Tag Archives: Vancouver island

E is for Excellent Expeditions

Funny how sometimes it takes having a visitor to get you out and about and exploring the neighbourhood! That’s exactly what has been happening since we started hosting our lovely volunteers – we’ve been tootling around southern Vancouver Island, showing them the sights and falling in love with our amazing home all over again.

The Kinsol Trestle on Vancouver Island is the largest remaining wooden trestle in the Commonwealth - the recently rebuilt and refurbished structure contains 60 percent of the timbers from the original completed in 1920.

The Kinsol Trestle on Vancouver Island is the largest remaining wooden trestle in the Commonwealth – the recently rebuilt and refurbished structure contains 60 percent of the timbers from the original completed in 1920.

I’ve lived here for many years and our family visited the island a number of times before that, but today was the first time I’d ever been to the trestle. D and T made sure to document our visitors’ experience of the day:

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Everyone was a little soggy, but the rain softened as the afternoon wore on and despite the weather we all enjoyed our outing.

Everyone was a little soggy, but the rain softened as the afternoon wore on and despite the weather we all enjoyed our outing.

A couple of weeks ago we all trekked out to East Sooke Park, another glorious destination not so far from here. IMG_8891[1]

It would have been hard to have picked a nicer day! The sun came out and between the hiking, the dogs romping, and the tasty picnic, we all came home happy and relaxed.

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Volunteers from our place and from Maypenny Farm enjoying a day at the beach at East Sooke Park.

Even when we are ostensibly ‘working’ we try to throw in a bit of fun… When I had to take a load of ducks to Salt Spring Island for processing (the nearest facility that will take ducks at the moment) we allowed a bit of extra time for sightseeing. No visit to SSI is complete without a trip up Mount Maxwell, a visit to Ruckle Park, something to eat in Ganges, and a round of frisbee golf.

DCF Marcel Saltspring Mount Maxwell

DCF Mount Maxwell Sunrise

 

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Lambs at Ruckle Park

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Frisbee golf is a lot harder than it looks. The course on Salt Spring Island is pretty cool – an easy stroll from downtown Ganges in a big park.

It was great visiting Salt Spring again and taking some time to poke around. If I ever leave the ‘big’ island, I could imagine myself living on Salt Spring once again.

For regular readers, there’s a connection to SSI in my books… I lived there in the early ’80’s and again a number of years later when my daughter was born at the Lady Minto Hospital. Those years on Salt Spring were great and when I was looking for a Gulf Island on which to model the fictitious Tarragon Island, I of course chose Salt Spring. Three books followed, two with Tarragon Island in the title, if you are curious and want to go searching. There is another planned and my recent trip reminded me why I set those books where I did. But, all that is the subject for another post… maybe T is for Tarragon Island?

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[p.s. Who knew? I just googled ‘Tarragon Island’ looking for a cover photo to add and discovered that the third book, Trouble on Tarragon Island has its very own wikipedia page.]

 

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Hens in the snow

Hens in the snow

The chickens are definitely under-impressed with all the snow over the past couple of days. As am I, to be honest. The worst part of this deluge has been the strange nature of the precipitation – a mix of rain, snow, ice pellet, and sleet. It’s just warm enough that there’s a good foot of slush in places and plenty of running (gushing) water everywhere. It’s just cold enough that the snow is sticking and making it horrible to walk/carry hay/function outside.

It is now pouring as I write this… if the temperatures creep up over night, much of this mess will have washed away by morning. If the temperatures go the other way… oh, my – I don’t even want to think about the mess my hill will be by the time morning rounds roll around… Yuck!

Poor M. C. from Germany thought he’d come to Vancouver Island because it’s relatively warm and snow free. Hah!! Instead he wound up having to build bridges out of logs and pallets so we could safely navigate the deep mud slushy in the hog pen. So much for my ‘start seeds’ and ‘prepare garden beds’ plan…

Large Black Hogs in the Snow

Inside their hog hut, Pearl and Olivia build fluffy nests out of hay and then burrow in and snuggle up together. They seem to be dealing with the nasty weather remarkably well, all things considered.

Interesting Opportunity for the Right Person – Farm Manager at O.U.R. Ecovillage

What an exhausting day! Though the bit where I slogged through the mud in the lower hog pen  trying to find out where the electric fence was shorting out was somewhat wearying (and worrying, I discovered said problem when I went down to do the afternoon feed rounds and found the boar, Pompadour, hanging out with Cora and the four boar younglings… wrong side of the fence!!), the exhaustion was a result of spending most of the day with the lovely folks from O.U.R. Ecovillage at our local Seedy Saturday event.

My apologies for the shocking lack of photos - it was SO BUSY!!! I hardly had time to breathe, never mind snap photos...

My apologies for the shocking lack of photos – it was SO BUSY!!! I hardly had time to breathe, never mind snap photos…

My daughter works up at the Ecovillage part time and we (our farm and the Ecovillage) do a bit of collaborating on projects, so we brought some of our eggs to sell at their table while helping the ecovillagers chat with members of the public about the very cool work that goes on at the village. Give me a pile of fence posts and a post-hole digger and a mile of fencing to tackle and I think I’d be less bagged at the end of the day. How can it possibly be so tiring to smile and chat? Inside, no less – no torrential downpour, no nosey boar nudging the backs of my knees, no howling wind…

O.U.R. Ecovillage is a pretty nifty place – 25 acres of sustainable farming and natural building projects… educational programs, permaculture projects – and a whole lot more. An intentional community, here’s how they try to do the quick summary on their website:

Vision: Sustainable well-being for the land, ourselves, and our worldwide village
Mission: To educate and inspire by establishing a thriving learning community and permaculture demonstration site that actively stewards sacred knowledge and a sense of place.

The Ecovillage is currently looking for a farm manager – a full time position best suited to someone interested in living on site, someone with a knowledge of (or interest in) permaculture, and ideally someone who knows both livestock and crop production. There’s a detailed job description here: please pass the info along to any farmer-types who might be interested.

Here’s a bit of trivia for you… When Dani and I were working on the early draft of  our new book on homes around the world, we stayed in the Sanctuary at the Ecovillage. Here’s a photo:

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The structure (built using various natural building methods including cob and straw bale) is about the best place possible to write a book about housing past, present, and future…

It was great seeing so many familiar faces today – and having a chance to meet so many new people interested in the work being done up at the village. We sold some eggs and bought some seeds – and several varieties of seed potatoes. I love harvesting whatever we are growing, but there is something extra special about digging up fresh spuds. For one thing, it’s always a bit like digging for buried treasure – you never quite know what’s lurking down there under the soil. And, for another thing, DELICIOUS!! I like potatoes pretty well any way they might be prepared, but there is just something about freshly dug potatoes consumed right after harvest that makes me drool… Like right now my keyboard is in mortal danger of getting clogged up because I am salivating just thinking about how good those meals are going to be in just a few short months! And, yes, some of those spuds will also be making their way into our CSA goody boxes… Which reminds me, I really have to get on with adding the CSA page to the website. Not tonight… refer to earlier comment about being bagged. But soon, soon – I promise!

Escape from the Farm…

Dad and I snuck off the farm for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon to go on a photo expedition – first to a nearby marina in Brentwood Bay and then to the Institute of Ocean Sciences at Pat Bay. We both took lots of photos and stopped a couple of times for coffee and to warm up (it was one of those grey, damp days that wound up being chillier than you’d expect, especially by the water).

Entrance to the Institute of Ocean Sciences

The Institute of Ocean Sciences is a beautifully designed building thoughtfully sited on a stunning piece of land on Pat Bay. A seismic research centre and home to many ocean-research types, the building and grounds are open to the public.

I was trying very hard to ignore my phone, but the messages kept coming thick and fast – five new sign-ups for our CSA Goody Boxes (yay!), a friend needing to borrow a couple of transport crates for chickens tomorrow, another friend wondering whether we have room in the goat barn to temporarily house a couple of goats for another friend, someone in the prairies calling to see if we can ship fertile Ridley Bronze turkey eggs, and two inquiries about hogs and pork.

Egg vending machines could be a handy way around the fact our farm is located on a dead end road with virtually no drive bay traffic…

At the second coffee stop managed to do some research on the feasibility of selling eggs through vending machines, coordinate a work session to finish up the last edits on the new book, and schedule a meeting with another farmer possibly looking to collaborate on a couple of projects for which I do not have space… Gads. My attempt to get away for a couple of hours was a bit ridiculous!

The coffee shop at the Institute of Ocean Sciences - includes a lovely view past arbutus trees over the water...

The coffee shop at the Institute of Ocean Sciences – includes a lovely view past arbutus trees over the water…

Suspended fish in the atrium...

Suspended fish in the atrium…

The marina we visited in Brentwood Bay offered up photo opportunities of a more rustic nature.

This old dinghy has seen better days.

This old dinghy has seen better days.

Paddle

Paddle neatly stowed on the deck of an old wooden sailboat

Wooden Sailing Dingy

Classic lines on this graceful sailing dinghy.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes out of Dad’s studio after he has a chance to go through the reference material he gathered today…

Alderley Grange Goody Box 2014

Today’s post is a guest post by my lovely daughter and hard-working CSA/Goody Box coordinator, Dani…

This year, we are offering several options for CSA subscribers.

This year, we are offering several options for CSA subscribers.

What the Heck is a CSA?

Community Supported Agriculture programs, often known as CSAs, are becoming increasingly popular for farmers and their customers, but many who haven’t been exposed to them before aren’t quite sure what they entail.

While there are as many options as there are CSAs, the general principle of all of these ‘box’ programs is the same. During the early spring months, members of the community sign up for the program, essentially making a commitment to purchase a certain amount of product from a farm in the upcoming year. The commitment they make is a financial one as well: shares are pre-purchased at the time of sign up, even though products don’t start arriving for up to five or six months.

Why the delay? For farmers, some of our highest costs come early in the spring. This is when we are building needed infrastructure, purchasing seeds, putting in amendments, buying or breeding livestock, and generally preparing for the year ahead. Unfortunately, it’s also when income opportunities are lowest, as there is generally very little available to sell at that time. By buying in to a CSA, customers provide invaluable capital for farmers to start the season. Customers have pre-paid during the months when we have the most product available, and when our costs also happen to be lower.

If a CSA is a large percentage of a farm’s sales, as it will be for the Alderley Grange this year, then knowing how many shares have been sold before it is time to plant, order, and plan is also extremely important and helps us to provide our customers with the best-possible products over the course of the season.

Goody Box Contents - SampleOn the other hand, customers go into the summer knowing they will receive local, in-season produce all season, and that they will have the opportunity to get to know their farmers and food producers well. It’s a great chance to learn what is in season at any given time and to learn some new flavours and recipes. CSAs tend to provide the classics—carrots and potatoes—and the unusual—lovage and edible flowers—which lends itself to a varied experience from week to week.

The average CSA tends to provide a box of vegetables each week. Sometimes these come with a recipe, and sometimes you have the chance to add something like a dozen eggs. Some larger farms, such as Essex Farm in New York State, are able to provide fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, grains, maple syrup, and more to over 200 members, while others offer far more limited choices designed to supplement your weekly trip to the store.

At the Alderley Grange, we fall somewhere in between, and are also passionate about making our Goody Boxes a fantastic—and unique—experience for our customers.

Our popular Lifestyle Box, the flagship offering in our CSA program, offers members six veggie items, a fruit item, a dozen eggs or a package of sausages on alternating weeks, a specialty item (in 2013 this included a cook book, herb scissors, goat’s milk soap, and more), a recipe, 10% off all additional items purchased at the Grange, and more.  ($37 week; $740 season)

Other options include our Veggie-only box ($24/week; $480/season), and based on popular demand, an ‘everything-else box’ for members who grow their own vegetable gardens but want to enjoy local protein and goodies ($27/week; $540/ season).

We are also excited to be starting a monthly protein box this year, which will run from June–December and includes 12–13 pounds of meat each month, as well as a whole turkey for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Members of this box can expect to enjoy pork, beef, lamb, turkey, duck, and some more unusual meats like bison or venison, knowing that everything they are consuming has been pasture-raised on organic feed, without any added hormones or antibiotics by small-scale growers here on the Island. ($160/month; $960/season).

Goody Box Alderley Grange

As much as possible, all box products come from us here at the Alderley Grange on the Saanich peninsula, but when we need to supplement from another farm, we make sure it is local, organic, ethical, and farmed with love. The bottom line is that our CSA customers get some of the best produce around, and have the opportunity to form a relationship with the source of some of their family’s food at the same time.

Registration is now open, so consider supporting local food and guaranteeing your weekly or monthly share of some truly amazing food and goodies!

Visit us on Facebook to find out more and sign up here: www.tinyurl.com/alderleygrangeorderform

[Note from Nikki: I will add a new CSA page here, too – check back in the next day or two to see if the link is up there at the top of the website… Also, if you are confused about the Alderley Grange vs Dark Creek Farm – Dark Creek Farm is the name of the farm and the Alderley Grange is the name of the farm stand. Corporate branding experts would no doubt be horrified that we have two names going on, but our customers are smart cookies and figure it out pretty quickly….]