Category Archives: Eco-Sense Updates

A sputtering start to Spring


The Pandemic changed how we run the nursery…in a few ways.

  • Instead of having open hours on the weekends, we transitioned to nursery visits by appointment only…seven days per week. We love it. Not only is this more flexible for us and plant customers, it provides for more quality time one on one talking about plants…and every other topic. Far more rewarding. Most customers now hear about us by word of mouth.
  • Because of this, we now have more people browsing our online inventory list prior to making an appointment to visit. No more disappointed clients when we are sold out of an item as we update the inventory almost weekly. email for plant appointments or questions.
  • The other way our nursery has changed is that we no longer bring in fruit trees and berry bushes from the wholesalers. The pandemic caused all kinds of ripple effects leading to much difficulty in sourcing plants and meeting minimum wholesale orders when wholesalers have limited stock. The only trees we have brought in were ordered 2 years ago…Local blight resistant hazelnuts. These trees are $35-40 each (including GST) and must be purchased in groups of 3 or 4 to achieve good pollination.
  • This has meant that we are propagating and grafting more of our own inventory. However, cold springs and heat domes also add on some challenges. We love the nursery and the people so we have simplified our business by reducing some varieties and sizes. The good news is we have kept our prices relatively low due to our lower overhead.

Some Highlights:

Goats, cats, and dog update

We love the critters that live here with us. The goat kids have been growing rapidly and we are just starting to wean the kids. This morning was our biggest single milking ever…2.5 litres. It’s cheese season.
Pumpkin is still growing a bit and is starting to mellow. She looks like a big dog, but is still mostly fur…and thankfully, she’s lost her puppy teeth. Pumpkin will eat anything and has grown up with cats and goats. She loves to graze on veggies and eat the cats rodent kills. Her favourites are apple and carrot. When Pumpkin is grumpy with you or excited she will start with her woowoo’ing…she’s very talkative.
We haven’t decided yet what to do with the two young does…Gord wants to keep them…but if we found them a good home we might consider. They are both such wonderful beings.


We have been starting peas in the greenhouse in toilet paper tubes. This works great to start the seedlings, to easily transplant, and to protect from being eaten. So far so good.

Another abundant shoot season is here with various overwintering hybrid brassicas thriving and sending up tasty tender shoots. We will eat ourselves silly with fresh greens for the next month. One of my other spring favourites are miners lettuce…a native plant that comes up everywhere in my garden and this year I even have a living wall of it on the outside of my compost bins. Despite the hard winter our beets and other root veggies have done well. Just enjoying an amazing borscht with all ingredients local…even the dollop of thick yogurt on top.

That’s all for now…got to go…lots to do…including an afternoon nap…maybe.


Classes, kids & Pumpkin pie

We have been pre-occupied, but isn’t that our usual intro. We jumped into winter with a new puppy addition to the family, the arrival of goat kids, spring farm duties and then all the other stuff.

Rainwater Harvesting Class

Gord will be teaching an 8 part online series on rainwater harvesting starting April 20, running every Thursday from 6pm-7:30pm PST. The link is . Gord will be teaching rainwater from his perspective as a designer/installer from gutter to tap (or irrigation), including tips and tricks, regulations, filtration, disinfection, pumps and even sharing his design platform and a simplified water balance/budgeting tool.

Example of one of Gord’s designs

Pumpkin Pie (otherwise known as F2 – Fluffy Fker)

Pumpkin the puppy, officially a mutt, is also known in her native tongue as WuuWuuWoo, has grown into a husky dog… we had not expected this. We had not expected the vocalizations or the shedding… which tells you we had not considered a husky. She is a sweet being when not chewing on us, prefers staying near home base, and does not view our youngest or oldest family members as food. She is a lap dog both in terms of where she prefers to sit, and what she prefers to do to your face while sitting. Gord hasn’t had to wash his face in weeks.

Ann and Gord finally had kids together

We never dreamt of being able to have a kid let alone two. Especially since that snipping event 17 years ago. But as sometimes happens when not paying attention, BOOM, your doe gets pregnant and drops some kids at your feet. Dabha is a wonderful mom, giving birth to Lena Cream Baird and Lyka Baird, two does. Lena is latin for bright/light; Lyka is Arabic for “Queen of Rocks”. OMG they are so frickin cute and cuddly. We now know why people end up with so many goats – even Gord is re-considering the imposed 2-goat limit.

Solar kicking butt

Our new solar panels are installed, a doubling from 2.4 kW to 5.8 kW array. It is really looking like we will be easily net zero for all our needs (heating included) with this small array. Our updated charge controllers have been on back order for 6 months so we have had to turn panels off to not overload our existing controllers – even on a cloudy day we are bringing in 60 amps at 26 VDC on each old controller. We love heating with electricity.

Feeding time for Stormy, Sparky, and Pumpkin


Suddenly it’s Spring. Our nursery has been slow and steady all winter and now it’s the crazy spring season. Our inventory list is online with a good selection of Hazelnuts, Pears, Apples, Grapes, Currants, and lots more. All prices already include GST. Grafted trees range from $25-$45 depending on how large.

All sales continue to be by private appointment. Please email to ask questions or set up a time.

Greenhouse propagation…plants…not kids

I’m Nuts over Hazelnuts, Puppy, Vaccines, Cats, Solar, Goats, Garden, and Gord

I finally got my garlic planted, 350 Hazelnut trees have arrived in the nursery, the puppy is sleeping, municipal elections are over, goats are milked, it’s raining finally, and Gord is on a job site today…so I can sit down and write a quick blog post.

Nina Died

Our amazingly special Nina dog has died. It was a gut wrenching shock for us both to have to make the final decision of her life with virtually no warning. She basically collapsed one evening after a council meeting and in the middle of the night, after an emergency scan, we learned that fluid had built up around her heart…ironically just like our last dog Boo. Apparently there was also a mass on her heart likely causing the fluid build up. We brought her home and buried her right out front and had our own special ceremony. We are becoming more acquainted with death and felt gratitude for sharing 7 years with this special being.

Municipal Campaign

Nina’s death occurred right at the beginning of a very busy election time. Our campaign was filled with learning, listening, reflection, collaboration, excitement, and the ever-present uncertainty of what the results will be. The good news is that both of us were easily re-elected…the bad news is that Gord received 8 more votes that me.


The campaign took a lot of time and energy, so we really have not spent much time in the garden or nursery, and also got behind in some fall food processing and harvesting. However, because of the incredibly long fall and seemingly never ending summer, we got some extra time to catch up.

I just got the last of my 320 garlic planted in four different garden beds. Still have to harvest fuzzy kiwi, and persimmons.

Last years garden plan

This past garden year was different…very different. Very poor pollination of apples, pears, and plums due to the wet cold spring, still no walnuts, and only one chestnut. But for every crop that fails, we have crops that thrive. Perennial veggies thrived, as did olives, broccoli and cauliflower. Our root veggies kicked butt this year. Hazelnuts are proving to be rock solid for us.

Thanks to our cats, the rats didn’t eat all our olives this year.


Our tiny cats Stormy and Sparky are thriving and bring us a rodent most days. They are truly amazing little hunters that fill us with such joy and gratitude for their gifts, cuddles, and cat antics. Our gardens are safe from excessive rodent predation but yes we still do some sharing…especially with the abundant bird population thriving on this land. Since we embarked on the re-wilding of this land with human created food systems, we have actually put the system out of balance. More intense food availability means more creatures eating it…which means denser populations of birds and rodents can be supported. Adding two cats who mostly hunt rodents, yet still kill a few birds does not negatively harm the ecosystem overall…in fact adding predators into the system can help bring a system like ours back into balance.


Our goats, Dabha and Gemma are thriving with all the goat food growing here in the food forest and the annual gardens. Too much zucchini is impossible. Sometimes we take them to the food on a leash, and sometimes we bring the food to them. Our goats eat about half the amount of hay that they would otherwise eat without the food inputs from this land. We no longer have to bring in outside inputs (manure or mulch).

Dabha’s milk production has slowed whey down, so it was time for a trip to my neighbours for servicing by her buck Giordie. Dabha was clearly in heat with lots of tail wagging, calling, and frisky behaviour and Giordie did not disappoint. It was love at first sight with lots of kissing, nibbling, nuzzling, and frisky fore play. Success…we think. Due date is March 5th if all goes well.

Hazelnuts have arrived in the Nursery

Woohoo, it’s time to go nuts. Hazelnuts have become a food security tree for us on so many levels. The trees grow fast and produce lots of nuts in a very short number of years. The leaves are a goat favourite and the trees are very generous producers. Hazelnuts are also used successfully in grey water systems. Roots of hazelnuts produce thick carbon sequestering mats. Yes, squirrels do eat the nuts, but they also plant more trees everywhere. The invasive grey squirrel is also good eating if you are so inclined. The little native brown squirrel gets to eat all the nuts they desire. We are grateful to the generous hazelnut tree and Nina, Stormy, and Sparky for alerting us to squirrels.

We bulk ordered 350 EFB resistant hazelnuts so that we can offer a really good price in the nursery. Most trees are $35 with only “Dorris” being offered at $40. Includes GST. All in 1 gallon pots. We prefer to sell these in groups of three or four for the best pollination.

Option 1: Dorris, Yamhill, Theta for $110

Option 2: Jefferson, Yamhill, Theta (or Gamma or Eta) for $105

Option 3 (four trees): Dorris, Jefferson, Yamhill, Theta (or Gamma or Eta) for $145

Please enquire with us for options for 5 or more trees.

All sales are by private appointment. Full Inventory list is here:

Please email at

Stormy the cat is in the back of the box.

Pumpkin, our new puppy.

So with Nina now pushing up daisies in our front yard, we open our hearts again to a new love. Pumpkin Pie Baird is our new rescue mutt. She came into our hearts on Halloween at the age of 8 weeks. She will likely be a mid sized dog just like her mom Joni. They both look like Huskies. She’s smart, affectionate, busy, and full of love and cuddles. She is being partly raised by cats and has already learned how to hunt rats with the cats, hide in boxes, and vocalize and swat like a cat. Part of the team! Pumpkin Storms are common around here with hours of play…the best being when Stormy hides in the paper bag and pumpkin pulls her around and then sits on her.


Humans are in OVERSHOOT. I don’t think there would be a population biologist in the world that would disagree with this statement. If you disagree with this statement I would suggest you hit the textbooks or skip this section.

When any population, (whether it be rats, monocultures, bacteria in a petri dish, or humans), exceeds the carrying capacity of the environment, nature will re-balance the population with built in systems like disease and pests.

In our current human situation we long ago reached this OVERSHOOT point but we put our smart brains to work and figured out how to expand into new more hostile environments with less easy resources. But humanity still didn’t take the hint with scarce resources and further utilized our amazing technologies to grow more food and extract even more energy from the earth…with great costs to the atmosphere, the soil, the air, and the oceans.

Humanity has now reached EIGHT BILLION PEOPLE and there is not enough habitat or resources left on planet earth for all the other living beings to exist. It’s not simply about “fixing” climate change or sharing resources more equally amongst the 8,000,000,000 people, it’s about how much of the earth is covered in our bodies and absorbing our wastes. We are large mammals…there’s only so much space on planet earth for large mammals…PERIOD. This is precisely why in the last 50 years the earth has LOST 50% of the wildlife.

Here’s a puppy and cat video to change the subject.

Which brings me to vaccines…and Covid, and viruses, and any disease really. This is what nature does when a population is in OVERSHOOT. But yet the human brain kicks in again and creates vaccines to protect people from disease. Vaccines work. Do I want a disease? NO! Do I want my family and friends or community to get sick? NO! Do I want anyone to suffer? NO!

So yes, Gord and I are fully vaccinated and we urge others to get vaccinated too. But isn’t this a contradiction that will allow humanity to go even further into OVERSHOOT by using vaccine technology? YUP! The basic ecological rule in OVERSHOOT is that the further a population or system goes into OVERSHOOT the harder it will be to rebalance the system…but the system WILL rebalance.

No time to get depressed however, there is much we can do to help nature rebalance HUMAN OVERSHOOT in a more ethical controlled way. De-growth will occur, but humanity can still have a say as to how that will happen. Will it happen with war, scarcity, and disease, or will it happen with love, sharing, global family planning, education, equity, compassion, and re-wilding the earth? Here’s an essay to read or listen to by Robin Wall Kimmerer on “An Economy of Abundance”.

Gord is currently experiencing his own personal OVERSHOOT and he knows that he must slow down before his health suffers. We all know it’s much better to be proactive in these situations. Gord will be taking the next few months to catch up on some of his work commitments while saying no to some interesting opportunities that come his way. He loves his work…but there’s only one Gord. Personal de-growth in productivity balanced with growth in Well-Being.

Solar PV

No, we don’t think solar is going to save the world from OVERSHOOT…only de-growth in a cooperative nature-based relocalized economy can perhaps help. But electrifying our energy grid is a small piece. For us our solar and other food, water, and waste systems certainly bring more resilience.

Our first goal was to reduce our use of burning firewood and propane (GHGs). So we looked into a heat pump. But with our current heating infrastructure it seemed very inefficient…not to mention the use of more climate damaging refrigerants. There is heat pump technology that uses CO2 as the refrigerant and heats hot water. This would tie in beautifully to our existing high temperature in floor heating system that ties in with our solar hot water. This would be a sweet system indeed…but sadly is not yet doable unless we purchase a new separate industrial system rather than tie into our existing solar boiler. To make a long story short, we are going to supplement our heating requirements with our electric element in our solar boiler. Simple and with the least amount of new infrastructure.

By swapping out our sixteen 170W solar PV panels with twelve newer 480W panels we more than double our PV output and can heat our home, charge our ebikes, and use electricity for cooking rather than propane. With the costs of all forms of combustion based energy rising this makes the most ecological and economical sense for us. Firewood this year was $500 a cord!

We will be selling our sixteen 170W panels along with two Outback MX60 charge controllers sometime in Feb. Please contact us with enquiries.


Ann and Gord

Election Brochures, Links, Donations

Re-Elect Gord Baird for Highlands Council

Gord’s Facebook Page:

Gord’s Brochure in colour (can print double sided and fold in 3) – black and white will be mailed soon:

Re-Elect Ann Baird for Highlands Council

Ann’s Facebook Page:

Ann’s Brochure in Colour (can print double sided and fold in 3)- black and white will be mailed soon:


Donations to Gord’s campaign can be sent by Etransfer or cheque.

  • eTransfer to
  • Make cheque payable to Gord Baird Campaign and drop off or mail to 3295 Compton Road, Victoria BC V9E 1C9
  • Must be Canadian Citizen and BC resident. NO Corporate donations allowed or tax receipts issued
  • Donations over $100 will be public record

Authorized by Ann Baird, financial agent for Gord Baird 250-812-5481

Donations to Ann’s campaign can be sent by Etransfer or cheque.

  • eTransfer to
  • Make cheque payable to Ann Baird Campaign and drop off or mail to 3295 Compton Road, Victoria BC V9E 1C9
  • Must be Canadian Citizen and BC resident. NO Corporate donations allowed or tax receipts issued
  • Donations over $100 will be public record

Authorized by Ann Baird, financial agent 250-812-5481

Lessons From My Ancestors – by Ann Baird

The long Winter, By Laura Ingalls Wilder

My ancestors are the Wilders. I am a 5th generation ancestor of James and Angeline Wilder. Laura’s book, “Farmer Boy”, is one year in the life of my (Uncle) Almanzo Wilder as a young boy, and it provides insights and lessons that impact my home, the Highlands. The homestead in “Farmer Boy”, described in detail, was created by my Grandma’s, Great Grandparents.

Aside from this being super cool for me to learn about, there are similarities in my ancestors lives to my own life here in the Highlands with my husband Gord and our own Eco-Sense homestead. But that’s not what this post is about today. Maybe in a future post I will write about that.

Back to the book, “The Long Winter”. It is about how Almanzo Wilder saved the town from the incredibly cold and long winter. He just about froze to death making the trip by horse drawn cart to find some grain for the town. It’s quite the book describing how the town came together and shared what little food there was while burning straw in their uninsulated wood framed houses to keep from freezing.

My Little House books, and my Grandmas jewelry box

The main lesson in this book, a true story, was about modern progress and how the people became dependant on the brand new railroad to bring weekly necessities. These town people had all recently moved off the farm and into the new town. They had skills and could have weathered the long cold winter in their farm houses. They knew how to live. But in one or two years had given up that life to live in the town and become fully dependant on the train. They gave up being resilient. It didn’t take much to wipe out the tracks in those days, and so all of a sudden, there was no grain and no coal…and no one except my great uncles Almanzo and older brother Royal, had prepared for winter by stocking wood and grain. Yet Almanzo risked his life to save the town (and his future wife, young Laura Ingalls).

What does this have to do with Highlands?

In 1880, when Laura Ingalls was 14 and living through the worst South Dakota winter ever, Highlands was just starting to be populated by homesteading settlers. Of course, First Nations were a very resilient people with their rich relationship with the land we now call Highlands. It’s a sad colonization history with First Nations and one that I am still learning about. The book, Beautiful Rocks, (written by Highlanders Daphne Allen, Allen Dobb, Bob and Nancy McMinn, and Pattie Whitehouse) is a fantastic read to learn about the History of the Highlands both pre and post settlers.

Today in the Highlands we are not dependant on one train for coal and grain and we do not face the harsh South Dakota winters. Technology has changed our world so much in the last 140 years.

Supply chains are long and complex and most of us no longer have the basic life skills of our ancestors. These days we can fly and drive cars, communicate instantaneously on our pocket devices, and have pretty much anything delivered at the touch of a finger. But we are even more vulnerable now. Most of us get our food from the store and electricity from the wall which pumps our water and heats our homes. This seems normal…this is what we have done most or all of our lives. Why would we think this could ever change?

Unfortunately, our reality is changing…one climate event after another. Highlanders for the most part have been spared really abrupt climate impacts so far. But as we just saw this week in Canada’s Maritimes with Hurricane Fiona, our turn will be coming. We are very vulnerable. Reality REALLY sucks.

Highlands’ direct risks include fire, flooding, drought, wind, heat domes, and of course Earthquakes. But if we play these events out globally and think it through locally…especially living on an island, we know that our food supply, all material supply chains, energy (for pumping water, heating, cooling, and transportation), and communications could be knocked out for long periods of time.

Will we learn from our ancestors? Will we hope that one person, our Almanzo will save us?

There is so much that we can do as a community both at the municipal level and at the neighbourhood/family level.

For my part I will continue to volunteer my time in teaching members of the community about growing and preserving food, re-wilding, sharing excess garden plants and produce, and about becoming more resilient just as I have since we arrived in Highlands 17 years ago.
At the council table I will continue to:

  • ensure the community is financially sustainable, by NOT growing.
  • Fund our asset management plans (which includes natural assets),
  • support and fund our excellent volunteer fire Department,
  • continue work on our community emergency plan and implementation
  • Make all council decisions through the Climate Emergency lens of Adaptation, Mitigation, and Resilience to enhance community well being and protect the Highlands from needless growth.

The more we grow, the more we will need to grow…and I’m not talking about vegetables.

If we look after Highlands, Highlands will look after us.

Let’s be prepared and work together.

On Oct 15th, Please vote for me.
I also recommend voting for Gord Baird, Karel Roessingh, Marcie McLean, Rose Stanton, and Leslie Anderson.

Ann Baird, BSc Biology, homesteader and two term councillor, District of Highlands