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EcoReality Co-op Newsletter

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Big Changes Ahead!

The pears bloom in early May at EcoReality's new site in the Fulford Vally.
It's been quite a year at EcoReality. Has it really been a year since we've done a newsletter? Well, nearly eleven months!

Although we haven't been very communicative, we've continued meeting, planning, working... toward what? Sometimes we weren't sure. Sometimes the goal was so abstract and the daily grind so concrete, that we just couldn't see the steps in between. We endured health problems, distance problems, weather problems, harvest problems, neighbour problems. We were stuck in a "catch-22": we needed more people with resources in order to pursue the bigger dream, but people with resources wanted something more concrete than a dream to pursue. Author and Advisory Council member Diana Leafe Christian said it seems we were "stuck between floors on the ecovillage elevator."

Then in March, opportunity struck. Shannon had started an internship program for her agroecology students at University of British Columbia, and one of her students was selected by Gavin Johnston to help on his heritage cattle farm. He happened to be right next to 100 acres that was in the process of being subdivided, with 63 acres to be donated for community farmland. To make a long story short, we made an offer on the remaining 37 acres, which was accepted. Closing is 1 August, with a rental beginning 1 June, just a bit over two weeks from now!

There's nothing like the promise of land to inspire people. Everyone we walked the land with became smitten, and it seems we may have five or seven new members joining us at the next meeting, on 31 May. The larger Salt Spring Island community is abuzz, as well, with various people wanting to put a fruit processing facility and an aquaponics facility on our site, and with prominent people in the local farming community giving us their public blessing.

What lies ahead is, thankfully, more clear than the recent murky past. We will begin a Permaculture design for the site, and will begin a series of educational programs, starting with a talk by Mike Nickerson, author of Life, Money & Illusion, a book about sustainable economics. Mike will be with us on June 28th — watch our site for details.

For more information, check out our press release, and consider coming to one of our meetings!

Jan Steinman, Communication steward

Carol laying down sheet mulch in the fenced garden area.

Exciting Times Ahead

There are very exciting times ahead for all of the people that are investing in EcoReality Huge, in both time and money!

There will be more challenges ahead with selling the property on Sharp Road and making the balloon payment, but it seems that this is the right path to be on at this time. Our vision to start the eco-village could not be better timed with the impending rise in fuel prices and all the subsequent rises in food, clothing and all the basic necessities of life.

Our goal is sustainability in food especially, but hopefully in every aspect of our daily lives. This means that as a community within a larger community, we will be addressing our needs as well as that of the wider community.

I am looking forward to all that we, as a community, have to work on, including the inevitable bumps in the road, because I know that we have the tools to forge ahead and make a better world for all involved from within and without!

-- Carol Wagner, Farm steward

Oh deer! How will we live with our hungry bambi friends?

Graceful natural beauty, or gluttonous garden pillager?
Salt Spring, like all of the Gulf Islands, has no natural predators for deer. The island has many many deer and for a gardener or farmer, it’s one of the biggest challenges to overcome. They love to eat vegetable crops and are very persistent with their break and enter skills. They can jump 2 metres (6 feet) easily. Adult deer eat between 3-4.5 kg of vegetation daily. They need protein so they prefer legumes and sweet plants in rich, well fertilized soil. Berries, grains & fruit are also favourites.

An effort to search for literature about food crops which are considered “deer proof” was less than fruitful. Some grains, herbs and wild native species (mostly berries or medicinal plants) are considered deer proof but every vegetable is considered dinner by deer. Also, many of the wild species do in fact get eaten at different times in the season and if deer get really hungry they’ll eat almost anything.

This presents a major challenge for EcoReality on the new property as there is approximately 20 acres of cleared land with no fence to keep the deer out. Fence is very expensive and once it’s installed it’s semi-permanent so where, when and how much fence we put up is an important decision.

There are some ways to keep the deer out of your garden:

  • Physical barrier- Build a fence (this is a must). At least 8 feet high is recommended.
  • Discourage jumping by filling in or obstructing any landing sites on the inside of your garden fence.
  • Don’t leave cuttings or fruit out where deer can get to them. Or, keep a waste area away from your garden where deer can eat from the pile and not the garden.
  • Be persistent - If deer get a good meal from your garden because you were careless one day it can mean that they’ll come back… and with deer friends!
  • Plant deer friendly edibles on the edge of your garden so they can nibble through the fence (and not want to jump over). Common garden perimeter plants for this purpose are kale and clover.
  • Build your fence so the deer still have natural trails to follow if they are used to walking across the property.
  • Put some foul odours near your fence (soap, hair, garlic, rotten eggs)
  • Keep a canine friend to bark at the deer.

We hope to live in harmony with the deer and keep enough wild habitat for them that they are used to in an effort to keep them away from our food crops.

Some resources for information about deer proof plants can be seen on the District Of Comox website.

James Cowan, Program steward

The Ecology of Wealth

A two-acre pond supplies irrigation water to the EcoReality Community Farm Project in the Fulford Valley of Salt Spring Island, with Mount Maxwell in the distance.
EcoReality’s new home on this earth has characteristics to woo anyone interested in ecology, food, farming, “environment”, conservation and nature!

We all come from water – water cycles through us all!

For all intents and purposes, EcoReality’s 37 acres are integrated within the “original” Hughes Farm that includes 2 streams, a 1.9 ac. water reservoir, and a fish-bearing natural pond. These water features are essential components of a sustainable permaculture agroecosystem.

I see trees, I see riches!

The larger site boasts 34.7 combined acres of second-growth woodlot, including wide riparian strips around the waterways, and variously-aged forest pieces. On my only walk through this beautiful space on Earth, I greeted Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, Alder, Bigleaf Maple and I think I saw Grand Fir and maybe Western Hemlock (and many more, waiting to be greeted).

Fields of green

An inviting green path connects EcoReality to the neighbouring community farmland.
On Google Earth, EcoReality’s new property is an emerald swath among other not-so-green field spaces on Salt Spring Island. The verdant colour can be attributed to the careful coverage by overhead sprinkler irrigation systems installed by past owners. While expensive (fuel resources for the diesel-powered tractor pumping from the reservoir), this system has benefited the health of grasses and soils. Hay fields boast Timothy and other nutrient-laden blades destined to feed Salt Spring animals, EcoReality’s animals as we work towards a plan for replacing some-to-most of the hayfields with human food over time. Field border plant communities (woody and herbaceous) show variation and intricate relationships developed within the distinct microclimates, slopes, aspects and elevations throughout the site -these promise innumerable niches and habitats for native plant and animal species to be incorporated in a productive holistic site management plan of regenerative agriculture and biodiversity promotion.

The hayfield gives way to “lawn” in a few northern acres bordering the houses, shop and driveways at the site. This lawn contains a small fenced garden area that we aim to expand as soon as materials and time allow. Our rough plan is to grow food this season ad-hoc in the front lawn area near the houses and work up a design for “foodifying” right around the existing (and future house-building) zone “0” at the North and Northwestern edge of the property.

Planning invites collaboration, collective action and co-creation!

Shannon and Sienna look on as Chris and Nolan Magnus demonstrate the lawn irrigation system at EcoReality, with Carol assisting.
Now comes the fun part: the planning process. As part of this, my current goal as Ecology Steward is to provide a report (reminding myself to simplify!) to EcoReality about the natural capital of its new land and how we might set up our human actions to live sustainably with it and within it.

For starters, I’ve been working on a calculation of carrying capacity based on the area of arable fields and woodlots. “Carrying Capacity” is a term used to define the total population of a given species (e.g human) that can be supported indefinitely in a defined habitat without permanently damaging the ecosystem upon which it is dependent. The net productivity of the land (kcal/m2/yr) divided by per capita demand is the calculation I am researching (cited in Hardin, 1991 “Ecological Economics: the Science and Management of Sustainablity”). EcoRealitarians plan to use this estimate as an upper limit that will guide our Permaculture design for the property, as well as our zoning applications to justify site capacity for human residents.

As a snapshot of the process, I will share with you some of the criteria in my calculations, with the goal of spurring your curiousity and entreating your participation and advice:

  • Sufficient arable land for production of vegetables, fruits, nuts, pulses (legume/grain), and starches to sustain the number of resident villagers for 90% of their diets (assuming 90% vegetarian diet among residents)
  • This calculation is not going to include the number of expected visitors or non-resident members (for now – yet it is part of our goal to sustain food production for the entire community of EcoReality, which includes non-residents and visitors)
  • No arable land required for biomass production of oilseed crops for biofuels since we think we can support the fuel needs of the village for transportation and farm equipment operations through recycling waste stream cooking oil as biodiesel made onsite
  • Forest products from woodlots to be used for materials, food and medicine

Your comments are most welcome! We hope you’ll have a chance to visit EcoReality soon to experience the majestic nuances of our community’s ecological and spritiual foundation: natural riches!

Shannon Cowan, Ecology steward

Recent Happenings

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

Saturday 26 April 2008: Member's Meeting 
AGREED: Shannon is new group process steward, and will create a page for that role and begin planning and supporting group process activities.
Friday, 4 April 2008: Members' Video Conference 
AGREED: EcoReality will freeze sales of Class A investment shares until after the liquidation of Sharp Road. Additional funds required to purchase Nightingale will be written as short term, interest-free loans, to be automatically converted to Class A shares upon liquidation of Sharp Road. (If an individual's loan plus their outstanding Class A share balance at that time is less than $10,000, the loan will not be converted to Class A shares, but will remain as a loan with the same redemption terms as Class A shares, in accordance with Rule 21.2.2 in our bylaws.) Due to the need to balance the books when Sharp Road is sold, a stock split will be required, affecting all shareholders as of that date. This proposal ensures that equity from new investors, as well as additional investment from existing investors, will have the same par value as that of original investors.
Saturday, 29 March 2008: Members' Meeting 
AGREED: Provisional member added as new member class, with no decision blocking rights for six months.
Friday, 7 March 2008: Member's Video Conference 
AGREED: Time that Jan and Carol put into the purchase of 2152/2172 Fulford-Ganges Road, whether the purchase is ultimately successful or not, will be "banked" for use in the future.
Saturday, 23 February 2008: Member's Meeting 
Annual report 2008 released in preparation for AGM.

Upcoming Events

For details, please go to the meetings page on our website. All activities are at EcoReality, 2152 Fulford-Ganges Road, Salt Spring Island (map), unless otherwise noted.

Saturday, 31 May 2008, Members' Meeting 
New members expected to be joining! 22 expected to attend! Due to space restrictions, please let us know if you plan to attend.
Saturday, 31 May 2008, Weekly Potluck & Movie 
Potluck at 6PM, movie at dusk. Have a movie in mind? Please bring one!
Sunday, 1 June 2008, Work Party 
Help move EcoReality to its new home!
Saturday, 7 June 2008, Weekly Potluck & Movie 
Potluck at 6PM, movie at dusk. Have a movie in mind? Please bring one!
Saturday, 14 June 2008, Weekly Potluck & Movie 
Potluck at 6PM, movie at dusk. Have a movie in mind? Please bring one!
Saturday, 21 June 2008, Weekly Potluck & Movie 
Potluck at 6PM, movie at dusk. Have a movie in mind? Please bring one!
Saturday, 28 June 2008, Members' Meeting 
Theme: Garden Design
Saturday, 28 June 2008, Weekly Potluck & Movie 
Potluck at 6PM, movie at dusk. Have a movie in mind? Please bring one!
Sunday, 29 June 2008, Talk — Mike Nickerson & Donna Dillman 
Living on Earth as if we wanted to stay

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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