Spaces for Rent

Are you looking to spend more time on the land, learning and honing your farming, gardening, and homesteading skills?

Are you looking for a place in the Cowichan Valley to rent, be it a room in a shared house or a detached studio?

Well, this may just be a great opportunity for you!

Detached Studio in snow this winter.
We have one bedroom available in the main house that is shared with Lynn and myself (Kata). We also have a detached studio available.


We are asking very reasonable rent with a reasonable number of hours put into the farm chores that are shared with us. Farm chores consist of helping with the animals, in the garden, and various land maintenance.
The ideal renters would be capable of performing these tasks unsupervised and competently. This is not an educational opportunity, though it is pretty likely you will learn a lot, even more if you get involved more!

The farm is about a 10-15 minute drive to downtown Duncan. There are hiking trails across the street and a small trail in the "back yard". Cell phone service is limited, and the land-line is available to share. Rent does not include internet, phone, or hydro. These bills are split appropriately between us and the farm.

Please get in touch with Lynn at if you are interested or would like to know more. Lynn can also be reached, or left a message at 250-597-3513.

Thanks kindly, and have a wonderful day!


Welcome Forest

Little Forest the morning after he was born.
We named him Forest because he was born out in our grazing forest one evening just before bedtime for the animals. It was Jordan's evening to close-up and he was quite surprised when he went down to lead the girls into the barn. Downy had given birth early! We were figuring she was due at the end of April, instead, Forest's birthday is April 2nd. Lynn and I were out at a potluck and came home to the wonderful news. We slipped into the barn to check on the new babe, and bring Downy some warm molasses water.

Of course, I fell head over heals for little forest. He is just too cute! His big brother, whose fleece I am tanning at the moment, was also one of my favourites. Downy, a South Down who ended up on our farm in a roundabout sort of way, bred with Romeo, our Suffolk ram, gives such an adorable looking offspring!
I must say, the love was mutual, as he immediately took to me and followed me around in the stall. He even came and nuzzled into me before too long.
Forest loves to have his chin rubbed.
Today he practices butting against my fist. I love to go down to the barn and watch him leap and bounce around his mom. His face is getting darker already, and he is growing so fast. I will have to take more pictures tomorrow and get them on here so you can see the changes in his colouring. For now, here are a few more from the day after he was born.


Planting Season Begins

Well, it's February and time to start the indoor planting to get ready for the gardening season. I sat down with seed packages, a gardening journal, a soil block maker, and the joy of getting this process started. I have to say, this is really a very enjoyable way to spend the day. A hot mug of tea and the fulfilling task of planting new life. Awe, yes, very nice.

So, as the organizer that I am, I really enjoyed sorting and recording everything that I did this year in Lynn's garden journal. I can tend to geek out quite a bit on the organizing aspect of things and found myself numbering the packages of seeds themselves to know which ones were the ones planted. I was drawing charts and making notes, and loosing myself in this simple task.

We now have greens, brasicas, beneficial flowers, some herbs, and leeks happily tucked into their little soil blocks. I can't wait until the first of them pops its green little bud through the dark soil. The first few days of germination are always the most exciting for me to witness. It is when I know that things have worked and that we will soon be transplanting and then harvesting some wonderfully fresh food. I am still amazed at how easy and satisfying it is to grow our own food. I do hope I will never loose my awe with this process of life.

There is still so much more indoor planting to do over the next little while before we can head out to transplant and direct sow. Life on the farm is constantly interesting and moving forward. What a joyous way to fill one's days!

Maple Syrup on Tap

A weekend not too long ago was the Maple Syrup Festival just down the road from Mossy Banks at the Forest Discovery Centre. Lynn and Jordan went out to it, while I was otherwise out of town. They came back fully charged to go out and start tapping our maple trees. And that is exactly what we did.  With our first four taps we headed out onto the land; drill, tubes, and hammer in hand as well.

I turn to the first page in the book picked up at the festival: Bigleaf Sugaring, Tapping the western maple by Gary and Katherine Backlund. There is a quote that puts a smile on my face and aids in my own excitement about this new project we are undertaking. It says "Three good producing trees will yield enough sap to produce four litres of syrup per year". We currently have three trees tapped, and that is just the beginning! What a great thing to look forward to in the winters.

Here are a few things that I have learned so far from this Bigleaf Sugaring experience and our handy little book.

  1. The season starts as early as the beginning of November and goes until early March. Tapping is best once the fall leaves come off and before the new buds come out. December and January are noted to produce the best quality syrup.
  2. Pick trees that are younger, as the sap is more readily available and more vigorous in flow. Coppices can be tapped as young as 10 years old, while single trunks are good as young as 20 years. The older a tree is, the more energy it puts into healing larger injuries than a small drill hole.
  3. A coppice can be as small as 10 cm in diameter, while a single trunked tree is better being 25 cm. Both seem to have a cap at 45 cm diameters.
  4. Trees with large crowns are better for tapping.
  5. Good sun exposure may lend a hand in better flow. Though our winters are a lot milder than out East, we can probably get away with more flexibility in this area.
  6. Trees that have a good supply of water produce more sap as they drink up the available water in the area.
  7. Drill a hole 12 mm in diameter and 10-13 cm deep with a twist type bit, not a flat spade bit. If you have used the bit for other projects, it is a good idea to give it a good wash, as it can contaminate the hole and effect the flavour of the syrup. Measure the depth from the inside of the bark layer.
  8. Drill the holes at a slightly upwards angle to encourage the sap to run down into the taps and tubing. This also keeps the hole clean.
  9. You don't have to drill too high up the tree. 24-36 cm is high enough.
  10. More then one tap can be put into any given tree and attached to the same tubing using a "t". The holes should be staggered to tap into different sap channels.
  11. Each season the taps should move over so you eventually run a full circle around the trunk. It only takes about a year for the tree to repair the holes drilled.
  12. The collection containers should be sealed to keep out rain and insects.
  13. The sap should be boiled within a couple days of its collection.
  14. The boiling off of the water in the sap produces a whole lot of steam, and it is best done outdoors to avoid it peeling off paint or wallpaper.

We produced one tiny jar of fairly thick syrup the first time around, and filled an 800 mL jar the second time. The syrup really is quite sweet and delicious. To celebrate we dished out some vanilla ice cream and poured a bit of our still warm maple syrup on top. Yes, yet another part of the process that boosted the excitement of this project.

With just a couple of weeks of tapping left to be done, we are hoping to fill a few more jars that can last us a little while into the spring and summer. We can work out a few more learning kinks during this time, and be ready for November, when we will be back out in the forest with our taps and buckets. If we get good flow in late November and early December we are planning on having some very tasty Christmas gifts even!

If you have even just one maple tree in your yard, I highly recommend picking up a tap or two and experimenting with making your own wonderfully delicious maple syrup.

Enjoy the marvels of living in Canada!

Winter Wonderland

Studio with heavy snow
Southern Vancouver Island is known to be the mildest part of Canada, especially when it comes to winters. Even so, it isn't unusual to get snow out here. This year, 2010/2011, was my first winter here, and it has sure been a mild one, with very little snow. I only remember two good snowfalls in fact. The second snowfall happened after I had moved onto the farm, giving me the opportunity to experience what this land looks like with a white blanket, and the challenge of living at the bottom of a 1/4 km long hilly, windy, dirt driveway. When it snows at Mossy Banks, you really want to leave your car at the top of the drive, and walk back and forth. Otherwise, you aren't going anywhere, as I found out.

I took this time to get some good walks in around the property and into the hills. Juniper and I went exploring and had a blast bounding about in the snow. When we get so little of it, it sure is fun to take advantage of it and have fun with it. From skating down the packed tire-tracks in the drive and making my way back up without falling and breaking the eggs, to making snowballs and snow-angels, the snow really is a blessed visitor while it lasts.

As we walked about the property, admiring the freshness of the air, the beauty of the white, sparkling snow that blanketed everything, and the quite that encompasses a sleepy winter day, I took my camera out and tried to capture a few scenes. I hope you enjoy the beauty that I saw in them and the joy of a few days of winter.
View from the top of the mossy banks
A tree with a presence
Quaint sitting area in the lower field
Beautiful snow formation on a stick
Snow crystals bursting from a stick

First Day

Kia and her twins

I moved onto the farm on January 5th and wasn't alone in making this my first day here. At about 4:00 pm, during our routine close-up of the animals, Lynn noticed that Kia was making some gentle bahs that had her thinking she was either afraid of my dog Juniper, or about to give birth. We took note and continued on with putting the pastured sheep in their pen and rounding up the chickens. As we were trying to herd the last of the hens into the barn Lynn peaked over the barn pen's gate and saw that, in fact, Kia was in the process of giving birth.

This was Kia's first birth. Kia is a purebred Suffolks, and was 'accidentally' bred with our ram, Romeo, also a purebred Suffolks. We knew that she was due at any moment. Lynn had told me about the advantaged and disadvantages of having one, two, or three lambs, and if they were boys or girls. We were already currently raising one little lamb in the house that Lynn had acquired from another farmer whose Ewe had triplets. Neither of us were hoping for triplets. Lynn was, however, hoping for one girl and one boy.

It was around 4:30 when the birthing started. We quickly got the last few chickens in and I went up to the house to put Juniper away and grab my camera. I wasn't gone more than 5 minutes. When I got back it was all over. Kia had given birth to two little girls. She was busy with licking her little ones clean and getting that all too important bonding in during the first moments of life. Lynn and I watched for some time, marvelling at how Kia just instinctively knew what to do, and how quickly the girls were up and walking.

What an experience to be a part of. I look forward to all the farm has to offer in the months to follow. I especially look forward to watching the seasons change. Winter is an interesting time to move onto a new piece of land. Falling in love with a place during the winter months, knowing that the most beautiful and plentiful times are yet to come, has given me an appreciation for this land that I may not have felt so clearly if I were to have moved here in the summer. I am truly grateful to call Mossy Banks my home, and proud to be a part of new creations.