We first came to Lasqueti Island in Canada’s Pacific Northwest Salish Sea in 2002 to start what would be a big project. After an extensive search we found the place where the vision of raising animals and growing our own nutrient rich and pure food would happen. Lasqueti had many charms – off-grid (no power poles), located in the middle of the Straight of Georgia (fresh air on the warmest island in Canada), plenty of Crown Land and shoreline bluff and beaches (hiking at our doorstep).
We started with raw land and in time horses, cows, goats, pigs, chickens, turkeys and ducks all helped to impart natural fertility and an expanse of grassland pasture between the rocky forested edges of the farm’s bowl was established. The side slope of Arbutus Mountain provided a lovely SE facing gravelly terrace perfect for vines. Being able to make natural wine (> read more) was important to avoid the heavy and systemic chemical loads in conventional wines. ( Natural Wine bars and restaurants have popped up in the bigger cities so apparently others feel as we do.) The growing and making of natural wine provides a healthy social activity for friends, families and guests to the farm. We loved the hike above the vineyard with its lovely vistas over the farm and ocean view, perfect for picnicking with a little taste of estate grown and produced wine.
The farm buildings were eco built with on-site milled second growth timbers and boards. No plywood was used at all in building the “French Country Goes Westcoast” farmhouse where eco materials and finishes were used with care. The farmhouse kitchen was to be the centerpiece, with exposed Coastal Douglas Fir beams, old style plaster and heavy wood trims, carriage rails and open pane wooden doors and windows. The viewing vistas would be the art to relax by. Along the way a Swiss craftsman came for an extended stay and built the solid wood wine tasting bar at the center and all the cabinetry, quite exquisitely built with Coastal Douglas Fir interiors and drawers.
The barns and guest studios were also built with our own on-site milled fir and Western red cedar. The farmhouse and barn/studio buildings have gambrel roofs built to architect designed earthquake structural standards. One winter when an old cedar blew down it was milled into thick squared off timbers and their fitted design make up the central feature of the farmyard – super-sized rose and kiwi covered octagonal gazebo. Other areas where we have used our own milled wood is for the vineyard trellising and cross fencing around the various pastures, gardens and growing fields. The vineyard is terraced and trellis built with a combination of iron posts and natural wood posts seated in an iron spike system. This system makes it easy to refurbish and is built to Certified Organic standards.
Early on we decided to build the infrastructure of the farm and vineyard around permaculture principals. While you might be surprised to know we have two septic fields, this allows us to operate a larger level of farm activity and allows capacity for agri-tourism and winery development. Septic fields, if designed well and managed with eco products, can recycle themselves and provide a greater area for more grassland and orchards. So yes, we put in that soaker tub we all love, hot showers, a number of kitchen prep areas and flush toilets that all feed into these systems and provide for a very comfortable lifestyle.
At the farm we created our own power system with solar and hydro energy. This is a winning combination that serves us well year round. In the Pacific Northwest we have long sun hours in the summer and the winter Westcoast storms provide us plenty of water to swell the creek into a roaring thunder. We channel some of this fury through a run of the river drop system water turbine. These sources of alternative energy converge in a separate power shed with battery storage to provide regular electrical service in the farmhouse, barn and studios.
The farm’s heating system is designed to be allergy free and utilizes a combination of passive solar design with an engineered radiant heating system fired by a state-of-the-art wood boiler. The walls and ceilings between the floors of the farmhouse have a German system of internal hot water piping loops, and a separate hot water system for the baths, laundry and kitchens. Underground hot water piping provides the barn and guest studio their heating and there is hot water enough to also allow for running a heated greenhouse. The farm’s woodlot provides an ever growing resource supplies this system with wood enough from winter blow downs.
Along the way we acquired an irrigation license to pump water from the creek source and we created a water storage pond that is set in a lovely wild area. There are also other permaculture designed sources of water. The main jewel in our system is the glacial filtered twenty foot deep water reservoir at the bottom of the vineyard. We are able to prove the veracity of strictly organic/biodynamic vineyard standards being met not only with feeding the water to the young vines but also to ourselves as this system also feeds the farmhouse and is piped for stock watering and garden irrigating. In our system the winter rains filter through the glacial till to the reservoir where a submersible pump runs on alternative energy and pumps the water back uphill to 4000 gallons in holding tanks. This gives plenty of pressure from the gravity drop to feed the farm’s needs at the bottom of the valley. An intricate irrigation system of lines runs from the gravity tanks with a pressure compensated drip valve at each of the 3,500 vines delivering precisely and conserving water. What comes down from the sky forms part of a greater permaculture looped system.
You might have the picture that the utility bills are very low around here! Yes, heat, power, water and disposal are all done naturally, free and sourced off-grid at the farm.
Now that we have completed the farm project and taken it from raw land to a functional farm, we will be offering it for sale in 2018. If you would like more information, click here for contact information and we will be happy to respond.