Category Archives: Eco-Sense Updates

From Toques to T-shirts…Nursery is open

Last week we were wearing toques and WAY behind getting our nursery moved to the snow covered lower “garden”.  This week we scrambled in t-shirts pleading with our over 50 bodies to get-er-done.  Well, Gord isn’t quite 50…his big day comes on Earth day, April 22, he will turn the big 50.

We are very pleased with how the nursery looks and functions in the lower garden.

  • For starters, it’s flat down there.  No more pushing trees up hills in wheel barrows.
  • It’s also better for parking and no more single lane long driveway to navigate.
  • More room to organize plants…All the nuts are together, the fruit trees together, the berry patch, the perennial veggie patch, etc.  I love being organized.
  • And finally, people who show up and think we are crazy, can leave more easily.  Ha, and that’s usually before we try and sell them a book on compost toilets…which by the way, will be for sale…we’ll even sign a copy for you.

So without any more rambling discussion here’s the details of the spring opening for the Eco-Sense nursery.

Where: 3295 Compton Road, East Highlands, Victoria, BC

When: Sat March 23 AND Sun March 24 from 10am-2pm both days

Parking: on road and 4 spots inside the gate

What do we sell?  Nuts, fruit trees, berry bushes, a few perennial vegetables, nitrogen fixers, soil builders, tea, olives, lemons, figs, mulberries, kiwis, hops, and LOTS more stuff you’ve never heard of.  Plant list here

We have bare root chestnuts…the ULTIMATE food security plant.  Chestnut flour is to die for.  Gord and I recently made a berry clafoutis…100% local (mostly our own ingredients).  Chestnut flour, sweet potato, honey, lemons, eggs, milk, and berries.

Hope to see you this weekend.

Ann and Gord


Gord in deep snow…on his knees.

Well…it was a mostly a warm winter and then WHAM!  Way below zero with multiple blizzards, and then snow sticking around for weeks on end.  As I write this (March 7th). we still have snow in some areas and the soil is still frozen in the lower garden.  This morning…more flurries….

Leaves falling off – lemons frozen

Lower Greenhouse

Our lemons in the front of the house were thriving with more lemons than we could possibly use.  The leaves are all dropping and most of the lemons frozen when about 80% ripe.  So…I picked buckets of lemons, squeezed, and froze lemon concentrate for summer lemonade.  Looking forward to the sad looking lemons getting new leaves.  Meanwhile, Gord has cut them back to propagate more lemons.   I finally planted my peas in the upper garden, but still cannot plant my fava beans in the lower garden.  Veggie starts have begun to sprout in the upper greenhouse and Gord has loaded up the lower greenhouse with propagated perennials for the nursery.

Lucky to eat salads ALL winter.

A big surprise for me was to discover hundreds of sprouting SEA KALE right before the snow began to fly.  I gathered the little pods up and put them on soil in the upper greenhouse.  Sea Kale seeds are difficult to source and germinate so this is pretty special for plant nerds.  I will have tiny plants for sale this spring and fall in the nursery.  Sea Kale is my overall favourite perennial vegetable for steaming, stir fries, and eating raw.  It takes 2-3 years to mature but produces lots of big broccoli like shoots earlier and even tastier than broccoli.  Flowers are also a super yummy snack.  They are not heavy feeders and live for decades.

Spring Nursery Challenges:  We are moving our Eco-Sense perennial edible plant nursery to the lower garden and it is really starting to take shape.  This will solve our parking and plant loading challenges with the former nursery location at the pond.  No more carrying large trees uphill to vehicles.  However, due to the snow and frozen ground we are WAY behind getting everything moved and landscaped in the lower garden.

Perennial veggie bed (Sea Kale, hosta, perennial leeks, bamboo, skirret, sorrel, sweet sicily, stevia, nodding onion, walking onion, ground nut, OCA, sweet potatoes, Cinnamon yam (beautiful vine), and more.

Nursery Grand Opening: Our first opening in the new nursery will be two days…Saturday March 23rd and and Sunday March 24th from 10am-2pm.  After that, we will be open every Saturday from 10am-2pm for the rest of spring.

What’s in stock?  check out our online plant list. PLANT LIST  Remember our prices already include the GST.
CHESTNUTS: Of special note is our chestnuts in stock that we brought in from Washington.  These are simply amazing from so many perspectives.  Perennial food security, yummy, climate resilient, fire resistant, beautiful, draught tolerant, soil building, etc. The nuts are huge and easy to process, and these nuts can be used as a nutritious and flavourful flour substitute.  High in iron and B vitamins and so much more.  RECIPE ALERT:  Just made amazing local clafoutis with chestnut flour (1.5 cups), sweet potatoes (1 cup), 1 lemon, 3 eggs, big scoop butter, and 1.5 cups goat milk with blackberries, autumn olives, currents, and raspberries (2 cups fruit).  OMG it was good.  So simple. Mixed up batter in blender and added chestnut flour to as thick as it could be, poured into buttered pan and layered berries on top.  Baked at 350 until done.

What else have we been up to?  Rain water designs, lots of council work and climate activism.  Here’s a short list of the climate related items we have been working on with our municipal colleagues.

Climate Emergency Declaration:  Here’s what I wrote for the Highlands newsletter:  On Feb 13th, 2019, the Capital Regional District (CRD) voted unanimously to declare a climate emergency.  As part of this they committed to carbon neutrality by 2030. The CRD will be asking all 13 municipalities in our region to also consider making the same declaration including climate commitments in their own communities.  The impetus for this seemingly drastic move comes the Oct 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which sends a clear scientific message to the world that we have until 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 45% and 100% reduction by 2050 to avoid catastrophic impacts which we are already seeing.  We have a very short window of time to completely change how we live, work, and play to avoid the worst of the projected impacts.  Although this sounds dire, there are incredible opportunities to adapt and build community resilience while simultaneously creating a better world. The coming months and years will be intensely focused on building local resilience through mitigation and adaptation and learning together what does all this mean here in the Highlands, in the CRD, in BC, in Canada, and globally? 

Carbon Neutral by 2030:  Understandably, there seemed to be a great deal of confusion about what carbon neutrality means.  So I wrote a post about it called, “Carbon Neutrality, Offsets, & Counting Emissions” and shared it around.  Lisa Helps, the Mayor of Victoria really liked it, so she posted my article on her blog.  Here’s the link:

Municipal Survivor Climate Challenge:  Here’s what I wrote for Highlands newsletter:  Highlands council has just launched the Municipal Survivor Climate Challenge (MSCC), where our mayor and council have committed to reduce our average footprint. A footprint is a measurement of how many earths would be required if everyone on the planet lived like Highlands council. We also measured our ecological impact (in hectares) and our carbon emissions (in tonnes of CO2). These numbers are determined with the simple calculator found here:

Highlands Council average figures are:
2.4 earths

4.14 hectares
6.94 tonnes of CO2 

We know that our individual impact is small compared to the global issues, but by taking individual action we build resilience and show what is possible. We are choosing to walk our talk, it’s as simple as that. To have some fun with this, we have challenged all other mayors and councils (and elected officials) on Vancouver Island and coastal BC to accept our invitation for a friendly competition to see which council has the lowest footprint and which can improve the most over a one-year period set to begin this year on Earth Day (April 22, 2019).
What’s your footprint? Stay tuned for updates.

Vegetation Management Strategy:  Our trees are dying.  We have lost over 50 this year alone…and so have many of our neighbours in the Highlands and in our region.  Not only is this heart-wrenching to watch, but it also dramatically increases our fire risk and leads to hotter dryer conditions which further accelerates this process.  But what to do?  Gord has organized a joint application for multi-year funding with many CRD municipalities.  This research will help us understand what the best course of action is in different situations from the urban forest, to the forest interface, and for fully forested communities.  To learn more check out this original report written by Gord for Highlands Council.  The CRD and other municipalities are moving forward with this critical work.



Spring WATER workshops at Eco-Sense

SORRY!  Workshops POSTPONED until later in the year
Three NEW WATER workshops at Eco-Sense now posted for Feb-March 2019:

03c3a8_9e33325d05fb4751beb4d8f1f401acda~mv2Essential Composting ToiletsPOSTPONED
Responsible Water AlternativesPOSTPONED
Rain Water HarvestingPOSTPONED

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


Outside view of the MUD room @ Eco-Sense classroom

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

Also included in $90 course fee:

  • Short tour of the homestead – weather permitting.
  • Organic home made LUNCH with vegetarian and local meat options. Coffee and tea and lemon water (yes our own lemons).
Design Example Drawing

In ground concrete tanks

About Gord:

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

Cover Image emailed

HOW to Buy our book:

  1. Buy this book dirrectly from the publisher using this link, and we will get a small commission.
  2. Buy from us at our workshops or speaking engagements (note that we do not ship our books)
  3. Buy from your local bookstore
  4. Buy online from Amazon

Inside the classroom with BIG screen TV for quality presentations.  Maximum group size of 12.



Happy New Year – Where’s the grief?

The primary question many of us (in our circle of people) are struggling with these days is how do we maintain sanity while facing the climate crisis and mass extinction head on?

ACTION.  Seriously.  It doesn’t matter whether our own reductions in consumption have an impact or not…we do it, because it feels right to us and helps us navigate our grief at the state of the planet and the existential threat to human civilization.   Action removes a sense of powerlessness.

As an aside, we both try to live more of a hope-free existence.  This means we avoid most of the dramatic energy sucking swings between hopeful and hopeless.  We are losing attachment to immediate results in the bigger picture.  What we actually get is a lot more resilience,,,meaning that we are more prepared physically and mentally for local and global impacts.  Radical acceptance…not easy.

Changing our cultural story, reducing our dependency on systems of harm (otherwise known as rape and pillage), and walking our talk fuels our activism in our community and at the council table.  Walking ones talk gives credibility.

SO…WHAT DOES THIS LOOK LIKE for two people that already live in a MUD house, compost all of our waste, collect rain water, grow 100% of our fruits and veggies year round, don’t fly, power our home with solar, sit as municipal politicians, wrote a book on compost toilets (buy here), design rain water systems, give workshops, and operate a permaculture perennial edible plant nursery???  Read on…

We are further motivated by the following:

  1. The recent IPCC report that states we have about 10 years to reduce emissions by about 50%, then 100% by 2050, AND massive carbon sequestration and ecological restoration required.
  2. The 6th mass extinction event we are causing with our collective Impact from Population growth, excessive Consumption, and damaging Technology. I=P x C x T
  3. The planetary tipping points that we are rapidly approaching. (These tipping points are somewhere between 1 and 2 deg C rise in global average temperatures…we may have already tipped into a point of no return!). Recent publication on Tipping points.   And another link here.
  4. Our recent ecological impact calculations shows us where we can easily improve to reduce our impact and increase our resilience.  See this calculator:
  5. We listened to these podcasts over the holidays.   CBC Radio 2050: Degrees of Change.    This podcast is based on impacts we can expect in BC in the year 2050 based on a middle of the road climate scenario (rcp 4.5) assuming we take meaningful action, but no where near the business as usual climate scenario (rcp 8.5).


Here’s our shared carbon footprint for 2018 (3.93 each).

Here’s our list of items for us to do for 2019:

  1. PROPANE:  Last year we used 380 litres of propane for cooking. This is 0.58 tonnes of CO2.  Our goal is to reduce this by 50%. We purchased an electric instant pot for $90 that can pressure cook beans, lentils, peas, and all kinds of stews very quickly. This means we can use the oven a LOT less. When we do use the oven we will make sure we cook a few things all at once. We are also going to get an electric insulated kettle for boiling water.
  2. IMPORTED FOOD:  We are going to buy less imported food.  Coffee: For starters we are going to wean ourselves off of coffee (we have purchased only fair trade, organic…but still). Coffee travels too far, displaces nature, and ours comes in those plastic packages or other high impact packages.  Coconut oil: We are going to use rendered pig fat from a local permaculture farm…maybe some day we will have our own pig.
  3. DAIRY:  Our local goat milk supply is almost dried up (only 1-2 litres per week). Gord has been drinking LOTS of organic cow store milk…almost 6 litres a week. That’s a LOT of plastic jugs and milk. Gord said he wants to dramatically reduce his milk consumption. We do hope to get more goats milk later this spring when production goes up. We eat very little cheese these days, but do hope to make a bit when we get more local goat’s milk.
  4. TRANSPORTATION: Our two vehicles (the old farm truck and the diesel Smart car), emit 3.46 tonnes of CO2e….and we drive less than most people. YIKES!!!!!  We have begun the process to find a way to get into an EV. One vehicle, probably a used leaf….but we will see.
  5. TEXTILES: No more fleece. Moving towards natural fibres. (wool, cotton, hemp). I was just gifted a few really nice long wool skirts from my neighbour.  We recently installed a micro plastic filter on our washing machine…this helps to collect the most of the micro plastic from entering our landscape via our grey water system. (Company in Nova Scotia sells a stainless steel mesh filter…easy to clean and install. Nothing disposable. Awesome company…you can order on line and then pay (mail a cheque) after you get it. Company based on trust. The filter isn’t perfect, but catches most.  ENVIRONMENTALENHANCEMENTS.COM
  6. HOME HEATING AND HOT WATER:  We use wood (in a wood gasifier), solar thermal, and solar PV for all the pumps etc. The 6.35 tonnes of firewood wood we burn is 0.45 tCO2. We are thinking about what we can do to improve this dependance on wood:  Four ideas:

1. an electric air/air heat pump in the living space
2. a small cookstove in the living space
3. a masonry heater in the living space
4. a tiny wood stove in the main living area (circle room)

All of the changes would result in amortized cost savings, more resilience, AND lower impacts overall.

For us doing more helps with our sanity dealing with the crisis. Plus it’s a challenge and we feel much more resilient not being so dependant on a system that creates such harm. There’s sanity in reducing impact. That’s the big motivator.

Happy New Years Everyone…Lets build local resilience together.  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Ann and Gord

The Other Referendum

Quick notice before we dive into our post on the referendum on Proportional Representation…

Referendum:  As we near the deadline (Nov 30th) for filling out and returning ballots to the Province for the referendum on Proportional Representation, I shudder at what I have witnessed.  Beyond the two sides of the campaign there has been, at least for me, an interesting observation.  This has become a referendum on critical engagement and emotional fear.

There is the Pro Proportional Representation side (ProPR), and the Anti-Proportional Representation side (AntiPR).  The ProPR side is tasked with informing about the differences between PR and FPTP;  secondly they are sharing information on three PR systems; and lastly they are proposing change and we all know who loves change.  WE DO!!!

Gord filling out his mail in ProPR ballot

The AntiPR side does have the easier job as it is the no change “incumbent” system, and they do not need to inform and educate, and therefore can just focus on the emotional aspects of change or even worse, create fear.  They just need to create noise and give the idea that’s it’s too confusing for us simply minded folks to get our heads around.  I liken it to the way any lobby group challenges its opponents by creating doubt (e.g. tobacco lobby, climate denial lobby).  I witnessed this with the debate between Mr. Horgan and Mr. Wilkinson, which was nothing more than a heckle fest, in which the “noise” allowed no room for debate – (Shame on the weak moderators for doing a poor job…maybe this was their plan?).

Ann filling out her mail in ProPR ballot

Ann and I, for those who know us, recognize we are creatures of ration (I think Gord is trying to say “Rational Creatures”?), we are generally not political party types but more policy and ideas focused, and rely on information to inform our opinions.  Basically we are a household comprised of a female Spock and a male Data, with humour (you choose who has the humour).  Ann often argues that since she has the higher IQ (by 2 points), that she must be funnier due to the correlation between humour and intelligence.  Anyways, what we have witnessed is a population that has been told they are not capable of critically thinking about such items as governance (or I guess humour if the correlation is correct).   Therefore if they are not capable, not smart enough, they should not attempt to try.  No joke.  Here’s some bad humour…imagine this was our ballot about PR:

Which do you prefer?
1) ice cream
2) a kick in the balls

Do you prefer ice cream in:
1) waffle cone
2) regular cone
3) cup

Voters against #PR4BC response: “what’s the cone size? Is the cup biodegradable? Too many unknowns, I’ll just take a kick in the balls”

There is nothing more infuriating than someone else telling me what I can and cannot understand.  I can guarantee you that this task of seeking info and informing myself was by no means a hard or challenging process, but it did consume about 1 hour of my time over three weeks.

FPTP – a waning archaic system

Yes it is a historical system that has been in use for a long time, and it is clear that there are only three democracies remaining that still use this (Canada, US, Britain), and the other 84 democracies have shifted to proportional representation of one form or another, many over 50 years ago.  Many would rightly argue that the US is not actually a democracy.

Is FPTP representative of the population?  If you had a two party system, as we historically did, then yes.  The US still has pretty much a 2 party system, and we can see how well it works to keep out extremists.  (heavy sarcasm and eye rolling).  Nothing to look at here folks… move along.

Do we generally have a 2 party system here in Canada, in BC?  Of course not, we have a diverse population, with diverse opinions, and generally the views and values that differentiate the parties comes down to differences around social, environmental, religious, resource extraction, economic, and science perspectives.

The wasted energy of negativity compared to the positive results of collaboration

I have little respect for party politics based on towing a party line or even the whole idea of opposition.  In contrast, take our own Highlands Municipal Council.  We all come to the table with diverse opinions and through collaboration, listening, and respectful dialogue, we come to a decision on a topic…often consensus.  It has lead to our community becoming ranked the top Municipality in BC (of 152) in regard to being the most efficient in per capita expenditures, despite having a strengthening of environmental initiatives.

The present system of FPTP has led to polarized and adversarial politics, where many citizens feel unrepresented, disengaged, and end up holding their nose to vote against what they don’t want and not for what they do want…if they vote at all.  Would I vote for anything other than a Donald Trump or Doug Ford… damn straight I would.  This is fundamentally wrong.  It wastes time and energy, and creates disenfranchisement amongst voters based on negative responses.   I would rather vote for what I do want, and feel part of the solution.

The other wasted energy I see from the increasingly polarized politics is the pendulum swing of policies – swings that create uncertainty in the economy as policies rapidly change.  FPTP is not the system in this day and age to create certainty.  Again we can look to Brexit, US Canada relations, and environmental policies in all countries using FPTP – stability is not there.  Fear of the “other side” is there.    The US exemplifies this with unbelievable clarity as two parties stagnate governance and embroil the country into a virtual civil war where even families are crumbling because of diametrically opposed views.   We literally are watching a FPTP system transform into a fascist regime.

How does any one of the three ProPR systems address this?  It would enable a broader range of views and values as exist across our Province.  True representation lends to less majority governments, and hence more collaboration and communication.  As Ann recently said about the PR system, “Minorities are not directing the majority…collaboration is. Think teamwork.”  Does it mean policies may be slower or less dramatic in their swings from left to right, from rational to emotional?  Sure.  Is this good?  I think so.  At this moment in time we need more stability, cooperation and trust to address the climate crisis, and we need to stop the radicalization in politics and culture or Canada will follow shortly behind the US…as Ontario already has.

We implore you to cozy-up to that emotional anxiety of change, put it into perspective, fact check the claims that Bill Teilman (lobbyist/political consultant) and those supporting the status quo are pushing.  Are they providing factual information or are they stimulating your reptilian fear brain by pushing an emotional argument?  Who will benefit from keeping FPTP?  Follow the money.

It’s probably no secret that we both voted for PR.  What many people may NOT know, it that if you don’t have the hour to research and decide which of the 3 PR systems you like best, you can leave that question blank.  It’s ok to do that.
DEADLINE:  Your ballot must be received by November 30th, 2018.

Below are useful links we found:

This is where we started – quiz that we took before we even starting to look at the systems –

Christy Clark on Proportional Representation – very good video clip.

Elections BC – link to 4 different videos – each of the systems is covered –

Andrew Coyne – 3 minute video –

Andrew Coyne – 1 hour presentation –

BC Civil Liberties Association –

Fact Check ––gKaE

This one is for your kids to use to understand the concepts –

Overview – can skip the first 2 minutes –