growing good memories

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This blog has certainly gone through an evolution from progress reports on our families transition to rural life, to being an outlet for the community projects and events I am so passionate about creating and promoting. Today I sit in a warm insulated space (for the first time in years) and look out on to our little mountain side farm and take in all of the blood sweat and tears that have got us where we are today…

Our Kootenay adventure started with a lovely piece of land and a gross moldy trailer. We started with gardens and chickens, built woodhenge, and a new road, two yurts, then a lovely outdoor shower house. We added hugelbeds and food forest systems, amazing onsite fertility programs, then came the rabbits and the bees. A cob rocket oven and a cob bench with outdoor kitchen space in the garden even a new green house. Perennial food abounds and now we are surrounded with community fresh water and love.

We couldn’t have done all that we have without the help, and love and support of our families and friends…. and our Interns. ‘Oh our interns…

Two years ago I took the advise of my friend and permaculture teacher Rob, he suggested I forgo the WWOOf’ers I was thinking about adding into the fold and look for folks who share our permaculture ethics and could really embrace and explore the techniques we are playing with here. So in 2011 I offered Permaculture Internships for the 2012 season, and for the past 21 months we have had continuous interns living with us.

Today is the first day Since Feb of 2012 that we are without interns, namely without Jordan. Jordan came here back in April of 2012 bright eyes and eager to live in the mountains and build on the solid permaculture education foundation he had. His 6 week commitment soon passed and we all decided that the energies we had as a team were worth holding on to.  All of our interns came and went for the season and Jordan was integral to their orientation and settling in.  Actually he was integral to just about everything around here, our fertility program was ramped up 10 fold as soon as we teamed up on the pitch forks! Jordan has a great ability to retain just about everything he reads (I am more of a skimmer) so having him drop facts and stats on a whim was always amazing. Jojo made all the crazy permie dreams totally doable, especially when he introduced us to his white board system of tasks and goals.  Every time I dreamed up another event or community project or planting guild idea, Jordan was there to back me up, or take on the challenge  himself and ace it. Not only is he a kind and amazing person we were thrilled to have here, he had also become my personal spell check / proof reader… you all can probably see by now how important that role is to me, as I’m a copy editors worst nightmare!  At the end of the harvest last year we took on a big project, out biggest ever and he was eager to stay through the winter and we were thrilled to have him, he was after all part of our little family by then. Together we starting creating our internship program for the coming season and soon realized, although we were overwhelmed with amazing applications and emails, we were going to build on the family we had made with Jordan. We invited his CSA team from years early to join ours and took on the lofty task of housing 3 full time – 3 season interns.

It was still snowy when Dave arrived from Victoria, and he was keen to chop wood, haul trees, wild craft and hone some carpentry skills. Jordan and Dave were living in the “Murt” together and built a really great loft space. Dave brought us music, and a good dose of laughter. Dr Kombuchy start brewing kombucha for all of us and caring for all the little critters and wee seedlings. We started our (2nd attempt) and breeding rabbits; we had a buck and 3 does and Dave took on that process entirely; from salvaging scraps of everything to assemble their new bunny palace, through the the daily care. Dave was a vegetarian when he arrived, however he was moving toward eating meat from small, local, organic and loving producers which was totally inline with the way we eat… he was in for a big surprise however when our little piggie, Bacon (raised by our friend) was ready for market shortly after Dave’s arrival. Poor guy sat nearby and watched me use every grueling nasty bit of that pig in preparation for Pig-in-a-day. Wow that was a tough 3 days for everyone; Dyl and Jojo did the killing and the skinning and scraping, and face peeling, and I boiled the heads and prepared the organs then created a workshop for 20+ folks to come and learn from our friend Ben the Butcher how to break that beast down.

By the time Isis arrived in the spring there were still remnants of pig… I think she found a hoof buried in the food forest on her first day in the soil! And of course she enjoyed the smoked bacon we were serving. Isis came along to the farm right around the time that Jordan brought home Balou, son of Odin (our golden guard dog) and soon the 3 of them; jordan Isis and Balou were all sleeping outside in the wood shed and Dave had the yurt to himself. Isis was a magic addition to our growing team. Her days were often spent tending to the garden, weeding and planting, and most importantly observing! She is a stellar observer.  Isis and I decided before her arrival that this was the time to finally take on bee keeping.. something we both so wanted to do, so together with the help of some serious queen bee guardians; Elise and Christina, we had the confidence to welcome and care for our new holistically managed bee colony. What a joy. Isis also came to be my number 1 dishwasher (feeding 6 meant for lots of dishes), and wild crafting and harvesting goto. I soon came to know that tone in her voice “…and the cucumbers” this meant I had many a basketful she was hoping to bring in and have me process in short order “the squash, the tomatoes, the grapes, the cabbage (the blue ribbon cabbage that is)…” the list goes on and on. We had our most productive and abundant year ever and this I blame heavily on Isis and her garden fairy magic.

As harvest wound down and the wood supply stacked up it was time for Dave to move on, back to the coast again with a soul-craft stop over. Dave is working with “Farmer Mike” (who I look forward to meeting someday) doing urban farming in Victoria. Maybe Dave’s most important legacy he left in the Kootenays was our daughters new interest and skills in music namely the ukulele and the songs they rocked together at open mike! Dave we raise a cup of turmeric tea to you, and wish you nothing but the best. love + gratitude to you.

Isis and Jordan are back home in the rambling foothills of Alberta now ready for a new page in their adventure together. With a heated home (novel idea) and lots of land to craft and observe, manage and care for. Our community’s loss is Black Diamond’s gain. Those two will do great things together. Jordan, Isis we love you both so much, and can’t wait to see how your future evolves. We wouldn’t be here without everything you have done to help us achieve our dreams. Thank You!

here is your chance to help

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Big Huge Thanks to Malin, Stephan, and my Tricycle Acres support team for helping put on a stellar Solutions Symposium this week! Thanks to the “Tables Hosts:” who helped keep things running, and especially to those who are now empowered to do more! Also thanks to the politicians who came and actually participated in the process like community members, and who are finally speaking up about the actions our community NEEDS! And of course thanks to the 100 folks who showed up to contribute their ideas!

One of the best way you can help us, help our river is by dipping into your pocket so we can pay Both Leila Darwish and Anita Burke who are on route to our aid. Together they have had many years of experience working with remediation companies and affected communities to help clean up environmental disasters. We think that their differing skill sets will be complementary, helping us to diversify our approach to cleaning these waterways.

Next week we will be planning a public event so we can all get to know these ladies and their expertise first hand, and until then you can participate by contributing to our fundraising efforts.

More about upcoming events soon…

Bio-Remediation Workshops, PIckle Palooza, and Canning & Preserving 101

earth air fire water

slocan river we love you

Our lives have been turned upside down by this uncontrolled wildfire and the horrible impacts of the fuel spill in our creek and river. A Slocan Valley Emergency Response Page has been set up for the latest news and movements on these 2 situations…

Some of our friends and neighbors are without water to drink, water to grow food with, or water for their animals. Some of our neighbors are still feeling and smelling the effects of the spill in their bodies, in their sick children and in their homes, and our community has a broken heart and is full of hurt and healing.

Last nights Public meeting was swamped with hundreds of people, past capacity in the hall and a parking lot full of folks desperate for more information. I left with more questions than I had going in, along with new concerns. This is good audio summary of the events of the night. And this is a recent CBC interview with a local.

Big Love and Thanks to the organizers of the River Vigil last night, it was beautiful to have so many folks from the community come together with positive intentions for our fresh healing waters to flow again.  Since the spill happened I have been hearing Bo’s voice singing “down to the river to pray” This image is from 2011 Water Day in Winlaw, our annual river blessing, this is where we gathered last night, while the helicopters flew over head with water buckets destine for the forest fire behind the ridge.

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I know we will get past this and come out a stronger more united community. Our river is loved and central to our lives. The skies are clouding and I have never longed for rain like I do now…

We are looking for what to do now as a community. Everyone wants the clean up to start, and to be done with care.

Here are some of the suggestions others have made that we are doing:

Donate to the Slocan River Stream Keepers, Take some food to the firefighters through the fire stations and while your at it take some food to the Sinixt Nation Road block up on Perry’s Forestry Road. It is so important we come together and support all of the efforts to keep our pocket of this planet healthy and diverse.

blueberry luv’n

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Way back in January we ordered 20 blueberries from our local perennial nursery Against the Wind. This week Jordan and Isis planted them with such love and attention that we just had to share this loving process with you all. I can’t help but feel these bushes have the best possible chance at rooting in successfully, and enjoying their life here at Tricycle Acres…

We decided to plant the bushes 4 feet apart on the bias (in a triangle grid) which we do a lot around here, maximizing space. The blueberries were co-planted with a row of strawberries which I am hopeful will produce fruit for us this year as they are hearty and mature so… fingers crossed we will have our own bounty this time round. Here is how these bushes were welcomed to our garden:

First they dug a nice deep hole, at the base of which they placed a fist size rock. Why a rock you say? Well after Jordan spent 2 weeks at the clear sky meditation center planting an intensive cold climate food forest, learning from Richard Walker, he came back with more than one juicy planting tip. The rock for example is more conductive than soil alone and is able to pick up the earths current ever so slightly. Over 25 years trialing this method Richard has found that plants with a rock at the base of the root ball has proven to be more fruitful than those without the bonus conductor!

Next a slurry of peat moss and bone and blood meal was made and poured into the hole with the plant. Then came a layer of premium worm castings (which our very own DIRT BAG: aka Jordan) has begun selling and brewing as his off farm funding venture; more about that soon. The plants then got a layer of garden soil, and a nice serving of our own fungal dominated compost, and then another layer of soil. Then a nice firm pack and a little hand formed crater was deeply watered and top dressed with a thick layer of straw mulch.  Jordan then gave all the plants a boost with his “Better Soil Biology Extract” which consisted of worm castings and two types of our finished composts. The whole patch got a serpentine of soaker hose and a deep rooting growth blessing.

Oh, and we pinched off all the flowers, so that this year the plants energy will go into making roots rather than fruit 😦 I know sad right, but here’s hoping next year will be a blueberry flush… especially with our buzzing honey bees to pollinate them next year… who will be arriving here on Sunday, all 20 000 of them!

guilding + growing + buzzing

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What a great few weeks of progress on the garden front! Our starts have been going strong and have slowly been moving out into the yard and into cold frames. Dave (our new intern from down under) has been tirelessly moving earth, cleaning up pathways and edges, and prepping for our cob kitchen expansion (more on that soon, as we are hosting and offering a cob oven and cob bench workshop in the near future, with the help of our 3 local cob builders!)

Just yesterday we picked up 20 blueberry bushes from our local nursery: Against the Wind and left with a couple dozen asparagus crowns as well, which just happened to be the missing piece of the berry guild I have been designing! The honeyberry guild fills a small patch of ground that I had planted with annuals and 2 honey berries last year, I got no fruit from these  blue velvet, honey berry bushes. When I was  working with Adrienne Buckley (master food forest guru / plant encyclopedia) of Big Sky Permaculture last weekend at the Groundswell Design Practicum, he noted that like blueberries, you needed more than one variety to obtain a fruit harvest. Geez, a fact I won’t soon forget… anyway I came home with 2 additional and different varieties of honey-berries and yesterday we planted out this fun little guild: Here is the design which sits opposite a wire fence from my daughters flower and medicinal herb garden plot so there is actually a whole lot of pollinator attractants and medicine growing here too:

honey berry guild

Right after planting this guild I dashed up to the dojo for a fabulous afternoon of natural bee keeping with Christina of The Queens Bee Project! What a wonderful  way to spend a day, listening and learning from someone so impassioned and moved by the bees. We leaned a lot about top bar hives, and holistic approached to keeping bees, and using organic essential oil hydrosaul to prevent and treat disease. For the past 4 years I have been working on learning about bees and creating bee habitat while working towards becoming a bee guardian…. and now seems an ideal time to take the big step, for so many reasons: We have the plans for a top bar hive which Dyl  has the skill to assemble quickly, and we will revise the design based on Christina’s Kootenay ready design tweaks. 3 of my girlfriends locally are all venturing into the world of bee keeping this spring too, and we have a number of friends who have been doing it for some time to draw on for support. There is a new bee keeping network being creating right now in Castlegar, and our last intern for the season (who we are eagerly awaiting her arrival) is right now studying top bar bee keeping with Elise of ABC in Calgary (whom we adore, as she set me down this path 4 years ago now, when she participated in a local food event I organized back in Calgary). So it looks like we are all set for hosting bee’s here in just a few weeks! Eeeeeeee!

buzzing with excitement!

groundswell community green house

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Last weekend both Jordan and I had an amazing opportunity to be part of Rob Avis of Verge Permaculture’s Design Team, participating in an applied Design Practicum at the Groundswell Greenhouse in Invemere BC. Groundwell is a fabulous network / non profit leading the way in community greenhouse design. They have completed construction of a 300 sq meter geo-solar green house, which is a state of the art facility. Our team had the task of creating an equally impressive outdoor space; One that would allow education, community, food, water and inspiring opportunities to grow. I can’t wait to see how the implementation takes place.

The final design included a brilliant water system that harnesses rainwater from the huge greenhouse roof as well as the adjacent school roof top, the water moves through a series of underground and above ground storage and then through ponds, dry ponds and mulch basins, which all feed the dynamic food forest system. The site has housing and forraging opportunities for both chickens with their chicken moat and ducks with their very own “duckuzzi”. The plan features 12 new  raised beds available for community rentals, some of the beds are built as hugelkulture beds, others are wicking beds, and other still will be built up with sheet much fertility methods. An Elliot Coleman style movable green house will further explore season extension gardening. At the heart of the space is a adobe round kitchen with a living roof, living grey water system, cob oven and a stage area complete with grazing bench seating. In all it is set to be a stunning example of what is possible when community meets permaculture design.

Big love and Thanks to the team at Verge for putting this all together (we-heart-verge) and to the team at Groundswell for being such fabulous and fearless hosts! You guys are doing wonderful things in the world of food, energy and eduction. Keep on keeping on!

Slocan Valley Farm Opportunity #2 – Earth Crafters Gardens

Owned by Fonda and Allan Pusey

Entering our 4th year of gardening in Paradise, we are looking for eager helpers to share our knowledge with, learn from, experiment with ideas, and try something new.

Features:

We are a multi-generational family of 5 living on 9 acres of agricultural land on the Slocan River. We share our garden space with another family of 4; growing, harvesting and learning together. It is important to us that our wwoofers, interns and guests are child friendly as our children are a big focus of our life.

We believe in sustainable living, biodynamics, life-long learning, and principles of permaculture fit right in. All of our chickens and ducks are heritage breeds, providing tasty nutrient dense eggs. Most of our seeds are also heritage or heirloom varieties and we believe in growing a diverse selection of food rather than something that “travels well” or is “good for market”. We use all natural manures and composts, no chemicals are used on the farm, and we use and encourage only natural products in our home as well, being very aware that everything is returned to the land and water system that we love so dearly. Our water comes from a gravity fed supply from Pedro Creek and is the beautiful, clean, mountain water unique to this area.

We plant our beds in spirals, circles and other unique designs from sacred geometry with the belief that plants grow better in organic design, and bees pollinate in spiral patterns, creating harmony for all. We have been experimenting with different ways to plant, care for, “weed” and harvest our vegetables and fruits with ideas from permaculture, the Stella Natura biodynamic calendar, and from the Ringing Cedars books.

We live by a Self-designing philosophy of life and work, exploring and learning together, following our passions, co-inspiring and sharing. We encourage our guests to share their ideas for projects and ways of gardening so that we all may learn from each other.

Our meals are primarily vegetarian and organic with whole foods, and local foraged fare. We can easily accommodate vegan and gluten free requirements though some members of our family do eat wheat so we are not a gluten-free kitchen (yet). We encourage and appreciate wwoofers and guests to help with food preparation and clean-up.

Our property borders the highway with the Rails to Trails buffering us from the highway traffic. This allows easy access to local venues, festivals, and restaurants. We encourage our wwoofers and guests to explore the beauty of the area and to attend local pot-lucks, festivals and permaculture group projects and meetings with us.

We share a love of music in our home where you will always hear music playing in some form. You may even have the opportunity (or several) to enjoy some live “jamming” in our cabin, and join in if you are comfortable doing so.

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Projects we intend to work on in the coming year:
build a chicken tractor
plant more apple trees
re-forestation of upper pasture
outdoor kitchen
outdoor shower/ wash space
build a treehouse for the kids
prepare for beekeeping
relocate seedlings and suckers
build a yurt
create a more dynamic space in the greenhouse; incorporating levels, watering systems, fans, and heat retention
expand raspberry, blackberry and blueberry patches
shape and prune trees and shrubs
create natural fencing in the pasture
house and cabin renovations

Typical duties/ projects by season:

Early Spring:
woodworking / carpentry for projects such as chicken tractors
firewood chopping, hauling and stacking
seed starting / garden planning / transplanting/ creating and shaping new garden beds
weed management
attending meetings with Valley Permaculture Guild –learning and implementing great ideas from other local farms
animal care, feeding chickens and ducks/ washing eggs
Winlaw Water festival in early May

Early Summer:
soil building / weed management
garden planting / transplanting
woodworking / carpentry projects (fixing fences, building outdoor shower/ wash house)
wild crafting
foraging / harvesting early berries and greens
art-ifying: adding artistic elements to our growing spaces
attending meetings with Valley Permaculture Guild –learning and implementing great ideas from other local farms
tool maintenance
animal care, feeding chickens and ducks/ washing eggs
Summer Solstice community gathering in June

Late Summer / Fall
harvesting / seed collecting
planting and transplanting overwintering plants
weed management
fermenting/ canning / dehydrating / preserving/ shelling/ jamming
foraging
art-ifying: adding artistic elements to our growing spaces
woodworking / carpentry (finishing projects, renovations to existing living spaces)
firewood / chainsaw skills, chopping, hauling and stacking to prepare for fall and winter
prepping pond/ greenhouse/ garden beds for winter rest
tool maintenance
animal care, feeding chickens and ducks/ washing eggs
Unity festival in August, Sinixt Barter Fair in September

~PLEASE REPLY TO US BELOW AT TRICYCLE ACRES OR EMAIL vpg@rbrand.ca IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THIS FARM OPPORTUNITY~