Newsletter:20070630

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EcoReality Co-op Newsletter

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Back field in motion

It's been an interesting month at EcoReality. There's been a lot of moving going on this month -- vehicles, people, chickens, trailers, buildings.

Veggie Van Gogh moved to the Salt Spring Fire Department parking lot on Saturday, June 16th, to make an appearance at the Salt Spring Transportation Options Faire, also called "Getting Around Salt Spring" or GASS. This mini-festival featured electric cars and scooters, a preview of the bus system that is slated to start in the next year, and other information booths and speakers on topics such as ride-sharing, proposed off-street bike/walking paths, community design for alternative transportation, and more. I took a survey of people interested in forming a biodiesel production co-op on the island, and had some interesting conversations with people who are enthusiastic about sustainable transportation. And I even got my photo in the Driftwood.

Carolyn Hocquard helps salvage wood.
Moving in this month is our newest WWOOFer, Carolyn Hocquard, from Victoria. Carolyn is living in Veggie Van Gogh while helping us part-time, working at Thrifty Foods and saving up money for studying graphic design in Victoria this fall. If you see her working at Thrifty Foods, please say, "Hello!"

We've also been refining our biodiesel production system. With the help of WWOOFer Sarah Thompson from New Zealand (who moved in and out in one week), made several test batches that convinced us that we need to set up a workable chemical lab in the workshop. We've calibrated salvaged glassware, installed a salvaged electric range, and turned a coffee urn and old blender into a test batch processor. We've also got several sources of oil lined up. All we need now is some labour! Let me know if you are interested in helping out.

Our new mobile chicken coop.
Our chicken tractor is one coat of home-made polystyrene varnish away from being finished -- a task that rainy weather has kept at bay. The chickens moved into it prematurely after an incident with a local predator, but now they're safe and sound at night. Having thoroughly fertilized the front (east) orchard, we went out one morning and moved the chickens and their mobile coop into the west orchard. They were a bit confused at first, and kept escaping and going back to their old digs, but have now settled in, evidenced by increased egg production.

When we first started looking for a trailer to turn into a chicken coop, we put it out on a local mailing list and soon had five offers! So we took the best two, the second of which we moved onto EcoReality this month. It will become a "goat tractor," a mobile goat shed, so we can run the goats on short leads clipped to lunge lines, rather than having them on long, tangly ropes or buying expensive fencing.

Moby on the move.
When we first moved to Salt Spring, Carol and I brought all our earthly possessions to EcoReality in Moby (The Gweat White Wefwidewated Twaiwer). The driver we hired did a masterful job of getting Moby through the stone columns bracketing the driveway, and back between the cottage and workshop, but the spongy ground in early May 2006 kept him from putting Moby where we really wanted her: next to the workshop, out of the viewshed (mostly) of the cottage.

Moving Moby was low priority until recently, so we cleaned-up and leveled the destination, and hired Ward Drummond of Salt Spring Transport to put it in back of the shop. Ward masterfully stuck it within inches of where we wanted it, in spite of my help and indecipherable hand signals.

Salvaged wood, being de-nailed for future projects.
Moving a business is never easy, especially when you move it from a permanent location to a mobile one. Advisory Council members Tom Billings and Irja Kriegel are preparing to exhibit their glasswork at various art festivals this summer, and will be living in an RV, pulling a combination workshop, trailer, and art festival booth behind them. The only problem: what to do with their old 10'x12' shop, which their landlord insisted not remain when they left?

Tom said they were going to burn it, but Carol and I both cried, "No! Don't burn it!" So we went over with hammers, drills, and wrecking bars and took the building apart and hauled it back to EcoReality. The wood will be de-nailed and stacked out of the weather underneath Moby until needed. You can never have too much salvaged wood on hand when you have lots of projects going on!

--Jan Steinman Communication steward


Tractor factor

Sarah the tractor and Moby before the big move.
Today I really got into driving the tractor!

Jan and I worked to move the footings from behind the shop building in preparation for moving Moby (the gweat white wefrigewated twaiwer) on Friday this week. I know Natasha will be very happy to have it moved from her front door step, and it makes it much more convenient for parking and moving vehicles and equipment about.

So, today Jan and I moved all but one of the footings that Dave had prepped by digging out one corner. With me at the wheel of the tractor and Jan attaching a chain around the prepped corners and routing it up over a gin-pole to the trailer, I would put the tractor in low and inch forward, lifting the footing out of its hole. As the footing came upright, Jan would maneuver another chain around the bracket as the footing flopped over onto the top. This second chain would be attached to the tractor and I would shift into 2/2 gears and pull it to another area out of the way of Moby.

We did eight of the nine footings and have one to go! I felt much more comfortable with the tractor (named "Sara") today and better understand how she works!

--Carol, Farm steward


Lavender tour & potluck

EcoReality members and helpers harvest lavender.
Come join us for a lavender flavoured potluck and a tour of our lavender operation.

We will be cooking dishes with lavender (and other herbs from our farm) and trying out creative new ideas for cooking with lavender. There will be a chance for everyone to describe what they made and what they did with the lavender in their dish. We will make some lavender available beforehand for people to come and pick up to use in their dish, if they choose.

We will do a short tour of our lavender patch and drying operation. We'll describe the process we went through to get the lavender from the plant to the plate.

The details are:

Sunday July 29
4:00pm Tour of lavender operation
6:00pm Potluck dinner

Please RSVP to members@ecoreality.org or 250-537-2024

If you would like to pick up lavender in advance, please let us know how much you would like. We will have some prepared and someone will be home on Friday or Saturday afternoon (July 27&28), between 2pm and 6pm.

--James Cowan, Program steward


Marketing Lavender in the Pacific Northwest

Lavender in the evening at EcoReality.
EcoReality has about a 1/4 acre planted in lavender. At EcoReality in 2006, we were not able to harvest all of the approx. 400 L. angustifolia plants. The total yield we had after processing (drying and rubbing the flower buds off through 1/4" screen hardware cloth) was approx. 30 kg (66 lbs). Our goal this year is to reduce processing for bulk sales, preferring to sell bundles directly, as well as turn our bulk flower buds into products ourselves.

Conditions for Harvest and Drying

Lavender should never be harvested when wet. Harvesting wet lavender may lead to discoloration and mold in bundled lavender, and it can lead to chemical changes in the essential oil that can reduce quality. It is also best not to harvest when the weather is very hot, which can lead to wilting and oil loss.

Shannon hanging lavender bundles.
Typically lavender bundles are cut and hung upside down away from sunlight in a well-ventilated area. At EcoReality, we plan to try a new method this year, instead of bundling right out of the field. We plan to place cut lavender stems into boxes in the field, and then transfer them onto 1/4" hardware cloth that has been stretched between two secure bricks or blocks in a trailer that is darkened, dust-free, and well-ventilated with fans. Each day’s harvest will be called a “batch” and will be recorded for inventory, and monitored for level of dryness. After a batch is dry, stems will be gathered to form a 1.5" bundle (diameter measured at the point where the bundle is banded or secured by ribbon). Stems will be aligned so that flower heads are uniform in height, and short, damaged or inferior stems will be removed. The ends of the stems will be cut squarely for a finished look. Like roses, buyers often demand “long stems” on lavender bundles. Finished bundles will be stored in boxes away from light and heat until time of sale.

Yield

Yields of bundles and dried lavender buds will vary considerably from variety to variety.

In the literature, Lavandula angustifolia var. 'Grosso' is reported to yield 4 and 6 bundles per plant (bundles averaging about 150 stems per bundle). One 'Grosso' plant should yield between 1/4 and 1/2 lb of dried buds.

This equates to a little over 1,000 lbs of dried ‘Grosso’ lavender buds per acre.

Sales

Lavender is typically sold at small local markets.
Bundles of fresh lavender are easy to sell at farmers’ markets, street fairs, and many other places with good foot traffic. Adding a decorative ribbon (purple for Carol!), we plan to see EcoReality lavender bundles, either fresh or dried, at our farm stand (to be developed!), as well as alongside Carol and Jan’s crafts and in their art studio. We may sell bundles at Salt Spring Tuesday or Saturday farmers’ markets, depending on time and energy to put together a booth. There are only a few weeks in July when lavender can be sold as fresh bundles, but this can be a great way to move a lot of lavender quickly, and to generate instant cash flow right after harvest – we’ll see what this season brings!

Most lavender products are purchased by upper middle class customers, with adequate discretionary income. Women buy more lavender products than men. Customers who are interested in mental health, natural medicine, and those who are innovative in the kitchen are buying more and more lavender products. Florists, craftspeople, boutique stores, and many others buy lavender bundles, but they must be of very high quality, consistent and uniform, with good color and fragrance. EcoReality is only interested in sustainable sales of its products, and so we choose not to ship our fragile lavender long distances. We will consider local sales (Gulf Islands or Vancouver) if we can get a good price for the bundles. We determined that the income for labour ratio of selling lavender flower buds was not efficient enough for us to do again in 2007. However, we do also to rub stems through 1/4" screen hardware cloth to obtain some bulk flower buds that will be used in value-added processing at EcoReality; these following products may be crafted from lavender flower buds. The design and quantity will depend on Carol, the Farm Steward and Crafter, as well as on volunteer labour.

  • Sachets (including a “Dryer” sachet to place in the clothes dryer in lieu of fabric softerner)
  • Lavender eye pillows (contain flax seed or buckwheat hulls), have therapeutic value and can be heated and used on other body parts

Reference

Beus, C. 2006 
“Growing and Marketing Lavender. Farming the Northwest Series. Washington State University Extension.

--Shannon Cowan, Ecology steward


Recent Happenings

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

Saturday, 2 June 2007, Monthly Members' Meeting 
Agreed: lavender project approved, 276 Class A shares issued for shop gutter, reviewed year-end meeting schedule.

July 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, 7 July 2007, time TBD, Monthly Members' meeting via video conference, due to schedule conflicts
the usual suspects
Wednesday, 4 July 2007, 6PM, Island Natural Growers 
monthly pot-luck, farm tour, and meeting
Friday, 27 July 2007, Heart-to-heart meeting 
members; guests by appointment -- no drop-ins, please!
Sunday29 July 2007, 4PM, Lavender party 
public invited, tour of lavender operation at 4PM, pot-luck dinner at 6PM

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
http://www.EcoReality.org
Info AT EcoReality DOT org

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