EcoReality Co-op Newsletter
It's been an interesting month at EcoReality.
Water, water, everywhere...
In a world rife with water conflict, EcoReality is blessed with a seemingly unending source in our two streams that come from springs on the flank of Bruce Peak. The "seemingly unending" part often extends into late June, making planting crops problematic when you can't get out in a field without a swimsuit, or at least waders. The "seemingly unending" water turns our fields into big sponges, slowly releasing their burden over many weeks after the rain has stopped. We had over a week without rain recently, but still went "squish, squish" when we took the goats for their morning walk.
There are ways around this, right? The traditional way is optimized for industrial farming, and involves digging deep trenches and putting in miles of perforated polyvinyl-chloride (PVC) drainage pipe, which is manufactured using precious fossil fuel and causes the most pollution per unit of production of any form of plastic. So what are we to do, if we don't want to bury a bunch of poisonous material in the ground?
We partially ploughed the east field on-countour in a way that left the furrows un-filled, and the lands sitting on top of the ground. This results in a series of alternating swales and berms, or high and low spots. Now the swales can collect and hold water, while the berms can dry out. So instead of having one huge sponge that we can't get into much before July, we have alternating areas where we can put wet and dry crops.
Using this technique, we planted over 4,000 cloves of garlic in this field, mulching it with hay gleaned from the other fields. Modern mechanized hay harvesting leaves vast amount of hay in the field, spoiled by extended contact with water, which grows mould and other fungus, making it unsuitable for animal feed. But we don't care — it's already on its way to becoming soil! Plus, it's lost much of its seed, meaning it isn't going to re-grow as hay on top of our garlic.
This mulch helps hold moisture on top of the berm, and also bathes the crop in a slow-release of nutrients from the slowly decomposing hay — sort of like a slow-acting, in-place compost pile.
We ran out of garlic, and so sowed birds-foot trefoil into the rest of the worked field. This legume puts bio-available nitrogen into the soil, while sprouting an attractive yellow flower. The goats will love it as forage, but since it is so good for the soil, we may use it as a cover-crop, and let it self-seed and self-mulch.
Mushroom seekers visit EcoRealitySalt Spring Community Education was having trouble finding a good spot for a field trip. So we invited them to tromp around at EcoReality until they found what they were looking for. Instructor Alex Olchowecki took questions in good-nature, joking that the first question from his students was, "Is it edible?"
"What's with that?" Alex wondered in mock amazement, "If I were teaching a bird class, would people look at a crow or a robin or a sparrow, and ask, 'But is it edible?'"
Despite threatening weather, the class found and identified many specimens (some of which actually were edible), and had a good morning tromping around the property.
Work, work, work!
We've had many work parties in the past, but this past month, we've been doing quite a bit of electrical work. The unfinished "barn" section of the classroom building had but one bare light bulb in the center, and no electrical outlets. We can't make biodiesel without a 240 volt, 30 amp circuit, so we took a section of wall out in the garage in order to get at the distribution panel, and ran 10/3 Romex about 70 feet to where we want to make biodiesel. We also mounted four florescent lighting fixtures with a total of ten 32 watt bulbs — now we can actually see what we're doing in there! Still left to do is a 40 amp circuit for an outdoor kitchen we're planning to get together before the two-week residential Permaculture Design Course we're planning for June 2009. And we also mounted ceiling fans in both houses, to spread the wood heat around better.
Besides ploughing, planting garlic, planting cover crop, mulching, and electrical work, the rain caught us before we got our fire wood in this year. It appears that wood heat was just for looks before, as the existing wood shed doesn't even hold three cords, and it will probably take 8-10 cords to heat both houses. So we've got a bunch of rounds bucked-up, drying under tarps, some of it for late spring, but most of it not seasoned enough before next winter's heating season.
Our next big project is fencing. It would be nice to take our time with it, maybe on a long summer afternoon, pounding a few posts, then lying back and reading the clouds while basking in sunshine. But farm work never seems to go quite like that, and we've got until the end of December to get this fence in. That's because we've successfully completed an Environmental Farm Plan, and have qualified for a grant for installing deer fence. But it must be in by 31 December 2008, so we're busy getting ready for that.
Welcome, Scott Chaput!
Please welcome our new intern, Scott Chaput. Unlike some helpers we've had in the past, Scott doesn't know the meaning of the word "quit," and has been a blessing in getting our fall and early winter work done. Sometimes we have to go drag him out of the fields, since his favourite pass-time seems to be sowing trefoil and mulching. On his day off, Rudy and I set off to gather some firewood, and Scott insisted on coming along, saying, "I don't want to miss any of the fun!" With an attitude like that, I'm sure Scott will go far in farming, because if you think of it as work, it won't be much fun.
Scott comes from Kansas with a BS degree in Geography, Natural Resources, and Environmental Science, an AAS in Horticulture Technology, and a Permaculture Design Certificate, as well as experience on several farms in Kansas, North Carolina, and New Mexico.
Scott wants to learn sustainable living, and is especially interested in learning practical crafts and skills, such as electrical wiring, plumbing, and welding. He's planning to be with us about six months, and we're already thinking about next March, and missing him!
Also on site through December is our Japanese exchange student, Haruka Oikawa, who has proven especially adept at making cookies and helping in the kitchen. Haruka is in the tenth grade at the local high school, and is studying English as a Second Language in preparation for a career in airport ground services.
We've also enjoyed a number of visitors this fall, and hope to see many more of you in the future!
Carrying capicity of EcoReality
A person's "ecological footprint" is the area of land required to produce enough food, fuel, and materials to sustain that person for one year. This is a measure of the human demand on the Earth's ecosystems. According to the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Land, about 0.524 hectares (1.29 acres) of arable farmland, or about six city lots, are needed to produce the food to support one person for one year. But this estimate is based on the average meat-eating Canadian urban dweller. Using this value, it's simple to calculate that the 15 hectares at EcoReality can supply over 28 people with 100% of their food needs. This calculation includes non-arable land, but assumes that a mostly-vegetarian diet would require less land per person.
While this first-cut approximation is encouraging, I wanted to figure out how much food the existing cleared fields (7.5 hectares, or 18.4 acres) might yield if they were in full Permaculture production of a mix of annual and perennial fruit, vegetable, grain, and root crops. This means considering crop energy values, soil characteristics, and climate, but not fuel nor materials from the land base. So I calculated the the potential annual energy consumption per person, based on the Canadian Community Health Survey from Statistics Canada, and I found that, using less than the total area in each field, and leaving some area in hay, we could expect to produce 48 million Calories of food energy per year.
Since the average Canadian dietary energy intake is only 816,000 Calories, this means that only an eighth of a hectare per person (0.31 acres)is needed on this particular land base to provide enough food energy for one person for one year. To provide a contingency buffer against drought, crop failure, etc., and to allow for other land uses, such as recreation and education, I doubled this value to come up with about a quarter hectare (about two-thirds of an acre) per person. Dividing this into the land base (7.452 hectares divided by 0.252 hectares per person) indicates that we may be able to completely feed 30 people.
|Field||Area (ac)||Area (ha)||Major Usage|
|west||1.1||0.45||Fruit/nut trees and berries or hay|
|centre||2.6||1.05||Berries and grains, vegetables for seed|
|northwest||10.6||4.29||Vegetables, roots, grains, beans, heat loving vegetables and fruit trees in solar guilds and polyhouses, or some of above plus 2 hectares in hay|
|lawn||2.6||1.01||Vegetables, poultry and goats in rotation, other landscape features|
Who does all the work?
A study of an average mid-sized organic farm in the US Midwest indicates that producing organic fruits and vegetables in a mixed system requires 850 person-hours of labour per acre per year. Forested areas require 400 person-hours per acre per year. I determined that EcoReality would require 47 labourers to work the 50 acres of cleared land on EcoReality property and the adjacent community farmland site, assuming one labourer works 40 weeks at 30 hours per week.
So the good news is that EcoReality can feed 30-60 people in the greater Salt Spring community using as little as 18 full-time farm workers, which will greatly contribute to food sovereignty on Salt Spring. If the adjacent community farmland is included, the news only gets better!
Co-operation saves Mongolian co-operativeCanadian Co-op Association (CCA), head-office in Ottawa, works on behalf of co-op across the country and in 22 developing countries. One of its overseas partner is the Mongolian Co-operative Training and Information Centre (MCTIC) in Ulaanbataar. Mongolia suffered from decades of Chinese, then Soviet occupation. Mongolia, apart from the southern part still occupied by China, and has been independent since the early 90s and is trying hard to raise the standard of living of the inhabitants, specially the thousands of nomadic herders. The CCA is MCTIC's partner in the co-op part of this work.
Last month the office was burned and everything from computer systems to memontos brought back from field visit to all the paper files were destroyed. MCTIC and its members fund-raised $1,600 to help CCA. This gives a vast new meaning to both "Co-operation among co-operatives" and "Love thy neighbour."
The Zigging and Zagging of the Universe
Most often I am awakened to the fact that I am not in charge just by the daily interactions I have with other people and what happens when I attempt to control them through word, deed or thought. My three and a half year old daughter is proof positive that ultimately I am not the boss. My strength in mothering and most other interactions generally lies in my capacities to listen, to have compassion, to extend empathy, to be truthful, well- boundaried, kind and to be open to the surprise denouements that arise in life’s daily play.
The more flexibility I apply to a situation while truly maintaining my integrity, the better the results. In fact, I think I am supposed to be writing an article on consensus right now to continue with the follow up from our EcoReality Consensus workshop with Tree Bressen in September. What is flowing out of the keys might end up on the topic of consensus but it will definitely be zigzagging its way there.A Guide to the I Ching by Carol K. Anthony. She recommends that her book be used as an addendum to the translated poetry of the actual I Ching text. However, her interpretations are so wise and thorough, that I rarely have the compunction to go to the original. This morning one of the passages I read was on conflict (6. Conflict), which is appropriate considering some of the circumstances of my life currently. Among the many pithy thoughts in this chapter, Anthony says:
- We view others as adversaries when we give up on them; we view ourselves as an adversary when we mistakenly assume that we have to accomplish everything by ourselves. Sometimes we mistakenly think that we are meant to approve of others’ insensitivity or wrong acts, a misunderstanding which gives rise to inner conflict. While we are not meant to approve wrong situations, neither are we meant to become alienated. Alienation is yet another emotional involvement which clouds all issues.
Lots to chew on there. Conflict arises all over the place in my daily life. Learning to stay present in it is challenging work. I have often bumped up against the question of “Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?” when I come into conflict with another person or institution. When I choose “happy” I tend to soften and see if there is some piece or pieces of information I am missing in the situation. Sometimes I have to investigate the route of being “right” before I can concede that I am hurting others and myself.
Although my partner, child and I have not yet become an official part of the EcoReality community [but an essential, if un-official part! —Editor] we have definitely invested ourselves. Conflict can and does happen in this kind of environment. It is an inevitability. How we choose to deal with it, now there is where it gets juicy.
In September we had a group training in consensus (I did it! Zig!) in which we had an opportunity to work together on the challenging issue of “community space”. The topic lead us into uncharted territory where there was good reason to suspect conflict would arise. What did happen, through a collective willingness, was an opening, a deepening of understanding between group members, a strengthened sense of unity. People were willing to put themselves forward to say what was really happening for them, to ask questions, clarify misunderstandings and misperceptions and remain in integrity with themselves. We had the opportunity to see how our individual skills and personalities coalesced and we were able to pleasantly and joyfully surprise ourselves.
Could we have guessed that outcome at the beginning of our session? Nope, it was a Universal Zig for sure. Did we put our hearts into making it work? Yes, we sure did. Did we increase our chances of success by doing so? Yep. Will we do it again? The odds are definitely for it.
Well, now having rallied myself and maybe you too, I am going to return to figuring out how to sell our house and pack up our lives in the Yukon, finish our applications, feed the family, have a garage sale or two in the snow, teach dance, help with a birth, say goodbye to friends, nap, help keep the kid, man and myself on an even keel and have some fun. I look forward with anticipation to zigzagging our way to Salt Spring in late December for the Winter Retreat and to our new life on the land. Namaste!
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.)
Check out this link to understand the theory behind the recipe. It's worth while to understand the process.
New York Times, Published: November 8, 2006 Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting - Salt Spring Flour Mill
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.
Preservation of the Soul Part III
This is the third and final installment of member Justin Roller’s journey into the Amazon and experience with Shamanism near the Peruvian city of Iquitos. These views are only mine to bear and in many ways are deeply personal. Please feel free to discuss further as these three installments are but a small part of my experience this summer.
Meanwhile, sounds of the jungle permeated our aural landscape. The shaman’s song began with the slow rhythmic shaking of a shacapa and a gentle whistling that imitated the birds of the forest. They claim that the songs come to them while spending years in solitude in the jungle. A gift of consciousness revealed from the ancestral knowledge of the vine itself. I lay back on my mat and pulled the blanket over myself to keep warm since, surprisingly, the jungle cools considerably in the evening.
At first I felt a sense of anticipation and a tinge of fear but this was quickly overcome by the uneasy feeling brewing in my stomach. First, a slight unease followed by a blunt pain and nausea. Over the course of the next 45 minutes I struggled to find comfort by alternately lying down or sitting up on my knees to ameliorate the discomfort. I would close my eyes and see mild kaleidoscopic patterns that would then break into other indescribable patterns, slither from my minds eye and then recrystallize. The shamans voice rang out into the night while the chanting became different moods that ebbed and flowed with each change in song. At one point while laying back I began to hear the sounds of others vomiting in the circle. The intensity of the chanting grew into a crescendo and I could no longer stay lying down. I lurched up to my knees while everything in my sight began to liquefy and shatter the way a calm pond breaks into concentric circles when a rock is thrown in to break the surface. Everything began swaying and slithering as more and more participants began purging. I could no longer hold the brew that seemed to be pushing on the inside of my stomach and purged from the depths of my body. After several rounds of purging I felt a calm sweep over me, a warm loving feeling and I went back to lying down on my back.
Travels of the mind
I found myself contemplating life as a great play upon which our fate as humans seemed so tragic. The dismantling of the Earth’s ecosystems by acts so removed from the weight of their consequences caused my heart to ache. The affirmation that our species, less than 70,000 years old, was but an infancy in the Earth’s geological clock and yet we have conquered almost every square mile of land, sea and sky. I saw the struggle between ideologies, religions and culture within the context of our direction as a species and I was deeply saddened. A tear trickled down my cheek, as I lay supine, followed by another, and another. I was mourning like one mourns the loss of a loved one.
I don’t know whether these were divine revelations or simply perspectives that were already swirling around in my mind and converged while in a heightened state of consciousness. I do know that I finally dosed off that night and awoke with a fresh perspective on life and a renewed vigor and determination to live my values to the best of my ability. This perspective further reinforces the importance of my family’s decision to join EcoReality and to slowly become the change that is necessary to transcend the precipice of humanity’s predicament.
Here are some highlights of recent meetings and events. Click any entry for details.
- Monthly Members' Meeting
- presentation by Vanessa Hammond of the South Islands Regional Co-op Council, discuss EcoReality subsidy for WWOOFer support, approved (in principle) to host a permaculture design course, issue investment shares for electrical work, 2009 winter retreat planning and discussion, more.
- Bi-weekly Members' Teleconference
- member guide definition posted, agreed to add Noj McAllister as new member, discussion on co-op labour, tabled EcoReality subsidy for WWOOFer support, more.
- Qi Gong Teleconference
- new sound system, replacing light bulbs, insurance issues, cleanliness, more.
- Bi-weekly Members' Teleconference
- brainstorming field names, 200811 members weekend agenda, more.
- every Tuesday
- 9AM: Residents' meeting, business and work around the farm. Please ask to attend; no drop-ins, please!
- every Friday
- 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.
- 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.)
- Saturday, 29 November
- Monthly members' meeting: Requests for: issuing shares, defining member guide and prospective member, budget on fencing, north fields. Discuss: 2009 budget, authorized labour, our consensus process, 2009 monthly themes, labour budgets, more.
- Sunday, 28 December 2008 through Sunday, 4 January 2009
- 2009 winter retreat: fun things, brainstorming, heart circles, introspection, reflection, review, and revision, and much more. Please book in advance; no drop-ins please!
- Sunday, 28 December
- Monthly members' meeting: review dwelling equity policy, 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!
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