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. http://evaluebc.bcassessment.ca/Property.aspx

2850 Bukin Dr W
$564,000 BC Assessment: about 2 acres with house. http://evaluebc.bcassessment.ca/Property.aspx

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.

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 stars...love 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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-E71lCH6Ow&feature=share

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 <joye@telus.net>

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.  ann@eco-sense.ca

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).