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EcoReality Co-op Newsletter

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Jen Yip and Caroline Hedin help James (background) mend a section of fence.
It's been an up and down month at EcoReality.

There's a lot of projects around here that are "90% complete." Why is it that projects don't get done? Why is it that, no matter how much time you allocate to a task, there's always the last 10% of the project that takes the other 90% of the time and money allocated?

I think it has something to do with relativity — wasn't it Einstein who noted that the faster you go, the smaller you get in the direction of travel, making it impossible to ever actually reach your target? Well, I added that last bit, but perhaps Einstein would agree. He did note, when asked to explain relativity, that a minute sitting on a hot stove seemed a lot longer than an hour spent sitting with a pretty girl.

Hot stoves and pretty girls

And we've had plenty of both this past month!

While not actually sitting on it, a stove did present a challenge, as our not-quite-dry firewood and damped burning deposited excess creosote that decided it wanted to help heat the house. Luckily, it was small and easily controlled, but talk about time dilation! It was out in a short while, but it felt like forever, as we stood around outside, watching sparks fly. Luckily, the weather had been wet, and the sparks were relatively few, and we got away with an inexpensive lesson.

Shandel Brown removes tape from cardboard in preparation for sheet mulching.
On the other hand, the visit by three students from Quest University in Squamish seemed to go by faster than a flash fire in a chimney, even though Chandel Brown, Caroline Hedin, and Jen Yip stayed with us for few days. During this time, they took part in a fantastic work party that had intense pockets of activity spread all over the homesite area, ably co-ordinated by work party steward Susie Anne Bartsch. The Quest co-ed trio also took part in our Saturday meetings and potluck. We're deeply grateful for their help and their freely expressed joy at being here, and hope they'll return when they can.

Project progress

We also continued to work on the cane berries (see last newsletter) so kindly given to us by Harry Burton, finally getting them all in the ground. Perennial food bearing plants are so important in Permaculture, it it's been deeply satisfying to have this start. But the support wires still need to go up... the berries will wait, and won't need something to climb on for some time.

We did some more "tune ups" on the fence, which was substantially completed long ago, but which needed little niggly bits here and there where the fence goes through a building, or a gate hung, or a support post at a corner. Again, the trio from Quest University proved to be enthusiastic apprentices to our intern Yun Kang, who together with James, made short work of some of these parts. And yet, there's bit here and there that continue to need attention before we can be assured the deer won't be harvesting our hard-won garden triumphs.

Sheet on the lawn!

Susie Anne and Carol bundle cardboard that has been de-taped in preparation for "sheet mulching," a technique for turning lawn into garden.
We also received a whole pickup load of cardboard from Dorise Sweetnam, who has just moved to Salt Spring, and thus had a lot of packing material to contribute. We took the odd bits of tape off them (easier now than after they're buried), and started building raised beds on the soon to be "former lawn." Also known as "lasagne gardening," this is a favourite technique of Permaculturists, because it's a design element that supports many functions.

First off, it kills grass. Anyone considering turning lawn into food is faced with the problem of getting rid of the grass. Do you plough it under, killing earthworms and destroying soil structure? Or (heaven forbid) do you do the evil industrial farming thing, and lay down chemical herbicide? Or, do you simply cover the grass long enough to "suffocate" it, so it goes away from lack of sunlight?

By burying the grass under cardboard, the soil structure remains intact, including earthworms and the microbiota that is so important to healthy soil. The grass slowly composts in-place, enriching the surrounding soil. The cardboard itself hangs around long enough to kill the grass, but then composts rapidly, contributing organic matter to the soil building process.

One challenge of sheet mulching is that you have to put something on top. This means importing soil, which can be disruptive and expensive. But we have a ready resource in the unfinished "landscape feature" near the classroom, which even after months of "mining," still has a lot of silt and sea soil left for us to use in various areas.

Woodshed wonders

Yun Kang and Rudy build truss rafters for the new woodshed.
In other news, the woodshed has been making steady progress, with Chris Walker directing a small (very small) army of helpers who built and installed trusses on a post and beam frame, all made from local or salvaged materials.

So the trusses went up, and mill slabs were peeled and ready to go up, we had a line on some salvaged sheet metal roofing, and it looked like it would be done soon. Then a pickup truck arrived with "CRD Building Inspector" on the door. Uh oh.

We had talked about this possibility. Would we actually need a building permit for something with a dirt floor, open on one side, and gapped siding on the other two sides that the wind whips through? Prior to starting the project, I had gone to the Capital Regional District (CRD) website and tried to do some research. Surely, building codes are an important aspect of public health and safety, but no one would be living in our woodshed. It seemed the biggest "public health and safety" aspect of a woodshed was its contents, rather than its construction.

The CRD website was no help — it costs $200 do download the building code, which was about as much as we had into materials at that point. It's been said that "Ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law," but surely they could make it easier and less expensive to comply! When I mentioned this to the building inspector, he said, "Go to the library!" Again, in the Internet age, it doesn't seem quite right that we must burn fuel to drive into town to do research that could be accomplished for free from any laptop computer.

So now we're looking into alternatives, and will at least have to go to the building inspector's office with drawings. We can cut the structure up into two smaller woodsheds of under 107 square feet each, and not be subject to a permit. This will mean a somewhat less stable, somewhat less safe structure — is this the message CRD really intends to send? You'll be hearing more of this adventure in future newsletters, I'm certain!

Yes, an "up and down" month, it's been. The woodshed went (mostly) up, and the cardboard went (mostly) down. And both these things — and many others — continue to demand our time and attention, long after we thought they'd be done. All you can do sometimes is to keep plugging away at it!

Jan Steinman, Communication Steward


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A movement and a rest, a movement and a rest...

It is easy to become overwhelmed with all there is to do in a day. It takes a certain amount of willingness and practice to stop the action and notice the world around, to be in the in-between spaces, knowing that we can and will return to the doing again.

I once trained with a woman, Judith Koltai, in a practice she called authentic movement. One of her teachings involved guiding us to the noticing of our movements and then our rests. We practiced with her, coming to full rest before starting into action again. At critical moments that teaching reemerges for me, reminding me that it isn’t all about action. Without the rests we exhaust ourselves much more quickly than with.

Today is one of those days where I have been called to the recognition for the need to come to full stop. At 3am this morning I awoke, aware that if I attempted to continue at the pace that I had maintaining for several weeks I would likely become quite ill if I wasn’t already. Taking all my considerations in at that time, I got up and wrote an email note to my community to request that they take my young daughter into their care for today so I could rejuvenate myself and thus be able to better discern what the next right movements would be.

So far I have slept, read, ate, filled out a form that profoundly affects my life and had it mailed, read, slept, folded a big pile of laundry and put it all away, read, slept, sewed a hole in my pants, read and am now writing.

So why bother writing about that? Everybody knows that we need rest, right? We know that we need time for maintenance and self-care and reflection. Living in community as we are here at EcoReality, it is possible to forget the need for significant breaks and to think that if I just keep going I will be able to get a little more done. Not everyone here is prone to living that way but I am certainly predisposed to it and have to watch myself to ensure that my doing does not outweigh my being.

Here is what I see as the tricky bit. Everyone here has full lives; work to complete, children, animals, farm tasks, meetings, repairs, planning, cooking, cleaning etc. If one of us stops to rest it can have quite a profound effect on the whole. Today people have had to alter their plans to incorporate my daughter in and to factor my contributions out. They have probably tried to keep the house quiet. They have shouldered some of my burden.

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Here is the amazing bit to me. The people in my household said yes to my request, understanding, I believe, the incredible importance and need for periods of restful quiet, knowing that I will return their support with support, knowing in fact, that sometimes having one person resting can rejuvenate the whole group. At least I hope they know this and I sense that they do.

I used to value my doingness vastly above my restful ness. I actually hurt myself with that approach to life. I made more mistakes than I might have if I had known to value spaciousness and time for reflection. As I stay in this practice of living I recognize that I am seeing the need sooner and moving to restfulness rather than waiting until crisis arises and I am forced to lie down. Today I chose to lie down before I fell down. I can now choose to take this practice a bit further to see if I can create in a moment by moment way the balance of the productive and the well.

And on that note, I think I will take a break. Namaste.

Susie Anne Bartsch

Marisha Auerbach and Herb-n-Wisdom

Marisha Auerbach.jpg
This month we were hoping to have Marisha Auerbach up from the Olympia area of Oregon to engage the Salt Spring Community with one of her talks on “How to Grow All Your Own Produce in 2 ½ Years: An (r)Evolution Disguised as Organic Gardening.” Unfortunately the stars didn’t line up in our favor so we will have to wait until June when she will lead a session of the Permaculture Design Course offered on-site at EcoReality.

Marisha Auerbach has been practicing, studying, and teaching permaculture in the Pacific Northwest for the past decade. She is involved with many communities around Cascadia including Lost Valley, Tryon Life Community Farm, and City Repair. As an itinerant permaculture designer, Marisha calls the greater Olympia area home, especially the Wild Thyme Farm, a 150-acre permaculture demonstration farm and FSC certified forest in the northern Willapa Hills.

Marisha encourages sustainable futures through sharing knowledge with others on a variety of topics including: permaculture, polyculture gardening, flower and gem essences, local economics, community building, ethnobotany, herbalism, edible landscape design, and organic gardening among others. She is enthusiastic about creating perennial forage systems and building local community as a response to peak oil.

Marisha's interest in local economics and creating useful items using her resources has manifested as several projects: past work on local community marketplaces in Olympia, Queen Bee Flower and Gem Essences, Herb'n Wisdom for permaculture consulting and herbal products, and Growing Greetings which produces plantable greeting cards and other products. Marisha has a small plant nursery, which focuses on edible flowers and other gourmet specialty food items.

Marisha graduated from the Evergreen State College in 1998 where she focused on ethnobotany, ecological agriculture, and sustainability studies. She continues to interact with students from the Evergreen State College by offering internships.

Marisha Permaculture class.jpg
One of the many presentations that Marisha offers is a 2 hour presentation on “How to Grow All Your Own Produce in 2 ½ Years.” This workshop offers an opportunity to create cultural change through gardening. In this presentation she explains that in the Maritime Northwest, it is possible to grow all our own food year-round with minimal time required to establish a system and limited effort.

Marisha explores some of her favorite gardening projects through slides and philosophy. She discusses how you can work towards self-reliance in produce if you have property to work with as well as guerrilla tactics to grow more food and flowers in your greater area.

The current food system is facing increased costs and decreased nutrition due to the distance that it is transported. As the costs of petroleum rises, this sort of system can provide an example to support our evolution to a more sustainable society. Marisha specializes in converting properties to perennial forage systems. A perennial forage system functions much like a natural ecological system, and produces year-round yields with minimal work. Marisha provides most of her diet and income from her garden and has surplus produce, herbal products, and crafts to give away and trade for other supplies.

Marisha also offers a variety of courses on permaculture, garden design, permaculture orchard design, integrating mushrooms in the landscape, creating multi-functional hedgerows, perennial forage systems, saving seeds as an activist practice, winter gardening, putting up the harvest, building community through gardening, edible flowers, and many more. Please check out her website, Herb'n Wisdom, for more information.

Justin Roller, Guest Speaker Steward

Next EcoReality work party

Friday, March 27th

Chain Gang.jpg
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) (How to get to EcoReality.)

Looking forward to another great work party!

Susie Anne Bartsch, work party steward

Recipe of the month

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Here on the farm live two lovely female Nubian goats named Maya and Shakti. These ladies just so happen to be pregnant, so we should have some sweet little kids to ooh and awe over this spring, as well as an abundance of their mamas' milk. None of us have ever made cheese before, so I thought now would be a great time to start experimenting.

Being that we are largely a vegetarian community, it is important to us to not use rennet, a traditional cheese-making ingredient that is derived from the stomach lining of calves. There are vegetarian rennet sources out there, which are derived from non-gmo fungi, so we will definitely be trying those out. But to keep it simple here in the beginning, I decided to try out the most basic homemade cheese that requires only a source of acid, in this case white vinegar. The acid can be derived from vinegar, lemon juice or even leftover whey from previous cheese making. When the acid is added to boiling milk, it immediately separates the curds from the whey and you are well on your way to making cheese. I was amazed at how simple and satisfying this process was.

I perused at least ten different recipes for making paneer and each one had a slightly different technique. Here is what I did (I'm thinking that this is not an exact science and all of the different methods would work.) I used a half gallon of organic, full fat cow's milk, since that is what I had available. The end result is a versatile mild cheese, with a slightly crumbly consistency that can be pressed and used just like tofu since it doesn't melt, or left soft and used like ricotta. I'm looking forward to trying this with fresh goat milk, mmm!

Homemade Paneer (or Vinegar Cheese)


makes a small block of cheese, scale this recipe to fit the amount of milk you have


1/2 gallon organic milk (I used pasteurized organic cow's milk, although the milk does not need to be pasteurized)

1/8 cup white vinegar

(some people add a bit of cream to add to the creaminess of the cheese, but it's not necessary)


Slowly bring your milk to a boil in a heavy bottomed pan (do not use aluminum).

Once the milk has reached a gentle boil, remove from heat and add 1/8 cup of white vinegar. Consensus amongst the recipes I read is that white vinegar makes a better tasting cheese than apple cider vinegar. (You can also use lemon juice.)

The curds will immediately begin to separate from the whey. If the whey does not become very translucent, add a little more vinegar and stir. Allow the separated milk to sit for about ten minutes. This gives the curds time to solidify.

Line a colander with cheese cloth and place it over a large bowl. Pour the curds and whey slowly into the colander. Reserve the whey for later use (you can use it to cook pasta or rice). Tightly tie the corners of the cheesecloth together and squeeze all of the moisture out of the curds. You can also simply hang the cheese for about 2 hours to drain all of the moisture.

At this point you can either use the paneer as is, in it's soft crumbly form, or you can press it to form a more tofu-like consistency. I decided to press mine. Some people have special containers and weights just for this job, I used what I had around. So I carefully pressed it into a small square ceramic container and then rested a jar full of millet directly on top of the cheese, it was just heavy enough for the job! It rested in the fridge over night, and in the morning... voila, cheese!

Osha Roller

Recent happenings

Past calendar.jpg
Here are some highlights of recent meetings and events. Click any entry for details.
Residents' Meeting 
monthly Victoria trips, car sharing research, Harry's berries, more.
Members' Teleconference 
Guest Speaker Stewardship, new provisional membership requirements, monthly Victoria trips, 2009 spring retreat planning, more.
Residents' Meeting 
picking up manure, African apprentice, lawn splooge, firewood challenges, work party, Harry's berries, car sharing, members' weekend planning, more.
Members' Meeting 
agreed 2009 ops budget (YES!), visitors and speakers, child care policy, hosting events, more.
Residents' Meeting 
splooge update, manure pickup, project stewardships, woodshed decisions, more.
Members' Teleconference 
road buffer project, spring retreat planning, child care policy, resurrected "question of the week" email dialogue, more.
Residents' Meeting 
debrief Chris & Kate visit, livestock ownership issues, African apprentice, drawblade purchase, more.
Residents' Meeting 
soil test plan project, site recycling plan, ING meeting planning, willow gathering for road buffer, woodshed conundrum, more.

Upcoming events

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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
5PM 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 Sunday of each month 
7 PM, Members' teleconference. Please ask to participate; no drop-ins, please!
Friday before the last Sunday 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.
New.gif last Sunday of the month
members' meeting and other monthly group activities. (Was last Saturday in the past.)
Friday after the last Sunday of each month 
7 PM, Members' teleconference. Please ask to participate; no drop-ins, please!

Specific events

Friday, 27 March 
Monthly work party: nothing specific planned this month, but there's always stuff to do!
Sunday, 29 March 
Annual General Meeting and monthly members' meeting: theme: livestock, external auditor, finance report, stewards' reports, annual dividend, member applications from Susie Anne Bartsch and Morris Lamrock, field lease agreement, provisional membership changes, more.
Sunday, 29 March through Saturday, 4 April 
2009 spring retreat: heart circles, review values, strategizing and brainstorming on recruiting, debt, child care, resource ownership, profit centres, building, talent show, hikes, much more. This is open to anyone who will be able to attend most or all of the sessions; contact us if you want to attend.
Wednesday, 1 April 
Island Natural Growers monthly meeting: hosted at EcoReality this month. Farm tour at 5PM, potluck at 6PM, business meeting at 7PM.
Sunday 26 April 
Monthly members' meeting: theme: humanure

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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