Friday, December 9, 2011

Field Date- Saturday, Dec. 10th, 2011

highlights from e-mail to membership, Dec. 9th (for November 27th Meeting Minutes, please see previous post):

First of all, a warm welcome to our two newest members, Kathleen Dunster and John Tansley!

Secondly, we have some hay being delivered this weekend to the SPUDS patch, and are hoping a few more members (and a couple of additional wheel barrows) will be on hand at 2:00 pm Saturday, December 10th, to move the bales inside our fenced area and under a tarp! So far, Ron and Sheila, Mike and Fireweed, and possibly Kevin, will be able to make it. Anyone else able to join us at that time for an hour or less?

Our hope is to 'stack' a few tasks, including the distribution of hay left over from last fall (wet now and decomposing nicely) onto specific areas of the field currently being mulched for spring planting. Also, to spread cardboard and help further our advances in weed suppression along the perimeter of the field where grass has a particularly aggressive habit of encroaching!

Please bring any outstanding membership fee for the year with you on Saturday, if you can! Also, feel free to request any additions or corrections to the Minutes attached. Thanks in advance for a quick rsvp about Saturday, and confirmation if you have a wheelbarrow you could bring! Other than that, a pair of gloves and appropriate footwear are probably all you need to think about. Hope to see you soon if you're free!

-Fireweed (for SPUDS Field Management sub-committee)

SPUDS General Meeting, November 27, 2011

Location: Dave and Tanya’s- 2585 Piercy Road

Minute Taker: Michael Nestor

In attendance: Ron Dobie, Kathleen Holden, Dave Graf, Tanya Quinn, Fireweed, Mike Nestor, Robert Fox

In absentia, but confirmed as 2012 members: Susan Marie Yoshihara, Vern Wright, Karl Goodwin, Kevin Mitchell, Ron Sakolsky, Sheila Nopper, John Tansley, and Kathleen Dunster


1) Membership update

2) Slide Show- year in review

3) Financial Report

4) Field Management Update

5) Seed Ordering

6) Ideas for edging of field/weed suppression/minimal tillage

7) Ideas/plans for spring planting

8) Water catchment project update

9) Garden Party suggestion

10) Communications

11) Fundraising/grant ideas

12) Other

13) Next field date

1) Membership update

Fireweed and Mike report 10 family memberships are confirmed so far for 2012 (9 active*), and 3 single memberships

*Veronica Timmons will be supporting the co-op with a 2012 membership, but not renewing active participation due to other priorities. She kindly sends her regards to everyone, with the message: “My time with SPUDS has been wonderful, and a great learning opportunity”. Update: Veronica has also written again to say she will be dropping off some cardboard for us in the field…thx, V!

A warm welcome to our two newest members (not in attendance): John Tansley (who built our water catchment over the cistern!), and Dr. Kathleen Dunster

Members are encouraged to talk up SPUDS, and invite friends, new islanders, families, etc, to consider getting involved with our community food security project.

2) Slide Show

Fireweed presented a detailed slide show and overview of field activity from last winter through to this fall, including images from work bee gatherings, cover crop development in each of the four quadrants, our new cistern roof, new hose/watering system, planting dates, challenges, successes, and celebrations. (Plans for an edited version highlighting our efforts may eventually manifest in a YouTube video format to incorporate some of our now fairly extensive photo documentation better online- but don’t hold your breath!)

3) Financial Report

Mike provided an update on SPUDS finances (not a detailed annual report). Please refer to separate attachment. Note: Additional figures provided for clarification in email to membership accompanying this Minutes mailout, include donated funds to SPUDS account, and money recouped from the sale of extra potato seed

4) Field Management Update

Fireweed reported that sections of the field were quickly cover-cropped in clover and partly in pea, not long after our fall harvest. Mike Lindsay dropped by to help members of the Field Management sub-committee consider whether or not we should plow areas of the field quite overgrown with hairy vetch, and grass, and a decision was made to wait till spring before any further tillage. Minimizing soil disturbance, conserving funds, and allowing natural reseeding of our cover crop made sense, as the long growth dies back, adding humus to the soil. It is likely still going to be necessary to plow under grasses and weeds in the spring however, and until we are able to suppress field growth we don’t want more effectively- perhaps in part through introducing vigorous alternatives (ideas discussed later- see below)

We will be planting in the upper left hand quadrant next year. Progress has been made since our fall harvest, suppressing encroaching weed growth in this area along the fence line closest to the woods with cardboard and hay mulch (also along the top edge of the field). Dried hairy vetch raked up in the neighbouring quadrant (closest to the cistern), has been redistributed/used as mulch to mark potentially no-till, or minimal till planting strips for our 2012 potato crop. All cover crop seems to have successfully ‘taken’, so will hopefully survive the winter and continue building soil fertility.

Members in attendance were in favor of sticking with the same amount of plants for 2012 (we had reduced our crop size considerably for 2011, and found this helpful, commensurate with membership numbers, water availability, and time involved in crop management).

5) Seed Ordering

Ron Dobie confirmed that Max will be able to pick up our potato seed again on Vancouver Island, and Fireweed will check with our distributor to see what will be available this year. Those present were interested in planting Sieglindes again, but we might also consider another variety if we can acquire a small quantity of certified organic seed that suits us. We will order the minimum 50 pounds of Sieglindes to get in on the group discount we have been accustomed to, and once again offer for sale the extra certified organic seed we don’t need.

6) Ideas for edging of field/weed suppression/minimal tillage

Prospective edging crops- cover crops for mulch, comfrey, sunflowers, kale, companion plants suitable for potatoes, and less attractive to wireworms (or attractive to predators of wireworms!) Cranberries were mentioned as a possible crop for watery areas of the field less well suited for potatoes.

Ron Dobie agreed to do some research about companion planting and the pros and cons of some of the plants proposed as potential candidates for weed suppression, etc. Update: please refer to additional document attached, regarding Ron’s followup research, which favors comfrey and kale!

Fireweed will look into ordering of hairy vetch from Vancouver again (favored as an edging plant, for growing our own mulch), and the possibility of splitting a bag with Ironwood Farms in Fanny Bay (which helped cut our costs two years ago) Dave and Tanya said they might be able to pick it up from the distributor in the lower mainland (a significant savings over ordering it up island from a retail outlet).

7) Ideas/plans for spring planting

Hopefully we can plant early again in 2012… this year we got our potato seed in the ground on April 9th, over a month earlier than the year before (May 27th, 2010!) Fireweed and Mike have acquired a hand mower, and presented the idea of limited till on strips currently mulched by hairy vetch pilings, with cover crop then encouraged between these rows to be mowed by hand (to avoid excessive growth, and utilize the ‘trimmings’ as super rich mulch/soil enhancer). Some discussion ensued about planting the rows across the quadrant as opposed to straight up and down, although this might not be advantageous.

Bringing Mike Lindsay in to do a three quarters plus plowing of the field NOT slated for cultivation was suggested as a means of getting on top of weeds, and will require immediate reseeding with cover crop. This tillage would be more intensive than usual, possibly requiring an equipment change for a second round in order to really break down the existing growth in the field to build humus and hold back grass and weeds. Our budget is looking good for 2012, and it was suggested that the additional expense might be a really appropriate use of our funds at this stage of field management (also in light of having reduced our fossil fuel usage in 2011, as well as our need to contract tillage since we did all our own rototilling in the spring, let the cover crops self re-seed, and chose not to till in the fall, also sparing our funds at that time)

8) Water catchment project update

Dave will talk to John Tansley, builder of our cistern roof and new SPUDS member, about finishing up the water catchment with the addition of eaves. Our grant monies ran out before the final stage could be completed, and John has kindly offered to volunteer his services to assist with the remainder of the project. Mike and Ron Dobie both have some eaves parts/gutters that could be used for this project. We also have money in our budget to purchase additional hardware as required.

Dave is in touch with Keith Walker about his own successful water catchment system, and will be furthering his investigation into how best to insulate our tank valve so we can avoid any freezer damage during cold temperatures without draining our tank. Dave has also offered to build an insulated, protective covering. We may have to totally drain the tank, in order to turn the whole thing slightly, to adjust access to the water filling valve at the top. We’ll do this altogether when we have a group available, or else John may be able to simply move a brace holding up the roof structure to alleviate any potential difficulty with fire department fillings.

Mike will ask Charlie about which option would be preferable from the standpoint of the Fire department which has so generously accommodated us with water, and will no doubt be appreciated again for that, during our next dry season.

9) Garden Party suggestion

A proposal was made to the group that we consider hosting a garden party (mini work bee) for a former SPUDSter (who has been a very supportive member in the past, and has experienced debilitating back problems this year- alongside his partner’s sprained ankle). All in attendance supported the idea in principle, and Fireweed will pursue whether or not such a gesture would be appropriately helpful before we set anything into motion.

10) Communications

Ron suggested that we include mention in a new year’s article about SPUDS, that we will have extra potato seed for sale, and enhance our networking that way. If we have lots of interest prior to placing our own order, we could even acquire a couple of cases of seed to share outside the co-op membership. Fireweed has volunteered to write something up for the January Flagstone.

Sheila Nopper and Fireweed are currently on the Communications team, and Sheila has compiled a hard copy of SPUDS material for public access in the library. Additional members are welcome to help out with communications and field management planning at any time. Dave Graf will be staying on board the Field Management sub-committee for 2012, along with Mike and Fireweed, and hopefully Tanya (if she has the time!)

11) Fundraising/grant ideas

Mike will reapply for a Regional Grant for 2012 (deadline in February). He explained that our acquisition of the Economic Enhancement Grant for our water catchment system project in 2011 resulted in us not qualifying for any additional RG funding in 2011.

12) Other- Cardboard, and Hay

We could really use more large cardboard, to suppress invasive grass and weed growth all around the entire perimeter of the field. Members are encouraged to keep on the lookout in town for large brown box cardboard without staples or colored ink. We can use cardboard with tape, as long as it is removed.

Kathy let us know that she has recently purchased hay from Fern and Dave Neidermoser for 2.50 a bale, and agreed to contact Dave to see how much we might acquire for $50. Tom Dennis’ hay was mentioned, but concerns raised about canary grass content. We have received free old hay from Doug Wright in previous years, and had discussed paying him the next time, as he does normally sell his hay as well.

Update: Dave Neidermoser will be delivering twenty bales of hay to the field for a total cost of $65, which includes transport and a reduced price on the bales (he normally charges $3 per bale, but had given Kathy a deal and has kindly agreed to extend this same price to SPUDS as well.)

13) Next field date

A short work bee was proposed for distributing the hay remaining from last year onto specific areas of the field to be planted next spring, and to position existing cardboard…sometime soon. Update: on Saturday, December 10th, at 2:oo pm, members are encouraged to come on out to also help move the hay that will now be delivered that day by Dave Neidermoser into our fenced area.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

2012 Planning Meeting SUNDAY, November 27th, 7 pm

Time flies! With winter fast approaching, and so many potatoes from our fall harvest already consumed, some of us are keen to start planning for 2012!

Please come join the SPUDS Field Management Sub-committee get together scheduled for Sunday, November 27th at 7 pm. Tanya and Dave are kindly hosting, and they live at 2585 Piercy Road (water side). We'll be reviewing the past year, sharing updates and ideas with the membership for 2012, and determine how many members we can count on for the 2012 growing season! Please bring your membership fee with you and let's take it from there! As always, new agenda items are welcome, so please contact one of us ahead of time if you have anything you would like added to the list.

For those curious about the field, we managed to avoid bringing in a plough this past fall before a pretty quick and spontaneous sowing of clover and pea throughout the field. This saved us money, and of course is consistent with our Basis of Unity statement goal of fossil fuel reduction.

Thanks to those who have contributed cardboard to the project, we have successfully pushed back a good deal of the long, tall grass invasion on the side of the field closest to next year's planting quadrant. Fascinating photos are being compiled in preparation for next weekend's meeting...hope to see you there!

If you can't make the meeting, please rsvp anyway, letting your Co-op know if we can look forward to working together with you in the field in 2012 once again! Hope to see you soon, and hear from everyone sooner! :) -Fireweed (for SPUDS field management sub-committee)

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Here's hoping all co-op members are enjoying these glorious dog days of summer! Please mark your calendars now for some important dates:

1) This coming Monday evening, August 22nd at 7:00 pm, it would be great if a few SPUDS members could come on out to help with weeding and other tasks in the field...please bring rake, hoe, and shovel if you have them, for an hour or so during this most beautiful time of the day in the field!  RSVP.

2) Saturday, September 3rd, is Harvest Day!  Yes, it's Blackberry Faire weekend, and we'll be pulling our plants the day before the faire. Come on out to the field in the late afternoon at 4:30 pm, and plan on staying to enjoy refreshments after all our work is done! Depending, of course, on how many members are in attendance, it shouldn't take long to unearth all our potatoes and divvy them up. A big pot of chili, baked potatoes or cornbread, along with cold beverages will be on hand! If you are unable to make this date, please send someone to represent your membership if you can 

We hope to also be celebrating our brand new water catchment cistern roof, which should be fully installed by then, thanks to our grant from Denman Works, and local builder John Tansley! A reminder notice will be sent out the week before to make sure we know how many names to put in the chili pot, and to make sure everyone remembers what to bring to the harvest.

3) On Sunday, September 4th it would be good to have a presence at the Faire with the photo display we put together for  the Conservancy Home and Garden Tour earlier this year. Any members interested in hanging out at our little table for a while over the course of the day, chatting about the Co-op and perhaps helping encourage a few more members for our next growing season, are invited to get in touch.

Field Management Details:

Help needed- a. if anyone is going to town with a pickup truck this week, we need someone to pick up our roofing materials for the cistern water catchment project scheduled to begin asap. Please call for details (1209)
b. We also need more cardboard for the field. Any large brown boxes without colored ink are useful...the bigger the better!

Comments: The Field Management Sub-Committee (FSC) has been monitoring our crop and new watering system closely over the growing season. Special thanks to Graham, Karl and Fox for their assistance while Dave, Tanya, Mike and Fireweed were away in July! Thanks to the Volunteer Fire Department, we are still watering approximately every three days ( we have had two fillings of our cistern this year). Our cover crops have all matured and gone to seed, with the exception of slower growing clover now visible beneath the spent vetch and austrian pea which kept countless bees buzzing happily in the purple patch earlier in the season. 

The reduced number of potato plants this year (1/3rd of last year's crop) means that we can expect a smaller harvest over all, although we are hoping that by leaving the plants in the ground as long as possible,  whatever spuds have materialized will keep growing until the plants are ready to die back. 

While we have been able to retain far better soil moisture this year than last, there is still the possibility that the area of the field we're harvesting from needs more time to recover former nutrient loss in order to produce prolifically. This is why it is important for us to keep our relatively new cover cropping and crop rotation regime going strong! As soon as the harvest has happened we'll need to plan for overall fall planting so overwintering cover crops have a chance to become well established and build soil fertility, especially in the 2012 quadrant!

So stay tuned for more on cover cropping requirements as they develop. SPUDS members will be needed to help out in that department sooner or later, too. The FSC will schedule a meeting of the whole sometime after the harvest to review the year and plan ahead, but in the meantime, anyone interested in contributing more to the Co-op by joining the field management team is, as always, more than welcome to do so!

In the meantime, hope to see you Monday, and thanks for that RSVP so we know how many can make it! 
-for FSC      (Dave, Tanya, Mike & Fireweed)        

 Thanks to Denman Islander Bryanna Grogan for this totally delish middle eastern recipe for potato kibbeh! -

Friday, July 15, 2011


Yes, our plants seem very happy about the lovely rain!


Thanks to everyone who helped water the field while we were waiting on the cistern fillup, and thanks to Steve Ireland for making that arrangement for us while poor CharlieJohnston was recovering from his back injury, and to Peter Marshall and volunteers from the Fire Department for doing the deed!

The field was watered by hand a total of six times over the week to ten days prior to the filling on Wednesday, July 6th, and hopefully some of that water made it down to the roots where it was needed most during this crucial time of plant development. Many thanks to those who assisted and or provided water. Sheila Nopper's Lee Valley hose pump was especially 'back-saving', allowing Mike to fill wine bottles without continuing to lift heavy containers!

The generous donation of new, super lightweight dripline to SPUDS from Denman organic produce grower (and West Jet pilot) Dave Pick was very easy to install. It is elevated along the fence line before it hits the field, due to the fact that by the time it was gifted to us our potato mounds were far above ground level. Thankyou to Graham Hayman as well for his assistance positioning all the hoses. Mike and I anchored the hose to the mounds with found wire from the recycling centre, which we used along the fence as well to hold up the line. We split old cedar shakes to stake the mainline tightly in place. The water distribution throughout the field is very, very even...a big improvement over our former system due in no small part of course to our decrease in plant numbers.Our plants (totalling around 280) have been watered twice now by the cistern, which released the equivilant amount of water on the field in three hours that it took six whole field waterings by hand to accomplish. We LOVE the cistern! :)

Field Management Subcommittee member (and genius!) Dave Graf has just rigged up a buoy system for the cistern which will now allow us to monitor the amount of H20 we are releasing on the field per watering, without having to get up on a ladder with our long dip-stick. While we are hoping for an additional 6 or 7 waterings from the cistern before receiving a second filling from the Fire Department, the amount of time it actually takes to release water is increasing as the pressure in the tank drops.

Graham Hayman has kindly offered to monitor the next several waterings while all FSC members are off island on holidays. In our absence, members Ron Dobie, Karl Goodwin, and Fox will be taking turns turning on the tank every three days. Graham will be turning off the tank each time so one person can be responsible for keeping an accurate record of water levels and flow rate as the tank drains.

The FSC has also mulched the entire field with additional hay to help retain moisture in the mounds, since our drip line is on top of the potato hill and must wick down to reach developing tubers. Fortunately, the heavy rain on Wednesday penetrated the soil all around our potato plants, which doesn't normally happen because the ground in our pathways is so compact.


FSC members removed all flowers from blossoming plants this past week, in order to help concentrate plant energy in the roots. We are NOT seeing tuber development in the mounds randomly checked, which could be for a variety of reasons...

i) everything is behind this year by 2-3 weeks due to our cold wet spring
ii) nutrient level in this quadrant is still depleted given that it has been previously planted and our new four year rotation and cover cropping regime was only begun last year.
iii) maybe we waited too long to get to our first hilling....
iv) the tubers are forming closer to the original seed potato beneath ground level (in addition to all of the above!)

In any event, we will keep our fingers crossed for a decent harvest by the end of August!


The field was buzzing with a kazillion happy bees when our hairy vetch and volunteer pea were blooming last month! They did indeed catch up with the grass that is also thriving in the field, although we worried they might not! The clover crop has been far less successful in the upper half of the field, and a mystery plant dominated the lower end of our 2011 quadrant, but which has provided great ground cover mixed with our clover there!

We did NOT plant clover between the rows as proposed after final hilling...conditions were not conducive at the time. Additional hay has been distributed between the rows instead to act as weed suppressant and moisture mulch. it will be several years now before we plant potatoes in this area again, leaving us lots of time to boost soil fertility levels through ongoing cover cropping.

After harvest we will need to decide whether or not to till the upper half of the field again for a replanting of a nutrient rich cover crop that can perhaps better suppress the growth of unwanted grass in the area currently designated for our 2012 patch.


Due to our earlier planting this year, we will be harvesting before the Blackberry Faire! Stay tuned for details, but the weekend of August 27th and 28th is likely, if we allow our plants to mature fully and die back naturally.


This year's photos are not all up on the blog...when I'm back from holidays at the end of the month I hope to have a great photo stream of our collective efforts from April on, finally ready for members to enjoy!


Work on our water catchment cistern roof should commence around the beginning of August, by local builder John Tansley. Denman Works exists to promote community economic enhancement, so a portion of our grant is designated for materials and the remainder for labor costs. We have tried to source supplies as locally as possible, so some of the wood we are using will have been milled here on Denman. The job won't take long, and we'll be sure to document all progress, as Denman Works requires that we provide regular reports. Please see Dave Graf's draft design here on the spuds blog for general overview.

7) LUCKY SEVEN! If you've read this far, you are a perfect candidate for SPUDS Field Management Sub-Committee! This is just a reminder that anyone interested in helping coordinate field management is welcome and encouraged to participate. Mike and Fireweed, and Tanya and Dave have been meeting this year to coordinate and commiserate...some deliberations happen online, over the phone, or in the field! It's definitely a time commitment, so additional help is always welcome!

This year it was suggested that members commit to at least five or six work bees in the field per membership, in the interests of SPUDS Cooperative sustainability. It's always understood that not everyone can make it out to each and every scheduled event, so please get in touch if you'd like to be contacted to help with additional chores if you haven't been able to get to the field much this year. Every member is valuable, and we want to keep you onboard!

- We could use volunteers to sit with SPUDS display at the Blackberry Faire, and encourage interested islanders to join us!
- If anyone is traveling to the lower mainland, a pickup of our over-wintering cover crop seed from the distributor would save us a little cash over ordering it locally.
- fundraising ideas are always welcome too, including grant research!

9) PLANNING AHEAD: The FSC hasn't talked about a meeting of the whole membership after harvest, but hopefully we can plan ahead for 2012 with input from all members, sometime after the Blackberry Faire!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Hilling Party Saturday, June 4th, 2011

Susan Marie, Dave, Tanya, Kathy, and Mike and Fireweed danced between the raindrops and our gorgeous looking potato plants with our hoes on Wednesday nite. All the weeds (most, anyway!) have been dealt with, and Saturday's work bee can concentrate on our first hilling. We spent about 1 and a half hours on the job weeding, and the hilling should be even faster! Don't forget to bring a hoe, and/or rake, water and a hat. It's supposed to be warm, and we'll be under a high noon sun! See you at 11:00 am!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Weeding and Hilling: Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Well, after the monsoon earlier today, the soil is going to be...damp out there! Wear your boots, maybe a rainjacket, and bring your hoe and rake and a paddle and we'll see you in the field! The potatoes are growing too fast not to do what we can tonite. Yes, yes, just kidding about the paddle, but we still nee an extra hoe!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

SPIRING PLANTING 2011- April 9th!

Spring is upon us once again, and not a moment too soon! Please mark your calendar now, for 1:00 pm Saturday, April 9th, for gathering in the SPUDS patch for our 2011 spring planting.

Thankyou for responding right away to confirm your ability to attend, or otherwise! The weather is currently promising to co-operate next Saturday, so here's hoping we can get all our potato seed in the ground that afternoon.

PLEASE BRING : a shovel or two, a bucket if you have one, garden gloves, and water to drink. If you have a hoe, it might come in handy, too.
Since we're meeting after lunch, there won't be any veggie chili this year, but as is our custom, there WILL be some kind of treat provided for sharing in celebration after our planting is done! (donations of a loonie or two appreciated for our refreshments coffer)

THE PLAN: As reported earlier in the year, and vetted by the membership, this year's planting will be scaled back significantly- commensurate with membership numbers and water availability. We'll be planting a total of ten rows, three feet apart and 45 feet long. Not as much work as in the past if we have a good turn out!

FIELD UPDATE: Our cover cropping regime is in full swing, with much of the field greening up nicely. So rather than bringing a tractor in to till the field this spring, we are conserving fossil fuel use and tilling just the one quadrant we are planting potatoes in with a borrowed rototiller. Member Dave Graf will be doing this work on our behalf today, Saturday, April 2nd. Mike and Fireweed will be assisting at the field site, and anyone who checks email before noon on Saturday and is interested in coming out on this short notice with a rake and hoe to join us is more than welcome! We're meeting from 10 am till noon.

We are going to be able to plant our seed much earlier this year since we are working in a higher (drier) part of the field. This means we will be able to harvest earlier, and possibly avoid the driest part of the summer (and another drought like last year's, if we're lucky!) Stay tuned for updates on a planned water catchment system in the works over our cistern. The volunteer fire department will only be delivering us two tankloads of water this year, so adequate water remains our biggest challenge in the field. Fewer plants will mean more water availability to each plant for growing more, and/or bigger potatoes...we hope!

MEMBERSHIP: Thanks to Max and Ron for once again picking up our potato seed and delivering it to Denman (Sieglinde potatoes, once again). We have 12 active memberships this year, and 2 supporting memberships.

The Field Management Sub-committee (FSC) would like to encourage each membership to consider aiming for six working visits to the field over the course of the growing season, as part of our co-operative goal of achieving greater sustainability. We know it isn't always possible to make it to all scheduled work-bees, but there are lots of opportunities for chipping in, and we'll keep you posted! We already know there are a few members unavailable for the planting date, so hope the majority of others can make it.

As always, anyone interested in being even more involved by joining the Field Management Sub-committee (FSC), or Communications Team is encouraged to get in touch. NOTE: SPUDS Basis of Unity Statement is now available on a seperate page of this blog.

If you have yet to pay this year's membership fee, please bring it with you to the planting or call to make other arrangements. On a final note for now, a hearty welcome to our latest SPUDS members, Graham Hayman and partner Kathleen Holden!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

SPUDS Newz - January 19th, 2010

Happy New Year Spudsters!

In the previous post on this blog please find the minutes from our end of the year membership meeting (November 28th, 2010)  for a long overdue update. The following communique was sent to members with those minutes attached.

Please take note that this coming Saturday, January 22nd, we have a chance to raise a little cash for our Co-operative!
I was asked to provide food for the lunch that is part of the Transition Denman initiative at their official launch this weekend, and have decided to donate all proceeds after expenses to SPUDS, in support of our desire to improve water access for the field by way of a rain catchment system for our cistern. 

The request  received was for bioregional fare, so of course my choice to include potatoes was a natural one. Hopefully you are already planning to attend the launch, but whether or not you can make it, please spread the word: our SPUDS fundraiser 'lunch for the launch' will be available between noon and 12:45 pm…then pause for a brief presentation in the Front Hall by visiting Green Party leader Elizabeth May.  I'm told food service can resume by 1:30 pm and continue to  4:00 pm (or until we run out of goodies) 

I have rounded up lots of great Denman veggies, so every item on the menu contains homegrown ingredients- beautiful beet borscht, potato and sweet pea samosas with local fruit chutney, crunchy kale chips, creamy squash soup, savoury potato and sunflower seed pate with basil pesto and roasted tomato puree on rye, pumpkin pie, apple spice muffins, hazelnut spelt squares made with blackberry/plum preserves, local apple juice, etc.

ANY VOLUNTEERS? I am hoping that a couple of other SPUDS members may be interested in lending a hand on Saturday for any length of time at all…the food will be readymade, but Mike and I will be serving out of both the front and back windows of the kitchen, so it will be a bit of a juggling act with just the two of us. It may or may not be busy, but I'm not sure how we'll be able to retrieve used bowls that don't come straight back to the kitchen, for example... if you are interested in helping out the cause, please get in touch asap! -Fireweed


And now for news directly related to the field...

1) Today we received word on our potato seed order pricing for 2011's spring planting. The farmer who organizes a bulk purchase for Vancouver Island had to secure a 40 box order (2,000 pounds) before receiving a cost break, and has just announced that she was successful. Good thing, because the price for organic seed has gone up! Our order will cost $100 for a 50 pound box (up from $75 a case last year) plus $10 for shipping.

It was proposed at our last meeting of the membership on November 28th,  that we reduce our seed planting this coming spring, commensurate with membership labor availability, and our very limited water supply. Please refer to the  minutes (previous post!) from this meeting for conversation highlights, budget report, etc.

2) SPUDS welcomes new 2011 members Stephen Cooke, Dave Graff and partner Tanya Quinn (Dave joined last fall and is now a very welcome addition to SPUDS Field Management sub-committee), and Yvon Raoul. Yvon lives part time on Denman, so will be a supportive member 'at large', joining us in the field whenever he can. 

3) One other highlight to note that won't be in the minutes…SPUDS' request for a refundables bin at the Bottle Depot has been accepted. We now have the opportunity to raise at least $100 a year (the minimum amount required to maintain the privilege of having a bin) towards the cooperative's operating expenses, simply  by remembering to donate our recyclables …we must 'use it, or loose it', as the saying goes!

Minutes from Meeting of the Membership, Nov. 28, 2010

SPUDS MEETING of the MEMBERSHIP; November, 28, 2010
In attendance:  Ron Sakolsky, Sheila Nopper, Mike Nestor, Fireweed, Fox, Tanya Quinn, Dave Groff

 Facilitation: we were such a small group that we decided picking a facilitator wasn’t necessary. The following notes have been compiled by Fireweed



Fireweed provided an update on our numbers, highlighting members not in attendance but who are also confirmed for 2011:
Veronica Timmins, Ron Dobie and Maxine Matilpi, Yvon Raoul (who will be a ‘member at large’, since he is only on Denman part time, Susan Marie Yoshihara, Bill Engelson, Vern Wright, Kevin Mitchell

…and 2010 members who won’t be participating in 2011: Charlie Johnston (to remain supportive, he has offered to provide a total of TWO refills for the cistern through the Volunteer Fire Dept. for 2011); Jan Murphy and Lyndsey Jennings (just way too busy with off island work and school); Herb Jones and Barb Heywood-Jones, Bob Vosburg, DeNeen Baldwin, Rae Eckel and Karl Goodwin (who are stepping back for health reasons but have offered to retain a family membership as ‘members at large’, remaining supportive with a standing offer to help with Karl’s truck whenever we might need the assistance)

Mike announced that our 2011 membership stands at 9 family, and 3 single memberships, noting that this total of 12 should be calculated as 10 ACTIVE memberships, since two memberships are primarily supportive, only. [note: newest member Stephen Cooke signed on for 2011 after this meeting, bringing our 2011 membership up to 13 as of mid January, or 11 Active memberships]


Mike provided the following accounting info for 2010:

Memberships-  $420.00               (230.00 +190.00= $420.00)
Grant            -     200.00  Aug. 3, 10
Misc.            -        14.00
TOTAL               634.00

Bank Account:

Balance as of 11/26/10                                           231.01
Pending check from Yvon Raoul                          +50.00
*Pending expenses                                                -208.67

*EXPENSES incurred by members of the Field Management sub-committee

Aug. 8, 2010     Pickseed-                   hairy vetch      63.42      Fireweed
                          (we split a bag with Ironwood Farm in Union Bay)                        
May 16, 2010                                    Austrian pea      79.99      Fireweed
May 16. 2010                     twine for row marking      14.41      Fireweed
July 3,   2010      Home Depot-   clamps for hoses        9.75      Mike Nestor
July 3,   2010     Courtenay Pump House- emitters       9.47      Mike Nestor 
Sept.15, 2010     South Country Feed-  clover seed     29.39      Fireweed
Sept. 24, 2010    DI Hardware-           flagging tape      2.24      Mike Nestor

Check to Mike Nestor for:                                            21.46
Check to Fireweed for:                                                187.21

SPUDS 2010 Expenditures in Total-

Jan. 20,   10      40.00-  Back Hall rental for Feb. 7 meeting
Jan. 29,  10     280.50-  Mary Alice Johson for 3 cases of Sieglinde seed ($75 a case,         
                                                               and .37/lb. shipping- $55.50)
Feb. 22,  10       15.00-  room rental at Old School for Feb. 21 meeting
May 17,  10       50.00-  Mike Lindsay  for tilling ½ the filed (May 8th)
May 16,  10       79.99-  South Country Feed for Austrian peas for spring/fall planting
May 16,  10       14.41-  Home Depot for twine for marking rows
May  20, 10       40.16-  Charlie Johnston for hose valve for cistern
July    3, 10          9.75-  Home Depot for clamps for hoses
July    3, 10           9.47- Pump House for replacement hose emitters
Aug. 18, 10         63.42- Pickseed for hairy vetch cover crop (55.00 + 7.77 freight +.93 tx)
Sept. 15, 10         29.39- South Country Feed for red clover seed for ¾ field coverage
Sept. 24, 10       100.00- Mike Lindsay for entire field tillage

FSC  (Field Management Sub-committee) REVIEW of 2010:

Presented by Fireweed and Mike, with thanks to Jan and Lyndsey for their wonderful assistance on the FSC for the 2010 growing season, as well as Darek Tanneker for his knowledgeable support!

We had a very wet spring, and so the plough wasn’t able to get in to the field until May 8th. The following weekend we planted one quadrant of cover crop Austrian pea in the quadrant where we are planting potatoes in 2011.

We planted our potato seed on May 22nd, thinking it best to leave the turned over sod a couple of weeks to break down before the planting.

We had purchased 150 pounds of Sieglinde seed in a bulk order purchased through Mary Alice Johnson from Across the Creek Organics in Pemberton once again, and ended up storing it in Rod and Vlasta’s apple barn to slow down the sprouting that had taken place in Bob Parson’s barn, due to our need to delay planting.

There were about 300 seed per 50 pound box.

We planted 15.5 rows of approximately 60 plants per row, totaling about 900 plants

The rows were spaced 2 feet apart, and the plants 18 inches apart

We harvested over 750 pounds on Sept. 18th, or approximately .8 pounds per plant.

The plants were in the ground for 120 days, and each family membership got 51 poudns of potatoes, the 2 individual membership got 46 pounds a piece…our appreciation pile, divided by 4 was 47.5 or 12 pounds per recipient.

Watering issues:

Because of our wet spring, our plants got off to a great start and we didn’t need to get our watering system down on the field till July 7th. The cistersn was filled a total of  4 times, however, and the bul of our watering happened between July and Augst during the most severe drought in many years.

July 11th was our first watering, July 19th-22nd our second watering, July 31-Aug 4th our third watering, Aug. 7th it rained, August 21st we watered for a forth and final time. The field received no further water as the weather remained dry. We hoped that leaving the potatoes in the field for as long as possible might plump them up, but without rain any further growth was negligible.

Our plants received approximately 8 gallons of water over the entire dry season from the cistern (which received four fillings), or 2 gallons per watering per plant

Apparently our wire worm problem was shared by organic growers across BC- Ann deCosson said they had the same problem, and also had the worst potato crop in 30 years. West Piercy said his overall production was the worst in 60 years.

So we had a few problems facing us in the field in 2010…decreased soil fertility, which of course we are now well on our way to rectifying with timely and appropriate cover cropping, an unexpected drought right when our plants would have really benefited from more water, and wire worms!


Fireweed reported that thankyous and potatoes were delivered to Brian, Mike Lindsay, Charlie and the Fire Dept., and Derek Tanneker in appreciation for their support at the end of September. DeNeen Baldwin and Rae Eckel were also appreciated for their contributions to SPUDS Communications Team

Library Binder- Sheila provided an update on the binder at the Library, which she is continuing to maintain

Blog Updates- Fireweed mentioned maintaining accurate records on the blog for easy access and agreed to continue uploading meeting deliberations, photos, etc

Hermitage Contact- the new liason person for SPUDS at the Hermitage is Devin

New/additional SPUDS Communications Team members are encouraged!


Seed ordering-
Discussion ensued around what and how much to order for the 2011 growing season. It was suggested that given the reality of our water limitations at the field, and the fact that we can count on only half the quantity of water received in 2010 from the Fire Dept. in 2011, that we would be better off drastically reducing our next planting. Given that even cutting our production in half would not provide healthier, heartier plants if we have the same weather conditions in 2011, it was determined that planting a third of what we did in 2010 would 1) be a better use of available water, 2) reduce labor requirements in the field, commensurate with a decrease in our current membership numbers, 3) possibly result in a much better crop yield, per plant.

Fireweed advocated for planting Sieglindes once again, so we can keep track of how well they do under varied conditions. Ron proposed that we order one 50 pound box of seed. All present were in favor of this proposal for all the reasons under consideration.
[Note: as always, any member not in favor of a proposal is welcome to offer further input for consideration.]

Fireweed agreed to place an order and report to the group when it is confirmed, and to relay 2011 prices . Last year our order was made in December and confirmed on January 10th.

Water Catchment-
The need for a water catchment system over the cistern was discussed, along with ideas about water flow and accumulation in general on the field during the rainy season. One idea made by Fox, was to invite a professional permaculturalist to assess and share their ideas on the site. Drainage ditching, swales, building up low areas, using low lying areas differently rather than altering the landscape, digging a pond- various ideas were touted for long range field management solutions. It was acknowledged that any major activity would require permission from the Hermitage. It was agreed that Fox would pursue permaculture input, and that fundraising for some kind of water catchment over the cistern would be appropriate for at least one filling independent of the Fire Dept. SPUDS members adept in carpentry are needed to volunteer for the construction of a catchment system!

Everyone is encouraged to keep their ears open about grant possibilities for the catchment system.Mike will pursue another CVRD grant, due by the end of February. Veronica Timmins, Sharon Clarke, DICEEC and Freedonia were mentioned as possible sources of either grant information or funding in the case of Freedonia.

 It was stressed that we need to mulch over the creeping couch grass along the edge of the field before it starts to grow up again. And that anyone who can grab some large cardboard from town that is mostly ink free should do so. Last year we obtained about three truckloads of hay mulch, sometime in the early spring (it was suggested that we start asking around in February). Doug Wright, the Scrutons, Tom Dennis, and Dev Murti were mentioned as possible sources of hay.

 Mike Nestor will contact Mike Lindsay to inquire about spring tilling- as we make progress with our cover cropping our tillage requirements are reducing significantly and this spring we will only require one quarter of the field to be tilled if all goes well.

FSC involvement-
 Dave Graff joins Fireweed and Mike on the FSC. Welcome Dave! More members are welcome and needed to help out with  various aspects of SPUDS infrastructure and field management.

Membership involvement-
 Fireweed and Mike calculated that on average (and NOT including FSC work in the field) SPUDS membership clocked approximately 160 hours of activity on field tasks in 2010. This breaks down to about 12 hours per person (again, excluding FSC meetings, watering, checking on the field, etc). To be truly sustainable, we need to increase the time in the field expected from each member to more like 6 visits.
Of course a reduction in planting in 2011 will make a difference on how long tasks like planting, hilling, mulching, etc, end up taking.

Budgeting for 2011-
Mike estimated the cost of seed potatoes, field tillage, cover crop seed and miscellaneous expenses for the year as coming in anywhere between $200-$400. Miscellaneous expenses might include repairs on our drip irrigation system, or new hose; material needs for a water catchment would likely exceed this estimate.

 Mike will ask Rae if she would be willing to test the soil for us again so we can compare data.

Next Meeting: No other meeting date set at this time.

Thanks to Ron and Sheila for hosting!