Newsletter:20080621

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EcoReality Co-op Newsletter

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Big Changes!

"EcoReality Huge" is 37 acres to the west of 63 acres of community farmland.
Wow. What a month! EcoReality signed off on the purchase of 37 beautiful acres of prime Fulford Valley farmland with two houses totalling nearly 4,200 sqft and a workshop/studio/garage of over 1,500 sqft, sandwiched between 63 acres that are planned to be community farmland and 83 acres owned by an organic heritage cattle farmer, backed by hundreds of acres of wild public parkland that extends from the highest point on the island, to the ocean, and back up to the second highest peak.

New Members

As if the excitement of finding the right property was not enough, we more than doubled our membership by adding five wonderfully talented, enthusiastic new provisional members:

  • Justin and Osha and baby Lily Roller come to us from Vancouver, where Justin works on fuel cell materials for the National Research Council. Carol and Jan met Justin and Osha when they organized a premiere screening of Escape From Suburbia, and invited Jan to speak on a discussion panel afterward. They graciously hosted us at their home, and we talked long into the night about ecovillage living. Osha grew up in an intentional community, and longs to raise her daughter in such an environment.
  • Penny Pobiecke and Mark Stiffler were at a "Finding Community" event hosted by Northwest Intentional Community Association. Jan and Carol were staffing a recruiting table there, and we felt bad among the other, more established communities who had elaborate displays and were handing out home-baked treats — all we had was a stack of brochures and some business cards! But that lack of window-dressing was not enough to deter Mark and Penny from booking a visit, and by the time the visit happened, we were able to take them on a tour of the new site, and they were smitten. Penny is a high school guidance counsellor, and Mark is a self-employed website developer. They live near Bremerton, Washington, and have begun their immigration process.
  • Jan Slakov is one of Carol's and Jan's longest and best friends on Salt Spring. We met her when she hosted a showing of a David Suzuki film in March 2005, and we remained in touch via email throughout our immigration. Since moving here, we've helped tend her goats and trees, and she brings us fresh salad greens, and she regularly attends our pot-luck dinners. Jan describes herself foremost as an activist, but she is a substitute teacher for those long stretches when when the activism pay cheques don't arrive. Jan helped organize our upcoming Mike Nickerson event.
Shakti and Maya, the two newest EcoReality residents, are pretty "nosy" and curious creatures.

New Residents

As if new property and new members weren't enough, we suddenly had an opportunity we couldn't refuse. Prospective members Cody Becker and Kristin Allen were visiting, en-route from O.U.R. Ecovillage, and they happened to mention that someone there was trying to find a good home for a couple goats. We called and got details, imagining some old, broken-down creatures looking for charity, and were delighted to discover that they were Nubians (a noble, gentle breed known for their floppy ears and "roman" nose) and were two-year-old does -- in their prime.

They have certainly added to our challenges, as we were even more unprepared for them than we were for our first chickens over a year ago. We've got them in a nice free camping trailer with a temporary pen, putting them out on leads until we can come up with a better scheme. They enjoy long walks, and lead nearly as well as a dog. Affectionate and affable, they bleat pathetically if they see us walking away from the property to visit a neighbour or to fetch mail. We plan to breed one or both in the fall, and hope to have fresh milk next spring.

About 22 days ago, one of our hens, Thelma, got broody. We found a couple eggs under her, and begin stuffing more under her. Yesterday, we heard tiny peeps, and today, four tiny yellow fluff balls poked out and began running around. We've taken them away from Thelma in the hope she'll continue sitting on the five remaining eggs, but you never know about such things -- we'll let nature take it's course.

Things to Come

Big challenges remain. When we first started down this path, we thought we had a funding partner, but that went away due to health problems. The housing market has tanked, and we still have "EcoReality Lite" to sell to pay for a large portion of our new home. Bankers who were initially enthusiastic are giving us the run-around. If you know of someone who could help us over this hump with an investment, now would sure be the time!

But we have no choice but to remain optimistic. After all, this month's theme is Permaculture, which is all about transition strategies. In this issue, Carol talks about Permaculture in finance, Shannon talks about her carrying capacity and agricultural labour needs studies, and new members Penny and Mark talk about their introduction to Permaculture.

If you're in the neighbourhood, we hope to see you at one of our upcoming meetings, events, work parties, or pot-lucks!

Jan Steinman, Communication Steward


Permaculture in Finance

Permaculture Book Icon.jpg
So, what does permaculture mean to the finance steward? In Permaculture - A Designer's Manual by Bill Mollison, he talks about how small groups have different financial systems than those of the larger economy, by using a set of exchanges, gifts, obligations and feasts to create a social accounting system where everyone owes everyone. There will still be financial transactions for larger expenditures and trade with the outer systems.
Money is but a symbol for the wealth of the natural world — or at least, it should be!
Money is not a resource in and of itself. Money represents the wealth of the natural world (plants, clean water, clear air, and stored energy). Money can also represent different categories of assets:
  • Degenerative - assets that decay, rust or wear out.
  • Generative - the tools of society with which we use to build and process raw materials.
  • Procreative - The plants and animals.
  • Informational - education and data.
  • Conservative - Dams, storage areas, trees for protection against erosion or desertification.

One definition of Permaculture says it is "the science of holistically designing sustainable human settlements is in accordance with natural systems and energy cycles." To me, this says that exchange and barter are more natural ways of sharing our energies.

This only touches the surface of how a small financial system can be in a small setting. To quote my best friend: "Money is like manure; spread it around and it promotes growth, pile it up and it stinks."

-- Carol Wagner, Farm steward


Just as surveyors measure the physical boundary of EcoReality, we must determine the trophic and energetic boundaries of the site in order to assure a sustainable future.

Carrying Capacity at EcoReality Has Many Facets

The carrying capacity study is intriguing and much more calculating and unit conversions than I originally imagined! I’ve got some findings based on the published “area of arable land per capita” required to produce enough food for one year for a person living in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland. One publication cites more than 2 acres/yr (Rees, 1992) (I adjusted for a vegetarian diet and 90% self-sufficiency which brings the number to 1.8 acres/yr) and another much more recent publication by the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Lands (2006) cites 1.125 acres arable land per capita per year (I assume this is vegetable and fruit crops by the way it was expressed, so have not adjusted this value for vegetarian diet, nor did I adjust for 90% self-sufficiency so it may still be a little bit higher than our residents would actually consume, yet with the number of visitors it seems EcoReality will be attracting, I think we need to over-estimate the consumption per capita so as not to exceed true carrying capacity).

The Carrying Capacity (to date, not final)

Ecoreality (37 acres, 19 arable acres) will support 11 resident humans (Rees) or 20 resident humans (BCMAL). The entire EcoReality + Hughes Farm (~100 acres, 36.5 acres arable) will support 20 resident humans (Rees) or 32 resident humans (BCMAL).

Summary: If we use the BCMAL numbers and consider the entire 100 acre farm site in our re-zoning calculations, we can justify 32 full time resident adult members (and 12 or so children residents). This is likely somewhere between 14-18 dwellings, depending on the degree of “sharing” among family units or single persons.

However, before I finalize on these numbers, I am going to finish my calculation of all the estimated productivity values (kcal/m2/yr) possible from each potential crop we may choose to produce, and then determine m2/capita/yr and convert to acreage values to see how it may be similar or different from the above values (which are calculated using the estimated per capita food growing area needs from the research of others, rather than specific crops in our growing environment). This should give us a much more site-specific idea of production and consumption. It is taking me a lot longer to get there, but I assure you I’ll have it as soon as I can!

If you are interested in helping me to complete the study, I can give you some crops to research for the kcal/m2/yr!

Rees, W.E. 1992. Environment and urbanization Vol 4 No. 2 Oct 1992.

--Shannon Cowan, Ecology Steward


Permaculture encompasses a way of living that preserves nature, agriculture, and human culture.

Our Permaculture Discovery Journey

If you take a moment to read Ecoreality’s values, you’ll see that one of the first things mentioned is permaculture for the entire land. Permaculture is the ‘theme’ of this month’s newsletter, so I wanted to write about how I became acquainted with permaculture in the first place.

I first heard of permaculture about three years ago. Since then it seems like a bit of a buzz word that everyone is referencing or talking about or doing, at least in all the circles that I dance in. I know that permaculture has been around since the 70’s, so I think it’s a relative thing for me. You know like when you’re young and your parents get a new car, maybe it’s a Honda, and you never noticed all the Hondas on the road before, but now that it’s relevant to your life, it seems like everyone went out and got a Honda the same time as your family. That’s what permaculture seems like.

So what’s the appeal? Permaculture is a system that seems to offer an attainable, sustainable solution to the impending food shortages resulting from oil shortages and overconsumption. It’s a way of producing food without monocropping and depleting the nutrients in the soils, developing a ‘food forest,’ if you will. Permaculture allows for an enjoyable lifestyle in a time of potential scarcity. It is a way of life that energizes partnerships and is replicating a design scheme that you see in the natural world.

All of these concepts sound great, but they’re a little up there in the clouds for someone down to earth like me, so I think in a primer and a newsletter dedicated to the permaculture theme, it’s a good idea to start with the Principles of Permaculture.

Observation and interaction leads us to new ways of interacting with our environment, searching for "edges" and seeking opportunities to "stack functions."
Only when I read and studied and thought about (and eventually began applying) these principles was I really able to embrace Permaculture as something more than a new type of farming or producing food, and more as a way of living that is in harmony with nature, which is the way I want to exist in all walks of my life.

I suggest you mull over the principles and then choose one and see how you can apply the concept to something you’re involved in, whether that be a club, a hobby, a farm, a vacation you’re planning, or anything you do in life.

The first principle is to “observe and interact.” By taking time to engage in nature we can design solutions that suit our particular needs. Think of a need in your life and sit with that need in nature, simply taking time to observe and interact. See how simply observing and responding to what nature already is may give you answers or help you find fulfillment. Have fun!

--Penny Pobiecke


Recent Happenings

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

Saturday 31 May 2008: Members' Meeting 
No agreements this meeting; introductions of a number of prospective members and guests.
Sunday 1 June 2008 
move-in to EcoReality Huge begins!
Monday 2 June 2008: Members' Meeting 
AGREED: July meeting cancelled due to travel of all founding members, and unlikely quorum.
Wednesday 3 June 2008 
Jan, Carol, James, Shannon, Sienna, Osha and Lily spend the first night at EcoReality Huge!
Wednesday 4 June 2008: Members' Meeting 
AGREED: Membership applications from Penny Pobiecke, Justin Roller, Osha Roller, Jan Slakov, and Mark Stiffler were all approved and accepted, conditional upon receipt of member shares payment from Justin and Osha, and conditional upon completion of missing application sections by Jan Slakov.
Wednesday 4 June 2008: Members' Meeting 
AGREED: Members have a priority on residential space.
Wednesday 4 June 2008: Members' Meeting 
AGREED: To spend $900 (plus GST) on appraisals for both Lite and Huge in preparation for financing if Lite does not sell by closing.

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, 28 June, 2PM, Members' Meeting 
Theme: Permaculture. We are expecting a number of visitors and prospective members. Due to space restrictions, please let us know if you plan to attend.
Saturday, 28 June, 4PM, Wiki Training 
Come and learn how to edit or add content to the EcoReality website. Due to space restrictions, please let us know if you plan to attend.
Saturday, 28 June, Weekly Potluck & Movie 
Potluck at 6PM, movie at dusk. Have a movie in mind? Please bring one!
Sunday, 29 June, Talk — Mike Nickerson & Donna Dillman 
Sustainable economy expert Mike Nickerson give a talk titled Living on Earth as if we wanted to stay. $5-$15 donation suggested.
Saturday, 5 July, Weekly Potluck & Movie 
Potluck at 6PM, movie at dusk. Have a movie in mind? Please bring one!
Saturday, 12 July, Weekly Potluck & Movie 
Potluck at 6PM, movie at dusk. Have a movie in mind? Please bring one!
Monday, 14 July through Monday, 28 July, Permaculture Design Course 
Jan will be leading this 72-hour intensive course at O.U.R. Ecovillage, Shawnigan Lake.
Saturday, 19 July, Weekly Potluck & Movie 
Potluck at 6PM, movie at dusk. Have a movie in mind? Please bring one!
Saturday, 26 July, Members' Meeting 
Due to members' travel and lack of quorum, this meeting has been cancelled.
Saturday, 26 July, Weekly Potluck & Movie 
Potluck at 6PM, movie at dusk. Have a movie in mind? Please bring one!
Monday, 28 July, Work Party 
Help James, Shannon, and Sienna move to EcoReality!
Saturday, 2 August, Weekly Potluck & Movie 
Potluck at 6PM, movie at dusk. Have a movie in mind? Please bring one!
Wednesday, 6 August, Monthly Island Natural Growers Meeting 
Come find out more about the greater Salt Spring community of organic farmers and gardeners. Location TBD.


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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