Annual report 2008

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Contents

EcoReality Sustainable Land Use and Education Cooperative Annual Report, 2008

Thank you for your interest in EcoReality. The following steward's reports outline the activities of the coop over its second year.

EcoReality was founded in April, 2006, for the purpose of creating an ecovillage on Salt Spring Island. Our most salient accomplishment since inception was the purchase and ongoing operation of a 4.8 acre farm on Salt Spring Island.

Our ongoing goal is to attract additional members, raise capital, and engage the public and political processes necessary to form a full-fledged ecovillage of perhaps 15 to 30 family units.

Communication Steward's Report (Jan Steinman)

The past year has been a difficult one for EcoReality, with health problems and burn-out from over-work. But changes are on the horizon that should inject new energy into EcoReality.

Following are some highlights of the past year, some problems we've faced, and some future plans.

Duties

The Communication Steward takes care of organizational aspects of the co-op, including tasks that would normally be handled by the "secretary" of the co-op.

Accomplishments

Communications Statistics

Statistic20062007Change
Home page hits13,31218,126+36%
Meetings page hits12,97015,482+19%
Google references3,1903,220+1%
Emails2,3193,020+30%
Advisory Council members72116+61%
Newsletters45+25%
Meetings1916-16%
  • Our website continues to be a successful communications vehicle for EcoReality, with increases over the first two years.
  • We've managed to reduce the number of meetings!
  • We continue to hold video conferences nearly every week.

Other Outreach

Improvement Opportunities

A number of planned initiatives have yet to be accomplished:

  • on-line resources:
    • library search
    • resources inventory and tracking
    • time logging system (partially implemented).

Challenges

  • Labour for doing things is limited -- less than a few person hours a week. I am hopeful that coming changes can make Communications Steward a part-time paid position, so that our many outreach goals can be better accomplished.

Future Plans

  • In the next year, I'd like to concentrate on recruiting and public outreach. By the time of the AGM or slightly thereafter, we should have an exciting change that should make it much easier to attract new members and investors.
  • Coming changes call for a long and structured public relations campaign in order to accomplish our larger goals.
  • We will continue to be involved with groups in the greater community.
  • More web-based formal mechanisms for project tracking, time logging, etc. will make life easier for all of us.
  • Renewed monthly publication of our newsletter, which has generated good feedback, but which has been too much effort on a voluntary basis.
  • Working together with the Program Steward, more publicity for local events that we sponsor.

Respectfully submitted, Jan Steinman.

Ecology Steward's Report (Shannon Cowan)

Greetings from EcoReality Ecology Steward! The property at Sharp Rd has continued to reveal its beauty and surrender its secrets to the inhabitants over 2007. It should be noted that the Ecology Steward is only a part-time inhabitant, and does not have the same knowledge or appreciation for the ecology of the site and communities thereon as do others in the group. However, from my somewhat external viewpoint, the ecological functions have matured a little bit in the year 2007 since they were discussed in Ecology Stewards Report 2007.

'Water': The Dam was not repaired in 2007, and the water of that stream running the length of the western edge of the property was therefore not harnessed for use in plant growth, although it remains a source of water for many small and large mammals and birds in the ecosystem. The pond ecology shifted from one of dense vegetation within the water column, to one of much lower water levels, less dense growth of Typha sp. (cattails) and other grasses or reeds. The use of Bacillus thiuringensis (Bt) pellets (containing a toxin specific to mosquito larvae) to reduce mosquito larvae in the pond was moderately successful, based on the observations of adult mosquito levels in near the houses and garden on the site. Admittedly, this can vary depending on spring moisture and summer humidity, so it is not to be considered a well-controlled experiment!

Thanks to WWOOFer Dave, drainage in garden soils has hopefully been improved by a carefully dug trench or small swale. It was dug from the easternmost edge of the property, adjacent to the garden, where the pond water from across the road leaches underground into our garden, all along the old garden fenceline, past the NW corner of the orchard where it then turns SW towards the ocean. The purpose of the trench (ranging 6 inches to 12 inches in depth, approx) is simple drainage of the waterlogged garden soils, and adjacent hayfield soils where a new garden has been planned. This spring has been fairly dry and sunny thus far, yet the trench was notably increasing drainage rates during the snows of January and early February. It was proposed that this water be somehow collected in an unlined pond to be located immediately W of the orchard in a leveled area of the hayfield, however this construction is not likely in view of the recent events in the cooperative.

'Garden': Carol Wagner oversaw the work and planning for the 2007 garden at Sharp Road. Due to the use of cold frames and outdoor germination procedure we saw some damping off disease and other sources of low rates of germination for many annual seeds. Mostly, there was very slow growth following transplanting, which could have been due to high rates of carbon (woodchips) in the beds from the local manure that was added, cold soil temps last spring, and also potentially low moisture levels from drip irrigation in June-Aug. However, due to donation of tomato starts from a neighbour (Gary McColm), EcoReality did see July production of strawberries and Raspberries, and late season there was a fair yield of tomatoes, lemon cukes, bush beans, tomatillos, celery, kale, mizuna and other lettuce family greens. The broccoli bolted early, and the artichokes did not flower until quite late and not very successfully. We were also a bit disappointed with the poor first year growth of the asparagus (which takes 7 years to mature) in the rock garden. All gardens did experience significant continued herbivory by rabbits, deer and slugs (and potentially others unseen by our eyes!).

The East orchard has had chicken tractoring twice in the 2007-08 year, and the pruned apples and pears did produce more effectively in fall 2007, compared to fall 2006. However, we determined that fruit thinning would help the trees in 2008, if done at early blossom stage to help reduce apple scab and small fruit size in unwieldy clumps that occurred in 2007. The West orchard had a beautiful yellow plum harvest, however the prune plums did not perform at all this year, surprisingly. The two apple trees in this orchard remain producers of very low quality and quantity fruits.

Berms, fencing and greenhouse addition were highlights on the technological side that continue to contribute to ecological function in the community. The berms are an interesting feature for the eye and useful feature for voles, birds, insects and fungi. The community compost regime is carefully divided between garden compost heaps (not often very hot, and problematic in their wooden square boxes), chicken feed and the berms. All woody debris not useful for chipping go to the berms. As of this writing, the fenceposts and fencing from the SW corner of the property have been relocated to immediately N of the existing garden. Finally, a plan for cultivating this new garden area (100'x30') includes either ploughing the sod under and/or using animals and paddock rotations to fertilize and help condition the soil for planting. It is likely that this newly fence-posted plot will remain in sod for 2008, at least. Carol has discussed blueberries in the W side of this new plot, and the group agrees that an emphasis on perennials and root/staple crops would be ideal at this location, in combination with selected annual vegetable and fruit crops.

The lavender had a very productive bloom and harvest period in early July 2007, followed by rains that negated the harvest of the light blue type. We have seen significant technological advances here as well, allowing the community to much more efficiently dry, de-stem and freeze the lavender florets. Carol made some eye-pillows, and Jan still intends to set up a still to process some into essential oil. Shannon is working to market the remaining 2007 dark purple crop, which Carol Wagner has painstakingly cleaned a third time since freezing for optimum quality.

The Ecology Steward senses that EcoReality's Sharp Road ecological assets are intact and functioning, and evidence, mostly noted above, appears to support her intuition. She is anticipating a very interesting year in the remainder of 2008, exploring new ecological frontiers and permaculture investigations....Shan 14:31, 14 March 2008 (PDT)

Finance Steward's Report (Carol Wagner)

It was a slow year financially for EcoReality. Investment Shares increased for Jan to $387,349.79; Carol to $386,683.52; James to $43,630.95 and Shannon to $43,630.95. These increases reflect improvements to EcoReality Lite by way of insulation of the floors in both the main house and cottage; closet organizers; gutter on the back of the shop. The increase also includes a 2.3% dividend based on Stats Can that was added to shares.

The current balance in the checking account is: $2151.34. There is $500.00 in a term deposit of which $425.00 is the security deposit on the cottage. There is also $5.00 in Member Shares at Island Savings. All for a grand total of $2656.34. Cash Flow Report showing Inflows of $6053.00 and out flows of $4414.05, with a net balance of $1638.95. Income Statement (Profit & Loss) showing Income of $5380.02 and Expense of $3693.18 with a net loss of $1686.84. The Balance Sheet states the Assets as $863,738.26 and the Liabilities as $865,490.21 with Equity as -$1751.95.

Program Steward's Report (James Cowan)

Duties

The Program Steward plans and helps orchestrate themes, workshops and gatherings.

2007 Accomplishments

In 2007 themes were determined for each month. These themes were discussed in the monthly member's meetings and some workshops or activities were planned around the themes. Some examples of monthly themes were: Lavender, energy systems, water management, preserving and processing, structure and facilitation.

EcoReality saw very little turnout for the workshops, and some were postponed until the following year due to low interest, weather damage to lavender and such. The most successful programs were the weekly potlucks and movie nights, during which many newcomers participated in EcoReality, and many conversations moved the cooperative forward. Probably most importantly, the weekly potluck/movie nights served as a social gathering for the residents, visitors, potential new members to the cooperative and the local community.

Challenges

In 2007 not all of the members lived on site. Most of the groundwork and on site planning fell on the resident member's plates. The resident members were very busy and did not get the support from the non-resident members to execute many workshops.

Future Plans

By August 2008 the majority of members will live on site. Workshops and on site programs will be much more frequent and a more time can be spent on planning workshops by the program steward.

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