Welcome to Highgrove, or…

A slight change in plans.

Roland and I (and Zelda) are mostly moved in to our new place on Highgrove Farm & Commons and wanted to give everyone a bit of an update on where things are, which also gives us an opportunity to stop and reflect back on the last month or so. It’s been a bit… um, changeable.

It’s been quite the challenge setting things up here as we are the first people ever to have lived in the first (and only) building to be built on a new road (on an island in a pandemic). But we are persevering and making good progress. 

Last week, we finally got our Internet installed – a process that took almost a month and ended with paying a guy to climb a 100 ft tree to place an antenna with a cable running down a little cliff, through a culvert, along a fence and through a pipe into the house. I’m not relishing the installation bill, but the important thing is we finally have internet again and that’s already making things a LOT easier. 

UPDATE: We learned last night that our internet provider is no longer doing installations as a result of the pandemic, so we got ours done just in the nick of time!

We’ve mostly unpacked our stuff and settled in as best we can for the moment. We got a bunch of shelves and things (including a nice new bed with drawers for storage underneath) from Ikea and have places for all the essential stuff. There are still these last little bits that we can’t unpack yet because there’s no storage yet. Things like craft supplies, and garage-y kinds of things. We just put in another Ikea order and a couple of other online orders that should take care of all those last bits for storage and organizing. We’ve even found some comfy living room furniture from a friend on the island, with the promise of a couch in the next week or two. 

So that’s all coming together pretty nicely. 

But things are changing pretty quickly around here as a result of the virus, so that means some of our plans are changing, too. Like, we were planning on getting most of our furniture and organizer things from Nu-to-Yu – our local resale shop – or by going to the ReStores and resale shops in Victoria – trying to minimize our footprint as much as possible. But most of those stores are already closed for the duration and even if they weren’t, we’re trying to avoid exposure and especially trips off island as much as possible, so we’re having to purchase new and online as best we can. 

The big change, though, is that a main part of our original plan was for the farm to also be an agro-tourism and education centre. People would come for workshops and demonstrations and as a result we would get to work with project partners and volunteers who could help on a couple of big projects. We had high hopes for the Friends of Highgrove to morph into a working sangha on resilience on Pender. We were also hoping to start having a few “glamping sites” for friends and family to come visit and maybe work on the farm a bit as a way of trying out how (paying) farmstays might work.

Obviously, this isn’t the time for anything like that. So, we’re re-thinking how that part might work now. It’s clear that the kinds of information and experiences we were hoping to share with people are still important – in fact, it’s now more important than ever. It just means switching to more online channels for distribution and getting a little creative on how we do it. But adaptation is really what the project is all about anyway, and so we adapt.

Part of that adaptation is setting up a FundRazr campaign as a way to gratefully accept whatever support people are willing to send our way. We are convinced more than ever that what we are doing here is urgent and important, but the timing of the pandemic has definitely impacted the financial side of the plan.

Meanwhile, our focus is on developing the bare basics we need here to be as resilient as possible. The other day, we sat down and worked out our household resilience plan (we’ll post something about that shortly). Short-term that means a focus on getting the basics working, like our water supply sorted and gathering up tools for a workshop and the garden. [If you are on Pender Island and have any shop or garden tools that you aren’t using at the moment, we would love to borrow or buy them off you. Contact us here.]    

Of course, a lot of things will probably stay the same. We’re still planning on getting piglets and have figured out where they will go. We’ll get most of the supplies we need from our friends Erica and Chad at Hidden Track Farm so it’s a trip to town for us, but we can probably do it with minimal exposure. We’ll also have to make a trip over to get the piglets – hopefully on April 4th (fingers crossed).

Likewise, we think our friends Matthew and Katie’s goats will come to live here soon (they’re usually at the Twin Island Cidery tasting room). And the goats will come with their own tools, so that’s still in the plan. We also learned that our next door neighbour has pregnant dairy goats, so we’ve invited her to use part of the farm for grazing the goats. At this point, the more animal activity on the land, the better for the soil and system.

We’re also still planning to get chickens, we just need to get all the tools and lumber necessary to build the chicken house. Hopefully, we can do it in a way that avoids a trip to town. 

We’re slightly rethinking our garden. We were hoping we could find someone who wants to do a market garden. The idea being they could do the work and sell most of the veggies (and keep the money) and we get free access to whatever veggies we need for our kitchen as a sort of rent. But the virus might be putting that on hold.

Part of the challenge is that we don’t have any developed garden space at the new place – it’s all building it from scratch and the soil isn’t great to start with, so we’ll need lots of compost and manure to start to build things up and that all involves doing some hauling. That’s a lot more challenging at the moment because of things shutting down and people trying to keep their distance. So, we’re not sure we can get enough material to make anything other than a little kitchen garden practical for us. [If there’s anyone out there – especially on Pender – who might want space to develop a market garden, send us an email.]

But there’s an upside to the current crisis, too. People are finally getting what we’ve been talking about for 5 or 10 years now. Materially, we definitely got caught flat footed like everyone else (probably worse because of the particulars of timing), but we’ve been preparing mentally and intellectually for a while since we could see something like this was on the horizon.

Zelda on top

Now that it’s here – a little earlier than expected – there’s nothing to do except do whatever you can. So, we are doing our part as best we can to stay physically isolated but socially connected. And we’re working as fast as we can to respond, adapt, and build resilience as quickly as possible. 

We hope we can find ways to support each other as we move forward. We’ll be sharing our experiences with whoever might be interested in following along on our adventure of starting from basically ground zero and building resilience over time. We’ll be sharing the process and the lessons learned – the stuff that works and the stuff that doesn’t (at least for us). And we want to start a conversation and a community. We’re all in this together and finding ways to work together effectively is our greatest asset.

We are committing to sharing as much of our adventures as possible here (though it’s hard to balance doing the actual work with writing up posts about it). At the very least, we’ll be posting weekly updates with the occasional tweet/facebook/instagram post as the spirit moves us.