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EcoReality Co-op Newsletter

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What a stressful month it's been.

Sometimes, you want something to happen so bad that you can taste it. The syrup from past tastings runs down the side of your mouth and you lick your lips and lustily look about for more. You know it has to happen, it's right there in front of everyone! Why can't they see it, that sweet fruit, hanging just out of reach?

Then again, sometimes, it's like drinking from a fire hose. It gushes at you, coming on so hard and fast that it tears at your mouth, and your teeth start coming out, and you want to scream but everything that happens fills your mouth even more, making utterance impossible. Then it knocks you over and you feel like you're drowning in the onslaught.

The social complexities of wood storage

Chris Walker masterminds the woodshed extension.
The month started out with our putting finishing touches on our new deer fence, as as mentioned in last month's newsletter. Of course, we had planned it to go "through" the woodshed, as the existing woodshed has a portion used to store garden tools that would face inside the fence, where the tools would be used, and the sections that hold firewood, which would face outside the fence, where wood would be gathered and hauled into houses.

Then we thought, "Hey, if we're planning to make the woodshed bigger anyway, why not do it now, before running fence over to the old woodshed that would have to get pulled up anyway when we expanded the woodshed?" Woa, slippery slope. But it seemed like a good idea at the time.

So, we thought we'd expand out the woodshed a bit before finishing the fence, simply extending the roofline 16 feet to the north east, allowing for the storage of eight more cords of firewood.

But then we thought, "Hey, if we're going to put all the effort into extending it 16 feet, why not make it even bigger? We could rotate different 'dampnesses' of firewood through the different bays, instead of loading two of them up with wood that might be wet. We could even store bicycles and farm equipment there." So we doubled the size of the woodshed. Woa, slippery slope, indeed! But it seemed like a good idea at the time.

So, a couple of us came up with a materials list and a budget, and everyone agreed. But the designer envisioned a rustic look, and only budgeted $75 for siding, from inexpensive mill slabs, a local waste product we are able to salvage and put to good use. The designer also envisioned a cool and efficient galvanized metal roof in natural metal colour.

"But there's the fencing we just took down — why not use those nice, white-painted boards instead of rough looking sawmill waste? And what about matching the colour of the existing dark roof, instead of having natural metal colour?" The designer had other plans for that wood, and had assumed that an efficient, heat-reflecting surface would trump aesthetic concerns!

Was all this adequately communicated? I guess not. We're just sliding down that slope at warp-speed now, wondering if there's a brick wall or a soft pillow at the end of the free-fall. But it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The biggest thing we've learned from this is that if a simple woodshed can cause such controversy, we'd better do a better job of communicating and involving others when we get to building houses! But it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Harry's berries

Beds are prepped and ready for transplanting raspberries.
But everything has not been so contentious. Sometimes, you sip at life's offerings at just the right rate, neither wasting the excess, nor lacking for more. Sometimes, it not only seems like a good idea, it is a good idea!

One idea that didn't take much effort to implement was to accept a gift of some free perennial berries. Permaculture emphasizes perennials and the long-term value they bring. What's better, till and plant every year, or till and plant once, then harvest for year after year after year?

Luckily, it was a no-brainer. Oh, it's not like there was no discussion involved — some wanted east-west rows, others insisted on north-south rows, others liked crazy, unconventional zig-zag rows. Shannon and Carol went out and laid out rows in a chevron, pointing SSW, and we went over to Harry Burton's to dig the raspberries and cascade berries he graciously gave us.

Jan Steinman, James Richardson, Rudy Siegers,and Ku Yun Kang stuff themselves into Sunshine, our biodiesel-powered Vanagon. Chris Walker and James Cowan ride in the front.
It only took a few hours to dig up a couple hundred raspberry plants. What was more fun was coming home, with six enthusiastic workers, shovels and spading forks and a wheelbarrow and other implements of grass destruction, all stuffed into Sunshine, our biodiesel Vanagon — together with a couple hundred raspberry canes!

We managed to make it home safely, with only a tiny bit of car-sickness from the backward-facing occupant. (What were those crazy Germans thinking when they designed the Vanagon?) Then the real fun began.

James Richardson prepares new raised beds for raspberries donated by Harry Burton.
We had prepared the beds the previous day, by digging out rows of lawn about 50 centimetres (18") wide. We then scooped sea-soil and silty loam off the unfinished "landscape feature" left between the white house and the classroom by the previous owners. We had seen the receipts; we knew the value of a dozen yards of sea-soil, to the penny — it was not about to be wasted on deer-proof plantings, outside the fence!

So we scooped soil up from the landscaper's dream in the front loader of Sarah, our biodiesel-powered tractor, and dumped it on the beds, and spread it out into raised rows. The canes were all distributed over the grid, laid out prior to planting so we'd have consistent spacing — about one plant per foot of prepared bed. Left-over "t-bar" post from fencing got pounded in for the wires that will eventually support the canes.

Carol and I met James Richardson at O.U.R. Ecovillage in 2006, when we spent the summer together: Carol and I, as teaching assistants in O.U.R.'s summer-long courses in Sustainable Food Production and Natural Building, and James, as a participant in those courses. Since that time, James and I have taught Permaculture together, and we are hoping he will help us with our first annual Permaculture Design Course, June 6-21. Let us know if you'd like more information about taking this course.

Sometimes, what you can almost taste is the juice of dead-ripe, fresh raspberries, running down your cheeks. Sometimes, everything you go through is worth it in the end. Someday, it will have been a good idea!

Farewell, Yun Kang!

Yun Kang waters-in the newly transplanted raspberries.
One of our best ever interns is leaving us soon. Ku Yun-Kang, born in Ottawa and moved to Taiwan at seven years of age, has been such a delight to have with us for nearly three months. I have rarely met such a pleasant, observant, caring person in my life. Yun Kang is always ready to help, always there to lend a hand, always half-a-step ahead when you need something done.

When I lived in New York City, we used to joke about the "zen" Chinese restaurant down the street. They were so quick, that the joke was that we'd pick up the phone, dial their number, start out by saying, "I'd like an order of..." then the doorbell would ring, and our un-stated order would be there waiting, exactly like we had been about to dictate over the phone!

Yun Kang and James fix the manger in the goat shed, so Maya and Shakti can eat inside on rainy days.
Well, one day, that actually happened: we were on the phone to the restaurant, when their delivery person rang the doorbell! It turns out that they were supposed to deliver to a neighbouring apartment, and had just gotten it mixed up — probably aided by the fact that the delivery person so often found himself at our door.

But that's how it's been with Yun Kang. One of us would say to the other, "It's time to bring in some more firewood," and the next thing we'd hear would be the sound of wood being loaded into the wood closet beside the fireplace.

Thank you for your help, Yun Kang, you will be missed! Come back to see baby goats in May — or come back any other time!

Welcome, Roxane!

Our newest resident, Roxane Beaudette, is from Victoriaville, Quebec. Roxane, who describes herself as a "friendly person, simple who likes the life!" arrived just yesterday, and will be staying a month. I am sorry I do not have a photo of her this month (did I mention this month has been stressful?), but I promise one next month.

I think we may have another Yun Kang on our hands. Her first day here was our monthly members' meeting, followed by a potluck and big-screen presentation by Chris Walker on The Natural Step, a method for implementing sustainable practices. I was providing audio-visual support, and was grasping a "wall wart" power supply with one hand, while trying to plug it into an outlet strip that was more comfortable on its side than its back. Suddenly another hand came into view, and the outlet strip was straightened, so I could plug the other cord in. Roxane had observed my plight and had quickly acted to help.

Observe and interact is the first principle of Permaculture, and Roxane is already demonstrating it to us!

Welcome, Chris, Kate, and Fergus

Down from the Yukon for a couple weeks' visit are Chris Walker, Kate Maddigan, and their infant Fergus.

Kate had volunteered to WWOOF with us last July, but a number of issues (including pregnancy!) caused her to bow out. She is a biologist who has worked for Donna Dilman's campaign against nuclear waste, among other things. She is normally seen with nine-week-old Fergus, unless one of the other folks around here has whisked the infant off for some cuddling and cooing.

Chris is a professional builder/remodeller, who has run as a Green Party candidate in Ontario, and who has experience installing sustainable energy systems. Chris has been building our new woodshed extension, directing the efforts of various residents and interns.

Chris and Kate met while earning a Masters in Strategic Leadership for Sustainability in Sweden.

Thanks to all who are helping make EcoReality a reality! Sometimes, you long for a taste, but fear getting overwhelmed. Feel the fear, and do it anyway!

Jan Steinman

Next EcoReality work party

Friday, February 27th

Chain Gang.jpg
Spring is springing....

You are invited to an EcoReality workparty. This is open to folks who want to get involved in our developing ecovillage, meet our members and get busy together for the purpose of food production and sustainability projects.

Please call or email me via the link on my user page in advance if you would like more info, or if you plan to attend: Susie Anne 250-653-4663.

We are not able to host people on a drop-in basis throughout the day. If you plan to attend, please commit to the full time, or call and work out specific arrangements before hand. If you work the full day, we are happy to serve you lunch at no cost, if you have let us know in advance. If not, please bring your own lunch.

TIME: 9:30 am to 4:30 pm PLACE: EcoReality 2172 Fulford-Ganges Rd (park by the Qi Gong classroom)

Looking forward to a fantastic work party!

Susie Anne Bartsch, work party steward

Living in a campground

My roots in community

Susie Anne (top bunk) on the bus with her brothers Graham (middle bunk) and Kelly (lower bunk) and dogs Raffer (middle) and Lola (top). Circa 1973, age 6.
When I was three or four years old my dad and his parents bought an 87-acre chunk of land in northern BC, just outside of Dawson Creek on the Alaska Highway. We were not there a long time, about four years, but it was certainly long enough to be very influential to my world-view. It was during that time that I came to understand some of the joys and challenges of community living and to know how much I enjoyed being around a variety of people and how much I loved hosting and welcoming folks into the experience we were providing.

It didn’t take long for the campground to take shape. In fact, to me it seemed to magically appear while my younger brother and I were riding our tricycles through the mud puddles. There was my mom’s garden, my dad’s log home construction business, two ponds, a muddy river, an amazing huge rotating clothes line, a shower/bathroom/laundry facility, a pop machine, an office with a bedroom and kitchen, a workshop and a school bus that my dad renovated into a traveling bedroom/living space for our family with a triple bunk bed at the back for us kids. There were twenty or thirty places for people to camp in an open field. Most spots had electricity and a picnic table.

In short order my parents and grandparents had transformed several acres of the land into a functioning public campground and invited in the world. Of course, when you invite in the world, quite often it shows up. In 1971 that world included American draft dodgers, retirees from Florida in Airstreams, hippy renegades who stayed and worked, suburban families, a Swedish chef (that’s how I remember him), and a wide variety of other kooky characters from around the world.

When I was five and six years old I was really able to pitch in. I would greet arriving guests and let them know that I would get my parents to sign them in and then, when I knew where they were to park would show them the way and carry them a lidded garbage can for their site. I often received tips that I then used to buy pop from the vending machine.

People came and went, influencing our lives and us theirs, and then went away. Some stayed a long time. One Florida Airstream couple stayed for several months and became part of our lives. Bob taught me to wittle wood and May always welcomed my younger brother and me to their picnic table for snacks. Except one day when Kelly and I had gotten into our paints and painted each other’s faces and arms completely black. To our great astonishment, when we went to show off our accomplishment to our senior friends we were received with a huge and angry outburst and told that black kids were never to come around to their campsite. That was my first direct introduction to racism and I knew I didn’t like it. I still don’t and without that experience I might never have been able to get that particular lesson growing up in the generally inclusive, western Canadian hippy era that I did. Thanks Bob!

BC Campground.jpg
I became deeply attached to the place and when it came time to leave that land and that way of life just before my seventh birthday I was truly heartbroken. My parents separated for a short time and my mom took us to live in Kamloops near her family. My dad soon sold the land and moved down to be with us.

I lived in the Kamloops area until I was twenty-eight years old but have gone back and visited the campsite several times in my adult life. It is on an old section of the Alaska Highway near the curved bridge at Mile 47. You can’t camp there anymore and someone planted a vast lawn where my dad used to build log houses. Last summer I just parked and looked at it during our trip down to visit the ecovillage here.

My roots were in that land and in that way of life and I have been looking ever since for a certain something that I found in my early childhood at the Kiskatinaw Campground . Just this moment I am realizing that I now live about the same distance from a main travel route through a beautiful part of the world with a group of people who are looking to invite others in. Heck, we are even going to build a campground in the next few months. What do you know? Ain’t life inerestin’!?

Susie Anne BartschWork party steward, child care steward, EcoReality resident

Campground Coming

James' and Shannon's campsite on Thormanby Island in 2005
EcoReality is building a campground, slated to be in service by June 1 at the latest. In talking to various people on the island and beyond, it's obvious that the word "campground" means many different things to different people. For many a campground is somewhere you park your RV, plug it in to power, sewer and water and enjoy "roughing it" with the other 100 RV's parked there. While I've had some enjoyable moments in large campgrounds (in my youth), that is not what we're planning here at EcoReality.

It could be more specifically stated that we're building a walk in tenting area with basic outhouse facilities in a natural setting. The area we have picked out is on a gentle slope between a field and a stream with flat spots under the trees ideal for pitching tents. It's far enough from the road that traffic noise will be minimal and it's far enough from the farm houses and buildings that the only sounds you'll likely hear are the birds and the babbling stream. It's an area of the farm that is not really suited for any other agricultural use and our goal is to have people practice low impact camping in this natural forest bordering on a riparian area. Cars will not easily be able to get to within about 300 metres of the camping area so it will be a small and very pleasant hike to get to your tent.

Why build a campground? Currently we have very limited capacity for housing residents, guests, farm labour and participants of classes and workshops. In the summer months many people prefer to camp outside and in this valley there are few mosquitoes and many stars so it's a wonderful experience.

Tent graphic.gif
Designing a campground is all about meeting people's needs and in our case, maintaining the natural integrity of the forest. We plan to have a composting outhouse toilet or two (with wash stations), flat areas for pitching tents, and possibly some makeshift benches and/or tables for basic food preparation, playing cards, playing music or putting your feet up on while looking at the stars at the end of the day. An outdoor kitchen will be available near the garage building on the farm, rather than in the camping area.

I plan to test drive the camping area, possibly sooner than later...

James Cowan

Recipe of the month

The vegetarian recipes you find here feature local seasonal ingredients. Organic ingredients are encouraged, they taste better! Wherever possible, local to Salt Spring sources will be listed, just to demonstrate the abundance on this little island. You will also find that many ingredients can be easily substituted with what you may already have in your pantry. These recipes are guidelines meant to encourage kitchen creativity. (Suggested substitutions in parentheses.)

Here at EcoReality we are all fantasizing about the outdoor kitchen that we plan to create this spring. This led me to thinking about how refreshing it is to cook outdoors in general and how it seems to be an adventure in itself. What doesn't taste better when cooked over live hot coals? Below is a simple cornbread recipe that can be cooked in your oven or over a toasty campfire.

Southern Skillet Cornbread

Skillet corn bread.jpg

1/4 pound butter (vegan butter) - Avalon Dairy, Vancouver Island

2 eggs (1/2 cup applesauce, plus 1/4 tsp baking soda) - EcoReality Co-op

1 cup buttermilk or 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/2 cup milk (soy or nut milk) - Avalon Dairy, Vancouver Island

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour or whole grain blend - Salt Spring Flour Mill

1/2 teaspoon salt

add some fresh corn, diced jalapenos, cheese, or other treats if you like

for added sweetness stir in some sugar or honey to the mixture, maybe a quarter of a cup.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (175 degrees C). Put a cast iron skillet (or 8" pan") in the oven while it is heating. When the oven is pre-heated, take the skillet out, put the butter in it and put it back in the oven. When the butter has melted, pour it out of the skillet and into a mixing bowl, leaving about one tablespoon in the skillet.

Melt butter in large skillet. Remove from heat, add eggs and beat until well blended. Combine buttermilk with baking soda and stir into the egg mixture. Stir in cornmeal, flour, and salt until well blended and few lumps remain. Pour batter into the prepared skillet, taking time to make sure that it is thoroughly coated with butter before adding the batter.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a fork inserted in the center comes out clean.

If you'd like to try to cook this cornbread over a campfire, follow the directions above using a cast iron skillet with a lid. Place the skillet in the coals of the fire, heating it up just like you would in the oven and continue on with the recipe. Start checking the cornbread at about 25 minutes, looking for a nice golden brown color and for a fork to come out clean when stuck in the middle. Cooking time will definitely vary.

Recent happenings

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

Members' Teleconference 
prospective member equity, change monthly meetings, new stewardships, paying for WWOOFers, more.
Residents' Meeting 
free berries, manure swaps, paying for wood, insurance questions, more.
Members' Meeting 
leasing hayfield, farm trades, insurance stuff, free berries, more.
Residents' Meeting 
chicken discussion, transportation challenges, more.
Members' Teleconference 
budget, woodshed expansion, shelving, more.
Residents' Meeting 
berries, fire wood, Seedy Saturday, more.
Seedy Saturday 
one of the big local farming events of the year.

Upcoming events

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

Regular events

every Saturday
4PM farm tour: please bring footwear appropriate for soggy fields!
every Saturday
6PM potluck: Please let us know you're coming, so we have enough seating.
every Saturday
7:30PM movie or program: Call or check meetings to see what's playing. If nothing is planned, bring your favourite movie! (No gratuitous violence, please.)
every Sunday 
7PM: Residents' meeting, business and work around the farm. Please ask to attend; no drop-ins, please!
two Fridays before the last Saturday of each month 
7 PM, Members' teleconference. Please ask to participate; no drop-ins, please!
Friday before the last Saturday of each month 
9:30 AM through 4:30 PM: Work party! Lunch provided if you work all day. Please plan to arrive at either 9:30 or 1PM, as we can't stop in the middle of something to orient late-comers. Drop-ins at 9:30 or 1:00 are welcome! Please let us know in advance if you'll be having lunch, so we have enough food.
last Saturday of February and March
members' meeting and other monthly group activities.
last Sunday of the month (April onward)
members' meeting and other monthly group activities.
Friday after the last Saturday of each month 
7 PM, Members' teleconference. Please ask to participate; no drop-ins, please!

Specific events

Friday, 27 February 
Monthly work party: woodshed, composting toilets, outdoor kitchen, raised beds, more.
Saturday, 28 February 
Monthly members' meeting: theme: campground design, select facilitator/recorder for next quarter, consider rental request, more.

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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