Radio interview – Changes Radio – Walking the Talk

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

Rainwater and other dry topics

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


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

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

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

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

Coarse Debris filter

Coarse Debris filter

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

Tank with coarse and 1st flush filters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Composting Toilets

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

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

Resources and Links

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

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

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

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

Thriving lemons with flowers

Thriving lemons with flowers

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


BC snow pack map as of May 15, 2015

BC snow pack map as of May 15, 2015

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

Everything is beautiful...and EARLY

Everything is beautiful…and EARLY

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

Watermelons in sand and plant pots

Watermelons in sand and plant pots

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

Solar roof…beginning of may and watermelons and squash thriving

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

Black Amber plum...tree is OVERLOADED

Black Amber plum…tree is OVERLOADED

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

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

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


The Awful truth about Climate Change:  

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

Awesome Companion Planting Chart:

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

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

More on the Limits to Growth from Scientific American

Mating moths

Mating moths

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

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

Home made watering wand

Home made watering wand

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

Ducks eating the cover crop AND worms

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

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

Gord and Ann





Blooming busy!

What a great time of year up here on the hill as everything comes into bloom with all the different colours.  The beauty bush is a big ball of white, the rambling rose 25 ft up the arbutus has white bursts amongst the leaves, the purple Rosa Rugosa  has the first white flower of the year, the red and pink un-named roses scattered in the food forest have their beautiful scented white blooms cascading over the paw paw and prune plum.    From the perspective of a colour blind person, its all vibrant.  (Ann’s comment:  It’s all colours of pinks and blues and yellows…and Gord is just trying to be funny by calling everything white…the only colours he doesn’t see well are greens and reds…which is why he is always losing me in the garden.)

If you have not been by the house yet to wander through the gardens, this is the most opportune time, especially as this is the second to last Sunday  (May 24th) that we will have the doors open for wandering the gardens and the nursery sales before we close up  (after our last open house on May 31st) for the summer.  (We will reopen in the fall).

Plants that are in the nursery and producing this year…

Morello Cherry,
Lapins Cherry,
Chinese  Dogwood (Cornus kousa Chinense),
Captivator Jumbo red Gooseberry,
Korsor Elderberry,
Whitney (Highly edible) crab apple,
Red Sentinel (Highly edible) crab apple,
Honeberry various types,
Cornelian Cherry,
Autumn Olives,
Highbush cranberry,
and more!  (like heritage tomato plants with flowers)

We have to confess that last year when we closed for the summer, we enjoyed snacking on the various fruits on the nursery plants that ripened over the summer .  Can you blame us?

Things to view in the gardens… (sorry there’s no photos…been SOOOO busy…you’ll have to come out to see)

The Capulin Cherry is blooming for the first time… a fruit we have yet to see,
The mulberries are blooming,
The grafted pear onto hawthorne have all taken,
The Black Amber plum is LOADED!  OMG!
The Anna hardy kiwi is growing extremely strong for being a 2 year old,
The 5  year old Puget Gold Apricot has maybe 40 fruit this year, the 2 year old has 2,
Tomatoes and Tomatillos with fruits that are set and growing,
Ginger and Tumeric  doing extremely well,
Sweet lupines maybe 6 ft tall?
The new Chestnut grove…

Come see how we outsmarted wood bugs  from devouring our squash and cucumber transplants.  (Ann’s comment:  best not to brag about that Gord…nature always has the last laugh…as she did with our entire sugar snap pea crop).  The new growth on the tea plants is simply AMAZING… and they are flowering.  A bonus is the fact that the abundant carnivorous yellowjackets have been on top of the cabbage moths and so there has not been any cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi or brussel sprout deaths.  The downside was our favourite little brown/red squirrel (white for Gord) ate over half of the American Chestnut seedlings.

The gardens are one month ahead… and what does that look like… just gotta come see.  It is looking wild!

Open Sunday May 24th  10am-2pm, and final day May 31 10am-3pm.

3295 Compton Road, East Highlands, Victoria.

The Business of Perennial Edible Plants

DSC01831We are down to the last three open houses this spring for the sales of Perennial Edible Plants  (May 17, 24, 31).  10am – 2pm.  3295 Compton Road.  Feel free to come and wander around the gardens and peak at our buildings, chickens, ducks, water systems, and energy systems.  No need to buy plants.  Note that this is a self guided walk around as we stay in the nursery area with the plants.  Please no pets unless they are well behaved and on leashes…our ducks get spooked.


  • DSC01820Education regarding the benefits of perennial foods and food forests. Seems there is a much greater awareness of the benefits of perennial edible foods. 1. Keeping roots in the soils to prevent erosion in extreme rain events. 2. Less need for outside inputs like mulch and fertilizers. 3. Less irrigation requirements once established. 4. Less weeding and work once established. 5. More habitat for nature. 6. Less pests, more predators. 7. More soil life. 8. More sequestered carbon. 9. More abundance of food. 10.  More Beauty.
  • DSC01836What plants to stock? It’s been an ongoing challenge to try and figure this out and to stock our nursery with what people are looking for.  There seems to be no predicability or patterns in what people buy.  For instance, early in the season it was hard to keep up to the sales of sweet potato slips…now, it’s finally warm enough to put them out and last week, we didn’t sell a single one.  Anyways, we are now fully stocked with all four types of sweet potato slips.  Last year we sold out of some plants very early…so this year we stocked up on these same items…it seems the trends change rapidly.
  • Scarcity.  Seems we only need to mention that we have only 1 or 2 of something and boom…it’s sold.  So in light of that…we are almost sold out of everything.  Just kidding.
  • DSC01837

    Chinese Dogwood in Flower – edible fruit.

    Merchandising.  Placement of plants is important as well as the information on the plants…we are learning more about this all the time.  We must be successful, as people always seem to leave with more items than they came for.  In regular marketing I would feel bad about this, but in all reality, every edible plant that gets planted is MORE local food resilience.

  • 3 Olive trees, 2 bocking 14 Comfrey, 5 tea plants

    3 Olive trees, 2 bocking 14 Comfrey, 5 tea plants

    Value Added.  When people visit Eco-Sense (whether they buy plants or not) they come for a day trip and have conversations with us and other people on a wide variety of topics.  This builds community and it’s fun to connect with others.  This is our favourite part of our business…we love it.  People seem to really enjoy their visit and that makes us really happy.

  • Old sign

    Old sign

    Wood for future new sign

    Wood for future new sign

    Beauty.  We have a beautiful setting which really helps to bring people out.  Gord is going to be making a big and beautiful sign for our driveway entrance…here is a photo of the piece of cedar that Gord was given by his dad for this purpose.  Our last beautiful Eco-Sense sign was made by my dad…but it got shattered when the post it was mounted on fell over.

  • FEAR.  Yup, sometimes people need a good dose of ecological and climate change reality in order to give them the kick to make some changes.  For many people this means focussing on food, water, energy and lifestyle.  Getting started can be the toughest thing, but getting that one plant in the soil, buying local food from a farmers market, or talking to other people struggling with the same fears and challenges can be pivotal for some people.  So in light of that, here is a short video to motivate some action.
  • Success with Hardy Kiwi...shades the western side of the house AND produces LOTS of fruit

    Success with Hardy Kiwi…shades the western side of the house AND produces LOTS of fruit

    Success.  Our second spring season has been an amazing success.  Thank-you to everyone for being part of our journey working to align our values with our passions with our income generating activities.  We have found the sweet spot.

Ann showing tomato roots

Ann showing tomato roots

This week.  We have lots of heritage tomatoes started from seed…Black Early, Black Prince, Black Plum, and Galena yellow cherries.  All doing extremely well in 1-gal pots and some even flowering (all potted up with lots of composted goat bedding manure – wonderful root structure).  Gord and I didn’t communicate very well and Gord thought that I hadn’t been able to find any Black Heritage tomatoes…so he ordered a big pack of Black Brandywine tomatoes…So, consequently we have lots for sale.  He also wanted to make sure we got some hot Habanero peppers…so we have some of those for sale too.  (As we proof read this on Friday we can say we have tomatoes already setting).

roof top squash garden.

roof top squash garden planted with sand on top to discourage wood bugs.  should have tried that with the peas.

Annual Gardens…Spring has been early and dry this year (anyone notice)?  Our annual garden is a bit late getting in, but we have made good progress this week.  We still have lots more kale to cut out and take to the chickens…they have eaten so much kale that their chicken poop looks just like pesto (I know horrible visual…but it’s true).  We still have to get the quinoa planted, long cucumbers, more carrots, beets, kohlrabi, bush beans, parsnips, more tomatoes, peppers, and the list goes on.  Our snap pea crop has been a disaster…all 4 planting eaten by wood bugs.  But the good news is that many of our perennial plants (nuts, fruits, berries, and greens) are starting to take off.

DSC01823Chickens.  Still no little chicks…first batch nothing happened, we don’t think the momma hen was turning the eggs.  Second batch due today…fingers crossed.  Momma hen #2 kept allowing other hens to come in and lay more eggs…OMG there are 16-18 eggs under her.  She has been doing a great job and sits with her wings out holding all the little eggs,  but they will hatch at different times.  After the first 8-10 hatch Gord said he will take the rest of the eggs to the lower greenhouse to put on bottom heat since they likely will have another week to go.  I had marked the original 10 eggs with a pencil, but all the turning has rubbed off my marks.  Live and learn.

And finally, here are a couple photos of parking at Eco-Sense.  We also have a loading zone right by the duck coop.


Parking by cob wood working shop. Path to nursery between two buildings.


Parking by house and rose arbour. Walk back down to nursery.


Nothing but dribble! (and plants)

Dribble.  Drip, drop. Poof! It’s like magic… it disappeared.  Where did it go?  Didn’t see it coming.  Didn’t see it leave.

Yup we’re talking water.  Even Californians are talking water, or at least the lack of, and consequently farmers are being pitted against city dwellers, and rich pitted against poor (determining  who gets to fill their swimming pools).  All of a sudden that 3 litres of water that go into each and every almond is creating ripples (if there was something to have ripples in).  Who has more rights; the individual or the corporation or Nature?  It really is a fascinating opportunity to watch western culture in the throws of catastrophic issues that it is supposed to be immune to (kind of like the Titanic going down).  We are a culture that is supposed to be able to “conquer” all problems with technology and money.

The mighty almond, is an interesting story, as it used to be grown on bitter almond rootstock which is drought tolerant, but growers switched to the thirsty plum rootstock and then planted out the deserts.   Short term gain…long term pain.  Huge vast quantities of almond orchards (which already have a bad rap for  devastating bee colonies due to monocultures and no other food source), are creating some fuss as city folk see the waste of “their” water resources.    Olive growers,  impacted by the same drought, are tearing out their olive trees and planting almonds, not because they are more drought tolerant, (quite the opposite), but because the lower margin of profit on olives means they can’t afford the water, and thus are switching to the thirsty almond because it can help cover the increase price of water.   Magical thinking!

The pattern of this drought, highly predicted (by science) to get much worse over time as climate change and weather and ocean current patterns have dramatically shifted.  On the other hand, popular culture (the media) and political elements both seem to expect a magical re-emergence of rains, and it’s only a matter of time.   (True…but it may be 10,000 – 100,000’s of years kind of time).  What is also of interest beyond the temporal considerations is the spatial implications as the drought margins are migrating further up the coastline and into BC.    We would be stupid not to prepare for this as we are already seeing the implications.  Erratic patterns are seen along the margins, and this year the Mid Vancouver Island  region is scratching its collective head wondering what to do with a snowpack of only 15% (85% lower than normal).  No reserves, and low stream levels… who is going to get the water… the salmon, the industry, the farmers, the residents?

Bring in Gord’s experience on the lower island, where he sits on both the CRD and Jaun de Fuca Water commissions.  Discussions of water quality and supply are always the order of the day.  No names or particular commissions will be mentioned, but three stories shared below.

Story #1 – One commissioner looks at our water supply levels and says they are not in support of promoting conservation, that her constituents ask why restrictions are needed if there is water in the reservoirs?  The answer that she gets back is that levels are required to ensure the water is there for the rivers that drain them, because of the salmon.  Her response “Really, are you kidding me that it all comes down to the Salmon?”

Story#2 – Another commissioner, (a mayor) speaks up about pricing and says that the view he has is to not promote conservation as it means less income for the CRD, and that “If you have it, you should sell it.   I have always said conservation is the wrong approach”.

Story#3 – The Capital Regional District is in the public consultation phase of it new draft Regional Sustainability Strategy.  In this strategy it speaks to living within the means of our watershed and not having to expand it, and to ensure all activities down stream are in balance as the CRD develops and changes in the next decades.  Yet the other aspect of the RSS is that it speaks to growth…(you know “sustainable growth”…more magic thinking), it speaks to removing the present rules that contain the delivery of reservoir water to rural areas outside the urban areas, and is promoted by a few individuals who want to see growth (sprawl).  Dare I say this goes against the whole concept of sustainability.   Water is where the battle lines have been drawn on this topic.

Here in the Highlands Rights to Clean Water is topic that is being floated.    The Highlands Stewardship Foundation, a group of wise elders (mostly elders) approached the UVic Environmental Law Centre to have a law student draft a roadmap of actions the Highlands could take to better protect its groundwater.  The student did a wonderful job, and took into account the new BC Water Sustainability Act, the Highlands existing bylaws, zoning, OCP, ICSP, Policies and Groundwater Task Force Report, as well as the Community Charter and Local Government Act.    The surprising outcome… communities DO have regulatory tools already in their jurisdiction to affect and impact groundwater protection – but only through controlling the surface waters and recharge zones.

DSC01801 Outside of the political spectrum, and down here on the ground (or atop the rock)  at Eco-Sense, what does this look like?  Trials with almonds grown here on Vancouver Island are progressing where Gord is germinating almonds from an 18 year old tree owned by their friends Jamie and Angela.  Pictures of Gord’s attempt to crack the nuts was posted in our last update.   DSC01805 DSC01803 After two weeks and three different trials one method seems to show the most promise, dare we say Gord may have cracked this nut?    Here are the nerdy details.    Soaking then cracking/shelling/sowing – Soaking then cracking/sowing – Soaking then sowing.   The internet would have you think the first two options are best… but to date the healthiest most active germination with the least rot is sowing whole in an uncracked shell… a “well duh” moment… that’s how they evolved.  Oops… its actually magical!


Chopped and dropped all the old salad greens –  will compost for a bit and then plant more sweet potatoes in the mini greenhouse.

Now on to plants...local perennial edible plants.  Something  really positive to sink our teeth and communities into.  Sunday 10am-2pm at Eco-Sense (3295 Compton Road in the East Highlands, Victoria).  Even if you’re not growing plants come on out to look around anyways.

DSC01806 DSC01808Here’s the plant list kept mostly up to date (prices include GST).  

This week:  Still lots of sweet potatoes slips…we just planted ours under the poly tunnel…they like it hot.

DSC01768 DSC01785

We have some free raspberries to give away and some ever-bearing strawberry starts for $3 each.  We also have a whole bunch of little Good King Henry (spinach like) starts for only $5.  This is an awesome way to plant once and eat for years.  Ann is creating a whole garden bed just for perennial vegetables.  We also have skirret (a root veggie), and perennial arugula.  Restoration Seeds sells seeds for all kinds of perennial veggies…this is where Ann gets most of her seeds (and information) on these.  And then there are tomatoes, we have planted ours and they are flowering!  We have tomatoes available in 1 gallon pots (Black Prince, Black Early, Black Plum) – all early cool hardy  heritage (indeterminate) varieties.
DSC01810 Chickens won the lottery…the kale lottery. We cleaned out the solar roof top garden and planted watermelons and squash…needed the space.  We have two broody chickens and one is due to hatch…so come Sunday, if all goes well there may be some little chicks saying hi to the world.

DSC01757Love these trees…very beautiful foliage.  We have two Cornelian Cherries planted near the Eco-Hut (need two for pollination).  The fruit can be eaten when fully ripe or turned into an olive like food when the cherry is still green.  I think we may have some fruits this year.

We are well stocked with our collection of unusual edible plants:  Tea, Olives, Autumn Olive, nuts, fruits, currents, berries, trees, herbs, figs, grapes, mulberries, honey berries (Haskaps), stone pine, hops, kiwi (fuzzy and hardy), onions, perennial leeks, Yellowhorn, plums, ziziphus jujuba, chestnuts, and one special lemon that Gord started (sorry just sold).  DSC01755 We will have more turmeric an a couple weeks.  DSC01796

Its all pretty exciting… with things off to an early but thirsty start.   Watering already underway.  Once June hits, it will be full out chaos, but luckily the grey water systems will be helping out, the rainwater harvesting integrated  with well will be busy.  Gord’s long awaited rainwater certification should be not too far behind.

Don’t be a stranger this Sunday as the plants are magically disappearing and before long POOF! plant sales will be closed for the summer.

Ann and Gord

What’s up this week at Eco-Sense?

DSC01784Only four more Sunday open houses this spring for sales of Perennial Edible plants.  10am – 2pm come on out and say hi, check out the gardens, ducks and chickens, and look at the house and peek inside the Eco-Hut nursery office.  All conversations welcome.  We are really enjoying our Sunday open houses.  No need to buy plants to come and spend some time.
DSC01767DSC01768Plants…What’s new?  Here’s the list (prices include GST)  We have Saskatoon berries…two types.  Thiessen and Smoky, but only 3 of each left.    We also received our new batch of black currents (Ben Tiran, Ben Connan, and Tiben.  Many people are buying a mix of multicoloured currents…we have red, white, pink, and black for health and beauty.  Currents (and especially black currents) are known for being very high in antioxidants.   Birds don’t generally see the black currents either.  DSC01706Dwarf sour cherries:  DSC01763These are not sour at all and make great eating cherries.  They are self fertile, grow to only 7-8ft tall, and are very beautiful plants.  Perfect backyard plant.  We have Valentine, Romeo, Cupid, and Juliet.  (notice the theme here?).  Our Honeyberries are looking excellent and they have flowers on them.  We have 5 types as pollination pairs are required.  We also have lots of Fuzzy Kiwi both male and female, DSC01765Good King Henry (perennial spinach), skirret (perennial root veggie, 1 Oca left, and various sizes of Crosne.  DSC01764Gooseberry.  We have lots of the large captivator variety…large red berries, and almost thornless plants.  Large roots on these plants which are sure to be big producers.  We also have LOTS more plants, like four types of figs, nuts (walnuts, chestnuts, hazelnuts, yellowhorn), grapes, onions, Large perennial Leeks, and some larger fruit trees like the Chinese Jujube, Chinese Toon (Toona Sinensis  or Chop suey tree), crab apples (for yummy fruit AND pollinating triploid apples…we planted two to increase our pollination), and plums, and pears, and apples, and Asian pear, and don’t forget about our tea and olive plants.  Plus more….

DSC01756Ducks:  All doing well.  They spend their day foraging in the cover crops…it’s amazing anything is left standing…they hardly eat anymore store bought food…(just like us).  We have had to put some short fences around some areas to keep the ducks out…namely our new oyster mushroom patch.  The ducks also eat LOTS of comfrey.  Here they ate one down to the nubs.

DSC01722Our two extra drakes (male ducks), which we call the sweet peas, are off to their new home next weekend.  They are well trained and friendly but we just can’t keep them anymore.  More than one drake is a crowd when there are female ducks around.  If you ever go to the Lavender Farm petting area say hi to our Sweet Peas for us.

DSC01772Chickens:  We have a broody chicken sitting on about a dozen eggs.  She is taking her job seriously and hardly leaves the nest.  Ann is holding food and water up to her every morning which she graciously accepts.


Chickens self harvesting their OWN food.

Chickens self harvesting their OWN food.

One of the chicken fields is ready now to plant quinoa.  Ann has hoed swales on contour in the chicken fertilized bed.  When the main quinoa seed head is harvested the chickens will then go into the field and eat the rest and surface rototill the soil.  When they are done prepping the soil (with nicely spread manure), we will plant a winter cover crop that we can then let the chickens turn under come spring.

DSC01777In the other two chicken fields we are trying to establish a pasture of various self seeding annual and perennial plants.  The idea is to let the chickens in for say 1 day per week to eat bugs living in the lush foliage.  There are some grains, (wheat oats, etc) buckwheat, kale, clovers, vetch and Jerusalem artichokes and lots of other “weeds”.  The soil is full of worms…We’ll see what happens in the next month.

DSC01778This is Henopause…have we ever mentioned our very old chicken?  She is about 6 years old and went through a very NASTY feather moult 2 years ago…thought she would die.  But instead, she grew new feathers and now looks just like a rooster.

DSC01776This is Oliver…he was saved from the soup pot and was hand raised by our friends and neighbours.  He is happiest being packed around on Ann’s hip getting pet.  He flies very well and spends much of his time out of the chicken coop…which is fine with the hens as none of them like him very much.  He has lots of people skills but very little chicken social skills.  He is a beautiful heritage breed that will add to the genetic diversity of our flock.  (The big rooster wont let him anywhere near his flock, so Oliver hides in the chicken coop and waits for the chickens to finish laying their morning egg…then he gets them on the way out…they don’t like him very much)

DSC01747DSC01751Turmeric: A friend gave us some turmeric roots which we enjoyed immensely…and we saved a few to plant.  We cut into 1/4″ sections with at least 2 eyes per piece and  planted in the lower greenhouse on bottom heat.  Three weeks later, we had sprouts.  We have planted them out in front of the cob home in a very warm and protected place right near the ginger and lemons.  We have one small turmeric plant for sale if anyone would like to try planting.


Tomato plants in the upper greenhouse already have flowers.

Lemons:  We have one small thriving lemon plant for sale that Gord started from a cutting.  There is even a small bud for a flower.  It is THRIVING.  Well done Gord.  Tomatoes:  The lower greenhouse has been excellent for all kinds of propagation…we even got a head start on our tomatoes for the first time.  They are now planted in the upper greenhouse and are already flowering.  We will have some extra heritage tomato starts to sell on May 10th.


DSC01780Food security:  We take this topic seriously…one only has too look at what’s happening in California to know that water and food are going to be one of the key issues of our time.  This is why we are planting food forests and especially more chestnuts.  We have an old logging road that runs east to west on our south slope…PERFECT location to plant chestnuts on the upward side of the old road.  We’ve planted five more…I think we have 12 trees now.  They are irrigated with gravity fed rain water to get them going…once established they are very draught tolerant.  These are an ideal high protein food source for people, chickens, pigs, etc.

DSC01744DSC01740Almonds:  We stopped buying almonds last year…too expensive and too hard on the environment (bees, water, shipping distance, etc).  Just last week we were gifted a box of LOCALLY GROWN almonds (Halls Hardy Almonds) to plant.  (Thanks to our new friends Jamie and Angela) They taste fantastic.  Woohoo.  Gord has prepped the seeds a few different ways and started lots in the lower greenhouse.  We’ll keep you posted.  Our nutcrackers did not fair so well…the hammer worked better.

DSC01787Sweet potatoes have been selling like hot cakes…and we keep getting more starts growing.  We have 4 types:  Red Ginseng, Georgia Jet, Travis, and Superior.  We grow them in a hoop cover…time to clean out the flowering mustard greens and get ready to plant when it’s warm enough.

DSC01771Bees:  Parker (17) has shown an interest in bees and will be getting us set up soon with bees again.  Parker has the hives are all ready to go and has been studying up on his apiculture.

Both of us are really enjoying the weekly farm gate open house.  Thanks to everyone for enriching our lives with conversations and the soils with perennial plants.

And now…an update to the update:  Just arrived:  Bocking 14 Comfrey, Licorice plant, habanero chiles, sweetgrass, and cinnamon Yam (only 3).

Ann and Gord

3295 Compton Road in the East Highlands of Victoria

The Hierarchy

The following is a discussion that took place over our morning coffee… Gord’s reflections with Ann’s thoughts in  (brackets).     A different format… we’ll see how it reads.

An interesting week with interesting observations of the culture we live in and our own inner programming.   This week Gord is working on some small construction projects for Spinnakers Brew Pub in Victoria.  (Ann thinks he took the job so he could be close to his true love:  BEER!)  His tasks are rerouting the wheelchair access ramp and digging holes for the footings of two new beer tanks.  Nothing remarkable, just some basic planning setting up the layout, cutting the asphalt, then manual labour laying on ones belly and digging 3-foot holes by the handful, and collecting the materials and putting them in the “farm truck”.

So why post about such a project?  Why is this interesting?  It has been a year since Gord worked offsite doing a ‘purely manual labour’ job for someone else.   He chose it because his best friend was too busy, and the business (besides being a brew pub) has a high degree of ethics, one that mirrors the ethics Gord brought to his own business 15 years earlier.

We do a widely immense array of work;  everything from consulting for homeowners, builders, and bankers, to writing policy for the BC Ministry of health, public speaking on topics of lifestyle, permaculture, green building, plants, rain water harvesting and greywater resource recovery,  solar PV, and the science behind the thermodynamics and moisture properties of earthen architecture.  We research out plants, have created a viable farm and nursery, and feed ourselves using our own skills and hard work.   We are also homesteaders, which means we try and provide for many of our year round needs ourselves… including our water and energy.  Here in our own community we scrub the floors of the local public washroom, and collect the compost materials from the bins, and yet we also sit as councillors designing tax policy, and setting policies in place that “try” to incorporate intelligent understanding of the nasty predicament of our planet and culture.

Note:  Ann’s edits are in brackets.

This brings us back to Gord lying on his stomach doing work that you otherwise might see a young fellow performing because it would rank as the lowest of all jobs… hard physical manual labour.  (Ann thinks this is Gord’s cultural programming to classify manual labour below intellectual labour…it’s not a lowly job…it’s just a physical job).   Think about a finely dressed customer (someone trying to impress others with looks rather than substance),  going to one of Victoria’s best establishments, nice shoes (imported and made in a sweat shop, with a large carbon footprint), unmarred hands, and fine suit (waste of money and the earth’s resources), walking past a grey haired fellow (I love your grey hairs Gord) in his farm overalls (cute clothes) lying on his belly in the sludge of spilled grains and hops, long since decomposed.    Even the owner of the establishment, a great fellow in Gord’s view, does not quite seem to understand why a fellow of my age (you’re only 45  Gord) would be carrying out this work,  unless of course you were destitute (or you have such a fit healthy body that you can and are showing off).  I suspect from the glances and the comments that 10% of the patrons look down upon this labourer, with grey hair, farm clothes and a farm truck – no understanding as to why this person is even there.  (That’s their problem – take pride in your work Gord – you are talented and hard working and you can build almost anything…my kind of guy.  Rough hands also give the best back rubs.)

Our farm is busy, the tasks lists are long, and anxiety races over Gord as he says “Yes” to this job, knowing full well that dinners will be late, farm duties delayed for two weeks, and the ageing body will ache.   (And Ann will take on more of the farm duties.  Note that taking on this job was entirely Gord’s decision).  What was not expected by Gord was the feeling that would arise from hearing the conversations of the patrons, or seeing the disapproving sneer as they stepped out of their BMW’s and Audis.    How does one take this?  Do you apply the judgement to oneself?   (No, your sense of self worth should come from inside…not our #@&%$$ up culture of consumption and entitlement).  Do you see it as an “observation of the culture”?  Is it worthwhile to place yourself in such a position of judgement?  (personal choice).  I do not have the answers, other than to say that it is somewhat demoralizing to be so misunderstood.  (let it go Gord, you’re a good man, their judgement is their problem.)

But then there are others, a friend Michael, who walks by and we meet eyes, I get up and give him a hug.  Friends for years, and a shared reverence for each other, for skills and challenges we have placed upon ourselves, and our willingness to make ourselves vulnerable.  (Gord, maybe you do need to do this job to finally kick your #@&%$$ up cultural programming out on it’s ass?  Just saying.)   And Hymas, a patron that was challenged in her mobility and I brought back her dog after he took off towards the road, a person that three times came back during her visit to the Pub to chat.   And then the young brewers one by one coming out to look into  the holes and ask “How far do you have to dig?” or receiving a gracious “thanks” after loading spent grains onto another farmers truck.

What is the lesson?  What is the presumed hierarchy?  Who should even care… and should I just have said no and stayed home on the farm and instead not cancelled the 6 grade six school groups that had wanted to tour the home.   (Actually we cancelled the grade 6 tours because we were just too busy, and because the class groups are just too fragrant…before this job came about).  What’s the value of placing yourself in a position of humbleness when others do not have a clue to understanding the more complex person they walk past and feel sorry for?

No profound ending here, just lots to ponder about values, life, culture and how we all individually navigate this shit.  The only take away is the pleasure of having people take the time to express their interest, to appreciate the quality of the staff and  perhaps listen to Ann’s comments and continue on that path to ignore that culture I have tried hard to leave behind.

Plants and Rants (Post on Hierarchy coming soon)

0001oTPerennial Edible Plant Sale:  Same place, same time – Sunday 10am – 2pm at 3295 Compton Road in the East Highlands, Victoria. Feel free to come on out and have a peek around…no purchase required. Beautiful photo of our new sign and Eco-Hut taken by our friend Josh of Integrated Living Landscapes. Their company has been busy designing and planting edible landscapes all over town.

Lots more plants available.  Check out our online plant list with our listed stock and prices.  All prices include GST.  Any plants that have been started by us or repotted have had a mycorrhizal inoculant added.  We also blend all of our own soils here on site.


Ginger shoots coming up beside lemon plant. Example of utilizing micro climates.  No lemon or ginger plants for sale – yet.


Perennial Leek that has been going strong for months. We have planted lots of these. One big leaf goes a long ways in soups, stews, omelettes, and stir fries.


Our special apple tree has been grafted with 4 other types of apples. Lots of bulbs and onions in the guild at the base. Shooting stars in full bloom…and yes, that’s Ann’s finger.


Spreading lingonberry. Sold out for the season. Flowering red current in the background is Ann’s favourite plant. Ann started it from seed about 15 years ago.


Elderberries in the nursery


Dwarf sour cherries – well stocked with 4 types. These have been specially bread to be sweet…don’t be fooled by the name.


Red currents, white currents, and pink currents. Black currents coming in a few weeks.  Spot the duck.


We have 3 types of kiwis; fuzzy, hardy, and arctic


Japanese pepper plant…a beautiful plant with edible leaves as well as spicy little pepper corns.


Hosta’s. Two types…only 4 left of each. Specially selected for edibility.


Crosne. Sweet little juicy crunchy tubers. Very unique ground cover…looks like mint. Small pots for only $5 will get you started. One of the first plants up in the spring.


Echinacea. Purple cone flower. Beautiful and medicinal.


Yarrow…spreading ground cover. Excellent for tea, highly medicinal both internally and externally. Fennel…everyone needs 1 fennel. Sweet yummy leaves for garden nibbles and salads.


Four types of figs for sale: Desert King, Dwarf bush fig, black negrone fig, and Peter’s Honey Fig.


Nodding onion. Native wild flower – beautiful and edible. Excellent in fruit tree guilds to help out compete grasses. Also 2 logan berries left – these berries grow quickly, are prolific, large and sweet, and NO thorns.


A new type of rhubarb. Strawberry rhubarb. Looking forward to trying this type.


We planted out over 100 of these  strawberries as ground cover…hopeful the birds will be so full we will get some too. Both types are ever-berring. We have used them for ground cover and to hold a steep slow together by preventing erosion. $3 per plant (we potted up the bare root plants and they are already growing like crazy)

Post coming soon on Gord’s Rant (with Ann’s edit) on Hierarchy.

Two new properties for sale next door to Eco-Sense

Two adjacent properties beside Eco-Sense are going up for sale in the coming weeks.  The first property is so IDEAL for permaculture that we drool over it, complete with very gentle south facing slope of flat land, great solar exposure, no tree removal required, great pond, established veggie garden, and seasonal stream perfect for micro-hydro. Already two chestnut trees 20 years old and producing. Two acres of potential food forest and lots of existing soil. If we had the funds, we would buy it up… could actually make a living doing food production on this rare jewel. The second property, which would be suited for nook and cranny type permaculture – suitable for hazelnuts and apples, chickens etc.

2770 Bukin Dr W
$753,000 BC Assessment. About 5 acres with house.

2850 Bukin Dr W
$564,000 BC Assessment: about 2 acres with house.

This first piece of land backs up to our land behind our chicken coop…we could visit with a short trail through the forest.
The second property is also adjacent to us and beside the first property and can be reached via a short forest trail.

Map of two adjacent properties soon to hit the market.

Map of two adjacent properties soon to hit the market.

We live in a community (The Highlands) where 40% of it’s land base is world class parks and hiking…unbelievable natural beauty and biodiversity. Only 10 minutes from Victoria General hospital, and only 12 minute to the Galloping goose…a walking/biking network of trails for the entire region. Only 15 minute to downtown Victoria, the capital of British Columbia. Our region is home to Canada’s first Green MP (Elizabeth May), and British Columbia’s first Green MLA (Andrew Weaver…nobel prize winning climate scientist). Southern Vancouver Island is surrounded by oceans and located in an area where vegetables can grow YEAR ROUND. Just sayin…
Lets take over the neighbourhood with community and permaculture. Sad to loose our existing neighbours, but hoping to find some more great people.