New additions: moving fast and furious

What a week…first the nursery update and then a few photos from our week.  Sunday open house for perennial edible plants (or just looking around).  10am – 2pm.  3295 Compton Road, East Highlands, Victoria.  Plant list with prices here:

Three weeks ago we were unsure what the nursery would bring … stress from no activity, or stress from selling out ?  Well it seems that it has been very busy, and have sold out of items, and furiously had to re-stock.  In restocking, it means that Gord has had to research and order in plants… by the truck load.  As with all of our new stock, we are planting out two of everything…yup, kind of ark like.

New additions include Evergreen Huckle berry (only one left), 12 foot tall Jujube (Chinese Date) trees, the best and most useful plums including Stanley, Santa Rosa and Methley, Sweet dwarf self fertile Lapins cherry, Morello cherry, edible crab apples (Red Sentinel and Whitney) to cross pollinate all the triploid apple trees, Aronia ‘Viking’ (Aronia melanocarpa), and more tea.

Link for info on Aronia melanocarpa:    Aronia
Link for info on Jujube ziziphous:  Chinese Date

We also were able to find some Toona Sinensis and Japanese pepper trees (Zanthoxylum piperitum).  The pepper tree is beautiful, it smells great and the leaves can be added into salads!

The dwarf sour cherries (Romeo, Juliet, Cupid and Valentine) arrived as well,   Though called a sour cherry due to the genetics, the first three are sweet and Valentine is a pie cherry.  Growing 6-8 feet and all self fertile, they are a nice tree to fit into an urban food forest.

Some good deals this week.

  • We had lots of Red “Captivator” jumbo almost thornless Gooseberries arrive… bare root…with massive roots.  Potted up in 3 gal pots.  Very good price at $26.
  • Asparagus (sweet purple).  We planted ours yesterday, but our remaining stock NEEDS TO GET PLANTED ASAP.  Only a few bundles of 10 left selling for $15.


Our lemons we started here are doing great!   We’ll have home grown from Eco-Sense lemon trees next season.

Grafting trees

It is that time of year and Gord has been grafting stone fruits, pears, apples and cherries.  Due to the early spring, even T bud grafting is happening, rather than having to wait for May or June, the bark is slipping beautifully.

Closing early

If sales continue the way they have the first three weekends, we may have to close before June.  We have had customers from Courtney, Nanaimo, Gabriola, Duncan and Saltspring make the trek to find the items they have not been able to source elsewhere.

Here are a few photos from our week:

Nettle leaf.  Finally finished all the drying.  Can now be used for tea or soups.

Nettle leaf. Finally finished all the drying. Can now be used for tea or soups.

Ginger beer brewing, home made cheese aging on counter, oats and brown rice fermenting on counter.

Ginger beer brewing, home made cheese aging on counter, oats and brown rice fermenting on counter.

Gord made a trip to Vancouver to pick up some plants.

Gord made a trip to Vancouver to pick up some plants.

creative stacking of plants in our small pickup.  worked very well.

creative stacking of plants in our small pickup. worked very well.

Hardy kiwi looking good with leaves coming out.  Shades house from hot western sun.  Passive cooling.

Hardy kiwi looking good with leaves coming out. Shades house from hot western sun. Passive cooling.

Winter veggies right out side the front door.

Winter veggies right out side the front door.

Flowering red current and shooting the native plants.

Flowering red current and shooting stars…love the native plants.

Winter veggies...can you say brassica?  Mild winter, so we have lots of brassica shoots.

Winter veggies…can you say brassica? Mild winter, so we have lots of brassica shoots.

More brassicas and greenhouse in the background.

More brassicas and greenhouse in the background.

Spot the fava beans, nettles, garlic, and my leek starts.

Spot the fava beans, nettles, garlic, and my leek starts.

Sea kale coming up.  Looking forward to feasting on this perennial vegetable for many years to come.

Sea kale coming up. Looking forward to feasting on this perennial vegetable for many years to come.

Burbank plum and daffodils.  Bulbs or onions/leeks work well around fruit trees.

Burbank plum and daffodils. Bulbs or onions/leeks work well around fruit trees.

Eat the weeds...yup kale everywhere.  Dandelions are also a favourite.  Can eat the flower buds or the open flowers or the leaves.  Roots are also good for tea/coffee.  Medicinal plant as well.

Eat the weeds…yup kale everywhere. Dandelions are also a favourite. Can eat the flower buds or the open flowers or the leaves. Roots are also good for tea/coffee. Medicinal plant as well.

Spring is Here! A bit early.

Another busy and exciting week has passed.  Our days have been full and rewarding with work and visits from friends.  Here are some of the things we have been up to in our life, our 3-Thirds lifestyle, as we prepare for our Sunday open house for Perennial Edible Plants (10am -2pm):

  • Potting up bare root shipments of some new food forestry plants.  We also have had great success starting Meyer lemons from cuttings.  Good news as we just sold our last lemon plant.
  • For those that have already purchased their blight resistant hazelnuts – LUCKY YOU.  We tried to order some more and there is 2 year waiting list.  Thankfully we still have a few left in stock.
  • Gord with an impressive asparagus crown on his head

    Gord with an impressive asparagus crown on his head

    Planning on where to plant our 2 asparagus beds (50 crowns for us) and lots of ever-bearing strawberries for ground cover.  We have lots of bare root Sweet Purple Asparagus crowns for sale as our shipment had an extra 100 plants.  $2 each.  Here is an excellent article on planting and growing asparagus.

  • Gord spent a great deal of time this week sourcing out replacement stock for the items we have not yet propagated (or are too small to sell).  Holy smokes these plants are hard to find…especially since we are trying to source from Canadian sources.  Importing plants is too expensive with the low Can $, the shipping, duty, and customs.  We have been busy learning all about some new plants too:  Dwarf Bush fig, Strawberry Red Rhubarb, Black Monukka Grape, Peters Honey Fig, Quinal and Tristar strawberries, Sweet Purple Asparagus, and more dwarf sour cherry’s, fuzzy kiwi’s, Arbequina Olives, Gooseberries, etc.  Plant list and prices here:  All prices include GST.
  • Gord grafting last year.

    Gord grafting last year.  Boo is helping.

    Gord wrote two articles for the BC Fruit Tester’s Association, one on Greywater and one on Food Forestry.  Saturday (March 21) is the BC Fruit Testers Association sale at the Saanch Fair Grounds… Gord’s excited to go again this year and will be busy grafting more trees here on Tuesday.

  • Our Municipal council meeting this week focused on fire protection in the Highlands.  We spoke about how climate change is predicted to cause longer, hotter, dryer summers, which translates into greater fire risk.
  • DSC00473We are leaving some eggs in the chickens nesting boxes hoping that a chicken will go broody.  Last year the ladies hatched 13 chicks…half were roosters.  The roosters  were very good quality even thought they grow much slower than “meat” birds.  We are hoping to have three batches this year to add hens to our flock and produce healthy well treated roosters for eating.  Seems to make more sense then buying and raising ‘meat birds’. Let nature do what nature does.  Chicken eggs ($5/dozen)
  • Our ducks when they were little.  Dog TV.

    Our ducks when they were little. Dog TV.

    Sweet Pea and Angie have started laying duck eggs again (as opposed to chicken eggs), after taking the winter off.  We will have 12 duck eggs for sale on sunday.  ($4/half dozen).

  • Dried nettle leaf tea.

    Dried nettle leaf tea.

    We harvested lots of nettles at our neighbours farm.  We were very grateful for this opportunity so as a thank-you we offered our neighbours a gift certificate to our nursery to buy some perennial edible plants.  Ann has been busy drying nettles for tea.  We have two 1/2 pint jars of nettle leaf tea for sale (no big stems).  ($8)

  • We pulled 43 ticks out of the dog last week and another 15 last night.  We have a vial of black legged ticks ready to send in to the lab for analysis.  Worst tick year ever.  Poor Boo.  Ann even had a council packaged delivered and when she opened it up there was a tick inside.  Ack!
  • Bruising and rolling the tea leaves

    Bruising and rolling the tea leaves

    Ann has been REALLY enjoying her home grown and processed black tea. Leaves were bruised, oxidized, fermented and then dried. SO GOOD. Tea plants have been our biggest sellers lately. We currently have 2 types with a third type coming next week.

  • DSC01634We’ve been fermenting all kinds of food.  Gord made some cut off glass bottoms that are perfect to put into the jar to hold down the fermenting veggies under the brine.  This works awesome in both the jar types.
  • DSC01671Sweet potatoes have been very popular so far this year.  We have 4 types for sale.  Just yesterday we heard Brian Minter on the CBC talking about Georgia Jet Sweet Potatoes and how well they can do in our climate.  We have certainly had bumper crops.  Here’s a photo of how I start my slips.  Once they get going I pluck off the shoot with roots and plant in soil.  The slips are $4 each.

And finally, links that we found interesting this past week:

This video interview as well worth the hour. Brilliant and strait forward. Filmed 10 years ago. It’s unusual to hear such clarity. Many people may not share these opinions at the state of the earth and the human predicament but for those who do…this is a so real.

Thanks for reading,

Ann and Gord

A Dry Spell

A Dry Spell

It has been a long dry spell…both with the weather and our cash flow.

  • Our winter has been short, warm and dry.  Welcome to climate chaos.  There’s no snow pack and not much rain and all we can think about is the salmon and the cedars.  Last sunday’s open house at Eco-Sense, it was the trending topic.  There seems to be quite the unease and angst among those people that are paying attention to how fast the climate shit is hitting the fan, locally and globally.  The good news is…it’s raining today.  Short video  to explain the latest in climate science…better sit down for this one.  Or article in the Ecologist here.
  • Last fall, starting with our mostly self financed tiny campaign to run for municipal office, and then combined with not earning much income for 3 months, we experienced a significant decrease in our personal cash flow.  So now we are back at it and finding that balance with our 3-thirds lifestyle that most people have heard us speak about.  Last Sunday’s open house for perennial edible plants was EXTREMELY successful both with selling some plants (financial capital) and lots of people just coming by to hang out, chat, and wander around our gardens (social capital).  Gord and I are thinking we might be able to go to the dentist.  woohoo!!!! Emily will likely have to wait another year or two for braces though.    Remember, we are making these choices to live with less money, so please don’t worry about us…our health is excellent…we just need a bit of minor dental work (health capital).
Chicks being raised in  JA forest.

Chicks being raised in JA forest.

Farm Gate Sales of Perennial Edible Plants:  Sunday March 15th from 10am – 2pm.  We have excellent stock and everything is just starting to leaf out.  Our updated plant list is here.  Prices include GST.  Gift certificates also available.  We only take cash, cheque or a bank (email) transfer if arranged ahead of time.  Something not on our list is Jerusalem artichokes which are awesome to plant in your chicken area especially for your young chicks.  We have tubers by the bag full.  See last weeks post to learn more about this permaculture technique for raising young chickens.  Here is an excellent article on why regenerative farming is so important.

Gord in his second home

Gord in his second home

We have been busy with all kinds of spring activities in the gardens.  Gord has propagated LOTS of plants in the new recycled solarium greenhouse (man cave).   We have also been starting seeds and therefor reducing our requirement to bring in outside plants.  Some of these are ready now, but most of these efforts will pay off next season.

Tea leaves.  Camelia sinensis.

Tea leaves. Camelia sinensis.

We had a big tea plant die due to a rat eating the root.  Sad, but great opportunity to make LOTS of cuttings.  Ann kept all the leaves and has made a fantastic black tea by bruising and mashing the leaves, oxidizing and fermenting, and then drying.  YUMMY!


Roof top garden will have a hoop cover. Right now we have tones of kale here that we have been feasting on ALL WINTER.

We have also been expanding our roof top solar gardens.  Last year we produced lots of squash and water melons up there, but this year we will do even more in this incredibly HOT microclimate.  Yup, we are going to grow turmeric and more melons and MORE squash and sweet potatoes.

Little Eco-Hut surrounded by perennial edible plants.

Little Eco-Hut surrounded by perennial edible plants.



And finally, a couple days back we did a presentation up in Duncan on Tiny Homes: Ecological and regenerative Design – covering systems, philosophy, and policy.  There is a group in the Duncan area led by Joy Emmanuel that is looking to create a legal tiny home community.  They are looking for land from 5-10 acres cooperatively owned with tiny eco-homes individually owned.  Tiny homes are less than 500 sqft, and can be built out of many different materials or in some cases, even on trailers (although that may be a zoning/building code issue).  If you are interested in learning more about this contact Joy Emmanuel <>

Another “Want to Be Our Neighbour?” opportunity is fast approaching, not just with our home, but with a neighbour whom is sadly moving.    The home will be listed in two weeks… stay tuned.   Ian will be missed.

Last but not least in this short update is a reminder that spring is fast approaching?  At least the BC Fruit Testers Association spring sale on March 21st has been a sign of such, but with spring here, all the better reason to attend the sale, pick up scion wood, rootstock and plants.   Gord is writing a series of articles for the Cider Press, so read if you dare.  If you have any trees that you wish to have grafted but are not wanting to experiment, Gord can do it for you.

Thanks for reading,

Ann and Gord

Excited and Scared

Things that are SCARY:

*  The virtually non-existant winter has brought an early spring.  Can you say climate change?  Can you say better get some roots into the soil?  SCARY and EXCITING!  First perennial edible plant sale here at Eco-Sense is this SUNDAY, March 8, from 10am -2pm. (more below).  Plant list here:   

*  Entering the second year of farm and nursery sales hoping that it carries on from last year’s success.  Fingers crossed, SCARY and HOPEFUL!

*  Ann’s parents moving out and us trying to develop a plan that fits with our dysfunctional lifestyle (or to flip this around, developing a plan that fits with our lifestyle and our dysfunctional culture), SCARY and OPPORTUNITY.     It has been a time of insecurity, of change, of challenge, and VULNERABILITY.     Between Ann’s parents, Gord’s teenage kids, and navigating completely different parenting styles while trying to live outside of our cultures brainwashing, we have barely kept our head above water.  GULP!DSC01652

LIFE IS MESSY.  So for everyone that thinks their life is the only one that’s messy,  WRONG.  It’s NORMAL for life to be messy, and we should all stop pretending it’s not…this is simply more cultural programming that makes us feel that our life, our family, our whatever, just doesn’t measure up.

Gord’s words speak to the essence of life…  “I love change… unless of course I am part of it”.  Change is not always easy, not always fun, but is inevitable on this little blue changing dot. Change really is everything we have been speaking to for years, and our experiences offer the ability to tell the new stories, and let’s face it… it  really can be a time filled with exciting opportunities.

Opportunities Abound!

We have racked our brains trying to find that “right fit” to utilize the soon to be vacant suite next door.  We would love to find that perfect fit with another couple with complimentary skills and values to become our co-housing mates, and add their efforts to ours, making the land flourish with sustainable abundance.  Yet we also desire  to use all the skills we have, and space we have created, to inform, inspire, teach, and to demonstrate  philosophical, cultural and  personal development. Yet we have limited time and resources.   We have so much more to offer than just a short term B&B rental.    So our latest idea is a dedicated ‘Environmental Guest Accommodation & Retreat’ to be used by environmentally minded groups, to house their guests, visiting lecturers and professors, or their members.    A place of re-charge for those who have experienced ENVIRONMENTAL BURNOUT.  Stay Tuned.

DSC01661Springing to Life – The Nursery is Open!  This Sunday March 8th from 10am-2pm (and every Sunday into June).  3295 Compton Road, in the Highlands near Victoria.

Sure is scary to think that nobody will come, or to wonder if our stock will sell out too soon… flip side issues of the same coin.    With spring here, and plants leafing out, we have spent the week repotting hundreds of plants.    We are better prepared than last year and have plants that have definitely put on happy root growth over the winter, so we have helped them spread their wings and given them bigger accommodations.

Offerings from the Nursery – New this year ***GIFT CERTIFICATES***

DSC01657Perennial Leek – we sold out last year… we have double the quantity this year.  Observations from last year were that the leeks poked their heads out then quickly died back, making us think we had lost the 20 or so we had planted out for ourselves.  As February came along so did all those leeks and they are 2 to 3 times as tall than what we saw last year, and  after only 1 month!  LESSON – give them the first year to establish (this is not written anywheres).

Cornelian Cherry – one of the toughest and most beautiful trees we grew last year, with a host of uses and we sold only one.   They are out in bloom, and we will likely see fruit of these youngsters.  Gord is as equally excited  about them this year as last… and just can’t wait to have them mature so he can break a tool handle and replace it with a wood so dense and strong that it sinks.

Chickens in the JA forest

Chickens in the JA forest

Kiwis, Figs of three different sizes (tree/ dwarf tree / 3 ft shrub), Hazelnuts, Chestnuts, Walnuts, Yellowhorn, Honey Berry, Chinese Dogwood, Paw Paw, Apple, Pear, Cherry (sweet 3/4 size and sour dwarf), Pine Nuts, Tea (russian and Korean), Hops (Cascade, Sterling, Willamete), Goumi, European Olive, Russian Olive, Autumn Olive, Elderberry (European and N. American), Walking Onions, Nodding Onions, Seabuckthorn (Seaberry), Persimmon… bored yet?  What about Jerusalem artichokes?  We love them fermented and slow cooked.  These tubers also make an awesome nursery for baby chicks to grow up in.  They eat the leaves, are protected from the sun and predators, and if you leave the adults with them, they will dig out and eat every single tuber.  And in case anyone was wondering, YES, chickens do get gas.  PFFFF!    (But Gord eats them raw (the tubers…not the chickens) at this time of the year and … no gas).  (As for Ann… PFFFF)!

Propagation concepts.  As you are aware our passion is promoting plants and agricultural systems that can (hopefully) withstand the brunt of climate change, heal the soil, and fill the bellies of all that live here, and all the others we share the land with, doing so with the least inputs possible.    This past year we became a farm and as part of the application process, the BC Assessment Authority was so impressed that they are providing farm status that goes back two years, and they are bringing their staff by for a tour.  We are working both here on the land and within our new role as elected councillors to sprout new ideas and propagate the concept that we as a region could actually add to our quality of collective farm land by including parcels that may not necessarily be ‘farmland’ but become more productive through permaculture methods and food forestry.

To place this concept into perspective, think nuts.  No, not Ann and I, but trees that are drought tolerant, historically grown on hillsides and have been critical food sources for a diverse number of species over 1000’s of years.  The American Chestnut in the US, Hazelnuts on the coast, and Nut Pines in rocky inhospitable dry locations.    If you have a nook and cranny, there’s something that can grow food for the future.

Propagating Plants

This past fall we installed a recycled solarium, made it into a greenhouse, complete with heated  growing beds, derived from hot water heated via a 60 cubic yard thermophilic compost pile, with a back up of a 2 gallon electric hot water tank.  The pile worked great!   Far surpassed expectations.  The compost pile has long since been dismantled for our gardens needs, a month early, due to the fact Spring is early, (thus a small hot water tank is doing its job, and pictures of the setup can be found on our Ann, Gord and Eco-Sense Living Facebook sites).  This has allowed starting our own tea plants from our own seeds to sprout and grow this winter, quince seedling to grow, cuttings of Goumi, Olive, Fig, Kiwi, … and much more to grow.  This means that we are on track with bringing in much less imported plant stock from Oregon and elsewhere, and thus decreasing our carbon footprint and imported soil.

Greywater and Composting Toilets

Nothing new here on this front… except that there is movement afoot by the Province to legalize them in such a way to have Standard Practices and regulations allowing their existence.  I can’t say much more than that… but that as part of the project, we had a great visit here from the BC Ministry of Health on this “comprehensive” project and are glad to be a small part of it.

Update on being elected officials


Youth Delegation asking council to consider a declaration for “The Right To a Healthy Environment”

STIMULATING!  The learning curve since January has been steep, and intense… noted by one of the councillors that’s served 2 terms as Mayor and 3 terms as councillor… “this is an exceptionally heavy load”.    Gord spent 17 full days in January dedicated to elected official activity, for his hard earned $500.   The sessions  are exciting where we can debate important decisions at a high level with the other intelligent councillors that serve the Highlands.    Staff also has been great, with an amazing compliment of skills and understanding of the issues which affect our little municipality.  The District of Highlands may be small with regards to human population, but large with regards to wildlife and biodiversity.   As Ann noted in her election platform, she was speaking for those who couldn’t vote (all the other living beings and future generations of people).  We are truly enjoying this opportunity to stir this municipal pot.

Thanks for reading,

Gord and Ann



Our new 4-Thirds Lifestyle. Overshoot?

Wild and wooly could best describe the past 2 months.

A Thick Skin

Ann and Gord both Elected to municipal government.

Over the past week we have been going to councillor school, and one word of advice that is repeated over and over… develop a thick skin as no matter what decision you make, half the people will think you are an idiot, and the other half will love you.   We have also become acquainted with the term ‘pecuniary’.   One of the rarest forms of pecuniary interests that any elected official has ever had to be forthright about is our contract to clean the local public washroom and collect the shit… imagine that, politicians that collect it rather than distribute it.   Though I am sure one could argue that we spread our share of manure.

Speaking of manure and trying to make sense of it, we are delving deep into our new policy and procedural manual.   I can gaurantee  that this 445 page manual is one of the most entertaining reads this week.

If you ever wanted to amend an amending motion to an amendment...

If you ever wanted to amend an amending motion to an amendment…

A day after the election, we were given a tool for the job, a thick skin.  An elk hide

Elk hide is being stretched on the woodshed.

Elk hide is being stretched on the woodshed.

to be exact, one day old, and in need to be salted, scraped, pickled, rinsed, scudded,  tanned, smoked and then shaved.  So on to a new learning process, and hopefully complete in time for Gord to make himself some elk slippers for winter.

This processing of the hide is an interesting educational adventure, especially to attempt to learn the process off the internet, trying to identify the chemical changes required for each step, and trying to replicate with non toxic materials we have here… and up front, I can say we don’t have the brains to perform a brain tanning process (Gord eagerly refused… wimp!).

We are tanning our hides with the fur on.  This is the elk hide, future slippers and cob bench covering.

We are tanning our hides with the fur on. This is the elk hide, future slippers and cob bench covering.

Instead of hydrochloric or sulphuric acid, Gord used oxalic acid; instead of brains or chrome sulphate, he is using oak leaf mulch boiled to create an organic tanning liquor; and to replicate the fatty acids that exist in the myelin sheath of the brain neurones we will be attempting to use coconut oil.   For the smoking stage, we will use cedar, thyme, and rosemary which should leave the final hide smelling wonderful enough to chew on.  Boo is smiling.

As we write this, a deer hide was also dropped off from the neighbour.    Wonderful… Gord can make Ann a skirt to go along with her slippers he made a few years back.  What a great attire for the council table; two rookie

Deer hide being pickled in salt and oxalic acid.

Deer hide being pickled in salt and oxalic acid.

councillors, whom live in a mud house, shit in a bucket, have mud couches with hides for cushions, adorned in thick skins. Beginning to look a lot more like the Flintstones.   Hope the hell the Escort station wagon doesn’t die;  else we’ll be cutting a hole in the floor and using our feet to propel us to the meetings.

Lemons in December

Summer 2014.  Curvey bed gardens in front of the south wall.  Lemons have done well with freezing Nov temperatures

Summer 2014. Curvey bed gardens in front of the south wall. Lemons have done well with freezing Nov temperatures

The gardens are settling in, though we have had a cold spell (cold for Victoria) of -4C and yet the lemons continue to flourishes on the front of the cob house in the cement beds built earlier in the year.  Winter veggies planted are growing away.  As we write, it is December 1st, and still our lunches are of salads with fresh greens, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, homemade cheese, winter quash soups, and sauerkraut.  The tea plants bloom at this time of the year, all thriving, and seeds from last years bloom have been collected, stratified and planted.

Baring the concepts of the New Economy

Additional activities  this past month, include Gord’s  presentation  for Living The New Economy, which in brief is an economy that is based on other currencies than just financial.   These other currencies are tied to other forms of capital, where transactions within natural capital, social, cultural and spiritual capitals, intellectual and experiential capitals all interact to support greater diversity in each.   Gord’s topic was “MaLNEking Eco-Sense of Permanomics”, wherein he stripped down out of his business suit to his infamous eco-sense overalls, and then out of these overalls down to his Stanfeild onsies… live streamed online in an effort to metaphorically demonstrate the need to shed our cultural layers and get down to the basics to understand true economics.   Don’t know if the audience will ever be the same, luckily there were no costume prop glitches like Janet Jackson… no nipple flips or otherwise small inappropriate items of distraction.

Another wonderful opportunity, came in the form of a request to help research and write guidelines and regulations for the Ministry of Health on Greywater and Composting Toilets.  This was a request of the ministry to one of the best qualified engineers on the topic of septic and sewage regulations.  Ann and I are are two of a team of five technical writers.

We are becoming a FARM!

Gord in the new propagation greenhouse - heated by compost and the sun.

Gord in the new propagation greenhouse – heated by compost and the sun.

We dropped off our farm application package on October 30, and while in the office they suggested that we should apply for the previous year as well.  This automatically triggers a farm site inspection, which also occurred this past week.  On arriving, the inspector was taken with everything from the fencing, water and grey water systems, the propagation green house heated by horse manure, the eco-hut sales office… but most of all was that she had never seen a farm such as this before.  She was amazed at the sheer quantity of diverse food trees and integrated systems atop this rocky hill, and commented that she was always told “this is impossible”.  She left that day with one request and one statement… “Can I bring my office up here on a tour to show them what is possible?”, and  “I never say thanks at the end of an inspection… THANK YOU!”     She also could not believe that two people pulled this off, without training, and manage it.

Homesteading Partners

We were not shy telling the Farm Assessment inspector that we are barely keeping on top of it, and that for this very reason we are looking for a couple that is wanting to dive in, live with us and continue the push.   We are looking for people who want to largely earn their livelihood from this piece of land, whether their passions are herbs and medicinals, nuts and fruits, annuals, perennials, aquaculture, animals or ????.  The opportunity will begin in the Spring of 2015 and the rent may be decreased based on skills and experience levels.  Here is a PDF with more information.  

Three wheelbarrows of winter quash harvested this year.  Most from the roof.

Three wheelbarrows of winter quash harvested this year. Most from the roof.

In our efforts to lead a 3-Thirds lifestyle it was pointed out that we have just moved into a 4-Quarters lifestyle… though our gut thinks it might be more like 4- Thirds “overshoot” lifestyle; 1/3 working for an income, 1/3 volunteering, 1/3 following our passions and growing our food, and 1/3 serving the community.  It will be interesting this next 4 years.  Three fellow councillors spoke of climate change, economics of the future, the carbon bubble, and one was prepared to speak to the dystopia we are likely to find ourselves navigating in the near future.   Will this be the period where community becomes the paramount purveyor of sanity and connection?  Quite possibly as the World Bank states that our earth is heading for a 4 degree C rise in global average temperatures by the year 2060. Most intellectuals and academics agree that global civilization cannot adapt to this rapid change.  Business as usual IS NOT an option…We either change willing or unwillingly.  We know what we would choose.  Try like hell with everything we’ve got.


Ann Baird & Gord Baird ELECTED

Ann and Gord – Both elected to Highlands Council

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).

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.

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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