Emerald Grove – Permaculture Farm

We are very excited this spring because so much is starting to happen on our lower field. Through the Young Agrarian land-matching program we joined with a young farmer, Ryan, who will live and work the land and build his own farming business. I’m going to invite him to share content on this website and through blog posts in the coming months but for now I wanted to write a quick post since it’s been oh so long. Winter was a busy time planning and now that spring is here we are putting into action all of our collective ideas.

Ryan is starting with 1/4 acre this year to get things going but has a design worked out that includes increasing the farm to 1/2 acre next year as well as incorporating a forest garden around the perimeter of the farm. We are excited to watch the progress as he hones his skills and builds his knowledge.

Steve and I are taking care of basic clean up and getting the well and electric down to the lower property. We’ve got the wood to mill and all of those branches to chip up for use on garden pathways.

That’s all for now, much more to come!

Ryan adding manure to the 1/4 acre section
A small grove of cedars was removed to allow more light into the field during winter. The lumber will be used for projects on the property!

Was it worth the wait? Heck yeah!

What started as a dream in 2018 when I first purchased land in the Slocan Valley has become a reality and we are now living in our beautiful Nomad Micro Home. The amazing Sustainable Roots Contracting team, led by Jessie Novak, did a fabulous job constructing the main home and detached rental. We came up with some ideas to put our own stamp on the original design and the end results are glorious – we could not be more pleased!

Jessie Novak and his team heading out on the last official day of the build
Jessie and his crew heading out on the last day of the build

From my last post about poop in … wow, July 2020 … to now – we’ve been very busy, and we have just received our final occupancy, so we are in! What an epic journey, not only with the project but with life in general … The pandemic certainly has disrupted many of our lives on so many levels and it can be hard to keep from feeling anxious and overwhelmed by the uncertainty of it all. Having this project has been a blessing (and, ok, sometimes a curse!) in that it has kept me focused and in the moment. The Tarot card II Pentacles pretty much says it all. This card reminds us to be patient, flexible and adaptable as we try to juggle our responsibilities.

I also love the Stoic quote below, I think it’s a good reminder for us all.

“The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately” Seneca

My biggest learnings from tackling a building project are that construction loans are not what they appear to be (don’t be tempted to get one unless you have a bank account full of money); everything will take 2 or 3 times longer than you expect and be more expensive (especially during a pandemic – plywood went up in cost by 3 times!); and you need to be flexible and adaptable. I wrote about the importance of maintaining flexibility and being adaptable quite some time ago. We’ve certainly had to be very adaptable and ready to make quick decisions, particularly over the past 10 months.

Everything happens for a reason and in it’s own time and while we were supposed to be moved in to our home in the fall, I’m glad that we ended up moving in in the winter as it is forcing us to take a breather and to rest. There will be a lot of work to do on the property in the spring and summer but for now I’m focusing on getting back to some sorely missed disciplines and practices – namely, meditation, yoga, Tarot and numerology.

I’m also looking forward to writing more regular posts! My next one will be about our beautiful little vacation rental that we call The Nest!

Let’s Talk Poop

I’ve spent my whole life until now living in places that were hooked up to city sewage systems so I’ve never had a reason or desire to understand how a septic system works.  Living in cities we don’t think about this kind of s#!t … we pour it, dump it, flush it and forget about it.  Well, unless you live in Victoria where we’re reminded often that we are flushing our poop (among other things) into the ocean (though thankfully that’s now changing with a new raw sewage filtration plant at the mouth of the harbor).  

So, now that I watched a septic system being installed and I’ll be living with this thing, I want to understand how it works.  I want to understand how to maintain it and what actually happens down there underground, in the tank and in the field.

It was great having a chance to peer into the tank before it was mostly buried.  It looked spotlessly clean – it made me wonder about all the things you could use it for (before it gets used for what it is meant, of course).

A hot tub, a fish tank? As the installer was explaining all the parts to us, he proceeded to show me the filter that I will apparently need to pull up from time to time to hose it off … 

Um… to… WHAT? I have do that? Ha ha… you’re joking, right? Nope, no joking. I think I’ll hire someone to do it.  Going rural, I guess there’s a lot of that sort of thing I’ll have to get used to – cleaning out chicken coops will be another fun adventure … more poop… 

Maintaining a safe and clean septic system is a very important part about living unattached to the city sewerage system.

I did a bit of research and found a site that discussed the best toilet paper to use.  Don’t use anything too robust, they say, as it will likely sink to the bottom of the tank and build up over time – that definitely doesn’t sound good. 

This resource gives a good selection of TP to use and includes pros and cons – who knew there was so much to consider about TP? I mean, yah, I have my favourite types based on feel – nothing feels good about sand paper down there, or the kind that basically disintegrates in your hands while you’re using it, yuck.

Basically it’s good to remember that nothing goes down the toilet except for toilet paper – NOTHING – no Kleenex, paper towels, baby wipes, tampons, kitty litter etc.  Just the right kind of toilet paper. Those leftovers in the fridge that start to look like a weird biology experiment? No way, keep that stuff out of there.

Moving on to the kitchen sink? This will be hard for me; I can’t say I’ve been overly conscious about food stuff that I put down the sink … So, I’ll have to be better at remembering that nothing goes down except for water and soap.  That grease from the bacon pan? Either use paper towels to soak it up and wipe it down or better yet scoop it out when it’s hard and put it in an old tin can … Coffee grounds? Well, these are really good in the garden, especially around hydrangea bushes and things like blueberries that like the acidity.

Of course it goes without saying that chemicals should never ever go down the toilet or sink – that means no bleach! Bleach will kill off all of the good bacteria that the septic system needs to break down the waste and keep it running well. Not to mention you’ll be contaminating the soil and that’s a hazard for everyone and everything – think of the butterflies, birds, bees and bugs. Always dispose of chemicals properly!  

For cleaning, I really love the products you can purchase at Nezza Naturals in Victoria (they ship in Canada and US!).

Or make your own! It’s so simple – lately I’ve been sprinkling baking soda and vinegar in the bathroom sink and shower to clean off soap scum – it works really well.  Lemon juice is also really great to use and it smells so nice and fresh.  You can cut a lemon in half and rub the juice on whatever area you are cleaning, squeeze out the extra juice and add it to a spray bottle that has water in it. Spray the sink or other surfaces as a disinfectant. 

Tea Tree Oil is also a really great alternative to bleach. It’s got a natural fresh scent. Just add a few drops of the oil in warm water in a spray bottle and spray any surface that needs a bit of disinfectant.

Vinegar isn’t quite as pleasant in terms of scent but with its acidic properties it makes for a great cleaning product. Again just put into a spray bottle mixed with water and start cleaning.  You can also add a bit of vinegar to your laundry – it’ll help brighten your clothes and cut through any soap residue.  Try pouring a little bit in your machine next time you do a load (not too much – you don’t want to smell like a chip shop!)

I’ve never used it myself but I hear that Castile soap is a great alternative to bleach.  It’s made with olive oil – dilute it with water and use it to scrub bathrooms, dishes and floors. You can also add it to your laundry as a detergent by adding vinegar, and baking soda.

I’ll end this poopy post with a funny story shared to me by my septic system installer.  A customer called him up complaining of a blocked septic pipe.  He went to check it out and ended up having to use a long stick or tool to poke at an obstruction.  He poked and poked and then suddenly realized that the blockage was breaking up, and breaking up fast.  He had just enough time to turn and run before a poop geyser shot poop into the sky nearly covering him in s#@t. 

When he spoke to the home owner, he asked if they used dry laundry detergent – oh no said he, never … long pause … oh… except, a few years ago my wife decided she’d make her own so, yeah, I guess we did for a time.  

So final tip, do not use dry powder for dishwasher or laundry or you might just create a poop geyser of your own.

That’s it, that’s all I’m going to say about poop (for now… until I get chickens).

I want it now!

Surrender has certainly been a theme throughout this entire building process. I should have mastered it by now but I still find my self getting caught up in the “OMG the sky is falling!” moments. Yes I meditate, yes I do yoga and walk and do self-care, but sometimes things hit you like a wave and you feel completely tossed around and spit out onto the rocky beach – ouch!

“Don’t seek to have events happen as you wish, but wish them to happen as they do happen and all will be well with you.”

Epictetus

The second Nomad shipment arrived with what we are now calling The Nest (the vacation rental) and work began. Then, after only the first day it became apparent that some of the building pieces were not for our build but for a shipment that went to someone else in the area. We had some of theirs, they had some of ours… the logistics of getting the pieces swapped set us back a week which is a pretty big deal at this point of the project! Events were not happening as I wished at all and I did not feel well, not in the least.

We’ve been getting into Stoicism lately and this Epictetus quote reminded me to surrender to what was happening in the moment – not to project what I wanted to be but what was, right here, right now. If we can achieve that state of mind during any challenge we might face, we can at least find peace of mind – and to know that no matter what, all will be well.

This coming week work begins again and when the next obstacle or challenge arrives, which inevitably it will, I will remember this quote.

Adapting to the new norm

In my last post I shared thoughts on how being adaptable can help us to navigate through stressful times and how learning to be ok with change can help us to be calm and respond to situations despite the fear or uncertainty that we may feel. To seek out solutions instead of focusing on what is wrong.  We may even find that we learn how to thrive during times such as these.

The way that we carry out almost every activity in our daily life has changed in such a short period of time, and just the other day I encountered a new one. Our bank appraiser came by the property to asses the progress made on our home in order that funds from my construction loan may be released to me. He let us know ahead of time that because of the COVID-19 situation, he is only permitted to perform drive-by viewings from the road, he can’t actually drive or step onto the property.

When he arrived, we spoke to him from across the road and he instructed us on what photographs he’d need to see in order for him to complete his report. Below are some of the photos we took and you’ll see a lot of work has taken place in the past month. The siding is completed, the windows are in, the roof on and soffits installed. Last week the electricians made a lot of progress and this week I believe the plumber is coming in. Then begins the fun stuff like drywall!

Adaptability and embracing change has been my friend throughout the length of this project and we still have several months to go. So many delays and moving timelines to manage along with the tedious and often stressful task of juggling finances. The money aspect is one which has forced us to re-evaluate the original plan again and again … and yet again. Sure there is stress within this process and yes I have shed tears of frustration at times wondering if I had bitten off more than I could chew. However I truly believe that with each requirement to change we have come to the most incredible way forward and I don’t think we would have got here without everything “negative” and “challenging” that has happened along the way!

We are very fortunate to have a property outside the ALC which allows us to be creative and to play with lots of different possibilities. The part of the property that is down the hill and through the cedar forest from where we are building the Nomads is a big beautiful open field. Some of our ideas have been to find a partner to build a boutique micro-brewery. Another was to build a really cool house on stilts like the Sol-Duc. We also thought about building several live/work studio homes for people in the area, or a business centre for the local community.

And then… COVID-19 came along and here we now are at the end of March in a Brave New World, the strangest of days. So within a few weeks and with all the uncertainty surrounding everyone and everything, all of the plans that we had considered got thrown out the window and we had to re-evaluate our plan.

One morning, about a week ago, while I was doing my idea machine “workout” I had the seed of a thought which, while later brainstorming it with Steve, germinated into something fabulous – the idea to marry my love of tiny homes with my interest in permaculture gardening together to build something for ourselves and for the greater community. The plan to invite between 3 – 5 experienced permaculture designers/ farmers who will park their own off-grid tiny home on wheels on our property began coming together.

lower field

Then the question became… how? How do we reach out to find these people? Where to begin? Well, about a year ago I had joined the Young Agrarians organization and while I hadn’t been actively participating I did remember that they have a B.C. Land Matching Program so I started by reaching out to them. The other part of this plan involved reaching out to ReWild Homes, a builder of tiny home on wheels located on Vancouver Island. They have a resources page which includes a lands listing for tiny home owners to find a place to park their homes. I’ve connected with two amazing human beings who are helping me to make this dream a reality!

The vision and plan is to bring like minded people together to build a model or blueprint for sustainable living. We must change the way we live, it has become so apparent in these last few months that we must not, for the sake of this planet, continue being consumer focused and that we need to take control of our local food sources – to become more self sufficient.

We human beings are only stewards of this land, we don’t “own” it, we are only temporarily taking care of it for the next generation as well as for all of the creatures great and and small that share the land with us. It’s shocking – in a horrible but also good way – to see the beneficial affects of the slow down of industry is having on our planet. Blue skies and clear waters in places around the globe where this hasn’t been the case for as long as local residents can remember.

I believe it behoves us to take this global life altering situation that we’ve found ourselves in and make a change for the better – however that might look for you. To go back to the way things were just doesn’t, in my mind, seem to be an option! If you were to change just one thing, what would it be?

I’ll get off my soap box now but leave you this a final note: if you, or someone you know, is a farmer (particularly versed in permaculture) who wants to participate in realizing this vision I have for our Winlaw property, you will share in the harvest, sell at an onsite weekly market and have the opportunity to run workshops and lectures on the property to demonstrate the value and importance of permaculture gardening. If you are interested in participating in any way with this project please feel free to reach out, send me an email at info@ravens-perch.local.

What’s in a Number?

A few years ago I took Numerology course with the amazing teacher Brenda Lawrence through the Inner Quest Foundation in Victoria, British Columbia.  The field of Numerology isn’t new, it was begun by Pythagoras way back in 569 B.C.  The theory is that each number carries a certain vibration that equates to certain qualities which can predict a persons personality among other things. According to Numerologists nothing happens by accident, everything happens because of numbers.  Mathematics  explains the whole of the universe and we, as human beings, are made up of particles of the whole of the universe… so it all kind of makes sense. 

I am fascinated with and love numerology and the insight that it can provide into self, relationships and even homes.  The funny thing is that me and math (or numbers) did not have a happy start – I barely passed grade 9 math, repeated grade 10 math  and then gave it up after my second time through. I tend to be somewhat dyslexic when it comes to numbers as well so it makes me chuckle that I am so very drawn to this subject.

So now, to the point of this post – when I bought the property it’s recorded “address” was PL-NEP20007 Hoodikoff Road. I could guess what the first number was going to be based on the neighbouring lots but beyond that I didn’t know. Thinking I had to wait for all of my permits to be issued before I received a number, I patiently waited. It wasn’t until I spoke with Bruce (the milling guy) that I realized I could apply any time.  That afternoon I made a call to the regional district office and  Bob’s your uncle they said I’d have a number in a few days!  

When the email arrived it stated that I had not one but two address numbers… This, apparently, because there are two individual structures on the property and the address numbers are useful in the case of emergency.  Using my knowledge of numerology, I immediately brought each of the four digits to single digits and ended up with one address (5631) being a “6” energy and the other a “4” energy.  We will be using the address number that equals “6” because it’s more in line with our hopes and dreams… (read at the bottom of the post if you’re interested in what 6 represents). 

We will often be referring to this property as simply Raven’s Perch as it is a big part of our project so that in itself carries a huge amount of weight when it comes to understanding the vibration that we will be imprinting on the property… Or, wait! Did we pick the name or did the property “speak to us” and reveal it’s name?  That’s where the metaphysical esoteric intuitive arts get all mind warp-y and why I find it infinitely intriguing!  Anyway, I digress… I did the numerology on the name (for those new to the topic, each letter is associated with a number and once you’ve worked out what numbers align with each word you narrow it down to a single digit). Raven’s Perch is an 11/2 and the 11 particularly resonates with me and this particular property because the moment we first saw it we both felt an instant pull and we even agreed with each other that this is a truly magical place… (read at the bottom of the post if you’re interested in what 11/2 represents).

The intention is to use the property not just for ourselves but to have people stay in the guest suite (hopefully to use it as a retreat from the outer world due to it’s beautiful natural setting), to run workshops on the land related to gardening and natural healthy living (we’re setting up tree stump seating in the forest grove), and who knows what other ideas are yet to be borne. Since we do plan on making it a very active place, these numbers will not only influence us as stewards of the land but also will influence those who come to visit! I will be interested to see how people end up responding to the land and their experience on the property.

You don’t have to know about numerology and understand it for it to work. You’re already living and breathing it!    All of the above to say, I am thrilled with the address that I received!  Below is just a very brief description of the numbers 6 and 11/2.

Interesting to note that within the Tarot, the number 11 is associated with the Major Arcana card “Strength” which in turn is also associated with Leo the Lion in Astrology (which is coincidentally my birth sign).  

Here’s some information about 6 and 11.
5631 (equals 6) This number is the vibration of love, service, compassion, creativity, and artistry. It is said that a 6 house is a home with heart.  It is a great home in which to raise a family and these homes are often filled with children and animals. The 6 house is conducive to its owners hosting intimate gatherings with friends as opposed to wild parties.  Those living in a 6 home can have a tendency of becoming a bit reclusive or not leaving home because it’s so wonderfully harmonious!  It is a great home to run a service-based business, particularly one that is heart-based and/or has an aspect of healing. It is an address in which artists and teachers will thrive.  Under the influence of this number a person living in a 6 house will probably make some wonderful friends and have much enjoyment as it is the most favourable number for harmonious co-operation.   

Raven’s Perch is an 11/2. First of all, looking at the number 2 – this number is known to bring balance to life. This number is excellent for those who love to derive happiness from the little things in life (such as a tiny home!). It is also for people who are kind, generous and believe in creating long-term relationships.

Looking next at the number 11 – homes with the energy of “11” are extremely powerful, intuitive, and they hold an almost magical energy as well as irresistible charm and allure. In this place you will find your intuition and psychic abilities awaken.