Achievements and Shortcomings: Summary, March 2015

The following list of positive achievements and areas where our project has needed more growth was presented at the special meeting on March 4, 2015.

The original grid format has been changed a bit for the website, with the areas where more growth is needed presented in green.

Relationships

We have established networks in many different areas:

A) Sustainability

  • Sustainable Bridgewater – Bridgewater NS
  • Transition Bay St Margarets – Building Community Resilience – St. Margarets Bay, NS
  • Ecology Action Network – Halifax, NS
  • Local Food Team – Public Health Services NS

B) Forest, Field and Food Security:

  • Farmworks Investment Co-op Ltd.
    Providing and Promoting responsible community investment in food production and increasing access to local food supply – Wolfville, NS

A solid relationship has been established with Farmworks Investment. The project has be unable to fully tap the substantial resource that is available here. Some question marks remain regarding the profit and non-profit structures in relation to accessing the funding that is available. There is strong support morally by Farmworks for the project and a strong desire to support it financially as well if we can find the right fit.

  • Local Restaurants that support local growers such as Mateus Bistro (Mahone Bay, NS) and Flying Apron Cookery (Summerville, NS)
  • Julien’s Bakery
  • P3 Permaculture – Montreal,Quebec/Antigonish NS
  • Abundance Cooperative Academy – Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • Therapeutic Garden – Hinchinbrook Farm – Blockhouse, Nova Scotia
  • Local Farm Market Vendors – Mahone Bay Area Farmer’s Market
  • Solomon Brook Farm – Farmington NS
  • Sweetwood Farm – Maitland, NS
  • The Iron Cauldron Workers Co – op – Maplewood NS
  • Riversong Keep – Chester Basin, NS
  • Wile’s Lake Farm Market and Bakery – Wileville, NS
  • E-I-E-I-O Farm, Blockhouse
  • Windhorse Farm – Wentzell Lake, NS
  • Pollination Project – Bakers Settlement, NS
  • Ma Bell’s Country Condiments – Middle Cornwall, NS
  • Jeanette Poirier – Local Herbalist and member of Herbalists Association of NS

Could make far more use of the expertise available from the different organizations and entities listed.

D) Shelter:

  • Endeavour Centre: teaching sustainable building and design – members of Canada Green Building Council – Peterborough Ontario
  • Helping Nature Heal: Ecological Landscaping – Rosmarie Lohnes – Bridgewater NS
  • Solterre Design – Green Architects – Halifax, NS

E) Sustainable Energy:

  • PROSOLARTEC – Developers of a two stage solar concentrator technology with the potential of being “clean heat” with no greenhouse gases. Lunenburg, NS

Using Blockhouse as a platform to demonstrate ProSolarTec is not feasible as long as the project is uncertain about conveyance. ProSolarTec unwilling to invest in the creation of a platform with these uncertainties. More research needed as to how ProSolarTec could be applied efficiently as a heating/cooking source for the Blockhouse School Project.

  • Kiesling Wood Fired Heating Systems Ltd. Blockhouse, NS

Question marks remain regarding getting permits for a Kachelofen/Masonry stove at the Blockhouse School even though it would be a prime application of such technology. Strong interest on both sides to see something happen. Perhaps an outdoor oven for community gathering and piped into the kitchen for heating. 

F) Culture

  • South Shore Waldorf School – Blockhouse NS

Foster more co-operation between these two related educational efforts.

  • many local artists and crafts people
  • many local musicians through our open mic nights

Need to nurture these relationships that have been established. Continued open mics, concerts, dances etc.

G) Employment / Small Business Incubation

  • The Iron Cauldron Workers Co-op – Parkview NS

Further development of the legal structure to foster business incubation within the non-profit structure of SSSVC Ltd.

Relationships needing to be developed

Need: A strong board that is free to focus its energy on overall management, administration and direction of the project with greater involvement of membership to pursue the different hands-on aspects of the project. Movement towards having permanent full time people on site in various forms would go a long way to help strengthen and encourage relationships to the project.

Foster stronger relationship with municipal councilors including our local Blockhouse councilor Mike Ernst

Local Blockhouse Community – Need to develop more transparent communication streams for local awareness, buy in and involvement in the project

Establish relationship with local MLA, Suzanne Lohnes-Croft

Programming/Workshops

Many more workshops could have been held in all areas – lack of organizational resources – members need to take on the management and planning of programming.

A) Forest, Field and Food Security

  • Ran three successful intensive residential Permaculture Design Courses. Fourth one set for June 13th – 21st.
  • Hosting the We Dig Food Therapeutic Garden. A successful project run by Hinchinbrook farm – poised and ready for expansion

Continue to work towards more co – operative relationships in order to foster “stacking” of various ongoing activities, events, and workshops.

  • Hosted the successful Select Nova Scotia’s IncrEdible Picnic – Tickets Sold Out!

This was a great launch into a broader outreach to the public. Much more needs to be done in this area

  • Hosted the Mahone Bay Area Farmer’s Market for two seasons

Greater marketing, co-ordination of efforts and stacking of market with other activities and vendors is needed to be truly successful. Not returning in 2015 because in part of lack of certainty re: conveyance of property to SSSVC.

  • Hosted Food Preservation and Fermenting Workshops
  • Hosted Sprouting Workshop
  • Hosted 2 Cheese making workshops
  • Hosted several Herb Walks
  • Blockhouse School was on the Growing Green Festival Tour Route
  • Hosted Herbal Tea Making

More work needed to gain a clearer sense of what people in the local community would like to see offered by the project

B) Sustainable Shelter

  • Ran workshops on using Strawbale and old books as insulation. Written up in international Library Journal.
  • Ran Natural Plaster Workshops
  • Hosted a public talk by Chris Magwood of the Endeavour Centre on Alternative Compliance Paths within the National Building Code
  • Experimented with passive solar heating by reconfiguring windows in one studio

C) Culture

  • Hosted a very well attended talk by Albert Marshall on Two Eyed Seeing. Bringing Science and Native Spirituality together. Standing room only!
  • Hosted a workshop/Art Show on turning books into Art by local artist – Karen Langlois. Written up in the Lighthouse Log
  • Hosted Open Mic nights once a month in summer
  • Provided space for local band to rehearse
  • Held a Harvest Ball in conjunction with the Mahone Bay Scarecrow festival
  • Hosted a Movie Night – Viewing of the documentary Wisdom To Survive

Could also be happening once a month

  • Hosted many community potlucks including a Thanksgiving dinner and two Christmas dinners with carolling. Much enjoyed by all who attended.

This could happen once a month or combined with a movie night or “salons” to explore what the community would like to see happening in their local community.

More regular cultural events could easily be held. Talks, concerts, plays and dances. The gymnasium was extremely under utilized. Even just to have sports and games.

D) Employment and Business Incubation

Hosted a “Gentle Dragons Den” event in partnership with Farmworks Investment Co-op Ltd.

Although quite successful, further follow up on this front is needed. So much more could be happening in conjunction with this organization.

SSSVC has offered affordable rent to several local small businesses. A woodworking business, a musical instrument repair and sales business, a puppet maker, a lamp maker, a financial business, a painter and other artists. Collecting approx. $750 per month rent to cover operating expenses.

Many ideas were explored, but lack of human resources and energy to follow through.

Natural Building Business, Machinery Hub, Equipment and Tool Library. All of which could still be pursued.

Formed an official association with The Iron Cauldron Workers Co-op

More concrete working relationship in the form of skills training workshops, repurposing and recycling production businesses could be pursued. Also in the areas of food and beverage processing businesses.

Infrastructure Implemented

First Permaculture Design Course resulted in a comprehensive 10 year permaculture design and plan for the property. Several aspects of the plan have been implemented.

Overall plan needed to Deal with Systemic Building Issues

At present it is only a 3 season facility

The unforeseen cost (by all parties) of needing to install a new septic system at $23,000 put a bite into all other efforts in the first two years of the project. Although it was successfully fundraised, it took a large toll on the project at a time when this type of infrastructure improvement was not planned for at the beginning stage of the start up project.

Ongoing unforeseen (by all involved parties) insurance costs due to the terms of the lease agreement with MODL severely hampered the project’s ability to implement many of its intentions on the permaculture design front. A great deal of its operating expenses and fundraising energy was tied up with covering this unforeseen cost. This will likely be less of an issue if conveyance of the property happens.

More work is needed on long term sustainable heating solutions. The four air-to-air exchangers in four classrooms can be fitted with heaters to efficiently heat those rooms and maintain air quality.

Long term permanent solution for the leaking roof issues (rooftop greenhouse?) and air quality issues.

Permanent permaculture gardens established including fruit and nut trees and shrubs

Edible forest needs establishing as soon as possible. Nut trees & shrubs + more fruit trees & shrubs. (This was hampered by the uncertainty of the project’s future.)

  • Implemented community gardens
  • Planted permanent medicinal hedge
  • Began nursery operation & sold medicinal Hawthornes grown on the property
  • Installed new septic system and a humanure composting system

Repainting of portions of the exterior in bright yellow and green trim + portions of shingles turned over. A much needed facelift.

Much more to be done. Requires ongoing maintenance

Commercial kitchen design and grease trap obtained for future commercial kitchen/community kitchen hub

Without conveyance or guarantees of the continuance of the project – could not justify fundraising for the infrastructure cost of this key ingredient to the project.

Researched potential greenhouse roof and found specifications, design and suppliers.

Follow-through and fundraising required

Outdoor trail 2/3 completed. The trail, when finished will connects with the rails to trails system. When trail is completed and showers installed in building, we will be able to advertise Blockhouse School nationally as a stopping point on the rails to trails national system.

Willows planted to create nursery stock for making living fences joining Community Park to wetland trail.

Last third of trail still needing completion. Further work on establishing Community Park, ongoing.

Fundraisers

Fundraiser for the septic –

Through Tiny Studio Raffle, Provincial Government Grant, and Loans, SSSVC raised $23,000 at the beginning of its second year to pay for a new septic system.

Tiny Studio Raffle brought in much positive publicity. Interviewed by CBC Radio and Television. Our previous MLA Pam Birdsall drew the winning tickets.

A very challenging fundraiser, a bit too ambitious for the resources available, but with little choice given the demands for immediate installation of the septic. Led to burnout by participants. Future fundraisers would need to be more often and smaller.

Septic installed was less innovative environmentally than SSSVC would have preferred, as a result of cost and time-frame given to complete.

Fundraiser to support a project in Mexico dedicated to the creation of affordable housing

Communications

HolmPage – Heather Holm established a highly visible, extremely effective and wonderful website for the project. Great platform for so many things – communicating events, constant updating about activities, forums for discussion, networking with other organizations, fundraising and so much more.

Need much more on the ground communication. Newsletters, posters for events, community input and round table discussions etc.

Better communications with local municipal councilor and MLA needed

Good communications established with Perennia (NS Agricultural consultancy) and NS Agriculture Dept.

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