What’s Happening?

What’s happening at the Eco-Sense homestead?  LOTS!

OUR FIRST BOOK.  We have been heads down most of the winter writing our first book; Essential Composting Toilets published by New Society Publishing.  A very timely topic given the rising awareness of water both locally and globally and the desire by many for increased resilience.  Writing a book is a HUGE time commitment that seriously restricts cash flow and many other basic tasks.  It’s a good thing we don’t actually have to buy much food.  Final manuscript is due mid March with publication happening a couple months later.

Cover Image emailed

The Eco-Sense Perennial Edible Plant nursery is scheduled to begin the spring season on Saturday March 3rd from 10am-2pm.  We had hoped to open sooner, but with the freezing weather, there is no point.  The nursery is well stocked with new plants that are just arriving.  We have brought in lots of large bare root trees as many people are planting larger trees to get their food production happening sooner rather than later.  Here’s our up to date plant list with prices…and remember all prices INCLUDE the 5% GST.

Our Friends Tayler, Solara and Flora have left Eco-Sense and moved to a walkable neighbourhood in the City where they operate their landscaping business Hatchet and Seed.  This move left us wondering…what to do with all that space?  We have come up with a creative solution.

Welcome to the…


We have turned this beautiful space into an inspirational place for meetings, workshops, and presentations for RADICAL LEARNING.
Radicle LearningContact ann@eco-sense.ca for booking information.  Full details can be found on a new link on our blog.  https://eco-sense.ca/the-mud-room/.  


The MUD room with the gorgeous table that Gord built out of scraps of wood.  We can sit 10 people at the table or remove the table and set up seating for 15 to watch a video presentation.  Kitchen is well set up for food workshops.

Art Work:  Our cob walls are adorned with artwork created by the very talented David Baird (Gord’s Dad).  Gord has inherited his dad’s creativity.    Check out David Baird’s site here.  I continue to be blown away by the beauty and quality of his carvings.  All of the pieces displayed in the MUD room are for sale.



Please share this information with people in your networks who teach courses or give presentations and who may be looking for a unique and special place for RADICAL LEARNING.

Eco-Sense workshops: In the weeks ahead we will be posting a series of workshops and presentations.  Feel free to SHARE YOUR IDEAS with us.  Feedback is welcome.


That’s it for now.


Winter Lemons at Eco-Sense


Responding to the Urgency of Climate Change

Saanich Councillor Vic Derman sent his memo “Responding to Climate Change”, to Ann two weeks before he passed away in March 2017. I asked Vic if I could also use it in a submission to Highlands council with Highlands specific recommendations. He responded with “Please feel free to use the letter as the basis for what you submit to Highlands Council.”

At the time it was decided that Highlands would wait until it first appeared on the Saanich agenda and then go to Highlands. Then Vic unexpectedly passed away and everything was understandably on hold until after his life celebration. :(Then it was delayed for other reasons…then it was delayed until after the Saanich bi-election…then I decided to move forward with it as it had been 8 months since his passing. Vic wanted it out there and for his memo to be useful and inspire action. His memo to Saanich references the appendix he wrote for climate actions which is not yet a public document…That is for Saanich to make public and I hope they do.


Saanich councillor Vic Derman Passed away in 2017

Given that his memo is now 8 months old and that myself and Councillor Gord Baird were using it as an introduction for specific recommendations here in the Highlands in our own memo, we felt it was prudent to run Vic’s memo by a climate scientist for “informal review”.
There were four edits to the text which are highlighted in RED below. The most significant change was in paragraph four where Sea Level Rise (SLR) is discussed. Vic originally said that a near 3m SLR could result by 2050-2060 and this was changed to end of the century. 3 meters by 2050-2060 is not fully supported by the scientific literature, however, it it discussed by climate experts as within the realm of possible. We thought it would be prudent to stick with more generally accepted numbers which are already catastrophic as we are currently witnessing.


Climate change poses an ever growing, potentially critical, threat to human society and all species on our planet.  At the climate change talks in Paris, politicians established an ideal goal of staying under 1.5 degrees C rise in global temperature and recognized that, at an absolute maximum, global temperature rise should be kept under 2 degrees C rise. While laudable, these goals are not realistic without a very dramatic acceleration of our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Last fall, the CRD held a Forum of Councils on climate change. Several knowledgeable climate experts confirmed that we have already put enough carbon in the atmosphere to guarantee a 1.6 C rise, likely in under two decades.  This means that limiting temperature rise to 1.5 would require sucking massive amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere. Doing so would be very expensive, if it could be accomplished at all.

Furthermore, as we move to the 1.6 C increase, natural feedback loops such as methane release from melting permafrost will contribute at least an additional .3 C rise. A recent article in the journal Nature indicates that the contribution of these natural feedback loops may have been underestimated. To sum up, we are, very likely, already effectively committed to a rise of 1.9 degrees or more, very close to, or beyond, the 2 degree C absolute maximum. Best estimates suggest that accomplishing the GHG mitigation commitments established in Paris, which most nations are not yet on track to do, would result in an increase between 2.5 to 3.5 degrees C. That is very risky and very dangerous territory.

More rapid sea level rise is one, but only one, of the potential consequences we face if climate change is allowed to follow its current trajectory. A few 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 West Antarctic ice shelves revealed potential deterioration at a much more rapid pace than expected causing researchers to suggest sea level rise of 2 – 3 metres by century’s end. (Vic is referring to this study http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v531/n7596/full/nature17145.html)  A three metre rise, would be catastrophic and would eliminate, or put at severe risk, many trillions of dollars of assets.Protecting them would be extremely expensive if it were possible at all. Concurrently, society would face a huge influx of “sea rise refugees” as low lying coastal areas were inundated or became otherwise unlivable.

Even if a 2 – 3 metre sea level rise occurs less quickly, severe environmental damage will almost certainly result from a temperature rise exceeding 2 degrees C. Unwisely, we are doing substantial damage to our planet’s life support systems. Equally alarming are the potential fiscal and social impacts. A recent article suggests that attempts to control ocean albedo and “save” the arctic by using technology to “re-freeze” could cost about $5 trillion. This is an enormous amount of money, but is only a small part of the economic costs of responding inadequately to climate change. It is completely false to suggest that we cannot afford to respond to climate change. Instead, it is clear that we cannot afford to not respond.

As to social consequences, a society with hundreds of millions of refugees that also faces problems such as substantially “re-working” agriculture is unlikely to be stable. Unfortunately, it is much more likely to be modelled on the four horsemen of the apocalypse. It is difficult to believe that we would allow such an outcome to happen.

We are severely mortgaging the future of today’s children and those who follow. I doubt any of us would consciously choose to deny these children hope for a decent future but that’s exactly the consequence of our failure to adequately respond. We need the kind of massive, focused effort that society demonstrated in World War II, if we are to having any hope of avoiding the worst that climate change has to offer. Without question, there is a need for much greater action on the part of federal and provincial governments. However, collectively, actions of individual cities and municipalities are at least as important. Hopefully, Saanich and its Council will become true leaders in the massive, focused effort needed in response to the challenge we face. The time we have to respond is becoming very short.


  1. That Council commit to much more aggressively reducing GHG emissions (At least 80% reduction by 2040) and commit to establishing clear targets and “milestones” necessary to insure such a commitment is accomplished.
  2. That Council consider adopting the need to respond aggressively to climate change as the #1 priority in its strategic planning and that Council then work with staff to establish a climate change lens that insures decisions will be shaped by that priority.
  3. That Council direct staff to design and present to council a program of actions necessary to accomplish Council’s much more aggressive commitment, targets and milestones. (A description of potential actions is included as appendices)
  4. That in an open letter, Council copy this report to the Prime Minister of Canada and the Premier of British Columbia as well as to other relevant federal and provincial politicians along with a very strongly worded request for much more aggressive, focused federal and provincial action.

Councillor Vic Derman


Below is the resulting memo from councillors Gord Baird and Ann Baird presented to Highlands council on Oct 16, 2017.   Link

Since Vic’s passing in March, the climate has continued to heat up with hurricanes, wild fires, and floods in a relentless and unprecedented scale.  Millions are displaced and traumatized, with entire islands obliterated, and many have died.  Many will never recover.  It has become a moral imperative to act.

Building upon Councillor Derman’s memo, and our recent participation at the Livable Cities Forum, we would like to suggest that Highlands council take the urgency of climate change very seriously.  Highlands is very well positioned with policy and tools to make decisions that reflect the extreme urgency of the climate situation.  Our Highlands Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) has two excellent sustainability tools; the Decision Making Framework DMF (page 24) and the Appraisal Form (AF).

 Sustainable Highlands Decision Making Framework (DMF):  Currently we have policy  II-110 requiring the DMF to “be used to analyze operational plan items brought forward from council’s approved Strategic Priorities” AND the two page DMF states right at the top that this tool can be used “to help assess any type of action, (plan, action, project, research, procurement, practice new or old) by using the Sustainable Highlands sustainability framework to inform decision making.”

Highlands Sustainability Appraisal Form (AF):  Currently we have Policy V-3506 that requires “all rezoning/OCP amendment applications be required to fill out…” and this form “may be used in other instances.”

The red highlighted text explains where these tools can be additionally used with no need to change our existing policies.  We suggest that: 

  1. Council members (and staff) look for opportunities to utilize these tools to better inform decisions that are deemed to have significant mitigation and adaptation implications.
  2. Council considers forwarding items of significant climate mitigation and adaptation implications to SSSC and/or SLUSC to gather more perspectives when utilizing these subjective tools.
  3. Council gives more weight to the information produced from the use of these tools when making decisions. 

Additionally, the following recommendations arise from the Livable Cities Forum that both Councillors Baird attended: 

Ann’s notes: http://www.highlands.ca/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/3679?fileID=4328

Gord’s notes: http://www.highlands.ca/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/3680?fileID=4329 

  1. That council direct staff to look into applying for a FCM grant to cover three integrated items and to report back to council with details, time frames, and costs if grant application is successful.  A new staff member dedicated to working with consultants on creating and implementing adaptation, mitigation, and resilience plans.  (FCM pays 80% Salary).  (Remaining 20% to be included in 2018 budget discussions).  Grant would also include funds to work towards the following:
    • Create an adaptation and mitigation plan including a risk assessment.
    • Commit to creating a policy stating these risks and what we realistically can and cannot do to mitigate these risks.
    • A full municipal natural asset initiative (MNAI) to begin in 2018/2019.
  2. That council direct staff to include a heading called Climate Change Implications in every staff report to council.  (This section could include any of risk/ adaptation/ mitigation implications, or ICSP tools as appropriate.  Even if staff leaves this section blank, this gives the opportunity for discussion at the council table.)
  3. That council direct staff to write a letter to South Island Prosperity Project (SIPP) indicating that Highlands will only continue membership in SIPP if the constitution is changed to include the wording “promoting local economic resilience through the opportunities arising from mitigating and adapting to climate change” AND that the ideas of working towards a circular economy are embedded in the vision for SIPP.  Council further directs staff to send this same letter to all the SIPP funding partners.
  4. That council direct staff to identify and bring back to council ongoing educational opportunities that strengthen corporate fluency and awareness of climate change, risks, adaptation, mitigation, and resiliency, for both staff and council.

Respectfully Submitted. 

Ann Baird, Councillor                                 Gord Baird, Councillor

It was an interesting discussion at the council table.  Recommendations 1 and 4 passed.  Item 2 was defeated.  Item 3 was changed to writing the letter to SIPP and funding partners but no mention of withdrawal from SIPP.



Nursery By Appointment Only

Hey Folks

Spring is almost here and the plant nursery is open starting Saturday March 3rd from 10am – 2pm, then every Saturday until end of May…

We are still making appointments for people to come to the nursery to buy plants or to book a tour.
Tour Rates

Lots of workshops planned this year at Eco-Sense as we ramp up our education offerings due to demand.

Here’s our nursery list

Contact Ann through the “CONTACT” tab.


Cob Oven and Benches…take TWO

QUICK NOTICE for plant sales on Saturday Oct 7th from 10am-2pm.  It’s been a slow fall season at the nursery…mostly due to being TOO busy to properly market our plants.  (We are writing a book on compost toilets AND everything else we do) So…depending on how this goes on Saturday, this may be our last open house at the farm nursery until next spring.  However, we are always available year round for private appointments to come on out to buy some plants.  Send us an email at ann@eco-sense.ca or gord@eco-sense.ca to set up an appointment.

Cob OVEN and outside seating area.  In 2010, we built our Earth sheltered greenhouse out front of the house and the following year we built our cob oven into the north wall.


We created an outside patio and cob benches with a tiny living roof over the cob oven.  We used this area a lot while the kids were growing up enjoying many years of pizza, bread, and beans cooked in this oven.


These days, we are not eating much pizza or bread, but once and a while for a treat, we do enjoy a pizza.  If you would like to know why we don’t eat much sugar or simple carbs any more it’s because we have learned how unhealthy these are for our gut micro-biome.    Our bodies are simply not designed to have these foods as part of our regular diet…and who are we are argue with 200,000+ years of evolution and a few million before that.  Here’s the best book on the subject written by a geologist and a biologist.

“The Hidden Half of Nature” by David R. Montgomery and Anne Bikle. Basically, the rhizosphere (area around plant roots), and our colon are remarkably similar. They are both teeming with microscopic life in an amazing symbiotic dance sharing food, communicating, and playing a key role in health and immune function of plants and our own bodies. Both of these environments require lots of mulch. 

Good human health requires eating for your gut microbes. LOTS of fibre and very limited sugar or refined carbohydrates (like bread, pasta, etc). Your colon is your fermentation vessel where indigestible plant tissues are broken down by a very diverse community of microbes releasing metabolites that feed us essential nutrients (even serotonin), AND control the right amount of inflammation in our bodies…this is the control centre for our immune system. Our gut microbes release SCFA’s (short chain fatty acids), that are picked up by dendritic cells which them show these to the Tcells to control the amount of inflammation in our bodies and trigger the right immune response. It’s complicated, read the book to learn more about the scientific literature…and eat your veggies…lots of them.   

Gord and I now refer to dinner as “MULCH”, and our colon as our “indoor fermentation vessel”.  After reading this book, I came away with the thought that industrial agriculture with it’s microbe destroying chemicals and tilling practises are an unbelievably arrogant and stupid process.  To think that we can just decide to destroy the soil life and think everything will be ok…is simply INSANE.  The soil life is the basis of ALL terrestrial life…ours included.  So, if you are able, please don’t buy nutrient deficient crap food from this system.  The solution is EASY, support local, organic, and soil BUILDING methods of food production.  This is one of those action items that contributes to many positive things all at the same time.  Better health for you, more local jobs, better for the climate, better for biodiversity, better for farm animals and even better the ocean (no toxic run off).  

Back to the cob oven…The little roof just wasn’t enough… especially after this last winter with the very unusual freeze and thaw cycles.  Much of the plaster simply exploded.  So, we have redesigned it all and put a roof over it.  WOW…we love this new area…it’s so much more cozy and we have the addition of some outside tables for pizza preparation and for potlucks.

So rather than write a million words, here’s our photo journey of this project.  You can click on each photo to see more.



And so Gord does not feel left out of this post… sometimes, like today, we ate the un-hidden half of nature with our lunch.  Due to Ann not wearing her glasses… we supported our microbiome, (our colon cauldron) with the following vitamins A, P, H, I, D and S.    Sorry there is no photo journal of that.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Hope you enjoyed.

Ann and Gord

Risky Business

Before the update… which we think is particularly pertinent at this time during the hurricanes, fires, floods, droughts, Trump and other horrible world events, we risk losing you, the reader, by saying…

HEY!    Nursery is open Saturday Sept. 30 from 10am – 2pm
60 of our Grafted apple trees are now in inventory and ready to go.  


Radical Homesteading!  Tomatoes ready to dry.  In late September I start in the oven and then move to the solar dryer.

Grafted in April 2017, the growth and health has been extraordinary. Over 5 feet of new growth.

Life itself is risky business let alone being married to Ann.   For Gord, learning the art of risk assessment and adaption planning has been critical to his survival on many occasions.   As with all strong marriages, outside of adaptation strategies, mitigation skills rank up there with food, shelter and beer.   This week offered us the opportunity to see others share their experience, knowledge and research on all the above at the Livable Cities Forum: Advancing Low carbon Resilience.  So you can just  imagine the comfort we felt being immersed in a conference full of engineers, insurance professionals, chief resiliency officers, city managers, planners, and policy analysts from three levels of government discussing… how to get along in the face of risks posed by climate change.

Later in the week Gord changed gears from risk avoidance to risk taking, in the form of speaking engagements.  One presentation topic was spawned from the conference from the unavoidable question that arises as folks mingle, “So, what do you do for a living?”.  Gord hears that and fear shoots through his veins.  What do you say?  How much time do they have?  How can I be concise and coherent?  Gord usually defaults to the inappropriate… “I live in a mud house and I shit in a bucket.”

The risk here is that your either really quickly alienate yourself, or really quickly have another person that wants a private tour.    For the Oak Bay Probus Club, Gord had to be a little more formal and tidy in answering that question… taking 50 minutes to explain that really he is somewhat unemployable because he doesn’t have a trade certification,  a MA or PhD, isn’t a registered professional, and is an elected official in the smallest community in the CRD.   Needless to say the group was wonderful and supportive, with lots of questions on topics of EROEI (energy return on energy invested), Solar PV and their ecological footprint in their manufacturing, economics, structural engineering of the Eco-Sense home, if Ann can be cloned, and if we sleep.   Upon reflection, Gord wonder’s why they didn’t ask about cloning him?

The other presentation to the Mill Bay Garden Club… well lets just say Gord was inappropriate when someone in the audience asked “How do you protect your nuts?”  From risky to risqué.

Risk really is one of those items that most of us want to avoid.  After all feeling secure is so much easier.  We attended the Liveable Cities Forum in Victoria, a conference where we were only two of three elected officials in attendance amongst a whole host of people that take fire, flood, climate change and resiliency really seriously.  Many of these folks have to because they have had to respond to disasters in their own cities (Calgary, Montreal, Toronto).  We came away feeling more energized than we ever have, and summarized our workshops and corresponding take away points in 3211 words… each.  Yup … we both wrote up our reports and when we had each completed them we each were at 3211 words.  Talk about a marriage made in heaven.

Links to our summaries:

Ann’s Summary of LCF2017
Gord’s Summary of LCF2017


Yummy lunch including “Escape Pods” – Fermented garlic scapes and radish pods – YUMMY.  And Yes, Gord eats faster than Ann

You don’t want to read a novel you say… no problem, here is an extremely quick synopsis.

We’re screwed.  Or in the words of Barbara Kingsolver in her recent interview on CBC‘s The Current, “Because climate change is really, really terrible, let’s face it. This is not going to end well.”  But, there is a hell of a lot we need to do.  Seriously, if you are interested in this topic and what can and IS being done, and you want to at least find some positive news on topics of the circular economy, communication strategies (which we fail on…apparently we don’t dumb it down enough), counting emissions, food, water, fire, insurance, legal issues, risk assessment, mitigation strategies, grants available to municipalities to adapt, natural assets, ecological solutions, local climate data and what we can expect here by 2050, etc, etc, etc.

Here’s a couple snippets:

The cost of inaction of preparing for a disaster is 1:10.  Do it now it costs 10x less than responding later.  If you react now, you have time to apply a sustainability and resiliency lens to your decision; react after then you don’t take the time to think things through and your decisions leave you at the mercy of future compounded risk.    At Eco-Sense our food, water, and redundant systems will hopefully be time and monies well spent.

Fail safe.  We can never catch up to climate change in both the science nor how we apply that science to our infrastructure, so when designing, expect it to fail, and design for it to fail safe.

Speak to the risk, don’t avoid sharing the bad news.  As a community, especially one as small as ours, we face severe risks in the form of devastating fire, earthquake and rain events that will wash out driveways and roads.  We obviously have no way to truly control for these, but we know they exist; by avoiding speaking to them we are in essence sending a false sense of security to our residents.  Even if you can’t mitigate a risk, by speaking to it you are performing a public duty of informing, and thus allowing people to make their own informed choices.

After a disaster, (e.g. Slave lake), the social impacts are enormous, as people are separated from their social groups,  can’t pay mortgages, health care professionals move out of town, rates of alcoholism and family violence increase.  You need to plan your recovery before the catastrophe strikes because recovery starts at the same time as response.

That’s it for now.

Gord and Ann


Climate Change and food

FIRST OPEN FARM for sales of Perennial Edible Plants of the fall season is Saturday Sept 23, from 10am-2pm.  3295 Compton Road, East Highlands, Victoria, BC (More details below).  

ps…you don’t have to buy plants to come out and walk around…but please park below (by our lower gate), and save upper parking for people buying plants.  🙂

IMG_20170828_110330Well, what a summer of climate chaos around the planet.  Multiple hurricanes, floods and fires are causing a stunning amount of destruction and suffering.  The planet and humanity are taking one hell of a beating and according to climate science this is exactly what we can expect more of as we head into a volatile future.  Climate hell is already baked into the cake.

Economy:  Meanwhile here in Canada our economy is booming.  Climate change is good for consumption and growing the economy.  It’s important to translate what economic growth really means.  Economic growth means more climate change and more human suffering.  Economic growth is BAD for the planet and bad for people.   ALL of humanities problems are a result of economic growth.  Think about that next time politicians and economists talk about economic growth as being a good thing.  Economists and politicians are NOT scientists (except for Dr. Andrew Weaver, MLA)… they speak (mostly) with enormous cultural delusion and not hard facts.  Economic growth is literally destroying the ability of the planet to sustain life (including human beings) and it is currently toasting our ability to meet basic needs… you know those pesky needs like eating and drinking water…not to mention extreme poverty.  ACK!  But, hey, in the short term (for us privileged folks)… it’s party time.  More ACK!  We can join in the delusion, distraction, and entertainment OR we can wallow in misery and guilt.  Actually, there is another much preferable option:  Awareness, tears, connection, joy AND action.  


Aware, happy, AND taking action

Food:  So what does this all mean for agriculture?  The CBC has recently done a series of podcasts discussing climate change called 2050: Degrees of Change.  The third episode is on how agriculture in BC will be affected.  Episode 3: Agriculture.  The 30 minute podcast is quite good at exploring what we can expect here (British Columbia) in the next 30 years, however it is sadly lacking in what this next 30 years will mean globally and how those global impacts will have secondary and greater effects here.  These indirect impacts are sadly lacking from the discussion.  There are going to be a lot of hungry homeless people globally… billions.  I don’t even know how to process that, but you can bet there will be some fierce struggles for survival… there already are if we choose to see through our privilege.  Can you say climate refugees?  War?  Famine?  Disease?  Violence?  We have a global civilization and we will feel these impacts in the form of global resource scarcity.

IMG_20170828_105601Discussions about how these climate impacts will change people’s thoughts and behaviours has raised the debate that surely people will change versus no way in hell.   Gord is a stick in the mud saying that humans are too ignorant to change belief systems in general.  As it turns out recent research on the views and values in the US show the same conclusion.  Listen to the recent CBC Quirks and Quarks episode on No Amount of Hurricane Destruction Can Change Views.


  • LOCAL FOOD:  It’s absolutely critical that our region focus on growing the majority of our food locally. We need to do this while transitioning completely off of fossil fuels and simultaneously building more carbon in the soil.  Permaculture and polyculture on farms and backyards need to become the dominant form of food production…NOT agriculture.  No more entire fields tilled for planting with a single crop.  There will be new crops planted that are adapted to our changing climate and lots more perennial crops as they are more resilient to unpredictable weather extremes.
  • WATER: There will be obvious implications for how we use our regions water…especially with the regions growing population.  Water priorities will become very evident and just a wild guess that water for growing food will rise to the top of the list and watering golf courses will be at the bottom.  Fighting over who gets to use water for what will happen here and everywhere…it already is.
  • JOBS: The good news is that there will be a lot more jobs in all aspects of food production.  I’ll also guess that we won’t be growing profitable niche crops for export.  GDP will be a useless measurement and replaced with something more meaningful like HPI (Happy Planet Index) or GPI (Genuine progress Indicator), or maybe here in the Highlands HAPI (Highlands Actual Progress Indicator).  Check out these fall workshops on creating a greater Victoria area that lives within the carrying capacity of One-Planet…instead of five planets. One planet
  • HEALTH:  Our bodies will be much healthier due to better food (especially fibre) and more exercise.  No more crappy processed food full of toxins, simple carbohydrates, bad fats, and sugar.
  • COMMUNITY: All of these changes will lead to more people growing food in their backyards, buying from year round local markets, and growing food in community gardens.  All leading to stronger communities and more social interaction.IMG_20170912_120106

PREPPING:  Just to be clear these are the changes needed… whether they occur or not comes down to leadership at the individual level, as it is pretty much a guarantee it won’t happen at a political level… as too much structural change within governments (local, provincial, federal, and global) is required and the reality is the funding and will are not there.  The entire political structure is simply not set up to make the changes required in the time frames needed.  Funding goes towards the items that are acute like the emergency relief required during and after the disasters.  Governments are reactionary…and most are corrupted with unregulated capitalism.  At an individual level,  “prepping”, a term and a movement that we have worked hard to avoid,  is ironically where we have to go.  We simply must prepare ourselves individually, AND on the home family front, AND in our neighbourhoods, AND in our communities, AND in our regions.  These are the individual actions to look after yourself and build strong resilient neighbours around you.  So YES, we must all become preppers and prepare for the world we are going to get and use our individual and collective creativity to prepare…AND YES, we can have fun doing this.IMG_20170828_104809_001

Perennial plant plan: So in light of all this, and since we have our first open farm day for the Eco-Sense Perennial Edible plant Nursery on SAT. Sept 23rd, we thought we would put together a perennial plant food security plan.  Our selection criteria for this list are plant hardiness, polination, productivity, full season harvests, ease of processing, nutrition, and beauty.

IMG_20170828_104609Here’s the list:  

2 Apples:

  • “keeper” apples  store well, good fresh eating, drying in chips or leather, canning apple sauce, apple cider.
  • We use 3/4 size rootstock – not the thirsty and weak dwarf rootstock.  Most of our trees are grafted right here at Eco-Sense.
  • Ready mid to late September

2 Plums

  • fresh eating, drying, saucing, wine
  • either two Asian plums, or old school with Stanley/Italian Prune/Green Gage
  • Ready mid to late August

2 Pears

  • fresh eating, drying spears or leather, saucing, canning the sauce
  • Bartlett is the universal pollinator  for both the Asian Pears and European
  • Ready early to mid September just before late season keeper apples

Hardy Kiwi (male and female)

  • fresh eating, keeps well
  • ready in October when all the other harvests are complete
  • Need large trellis or fence etc.  Works extremely well to shade your house from the hot western sun…it’s only going to get hotter.

Desert King Fig

  • fresh eating, drying in fruit leather or quarters, canning fig sauce, freeze whole for winter smoothies.  No peeling, no pitting, no seeds, no problems.
  • Ready mid August

Ever-bearing Mulberry

  • eating everytime you walk by for over a month
  • Smoothies, drying in leathers, freeze for winter smoothies, etc
  • Start eating as early as mid July and continue to Mid August
  • Don’t plant above your car.

1 or 2 Logan Berry

  • early eating for 3 weeks or more
  • Ready early July
  • Need trellis:  Growing logans and thornless blackberry on the same trellis saves real estate as they compliment each others harvest times

1 or 2 Thornless blackberry

  • BIG berries.  eating, eating, eating for over a month.  Wine.  Freeze for winter smoothies (if you don’t eat them all)
  • These ripen as the Logan berries are finishing
  • Ripen early August
  • No more bleeding on Himalayan blackberries and these taste EVEN BETTER…Really!

1 or more Almonds

  • Hall’s Hardy is squirrel proof…but don’t expect to get the nut out with nut crackers – YOU WONT.  They’re Hardy!
  • Protein.  Sweet and yummy.
  • good storage
  • can collect without requirement for immediate processing
  • pollinated by Apricot as well as other almonds

2 Apricots

  • eating, drying.  Easy to process.
  • ready mid August
  • need to control for Peach Hole Borer using Tangle Foot for the first 5 years

2 Red currant and/or 2 White currants

  • eating, juice for wine, freeze with stems on and pull out and eat through the winter.
  • Ready late July
  • best to plant together and cover with bird netting

2 (or as many as you can grow) black currants

  • Extremely healthy juice, fresh eating or dried
  • Ready late July
  • Grows in part shade

2-4 grapes

  • Himrod, Vanessa, Sovereign Coronation, and Black Monuka are all seedless table that also make good wine.
  • WINE: NO sugar or yeast required.  Just juice and put in a bottle with air lock.
  • Fresh grapes keep 3 weeks or so in the fridge.
  • Grow on trellis to provide much needed shade to sit or nap…cause it’s getting hot out there.

2-3 Autumn Olive

  • Nitrogen fixing and good berries.

2-3 Goumi

  • Nitrogen fixing and good berries


  • Early, yummy berries

Josta Berry

  • early, big, productive, yummy

6 Hosta

  • Grows in shade.
  • Edible leaves and early shoots.  Awesome in stir fries early spring…goes well with perennial Leek.

6 perennial Leek

  • Early abundant large leek leaves.
  • Enormous bulbs can be harvested and eaten or spread around.

If room in your garden plant nuts for protein and beauty:

3 Hazelnuts -small trees

2 chestnuts

2 Walnuts

Many people may also wish to add annual gardens, perennial vegetables and raised garden beds to their food security plan.

We have lots of other edible plants to check out at the nursery, but the above list is our must have for the basics of a food producing perennial food garden.  Check out full list here.  All prices include the GST.

We are paring down our nursery to focus on the plants we think are rock solid and we have experience with in our zone 7b rocky and drought prone climate.  Our heavy mineral soils do extremely well with addition of a little high bacterially dominated inputs (mulch) to create thriving trees.   If you can’t decide what will fit in your space, how to organize your trees, or wish a professional whole garden plan, there are good folks out there like Tayler and Solara from Hatchet and Seed who can help in that department.  Click on their link and contact info for customized design and installation help.

Ann and Gord

ann@eco-sense.ca.    gord@eco-sense.ca


Quick notices and then on to our blog post


  1. Composting Toilet workshop on Saturday July 22nd from 10am -noon.  Only 4 spots left.  Registration and details online here:  https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/eco-sense-composting-toilet-workshop-tickets-32535409285
  2. Special 1 day Nursery Opening:  Saturday July 29th from 10am – 2pm.  The gardens and nursery are beautiful in their summer glory.  Our nursery is only open in the spring and fall and sadly this is not the most beautiful time.  Come and see and buy your perennial edible plants in all their summer glory…but don’t plant out until fall.

What’s Overwhelmingly Wonderful?  Worthy Of Writing? Wreaks Of Wildness? In short… WOW!

Starting the North Coast Trail

it is just over 14kms to get to the start of the North Coast Trail.

Our first vacation in 4 years was WOW.  Thanks to Tayler and Solara and Jocelyn and Jarvis for looking after the homestead for 15 days while Ann and I set off to be one with the North Coast Trail in Cape Scott Park at the northern tip of Vancouver Island.   And I should says thanks to Ann for prepping 14 days of food… I so enjoyed carrying it.  (Note: Ann’s comments will be in parenthesis).   (Gord’s new nickname is the Sexy Sherpa Dude…it’s amazing what a man will carry with regular flirting).

In our typical naive fashion we decided not to follow the conventional wisdom for this gruelling hike, which is to hike the trail one way, usually from east to west.  No, rather than fart around with water taxis and shuttles we decided to just park at the Cape Scott Parking lot and hike it in… then out.  Needless to say we are not seasoned hikers so we were a little concerned about our 50ish year old knees, hips, ankles, backs and legs…not to mention our feet.

Ann spent two weeks prior working on food, drying venison jerky, further drying raisons and prunes, dried apple leather, and putting together all the very lightweight meals.  She packaged up one of her 6 month old wash rind hard cheeses (think homemade parmesan), prepackaged dinners with our dried leeks/kale/tomatoes/nettles, even dried a batch of our leftover morning fermented mush (that turned out fabulous according to Gord’s tastebuds).  All in all we started with approximately 46lbs of food.

Once in the Cape Scott parking lot we spent the next five days hiking to Skinner creek, 49 kms from the parking lot.  As we had planned to hike back, we did stash some of our food along the way.  We decided not to hike to Shushwartie Bay, the last leg, and instead use the two days that would have been used to go there and back to Skinner creek, and instead use that time to do another trek in Cape Scott Park.  (more on that below).  So at Skinner creek, we turned back and retraced our footsteps.   The terrain was technical, there were a lot of blow downs that had not been trimmed by parks yet, so we found that we had to saw through some roots and branches to get past.

On our trek in, we encountered hikers coming from the east.  All were shocked to hear we were doing it both ways, and by the time we had made our return, park rangers had heard of us.    With 98 kms complete, our packs lighter and our bodies stronger (10 days) we took a day off to hike around Cape Scott, then headed to San Joseph Bay for the final trek.  The final leg was from San Joseph Bay, up over Mt. St. Patrick and then down past Sea Otter Cove to Lowrie Bay.  (We had been to Lowrie Bay before… by kayak on our honeymoon 12 years earlier).

Gord and Ann - paddle honeymoon 141

Paddle Honeymoon (May 2005)

The Trail from Mt. St. Patrick to Lowrie is not on the park maps, and park staff only hike it once per season.   Needless to say it is off the beaten path… if you could find the path.   The distance one way is somewheres between 6-8 kms… not really known for sure.   This was the most challenging epic hike ever.

We had multiple encounters with bears and wolves, both employing our skills to be loud and obnoxious.  (the recommended approach when encountering a wolf is to stand together, make yourself look big, and stand your ground… which I what I did.  Gord on the other hand grabbed the camera)Version 2   Who needs bear spray when you have Ann who hasn’t washed her hair in 14 days?  (It had amazing body and I washed my head a couple times in the salt water).  No comment on Gord who wore the same merino shirt and johns day and night… except to say there are some pretty fine vinegar bacteria that we should have harvested before they, (Gord included),  were washed.    We even had a surprise encounter where we scared a bear who jumped up a tree… a massive Sitka Spruce… and we jumped to the left.  All three of us had our hearts racing.

What was so wow?

  • Cape Sutil food forest.  We won’t give many details other than to say we came across the most amazing First Nations’ 2000 yr old food forest complete with multiple varieties of crab apples, two species of salmon berry, thimble berry, salal, twin berry, black gooseberry, fireweed, giant vetch, silver weed, wild strawberry, huckleberry and evergreen huckleberry… and the list goes on.  The layers were amazing.  (Fascinating that white settlers had failed repeatedly at agriculture at Cape Scott while First Nations thrived at horticulture).   fullsizeoutput_cb3
  • Ann’s cooking!  (We think part of the reason our bodies thrived with the gruelling physical demands was the nutrient dense high quality foods we ate)
  • The real world.  (Spending 2 weeks in the REAL WORLD was very good for us)
  • The immense gratification and awe we had about how well our bodies were equipped to handle the tough terrain.   We even decided to test ourselves one day. (actually this was Gord’s idea and Ann got dragged along…I should have said no).   On a section of trail from Cape Sutil – Irony Creek – Laura Creek, which is a two day hike on what is classified as difficult terrain, we hiked two sections (19.5 kms) in a single day.   We won’t do that again.  After that hike we needed water, so we attempted to limp to the creek only to encounter a bear that couldn’t hear us due to the pounding waves.   The bear in the way, it took us 5 minutes of us yelling and banging pots to get him to notice us (100-150 ft away).   He finally lumbered peacefully into the forest.
  • Losing the track of days.  Yup, somewhere’s on the trip we lost track of the days, and thought we had an extra day to get back home.  (I never put my glasses on so I could not look at the device/camera to read the date… hence I had to rely on Gord).  We realized that the food was not adding up (we seemed to be a day short of food and were starting to ration it… and let me just say that Gord was going to have to be supervised around the remaining food).  Then looking at the date on the device (I insisted that Gord look at it and check the date), we realized our trek back to our truck from Lowrie Bay was no longer a two day process, but had to be a one day event – an 8 hour hike, then an 8 hour truck ride home…(the first two hours on a hot, dusty, busy logging road with a truck door that seemed ready to fall off…Gord assured me that it would not).  Epic day.
  • From Ann:  Thoroughly enjoyed my 2 weeks in the “Real World” completely immersed in the biological intensity of nature…however, it’s been tough coming back and adjusting to the human created industrial “civilized world”.A couple thoughts:

    * The things our culture focuses on just don’t seem very relevant…
    * The news of world issues, political instability and games/power struggles seem downright insane.
    * I fell even more deeply in love with nature and feel an even deeper sense of loss seeing the clear cuts of forest ALL THE WAY UP Vancouver Island. Angry!
    * 2 weeks with very limited material things showed me how little we actually need. Simplicity is beautiful and liberating!
    * Immense gratitude for simple things (like Gord).
    * Seeing how attempts at agriculture repeatedly failed in Cape Scott Park…yet First Nations practised forest gardening and lived regeneratively for many thousand years in this same area.
    * Death in nature creates MORE life. Mining, logging, and resource extraction creates actual DEATH.  



Photo taken by Park Rangers near Cape Scott Lighthouse.  Our first contact with the outside world and they gave us an update on BC politics.



Short Notice – Water Presentation

On very short notice   –  for those wanting to attend Gord’s Presentation on Responsible Water Alternatives – in the Greater Victoria Area… open to the public and local.



Beautiful and Stinky

The title “Beautiful and Stinky”, sums up our homestead right now.  The wet spring has lead to amazing growth and greenery with lots of fruit setting on our trees and shrubs.  The home made fish compost (like sea soil), has been distributed on our perennials adding to their health and nasty fragrance.  However, we much prefer stinky fish compost to toxic laundry smells or chemically scented shampoos, creams and lotions.


The nursery at the end of a cold wet spring. Looking very green.

Last Day Of The Spring Season:  This Saturday, June 3rd from 10-3pm is the last day of the spring season to come on out to see and enjoy our beautiful and stinky homestead.  We are staying open an extra hour this Saturday.  3295 Compton Road, East Highlands, Victoria.

PLANT LIST: Check out our list of plants in stock and our prices.  Note that our prices include the GST.  Plant list.   BIG SALE:  Many items have been discounted AND everything is 10% off our list price.  

TOONIE TABLE – These items are priced to move:  Sweet potatoes slips, Oca starts, skirret plants, tomatillo starts (4 for $2), Heritage tomatoes.  Please give them a home.  $2 each.

In other news, we are getting REALLY excited about our upcoming backpacking adventure. It’s been 4 years since we’ve left the homestead.  We can’t deny that we do have anxiety about leaving our gardens, Nina, the ducks and chickens, and all the beauty and food here on this land.  However, we have two families living here while we embark on our backpacking trip of the North Coast Trail in Cape Scott Park.  This trip is keeping with our values of low carbon footprint nature immersion local holidays.  No flying for us!  We are also keeping our backpacking garbage to a minimum by making our own meals up with as much of our own local food as possible.  I have dried some veggies, fruit, and meat, made some low moisture hard cheese, and we are putting together our dried food meals.  We are planning a slower paced trip where we hike the trail both ways (rather than take a water taxi), and can stay a couple days in different locations when we are tired or just fall in love with the special places we will see.

Here’s some photo’s from our last trip together where we went kayaking to Brooks Peninsula:


Inappropriate Technology:  Dumping Telus moving to a different way of getting internet and phone – Gord is learning all about cable modems, ATAs, Routers, Switches, VOIP, and how to use a cell phone.  The system is up, the cellphone is set up with a voice mail to just email us… and our land line on a corded phone is now running over the internet.


Connectedness reaching new levels

Appropriate Technology:  The solar dehydrator has reached new heights… now mounted upon a swivel pipe system for easy access and swiveling, better solar exposure, and less in the way.


The dehydrator reaching new heights – now swivels: Today in the dryer we have 2 sheets of leeks, 1 dried hot cereal mixture, 3 kale chips, 1 raisons, 1 prunes.  We purchased raisons and prunes but are drying them further to reduce the weight for backpacking.

Natural tech reaches new heights:  Lushness is beginning and by late June it will be unbelievable.



Calamity meets Closing Time

What’s the definition of whirlwind?  When life picks up, spins, spits crap out, and leaves things looking like “Gord’s been there” –  looking like a yard sale.  That has been the past two weeks.  What causes a whirlwind at Eco-Sense?

When Calamity meets technology:

We’ve always been strong supporters of “appropriate” technology, that which fully meets the purposes it is intended for, with no unforeseen consequences, is repairable, and has limited ecological impacts.

In-appropraite technology:  Dead computer and first cell phone (in over a decade):  Computers and cell phones, and really any other electronic gadget that uses rare earth resources like coltan, are products that wreak injustices on the areas of the planet where they are mined and leave in their path unspeakable atrocities and most often to women.    (more on that below…sorry this update is so scattered…kind of like our life right now…kind of like the trip to emergency last night to get some microscopic bit removed from Gord’s eye – all is good now)

Thankful:  We are thankful that the weather has FINALLY turned from frickin cold to fricken hot, not thankful for the Melnor irrigation timers that virtually all have had to be replaced under warranty.   Thankful for computerized accounting that allows us to run a set of books that has different aspects of our Eco-Sense business life like tours, farm/nursery, construction, consulting, each with different taxation implications… unthankful for Ann’s computer’s death.   (Can you say Law of Diminishing Returns?) Thankful for living a life that does not require such requirements of constant need for a cell phone, unthankful for our camera that died that we were going to be taking on our first holiday (backpacking) in 4 years… meaning it was cheaper to get a cellphone with a good camera than another  camera… meaning that we are redesigning all of our communications and adding a cell phone and at the same time reducing our overall monthly fees.    Now when our old farm truck dies on the Malahat, we can call for help rather than stand on the side of the road waving… and potentially meeting interesting people and having a memorable experience.  Now we can be more efficiently unsustainable.

Technology wastes human capital.  Every new rendition of a device or operating system brings with it a task to discard all that was learned and learn something new.  Added to this was the collapse of our backed up files in the cloud, and the learning process of retrieval, and deciding to dump Telus and learn about such foreign things as dry loops, wet loops, VOIP, SIMs.   Learning and knowledge is a precious resource and to waste it so frivolously mirrors our disposable culture.   We invest a great deal to learn something new… and boom, tomorrow all that knowledge is now useless.  Perhaps this is why we like plants… and homesteading… and political systems – nothing much changes.     Sure we can speak to the benefits of always learning and engaging our brains, but evolutionarily speaking, knowledge was learned, passed on, and provided a cultural construct for valuing those “in the know”.  Now, like a cellphone, computer or irrigation timer, we can just dispose of the old.  Its called progress.  (Sorry Dad).


Cob/concrete oven… and Gord trying to escape technology.

What else has the past two weeks included?  Well plant sales have died off dramatically so with the flexibility of our lifestyle, we’ll be shutting the nursery sales down in two more weeks.  LAST TWO SATURDAYS to come and check out the plant nursery and walk the beautiful gardens will be May 27th & June 3rd.  10am-2pm 3295 Compton Road.

Mixed within all of this is the fun stuff, from wiring up a solar system for a chicken coop, to making a cob oven at the neighbours, presenting to the Mill Bay Garden Club, council and CRD duties, researching and designing a clients farm plan, installing a living roof, planting out the season’s seeds and starts (and hoping they don’t fry), cleaning up the dead and dying Chicken Dinners (read more on this below), and hosting a 4 hour public tour… complete with homesteading snacks.    Oh… the Chicken Dinners dying, that is not the fun part (wrong paragraph).  I should clarify that we DID not serve chicken dinners to our tour guests.


The spread for the Eco-Sense/Hatchet & Seed Tour

Chicken Dinners:  The meat birds we collectively (and lovingly) call (not cull) the Chicken Dinners.  We had began wondering if these, like the other new technology, was pre-programmed to fail.  Perhaps a terminator gene in these Cornish Giants?  Perhaps the design is all about efficiency where they die on their own and thus saves you the step, so all that is required is a good clean and power wash.    Solara is researching a plant in the run to see if it may be poisoning them… a plant that has seemingly been avoided by the “real” chickens.

BIG SALE in The Nursery:  So, back to the plants…what a scattered update this is.  Ha.  Anyways we are going to offer 10% off EVERYTHING in stock for the final two Saturdays.  The more we sell the less we have to look after all summer.  So now that it has FINALY warmed up it is time to plant your sweet potatoes.  We also have some other plants to sell:

  • Skirret:  FREE (we were way too successful starting them).  They are a perennial root veggie…very good
  • Sweet potato:  $3 Grow under a hoop cover.  very productive.
  • Stevia:  grow your own natural sweetener.  2 gal pot $8.  (only 2)
  • Cinnamon yam:  grow in a big pot to climb up a trellis.  very yummy tuber great for hormone issues. $8 (only 2)
  • OCA: our favourite tuber.  beautiful. $3
  • Globe artichokes ($5).  only 3
  • Heritage tomato plants:  $3
  • Small Desert King Figs ($5)
  • Small Grapes (Himrod, Stuben, Fredonia, Sovereign Coronation) ($5)

There you have it,  it’s Friday evening and we have lots to do.

Gord and Ann