Friday, August 22, 2014

What the Land Wants

The retreat center in progress

On August 9, we traveled onward to Gabriola Island to visit Brenda. Brenda bought land 25 years ago as a young lawyer starting her specialty in protection of local Indigenous rights. For those 25 years she dreamed of a retreat center on the land that would hold space for spiritual quests and now she is building it with full glory. She often talks in terms of what the land asks her to do. I could understand why. The land overlooks a small fecund bay that opens around a spit to the Straits of San Juan de Fuca. The in and out flow and breath of the land, the ocean, the flora and fauna is mesmerizing on a daily basis.

After thorough internet research to make sure there was no red tide or bacterial weirdness, we harvested oysters from the bay for two consecutive nights of indulgence. Incredibly, I achieved overload. It took a few days before I could fathom ever eating an oyster again.
Tim shucks oysters

As usual, we cased out our host’s site to see what we could do to help out. The composting toilet system was in fast need of attention. Is it strange that one of my great satisfactions is putting a composting toilet system in order? I got immense satisfaction from putting it right and teaching everyone how to use it.

Tim helped Pollen make compost tea for new cabbage starts in Brenda’s super abundant food garden. The recipe was a 55 gallon bucket of water with heaps of fresh comfrey, yarrow, dandelions and kelp soaking in it for 24 hours. Pollen is part owner of Watercliff, a two family permaculture farm on the other side of Gabriola. He comes over to Brenda’s once a week to work on the new garden design that includes fruit tree guilds, hugelculture vegetable beds, and some water harvesting catchment swales and diversion ditches.
Brenda's garden

Desert Take Aways:

While water harvesting swales and berms are essential to desert permaculture, they are not often used in these more northern rain rich areas. Though they would be advantageous during the dry summers, the winters bring rainfall that needs to be diverted off the land. 


  1. You were In Canada and you didn't come visit? We are only 12 hours away.

  2. We were kind of dedicated to the cascadia region on this trip. You'll just have to come back to JT:)