could help our communication.)

In light of this, we may need to invite Highlands Mayor over so that we can carry on this discussion with proper Roberts Rules.

Dysfunctionally yours,

Ann and Gord