Newsletter 2012-11



The CVGSS Logo, stylized hand holding a plant, blue flower with yellow centre, also looks like sun in the sky

We enter the dark of the year, time of rain and storm, time of wood stoves and rubber boots. Hopefully your gardens are mostly put to bed, the over-wintering plants tucked in with mulch, and maybe plastic ‘cloche’ protection. Many of us will be continuing the harvest into these winter months, as we add to our skills for Winter Gardening.

At this time of year we are also gearing up for Seedy Saturday, the first weekend of March. This community seed exchange, gardening tradeshow, and educational event is also a major fundraiser for us. Please offer to help our returning co-coordinator, Sue Moen, as she goes about orchestrating this important event.

As I have been lucky to have the opportunity for several winters, I head south to Baja California, Mexico soon. I will be turning over the chairing of CVGSS into the capable hands of Arzeena Hamir, our new co-chair. She is recently moved to the Comox Valley with her family, and we welcome her energy, experience and knowledge related to food security.

Happy Winter Season!

Hasta luego, (until later)


Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012 – Intro to Homescale Permaculture with Elaine Codling

4 pm, $40, 4745 Headquarters Road

Call 250-338-1112 or email

Tuesday, Dec 4, 2012 – Seed Packing Bee, Fireweed Farm

7-9 pm, 4745 Headquarters Road

Call ahead at 250-465-8131 to sign up for this popular and fun seedy event. Bring seeds if you have, but we will provide seeds, envelopes and tools. We have room for 15- 20 people. Throughout the fall, at these Seed Bees, we package about 5000 seed envelopes for sale at Seedy Saturday in March. This is the CV Growers and Seed Savers’ principal fundraiser. The seed sale is an opportunity to provide locally grown seed and help preserve Comox Valley plant diversity. Bring slippers if it’s muddy. See you Tuesday!

Thursday, December. 6, 2012 – Seed Savers’ Pot Luck Supper

6-9 pm, Creekside Commons (see above for directions)

Speaker Ellen Rainwalker will be giving a presentation on “Growing Calorie Crops and Compost Crops the Biointensive Way”. She will show which crops are best at providing the nutrition we need, both for ourselves and for our gardens. She’ll also explain how to incorporate Biointensive and Permaculture techniques into our gardening and farming, so that Nature will help us do the work.

CVGSS Launches New Website:

Our new co-chair, Arzeena Hamir, is pleased to announce the initialization of our new website,, dedicated to helping members further the goals of the CVGSS.

A team led by Barbara Toombs met to decide on the broad outlines of the new website, and has followed it through to its launch. Pieter Vorster of Continual Palingenesis was hired to build the site using WordPress. Members are encouraged to contribute to the site, making it an evolving resource for people who love growing and sharing wholesome food.

The website will reflect the journey of the group members as we have fun while building a strong community, able to produce our own food. “I do hope people will start to send information (or even better upload the information themselves) to the website. I envision an active group using the website for timely gardening information, CVGSS events and another portal to broader community issues” said Toombs.

Please come check out the new site, and let us know what you think!


Generally, we copied ‘West Coast Seed’ volumes (or numbers) of seeds per pack. However with some seeds (eg. Tomatoes) we use lower numbers to “spread” the seeds more broadly. Some other seeds we pack in larger amounts, since our donated seeds were in greater numbers. Those seed types not on the form will be measured into envelopes in ad hoc numbers.

Vegetable Volumes (or Numbers) of Seeds per Envelope
Arugula ½ tsp
– broad 25-50 seeds
– scarlet runner 25 seeds
– other 30 seeds
Beets 2 tsps
Cilantro 1-2 tsps
Kale (other Brassicas) 1 tsp
Leeks ¼ tsp -150seeds
Peas 2 tbsps
Parsley ½ tsp
Spinach ½ tsp
Squashes 15 seeds
Tomatoes 15 seeds

BC Seeds Gathering – Alan Goodacre, Recording Secretary

Comments about the seeds conference attended by CVGSS members Arzeena Hamir, Moss Dance, John Blyth and Alan Goodacre, November 9 to 11 in Richmond.

I think anyone in CVGSS would have enjoyed this conference (officially called “the first BC Seeds Gathering”). Even some of our more senior members that have “been there done that” would have been encouraged to see the young people attending and the growing energy and sense of community. It was probably the perfect eye-opener for someone like me that has not spent years on the scene. I’m very glad there were people able to organize it so well, get speakers etc.

I really hope more of the video from the convention is put up on YouTube. I can tell from watching just part of the first evenings opening address that a lot of information flew by that I missed or didn’t properly appreciate. Having had my awareness boosted just by being there, I know I would catch a lot more of the content by seeing the workshops over again on video. And I would be able to see the workshops I missed as well.

Again, being new on the scene, it took most of the weekend just to get some idea of who is who, and who to talk to about what, and just what the relevant topics are in the whole … ‘field’. An example was the presentation by Don Tipping on Saturday morning. The longer he talked, the more I realized how much value there was in what he was conveying. That applies to all of the people there that have a lifetime of experience.

By the time Saturday was over I realized I need to get some hands-on experience. First thing Sunday I tried cleaning some leek seed, the first time I’ve actually attempted any seed cleaning. This woke up my mechanical engineer side as I started to appreciate the difficulty of doing this by machine.

It was interesting to hear about scaling equipment, methods and management to various types of farm/garden operation i.e. “filling trucks”, supplying seed, small farm, backyard garden etc. And again from Don Tipping, that there is a range of machinery that he could use that doesn’t exist yet. I also got a general idea about the practical realities of plant gene pool, selection for traits, recombining strains to get new traits as conditions change, and so on. The term “genetic elasticity” came up, which means the seed will do well when planted in various climates/soils. It’s a lot more complicated than just maintaining genetic purity of particular varieties.

From the Friday evening talk by Susan Walsh, the scope for growth seems enormous for small business and cooperatives. Only 2% of the Canadian seed market is organic/ecological she said. I wanted to find out more about what sounded like two conflicting things : One by Susan W was that 32% of seed used by organic farmers is “conventional” because they can’t find the organic supply. The other, I think from Don Tipping, was that organic seed producers need markets. Now that there’s money in organic food, not all producers are going to be small and locally based so maybe the data has to be analyzed.

Another notable thing was the focus on co-operatives and sharing knowledge and resources. The orientation at this conference was definitely small business, local-not-global. The knowledge and communication that was evident needs to be made available in a continuous, ongoing way (even with the internet that might be challenging). First because such conferences can only be held infrequently and second, because it’s costly in time and travel to attend them. Susan Walsh definitely covered this topic in terms of what is planned by USC Canada, and the Bauta Initiative. There is $5 million in this fund and more to come in matching contributions she said. It will be distributed across a spectrum of activities from Seedy Saturdays to national databases.

On the seed bank topic : There seems to be many recently started seed bank efforts, so the one here in Comox Valley was suddenly put in context. I also realized that it’s fine to have many locally oriented seed banks. They serve a purpose that a large and not so local seed bank would not be optimized for. There are inspiring people to meet like Tatiana Kouchnareva who is running an amazing seedbank and selling heritage seeds out of her place in the Port Moody area. (

I’m sure I learned many things that are common knowledge to most of the people there and in CVGSS. And obviously there is much more to know. I’ll plan on getting to the next one, and I’m sure I’ll learn at a higher rate in the mean time. As mentioned, there were quite a few young people, which was good to see, many of them students or graduates of Kwantlen Polytechnic University where the event was held. Kwantlen offers degree programs in plant health, urban ecosystems, and sustainable agriculture.

One more thing; I have to say I can’t believe how good the speakers were. Not just in the interesting things they discussed, but in their ease with public speaking. The scheduled people, and the impromptu “story tellers” all looked like complete naturals up there. If reading this makes people want to watch the YouTube video of the conference, that’s perfect, it’s almost as good as being there. Just type in “BC Seeds Gathering”.

Seed Packing Bees

No this is not a new kind of bee, endangered or not. It is one of the most fun and productive things we do as Seed Savers. The first one just happened, and arriving a bit late at Vivien’s house, I found a full table of seed packers, with envelopes, spoons, screens, seed lists, and good cheer, busily sorting, labeling, and packing envelopes. The seeds had come from those attending, and from others who had dropped them off. Beets, arugula, many different beans, tomatoes, leeks, lettuce, and those were just the ones I saw. The talk was all of garden variety, what was especially fruitful this year, or the strange failure of a certain favorite squash.

Halfway through a kind of halt was called, if you could get those enthusiasts to suspend their packing, to sample some of Vivien’s special made Seedy Bread, with Wild Current Jam, and homemade Ginger tea. Mmmm. At the end of two hours, as mysteriously as they appeared, the packed seeds were put in one box, each kind safely secured with elastic bands, and extras saved for the next Seed Packing Bee – Tues, Dec 4, 7 – 9 pm at 4745 Headquarters Road. Call 250-465-8131 to reserve a spot!

Compost Tea and More – Teresa Colby

The friends visiting my vegetable garden seemed extremely anxious to leave. No longer listening, they were casting furtive glances at the exit. Moments before, our tour had been going so well. The culprit: a stinking, rank batch of my own compost tea. When my garden seemed to need a boost, I made up my version of compost tea. Into a garbage can went several shovelfuls of regular compost, a bucketful of seaweed off the beach, water to fill, and a long stirring stick. The result after a week was a foul brown liquid. After straining the liquid from the solids, I diluted it 1:5 with water in the watering can, and gave my veggies their boost. I didn’t dare get this mix on leaves soon to be eaten, definitely not a safe ‘salad dressing’. All got poured into the soil around plants and the garden thrived.

Soon after, Peggy Carswell’s Compost Tea workshop was offered at Lake Trail school. I attended, now motivated to do better brewing. The secret to a safer, non-offensive brew is AIR. Oxygen provided with an aquarium bubbler keeps the brew from descending into a anaerobic sludge giving off rotten egg gas. A smaller amount of carefully selected materials are put into a sieve like container and this is lowered into a bucket of water. A much more refined tea! The aquarium bubbler is set up with two emitters: one in the suspended sieve with the solids, and another in the water. After steeping for 24 hours, Peggy explained that the tea is at its best, with the peak amount of beneficial bacteria along with lots of nutrients. So, there is no excuse for prolonged periods of terrorizing family, visitors, neighbours and strangers on the road with bad brews.

Here is one of Peggy’s compost tea recipes:

Balanced Compost Tea Recipe (5-gallon brewer)

  • 1.5 lbs balanced compost
  • 1.6 oz. humic acids ( from dark, peaty soil or well rotted black peat moss)
  • 1 oz. liquid kelp
  • 1 tbsp. kelp meal to provide surfaces for the fungi to attach to
  • 1 oz. unsulphured black-strap molasses

Steep and bubble for 24 hour, dilute 1:10 up to 1:20 with water.

I added some more ingredients she listed as optional: oatmeal and alfalfa meal and I used seaweed off the beach versus purchased products. See Peggy’s website to see her fine work in Assam, India where such compost teas are making a difference.

The aquarium bubbler was purchased from a pet shop on south Cliff Ave., Courtenay. I made a sieve basket out of hardware mesh curled into a cylinder, edges fastened, then stuffed into a bag made of strong sheer polyester curtain fabric. Peggy recommends pantyhose works too. Another possible basket for solids mentioned was a large paint strainer available at Central Builders.

Wishing you good brewing in 2013! Teresa Colby

New Website: CV Tomato of the Year Contest

What is your favorite tomato that you have grown this year? Come to our new website and look for the contest in our ‘Front Page Slider’. ‘Leave a Reply’ at the bottom of the page and you could win a packet of Stupice tomato seeds! Just click in the grey area and start typing. Your reply will be saved and added to the website by a moderator.

If you like, tell us about your experiences with your tomato plants this year.

Describe your soil and what you did to make the tomatoes the best yet. Perhaps you could discuss any challenges you have dealt with. Include photos, recipes, or neat ideas that worked in your garden. If you save tomato seeds, let us know what your methods are. If you need help making a comment, email and Dianne will be happy to walk you through it!

An open whole wheat pita sandwich with lots of sliced Stupice tomatoes, with cheese and Romaine lettuceA single small tomato shining in the sun
The winning tomato will be announced in the next newsletter, along with excerpts from a few stories received. Stay tuned!





The Mission Statement of the Comox Valley Growers and Seed Savers is:

To conserve and preserve our local plant diversity by encouraging and supporting public participation in growing heritage and non-hybrid food crops and other plants

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