Upcoming Events and our New Approach

TWO EVENTS – Adaptation, Re-skilling, and Re-programming:

  1.  Next Open House here at Eco-Sense for sales of Perennial Edible Plants or just coming out to walk around and chat is on Sat Oct. 3rd from 10am-2pm.   3295 Compton road, East Highlands, Victoria, BC.
  2. FOOD WORKSHOP – ONLY 1 spot left:  $100 + GST (Includes lunch)

When:  Wednesday Sept 30th from 9am-3pm

Where:  3295 Compton Road in the East Highlands

What:  No Farting Around Food Preservation – Learn how we do it here using less energy and mostly local ingredients.

  • Fermentation demos – pickles and beans maybe some cabbage
  • Cheese demos (hard, soft and feta – including waxing and pressing)
  • Ginger beer: counter top method; Quick, simple and 10-15% alc.
  • Food drying – ideas and methods
  • Milk Kefir
  • Grain fermenting – oats for breakfast cereal.
  • Garden tour (includes root cellar, eco-hut, chickens etc)
  • Includes LUNCH:  Local food including Gord’s sourdough, Eco-Sense quinoa wraps made with fermented grape leaves.  Dried wild salmon  jerky, (Gord caught) and of course a sampling of cheeses, and fermented foods.  Enjoy a glass of ginger beer or home made beer (with our own hops).  Herbal tea (nettle, mint and stevia).  Dried fruit samples for dessert.
  • A few simple kits available for purchase to get you started fermenting or brewing.
  • Lets explore food, health, adaptation, and resilience.
  • email ann@eco-sense to reserve your spot.
  • Please, no fragrances.
Ginger Beer at about 15% alcohol

Ginger Beer at about 15% alcohol

Our New Approach:  Over the years we have been learning about holistic management with regards to permaculture and to life planning while at the same time co-creating and implementing the Highlands Integrated Community Sustainability Plan.  These two planning tools are remarkably similar in their approach to making decisions and achieving goals.

Special 2nd anniversary treat from the kids

Time to start having some fun again and stop taking everything so seriously.  Yup, we are going to die, our families are going to die, our much loved dog Boo already died, MudPuddle our duck died, we just killed and ate our rooster, and oh yeah, the oceans are also dying.  It’s all dying, but we are alive and healthy now, and we have a LOT of work to do and fun times to have.  Life is a roller coaster of sorrow and joy…that’s just the way it is.

In our 10 years of Eco-Sense adventures, and in our personal lives, we have had wonderful success basically flying by the seat of our pants.  However, some of this has caught up to us and we have been letting some very important areas of our life slide.  This, combined with our busyness, cultural programming (autopilot),  and communication deficiencies has made it abundantly clear to us that we need to slow down and come up with a new strategy to move forward with the next stage of our lives.

So here are the steps we are taking:

  • Holistic plan for our life (including Eco-Sense).
  • shared vision statement – high level
  • Identify categories (focus areas) with our combined descriptions of success (desired outcomes).  Where would we like to be in 5 years or 10 years? (For us, these goals are mostly NOT material goals)
  • Action items (Strategic Plan).  Some examples are learning and practicing NVC (non-violent communication), grief sharing (connecting through empathy), preparing for a massive change in civiliation (due to ecological and economic decline/collapse) with emotional preparations, skills, infrastructure investments, resilience, and building community, etc)
  • Measurement tools (Are we making progress?)
  • Create decision making tools so that we don’t make decisions on autopilot according to our cultural programming.  Is each decision moving us towards our descriptions of success or away?
  • And lots more.
  • DSC01907

Anyways, that’s where we are at.

Ann and Gord

Eat it, Breathe it, Live it. FOOD WORKSHOP

Finally Eco-Sense has an update you can bite your teeth into!

TWO events:

  • Sunday Sept 20th from 10am-2pm – Open house for sales of perennial edible plants – 3295 Compton Road at Eco-Sense.  More details on last weeks post here:
  • Wednesday Sept 30th from 9am-3pm. Food Workshop at Eco-Sense (read on for details)
Mud House

Mud House

Food is on our minds.  We are harvesting it, defending it, drying it, fermenting it, culturing it, protecting it, nurturing it and of course eating it and drinking it.  Our life is completely revolving around food.

Chickens have been cuddled, nurtured, fed, watered, and cleaned.  Not to mention two roosters that went into the pot.  The roosters spurs were too hard on the poor chickens… Oliver and Big Ben had an awesome life and one bad second.  Very sad and tasty simultaneously.  Life has been full of experiencing what appears to be contradictory emotions at the same time.

Chickens LOVE salad

Chickens LOVE salad

We have been having to reduce the rat population (snap traps) in order to enjoying our diversity of sweet potatoes, corn, beans, quinoa, tomatoes, peppers, beans, greens, potatoes, squash, melons, leeks, apples, plums, pears, and so on.  At least we no longer have a rabbit problem (we ate them all – and NO we didn’t eat the rats; the compost pile did).  Abundance is shared with nature as the biodiversity on this land grows.  The gardens are in full fall chaos as many plants have gone to seed and the bees are LOVING it.

MUD House Cheese

MUD House Cheese goes well with salsa

Food Workshop including Eco-Sense Lunch:  In celebration of the fall season we are offering our first ever local food preservation workshop.  Ann is known for her quick and simple ways of doing things so this workshop will officially be called the No-Farting Around Food Workshop.  Class will be small with only 6-8 people and held on Wednesday Sept 30th from 9am – 3pm.  


Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potato bed

Sweet potato bed

Demos and topics to include:

  • Cheese making – Feta, hard cheese, and MUD house cheese (cottage cheese).  Start to finish including waxing the round.
  • Goat milk Kefir
  • Fermenting breakfast grains
  • Brewed ginger beer – inexpensive, fast (3 weeks), about 10-15% alcohol, counter top method with simple equipment
  • Fermenting the garden harvest – learn some simple techniques and tricks, see the equipment and different methods.
  • Drying food.  Solar dryers. Tricks and techniques – lots of ideas.
  • Tour the gardens, chicken coops, and Eco-Hut with Gord
  • LUNCH – Sample some of everything – even Ann’s ginger beer or Gord’s dark beer (yes made with our own hops).  Mostly local food with menu to be determined.
  • Fermenting kits available for purchase – everything to get you started.
  • Food preservation philosophy, food security, fun, health.

Cost:  $100 (+ GST) per person.  No chemical fragrances please (hair products, deodorants, or scented laundry products).

Contact:  Ann@eco-sense.ca for booking

(Gord’s comment:   Seems like a lot to cover  in 6 hrs… but for those who know us we just don’t fart around.  Bring a notebook, video record it… whatever but be prepped for one hell of an experience).

Thanks for reading,

Ann and Gord

Ann's hair after digging sweet potatoes

Ann’s hair after digging sweet potatoes

Special Saturday Open House

New sign

New sign

Open house for sales of perennial edible plants (or just looking around). This week we are open on Saturday Sept 12th from 10am to 2pm.  3295 Compton road.  Check out our new sign at the bottom of our driveway.  If you are buying plants feel free to drive on up…but if you are coming to walk around or visit, please park below and walk on up (unless of course you have trouble with the hill).

FALL IS THE BEST TIME TO PLANT Perennial edible plants.

We have a beautifully rearranged nursery with all kinds of nooks and crannies to explore.  Lots of new plants too.  Updated plant list here with prices (includes GST)DSC01907

  • Ground covers and perennial vegetables:  Good King Henry, Broad Leaved French Sorrel, Crosne, False Indigo (N2 fixer), edible Hostas.
  • We have Gingko, established perennial Leek bulbs, Paw Paws, Japanese Pepper plant (edible leaves and corns), Sweet grass, Sweet Gale, Labrador Tea, Quince, Persimmon, Ziziphus (Jujube), Japanese climbing yam, evergreen huckleberry, salmon berry, oregon grapes, and LOTS more.
  • Also Stevia plants (2-3 ft tall) – ready to dry these supper SWEET leaves or try to overwinter it (don’t let it freeze).
  • Turmeric plants (ready to overwinter – don’t let freeze – put in heated greenhouse or sunny inside window).  Ours is outside in the front curvy bed with our lemons and ginger.  MICROCLIMATES for a changing climate.
Micro climate in zone 1 right outside the front door

Micro climate in zone 1 right outside the front door

Anyone following the latest science on climate change?  Not looking good…the news just keeps getting worse.  Here is an article written by Dr. James Hanson on his new paper here (July 2015) . (Not yet peer reviewed).

Ann sits on a new CRD climate committee made up of elected officials from the CRD.  Last week their group was briefed on sea level rise and the regions adaptation plans.  The plan is based on old science that says 1 meter sea level rise by 2100.  Ann shared Dr. Hanson’s latest paper which indicates “multi-meter sea-level rise by the the end of the century”.  They all discussed what this means for the region – quite a sobering discussion around the table acknowledging that the town of Sydney (near victoria, BC) would be our first community to “go under”…maybe by mid century or sooner.  35 YEARS  

They talked about what this means globally for food and water resources.  OMG.  Then things got really quiet when Ann commented that most of the human population lives at sea level – and we think we have a human migration catastrophe now – we are just getting started. 

Everyone also acknowleges that in our region, despite all of our GHG reduction targets and plans, we are on the business as usual scenario for emissions.  It was noted that we have a planetary emergency and we are essentially doing nothing.  Lots of talk and no do!

Ann shared these same comments with our Highlands council this week when she updated the rest of council on her appointed committee work.

Eco-Hut - plant sales office and example of off-grid tiny home

Eco-Hut – plant sales office and example of off-grid tiny home

So, anyone motivated to plant some trees yet?  We all benefit from every tree we plant…they provide more food locally with less energy and water inputs while at the same time building soil and sequestering carbon.  We need to plant a lot of trees and protect our existing and remaining ecosystems.

Our TOP picks for Food Security (that we have in stock).

  • Nuts:  Blight resistant Hazelnuts (check plant list for availability), walnuts, Chestnuts ( various varieties in 1 gal pot and IDEAL to plant now), Yellowhorn, Ultra Northern Pecan, stone pine.  Sorry, no almonds yet.
  • FRUITS:  recommended for their productivity, easy processing or long storage.  Apples, plums, pears, grapes, kiwis (hardy and fuzzy), 3 types of Figs (dwarf and full size), Mulberry (2 types).
  • Nitrogen fixing plants:  to feed your plants
    • Autumn Olive – also good berries and mulch
    • Russian Olive – berries and mulch
    • Black Locust – also favourite with bees – grows quick – awesome non rotting wood for posts
    • False Indigo – beautiful too!
    • Sea Buckthorn (sea berries) – good berries and tea and mulch
    • Eleaegnus X ebbingei – ideal for hedgerow
  • Mulch plants
    • Comfrey (bocking 14 and the regular comfrey)
    • Most of the N2 fixing plants
  • Medicinal
    • ALL fruits and veggies from your FARMacy
    • Echinacea (wonderful flowers too)
    • Siberian ginseng
    • Many of our berry plants – (currents – black, white, pink, red, sea berries, elderberries)
    • hops – either in tea or in beer…We keep telling ourselves that beer IS a medicinal…right?  RIGHT?  RIGHT?
    • Oregon grapes

Workshop notices:

***Water is on many peoples mind these days and Gord, along with Tayler from Hatchet and Seed, are giving a workshop in Nanaimo on Sept 27th. Click on this link for event details and registration. Drought-Proofing the Future: Planning for Water Resiliency.

***KeyLine Water Management – Opportunity for Farmers in Your Community! The Capital Regional District (CRD) Integrated Watershed Management Program (IWMP) and Climate Action Program (CAP) are pleased to lend in-kind support to the project entitled “Keyline Water Management’: Field Research and Education in the Capital Region” to be conducted by Tayler Krawczyk, of Hatchet & Seed.  Tayler successfully obtained funding from the Ministry of Agriculture’s Growing Forward 2, BC Farm Adaptation Innovator Program (FAIP) to implement and monitor innovative Keyline Design projects on three farms across the Capital Region.  Keyline Water Management is a permaculture technique that applies integrated watershed management in our agricultural areas. Hatchet & Seed’s three year project also includes an educational component, with free public seminars and several field days designed to empower famers to use GIS imaging technology and a simple field contour layout to better understand their farm’s micro-watershed.
The first workshop, Seminar #1: Future Proofing Your Farm: An Introduction to Keyline Design, is Tuesday, September 15th.

Thanks for reading,

Ann and Gord

Super BUSY September

Yup, crazy busy around here.  Our first open house for sales of Perennial Edible Plants is on SUNDAY SEPT 6, 2015.  Who’s coming?  10am-2pm at 3295 Compton Road in the East Highlands.

2015 Fall open house/farm sale dates 10am – 2pm are:

  • Sunday, Sept. 6th
  • Saturday, Sept. 12th
  • Sunday, Sept.  20th
  • Saturday, Oct 3rd (Maybe)
  • email for appointments for private sales  (ann@eco-sense.ca)

We have a great selection of plants (Inventory list here) and we will both be here to talk about anything from chickens to rain water to fermenting food.  People are more than welcome to wander around our overgrown gardens and look at the Eco-Hut (Farm office) and the Eco-Sense house from outside.  No plant purchase required.   All plant prices include GST.  We also have EGGS for sale.

***Water is on many peoples mind these days and Gord, along with Tayler from Hatchet and Seed, are giving a workshop in Nanaimo on Sept 27th.    Click on this link for event details and registration.  Drought-Proofing the Future: Planning for Water Resiliency.

Other things keeping up busy:

  • Fermenting and drying LOTS of food
  • DSC02018New sign for Eco-Sense
  • We have been grieving over the very sudden death of our dog Boo.  His heart had a tumour that ruptured.  Boo is buried in our front yard and will have a wild flower garden on top with his very own Boo apple tree right beside him (he planted it about 4 years ago). 

    Boo's resting place

    Boo’s resting place

  • Rain water installations
  • Teaching
  • Council activities.  (regular meetings, and council appointed committees.
    • Gord sits on the Juan de Fuca and CRD water commissions, Invasive species group, and Emergency planning.
    • Ann sits on the Inter Municipal Climate Action Advisory Group and the Social Sustainability Select Committee.
  • Gord took his hunting license course
  • Purchased a 10-year old smart car…only 78,000 km on it and excellent mileage.  We would have liked to get an electric car, but we wanted something bare bones and in our price range.  It costs less than $16 to fill and we can do most of our trips in this…even holds many of Gord’s tools.
  • DSC00606chickens and ducks keep us busy.
    • We have one young rooster that thinks he is a duck…very cuddly and likes to stand in the water.  Very talkative too.  We are going to keep him for our flock.  Gord named him Beaker (from Muppets fame) this morning.
    • Had to process our two older roosters.  VERY hard to do, but their spurs were hurting the chickens who were at times bleeding on their backs.
  • DSC01183Cleaning the community cob bathroom with composting toilet..woohoo, more resources!
  • DSC01191Plant inventory update, transplanting and watering plants, harvesting food.

Newest videos on Eco-Sense:

Grow your Food in a Nook and Cranny Garden:

Part 1: http://peakmoment.tv/videos/grow-your-food-in-a-nook-and-cranny-garden-part-1-289/

Part 2: http://peakmoment.tv/videos/food-and-permaculture/grow-your-food-in-a-nook-and-cranny-garden-part-2-290/


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.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=UUOfWROvWestkWbBhZTk147w&v=8akSfOIsU2Y#t=11
  • 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