Ann Baird & Gord Baird For Highlands Council

Saturday Nov. 1    1pm – 4pm        Invite to all Highlanders   Meet and Greet at the Eco-Sense Home.

3295 Compton Rd, off Munn Rd    –     East Highlands

We really want the opportunity to meet Highlands residents.  If you have always been curious as to who we are, what we do, and/or if you just want to come and express your thoughts and concerns… we want to meet you.   We really do!  (Or if you are just so curious as to what the greenest modern home in the world looks like).

Who are Ann and Gord 

Integrating Business, Science, Ethics, Ecology and Passion

Many Highlanders may recognize Gord and Ann from 9 years of media coverage documenting their adventures creating the Eco-Sense homestead in the District of Highlands.  Or they may recognize Ann and Gord from the full size road side “campaign” sign which we borrowed from the 2008 Royal BC Museum exhibit.

Sign for the election all complete, with Ann reluctantly plucked from the garden to have her picture taken (with carrots she just plucked and Boo looking to pluck some carrots himself).

The Eco-Sense home has gained international acclaim for it’s environmental achievements in green building and for their leadership role inspiring a greener local lifestyle.  Click here for a link to some of their media coverage.  (Harrowsmith, Canadian Geographic, USA today, Japanese magazine Sotokoto, TV, CNN, CBC radio, Sierra Magazine, West Shore TV Video, and various documentaries).  The Eco-Sense home is also listed as one of the heritage sites in the Highlands Heritage report.


Platform – We will work towards:

Innovative water resource management strategies

Effective and efficient Bylaw enforcement 

Strengthening community (and regional) resilience 

Identifying & Sewing up holes in the Municipal wallet (identifying and reducing leakage)

Secondary housing (suites or dwellings) with conditions

Promoting better communications between Mayor, Council, Staff and Public


Ann and Gord live a 3-Thirds lifestyle where they work 1/3 of the time for income, 1/3 volunteer, and 1/3 following their own passions.  They talk about their Eco-Sense life in the short informative video taped by West Shore TV.

Income:  Ann and Gord make their financial living doing tours of the Eco-Sense homestead, speaking engagements, technical systems consulting, teaching, policy and building science research work, workshops, and a home based farm business propagating perennial edible plants.

John Horgan (MLA and leader of the BC NDP), Gord, Ann, Liberal Minister Naomi Yamamoto (Building Code Renewal and Reform)

John Horgan (MLA and leader of the BC NDP), Gord, Ann, Liberal Minister Naomi Yamamoto (Building Code Renewal and Reform).  Photo from Dec 2010.

Volunteer Work in the Highlands:

  • Building the cob bathroom at Eagles Lake. (400 volunteer hours – yup we are crazy)

    Cob bathroom at Eagles Lake

    Cob bathroom at Eagles Lake

  • Gord has served 6 years on the Highlands Stewardship Foundation (HSF) and 4 years as the secretary.
  • Ann has served 6 years on the HSF and 4 years as the treasurer and handled many of the finances for the Save Mary Lake project.
  • Information booths at the Highlands fling (2011 Eco-Sense table & 2013 – local food, nutrition, and fermentation demo)
  • Gord has been involved for the last 3 years with pruning of the apple orchard at the Celeb Pike Heritage park and has volunteered his time for pressing the apples for the apple cider at the Highlands Winter Craft fair.

    Pressing the Caleb Pike Heritage Park Apples

    Pressing the Caleb Pike Heritage Park Apples

  • Ann served on the council appointed Highlands Sustainability Task Force (STF) for two years and the Sustainability Strategy Advisory Committee (SSAC) for another two years.  These groups produced the Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) which was fully integrated into the Highlands Official Community Plan (OCP) in 2013.
  • Various presentations to council and community groups and tours regarding sustainability related projects.
Solar real estate on the Eco-Sense roof: Growing food, producing electricity, making hot water, and harvesting rain water.  Nice View too!

Solar real estate on the Eco-Sense roof: Growing food, producing electricity, making hot water, and harvesting rain water.

Personal Passions:  Both Gord and Ann are passionate about creating a more resilient local community where water, food, our community, and our environment are nurtured and enhanced.  Sustaining the current degradation pathway of our culture is no longer good enough.  We believe in regenerative design.   Our changing climate, loss of habitat, toxic contamination, and excessive resource extraction means we are rapidly losing the integrity of our water and food systems –  ecological systems are collapsing.  We believe we can do better.

Gord’s Bio

Education and notables:

  • BA – Experimental Psychology – SFU (with business accounting background)
  • Prior – Owner of Advance Collision Ltd
  • Prior – Chair of Western Canadian ACOAT (collision repair industry business group)- Position held 3 years
  • Prior – Chair of South Island ARA (Automotive Retailers Association) – position held 4 years
  • Only person single handedly to have ever brought ICBC and private insurers in BC together – to moderate streamlining the auto insurance business within the province.
  • Volunteer activities outside Highlands – Lifecycles, ASRi (Alternative Solutions Resource initiative, Welland Orchard park composting toilet (View Royal), BCSEA (BC Sustainable Energy Association)
  • Living Building Challenge petal recognition – Strictest green building rating system internationally.
  • Gord and Ann holding their award for the Living Building Challenge

    Gord and Ann holding their award for the Living Building Challenge

Gord’s Work:

  • Consulting and design – Green building and sustainable systems (Rain water, Grey water, Living roof, Solar PV, Solar thermal, heating systems, Earthen architecture).
  • Research – building science (thermodynamics, vapour, moisture earthen architecture), energy systems
  • Hands On – rain water harvesting, rain water filtration, grey water, conventional construction, fine cabinetry
  • Teaching/public speaking – Permaculture, Rain Water Harvesting, Grey Water, Solar PV, Solar Thermal, Building code, Sustainable living
  • Tours – for engineers, public schools, universities and college trades and tech, Bankers, Church groups, international students, PDC students, municipal staff
  • Perennial Food Plant Nursery – focused on 200 varieties of food plants from nut trees, fruits, tubers – agroferestry/food forest systems.  Link to current plant list

Gord’s Interests and Philosophies:

With the advent of climate change and an economic paradigm shift away from fossil fuels, my focus has been to re-learn lost skills, become fluent in all aspects of sustainability and resiliency and pass these onto my two children.    Now, that is a pretty broad statement, and may be better explained  as always  thinking “How would we… if we didn’t have…” and then try and do it.  It has served myself and  others well as I  teach them through my successes and failures.

Surprisingly  there is a common theme in answer to this question of  “How would we…?” – again and again the theme focuses on a local strategy;  stronger resilient community, healthy and divers food producing ecosystems, diverse demographics of ages and skills, and all revolves around the immediate place in where we live.

I am a technology geek that integrates otherwise stand-alone systems into integrated systems, where solar PV, rain water harvesting, solar thermal, greywater and food systems interconnect.  The challenge is not the integration, but doing so in the least complex manner, exemplified by the quote from a french writer “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”.  Perhaps my role on counsel is to remove the politics as best I can and simplify an overly complex system that trips over its own feet.

Ann’s Bio

Ann’s Education:

  • 1985 High school graduation with honours and 2 years of university scholarships for Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics
  • 1990 SFU Bachelor of Science (Biology) completing 5 work practicums
  • 1997 Canadian Securities Course (Stock broker course)

Ann’s Work History:

  • 1990-1997 Various biology positions. (UBC Department Of Medicine,  Research assistant – respiratory medicine (pipetted lots of radioactive materials…explains a lot).  Agricultural Canada, Summerland Research Station – Entomology Technician (studied lepidopteran parasites in apple orchards).  City of Port Coquitlam – Vector Control Technician (mosquito, rodent, and structural pest control).  Health and Welfare Canada, Burnaby Health Protection Branch – Food Microbiology technician. Applied Mammal Research, field technician for various BC forestry projects (put a lot of tags in ears).  Burnaby School Board, high school science lab technician.
  • 1996 – 2000 EPS Electronic Publishing solutions – Owner/Financial manager, Apple computer business.  
  • 1998-2000 Wise Information Systems – Owner/financial manager/computer service department manager.
  • 2000-2002 Retired and living off-the-grid in the gulf Islands.
  • 2002- 2005 The Growing Circle Food Co-op, Financial manager for multi-stakeholder local food co-op on Salt Spring Island, (met a lot of organic farmers).
  • 2003-2005 Moonstruck Organic Cheese (SSI) – year end bookkeeper (worked for cheese).
  • 2003-2006 Saanich Gulf Island Federal Green Party Riding (pre Elizabeth May), Financial Agent (small honorarium).
  • 2009-2010 WeGoSolar, bookkeeper.
  • 2010- 2013 Island Gals Magazine:  Wrote 10 articles related to sustainable living.   Link here
  • 2005-2014 Eco-Sense Living

Ann’s Personal Philosophies:   I believe my diverse background in science and business give me a unique perspective to inform my decision making.  I believe that one of my strengths is to consider many aspects of a complex interconnected system simultaneously.  I take time to ponder important decisions and when new information presents itself, I readily incorporate this into the mix.   Information is the primary driver of my opinions and I can let old ideas go…at least this is what I aim for.  (stop laughing Gord).  I am also particularly good at financial management involving trimming “leakage” and increasing efficiencies.  

Five Capitals

Five Capitals.  This model is used in the Highlands Integrated Community Sustainability Plan and the updated OCP

Over the past 10 years we have integrated the 5 capitals model as a decision making tools in our life.  The capitals are: Financial, Natural, Human (Educational, experiential), Social (cultural, spiritual, social), Manufactured.  All capital ultimately comes from Nature; if we draw down natures fixed assets for short term financial gain, how are we going to finance our retirement, the livelihoods of future generations or repair damaged infrastructure?  We need to protect natural capital and live off of the “Interest Income” of natures capital.  For this reason, protecting natural capital is my primary concern locally and globally.

Things we believe:

  • We believe in the guiding statement from the Highlands Integrated Sustainability Plan (ICSP).  “Sustainability, in the context of the Highlands municipality and community, is defined as meeting the needs of the present community without compromising the ability of future generations to meet the same needs, and without degrading the functioning of local to global ecosystems as a result of resource use within the Highlands.”
  • We believe we all have a right to fresh clean water
  • We believe we all have a right to affordable healthy food and shelter
  • We believe that nature has a right to exist and thrive
  • We believe that the community that inhabits the land should be able to determine what happens on the land.
  • We believe that people should have more rights than corporations.
  • We believe that the climate is changing rapidly and we need to adapt

    What to do with all those squash.  These all grew on a living roof.

    What to do with all those squash. These all grew on a living roof.

  • We believe that our global economic system is very fragile and we need to adapt by co-creating regional local economies to provide for our needs.
  • We believe in abundant local food

 Authorized by:
Gord Baird, Financial Agent –
Ann Baird, Financial Agent –

It’s True!

Yes it is true.   Ann and Gord are running for District of Highlands council.    More info coming on Wednesday.      What do you think we have to offer?    Let us know, send us a comment.

Cheers from Ann and Gord

Ann and Gord… on the roof of their Eco-Sense home.

Ann and Gord… on the roof of their Eco-Sense home.

Changes at Eco-Sense (See bottom for special news)

The Change of Seasons:  We started our morning rescuing the sweet potatoes from the various little four legged rodent “friends” who also share our food.   I used to hold a distasteful opinion of the rats and mice helping themselves to our food.  I recall a time when we lived in the trailer while building our home, when we (actually me) spent considerable time live trapping our trailer companions while on route to relocate them while Ann would pet the little guys on the head as I walked by… the mom mouse in the live trap and babies hanging around.  Long story, cute story, and in one of our updates about 7 years ago.     (Everything becomes a better story with the passing of time.)  Today, I look at the rats and mice with more affection, very beautiful and healthy little beings that climb the Arbutus, eat the beets and carrots and this week, the sweet potatoes.   Time to encourage them move on and signal us to the next crop that needs to be picked… and something says apples and tomatillos based on the chew marks. Really, the rats are amazing, as they know when something is ready to eat, and by watching their actions in the garden, we can respond in enough time to collect our share of the garden goodies; they won’t drink a fine wine before its time.  (Gord might…but the rodents have more sense).   And there are the other messengers –  the rabbits eating the goji berries, lentils and chickpeas, the robins with the raspberries, and the yellow jackets with the grapes. So today as we  also harvest the dried Orca beans, scarlett runners, helda green beans for fermenting, chickpeas, lentils, sweet potatoes, quinoa, and the list goes on, we wonder why our harvest season is a bit different than most.   Then it strikes us – we are shifting our production and preservation systems away from the more perishable annuals, as well as shifting from canning and freezing to drying, fermenting, and to foods that don’t require much processing.   There is less of the urgent rush that you can not keep up to.  It gives us a false feeling that the garden is not productive this year, but the pantry jars are filling with dried foods and the garden keeps producing…yet Ann has been mumbling something about all the winter veggie starts getting eaten by tiny slugs.  Sigh…but then we consider that this land is not just here for singular human purpose..the land is primarily here to feed all the others  (the ecosystem); and this is exactly how it should be.  Nature gives to us and we need to give back…it’s called sharing.

Cob bathroom at Eagles Lake

Cob bathroom at Eagles Lake

The Zucchini god has visited Eco-Sense this year and the prolific harvest has been dried into cubes and slices, and later this week they’ll be grated, mixed with garlic, apple cider vinegar, tamari soy, sesame seeds and then dried in sheets to make crackers.     Imagine… no rush to force zucchini onto the arms of unsuspecting strangers while they are using the composting toilet facilities at the Eagle’s Lake cob bathroom.

Sweet potato greens exploding.

Sweet potato greens exploding.

The other wonderful surprise this year has been learning that sweet potato leaves are highly edible and nutritious.  I (Gord) eat them when in the garden, and Ann has been drying them for tea and for seasoning hearty winter soups.  I learned of the immense benefit of these while researching food items for Emily, and WOW are the leaves ever chocked full of nutrients.     The dried leaves are an amazing tea, even better than dried nettles in both taste and nutrients.

So Small and has fruit!

So Small and has fruit!

Fall Sales of Edible Perennial Plants:  On a different note, we had our fall order of plants arrive; an exciting time as the plants are beautiful and long awaited additions to all of our regular items.  The 2 year old Sweet Fuyu persimmons arrived, and some have fruit on them!   I’m also personally excited about the new hop additions of Sterling and Willamete to add to our Cascades.  (Gord lives for beer).   If anyone has had our home brew… we will have some fun opportunities to play with new flavours.  The really exciting thing is the arrival of the Illinois Everbearing Mullberry; we sold out right away on the last order.   This time, to place the order, we were told to phone six months in advance.  So on July 1st at 7am we ordered  40.

So many plants, so many functions,

So many plants, so many functions,

We often get asked, “what plants are we most impressed with since we started our nursery this past spring?”   A tough question as some plants have been the biggest sellers, and some we have fallen in love with.  The big sellers here are the sea buck thorn (sea berry), walking onion, goumi, crosne, oca, currants, figs, dwarf cherries and a whole shit load of various hardy kiwis.   The plants we have fallen in love with have been the tea, mulberry, cornelian cherry, chestnut, autumn olive, yellow horn, the hardy kiwis… and our lemons too!     Then you walk down the path and you just can’t stop and think how much you admire the properties of each of he plants.  Click here for a complete list of plants, availability, and prices.

Two Perennial Plants Sales This saturday (September 20).  For those who live on Southern Vancouver Island there are two options for drooling over perennial plants:  the Eco-Sense Nursery from 10am-2 pm, and Hatchet and Seed’s perennial plant sale from 1pm-4pm in North Saanich.  What a fabulous place to live with huge local selections.

Our Big News:  We are looking for home-steading partners
As the seasons change so do our lives.  This is a time of family transition here at Eco-Sense as Ann’s parents are moving back to Vancouver.  We are looking for like minded fragrance free friends to embark upon the next co-housing homesteading phase of Eco-Sense with us.   This PDF link  provides the details of this very unique opportunity to live in a mud house and shit in a bucket.

Page 1 of 4

Page 1 of 4

What’s the news at Eco-Sense? Updated Sat. 13th

Could it be that the nuts trees are growing crazy?

Could it be that we are going nuts?

Could it be that … ooops we have to wait just a few more days before the news.   But if we are caught in a plant frenzy stupor this Saturday while we sell our nuts trees, like our 3 types of walnuts, 3 types of chestnuts, yellow horn, sweet ultra hardy northern pecan, and blight resistant hazelnuts from OSU (Oregon State University), we might be spill the beans.

We went through the summer with our nursery plants, not expecting anything other than just caring for them through the drought of July and August, not expecting to have any surprises, but low and behold we had gojis, sea buck thorn and autumn olives set fruit, and the european olives and lemons have fruit on them.   Yum!

Other things experienced this week include Boo going in for surgery, having four teeth pulled and costing close to $2000.  No hard feelings, but wow, having a dog that has the freedom Boo has, can be costly… and it was pointed out that wolfs only live four to five years due to fractured teeth.

Our Goumis, Illinois Everbearing Mulberries and 4 variety of hops are delayed in Vancouver, and will not arrive till Monday, so for those on the waiting list, you will receive your call soon, and we may have a few extras, though they seem to go quick.   Email us if you wish to be on the backup list for any of the extra items.

See some of you tomorrow, Saturday between 10 am and 2 pm.

Sweet Fuyu Persimmon
Illinois EverBearing Mulberry
Tasmania Vine
Sezchuan Pepper tree
Hops (Willamete, Sterling, Cascade)
Kosor Elderberry
Ready to go for Saturday Sept 20…
Today almost all the Meyer lemons, all Sepp Holzer edible lupines, and most of the European Arbequina olives disappeared, plus autumn olives, dwarf sour cherries, and various apples.
Someone out there with Danish Heritage was interested in the combo apple, Belle de Boskoop /Triumph de Boskoop. If you know who you are, let me know and I will set it aside.

Gord and Ann


Fall Farm Gates Sales of Perennial Edible Plants

Wow, that summer went FAST.  Lots has been going on (as usual) on the Eco-Sense homestead.  Our first open house of the fall season for sales of PERENNIAL EDIBLE PLANTS is on SATURDAY Sept 6th from 10am-2pm.  


3295 Compton Road in the East Highlands.  If you are able bodied, please park at the bottom of our driveway and enjoy the walk up.  If you think you might buy some plants there is room to park up top.  Please leave dogs at home as we have chickens and ducks about.  We do not give formal tours during the plants sales open houses, but please feel free to explore our gardens and look at the house from the outside. Here is the list of plants we have in stock with more coming next week.  Click for Plant List  We also have eggs for sale.

Other items to note:

* Special Eco-Sense news coming next week…for now, it’s a secret.  Stay Tuned.

* The EcoHut is almost complete.  Currently, we are using it for the office for the perennial plant business.  If you are fascinated and inspired by tiny homes (as we are) you will love this small off-the-grid mini home.

Inside the Eco-Hut with archway into sleeping nook.

Inside the Eco-Hut with archway into sleeping nook.

* We are thinking about what it would mean to go completely local with our food…100%.  Anyone else have these thoughts?

DSC01390* Roof top solar real estate:  We are now growing food on our solar roof between the solar PV and the solar thermal.  We have squash, watermelons, chard, tomatoes, tomatillos, kale, lambs quarters, etc up there.

Our cob oven and cob benches have been repaired and they look fantastic!

Our cob oven and cob benches have been repaired and they look fantastic!

* We’ve been busy fermenting food and beverages.  Gord’s been making beer and wine, and Ann has been brewing ginger beer…here’s the recipe:

  • 1 gal jug that fits cork with air lock
  • Dissolve 2 1/4 cups of sugar in hot or warm water in the jug. If you are worried about sterility use boiling water…but don’t add yeast until it cools. (If you are using chlorinated city water you should boil the water)
  • Add 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Add 4 tsp powdered ginger (or fresh grated)
  • When water has cooled to warm, add half package of champagne yeast
    swirl/shake to dissolve everything
  • Top up 1 gal jug leaving a bit of air at the top
  • Put air lock on
  • Gently shake gal jar every 3 days or so (remove air lock and put proper cap on). 
  • After about 10-20 days or so taste a tiny bit…if still quite sweet let it just sit for a while longer. If it has used up all it’s sugar, add a bit more just to allow the carbonation…(see next step). 
  • When most of the sweetness is gone, decant into flip top glass jars (or plastic with tight lids). VERY IMPORTANT to flip the cap gently EVERY day so that glass jar doesn’t explode. For plastic jugs just vent daily when the jug gets hard. 
  • When you think it’s done and used up most of the sugar put in fridge rather than let the air pressure out to hold in the carbonation…keeping it cool will stop the yeast. The more sugar is used up, the higher the alcohol content.
  • Leave the sludge in the bottom of the jar and have another go at it…add sugar, add lemon, add ginger and no need to add more yeast. It worked for me.
  • I bet one could make a similar beverage with mint instead of ginger.DSC01440



3 Notices: Two-day course, Perennial Plants, Anti-Spam

Hi Everyone, Have you ever wanted to post this ad on Used Victoria?
Free to a good home, one husband, slightly used, somewhat self grooming, almost house trained. Has a good understanding of plants and mechanical systems, but a poor understanding of complex (female) systems.   Does not multi-task very well.  He will work for food, and is highly motivated by beer.   If you already have one of these, I have empathy, sorry not open to trade.

DSCN3641Here is a brilliant idea I came up with and it’s even better than husband recycling…  train your husband to listen to and understand mother nature and to do what you say.  This training can occur either through husband daycare, slyly called “Permaculture Systems In Action” where Solara (of Hatchet and Seed)  and myself (Ann) will train your husbands how to understand integrated systems, using ours as examples, or  better yet come yourself and see how we train these stubborn handsome hard working creatures to work with and understand our complex systems… using permaculture design principles applied to plants, rain water, grey water, composting, solar, soil, animal and other systems to drive the point home… that nothing is separate.      Bring your husband – leash is required, must be muzzled and fragrance free.

(Notes on above:  Could be role reversed and gender neutral…just insert appropriate pronouns and descriptions.  Can anyone guess who wrote this?  Ok, for a more serious take, see short update below)

Hello,  Here are three notices from Eco-Sense.

2dayposter1.  Next weekend (July 12th and 13th), we are offering a 2-day course:  Permaculture Systems in Action: A 2-Day Introduction to Permaculture Design.  In this course, we’ll introduce the concepts and then show you many examples of what it can look like.  You will be immersed in what it is like to live in a system where everything is connected, whether it is plant, animal (including humans), water, energy, social, food, financial, solar or building systems… you’ll see it all.  Two Gardens and four instructors in partnership with Hatchet & Seed.  Check out this link to learn the details and register.

Tour group in front of Eco-Hut (office for farm business)

Tour group in front of Eco-Hut (office for farm business)

Eco-Sense Farm Gate Sales for Perennial Plants.  First spring season was an incredible success…on so many levels.  We really enjoyed meeting so many new faces and connecting with old friends.  Some people came to buy plants or eggs and some just to say hi and walk around the gardens.  It was all good and our farm business looks to be financially and socially viable while meeting our needs to share and connect with people learning about adapting to our changing climate.  If you wish to buy plants over the summer please send us an email ( to set up a time.  Our next farm gate open house for perennial edible plants will be Saturday Sept 6, 2014 from 10am – 2pm.  Also, we are looking for 2 gallon or bigger pots.  If you would like to recycle your pots with us please send us an email.  As a thank you, we can offer you a very nice Oca plant.  We call this tubers for tubs.

3.  Anti Spam legislation.  Our first email regarding this new law has resulted in 40% of the people on our list giving permission.  This is exceptionally high for one email.  Wow.  We sure feel appreciated with all your kind messages too.  This email today is the last bulk email to our full list and your last chance to let us know you wish to continue getting emails from us.  So, if you haven’t sent us your consenting email please do so here:  Express Consent – click here and press send  If this doesn’t work for you just send us an email saying you give your consent for Eco-Sense to send you emails.
That’s all.  Thanks!  Ann and Gord10256798_695439347166001_7225618944550495375_n

Eco-Sense and the new Anti Spam Laws

The time as come to address the new CASL (Canadian Anti Spam Legislation) – which we highly suspect is geared towards silencing those whom the government takes the most issue with… as its implementation so nicely coincides on the same day as the charitable organization tax filing deadline. But do not despair… just remember the age old saying, and answer to an age old question – “If the government implements poor legislation to silence voices if a forest is cut down, does Eco-Sense still exist?”   Why yes.

On a positive note, if you appreciate the emails received inclusive of rants and raves, info on tours, plants, open houses, and goofy stories of the challenges of a family that lives in a mud house and shits in a bucket, here is your opportunity to say “Please send me emails of comedic informative inspiration!”

New Spam Laws – what we need to do

We need to address this interesting piece of legislation that will affect virtually everyone who sends or receives email from businesses, non profits, or charitable organizations in Canada.

Please take a quick momentout of your day to help Eco-Sense’s  efforts to become CASL (Canada’s Anti Spam Legislation) compliant.  Would each of you please be so kind to provide your express consent for us to continue sending notices that may include news and rants, tour and workshop updates, plant profile information, and special event notices. Two simple options:

Option 1
Express Consent – click here and type “I give consent to receive emails from Eco-Sense” in the subject.

Option 2
A simple cut and paste reply to this email  ( ) stating:
I give express consent to receive electronic emails from Eco-Sense.   

Thanks,  Gord and Ann


Chinese Dogwood – Cornus kousa chinensis

Only two more open houses until we close for the summer break.  We will still be open by appointment during the summer and will start up again this fall.  Our farm plant business has been very successful on so many levels.  We have met such interesting people, had great conversations, and opened our gardens and the Eco-Sense homestead for people to just come and see, explore, meet others, hug chickens, and be inspired.  We’ve also sold enough plants to make it all work.  A few great jobs for Gord have also come from this such as a prefabbed insulated bear proof chicken coop.

Thank you everyone.

When:  Saturday June 21st and June 28th from 10am – 2pm

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


Cornus kousa chinensis

Why Chinese dogwood?

Cornus kousa fruit

Cornus kousa fruit

Should I use words or pictures? A beautiful ornamental noted for flowers and fall colour, and in our case the variety ‘Julian’ for it’s large fruit.   A luxury… perhaps, but adding beauty is not a sin, and we can at least claim strong reasoned support for our choice because it is ‘edible’.

Cornus kousa flowers

Cornus kousa flowers

The fruit are large, and ripen between August and October and are showy as you can see. They hang gracefully on long stalks up to 2 inches long and may last from several weeks to almost two months.   Hardy to zone 5 (-20C), and the flowers are hermaphrodite thus self fertile. But then even because it is self fertile, who would want to have just one?


A small tree with a showy bloom

A small tree with a showy bloom

Chinese dogwoods are an adaptable easy to grow shrub handling partial shade, dappled light, to full sun, though with our site due to the intense heat we have moved ours to dappled shade as the full sun curls the leaves more when they are young. They can handle acid to alkaline soils, prefer moist but well drained (as most other plants). They start out slow and pick up their rate of growth as they age though are not considered vigorous in their shoot creation and make a good framework on their own so they require little to no pruning;  if you are wanting to adjust a little, then light pruning in late winter or early spring is the time.   Mature height for ‘Julian’ is 12-20 feet.   Propagation can be accomplished via hardwood cuttings (mature wood of the current year with a heal).  We soak all our cuttings in willow water to aid rooting (see notes below).


Edible raw ore cooked, they are sweet and juicy, a little seedy, and the pulp is creamy and custard like. Young leaves can be steamed as well, though we have not eaten any.

Willow Water for rooting hormone

We have been documenting  the rooting of cuttings using gel hormones, IBA 0.04% powder, IBA 0.08% powder and our homemade willow water.  The willow water wins consistently in doing the job.   We make our willow water using young green spring shoots from any willow, as they have the highest concentrations in them.  I strip the leaves, and chop them into 1/4 inch lengths, place  1/2 cup of them in a jar and pour boiling water over them.   I let soak for 24hrs to pull out the hormone and salicylic acid… then I soak new cuttings in there for 12 hours before placing in my rooting medium.

OCA – a very special Andean Potato

Feature Plant:  Oxalis tuberosa (OCA)

Oca is a small tuber that is a staple crop of the Inca.  They have literally thousands of types of these small potatoes…one for every micro climate in the Andean mountains.  Preserving genetic and biological diversity is essential for a changing climate.  Here is a BBC documentary on OCA  and 3000 other nutritious tubers grown in the Andes for a more resilient and nutritious food source.

Oca.  Lemony mini potatoes

Oca. Lemony mini potatoes

We think that every garden should grow a patch of OCA, our favourite spud.  We have OCA available for $12 a pot.  Not too late to get into the ground for a fall crop to eat.  One plant should produce enough for one meal or leave them in the ground to expand your tuber plot for many future meals.   Makes excellent ground cover.
OPEN House for perennial plants sales
Saturday June 14 from 10am – 2pm.  

3295 Compton road, East Highlands (near Victoria, BC).  We have OCA and LOTS more.  Here is our plant list.  Prices include GST.  We accept cash or cheque.  We also have two Good King Henry available (not on our list)…productive perennial spinach.

Oca is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.5 m (1ft 8in) by 0.3 m (1ft).

It is hardy to zone 7 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by insects.

Beautiful ground cover looks clover like

Beautiful ground cover looks clover like


Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the full shade. It prefers moist soil.

Tubers – raw or cooked. An acid lemon flavour when first harvested, if left out in the sun the tubers turn sweet, so sweet in some varieties that they are said to resemble dried figs and are sold as fruits in local markets in S. America. The cooked root is delicious whether in its sweet or acid state, it can be boiled, baked etc in similar ways to potatoes. The tubers tend to be rather smaller than potatoes, with good sized specimens reaching 8cm or more in length. The slightly waxy skin makes cleaning them very easy. They contain about 70 – 80% moisture, 11 – 22% carbohydrate, 1% fat, 1% fibre and 1% ash. The carbohydrate is rich in sugar and easy to digest.

peruvian Oca (Oxalis tuberosa)


Current ebb and flow of Currants, Currently

Our current affection  (remember we’re married) is for our currants  but is really not all that current, as over the past five years we have come to love and covet them.  Our current currant trends, have spawned us to expanded our currant selection, which just happens to currently be Red, Black, Pink, White and why not add Josta  to the list as well.    Too much?

Why should you like currants too?  Well… besides providing a reason for you to come visit us, the small shrub plants are notoriously adaptable to a host of situations, from part shade to full sun, making them ideal to use for hedging, wind breaks, pathway edging, and in particular for us to help stabilize edges on paths cut into steep slopes.  Oh and there are the edible aspects and their medicinal qualities (like the black currants).   They are easy to propagate, thus once you have a couple, you can expand your  stock easily –   and you are on your way to self sufficiency, (almost).

This saturday (May 31) we are open from 10 am – 2pm to chat about all things leafy and edible, along with anything else… and currants fall under both those categories.

We grow a whole host of plants in this family, the Ribes family, including the currants (red, black, white and pink currant), gooseberries (yellow and red), josta berry, thimble berry and salmon berry.   We also grow lots of flowering red currant for the beauty and the bees.

Location: Currants like morning sun, afternoon part-shade and buoyant air circulation. They can be grown in the high shade of fruit trees such as persimmon, as well as on the north side of buildings. The leaves sunburn readily and the plants collapse quickly when the soil or air temperature exceeds 85° F. Currants can withstand ocean winds but the salt air will burn the leaves and turn them ragged.
Soil:  Currants are not finicky about soil but, in keeping with their proclivity for cold, prefer heavier soils richer in clay. A thick mulch of some organic material also keeps the soil cool in summer while adding humus to the soil. Sandy soils are less suitable for currants because they dry out too fast. The plants will not tolerate alkaline or salty soil.
Irrigation: With their fibrous, shallow roots, currants are are ideal for drip irrigation. Keep the plants watered until the fruit is harvested. At this point they stop active growth and the watering frequency can be reduced. Plants stressed for water are susceptible to mildew.

Red Currants

Red Currant

Red Currant

Sweet and Tart at the same time, we eat them by handfuls straight off the bush.   Noted for their iron and vitamin C content, 100 grams provides 68% of your daily C intake.   A mature bush  (4 years) can provide up to 4 kg of berries.


White Currants

White Currant

White Currant

We have two varieties (White Pearl and Swedish).   They are virtually albino versions of the red currant.   Other than the difference in colour the reason we are growing these is that the birds seem more attracted by the red, than the non-red, hence we need to do less protection to save them for ourselves.  Slightly sweeter than the red currant.

Pink Currant

The cultivar we have is Gloire de Sablons the most common planted cultivar.  Bush is upright, not branching, very productive, and the berries quite are large but few on strig.

Black Currants

Ben - Black Currants

Ben – Black Currants

Black currants, especially the canadian cultivars are highly astringent thus fresh eating is limited, which is why we have chosen  the variety from the Scotlan Research Institute, Ben Hope, Ben Connan and Ben Tirran.   These are higher in sugar, and suited well for fresh eating, strong resilient and self fertile cultivars.  That said, all plants do better with a buddy.  One cup of black currants provides 338% of your daily requirement needs of Vitamin C, and then there is the high iron, potassium, phosphorous and maganese, which outdoes all the other currants.
Ben Connan  an early variety outyeilds all other varieties on a compact small bush, with very large berries.   It has large, deep black berries with a pleasant acid/sweet flavour, compact growth habit makes it suitable for u-pick farms and the home garden market. Great for fresh eating, jams, preserves, canning but needs to be harvested good and ripe for best sweetness.
Ben Hope, a tall upright bush, has good yields of sweet medium sized berries.   Is thought to be an ideal specimen for low input growing systems… anything we grow has to be neglected to survive.
Ben Tirran is a  late cultivarwith a growth habit upright and vigorous (not a tall as Ben Hope) with pleasant tasting medium sized berries. It flowers a little later than other Ben series black currants so it has reasonable tolerance to spring frosts. Fruit is suitable for both juice and jams.

Josta Berry



Josta berries are hybrids of black currant and the American gooseberry, the bush is tall, thornless, tends not to branch and requires the space of 2 currant bushes. The foliage is glossy, larger than gooseberry, lobed, scentless and resists mildew. It survives full sunlight but requires much winter chilling. and as for edible they have the black currant flavour with the gooseberry sweetness.   There are some thoughts of back pollinating these with the Ben series to increase the berry production up a notch while maintaining the sweetness.




Hinnomaki cultivars from Finland are sweet and flavourful.  Growing 2 metres in height, they are prickly stemmed.
Hinomaki Red Gooseberry has heavy crops of red medium sized fruit borne on upright plants that have good mildew resistance.

Hinomaki Yellow Gooseberry

Heavy crops of yellow-green medium sized fruit are borne on upright plants that have good mildew resistance.

Flowering Red Current and Thimble Berry are not potted though if interest is expressed, we can harvest  from our transplanted stock given prior notice.

So as you can see we are big fans of these little but copious fruits.  We thank our neighbour Ingo for introducing us to them in ALL THEIR FLAVOURS AND COLOURS.    Hopefully you too might follow the current, so you too can exclaim you’re a current fan of currants.