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!

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canning & preserving 101

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Workshop #2 of our Homesteading 101 series… An introduction to Canning and Preserving, using hot water bath techniques. In this class you will learn how to make: Jam, Chutney and pickles and best of all you’ll take the preserves you made home with you, and all of the produce will be organic and local.

Participants will be limited in this hands on class, so register ASAP to make sure you get a spot!

Register by emailing vpg (at) rbrand (dot) ca or by calling 250-226-7402

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

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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.

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!

foraging food + de-construction

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Something happened this week, about mid week… we noticed the saskatoon berries were ripe and the tree that formerly lived with the chooks was FLUSH with purple juicy berries… ever since then it has been a rolling stone of harvesting food… mosquito mint bog abundance led way to cat tail collection, cherry tree pillaging and strawberry swaps with neighbors. But let me step back just a little…

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indicators + gardening tools

Indicators are a great permaculture designer tool, observing nature and following her lead.

Nature has a way of communicating and relying on different species to benefit and signal one another. If there is one thing I have learned about gardening, it’s timing is everything! And I already blew it big time this month, with the loss of dozens and dozen of healthy hearty tomato and cucumber starts, some of which I had nurtured right from the seed saving point years ago. I had the BEST starts I have ever had, big huge healthy plants, and then I joined the rest of the valley weeping at the late and hard frost that devastated even the most hardened veteran gardens around here! Not so many days after that big event my girlfriend dug this little tid bit of phenology up specific to the Kootenays (excerpt from Gardening in the Kootenays:)

“When Forsythia or Daffodils bloom, plant peas
Plant beets, lettuce, spinach, cole crops and carrots when Dandelions start to bloom or when Lilac leaves first begin to unfurl
When Lily of the Valley blooms it’s safe to put tomatoes out
When Irises bloom you can transplant eggplant, melon and peppers
When Daylillies bloom plant out tomatoes and peppers
When Aspens have leafed out there will be no more hard frosts
When Apple blossoms fall plant corn
When Maples unfurl their leaves plant out decorative perennials
When Lilac blooms fade plant cukes and late squash
When Lilacs are in full bloom plant beans and squash
When Mock Orange blooms you can direct-seed cabbage and broccoli in the garden”

Gee I wish that: A) I knew what the lily of the valley was, and B) noted that it had not yet bloomed on the night of the deadly frost!

I have been following a number of tools to get my timing right; my garden journal from last year, as well as the growing in the kootenays guide. So I am happy to add a more natural indicator guide to my planting arsenal.

On the topic of gardening tools (and I don’t mean shovels) I have some tried and true resources at hand:

love love love companion planting guides here are some of my online favorites:

Golden Harvest  PRI  and  Garden Toad

As for my go to books to guide me through my food systems I rely heavily on:

Gaias Garden (MY BIBLE OF GROWING FOOD), Gardening When it Counts and The Resilient Gardener

I am also really enjoying Homegrown Whole Grains and The Permaculture Garden (great book, horrible cover page)

So.. My apple blossoms are falling and the lilacs are in full bloom… Hello 3 sisters (ancient guild of corn, beans and squash) Tomorrow is the day for getting into my super nitrogen rich corn field (former chicken run) and planting more food!

Big back road thanks to my darling “city girl takes on the country companion” I will follow the flowers lead from now on. And you can follow her farmyard follies and garden frolics at theredsnowshoe.

Oh and I just found this GREAT companion planting image: