The Family Farm

This is what the kids and I did today:
let the chickens out, filled their feed troughs, broke the ice in their water dishes
covered the greens with remay
fixed a deer fence
collected firewood & split kindling
harvested usnia and tree lungwort from the fallen Willow warrior tree
made gods’ eyes for the winter fair
played lego
read a book
made tea
went on a beach walk
washed & cartooned eggs
watched Dogs with Jobs videos
stewed chili and baked bread for dinner
…while Steve was away for the weekend on a Solar Engineering course

Canadian farmer Daniel Schneider voices his concern about the end of family farming. Death by a thousand legislations. He says we need to preserve the family farm if we want to make sure food is produced ethically in the future.

If we want to make sure that ethics and morals and values stay inside farming, we need to make sure that families stay inside farming.
– Daniel Schneider

Take a listen to Does Canada Need Family Farms? on CBC The 180.

And give this a read: Grapes of Wrath, Travails of a Produce Farmer in Wine Country

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The Dying Time

This cold quiet November weekend. Persephone descends. Lifeforce retreats into the roots. Foliage lays browns on a bleak landscape. Seeds settle into rest, under the soil.

Winter sets in the dying time. A dying that is integral to life. That is a future fertility. Into which the next season will birth and grow.

We are at an edge. Of a great turning. Knowing. Watching. Seeing. Observing. Listening. To the breathing. For the stirring. Waiting. For what comes next.

Until then:

Dear darkening ground,
you’ve endured so patiently the walls we’ve built,
perhaps you’ll give the cities one more hour

and grant the churches and cloisters two.
And those that labor—let their work
grip them another five hours, or seven,

before you become forest again, and water, and widening wilderness
in that hour of inconceivable terror
when you take back your name
from all things.

Just give me a little more time!

I want to love the things
as no one has thought to love them,
until they’re worthy of you and real.

Rilke, Book of Hours, I 61



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The Tractor

I (Steve) have a real love/hate relationship with my tractor. For the last month it has sat forlorn in the field getting rained on, blown on and covered in leaves.


You see that’s where it died. (Turns out the starter seized and jammed the engine.)


The tractor is an old 1960 Massey-Ferguson 35 built in a different time, by different people, and most importantly when vehicles were built to be fixed. So today, after getting one of those different people (very few of them left) to rebuild the starter, my tractor flashed to life like a youngster. I am grateful to a time when stuff wasn’t disposable, when craftsmen built it to last, and when repairability was an important consideration. May we soon return to that!

Now it’s onto the ruddy lawn mower.


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If you were a seed, I’d be a pod…Saving Seed (cont’d)

To be of the Earth is to know…the scattering of your seeds.
John Soo, from Earth Prayers

Some of the seeds we saved this season pretty much saved themselves, with us just standing nearby ready to catch and clean and store – the kale, the arugula, the squash, and the beans. Coincidentally, these foods are some of the hardiest growing, nutrient dense, and best storing foods in our climate . A correlation we will stew on a bit more over this winter. On the other hand, the challenging seeds we encountered have given us pause to think. The oats were a delight to grow and an utter eye opener in in realising exactly what it takes to get oatmeal on the table every morning. The oats were vulnerable right off the bat at planting time to all the little seed eating birds around the place, then at various times in their growing season harvested blatantly by roves of marauding Canada Geese, and now, after having had a satisfying enough harvest of our own, with a group of sickle-wielding friends, the oats sit in our back room, in great big gorgeous spilling piles, awaiting the wrapping-of-our-heads-around the business of threshing and winnowing. A very intense process all around, and adding the new dimensions of specialised machinery to a small farm operation. It’s been tempting to feed the whole lot, as is, to the chickens, a respectable and viable option for sure, transforming carbs into eggs and meat, but it wasn’t what we had set out originally to do (truth be told, part of the harvest was earmarked for a gluten free stout making adventure!).

The tomato seeds we saved six years ago from Klipper’s toms purchased at the farmers market, germinated brilliantly, and grew into strong healthy plants. We will save seed again from this tomato fruit and continue the line, knowing it has further adapted to our south island soil and climate. It has been a rich and fruitful year of learning seed. We studied squash flowers and watched ova blow up like balloons. We competed with earwigs for the peas in their pods. We grew cantaloupe for the very first time and are excited to experiment with planting black locust from seed this fall. We have put principles into practice with varying degrees of success and huge amounts of learning, and all that, in itself, has been very very good.

What we hadn’t expected to learn was the power and importance of saving invisible seeds. The passing on of kernels of knowledge from one generation to the next, the sharing of best practices and pearls of wisdom. It is the spending of time together talking and harvesting over a garbage can full of lentils stocks, where the discussions plant seeds of their own. It is the time honoured practice of passing seeds of wisdom down from generation to generation that will facilitate the long-term storage and propagation of our ability to be resilient. Today, this part of it all has almost been forgotten.

Seed is potential. It is the potential to be a plant, a being, an idea, a revolution. It is the potential to grow into something amazing and beautiful. It is an intent for what could be, and the opportunity of things to come. The future is encapsulated in a tiny little seed that can grown into a huge tree or a decision or a choice or an action that will change the world. It is in this vain, that we honour our seed saving experience, mentors and companions.


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The Pumpkin Patch


A Sooketoberfest celebration of Sooke soil, water, rock & sun in the glorification of the bountiful and voluptuous golden-orange summer sunshine pumpkin goodness. Come one, come all, rain or shine; dress for the weather and farmfield terrain. We got little pumpkins, big pumpkins, huge pumpkins, and funky pumpkins, with loads of gorgeous stems on’em. And our pumpkins are local organic, pastured & happy, and approved by The Society for the Ethical and Humane Treatment of Pumpkins (of which InishOge Organic Farm is a founding, and as yet, only member). Bonus! Browse the Pumpkin Gallery, be inspired by carved creations by well-known and still-to-be-discovered local Sookies, and bid on a favourite in silent auction (proceeds going to the Sooke Food Bank). And wander the Community Market of local farm produce, honey and jams, hot drinks & baked goods, faerie doors, Samhain stars, wooden bowls, and more. All generously sponsored by Vancity in support of our small family farm, and our wider local Sooke economy.

In it’s inaugural announcement, the Society for the Ethical and Humane Treatment of Pumpkins is calling on all Halloween lovers to reconsider the current modern day cultural practice of “hack it-rot it-then toss it away” and instead, to adopt the more joyful practice of “decorate-celebrate-then consume it!” …in honour of the delicious, nutritious & healthful food that a pumpkin is, and for the love of all that is warm golden-orange summer-sunshine-goodness in an often dark and dreary, wet and gray wildcoast Sooke November. Spice up the wintersurf blustery beach-going season that is upon us with a warm curried apple pumpkin soup, pumpkin ginger cookies, and a cinnamon pumpkin wine. So recipes attached with the sale of every incredible edible pumpkin.

Be one with the Pumpkin!

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The Damn Radios Don’t Work


In the birthing world, there is a phenomenon known quite well – that of the birth dream. It occurs across cultures, and is recognised and revered by many, though in our modern day western culture, it is often missed and the ritual around it has been lost. Someone close to the pregnant mother has a dream in which the baby makes itself known, introduces itself, and shares information about it’s person or it’s future life. It is thought that this occurs to aid in the preparations for the baby’s arrival, to make space for the person coming, to begin creating a concrete defined place for it in the community.

Mary Alice, a long-time local farmer extraordinaire, had a dream about us buying this farm. It coincided with our decision to put an offer on the land, unbeknownst to her. The morning after we had decided, we called her to let her know (as up until then we were loosely exploring some sort of collective community purchase, but to no real end at the time). It was during that phonecall that she shared she had had a dream.

A birth dream. The birth of our new life, the coming leg of our continuing journey, the next segment of our saga. It was a sign.

In the process of making an offer and buying the land, we made a number of visits to Sooke and began to meet the community. I was quite taken by the number of Mary’s in the community. I had met 4 almost immediately, and three of them were associated with Steve’s! To put this into context, I went to Catholic school my entire schooling life. And in that time, I was one of 3 Mary’s those entire 12 years. I re-iterate: Catholic school.

I know….right?

On our first potential buyers’ visit to the land, for a tour of the property with the selling agent, a series of weird things occurred with keys. The key that had been arranged for us to open the gate to the property did not work. The key to the house did not work either. Then, somewhere on our walk about the land, the keys to our car fell out of my pocket and could not be found again (to this day they remain lost, 5 summers later). We had to stay the night while we waited for our second set of keys to arrive by courier the next day. We stayed at Mary-Alice’s farm and gave that as the delivery address. It was a post office box, the key to which was with a member of the farm who was off farm that day and unavailable til’ that evening, at which point, we could open the mailbox and retrieve our keys.

Keys. Doors and gates, locked and closed. Were we being messaged to stay out, stay away? or were we being kept here to understand that keys are obstacles in themselves, to be removed from the process, so that doors and gates and hearts and souls can be kept open, to be walked through and into?

Still don’t understand the whole key thing, but I trust, that upon death, all will be revealed. (The competitive advantage of a single-lifetime religious worldview vs. that of reincarnations during with a series of lifetimes must endure delayed gratification before all is revealed. I digress.)


With my all-things-are-possible open mind and raised-Catholic with a fabulously superstitious Druidy-rooted Irish grandmother to balance things out, I read the signs.

So now, it’s the radios.

Not a single radio is working around here. Not the one in our VW golf. Not the one in our farm truck. Not the portable windup solar jobbies in the greenhouse and the outdoor kitchen. Not the one on my cellphone. Not the one in our 2 foot thick cob wall house. Most of them are broken, but otherwise the reception seemingly sucks at our place. Everywhere. I can’t tune in a radio station to save my life.


What does this whole radio thing mean? What does it all mean? Would love to know. One long ongoing universe shake-of-the-shoulders thing. All will be revealed. Hopefully before my death. Because I love discovering clues and solving riddles; holding blank paper to a candle and revealing invisible writing; orienting the compass and following a trail; snapping puzzle pieces together, identifying patterns, and watching a picture emerge.

Science has discovered that our skin not only acts as a protective layer to our vital insides, but is a radio of sorts, loaded with receptors that interact with our environment and collect and send information to our brain on a constant basis. Must eliminate background noise and interference to hear better what I receive…

Patterns. Signals. Signs. Keys. Radios. Embedded message everywhere.

The language of the universe.

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Lions and Bears, oh my!

We have a male bear and a mama/cub pair who’ve all been coming through and around for the apples. we’ve electrified chicken pens and the part of the orchard that hasn’t been picked/come ripe yet, and so far, that has been working, fingers crossed. the male bear inspected the electric fence, paced for a while, and then went back into the woods. we’ve hooked up flashing red lights around the place at night time, and play CBC Radio One as well. and so far, it’s been working…but we’re eagerly awaiting the rains and for the salmon to run so that the bears can finally feed. it’s been such a difficult spring/summer for them, and it’s hard to see them penalised for trying to meet their needs, in the same ways that we are all trying to meet ours.

we strive to manage this shifting interface in ways that end in more positive results all around, always eager to learn from what successes in living with bears that others are having. we were inspired by the story of this kid’s invention that him succeed in protecting his cattle AND make peace with the lions that were killing them.

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Big City Faeries

The newest creations from The Crooked Nail workshop!
Two already sold and on their way to New York…


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When the cow jumps over the moon

The fork just ran away with the spoon, and we are left to eat with our hands… while there is still food to be had. because, see, food is going to be more expensive, and there will be a lot less of it soon enough, until the cow actually jumps over the moon, at which point, we’ll have to figure shit out for real.  Because here’s the thing: Vancouver Island is at Level 4 drought conditions.  Drought Level 4 means that the areas water supply is insufficient to meet socio-economic and ecological needs.  Drought Level 4 is the highest of drought levels.  Drought Level 4 is bad.  And eerily, there is little conversation about that on the Island.  …!!!?
Somewhat relievingly though, Sooke is regionally at Level 2 still, and the Sooke Lake Resevoir is at 82% capacity!  Phew! We’re quite fortunate.  Though, not so fast.  The Sooke watershed is under the jurisdiction of the CRD, not the Sooke region, and Victoria, a big urban centre, is in the CRD.  Meaning that the Sooke region does not control the decisions made regarding water use and distribution in the interests of our region’s foodshed, watershed, energyshed, wildlife, local economy, etc.  The CRD does.  and Victoria has a lot of pretty front lawns.  Which are apparently as important in the bigger scheme of things as food production, given that lawnwatering was banned a mere week before farmers were “strongly encouraged” to reduce their water usage by 30%, forcing many farmers in the foodshed region to abandon some of their thirstier crops, food never to make it from their field to your fork.  Water use reduction orders have been issued the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, by which all Agricultural Water Licence Holders (who draw water from rivers streams and lakes for food growing purposes) have been asked to “voluntarily reduce water use by 30 percent…a specific action contemplated by the BC Drought Response Plan…to prevent the need for a regulatory response in the near future.”  Signed by Larry Barr, Regional Water Manager, West Coast Region. In conjunction with that, the new groundwater regulations coming into effect with the Water Sustainability Act 2016 is concerning as well, as it limits even more, farmers access to water sources for food growing purposes.  Equally concerning is the difference and incongruence in implementation between farming practices and commercial activities (read bottled water interests like Nestle etc.).  farming and food growing is a legitimate business interests with arguably more regionally based benefits as community based livelihood contributors to local economies.  
Water is under immense and unprecedented pressure.  ecological pressure (read climate weirding of crazy storm systems & drought/flooding cycles, by which Mother Earth is cleaning up our mindless mess by her endless effort to rebalance). and political pressure (water use rights granted to the highest bidder).  and it isn’t even peak fire fighting season yet – that comes at the end of August.  another whole hot rainless dry month of not-growing season away.
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Re-Skilling Faire & Transition Town Picnic @ InishOge

reskill banner

Transition Town Sooke is hosting a “Re-Skilling Fair & Community Potluck Picnic” @ InishOge Farm, this Sunday, August 9th 2015.

Responding to the changing needs of people in a changing world!

* Gates open @ 9:30
* fun mini re-skilling workshops throughout the morning, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.:
(cheesemaking, sauerkraut, tool sharpening, rail splitting, solar stuff, wild edible walk,
essential oil first aid, permaculture, small engine how-to, pressure cooking, bear talk & chicken walk)
* potluck picnic in the afternoon 1:15 – 2:30 (bring a dish to share + tools to eat with)
* an earth meditation and drum circle in the meadow to finish off the day.

Please join us for part of it, all of it, any of it!! Full details online here.

There’s very limited parking on site, so please walk, bike, carpool or park your car on neighbouring roads.

Volunteer Work Party Friday August 9th 12-7ish, to prepare and set up. Come anytime after noon,
stay as long as you can. BYOB and chips afterwards when it’s all finished. InishOge will supply the tools on the day.

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