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EcoReality Co-op Newsletter

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It's been a busy, busy month at EcoReality. I thought it was supposed to slow down in the winter. When does that start?

Psst! It's the heat!

Carol and Scott stack freshly bucked rounds for drying for next winter's heat.
It seems heat is on all our minds these days. If it isn't global warming, it's localized cooling. It's hard to convince skeptics that the earth has a fever while you're enduring record cold temperatures! If it isn't gathering wood, it's weathering storms, or dealing with the animal heat of passion. (Now I have you hooked into reading more.)

This year, getting ready for winter started later than it should have. Having just moved here in June, and having a million other things going on, it seems like firewood was well down the priority list, to our detriment. We did manage to take out a coppice of maples from our former site. Our neighbour to the south said they were filling up her eaves troughs, and could we please take them down? We asked the realtor, who said the view would be better without them. So we took down 14 maples, mostly about as big around as your thigh. It came out to over two cords of wood, but cutting it in May meant it was still about 12% moisture in November, and we like to burn our wood at no more than 7%, to keep heat output high and creosote build-up low.

We also found some standing deadwood — a couple nice Grand firs that hadn't been dead long enough for the bark to loosen, creating a home for various bugs that further deteriorate the tree and make it less suitable for firewood. We cut them, dragged them back to the woodshed with the tractor, bucked them up into 16" rounds, and stacked them to dry. Splitting doesn't really help wood dry much — wood dries out its ends, not out its sides. And splitting is easier the drier the wood. So we felt no immediate need to split.

But then opportunity struck. Our friend Larry Woods, who works at Salt Spring Cheese, said they had a bunch of wood that had been bucked up that they wanted to get rid of. So we took Bubba, our '91 Dodge Cummins pickup truck, over for numerous trips. In exchange for the wood, we offered to split a load of it for Larry, and so the splitter came out and we did the entire lot, including the maple hauled from EcoReality Lite. But the rounds from Salt Spring Cheese had been sitting in the open for a year or more, and had been stacked wrong, to boot! When you stack wood with the cut end facing up, it doesn't dry, it actually absorbs moisture. So this wood, though cut long ago, was just as wet as freshly cut green wood.

So we ended up buying wood this year. It's hard to do when you have a mountain full of it, but it's cheaper to buy wood than to get a chimney fire from burning green wood.

Wood stove woes

Rudy and James tear up the floor in the white house to fix an illegally installed wood cook stove.
To burn wood, you need a stove. And if that stove is improperly installed, your insurance won't cover any fire loss if you use the stove. Baseboard heat is expensive, and wood heat is going to be free Any Year Now, so we decided to fix the stoves in both houses, neither of which passed an installation inspection.

The yellow house fix was simple: we had to extend a non-combustible surface an additional 9" in front of the door of the fireplace insert. I had some diamond plate left over from fabricating a new transmission cover for Veggie Van Gogh, and so cut the proper sized piece out to put in front. Now one house had a legal wood heating system, but the white house proved to be more of a challenge.

The white house has a replica of an old wood cook stove like the one I grew up with. I remember mom cursing the thing, as pies and other baked goods came out burnt on one side and raw on the other, unless you were disciplined enough to rotate the pie periodically. With a roast, it actually wasn't so bad — some people like things rare, others like them well-done. So you got choice. But the white house stove had been installed with little regard to the instructions for spacing from combustible surfaces, and the hearth had to be extended, a brick wood storage pony wall removed, and a new insulated chimney installed. I don't know who installed it, but they sure did no one a favour by doing it wrong! We did discover that there appears to be at least three layers of plywood above the original tongue-and-groove fir flooring!

Weather woes

In a 1-2 punch, high winds damaged our equipment barn, then heavy snowfall finished it off.
After surviving for years of art festival use, involving many high wind days, our farm stand and art gallery blew away last Monday, strewing some $3,000 worth of artwork across about 150 meters of front yard. The trail of broken glass was fascinating — the structure took out a fence around our chicken tractor, but didn't damage the chicken coop itself. Then it headed for the pond near the street, which had some 10 metre hawthorn trees around it. But the tent then took a hard right and a hard left to clear the trees (there was broken glass within ten feet of the trees) and continued out to the road, where it presumably would have caught the bus and hopped on the ferry to return to Oregon and the art festival circuit, had it not been for our partially-disassembled fence, which impaled the tent and stopped it's escapade long enough for James, Rudy, and I to brave howling wind and rain and take the fabric off the tent to keep it from sailing further along.

This big blow did only minor damage to other things, popping out a couple panels from the greenhouse, and causing the equipment "barn" to list hard to port. But the next 24 hours were to finish the job, as heavy snowfall stove in the roof of our equipment tent. As if that weren't enough, record low temperatures (-17.6°C or 0°F) disabled all our vehicles, because we had just filled them with biodiesel. (Normally, we'd only have 25% to 50% biodiesel during the winter, since it doesn't behave well in cold weather.)

Another snow a few days later has exiled people on small side roads, and reminded us that while we don't like the traffic, there's something to be said for living on a main road! It warmed enough for us to top off the Jetta with dino-diesel, and it has been running well in the record-breaking cold on about 33% biodiesel.

Happy does

Maya and Shakti chase Carol for pears on a walk below Mount Maxwell.
Even while we curse the weather, and look forward to the snow going away soon, we try to enjoy it as best we can. Clear skies bring cold temperatures, but they also bring spectacular scenery, and allow for goat walks through the fields. The goats stubbornly stay in their camper during our typical wet winter weather, but are willing — with some coaxing from cut-up ground-fall pears that aren't good enough for preserving — to follow us through the snow.

But that is not the sort of fun Maya and Shakti really want. They've been having a different kind of "heat" issue recently, crying and rubbing and acting starved for attention and companionship. They'd see us walking to the garage, and would pathetically bleat as though we were leaving them forever. They would run out to greet us, and rub their heads up and down all over us. They'd even give us a lick, or start chewing on a jacket. Most of this is not normal behaviour!

Stanley Toggen romances Shakti.
So we called up our friend Kip Nash, who lives up on the shoulder of Mount Maxwell on Toynbe Road. He has a 7/8th Nubian buck that he had offered for use at the appropriate time, and that time was now. Goats cycle every 21 days, and another three weeks would put us into June for kidding, and we wanted spring kids. So Kip brought Stanley Toggen out to keep our two ladies company — and provide a bit more than company to them.

It was great entertainment, and Stanley obviously knew what he was doing, although our two virgins seem to be, if enthusiastic, a bit confused about roles. Shakti kept trying to mount Stanley while he was trying to mount Maya — every buck's wet dream come true? Some folks were concerned about our girls' safety, and wanted to separate them, but I assured them that they knew what they were doing, and that if some alien beings saw us humans copulating, they'd probably try to separate us for our own safety, as well! (They might have a point, there...)

Kip and I hadn't discussed transaction details, and I was rather surprised when he said the stud fee would be "$50 if he comes back, or free if he stays." So now we have to figure out if the trouble of keeping a buck is worth more than $50. Stanley has already broken a window out of the goat camper, and has butted the door jamb so the door won't latch closed any longer. But as bucks go, he's a sweatie — if only he didn't smell like a buck!

Unhappy does

Rudy and Jan haul a 10' cedar post over to the splitter before charring the end.
Now that our Nubian does are happy, we have set out to make some other does unhappy.

On Salt Spring, you don't garden without deer fence. Well, you can try to garden, if you enjoy spending money on seed and time on weeding, just to feed the deer. These voracious pests will decimate a garden nearly as fast as a goat in a greenhouse (been there, done that, have the leaf-less pea stalks as proof), so you have to keep them out.

We have a tiny, 40'x40' fenced garden area. It's barely enough for a kitchen garden, and entirely inadequate for market gardening. So when we heard that the BC Environmental Farm Plan was once again giving out grants for "pest management," we jumped at the chance to get 60% off the cost of fencing materials. The grant actually only covers 30% of the total installed cost of the deer fence, but gives self-installers a credit equal to the cost of materials for labour. Being folk who would rather do something than pay someone to do something, we jumped at the chance.

Jan and Rudy char fence posts in preparation for planting them.
But we were having a heck of a time finding organic materials. We are using steel "T-bar" posts and "page wire" fence, but the T-posts have little lateral strength, and can only be used in straight lines. Corners must be posted with something more substantial, typically chemically-treated wood, which isn't exactly organic.

We found a local supplier of cedar posts, but his posts were huge and expensive — many were 10" across! We only need 4" posts in most cases, although the corners could use something beefier. So we got the large posts, put them on the splitter length-wise, and then pried them apart, yielding two to four split posts for each intact post we had, making them actually cheaper than the 4" round chromated copper arsenate posts from the lumber yard, not to mention less poisonous.

But cedar posts only last about 2/3rds as long as chemically treated posts, so we use a time-honoured tradition: charring. By thoroughly burning the surface of the post that is to be buried in the ground, we create an inhospitable environment for all manner of detritovores, including fungus, bacteria, and wood-eating insects.

We've got almost half the posts split and charred, and Shane O'Donnell is bringing over the remainder of our order tomorrow. We've got about half the T-posts hammered in, by using some pipe with handles welded on as a pounder. So things are moving along, and I'm sure the deer are going to hate us for it. I guess they can't take the heat.

Jan Steinman

Community & Card Games

These days I’m a member of several different community groups. In each of these groups, I play a different role, and sometimes my role changes depending on the day. In my Homebrew Biodiesel Cooperative, I serve as the treasurer as well as one of the producers. In my greater community at large I am a yoga instructor and my role is to provide an opportunity for students to increase their physical and spiritual knowledge of yoga. In EcoReality, I’m a provisional member and my role is to continue involving myself in the community, learning and growing along with EcoReality, and, occasionally, to write articles for the EcoReality newsletter. Since the December monthly theme is Games & Music, it got me to thinking about the roles we each play in games.

As the EcoReality week-long 2009 winter retreat draws near, I’m hoping we’re able to break into some card games. One of the really fun things about card games is that they allow players to engage in different roles while having fun and connecting with one another on different levels. My favorite card game is Euchre.

Euchre is a trump game that you play with four people – two sets of partners – with the dealer changing each round. With each go around you have the choice of calling trump – taking charge, sometimes involving risk to your own success – or “passing” on the opportunity and allowing the next player to have a chance at it. Which role one chooses may depend on your position in relation to the dealer, because if you can’t win a trick, you could end up forced to follow suit the whole hand. This is, of course, a great metaphor for life… are you taking charge, attempting to decide your own fate, or are you more interested in observing what options come your way in the flow of things?

Also, you might not be able to win a trick yourself, but if you’re keen you may be able to assist your partner, which is yet another important role occurring within the game. In community, you have many ‘partners’ and how you interact with each other and support one another is essential to happiness.

When it comes to being successful in Euchre, there’s a general rule that you can count on your partner to help take at least one trick. In community, I think we can count on each other for much more than that.

How to Play Euchre

(Summarized from Card Games by Harper)

  • Players: Four people in pairs, partners sitting across from one another
  • Cards: every card below 9 is removed, using a smaller deck. Ace ranks high in each suit unless the suit is trump. In a trump suit, the Jack from the suit of the same color is included and the ranking order from high to low is Jack of trump suit, Jack of same color suit, Ace, King, Queen, Ten, Nine.
  • Goal: Partners cooperate to win tricks.
  • Dealing: Beginning on dealer’s left, cards are dealt face down in packets of three to each player on the first round and two on the second round. The next card (called the upcard) goes face up on the table to assign trumps with the remaining three cards face down in a stack below the upcard.
  • Bidding for trumps: Starting at dealer’s left, every player can bid to accept or reject the upcard as trump. In the first round, if someone wants to upcard to be trump, they tell the dealer to ‘pick it up’ and the dealer takes the trump card and discards one card from their own hand face down. If no one says ‘pick it up’, the dealer can either pick it up, calling that suit trump, or pass and turn it over. If all players reject the upcard, saying ‘pass,’ a second round of bidding allows players to either pass or call a different suit trump. If all players pass, the dealer must call trump. This is called, “screw the dealer.”
  • Playing: Left of dealer leads with one card face up. Players must then play cards of the same suit. If they cannot follow suit, they play either a trump card or a card of any other suit. Trump cards always beat non-trump. The player of the highest ranking card wins the trick and leads for the next trick.
  • Scoring: The team that calls trump, either by saying ‘pick it up’ or by calling another suit on the second go around of bidding, must take 3 out of the 5 tricks to earn a point. If they earn all five tricks they get two points. If they don’t take at least 3 tricks the other team earns two points.
  • Winning the Game: First team to earn 10 points wins.

Penny Pobiecke

Returning To The Roots – The Root Cellar!

Root cellar.jpg
Having a productive growing season in your own garden, and a successful harvest in the fall, are experiences to be treasured by any food producer. Once you’ve got all those vegetables in from the field, plus perhaps some amount of milk, cream, cheese and butter you want to have available through the winter months, it’s time to start thinking about how you plan to keep all that bounty fresh and ready to eat! Perhaps building or converting an existing space and materials to the form of a root cellar is a good idea for your circumstances.

As a bold way to add sustainable practices to your life, and specifically to reduce your personal/family carbon footprint, a root cellar enormously reduces the amount of electricity used – compared to typical long-term storage like freezing (though you may still have a light bulb to see your way around your spacious cellar!) – it totally eliminates use of toxic refrigerants, all while keeping your food fresh for two months and more, depending on what’s being stored. The principle of the root cellar is to utilize natural properties of the materials from which it’s constructed to keep food at a steady, low temperature. Plus, when well built, according to your region’s temperatures and humidity levels, your cellar can naturally adjust the internal environment to the proper amount of humidity for your storage needs.

The type of cellar you choose to build may only depend on your location and the materials and ingenuity you have available to you. You’d be able to select from three main types – the Hatch cellar, a Hillside cellar, or an Above Ground cellar.

Hatch root cellar.jpg
The Hatch type amounts to a large hole dug into the earth, using the plain dirt floor and walls as insulating material. At the top of the hole, the entry way – covered by a wooden hatch – provides access. Popular on hilly ground, the Hillside type of cellar is dug out of a natural incline, lined with rocks and covered with a wood ceiling supported by post uprights. When more extensive materials are available, an Above Ground cellar can be constructed as any outbuilding, but with thick layer of sod material covering the outside.

For both Hillside and Above Ground cellars, an insulated door is recommended for the entry. In addition to insulating correclty, airflow is very important for a root cellar to control the temperature and humidity, and inhibit the growth of molds. The installation of proper air pipes – an intake installed low to bring in cool air along with an exhaust pipe at the top allowing escape of hot air – provides ongoing circulation to moderate the environment of the cellar and keep your foods fresh through the cold of winter.

According to Victoria Ries, author of the newsletter Rural Country Living, the following table illustrates how long you may expect your valuable treasure trove of vegetables to keep using your new root cellar:

Hillside root cellar.jpg

Artichokes (Jerusalem)

1-2 months


4-5 months


1-2 weeks

Brussels Sprouts

3-5 weeks


3-4 months


4-6 months


2-4 weeks

Chinese Cabbage

1-2 months


1-2 weeks


1-2 months


4-6 months


5-6 months


2-3 months


2-4 months


4-6 months


1-2 months


4-6 months

Mark Stiffler

Grandma's Fresh Apple Cake

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.)

Apple Cake.jpg
This is one of my favorite recipes of my Grandmother's. The warm scent of apples and vanilla wafting from her traditional southern kitchen is a fond childhood memory for me. As my Grandma got older, she wasn't able to cook as much, so I took over making her apple cake as a Christmas tradition. She sadly passed away last month, so in her honor, here is her beloved apple cake recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Because this recipe uses oil for the fat, as well as lots of apples, the outside becomes slightly crispy, while the inside remains extremely moist. Perfect!


1 cup Canola or vegetable oil

4 cups of apples, peeled and cut into 1" cubes - over 15 farms on Salt Spring with over 350 varieties!

2 cups sugar (or try 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup agave syrup)

1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (or try locally grown hazelnuts)

3 eggs, lightly beaten (ground flax seeds or apple sauce) - EcoReality Co-op

2 tsp vanilla

3 cups flour - Salt Spring Flour Mill

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg


Combine oil and sugar. Beat in eggs. Sift together dry ingredients and add to the egg mixture. Bake in a bundt pan or in a 13 x 9-inch pan at 325 degrees for 55 minutes. Allow to cool before adding topping or slicing.


This topping is totally unnecessary and decadent. It's also probably best to avoid if you are making this into a vegan recipe. The cake is delicious without it, but the topping makes it even more scrumptiously indulgent. You decide...

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter - Avalon Dairy on Vancouver Island

1 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup evaporated milk

Melt butter and brown sugar together until smooth, add milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Allow to cool. Pour over the top of the cake and add chopped walnuts for garnish.

Osha Roller

Recent Happenings

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

Residents' Meeting 
getting firewood, ash disposal, members' weekend planning, moisture problems, work party planning.
Monthly Members' Meeting 
agreed to issue shares for expenses and labour for improvements to heating systems of both houses, agreed on definitions of member guide and prospective member, agreed to budget for fencing, agreed to accept Penny Pobiecke and Mark Stiffler as full members, agreed to keep prospective member status for those not present, discussion of monthly themes for 2009, discuss co-op labour budgeting, agreed to reimburse expense of cover crop seeds, more.
Bi-weekly Members' Teleconference 
request for community event policy, agreed on budget for heating upgrade for white house.
Bi-weekly Members' Teleconference 
2009 winter retreat planning, agreed to compensation for classroom for retreat, inviting prospective members to retreat.

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.

every Tuesday 
9AM: Residents' meeting, business and work around the farm. Please ask to attend; no drop-ins, please!
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.)
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 each month 
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!
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.
Saturday, 31 January 
Monthly members' meeting : theme, outdoor kitchens

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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