Working on the Front Yard


We are finishing off zone 1:  For those not familiar with permaculture zones, zone 1 refers to the growing and living area just outside our doors and closest to our homes.  This is prime real estate for beauty and function.  (Gord almost meets these criteria, therefore he is only a transient part of zone 1 for a few weeks).    We have already utilized most of this area over the last 10 years, but the final piece is the area in front of the cob house between the two front doors that used to be occupied by an enormous and dangerous rose bush.  This area gets smoking HOT in the summer and even gets full sun in the winter.  Absolutely ideal for creating micro climates for perennial and annual plants that like it hot and also like winter protection AND for growing winter greens.  We spend the most of our ‘relaxing’ time in zone 1, so it makes sense to create more beauty and food to nourish our bodies and our minds.


Remove the rose bush and dismant the rock work around the well.  Build a proper well cover and build a sitting bench to shade and protect propane tanks and also contain winterized irrigation connections.  Then we can design and build new raised curvy beds.

Nursery: Open from 10am – 2pm SATURDAY May 28th.  3295 Compton Road.  Email for private appointment.  ( or

Great deals on small items:

  • We have potted strawberries ($2)
  • Oca plants ($3)
  • Asparagus (singles in 1 gal pots – $3)
  • A few HEALTHY heritage tomato plants (1 gal pots – $5 and 4″ pots – $3)
  • Pepper plants (4″ pots $3 – 4 types)

Sale Items:

    • Labrador Tea, Sweet Gale, Alaskan Blueberry, Alder, Willow, Garry Oak, Maple, Oregon Grape, Lingon Berry, Nodding Onion, Salmon Berry, Yarrow.
  • 10% off of select plants  – Comfey, Grapes, Sweet Grass and others – for the rest of the Spring season (this means less plants for us to look after all summer).

Eco-Sense Video of the Week:  School of Permaculture filmed Gord last summer showing how we dry food with water.  Here’s the 3 minute video:  

DSC00513Eco-Sense Photo from the Past:
Building our first Curvy Bed


Lemon tree covered with new blossoms.  Curvey Beds at front of house create amazing micro climates.

Gord’s thoughts and rants: He’s tired of people that get labeled environmentalists!

It is clear there are only two groups of people out there in the  “real” world. The “Forces of No, leaf licking, socialist, environmentalist types”, and the rest of the sane world.

When CBC reports on this pipeline or that dam, and those who are against it, they unconditionally ALWAYS regard those who oppose it as environmentalists. My question is who are those environmentalists?  Who are the real people who oppose mines, dams, pipelines, and toxic crap?

If you are a Mom and your groundwater  fed kitchen tap now catches fire and your kids can’t drink it due to fracking… does it make you an environmentalist to oppose the fracking industry?

If you are a farmer and your best fields are about to be flooded, and you oppose a dam… does that make you an environmentalist?

If you are a forester and your working window is curtailed due to earlier closures in the season, and for longer periods, and you have concerns of the climate impacting your living… does that make you an environmentalist?

If you pull your drinking water from the ground and

  • the neighbouring golf course uses glyphosate and fertilizers and makes your water no longer safe… does that count?
  • The province allows a toxic mine in your water shed and risks your drinking water… does that count?

What if your culture, your community, or those who have relied on shellfish, can no longer harvest because of sewage outfall… oil spill… mine tailing contamination… ocean acidification and soft shells, does your opposition make you an environmentalist?

What if you are a researcher and are studying mass extinction and species collapse… or you live on low lying islands that are being hammered by storms and swallowed by the seas… or a farmer that has not seen rain in four years, does that make you an environmentalist?

Please explain, as obviously I do not understand. This past week in the news we have seen the media report on the Kinder Morgan approval, and watched Brad Wall (premier of Saskatchewan), apparently dismiss the same science he relies on for his communications, transportation, and health care. Those damn environmentalists… those damn “Forces of NO”.  For reference, Brad Wall referred to climate science as “some misguided dogma that has no basis in reality.”

Here is an excerpt from a person on Facebook to Gord in reference to the discussion on Brad Wall’s throne speech. The response placed in context was a person who spent two years to get the OK and funding to build an outside public flush toilet, and had a single conversation with Brad Wall, and thus confirmed without a shadow of a doubt that Mr. Wall was a nice person and I should just send him a letter stating my concern. (WARNING… foul language).   (Paul from Duncan): “You live in your world while the rest of us live in the real world stop your whining and complaining and do something about it it took me 2 years and I got something done instead of living in the stone age welfare socialism selfserving crap you enjoy because of the world you don’t like kiss my hard working tax paying ass.”

Why does our culture simplify the issue into Us and Them… the real world folks and then the  “environmentalists” (or otherwise Moms and Dads, foresters, farmers, First Nations, scientists, fisherman, neighbours).  To the CBC: Why run from the complexity, why not actually take your responsibility as a public media source and properly and clearly frame the issue rather than be lazy and dumb it down?

Next time you hear the news report on something and refer to the environmentalists… think about that…think about what that really means.  How about every time you hear the word “environmentalists”, just substitute the word “people” and see what happens.

Gord and Ann


Where’s the rain?

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


Honey bee enjoying a lemon blossom

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

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

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

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


Gord’s political observations of local government officials:  

Political Chameleon


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

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

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

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

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


Apricot trees for sale

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

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

Ann and Gord


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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Everything is better with a duck in your life.

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

We also learned:

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

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


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

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


Perennial edible plants – Food adaptation strategies.

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

Stirring a really big pot,

Gord and Ann


Crazy busy…or maybe just crazy?

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

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

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

Gord’s response:

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

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

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

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

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


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

So there you have it…our no update update.

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

Gord and Ann

Peep and Quack

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eco-Sense Video of the Week:  Here’s one of Gord giving a short Grey Water talk and showing our worm filter.

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

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

Background:   Recent paper by James Hanson (and 17 other leading climate scientists), that it entirely possible that we could experience multiple meter sea level rise mid century (2050). Published March 2016.
The insurance industry was just informed at RIMS 2016 (April 2016), that they should plan for a 3 meter rise in sea level by 2050-2060. This is based on NOAA data. Here is s short must read article.

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


Feels like summer…Tastes Like Kale.


Apple tree in full bloom

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


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

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

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

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

Eco-Sense Video of the Week:  Here is a short 3 min video filmed while we were building the cob workshop:   Boy do Gord and I look young in this video…and our dog Boo was a puppy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dysfunctionally yours,

Ann and Gord






Collaboration NOT Competition


Lots of strawberries and Oca for sale

After three years working to develop our nursery specializing in perennial edible plants to feed people, build biodiversity, and to sequester carbon, we have noticed a few others also venturing into this new market.  This is a new way of providing for human needs and adapting to a rapidly changing climate; a new form of agriculture that is very different from the old ways.  These new businesses are effectively co-creating a new market and we are not really doing this consciously.  We seem to be driven by our values for the common good and do not see each other as competition.  Instead we instinctively help each other by buying plants from each other, send customers, and sharing information and tips …what is good for the other is also good for us.  Anyways, just a quick observation and we can certainly say, that the bottom line has changed and collaboration sure feels A LOT better than competition.

DSC02302So with that, here’s our spiel for this weeks open house for sales of perennial edible plants here at Eco-Sense:


We have eggs for sale

Date:  Saturday April 16, 2016 from 10am-2pm.  3295 Compton Road in the East Highlands.  If you are coming to just walk around the gardens please park at the bottom.  If you are coming to buy some plants, please drive up top where we have limited parking.  We also have eggs for sale at the lower gate and up top in the nursery office (the Eco-Hut).
Here’s the plant list with prices (all prices include the GST).  plant list
We have lots of Apricots for sale – 3 varieties.  Last year we harvested a whole bucket from our tree – UNBELIEVABLY YUMMY.  Our tree has just finished flowering and already the fruit is setting.  Woohoo!

Eco-Sense Video memory of the Week: Building the cob bathroom at the local lake.  This was a volunteer project.  The composting toilet is now in it’s 6 year of operation…and guess who has the cleaning contract for resource recovery?  Yup, we do, and now that we are on council we wear two hats with the District of Highlands… we disturb the shit and distribute the shit (we set policy AND clean the public bathroom) – the jury is still out on which one is more valuable.


Eco-Sense Photo Memory of the Week:  Here’s the finished cob bathroom.  Public composting toilet/change room – 400 hr volunteer project.

Eco-Sense Council Initiative (from last year).   In Highlands Sustainability plan there is a decision making tool on page 91 and 92.  This tool was sitting on the shelf and was pulled out and inserted into Highlands Policy in 2015.  It is now Highlands policy to use this decision making tool anytime we make any change or create new policy.  Yup, you heard that correctly, we have a policy to factor in sustainability goals into all our policy decisions…ha…a policy for making new policy.  In any event, it’s a good tool and can be used for any decision making…not just higher level policy decisions.  Policy No. II-110.  We now have to consider decisions that contribute to a build up of toxic materials in our environment, greenhouse gasses and fossil fuels, degradation of natural systems, un-renewable resource use, AND the undermining of other peoples ability to meet their needs.

Gord and Ann - paddle honeymoon 141

Our paddle Honeymoon May 2005 – Sea level is going to be very different in the coming decades.


Links:  Sea level rise is going to be rising faster than most models have predicted.  The insurance industry was just informed at RIMS 2016 (a couple days ago) that they should plan for a 3 meter rise in sea level by 2050-2060.  Yes folks that is 9feet in 35 years.   This is based on NOAA data and the recent study by Hanson. Short article…very important read.  Here in the CRD we are only planning for 1 meter rise in sea level by 2100.  Next week we will share a council initiative around sea level rise.

Council Failure of the week:  Gord’s “Safe Soil” resolution, was voted down for debate by the AVICC delegates.  It was a late resolution and needed 75% support to be opened up for debate… it was close as they had to count twice.   Not all is lost, as we can submit to the UBCM for September.  Oh well… all we can do is try, and we can hold our heads high.

Gord’s Eco-Sense Failure of the Week:  Before you ask “which one?” let’s just say… be kind.  It has been a bit busy, and Gord had accidentally booked two tours for the same day, and same time.  As a matter of fact, Gord forgot to write one of the tours in the calendar.  The one that was overlooked… was the one of 25 students… on a bus.     Thankfully both groups showed up early, got a longer tour than they had planned, and it turned out GREAT!  A HUGE shout out to Central School’s “Living the Good Life” program for extremely engaged students with great questions.

Thanks for reading, feel free to come on out this Saturday and give Gord time management advice…


Eco-Sense Nursery – Year 3


DSC02296Three years ago the Eco-Sense nursery idea was seeded.  The idea grew out of our distress with the state of the world with respect to quality of food, ecological collapse, and looming economic insecurity.  We wished to pursue a resilient lifestyle that could buffer these changes while providing excellent food, free of chemical contamination.  At the same time it was essential to us that we love what we do and how we spend our days.

DSC02300The nursery has certainly become one piece of this puzzle and now in our third year the business is thriving and Gord and I may actually be able to go to the dentist.  woohoo!  We combine our nursery income, with income from tours, speaking engagements, workshops, consultations, rain water installations, various small building projects, council work, and cleaning the public bathroom (humanure of course).  This will be the start of the 6th year for the composting toilet contract…wow time flies… and better yet… no flies!.

DSC02306We will continue with the Saturday open houses for sale of perennial edible plants for the rest of spring.  Updated Plant List here.  Prices include GST.

  • Saturdays from 10am-2pm at 3295 Compton Road, East Highlands
    • April 9, 16, 23, 30, May 7, 14, 21
    • If you can’t make the Saturday dates, send us an email to set up a time to visit the nursery to buy some plants.

Plant Pots:  We will buy your large pots in good condition.  If you have lots we could pick up or if you just have a few you could bring them to one of our Saturday Farm sales or set up another time to drop off.

$0.50 for 2-4 gallon
$1.00 for 5-9 gallon
$1.50 for 10+ gallon

DSC02309Chicken Runs:  We have been converting our annual planted chicken runs with perennial plants.  In the last few days we have planted 1 MULBERRY, 2 DWARF CHERRIES, 2 PEARS, 3 PLUMS, 2 HARDY KIWI, 8 COMFREY, and 5 BROAD LEAF FRENCH SORREL. (additions to the existing hazelnuts, figs, plum and mulberry).  Each is secured like Fort Knox as the roots are a little chicken of fowl play.  These perennials will help build the soil, be less work, and provide lots of dropped food (more bugs the better) for the chickens and us (hopefully not too many bugs).  We are also going to down size our chicken flock to keep it at around 10 laying hens.  This will be much easier on the land, less work for us, and less eggs to wash and sell.  We easily sell our amazing eggs…but it’s not cost effective for the amount of time and the impact to the land.  It probably works out to less than $1 per hour for our time.  For now, we will still have some eggs for sale.


Strawberries for sale – Ever Bearing – $2 each

Other Chicken News:  We have a broody chicken sitting on 12 eggs…this is the earliest we have ever had a chicken go broody.  Due to hatch in 2 weeks.  Gord only killed one of its potential kids when he dropped an egg while moving her to the broody box, (the same box we call the drunk tank where we place stoned chickens we find who have ingested mushrooms in the fall).

Eco-Sense Video of the Week:  Here is a favourite video from WAY back with all of us building the Eco-Sense house.  Such good memories.  Knowledge Network 8 minute video filmed in 2007 and 2008.  (Gord urges you NOT to watch… please no!)


Cob woodworking shop under construction


Eco-Sense Photo Memory of the Week:  Cob wood working shop under construction.

Baird Council Initiative of the Week:  This initiative was from last year, but Ann was quite happy to finally have the Highlands Sustainability Appraisal form updated with changes to the flows of Capital.  The original form was a product of the first sustainability group that Ann participated in with 8 others many years ago.  It’s a powerful 2 page planning tool for council and staff to use when assessing the capital flows between Natural, Human, Social, Financial, and Manufactured capital with any project being undertaken in the Highlands.  Finally we are accounting for impacts to future generations, GHG emissions from loss of forest and soil, GHG’s from embodied energy in materials used in construction, loss of habitat for other species, and even inequality.  Lots of changes made.  Now we just have to use these results to inform our decision making.

Links:  Great article on Tree Eater Nursery on Denman Island.  They are doing very similar work as we are at Eco-Sense.

Baird Council Failure of the week:  Gord is in the process of having one of BC best speakers on the topic of climate change and municipal adaptation come and present.  The initial pushback could mean imminent failure… despite the vast array of tools and knowledge that Deborah Harford, the Executive Director of SFU ACT has.     Not a failure yet, but definitely some pushback.

AND A NOTICE for those waiting for GLOBE ARTICHOKES… they have arrived.

That’s it for now…thanks for reading,

Ann and Gord

We have leaves!

Yes, finally, after three weeks of selling plants that are basically dormant sticks, we now have leaves…lots of glorious leaves.  Every day we enjoy walking through the food forest and the nursery to look at the leaves and some flowers.  This is an excellent time of year to plant your new trees and shrubs as the soil is still cool and moist.

This week, we have more new plants to add to our stock of almost 200 varieties of plants.  Here’s the updated inventory list with prices (all prices include the GST).

DSC02277Sweet potatoes are sitting in the window and starting to make some eyes…in a few week the little sweet potatoes starts should be ready (SWEET!).  We had an abundant crop of these amazing tubers as did many others who purchased their sweet potatoes slips from us last year.   And yes, those are lemons growing outside the window.

Grafting Workshop:  It was a great success with teens and adults.  Everyone learned about grafting and went home with two of their very own grafted apple trees.  It was wonderful to see such pride on everyone’s face.

DSC02278Eco-Sense potting mix.  Ann has been starting some of our veggies for the garden and has made up her own special mix.  It includes a bit of goat bedding manure in the very bottom of the pot, then filled almost to the top with worm castings (from our veggie sink composter), and then topped with a very fine sifted layer of 2 year old aged humanure.  Go tomatoes!!!


Beautiful multi coloured eggs…fresh from the chickens and ducks.

Eco-Sense Video of the week:  West shore TV did a great little video of our house a few years back…here it is (only 5 minutes):  Highlands Eco-Sense Home


Holding our award for the Living Building Challenge

Eco-Sense Photo Memory of the Week:  The easy part was building one of the world greenest modern houses as rated on the World’s strictest green building platform…the hard part is living a green lifestyle.  Why is it hard?  Culture damn it, and the programming that pushes the Bigger, Better, Faster, More.  More often than not we feel very lonely, and perhaps slightly crazy.

Baird Council Initiative of the Week:  This is budget time for municipal governments and we talk about taxation, revenues, expenses, municipal assets and everything to do with financial and manufactured capital.  Problem is, we leave off the balance sheet anything to do with natural capital.  While I (Ann) really don’t like the idea of giving a monetary value to living systems, the fact is that our society only sees value when a $$$$ is connected,  our natural environment provides amazing and very expensive ecosystem services that would cost the municipality and our citizens A LOT of financial capital if we had to actually pay for these services.  Here in the Highlands we are mostly on ground water and rely on this resource to be clean and abundant.  If we had to pipe in water or set up rain water systems for everyone in the Highlands, this would come at a price of roughly $27 MILLION DOLLARS (900 homes x $30,000 per household).  Over time we damage the land by putting in impervious surfaces, building houses, driveways, and roads, allow industrial activities, we blast, we dig, we fill, we use toxic chemicals in our homes, we cut trees, damage wetlands, etc, and all the while, we are drawing down our natural capital and reducing these ecosystem services.  Ann spoke to this during the budget discussions and suggested that Natural Capital should appear as a municipal asset right next to roads and structures.  She also suggested that our activities are rapidly depreciating this asset and consequently it would be prudent to recover these costs to complete other restorative ecosystem projects so that we don’t have a net negative impact on our capital.  Her comments were well received, but it was noted that this probably wasn’t legal within the context of municipal laws and accounting principles.  Highlands’ Mayor did mention that these same conversations are occurring at the CRD board level.

Baird JOINT Council Failure of the Week (rant):  Given that it is tax time for local governments, both Ann and Gord felt that business and light industrial should move to a higher tax multiple.  For reference the residential tax multiple is 1 and other tax classes like business, utilities, industrial, etc are multiples of this meaning that they generally pay more taxes on their assessed value.  This is why municipalities talk about diversifying their tax base.  For reference the provincial average for light industry and business are 3.40 and 2.45 respectively meaning that they pay more taxes per $ of assessed value.  Here in the CRD there is a very large range of multiples with some urban communities having lower tax multiples, and more rural communities having higher tax multiples.  Anyways, for many reasons (which we won’t go into), Highlands had been giving business and light industry a major tax break where their multiple were close to the residential multiple of 1.  This means that residents were carrying more of the tax burden than is the standard.  AACK!    Last year our council agreed to address this, but were sensitive to the business and industrial land owners to phase in the increase back to accepted levels…Gord and I were less sensitive but were convinced by other councillors that this would be appropriate.  This year we were feeling less sensitive as we were feeling more sensitive to regular citizens of the Highlands (the majority) AND to raise some extra revenue to cover depreciation expenses… something that had not been done by any of the past councils. We both feel strongly that more money should be put away into capital reserves to cover the costs of aging municipal infrastructure and to build up funds for the coming impacts of climate change, impacts due to extreme weather events on our infrastructure.  This just seemed prudent…and since business and industry had been getting a tax break for many years we thought that their tax rates should be raised sooner rather than phased in slowly over 3 years.  We were defeated 5 to 2.  AACK again!  There seemed to be little interest in addressing depreciation and amortization as it would upset the business class… leaving the residents on the hook for a troublesome future.

And as for those leaves we mentioned… as there are more leaves, there is more that leaves, and that actually leaves us a little sad.  We develop connections with our plants… after all there is a little bit of us in many of the plants that we have given a shit about.

keep trying,

Gord and Ann


Spring Swing of Things

DSC02209Saturday March 26 farm gate sales for perennial edible plants.  Lots of new items this week including:

  • Asparagus: some bare root ($10 for 5) and potted ($3/ea).  Bare root will only be available this week!!!
  • Strawberries:  some bare root ($5 for 10) and potted ($2/ea).  Bare root only this week.
  • Thornless blackberries (Chester and Black Satin):  $14/ea
  • Logan Berries: $13/ea
  • Rhubarb (Sutton Seedless):  $12/ea
  • Perennial Leek (2 year old for $8; freshly planted for $5; bulbs ($3 each).
  • New last week from Geoff Johnson:
    • Goumie,
    • Josta Berries,
    • Clove currants,
    • Mulberry (Hunza),
    • Goji (Spring Ridge variety),
    • Dessert King Figs in 2 gal.

DSC02258Same place, same time:  Saturday 10am – 2pm 3295 Compton Road in the (East) Highlands.  Please park at the bottom of the hill if you are just coming to look around.  Drive on up if you are planning to buy plants.

Full updated plant list…PRICES INCLUDE GST.  

Two great perennial edible plants sales on this Saturday…check out Hatchet & Seed in North Saanich…here’s the link:

Can’t make it to the Saturday plant sales?  No problem, send us an email to book your PRIVATE appointment in the nursery.  or  Ask about our discount for large orders.

Eco-Sense video of the Week:  Here is part 2 of a garden tour filmed by Peak Moment TV about 3 years ago when we were just starting the food forest…sure looks different now, but still a great video.

Grafting:  Gord has been busy grafting all week.  He picked up 150 rootstocks last Friday at the BC Fruit Testers AGM.  His presentation to that group seemed to be very well received.


Final harvest of Jerusalem artichokes…ready for fermenting.  Yummy, crunchy pickles!

Food:  We are eating abundant and delicious food from our garden…in fact we have been all winter.  At every meal we feel such gratitude for the bounty we enjoy and the fact that we do not have to consume food from the industrial agricultural system.  This is no easy task, growing, harvesting, and sustainably processing our bounty is hard work.  Our gut micro biome has evolved to the place where we eat lots of jerusalem artichokes fresh and fermented…they are one of our favourites.  These inulin filled prebiotic tubers feed our gut bacteria, and our bacteria feed us with all kinds of nutrients.  The latest science on this topic indicates that a healthy gut micro biome contributes significantly to our immune function and our brain chemistry.  We literally are what we eat and processed industrial food full of chemical toxins and low in fibre is making people sick.  But remember, sick people are good for the economy.

Baird council Initiative of the week:  

  • Gord sits on the CRD Water Commission and initiated a motion (from the sideline), for rain water harvesting in the region that has passed.  WOOHOO.  To come, will be the details as to what the CRD will incorporate into the strategy.  The concept is that specific guidelines for potable water will be stated, cross connection considerations be approved, and the design criteria to allow for such be part of the strategy.
  • Follow up from last week.  Ann’s comments on the BC Climate Leadership Plan were fully endorsed by Highlands council and will be submitted on behalf of Highlands council.  Topic covered include:  aviation, LNG, carbon neutral forestry and agriculture, carbon budgets, embodied carbon in construction, loss of sequestered carbon in our natural habitat, CONSERVATION, and more.

Picnic table dog

Baird Council FAILURE of the Week:  Ann represents the Highlands for our regions economic development initiative and tried valiantly to get the following phrase inserted into the constitution of the new society that was being formed to shape the economics of the region; “Promoting local economic resilience through the opportunities arising from mitigating and adapting to climate change”.  This new society is made up of funding partners from most local municipalities, business, educational institutions, and economic development business groups.  There has also been an effort to get first Nations on board.  Most people in the group were not interested in inserting anything to do with climate change into the constitution and there was quite the maneuvering to dilute the municipal vote.  Ann kept Highlands council up to date with her memos to council.  For anyone who shares Ann’s morbid fascination with the internal workings of the system, here’s the links to learn more:
First memo Dec 21, 2015:

Letter written to SVIEDA from Highlands: 
Second memo to Highlands Council Jan 21, 2016:

Ann’s Facebook post on this subject can be found here:

Photo from our Eco-Sense Past.

Walls almost at height

Lower cob walls complete…ready for the bond beam.

Link for the week:  Newest paper from James Hanson and 18 other climate scientists was just published in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.  Link  Basically we could see multi-meter sea level rise THIS century and 2 deg C rise in temp is not safe.  This is a problem not for the future, but NOW.   We have a climate emergency.   This link really sums up this latest research which has been all over the alternative news…but has anyone come across it in the mainstream media????

Thanks for reading,
Ann and Gord