Monday, 29 September 2014

Permaculture at the Eco-Village

[Editors note: This blog post was meant to be put on the blog back in June. Apologies for the overdue posting! Marcel]

Today's Summer Solstice, marking the start of Summer, a time of long days, growth, warmth (we hope) and rich abundance.  And life is abundant in Stewart Creek Food Forest, a 1/3 acre permaculture adventure within Yarrow Ecovillage Community Farm.

Mama Muscovy duck, 'Florence' is sitting a nest of 7 eggs with a due date of today or tomorrow!

Wow! Another nest of 7 eggs!  Discovered this week in the wilds of the duck yard, hidden by 'Speckles'.  She is just beginning to sit on the nest, so that clutch should hatch in 33-35 days.

Meanwhile, the rest of the ducks, 'Jedi Knight' (bossy #1 drake) and 'Ewok' (put in his place #2 drake) and 'Yin Yang' aka 'Jester' hang about, swim in the pond, forage for grass seed heads, snails and slugs and their favourite forbidden fruit--strawberries!  Do you know the figure of speech--'get your ducks in a row'?  When you come to visit the Stewart Creek Food Forest--you'll see that phrase in action--the ducks do line up and waddle in a row!

Integrating muscovy ducks into the Stewart Creek Food Forest is an example of one of the permaculture principles of stacking functions; one plant or animal having multiple roles.  The ducks work with me as I plant or weed--eating insects, worms, and slugs, then turn these into duck fertilizer and eggs--some for me to eat and share; some to hatch out.  Their companionship and activities (except when they are sneaking strawberries!) enhance the whole ecosystem.

I'm Meg Jordan, co-creator of the Food Forest (co-creating with the Land, the plants, the animals, and all the marvellous people who volunteer from time to time).  I'm passionate about permaculture and anticipate setting up tours and educational workshops by the late Fall.   If you are interested in learning more, please contact me at:  Do you know that the Fraser Valley has a permaculture group of other passionate 'permies' and interested folk?  Look for the Valley Permaculture Guild on facebook and their website: <>

What's growing besides ducks, you may ask?  Many, many plants--from Alder trees, fixing nitrogen and providing shade and habitat to 11 heritage Apple trees with their accompanying guilds of comfrey, daffodils, yarrow, clover and a variety of alliums.  Perennial vegetables 'Tree Spinach' (best eaten cooked, not raw) and Mountain Orache Spinach; Jerusalem Artichokes; Nodding Onions; Jerusalem Walking Onions; Welsh Onions.  Culinary and medicinal herbs.  Fruit bushes and vining pole beans and ground covers.  And many, many more perennials and annuals.  And a long wish list of more plants to add over time.


Then there are the abundant invasives: buttercup, himalayan blackberries and reed canary grass--they are definitely growing.  And a permaculture approach to these 'take-over' plants is to wonder how 'the problem can be the solution'?  With each of them, as I work to keep them from taking over, I ponder what they may have to teach me.  With the blackberries, I recognized their tenacity--having multiple ways to ensure their own survival.  I observe and marvel at how they fling 25 foot 'arms' that root every place they touch; set seed; and have hydra like root systems--that is one determined plant.  Yet, when I despair of ever eradicating these wonders,  I realize that I don't have a blackberry problem, I have a pig shortage!  So, obtaining pigs to turn blackberries into bacon is on my list!  The reed canary grass is great bio-mass, duck fodder; and when dry--it becomes duck bedding too.  But it sets seed so quickly and there is so very much of it!! It keeps me occupied with creative ways to reduce and reuse it!

Time to conclude this introductory post -- and time to get outside and gather salad ingredients.  At this point in the season, a Stewart Creek Food Forest salad could include a diverse collection of 20 or more yummy plants.  There's perennial arugula, chickweed, salad burnett, second growth kale, heritage red lettuce, tat soi, mizuna, mustard greens, calendula, borage and nasturtium flowers, June-bearing strawberries, dill, parsley, a variety of mints, welsh onions, chives, mountain orache spinach, garlic scapes and raspberries.  Time to feast!