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EcoReality Co-op Newsletter

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The Chips Are Down!

Dave and Jan rescue slash piles from burning, turning them into soil amendments.

It's been an interesting month at EcoReality.

As always, we're eternally grateful for our volunteer help! Dave Atkins has grown into being our unofficial "Hearthkeeper," always looking for things that need to be done. Dave is the simplest person I know, and I mean that with the greatest admiration. Besides doing an outstanding job with the lavender and other tasks around here, Dave is always coming up with wonderful ideas for increasing simplicity and sustainability, and I'm always learning things from him.

For example, Dave has implemented a highly effective gray water re-use program. I've been thinking about this for months: separate the gray water and black water systems, provide separate storage facilities, provide for some treatment, and apply the gray water to the land. Dave trumped this in his first week here: he keeps a plastic tub in the wash sink, and washes into it. When it is full, he pours it on plants. Simplicity!

Is there still a reason to go with all the plumbing changes that I was planning? Sure, but it sure is good to be reminded from time to time that you don't need a high-tech solution to every problem. Sometimes, the most appropriate technology is sitting in the bottom of your sink.

Please help us welcome Sara Defoor, who comes to us from Ladysmith BC via New Zealand, where she WWOOFed last summer. Sara is planning to stay between two and six weeks, and has been sleeping in Veggie Van Gogh, even after offering her the community room. (Dave tried Veggie Van Gogh for a while, but got claustrophobic when he realized he couldn't sit up in bed.) Besides the extra privacy, I think the 1200 hours of music on the twelve-disk MP3 changer might have something to with Sara's choice, since she really enjoys music, and prepped for her day off by going to a dance at Beaver Point Hall last night.

But we were talking about chips, weren't we? In our last trip to the US, Carol and I brought a three-point wood chipper back with us. This attaches to our biodiesel-powered tractor so we can make soil amendments from slash piles without adding carbon to the atmosphere. Dave and I have started a business initiative, and have two clients lined up for chipping already! See The Green Chipper for more information.

We've totally (well, about one pick-up load left) chipped one neighbor's slash pile, and have two "pay jobs" to do before focusing on neighbor Dave Thomas's slash piles. Neighbor Dave (as opposed to veterinarian Dave who gave us the first slash pile and Hearthkeeper Dave, mentioned above) has given us two downed trees, a Doug Fir and a Grand Fir, each over a meter in diameter, that probably contain four or five cords of wood -- all we have to do is process it. Another "toy" we brought back from our last trip south was a hydraulic wood splitter that is driven by the biodiesel tractor, so except for some chain-saw gas, we can process most of that firewood in a carbon-neutral manner.

We're getting pretty close to being a carbon sink these days. If there were a viable carbon-trading market in North America, we could be buying our toilet paper (and other things we can't produce) with the money we'd get from our carbon credits. Write your MLA or Representative or Senator and demand a carbon-credit system for reducing greenhouse gas!

In the fun stuff category, we're having an open house on Sunday, May 6, from 1-4 PM. Stop in and find out more about what we're doing!

This month, Carol talks a bit about water management, James says more about our open house, and Shannon explores the way that waterways work.

I hope you enjoy this edition of our newsletter, and we hope you'll be joining us for a meeting, work party, or other scheduled (or unscheduled!) activity this month!

--Jan, Communication steward

Water Management

Breeched dam at EcoReality.
Almost a year has gone by since we moved onto the land. Many things have been accomplished, but the one thing that is most important has not been addressed.

Water or more appropriately, the lack of water is a huge issue here. We are on city water and watering may be very expensive. Last summer we had a $300 water bill. This may have been due to inattention on the part of one of our renters, but non the less, we have had many discussions on how to address this, with no resolve.

Then, to add insult to injury, the dam breached this spring! According to our neighbour, the dam had been in a state of disrepair for years. With the help of three WWOOFers though, the blackberries have been cleared from the dam and we are at least able to see the damage.

Last month we applied for a grant to get some kind of water catchment system, and just today received notice that we will be getting $100 instead of the $500 we'd requested. So, we are back to square one, not enough money to buy a rainwater collection system and on top of that it is turning out to be a relatively dry spring! But the $100 will allow us to buy some hardware and plumbing to make use of the shop roof via 200 liter barrels.

On the bright side, the raised beds are heavily mulched to help cut down on water usage!

--Carol, Farm steward

Come join us for our first open house

Time to party at EcoReality!

Date: Sunday May 6, 2007

Time: 1:00pm - 4:00pm

Where: EcoReality office, 160 Sharp Road, Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 2P6 (How to get to EcoReality.)

Who: Neighbors, Friends, Advisory Council, and members, anyone who is interested in the farm and/or the co-op. Children are welcome.

Hosts: Carol Wagner & Jan Steinman

Come and see who we are, and discover what we are doing! Find out more about Permaculture, organic gardening, sustainability, and ecovillages.

Drop in anytime between 1 PM and 4 PM. (Other visits are also okay, but we want all our great friends to get to know each other, too!)

We'll be serving some snacks and refreshments.

Hopefully the weather will be nice and we can stroll around the farm. Bring boots if you're interested in taking a little tour (it's 5 acres of easy terrain).

The first weekend in May will mark our one year anniversary of property ownership as a BC Cooperative Association. Much has happened in that year, both on the farm itself and within the structure of the co-op.

On the co-op front, we have four members who have decision-making rights and who are financial stakeholders. We also have nearly a hundred people on our Advisory Council ranging broadly in specializations from film-makers, WWOOFers, and authors, to friends and family, to people whom we've never met who found us on the Internet. We've had a steady stream of WWOOF (work exchange) people on the farm in 2007 (we are newly registered as WWOOF hosts this calender year). More WWOOFers are already expected to come volunteer in our community all through the coming growing season. We've learned a lot from being landlords, WWOOf hosts, cooperative landowners and most of all how to work together making decisions and creating agreements.

We're very happy to have two new, lovely residents in our cottage who are interested in being a part of what we're doing here.

When we purchased the property we had no map or information on any of the trees or plants. We're still surprised by plants coming up out of the blue. The farm was also neglected for a couple years, so we're nursing some sick trees back to health and moving plants to healthier areas.

Recent projects that have been undertaken by those of us labouring on the farm include: building a biodiesel processor, acquiring chickens, building garden beds, pruning, mulching, chipping brush from our property and the neighbours' slash piles, clearing plant growth from around the pond to fix the dam, assembling a stone walkway, building berms, weeding, and more.

We have many plans and ideas for the future and welcome your thoughts and input.

Please RSVP to James if you are coming from off island, otherwise feel free to drop by anytime between 1pm-4pm.

--James, Program steward

Balancing Waterways and Wetlands

Fulford Harbour to Burgoyne Bay.jpg
A stream or small watercourse is often viewed by humans as a means to move moisture from areas of concentration into holding spaces (ponds, lakes) or into the ocean. In fact, waterways are very special biodiversity hotspots and they serve many “non-water” needs in a healthy natural or managed landscape.

Any vegetated area immediately adjacent to a watercourse is called a “riparian area”. These zones are unique in their ecological structure – often hosting a more diverse array of plants, including herbaceous grasses and forbs, shrubs and trees than the surrounding landscape. As a function of the high moisture content, the soils in a riparian area differ in nutrients and structure from the surrounding soils; the plant community in these zones is highly sought after by herbivorous and omnivorous animals (including vertebrates, insects and invertebrates alike) for food and shelter. This unique habitat is a common ground for bird nesting, mating and breeding, for ungulates and other large mammals to drink and bathe, and of course for the aquatic wildlife which is wholly dependent on the watery environment itself for survival. Vegetation in the riparian area directly affects water temperature and provides a stable environment needed by fish. Maintaining the vegetation within twenty-five feet of the shoreline is important to maintain healthy fish populations in fish-bearing streams. Riparian zones are ecologically invaluable to combat habitat loss, the number one threat to wildlife, and they also act as travel corridors between increasingly segmented habitats.

In addition to the key role that riparian areas play in maintaining habitat and preserving biodiversity, they also have functional physical and chemical roles in the ecosystem or agroecosystem such as: helping to reduce floods, stabilizing streambanks, and controlling and reducing the effects of nonpoint-source pollution are among some of their notable ecological functions. Nonpoint-source pollution can include chemicals (fossil fuels, pesticides, fertilizers), and sediment from the surrounding watershed.

When managing landscapes with the many facets of riparian area health as criteria for management, one must also consider the width of the riparian area in relation to how the adjacent land is being used, and the slope of the land. The width of a riparian area is measured from the top of the stream bank, back. A larger riparian buffer may be needed in certain cases (such as high-turnover cropping zones with bare soil part of the year) to filter out fertilizers, herbicides and sediment before runoff enters the stream and before the stream hits the lake or ocean. A buffer strip in this case may consist of maintaining a grass strip between the field and stream. If the goal is diverse wildlife habitat, you may wish to encourage certain plant species (known to be food and/or shelter for particular wildlife in your area) and the width of the riparian area must be managed to accommodate the type of wildlife you hope to attract.

Land use for agriculture (even small scale hobby farms, gardens and hayfields) is considered as a source of non-point source pollution, and riparian areas can help buffer and reduce the effects of non-point source pollution on downstream wildlife and fish populations. Non-point source pollution can also take the form of sedimentation (which affects dissolved oxygen levels in aquatic environments and can severely alter the aquatic ecology) and highly concentrated nutrients (from fertilization) causing eutrophication or “dead zones” in lakes and oceans. Protecting riparian areas is not only crucial for land management in a permaculture design, but it also demonstrates to an increasingly urbanized population that the ecological services provided by healthy waterways in natural ecosystems, as well as in agroecosystems such as row crops, hay fields or cattle ranches, are worth more than their agricultural profit margin might indicate if they were to be cleared and/or watercourses shifted to serve conventional ‘economic agricultural needs’.

--Shan, Ecology steward

Recent Happenings

Here are some highlights of recent meetings and events. Click any entry for details.

Saturday, 7 April Members Meeting 
quarterly rotation of tasks, AGM requirements reviewed, open house planned, monthly assessments set, EcoReality lease, biodiesel processor ownership.

May 2007 Events

For details, please go to the meetings page on our website. All activities are at EcoReality, 160 Sharp Road, Salt Spring Island, unless otherwise noted.

Saturday, 5 May 2007, Annual General Meeting 
Statutory requirements: appointment of auditor, finance report, steward's reports, election of stewards.
Saturday, 5 May 2007, Monthly Members' meeting 
the usual suspects
Sunday, 6 May 2007, open house 
Come see who we are, and discover what we are doing!
Sunday-Tuesday, 6-8 May 2007, monthly work party 
Come get your hands in the soil!

Thank you for supporting EcoReality with your interest, ideas, and good thoughts!

Want to write for this newsletter? Or want to see something written about? Contact the Communication Steward with your story ideas!

EcoReality Coop (directions)
2152 Fulford-Ganges Road
Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 1Z7, Canada
+1 250.653.2024
Info AT EcoReality DOT org

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