Journal Entry for March 30, 2020

Unloading Piglet Supplies

How many days of social isolation has it been? It’s hard to tell because we’ve always lived a bit like hermits on the farm and because the show must go on. As food providers, we are an essential service to our community and we can’t be food providers if we don’t produce food. Time to get set up for our new piglets! But because of the physical isolation measures, we’ve had to seriously re-think how we do things, which has complicated getting set up.

But I have to say how I’m amazed at how much we actually got done in a week, and it hasn’t been because of the pandemic. The social isolation has slowed things down in terms of community events which mean we have more time to devote to building a farm, but I don’t think that’s the main thing. I think it’s because our energy has been released after 5 years of dealing with barriers and uncertainty and homelessness and the frustration over the collective inactivity to respond to the climate crisis. For the first time since landing on Pender Island we can make our own decisions, move at the speed we want, make our own mistakes (and work at fixing them), work to rebuild our life to respond to the climate crisis, all without the external pressures of hidden or misaligned agendas.

Right after we moved to Highgrove, a windstorm hit that took out the electricity on the island for 16 hours. On Pender Island, power outages in winter are a regular occurrence so we quickly realized, as the baseboard heaters remained cold and we’d put on the last layer of what clothes we had to stay warm, that we needed to kit ourselves out with emergency equipment. Originally, our plan was to get as much as possible from Nu-to-Yu (our local resale shop) and other re-sale shops in Victoria. Of course, that’s easier said than done in the middle of a pandemic lock-down. We decided that being prepared ASAP was more important, so we changed tactics and got busy. We made a resilience plan where we looked at what we would need for a few different scenarios and figured out the best way to get supplies while maintaining as much physical isolation as possible. This week, all on the same day, we received our dry goods from OM (Organics Matter), equipment from Canadian Tire, coffee from Level Grounds (because, you know, mornings) and office supplies from Staples (because, you know, business). So many boxes that the Post Office called to ask when we could come get them! Feels good to have a little more stability here, even though we got it using a system we’ve been trying to avoid. And on top of it all, we’re a couple of steps closer to true resilience.

But some things you just gotta do in person, so after making loads of calls (both of us hate talking on the phone, so that was quite a frog to swallow) to arrange purchases, we took our first trip to the Big Island (Vancouver Island) since major physical isolation measures were put in place. We need to get ready for piglets, so we planned ahead to make sure we made the most of the trip. BC Ferries very safely and responsibly brought us to the Big Island for our stops at Hidden Track Farm (our friends and mentors in pig farming who are lending us equipment); White House Farm for electric fencing; Integrity Supplies for some essential bits-and-bobs; and Red Barn for starter pig feed. It was interesting to note all the slightly different protocols around Covid-19, some very conscientious and others a little bit sketchy but everyone doing their best and taking it seriously. I’m very proud of how my neighbours and the BC government are responding to this.

We also finally found someone who has a 5th Wheel hitch to move our RV (which I now hate and desperately want to sell, give away or burn down) from Whalewich to Highgrove; such a big relief to get that done!

In starting Highgrove, one of the pleasures has been the freedom to work with those who have agendas aligned with ours. Pink House Farm has asked us to take care of their permaculture gardens; Roz, Michael and family are going to be in Australia longer than they planned because of the virus. No one knows how long they’ll be away, but they definitely won’t be back in time for planting (which starts now). For our part, Highgrove is such a brand-spanking-new farm that we haven’t even had time to figure out the best place to put our veggie patch yet, let alone have the time to build it. Taking care of the Pink House Farm gardens will allow us to start growing food this spring without the pressure of building our gardens in a rush. That gives us the time to do both right; planting and building. Meanwhile, we get to make sure our dear friends and neighbors at Pink House Farm will have food growing when they get back!

But time keeps ticking and the piglets are still due to arrive this Saturday so this week the focus is on building the pig enclosure.

– Roland