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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!

Everyday brings us one step closer to snow, and one step farther behind a growing “to-do before the snow” list!

The garden is put to bed, mulched and ready for a seasonal rest, the hoses are put away (for the first year ever), the hammocks are stowed, most of the firewood is undercover, seeds and herbs from the garden are drying and ready for more sorting, of which we have done so much of already! We managed to save so many seeds this year; barley, peas, mustard, cress, lettuce galore, carrot, parsnip, coriander, tomato, corn, leek, onion, & garlic! I have even managed to properly package and jar all my seeds, sorted into families and sealed tight for safe keeping from mice and frost. You’ll see this in the image above, my neat sorted and labled  jars, but if you look really close you’ll also see in the back right corner, what looks like a golden mowhawk is actually a huge rubber made bin living my my tiny living room, FULL of more seed and grain to thresh and stow. My main objective these days in trying to find root seller like pockets around the place to stow away roots and onions, and squash, pears and potatoes… oh and somewhere to stash the nearly 200 jars of food I have put up this year. That is a challenge in 600 uninsulated sq feet, let me tell you. Vertical itragration is key, that is when the roof isn’t leaking over your neat vertical stacks of cans (but that is another story). Read the rest of this entry »

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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I know I have mentioned a few times already that we are hugel-ing a part of the new garden expansion… well the other day we finally got the bed underway!

The hugelkultur bed (mound culture as it translates from German) was pretty simple to assemble:

We started by staking out a contour line, and as we are building it on a hill side, we pounded some pole steaks into the ground to catch the load of the first and largest punky tree trunks, then we neatly stacked more and more woody materials (which we have been hoarding in hugel stacks for months) generally building the stack from biggest pieces to smallest as we went up. The overall shape is a long pie wedge that acts as the boarder from the road way to the new terraces.

The following day we utilized our new gravity spring fed water line and really saturated the mound, which made for a nice refreshing sprinkler cool down as we worked on a small excavation about 12 feet away in the beating heat. Having a hugel dump site directly behind a earthen excavation was peachy! All of the roots and twigs and duff we pulled out easily made there way to the mound.

What a lovely way to use us massive amounts of wood bits and bobs; branches punky stumps, rotten birch branches, roots, twigs, leaves, pine needles, old straw well packed in chicken manure, the contents of many pee buckets, leafy duff, pine shavings, and sandy soil from an excavation… what does this all amount to? A self watering nutrient rich raised bed, that may even ward off the kouch grass for a time!

Check out Paul Wheatons Great hugelkultur Page full of diagrams and pictures of more examples of hugels in action!

Our hugelbed will will planted out with squash and chickpeas, all of which will be heavily mulched of course. As we work on building good soil it will be exciting to watch it grow!

On the topic of mulch; For the last couple years I have used a great amount of straw to mulch all of my beds, but struggle with the fact that it is not even close to local out here, it’s expensive and has been pretty seedy in the past. So what is our local counterpart to straw? Well it’s wood chips my friends! Lucky for us we have a friend who owns a small (this is a relative term) mill just down the road and he is swimming in wood chips and shavings, he gives us the word once he has run pine or fir and we head down the road 5 minutes for truckloads. I like the look of the wood chips in the garden, and on the occasion of a chicken assault on the garden the birds seem less drawn to the wood chips than they are to straw! Best of all it’s free!

We will add more pictures as we get the bed planted and it starts to grow and we get underway the next garden bed projects: sheet mulch key hole beds!

On the topic of sheet mulch: Way way back 3 spring times agao, when all we had here was a waving hillside of kouch grass I eked out one 80 foot long bed using a lasagne or sheet multch technique. I built that bed right ontop of thriving fresh kouch grass, and still to this day it is one of my favorite and most nutrient rich beds in the garden. The grass is managable and not so vigorous and I feel like this is a really viable option for working with weedy long routed grass challenges! There are some things I have learned about that bed and my material selections I am set to improve this go round.

*** I am so stoked to have so much great news to report, having all the extra muscle and brain power around here is fabulous, we are making HUGE steps forward in all manor of food and human systems. Jordan erected a great shower house next to the yarn yurt and we finally got to use the bamboo walls Dayna gifted us last year for the task, The shower has a sturdy peeled pole bench and a pallet deck floor. We will have a double sink next to it for all manor of garden / toiletry / and kitchen camp uses both will be heated with a hot water on demand unit designed for outdoor camps. The open air view from the shower is wonderful and I can’t wait to jump in an enjoy a sunny outdoor shower!

Phil and Jordan hauled no end of big @ss boulders around today, improving access after days of bobcat disruption! We now have a raging water line across the garden and to the yarn yurt, and that was no small feat. Dyl had to learn how to drive a bobcat backhoe to get 140 feet of new water line in place, and that task was an all hands on deck pick axe-shovelling-racking fiasco! I kept singing “laying pipe all day long” and acknowledged that never before have I had 3 men “…working so hard to satisfy this woman”!

Yeah for water, and bobcats, and bamboo showers, and perky plants who loved the vermi-compost tea treatments!!!

 

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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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Seems like we have been at a bit of a stand still the past few weeks, what with a trip to Alberta which had us hauling home all sorts of deals and materials for repurposing, oh and a nasty bug that beat us all. We were welcomed home with a week of dreary rainy grey sky complete with coughing and aching. UGH! Luckily we had two shinning bright sunny days to remind us just how great life can be out here, when your working without the rain pouring on you.

Right before we left we welcomed our friend from Calgary and first permaculture intern Phil, He is making the transition from urban to rural life and we are lucky to have him and all his drive to figure out this mountain life of building with trees, which as we well know by now is awfully idyllic but full of sweaty tedious dirty chores from; sighting the tree, falling the tree, de-limbing, hauling, peeling, storing, and milling or chopping the tree, all before you even get to hammer a nail into it! Phil has been reading a lot of Rob Roy, and is very well educated on the process, but like anything doing is so much different than reading about doing! He diligently trudges on though, and is making great work of the newly fallen birches; chopping and stacking, and the cedars we felled to clear a small building site… these poles nearly 40 of them have almost all been peeled by hand by Phil! I think he is perfecting his technique, and as he dreams of his own cord wood home he now has a good understanding of the magnitude of each of these tasks… something we still often forget.

Soil blocking has become my new past time.. I am loving my soil blockers and can’t believe how healthy and strong my starts are this year! Just the other day I transplanted beautiful cucumbers in their 2″ blocks into the maxi  4” soil block… what fun! We have salad micro greens nearly ready to eat now!

During our 2 days of sunshine the guys took a break from the drudgery of pole peeling, and we set to work making the new chicken coop (version 4.0). The coop started with a 6 pallet deck at the base of a great stand of ceder trees, we then quickly assembled the used shed we purchased a few weeks back, dug a number of deep fence posts and tamped in some of the biggest newly peeled ceder poles. The days were full of joyous successes and practical use of waste and local materials. The chickens will be OH SO HAPPY in their new forest home, protected by great trees and solid fencing (FINALLY)! Using ceder mill scraps we executed a lovely nesting box / rousting bar fixture, and today the guys are fastening the wire fencing and afixing the lovely garden gate Dylan made for me for Christams! I think our lovely ladies will make the move tomorrow to their newest and bestest home yet!

Speaking chickens… I put my flock to work the past couple days in the garden and green house, cleaning and turning the soil, weeding and debugging to their delight! How easy cleaning the garden is when you have over 2 dozen eager volunteers! Unfortunately the days ended poorly for a couple of our animals, as Odin (the puppy) after behaving himself for nearly two whole days, took after a bantam bird… who luckily escaped… but we discovered yesterday he had nabbed himself a hen on the sly and sadly we lost a good layer. Odin has proven himself a loyal and sweet smart and lovely boy… but his chicken prey drive is deep routed. As we humm over his fate he is wearing “the necklace of shame”. We took the advise of many an old farmer and tied the poor dead bird around his neck, and he is dragging that carcass around with him and sadly is out of the pack today. Hopefully this changes his opinion of chicken hunting… because he is on strike 3. Not sure my future dreams of ducks and a fish pond will work with Odin around 😦

Brighter skies ahead I am sure.

For more of our mountain side adventures check out Phils philosophical blogs (likely more artfully written than my own!)

http://i-ching-guidance.blogspot.ca/ 
http://allthingsindigo.blogspot.ca/ 
http://phils-natural-building.blogspot.ca/

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