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EcoReality Co-op Newsletter

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It's been a long, long month at EcoReality. In fact, it seems as long as two months... wait, it has been two months!

Sometimes, life just goes too fast to record in newsletters. I hope you missed us last month — we missed telling you all the wonderful things happening here!

It's all relative

Carol's father, Matt, enjoys a feeding the goats.
As Dorothy said, "There's no place like home." But if you forgot your ruby slippers and are inconveniently located 500 or 5,000 kilometres away from home, a close second is having your family visit you.

Carol's parents, Matt and Hazel, and her eldest sister, Barbara, travelled north from Oregon to visit EcoReality in early July. They had visited EcoReality Lite, our 4.8 acre "starter ecovillage" in the horse country just north of the village of Ganges, but this was their first time visiting our new location in the Fulford Valley. They seemed to really enjoy their short visit, feeding goats, going on walks, and just hanging out for a few days in our little slice of paradise.

Espi, Jan's niece, on her first ferry ride in BC.
Just a couple days after Carol's family left, my mother Shirley, sister Gretchen, and niece Espi came for an extended visit. They took the train from Toronto, which itself was quite an experience. Gretchen and I are ten years apart, so it was interesting reminiscing about our life on the family farm, with so many different, yet similar memories. Our experiences in the garden or with the goats were similar, but the goats had different names, for example.

Later, Carol's younger brother Joe visited for a few days, with his teen-aged son, William. Seeing the stars at night and breathing fresh air were mentioned fondly by Joe, who lives in Portland. "It's my vacation — it's all good!" was how he responded when I asked him what he wanted to do.

Community brings many of the issues that family brings, but with a different flavour. You're stuck with your family, for better or worse. The crazy uncle with liquor on his breath at 10AM who leans over and whispers dirty jokes to you, the whiny younger sibling who is always telling bad stories about you, the parental ways of "power over" that we learn of necessity for our own safety — these sorts of things are things we would not put up with in community, but we have to in family. And yet, perhaps family should teach us something about community, that all we have to do is to seek the best in each other in order to see the best in each other.

Eco-living tour brings over 200

A group of Permaculture students tour EcoReality during the Eco-Living Tour with the help of Priya, Shakti, and Maya.
One of my excuses for a late newsletter is that I was teaching an intensive, two-week Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course on Vancouver Island when the last month's newsletter deadline whizzed by in mid-August like a Cooper's Hawk after a songbird. As always, the PDC was an incredible, life-changing experience, both for the students, and for me and my fellow instructors. The class is still in touch with each other via email, and we even held a re-union a few weeks after graduation!

But in the middle of the class, on the only day off, I rushed home to help others at EcoReality take part in the Salt Spring Island Eco-Living Tour.

For those who are not familiar, the Eco-Living Tour is a self-guided tour of a number of Salt Spring home sites that have prominent ecological features. In the past, this has been called the Eco-Home Tour, and primarily featured things like the gorgeous $400,000 rammed-earth home perched on mountain-top, with off-grid solar electricity and rainwater collection. We had few of those "wow" features, and neither did at least one other site on the tour, Blue Raven Farm, a Permaculture farm run by Brandon and Patti Bauer. So the organizer changed the name of the tour to reflect a broader spectrum of "eco-ness," and encouraged us to talk both about our eco-plans for the future, and about the social organization that allows us to inhabit this wonderful site.

So we set up hand-drawn posters — one group that explained a bit about Permaculture, and another that documented a typical week at EcoReality — and we periodically took people on garden tours and took them to visit with the goats and chickens and explained small-scale biodiesel production. At the end of the day, we took a small group on a grand tour with the goats.

People seemed genuinely interested in what we're trying to do. They'd seen the rammed earth and rainwater catchment, and wanted to see something different. I don't think we disappointed anyone by not being as finished as some other places on the tour. We estimate that we had over 200 people come through EcoReality that day, from as far as Alberta and Oregon, with many visiting from Vancouver, Victoria or other islands. Several people have contacted us since then, seeking more information or desiring collaboration of some kind.

Everyone living at EcoReality took part in some way, whether preparing, planning, drawing posters, hospitality services, or conducting tours and talking to the public, and we all thought it a great success!

Vancouver Permaculture students enthusiastic over EcoReality

James Richardson's Vancouver Permaculture class checks out the biodiversity in a hedgerow at EcoReality, dwarfed by 705 metre (2,000 foot) Bruce Peak.
In September, we welcomed the opportunity to take part in another PDC, this time, on our site.

Carol and I met James Richardson at a PDC in July 2006, and we've been in touch many times since then. He organized an urban PDC in Vancouver this year, arranged around the schedules of people who can't take two or three weeks off to attend an intensive residential course. James's PDC happens on the weekends, and EcoReality was honoured to be asked to host one weekend of this eight-week course.

One thing the residents at EcoReality love to do is host events, and this was no exception. We cobbled-up a solar-heated wash station for the outhouse, fixed four meals, mostly from home-grown ingredients, chauffeured the fourteen students (plus James) to and from the ferry and up to Seven Ravens, taught three modules from the Permaculture canon, and conducted a work party with participants' choice of five activities.

Permaculture students check out a riparian area at EcoReality.
The first morning, the students went to visit our neighbour Michael Nichols' eco-forestry operation at Seven Ravens Farm. Participants were amazed at Michael's 500-year plan — most humans seem incapable of thinking beyond the next quarter, let alone beyond the lifetimes of anyone they'll ever meet! He impressed us with his careful attention to detail, how he carefully places trees in a way that allows a healthy succession, how he carefully prunes for highest value of the resulting wood. Before ending the morning with a delicious home-made chili, we harvested almonds from a 60-tree plantation he's established.

Back at EcoReality after lunch, Shannon covered soil management, including types and classifications, nutrient cycling and soil ecology, and assessment and amendment techniques. Later in the afternoon, I gave a presentation on sustainable energy systems and coping strategies for the coming energy decline, and an evening presentation on "sustainable invisible structures," such as finance, ownership, and governance systems that go beyond what the banks, lawyers, and politicians insist we must do.

The Permaculture class takes a break to enjoy some afternoon snacks, grown and made at EcoReality.
The next morning, Brandon Bauer from Blue Raven Farm took participants on a walk along the "edges" of EcoReality, the hedgerows and streams where ecosystems overlap and interact. He explained the notion of "guilds," a community of mutually-supportive plants and animals, and perennial food systems. His encyclopedic knowledge of plants and his keen observational skills were appreciated by all.

In the afternoon, participants worked on five different "hands-on" activities, each stewarded by an instructor. We picked haws from the native Hawthorne trees, gleaned hay from already-harvested hayfields for use as mulch and compost, processed fruit for winter storage, harvested Jerusalem Artichokes and made compost from the tops and goat manure, and prepared raised beds for winter by cover-cropping.

At our re-cap a few days later, all of us were charged up and enthused at how things had gone, citing the richness of education provided, personal satisfaction with tasks done, efficient setup, strong co-operation, and the use of camping and the classroom as things that went particularly well. We also identified some things that we wanted to do better next time, such as better co-ordination with organizers and more space and time for non-organized activities ("hanging out" time).

Of course, it helped that participants were effusive in their enthusiasm and thanks, expressing particular satisfaction with the largely home-grown, organic, home-cooked meals and hospitality, as well as the learning opportunities.

I think we're all really hooked on teaching Permaculture — look for more educational events in the future!

Starhawk is coming!

20090911 Starhawk Ad.jpg
EcoReality is honoured and delighted to bring Starhawk to Salt Spring Island for her talk, "Making the Transition."

Author or co-author of eleven books, the prominent earth and social justice activist warns of tremendous challenges that are about to impact humanity through climate change and peak energy, and claims, “Our energy systems, our food growing systems, our patterns of work, socializing and play — all need to change now, not sometime in the vague future.”

But this is not your typical doom-n-gloom talk. Starhawk sees a path toward a less energy-intense future happening, and brings the message of change. “One of the most powerful responses to this challenge has been the movement toward re-localization: taking root again in community.”

When petroleum is so expensive that food from California and Iowa can no longer feed Salt Spring, when cheap plastic crap from China can no longer supply our need for essential tools, when international financial markets stop functioning, globalization will reverse and we must be ready to care for each other in our local community.

I'm currently reading Truth or Dare, Starhawk's powerful treatise into the nature of power. In it, she describes how, some thousands of years ago, the practice of "power within" and "power with others" as practised by matrilineal clans and tribes broke down into the patriarchal "power over" we know so well today, leading to hierarchy, separation, alienation, control, and warfare as a way of life, resulting in a planet spinning out of energetic balance, heading for overshoot and collapse.

And yet, there is a way forward. “How do we make the transition into a just, sustainable and abundant world?” Starhawk asks, and she boldly speaks truth to power in this thought-provoking talk. A book signing will follow the talk.

I hope to see many of you there! Tickets are available at Salt Spring Books, 104 McPhillips Avenue (across from Saltspring Roasting Company), 250.537.2812, or from EcoReality.

Jan Steinman

Preserve and Conserve

Adapted from The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest, by Carol W. Costenbader

A few months ago I posted a recipe here for raspberry jam. It was the kind of recipe that calls for doing a bunch of stewing and canning over a very hot stove with lots of hot, steamy water. Our weather lately has me looking to be anywhere but in front of a hot stove. So here's a recipe that will help you to save some of those plump and juicy blackberries for cooler weather without breaking a sweat. You do have to heat the agar agar and honey, so that's why I say low-cook instead of no-cook, but making jam with agar agar takes away the need to use both gelatin and sugar, so I think it's worth just that bit of added warmth.

By the way, I recently learned that a full freezer takes less energy to keep cool than an empty one. So making freezer jam is delicious and energy efficient at the same time. What a great way to conserve!


Low-cook Blackberry Freezer Jam

makes about 4.5 pints

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 cups washed, hulled, and crushed berries, at room temperature (about 1 quart whole)

1 cup cold water

2 tablespoons agar agar

1/4 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover

In a mixing bowl, stir the lemon juice into the fruit. Set aside. Next, place the water in a small saucepan and stir in the agar flakes. Wait 1 minute and then, without further stirring, bring the agar to a simmer over medium-low heat. Once it's simmering, stir for 2-5 minutes, or until the agar is completely dissolved. Stir the honey into the agar. Use a heatproof rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the pot. Pouring with one hand and stirring with the other, add the agar mixture to the fruit (don't add the fruit to the agar). Continue stirring until combined. Taste at this time and add more honey, up to 3 tablespoons, if desired. Pour the jam into half-pint jars, yogurt containers, etc. leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Cap and seal. Let cool in the refrigerator for 10-12 hours before freezing. Label and freeze the jam for up to 6 months. When ready to use, thaw the jam in the refrigerator. It will keep about 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

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.

Starhawk's Tangled Web 
A wealth of resources on activism, goddess/paganism, Permaculture, and nature, Starhawk's personal site includes many essays, articles, letters and reports from the font lines of earth and social activism.
Gaia College 
Gaia College seeks to be a global community of educators, professionals and students, teaching, working, and learning in the areas of holistic land management and environmentally sustainable technologies. They feature online, classroom, and custom programs in sustainable topics, primarily horticulturally related.
Let Elizabeth Speak! 
A petition to allow Green Party leader Elizabeth May to speak in the national televised debates, as she was allowed to last time.
Roller-Crimper Gallery 
A selection of tractor attachments designed to roll down and kill cover crops without herbicides, leaving their biomass as mulch for a no-till crop to follow. From the Rodale Institute.
Getting Started With Cover Crops 
"Cover crops offer effective tools for protecting your soil from erosion," starts this excellent page from the Rodale Institute.
Hot To Make Kefir 
A number of ways to make fermented milk drinks, along with a number of recipes for using the kefir you produce.
University of Guelph Cheese Site 
All you ever wanted to know about cheese making, including basic overview, analytical processes, milk requirements and treatment, acidification and coagulation, ripening, recipes, alternate technologies, whey use, and much more — a complete college course in cheese making!
Apple Luscious Organic Orchards 
Salt Spring's own Harry Burton founded the annual Apple Festival, held Sunday, October 4th, this year. EcoReality residents will be volunteering to help make this one of the best festivals ever! Come visit many local organic orchards and taste 350 different varieties of apple, if you can!

Jan Steinman

Recent happenings

Past calendar.jpg
Here are some highlights of recent meetings and events. Click any entry for details.
Residents' Meeting 
non-member time contributions, compost meetings, farm meetings, more.
Paula Baker-Laporte 
Paula gave an inspiring talk on "Building Biology," how buildings must function within the sphere of life, just as other systems must.
Members' Meeting 
good standing discussion, consequences, directors rule change, trust fund, more.
Residents' Meeting 
discontinue teleconferences, group process agreements, trust fund, redemption requests, directors rule change, more.
Residents' Meeting 
communication model, directors rule change, trade plumbing for trailer use, grant application, consequences, UBC class, good standing, more.
Residents' Meeting 
process and communications, trust fund, redemption request, more.
Residents' Meeting 
change residents' meetings to Mondays starting in October, action plan for recruiting, WWOOF FAQ addition, more.
Members' Meeting 
irrigation pump repair, Starhawk, redemption requests, finance and membership plan, conflict resolution, confidentiality, compassionate communication, more.
Residents' Meeting 
agreement making process, plumbing for trailer use, more.
Residents' Meeting 
finance and membership plan, redemption request letter, conflict resolution, confidentiality, compassionate communication, email protocol, Richardson PDC, Starhawk, more.
Residents' Meeting 
Richardson PDC, finance and membership plan, email protocol, labour policy, residents meeting moved to Monday in October, Starhawk, more.
James Richardson's Permaculture Class 
James Richardson brought 14 Permaculture students to EcoReality for a weekend of learning.
Residents' Meeting 
email protocol, labour policy, dangerous gates, Richardson PDC recap, visitor lodging, 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! Please call in advance during the winter months, as we may make other plans if no one is scheduled for a tour.
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.)
New.gif every Monday 
9:30AM: Residents' meeting, business and work around the farm. Please ask to attend; no drop-ins, please! (Was every Tuesday in the past.)
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.
last Sunday of the month
members' meeting and other monthly group activities.

Specific events

Thursday, 1 October
Reclaiming founder Starhawk presents a talk on Making the Transition
Climate change calls us to make an enormous transition very rapidly — changing our economy, our energy systems, our food growing systems, our patterns of work, socializing and play — and doing it now, not sometime in the vague future. One of the most powerful responses to this challenge has been the movement toward relocalization: taking root again in community. The Transition Initiative movement, which started in Britain, is one inspiring example: encouraging people to organize their own communities to plan for a creative descent into a less energy-intensive future. What are the strengths of this movement, and in what ways could it be even more powerful and effective? How do we make the transition into a just, sustainable and abundant world?
Fulford Hall
$25 advance (at Salt Spring Books), $30 at the door

Starhawk photo by Bert Meijer.

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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