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Here is the first of 11 videos the Leaf ninja’s made, feature all the great things Verge Permaculture Graduates are doing in the world. Luke and Kai came out and spent some time hanging out with us in the Koots, they filmed a feature on both Jordan and myself, along with 8 other graduates. Slowly they are being released so be sure to watch for the whole series: The guys did a FABULOUS job with the videos, both filming and editing. Well done!

Lots of folks are wondering what is happening when on Saturday, so here is the scoop: Read the rest of this entry »

We are so very excited to announce the Valley Permaculture Guild first Annual Canning and Preserving Celebration!

PICKLE PALOOZA 2012

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In the thrushes of intense August heat, the garden is producing at a rapid pace, in fact it it hard to not miss things coming into ripe perfection. The cucumbers are calling to be pickled yet the very thought of firing up the burners right now is insane!… this will call for some midnight canning I suspect, but at least I have a stove this year, and don’t have to fire up the wood stove and do another round of “panty canning”! Read the rest of this entry »

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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 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:

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I keep taking pictures and want to share all of the exciting accomplishments we have made around here, but everytime I pull out my camera to compose a picture I think… ‘ew look at thay ugly pile of poo, or those tarps look so messy, or why are all of those materials piled up like that in the way? Maybe it’s the artist designer in my who is always put off by the chaos in a image composition… yet I have no trouble living with the straw piled high in front of my waddle and daub shed and strewn with an ugly blue tarp! I have to admit I don’t share as many images as I would like to because I think the farm looks messy when captured in a single frame… but when your here, living and moving, growing and building the mess is all relevant to the successes we are having!

So messy piles and half finished undertakings aside we have so much to share, where to begin?

The entire “old” garden space got planted, new rock stairways improved access to the Yarn yurt and the new expansion of the garden (to the hugel and giant sheet mulch, and future key holes), we started a swift execution of an outdoor shower that was quickly quelled, and promptly replaced by a stunning pole framed shed roof shower house structure, which decks off from the yarn yurt and houses a new cedar board and baton shower and composting toilet house with stunning open views of the moutains across the valley and the top of Perrys Ridge. The new structure also boasts a lower level garden sink and outdoor kitchen area. OMG it is looking fabulous! with huge overhangs, and beautiful joinery. I was happy with the make shaft early version.. but this my friends is unreal. There is talk of milling a giant cedar slab countertop for the garden sink with part of a massive cedar trunk gifted to us.

We have had some big days in the last week planing cedar boards, pulling new dead standing poles from the back 40 for garden fencing, hauling shit, and building sheet mulch beds, and another HUGE compost pile (decked out in a fancy compostex cover rather than the trouble some tipi’d tarps). The other day I spent most of the day sitting in aged horse shit weeding it for the base of the barley bed. Poor Phil had the unfortunate task of hauling nasty chicken shit straw up to the new compost pile site.While Jordan got his chainsaw skills tuned back in, as he hauled the newly required 14 fence posts for the big expansion. Dyl and his dad plained miles of boards and the reward was warm shower for all Friday morning! What a delight! The space is totally functional yet not at all finished. It’s time for some designer attention. I have some idea to adorn the space with rusty bits and bobs repurposed. YEAH FOR HOT SHOWERS!

But I digress, I skipped the long weekend… Both of Dylan’s folks ended up joining us for what was a drizzly and cold weekend, but we still manged to get many tasks done and feed an army of 8 for days (whew that was a little tiresome but my culinary skills are honing in). It was as always so wonderful to have family out here! It was a real shock for Helen to see what we have done since her visit last summer (new road, 2 yurts, waterlines, and expanded gardens to name a few!)  Jordan slipped back to Alberta for a few days but brought his friend Isis back with him, and I was thrilled to have some amazing estrogen in the dirt with me. Isis and I managed to plant out all the rest of the beds and she did a number on the weeds, cleaning pathways and flower beds, she even improved the esthetics of the man-yurt and painted a lovely mural on the door!

Dyl and I were getting a little burned out and called for an all out NO WORK weekend! For maybe the first time ever! We spent Saturday with Dave driving to Kaslo and touring through Sandon,  it was wonderful to take a much needed day off… as we haven’t done that in months.

Today we heading up valley to help our friend raise the roof of their Conics shelter for their outdoor kitchen. What a wild structure! low cost, no waste, strong and resistant to all sorts of extreme weather. It was so cool seeing it go from a pancake of plywood tiles to a curved self supporting structure of beauty! With very few hitches!

Ah living the good life.

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I am bubbling with excitement to share our latest adventure in composting…

Where to start… Well a few months back I got back on the vermi wagon and welcomed red wigglers back into my house, inspired by our friend Rob’s vermi-pod I created my own as a temporary  house for my magical compost factory. Today I harvested my first casting. But let me go back a little further…

When I was about 8 My grandma has this wonderful invention I adored, it was a home spa, a portable long oval plastic deck you would lay in the bottom of a tub, connected to a really loud motor that for periods of 5-30 minutes at a go you could enjoy the rejuvenating bubbles of a spa right in your own tub! I used to drown myself in bath foam and create epic mountains of bubbles and play for hours in the tub. Eventually I ended up with the home spa, and dragged it from house to house with me never really using it, but always remembering home much I loved it.

After moving to BC, I was taking my PDC at Mountain Waters Retreat in Nelson and we were learning about brewing compost tea commercially! How exciting this was for me, as I had had and loved vermicompost previously and had in my possession a huge oxygenating pad which would so easily act as a brewer. Joyfully I came home only to find out a mere 3 weeks earlier Dyl had finally tipped my home spa in the bin! WHAT.. there goes my dreams of free tea brewing.

About 3 months ago I was scrounging through a second hand store when a small familiar blue and white box caught my eye. low and behold it was a home spa! Just like the one I had lost. I snapped it up for $5, and today it had it’s virgin run.

We had a tragedy occur here at the farm, that is we lost all the tomato plants and the cuc’s in the course of a few days. (more on tabacco related deaths in a future post), but all of the sudden the health and vitality of my smallest tomato and pepper starts was of the up-most importance! The starts needed a major boost of love and care and it was time to bust out the worms and the brewer and get at it!

Here is what we did.

I harvested about 4 cups of casting (and coco-husk bedding, thus the increased amount) and bagged it in a reusable produce bag that essentially acts as a tea bag, we put the tea bag in a 40L rubbermade bin, filled it with water along with 1/2 cup of Mycrobez (a wonderful live enzyme product made in Kaslo, sourced from Bocashi composting), added about 1/2 cup of unsulfured molasses and  immersed the home spa in the bin. Weighted it down with a tree root and a pick axe, that we just happen to have been using all week, used vice grips to over ride the timer function and got the tea a brewing! And boy did it brew!

Any fears about the home spa’s lack of air flow were immediately quelled as it busted out some serious bubbles! As I type the tea is in it’s 4th hour of brewing and by this time tomorrow all of our plants will get a hard earned juice boost from our friends the worms!

And as we are now rabbit farmers too the worms will get there first taste of rabbit droppings and straw bedding tomorrow! Exciting times as the elements all start to come together around here. Stay tuned there is so much on the go, and I have a few more posts to share soon about earthworks, water, rabbits, and how tobacco plants kill tomatoes 😦

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Oh what a week we have had here!

Our new intern Jordan arrived last week just as Phil departed for a time, we are soaking up the the new and unstoppable energy and crossing many items of the ever building To Do list! Things are looking tidy around here and Dylan is bucking up stacks of trees and Jordan doesn’t ever put the axe down… which means the firewood stacks are growing to a promising size!

I moved my nightshade starts into their new temporary home in the sweet cold fame Jordan built and we have salad greens popping up everywhere! The garden has been all encompassing of my time these days and  Jordan and I have been spending endless hours digging and double digging the new massive potato patch, edged on one side by shelling peas set to climb up the fence and on the other is a cabbage and onions mound edged with a whimsical olive oil tin  kale / chard container boarder. We put 20+ lbs of potatoes in the ground today, 4 varieties, and are trying and interesting approach to planting… Firstly we set each start in the ground with a comfry leaf (to ward off scabs) placed 12″ apart in rows of triangles to maximize plants per space, then we gently covered them with dirt and will be building up layer after layer of straw mulch on top. The idea is that the potatoes grow in the straw rather than the ground, yielding clean and easily harvested  potatoes, hundreds and hundreds of them! Here is a good example of a straw potato patch success storey. Next we tackle the purple barley field and the corn crop.

This week we  travelled to a south slocan farm to meet our newest animal additions… a mating pair of rabbits. Just working on the design for hutch housing and dropping collection to easily feed the worms. The idea has spiralled into a bigger far more function stacked system, but while we have the skilled hands we might as well throw in a passive solar green house and compost tea brewing facility right!?!  We have orderd a few more chicks to keep our little solo babe company and have finally got our hands on the two breeds we have been after for some time; Marans which lay chocolate brown coloured eggs and Silkies which have a big white poof of feathers on their heads and look an awful lot like fragil rock creatures.

Our strawberries are flowering (which is so exciting because they will turn into the first strawberries ever from our land) and out guilded fruit trees from last year all look healthy and are popping with green, as is everything around us!

We managed to get our new hillside seeded out and planted with hundreds of basket willow starts to attempt to stabile the lot after our road work last year. Much more willow basket weaving is certain to be in my future.

We all managed to get the final strapping of the yurt roof done, it’s tied down, insulated and almost decoratively covered (with white tarp). Last night we celebrated with a fooz tourney, as the long stored foos ball table now has a home in the man-yurt. It is all most move in ready, with a well working door and a new temporary (albeit ugly) roof cap, that is a repurposed fiberglas massive satelight dish. We have sweet vintage metal cabinets to use in the new yurt ( or the Murt; man-yurt as we have been lovingly referring to it as) and the makings of a nice little kitchenette, complete with a bar fridge and a sudo- sink.

This next week the boys will finally tackle the unfinished 3/10th’s of  tin roof on woodhenge! This will mean dry storage and re-stacking of lumber in racking!

We built and have been monitoring a whopping HOT compost pile… Ahh nothing like the smell of steamy cooking compost to get you up in the morning! Actually the pile got a little too hot, and took some effort to cool it down, but it will be lovely and ready shortly. Jordan took an in depth soil studies class with Doug Weatherbee last year and there is another round of this class I am really interested in attending this month in Alberta hosted by Verge. I love the study of soil and making it and it would be dreamy to get out to this workshop.

Speaking of interesting things happening in Alberta, The Western Canada Permaculture Convergence is happening this August (24-26) and it is certain to be an amazing event! Many of our friends are involved in making it a success and it will be a fabulously inspiring weekend of learning and sharing and networking!

I have been working on this post for a number of days, and since starting it Phil has re joined our team here, and I was happy he made it back in time for all of us to take in the May Day – Water Celebration. Winlaw’s annual festival in celebration of our stunning water in this special place. The event is a long day of music and dancing and reuniting with friends as we all shake of the winter and celebrate the spring, complete with a drum lead parade from “downtown” to the river for a blessing. The whole community joined in singing “down to the river to pray” and it was a breathtaking and fabulous! What a special place  to be.

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a solid fir compression ring.

This is compression ring number 3 here at tricycle acres… this one the most rudimentary by far, in fact as we starting slamming what is now known as the man yurt or the “murt” together a week a go today, we were dreaming of a self supporting reciprocal roof rafters, built from the poles our intern Phil has been peeling by the dozens. The reciprocal method was not going to work on this yurt we discovered after pole #4, but with the help of our friend Dino… steady on we kept at ‘er and threw up a car rim up as the centre point… the poles all fit in really nicely cut using the on the fly chain-saw method of precision cutting 30 degree angles, the structure almost built itself… until it didn’t. That is to say somewhere around pole number 20 (of a planned 32) something went array and the hugely tensile rim shifted to lay less than level to the world. We hummed and ratchet strapped and tweaked, and some poles rained down on us, before Dyl packed it in for the shop to build another compression ring for yet another round pole structure!

The new ring went up today and the roof plugged together in just a few short hours (now we were really practised). So today day 7 from newly cleared very uneven sloped land we now have a built from scratch 20 foot yurt complete with solid fir lattice walls and and cedar pole roof, sitting on a plywood deck built on a super solid foam block piling system engineered with with pallet wrap and some scrap plywood. We have not used one bit of manufacture yurt parts yet… but Tomorrow we haul the skins and insulation up from the barn (which is fast walking down the hill MUST GET IT STABILIZED..and soon). Then we go recover a HUGE old satelight dish that has been given to us to make the murt roof cap! The door comes from the Thread Guild heritage building complete with antique glass knobs (my favourite) ! Ahh Upcycled yurt in a week and a bit!

SWEET.

The yurt is sitting smack daub in the middle of what we now call PERMA-CAMP. Our intern / camper / overflow / friends and family outback! Can’t wait to watch this area evolve into a little camp town. I am a happy girl…. better amenities out there mean less impact in here. This tiny space seems ever tinier by the day. Soon we’ll have a heated shower and sink in perma camp, as well as a little kitchen in the yurt. I am hoping someone will build a couple tent decks so our tenting pals have some flat land to set up on. To day we hung a hammock at the camp and are talking about building a nice bench around the central yew tree. yew sit. yew think. yew rest, here. The view is stunning up at  the camp and I am thrilled to be moving forward and crossing things off the fridge list each day.

Today the fruit tree’s got mulched heavily with wet straw and some poopy chicken straw all set above coils of soaker hose and perennial companion guilds. I have planted out a few beds so far… carrots and onions, and beets. My starts are exploding! I have the healthiest tomatoes and cucs starts of my gardening career right now! Eeee! The garden plan is in place and I am chewing away at it as I can fit it between yurting and cooking and baking.

I am looking forward to a few focused garden weeks ahead with our next intern, as we take on some raw couch grassy new land and put in some keyhole garden beds as well as the hugelkultur  bed, which we have been amassing materials for. In fact “hugel” has become a verb around here… “hugel it” we say everyday as we add to the sorted orderly piles of forest materials: burn pit, rocket fuel, hugel bed, future build pile, firewood stack.. etc.

The spring clean is on, and we are sorting and hauling and stacking EVERYTING! even the red mossy van got hauled away today! The wagon is next and soon maybe even the old ford van and truck too!

The trees are about to burst… the buds look like they couldn’t possibly stay closed one more day, and the bee’s and the swallows and the song birds are all back, as are the eagles and the bears! Oh and we have found our first mating pair of rabbits.. and are off to meet them this week! Mating, and babies, meat and fur, vermicompost, compost  tea … here we come.

Oh and moma bird looks to be a certified one hit wonder, again we only have 1 chickie. Funny we named her Madonna and yet her sister hen Cindy Lopper has yet to set but would have been a better name for our moma hen.

Yesterday I went to the annual yard and yardage sale at the Threads Guild and loaded up on sprawling flowering perennial plants to add to the “bee garden” and birch graveyard. We are drillingout old tree stumps for bee condos set amid rhododendron and bee balm and now motherwort and another 5 or so blue and purple flower plants I will likely never remember the names of!

I am so bagged… long hard days hauling heavy dirty shit around. And to think we are only weeks into it all. Living the good life.

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