Category Archives: Uncategorized

Special Saturday Open House

New sign

New sign

Open house for sales of perennial edible plants (or just looking around). This week we are open on Saturday Sept 12th from 10am to 2pm.  3295 Compton road.  Check out our new sign at the bottom of our driveway.  If you are buying plants feel free to drive on up…but if you are coming to walk around or visit, please park below and walk on up (unless of course you have trouble with the hill).

FALL IS THE BEST TIME TO PLANT Perennial edible plants.

We have a beautifully rearranged nursery with all kinds of nooks and crannies to explore.  Lots of new plants too.  Updated plant list here with prices (includes GST)DSC01907

  • Ground covers and perennial vegetables:  Good King Henry, Broad Leaved French Sorrel, Crosne, False Indigo (N2 fixer), edible Hostas.
  • We have Gingko, established perennial Leek bulbs, Paw Paws, Japanese Pepper plant (edible leaves and corns), Sweet grass, Sweet Gale, Labrador Tea, Quince, Persimmon, Ziziphus (Jujube), Japanese climbing yam, evergreen huckleberry, salmon berry, oregon grapes, and LOTS more.
  • Also Stevia plants (2-3 ft tall) – ready to dry these supper SWEET leaves or try to overwinter it (don’t let it freeze).
  • Turmeric plants (ready to overwinter – don’t let freeze – put in heated greenhouse or sunny inside window).  Ours is outside in the front curvy bed with our lemons and ginger.  MICROCLIMATES for a changing climate.
Micro climate in zone 1 right outside the front door

Micro climate in zone 1 right outside the front door

Anyone following the latest science on climate change?  Not looking good…the news just keeps getting worse.  Here is an article written by Dr. James Hanson on his new paper here (July 2015) . (Not yet peer reviewed).

Ann sits on a new CRD climate committee made up of elected officials from the CRD.  Last week their group was briefed on sea level rise and the regions adaptation plans.  The plan is based on old science that says 1 meter sea level rise by 2100.  Ann shared Dr. Hanson’s latest paper which indicates “multi-meter sea-level rise by the the end of the century”.  They all discussed what this means for the region – quite a sobering discussion around the table acknowledging that the town of Sydney (near victoria, BC) would be our first community to “go under”…maybe by mid century or sooner.  35 YEARS  

They talked about what this means globally for food and water resources.  OMG.  Then things got really quiet when Ann commented that most of the human population lives at sea level – and we think we have a human migration catastrophe now – we are just getting started. 

Everyone also acknowleges that in our region, despite all of our GHG reduction targets and plans, we are on the business as usual scenario for emissions.  It was noted that we have a planetary emergency and we are essentially doing nothing.  Lots of talk and no do!

Ann shared these same comments with our Highlands council this week when she updated the rest of council on her appointed committee work.

Eco-Hut - plant sales office and example of off-grid tiny home

Eco-Hut – plant sales office and example of off-grid tiny home

So, anyone motivated to plant some trees yet?  We all benefit from every tree we plant…they provide more food locally with less energy and water inputs while at the same time building soil and sequestering carbon.  We need to plant a lot of trees and protect our existing and remaining ecosystems.

Our TOP picks for Food Security (that we have in stock).

  • Nuts:  Blight resistant Hazelnuts (check plant list for availability), walnuts, Chestnuts ( various varieties in 1 gal pot and IDEAL to plant now), Yellowhorn, Ultra Northern Pecan, stone pine.  Sorry, no almonds yet.
  • FRUITS:  recommended for their productivity, easy processing or long storage.  Apples, plums, pears, grapes, kiwis (hardy and fuzzy), 3 types of Figs (dwarf and full size), Mulberry (2 types).
  • Nitrogen fixing plants:  to feed your plants
    • Autumn Olive – also good berries and mulch
    • Russian Olive – berries and mulch
    • Black Locust – also favourite with bees – grows quick – awesome non rotting wood for posts
    • False Indigo – beautiful too!
    • Sea Buckthorn (sea berries) – good berries and tea and mulch
    • Eleaegnus X ebbingei – ideal for hedgerow
  • Mulch plants
    • Comfrey (bocking 14 and the regular comfrey)
    • Most of the N2 fixing plants
  • Medicinal
    • ALL fruits and veggies from your FARMacy
    • Echinacea (wonderful flowers too)
    • Siberian ginseng
    • Many of our berry plants – (currents – black, white, pink, red, sea berries, elderberries)
    • hops – either in tea or in beer…We keep telling ourselves that beer IS a medicinal…right?  RIGHT?  RIGHT?
    • Oregon grapes

Workshop notices:

***Water is on many peoples mind these days and Gord, along with Tayler from Hatchet and Seed, are giving a workshop in Nanaimo on Sept 27th. Click on this link for event details and registration. Drought-Proofing the Future: Planning for Water Resiliency.

***KeyLine Water Management – Opportunity for Farmers in Your Community! The Capital Regional District (CRD) Integrated Watershed Management Program (IWMP) and Climate Action Program (CAP) are pleased to lend in-kind support to the project entitled “Keyline Water Management’: Field Research and Education in the Capital Region” to be conducted by Tayler Krawczyk, of Hatchet & Seed.  Tayler successfully obtained funding from the Ministry of Agriculture’s Growing Forward 2, BC Farm Adaptation Innovator Program (FAIP) to implement and monitor innovative Keyline Design projects on three farms across the Capital Region.  Keyline Water Management is a permaculture technique that applies integrated watershed management in our agricultural areas. Hatchet & Seed’s three year project also includes an educational component, with free public seminars and several field days designed to empower famers to use GIS imaging technology and a simple field contour layout to better understand their farm’s micro-watershed.
The first workshop, Seminar #1: Future Proofing Your Farm: An Introduction to Keyline Design, is Tuesday, September 15th.

Thanks for reading,

Ann and Gord

Super BUSY September

Yup, crazy busy around here.  Our first open house for sales of Perennial Edible Plants is on SUNDAY SEPT 6, 2015.  Who’s coming?  10am-2pm at 3295 Compton Road in the East Highlands.

2015 Fall open house/farm sale dates 10am – 2pm are:

  • Sunday, Sept. 6th
  • Saturday, Sept. 12th
  • Sunday, Sept.  20th
  • Saturday, Oct 3rd (Maybe)
  • email for appointments for private sales  (

We have a great selection of plants (Inventory list here) and we will both be here to talk about anything from chickens to rain water to fermenting food.  People are more than welcome to wander around our overgrown gardens and look at the Eco-Hut (Farm office) and the Eco-Sense house from outside.  No plant purchase required.   All plant prices include GST.  We also have EGGS for sale.

***Water is on many peoples mind these days and Gord, along with Tayler from Hatchet and Seed, are giving a workshop in Nanaimo on Sept 27th.    Click on this link for event details and registration.  Drought-Proofing the Future: Planning for Water Resiliency.

Other things keeping up busy:

  • Fermenting and drying LOTS of food
  • DSC02018New sign for Eco-Sense
  • We have been grieving over the very sudden death of our dog Boo.  His heart had a tumour that ruptured.  Boo is buried in our front yard and will have a wild flower garden on top with his very own Boo apple tree right beside him (he planted it about 4 years ago). 

    Boo's resting place

    Boo’s resting place

  • Rain water installations
  • Teaching
  • Council activities.  (regular meetings, and council appointed committees.
    • Gord sits on the Juan de Fuca and CRD water commissions, Invasive species group, and Emergency planning.
    • Ann sits on the Inter Municipal Climate Action Advisory Group and the Social Sustainability Select Committee.
  • Gord took his hunting license course
  • Purchased a 10-year old smart car…only 78,000 km on it and excellent mileage.  We would have liked to get an electric car, but we wanted something bare bones and in our price range.  It costs less than $16 to fill and we can do most of our trips in this…even holds many of Gord’s tools.
  • DSC00606chickens and ducks keep us busy.
    • We have one young rooster that thinks he is a duck…very cuddly and likes to stand in the water.  Very talkative too.  We are going to keep him for our flock.  Gord named him Beaker (from Muppets fame) this morning.
    • Had to process our two older roosters.  VERY hard to do, but their spurs were hurting the chickens who were at times bleeding on their backs.
  • DSC01183Cleaning the community cob bathroom with composting toilet..woohoo, more resources!
  • DSC01191Plant inventory update, transplanting and watering plants, harvesting food.

Newest videos on Eco-Sense:

Grow your Food in a Nook and Cranny Garden:

Part 1:

Part 2:


Radio interview – Changes Radio – Walking the Talk

A couple weeks ago Gord was interviewed … originally supposed to be about water, but turned into a lot more.
Podcast is not up yet, but here is a link to listen to the 1 hour interview.
Eco-Sense – Walking the Talk – Changes CHLY 101.7 FM

Rainwater and other dry topics

We recently have had a flow of interest in topics covering water collection, and water … dissemination.     So in the spirit of disseminating information on a topic that has wet a lot of interest here is a synopsis of useful info on rainwater harvesting, greywater and … you guessed it… composting toilets.


Two aspects here – policy and application.  Lets start with application. Why collect rainwater?

  • Irrigation of immediately local food.
  • Potable water source for areas that have contaminated groundwater or dried wells, or contaminated surface water sources.
  • Emergency water source in emergency and natural disasters, thus providing resiliency to the home owner and decreasing the stresses applied to emergency response teams to get water to the public.
  • Emergency source of water in the event of fires.
  • In cities it is a form of storm water management which can decrease the storm flood into city storm drains and sewers, and thus decrease the need for expensive upgrades and robust systems (saves tax dollars).
Dual tank with aeration, seasonal irrigation pumps, well top-up, and potable water emergency pump.  Summer irrigation runs through upper floor of the home cooling the house as its fills the tanks.

Dual tank with aeration, seasonal irrigation pumps, well top-up, and potable water emergency pump. Summer irrigation runs through upper floor of the home cooling the house as its fills the tanks.

Basics behind safe collection and storage;   Collect from a surface that will not add contaminants and avoid materials that will add PAHs, fire retardants, cadmium and lead (treated wood shingles, galvanized metal roofing, asphalt shingles).  Provide coarse filtering

Coarse Debris filter

Coarse Debris filter

before storage via a debris filter and a first flush diverter.  Store it clean, don’t allow critter access to the tank, and design the overflow to match the inlet… match the inlet to the code requirements for the catchment area size.

Tank with coarse and 1st flush filters.

Tank with coarse and 1st flush filters – Boat access only install – 40 minutes out of Tofino. Service contract allows me to Kayak in to service systems.

Sizing of storage is really dependant on the monies you have, the usage patterns and volumes (water budget), and space for storage.  I have a program I wrote to calculate all these items and help make the best choice… but ultimately storage is the biggest price tag of the non-potable system.  A potable system has additional expense in the form of filters and sterilizers that can come in many forms, from particle filtration and UV sterilization, to membrane filtration, and chemical sterilization (chlorine and peroxide systems).

A solar powered home so we resorted to 5 micron filter, chlorination, 1 micron carbon and finished with a KDF55.

A solar powered home so we resorted to 5 micron filter, chlorination, 1 micron carbon and finished with a KDF55.

Pumping also has a list of variables, but the system I like is the one we use here at Eco-Sense, which is an in-tank submersible pump that turns on/off automatically thus not requiring a pressure tank or winterization.  Roughly this pump setup is $1000.

Policy – without policy officials cannot easily embrace installs, and lazy officials will drag their heels, while good officials whom have the spare time to learn will be supportive.  We recently had a person ask what they can do to help promote policy… below is an excerpt from that reply:

A comment supplied to a person on the mainland asking how they could approach their council on the issues of rainwater harvesting.

I would do the following: (using Rainwater as an example)
Write a letter addressed to Mayor and council
Start with introducing the topic and why it is important.

  • – aids in stormwater management
  • – provides a means of irrigation for immediately local food
  • – provides an emergency source of water in cases of emergency and natural disaster
  • – By having an emergency sources of water there is less strain on emergency services to provide water
  • – opportunity to allow potable water in areas where groundwater or waterbodies have become unsuitable for drinking

State why a policy is required, and what the absence of a policy means
With the RDN (Regional District of Nanaimo) as an example,

  • – policy has allowed officials to understand and accept thus allow implementation
  • – a lack of policy lends to too many unanswered questions and therefore reluctance to allow systems
  • – policy also ties directly to awareness and education
  • – Education lends to higher degrees of resource conservation
  • – it already has proffessional accreditation through Canada and the US (CANARM and ARCSA)

Ask council to make a motion to have staff move forward to investigate and present a Rainwater Harvesting Policy:
” I am requesting that Council give he topic of Rainwater Harvesting for potable and non-potable use attention in light of the issues we face and ones that will only become more pronounced with climate change, and ask that they motion staff to develop a policy to allow such”.

Ask council to promote this policy to the CRD (or whatever regional district) to create a regional policy.
“I also ask that council write a letter to the CRD (or whatever regional district) and request the same as a regional policy”
Asking direclty what you want is fine, as most councillors will not think of what to ask of staff, or what steps to take… so this does it for them. This might be a surprise, but when a councillor is in the midst of a discussion, they follow seemingly good ideas easily.

Contact us if you are interested in getting a quote, $70 site visit, and $120 to run you through an analysis of water collection, storage and usage.


A topic that I love because it is not black and white.  Just recently Ian Ralston headed up a group of five, to write draft regulation/guidelines for greywater and composting toilets for the BC Ministry of Health (MOH).   Ian by far was the lead, with my role being  reading, editing and putting my two cents in here and there.    The outcome is a document currently under review by the MOH.   The basic gist is that greywater will be able to be designed by an ROWP rather than an engineer, and that a separate waste (septic) system will not be required if a proper system is designed and installed.  That said there are benefits to seasonal diversion into a septic or existing sewage system… and not to poo-poo the latter.    Different types of greywater will require different standards of dispersal, with guidelines on sizes of mulch basins, depth of discharge, mulch characteristics and depth of covering materials.    When the MOH toured through Eco-Sense as part of the project, I  was surprisingly impressed, and thoroughly enjoyed them and their questions.

Composting Toilets

Again part of the same document as noted above.    The down and dirty on this is the willingness of the BC Building and Safety Policy Branch to approve an intermediate “Alternate Solution” to allow composting toilets until the BC Building Code gets re-written and has notation of the CT and Water Closet being equivalent.    We covered a whole host of toilets and processing systems ranging from the simple to the complex, from batch composting to continuous, from pee-in to urine diversion, from mouldering to incinerating.  We covered the functions and objectives of the BC Building code, the qualifications for the person installing them, the safety aspects of composting on-site, and a lot more.    I previously had mis-judged other systems thinking one was better than another, but after this process have come to learn that each application is going to require a system that meets the needs of the site and the users.  There is not right or wrong system, but there is systems that deal with human excreta better in certain circumstances.  If I had to choose all over again… I would still have gone with the system we did… the humanure system.

What can you do to support any of these initiatives… you could follow through with the comment on rainwater harvesting and approach your council, and you could write to the Ministry of Health and state your support of greywater and composting toilets, and why you think they are important.  It’s really that simple.

Resources and Links

Rainwater Harvesting Practitioner for the Mid Island – Jamie Wallace of JAAN Designs  (Landscape design, and Project Management too)
Rain Water Harvesting and Pond supplies (pumps and filters) – VanIsle Water
Rainwater Landscaping, Keyline design for residential and farm – Hatchet & Seed
Regional District of Nanaimo Rain Water Harvesting Manual

End of Season – homeless plants looking for a forever home.

Last sale of the Spring Season:  Sunday May 31 from 10am-4pm. (extended hours).  3295 Compton Road, east Highlands, Victoria.

We view Mother Nature as sort of the grand elected official (actually a benevolent dictator), following the laws of physics, and not in the position of administering those laws… just higher level policy.  She doesn’t care who lives or dies, that is the human conundrum, as sadly we are all saddened with the over 2000 deaths in India with the heat wave.  The short video narrated by Julia Roberts speaks to this.

Thriving lemons with flowers

Thriving lemons with flowers

Seems like an odd intro to an update.   A little dark and gloomy… perhaps, but then being aware of our changing and unpredictable conditions is what we are needing to do.    Preparing for an expected record breaking hot summer here on the hill at Eco-Sense is part of the daily chores.


BC snow pack map as of May 15, 2015

BC snow pack map as of May 15, 2015

Last week the State of Washington declared a drought emergency, but obviously right across the border in BC there must be different naturals laws at work as there seems to be little or no recognition of drought.  Bring in the recent long range forecast from Accuweather – water temperatures of our coast are 2-3C higher, and then the added effects of El Nino, a low to no snowpack, drying winds, and vegetation loss expected early in the season due to the early drought thus lower evapo-transpiration on the coastal landscape, and consequently a forecast for a dramatically hot summer.     Can’t say we are looking forward to it, but in the short term strawberries are a month early and are huge because the berry bushes never went into dormancy this winter, they kept on growing.    Gord’s facebook post regarding water and what we are in for.  

Everything is beautiful...and EARLY

Everything is beautiful…and EARLY

SALE:  As we prepare for the hot summer, we hope to sell a few more plants so we don’t have to look after them all summer…so, we are hoping some of these plants will get into the ground…your ground.    With that in mind, we will have specials (up to 30% off on some items for our last day of the season).  We have tomatoes setting lots of fruit, likely offering first harvest in two-three weeks, Desert King figs, Hops, fuzzy kiwis, fuki, habanero peppers, Echinacea, some varieties of grapes like Vanessa, Himrod, Sovereign Coronation and Castel, strawberries, and more.   Also the last of the sweet potatoes – we are planting out a lot, to act as ground cover and for their edible greens… in the open with no covering, while the ones we are growing for tubers are in their heated home.  We also have MORE Tumeric starts to sell.

Watermelons in sand and plant pots

Watermelons in sand and plant pots

Solar roof...beginning of may and watermelons and squash thriving

Solar roof…beginning of may and watermelons and squash thriving

One of the items we fight with every year due to the amount of mulch we use are wood bugs – they devour our peas, our squash, our watermelon.  Last year we tried something, and it worked with 100% effectiveness.    When we plant out our tasty starts we place a circle of sand around the base about 20cm-30cm in diameter, and place a plant pot with the bottom cut out over top… meaning the wood bugs would have to cross the sand then climb over the plant pot.  They don’t.

Black Amber plum...tree is OVERLOADED

Black Amber plum…tree is OVERLOADED

If you have not been out to see us this season, this is the last chance, and the gardens are lush and WAY ahead of where they usually are at this time of year.  We have plums dripping from trees (actually the tree is falling over), sezchuan pepper corns thicker than you can imagine on the branches, apricots ramping up, and gojis finally settling in.    What is unexpected besides the above?  The Theta hazelnuts, young 2 year old trees are loaded with hazelnuts…  our nut production is starting 3 years early!

DSC01874Possibly bees arrive this weekend?  We’ll see.  Lots of food over the past three years has been planted out for the bees, bergamot, phacelia, white and red clover, sweet white perennial clover at 7 feet tall, black locust… and then we have the blackberry blooms.

11216225_10153277514545309_413888765205766848_oPhoto of really Big Tour from OUR Ecovillage.  Thanks To Jason Guille for the photo.


The Awful truth about Climate Change:  

Time to get dirty…why we NEED bacteria on our skin and in our guts.  From the David Suzuki website.

Awesome Companion Planting Chart:

A good summary of our current global predicament and why the economy is likely to collapse sooner than later.  From Dave Pollard’s Blog

What happens when a 10,000-year-old Antarctic ice shelf disappears by 2020?  Video from the CBC. 

More on the Limits to Growth from Scientific American

Mating moths

Mating moths

And…life goes on.  Two chicks have hatched with another momma hen sitting on some eggs.

Here’s a photo of some moths mating.  I think these are Sphinx moths.

Home made watering wand

Home made watering wand

We got tired of disposable watering wands…so here’s what Gord came up with.  (Gord hates cheap crap that keeps breaking so using quality valves, and PEX… viola).

Ducks eating the cover crop AND worms

Ducks eating our cover crops and the worms…happy ducks.  This means the roots of the plants die back and feed their nitrogen to the soils…the ducks also poop and they eat less purchased food.  Win!  Win! Win!

Hope to see you out… we are staying open till 4 pm this final Sunday.

Gord and Ann