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EcoReality Co-op Newsletter

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This month has seen a strange combination of intensity and quiet at EcoReality.

I'm currently undergoing enforced quiet of sorts, as I'm visiting relatives in Oregon.

Before leaving, I quickly grabbed by backup disk, only to discover that my photo library is not on it. The good news is: I'm going to change Time Machine to backup my Aperture library of irreplaceable photos when I get home. The bad news is: this is going to be a short newsletter, with a lot fewer photos. I'll make up for it next month!

We re-treat ourselves best!

Maslow's hierarchy of needs describe a priority of basic human needs.
Our 2009 spring retreat turned out to be quite surprising, a very different experience than the 2009 winter retreat. The plans James, Susie Anne, and others had carefully crafted quickly went out the door as it became clear that there were underlying fears, resentments, and other emotional content that needed processing.

The division between resident members and non-resident members became very clear during this retreat. "Where will people live?" "How will I earn a living?" "Why do I have to fill out time sheets?" were among the big questions brought up in the retreat, questions that were posed not so much in hope of answers, but questions of a more existential nature, posed as problems for someone else to solve.

Someone even said that they had been "misled." When I was a child, adults told me that any American child could grow up to be President. Through the years, I felt increasingly "misled" about this, and yet, a black son of unwed parents who never held political office until a few years ago, is now President.

But that didn't happen out of thin air. We make our own future. It doesn't just happen. It isn't supplied for us. Richard Feynman said, "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” The only person who can mislead you is yourself. And yet, perception is a particularly potent form of reality.

Sometimes, the challenges seem overwhelming. We are an impatient species. We are trained by our leaders and the media to expect quick results. We confuse wants with needs, needs with desires. "I want it now!" our inner child screams, while the clock slowly ticks.

But through it all, the hardest thing to remember is that if we all want the same thing to happen, and all work toward it, it will happen! It's when we spend much of our effort fearing what might happen, or when we resent what has happened for others, that we lose our way, and the whole thing can come tumbling down.

There's a lot of work to be done "on the ground," but there's also a lot of head and heart work to be done to better integrate non-resident members, so they can feel more secure about finding a place here — figuratively, and literally.

We made progress in mending that rift when we closed with a wonderful gifting circle. There wasn't a dry eye, and there were lots of hugs. We need to do this more often.

Solitude and escapism

After the retreat, we scattered like leaves on a fall day. The non-resident members went to their jobs and lives in the "unreal world," and others went to workshops or family visits, until Rudy, Carol, and I found ourselves the only folk sleeping at EcoReality. It was eerie, it was relaxing, it was disturbing, it was liberating, but mostly, it was lonely.

Shortly after James, Shannon, and Sienna returned, it was our turn, and Carol and I went to Oregon to be with her parents.

I watched TV for the first time in six months. It was pretty disturbing. I watched some strange thing called Wife Swap, where a woman from a family who were living sustainably in a rustic cabin traded families with a prima-dona princess, from a totally un-sustainable suburban castle. The prima-dona continually put down the rustic family, calling their house "crap" and buying useless bangles for the kids — who rejected them.

Meanwhile, the hippy wife set out to un-spoil the bratty suburban kids, put some spine in the subservient husband, and reduce their energy usage. And in between, the incessant commercials told all the viewers that the wasteful suburban life-style was good and right and something to be strived for.

So it was a wonderful surprise when, at the conclusion of the show, everyone rejected the arrogant prima-dona. Her husband said she couldn't have another cosmetic surgery. Her kids donated some of their toys to a charity. And best of all, the hippy kids welcomed a return of their mom's ways, totally rejecting the rampant consumerism forcibly injected by the prima-dona mom. I so totally identified with the rural couple, and so wanted this outcome!

What went wrong here? Didn't the show's producers know that they were going to annoy their advertisers? Is it even allowed to come to the conclusion that all the ads were about unnecessary crap? Or did the producers just play me? I'm so confused.

Maya miscarriage

I'm sad to report that one of our pregnant goats miscarried yesterday. We are all so sad, and Carol and I especially so because we were not there.

I am so grateful to the help and support of Rudy, who helped with the delivery, and Susie Anne, James, and Shannon, who have been helping with milking and post-delivery care.

Last I heard, Maya was keeping to herself and crying. Carol and I are anxious to get back to be with our girls, and to ensure that Shakti has a successful delivery.

Please forgive the stock photos. We now return you to your regularly scheduled newsletter.

Jan Steinman

Getting messy, getting clean

An Invitation to Getting Messy and Getting Clean in Communication

Jessie Susie Anne2.jpg
In the recent weeks of my life I have had an opportunity to witness myself and others in communication both with groups and individuals in a way I have not previously had. This time has provided me with a series of opportunities to tease out some of the delicate details of how I think and feel, process and share information. I certainly won’t get all that I just learned down on the page in one go but I am going to attempt to encapsulate at least some of the key concepts.

I have been away for almost two weeks at a course at the Haven Institute on Gabriola Island called Phase One Part A. During that time I had repeated opportunities to use the Haven Communication Model that gives a framework for the possibility of responsible communication with others. I am going to attempt to share the nuts and bolts of the model as I understand it right now. Why? Because it really works for me and I want to keep practicing with those who are willing to in my real day-to-day life, and because I think this model could be of service to someone out there I don’t know yet and here is one way to share it.

Components of the communication model include (though not necessarily in this order):

  1. being clear about my intention in sharing information (why I am telling you this right now is because I want to feel closer to you)
  2. articulating the context in which I am sharing the information (I haven’t slept in two days and I am not feeling very well)
  3. separating out perceptions (what I see, hear, smell, taste, touch ie I saw you tilt your head and look at me out of the corner of your eyes)
  4. from my interpretations of those sense perceptions (when you looked at me sideways with your eyes I took it to mean you thought I was not telling the truth)
  5. being clear about my feelings with the person(s) I am talking to (I feel scared right now that I am going to say this wrong and you won’t understand)
  6. being willing to check out with the other person(s) whether they agree or disagree with my interpretations of their actions, how they are feeling with me right now and any other information they may choose to share to clarify their own perceptions and interpretations (asking for and really listening to the response of the other. i.e: "I agree that I thought you were lying to me").
  7. determining if any further action is required to complete the interaction (repeating steps of the model if necessary to clarify new intentions, perceptions, interpretations, feelings and agreeing to a future action such as meeting again to talk about the issue)
  8. and then taking that action to a place of completion (here we are at our planned meeting to talk about the issue).
I am guessing that might sound a little complicated to those who haven’t broken the components of a conversation down in this way before. Yes, I agree, it can be. It can, in fact, be out and out messy in the practicing and learning of such a model. That, I think, is one of the values of going away from my regular tribe for a little while to practice with people who are not as close to home. During my time away I was able to break down the steps with the help of very able leaders who allowed and guided me and the other participants to fumble around in our attempts to communicate , make mistakes in safety and find our way out the other end to completion. During one practice session we actually had the steps written out on paper on the floor and hopped around on them to help us identify the step we were using at the time. For some of us that was easy and for some of us it was profoundly challenging and embarrassing. But it did help us learn.

And, having said all that, leaving home to practice isn’t necessary, I believe, if any one or all of the people of my community are willing to get in and get messy in the discovery and refinement of a clean way to talk to one another. Joy, trust and intimacy are just some of the possible outcomes of taking the time to learn and practice a model like this with anyone who is willing. It is a rare couple or group that doesn't stumble in relationship and clear communication. A practical tool to guide the process can be a tremendous gift in helping relationships to move forward in harmony.

That is definitely an invitation from me to you.

Susie Anne Bartsch


Luxury humanure.jpg
Welcome to the "seedy" underbelly of sustainability. No, but seriously! If you read on, and follow along, you will become acquainted with a widely underused, nutrient-rich resource in which your own crop's seeds can thrive, consuming a wealth of nutrients that, when simply disposed of as they normally are, flow away as a squandered resource.

What is this much maligned "waste" product, the true value of which we are eager to learn more about? Humanure!

To kick this discussion off, let's look again at our core values. The Ecoreality ecovillage's focus on sustainable living and food production places a strong emphasis on the design principles of Permaculture. Found topping the list of our community values, Permaculture design methods provide a framework in which we interact with the land and each other.

From Permaculture design principle #5, stated by David Holmgren as Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services, we can understand the importance of assessing the value of anything we produce in our local "environment" and find ways to enrich our production system using these as resources rather than just waste. Human beings produce solid waste that is typically deposited into a flush toilet and then sent off-site to be dealt with elsewhere — it's of no use to us that way! Using a humanure system, such as a composting toilet, we are able to make safe use of a remarkable, and truly renewable, resource!

The term "humanure" was popularized by a the book, The Humanure Handbook, written in 1994 by Joseph Jenkins (read the book online). Since that time, humanure systems have continued to evolve, even to the point where today "commercial" composting toilets are viable for homes and high use public facilities (depending on local laws).

The average human will create about one ton of compost per year!
Indeed, it must be clearly stated that human excrement contains harmful pathogens that, in its raw form, make it potentially unsafe for handling and applying to crops. The material coming from a composting toilet must be processed to the point that it's safe for handling. A humanure system is a process that uses heat and the activity of microbes to destroy pathogens, rendering it safe. This process can take between 3 months to a few years depending on factors such as local climate, temperature of the composting material, and the particular system being employed. In regions throughout the world that utilize humanure systems, however, the results are proven! Safety and viability are easily achieved.

An ecovillage, replete with medium-to-large scale human activity — and the resulting "waste" production — can indeed become a model for how to reform currently-accepted methods for dealing with this natural resource. Once widely considered a matter of disposal only, humanure systems offer a brand new way to retain a valuable source of agricultural nutrition and allow us to close yet another loop in our efforts toward (again, from the EcoReality values) "Sustainability in all its relationships."

Mark Stiffler

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.)

This week I received a gift of some lovely spring leeks from a friend's garden here on the island. Inspired by their freshness and by the other light and aromatic flavours of the season, I threw this dish together. Try it, you'll feel like spring has sprung!

Leek, Asparagus & Mushroom Saute with Quinoa

Asparagus leek recipe photo.jpg

serves 4


4 tbsp sliced almonds, toasted

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp olive oil

2 leeks, sliced on the diagonal in 1" lengths

1 lb mushrooms, whatever variety is available locally

1 lb asparagus, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

1 cup vegetable stock

1 cup water

1/2 tsp fresh thyme

grated zest and juice of 1 small lemon

3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley


Slice the almonds and gently toast in a large, dry pan for 2-3 minutes over a medium heat. Tip on to a plate and set aside.

Add quinoa, vegetable stock and water to a pan, bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer, covered for 15 minutes.

Saute mushrooms in half of the butter, olive oil and garlic. When tender, remove from the pan and set aside. Add remaining butter, olive oil and garlic to the pan and stir in the leeks and asparagus, saute until soft and silky.

To serve, mound quinoa on plate, spoon vegetables over the top and sprinkle with almonds and parsley.

Osha Roller

Recent sightings

Here is a reviewed list of Internet resources and articles of particular significance to EcoReality and our values, vision, mission, and purpose.

Have you come across a link that you think might be of interest to readers of this newsletter? Send it to the editor, together with a few words about why it is important and how it relates to EcoReality, and we'll try to include it in the next newsletter.

More categorized and reviewed links are available via our reviewed links page.

A resurgence of frugality 
In this New York Times feature article, Matt Richtel covers how people in all walks of life are embracing the economic downturn as justification for frugal ways. "The gleefully frugal happily seek new ways to economize and take pride in outsaving the Joneses... This is a chance for us to re-examine what’s important."
All about goats 
Everything you ever wanted to know about raising goats, from acquisition through kidding. Particularly of interest to anyone who remembers Stanley Toggin is the section on why you don't want a buck as a pet.
Food Rebellions: 7 Steps to Solving the Food Crisis 
A silent tsunami is coming, with billions of people soon to go hungry, due in large part to the "brown revolution" of fossil-fuel-based agriculture, dominated by a few huge multi-national corporations. This article outlines seven steps necessary to solve this food crisis, which will soon hit both the developed and developing world, including #5: Promote a return to smallholder farming [which is] more productive than large-scale industrial farms.
Further Evidence of the Influence of Energy on the U.S. Economy 
I've been saying for some time now that the failure of energy resources to grow (a.k.a. "peak oil") is directly responsible for the financial meltdown now occurring throughout the world. Scholarly papers are now saying the same thing.

Jan Steinman

Next EcoReality work party

Friday, April 24th

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

Recent happenings

Past calendar.jpg
Here are some highlights of recent meetings and events. Click any entry for details.
Residents' Meeting 
review retreat planning, car sharing, finances, work parties, projects, more.
Annual General Meeting 
Annual report 2009, election of stewards, dividend declared.
Members' Meeting 
changes to values, vision, and mission, Permaculture class cancelled, field lease agreement, more.
Residents' Meeting 
building beds, getting manure, completing EFP, planting willow, more.
Residents' Meeting 
water management and irrigation, woodshed issues, goats & garlic, more.
Members' Teleconference 
Rex Wyler visit, more.

Upcoming events

Busy calendar.jpg
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, 24 April : Monthly work party: nothing specific planned this month, but there's always stuff to do!

Sunday, 26 April 
monthly members' meeting: theme: humanure, review revised 2008 financials, review annual dividend, Diana Leafe Christian event, Rex Wyler event Paul Manly event, United Church retreat, SFU field trip, provisional membership changes, more.
Sunday 31 May 
Monthly members' meeting: theme: teaching Permaculture

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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