Algal Blooms, Swimming glooms. – Eutrophication

One of the most inspiring aspects of the trip was to see the Cortes Community coming together to do something about the lake eutrophication. Gunflint and Hague Lake are two beautiful lakes and swimming grounds of the locals on Cortes Island. In recent years, the lakes have experienced an increase in temperature, in conjunction with nutrient run-off from surrounding homes, farms, and roadways, the lakes have been experiencing algal blooms.

What is most important to note, that differs from many communities in today’s society, is once this occurred, the community did not sit back and say “Oops, oh well, let’s swim elsewhere”. The community has banded together to figure out a solution to the problem and to naturally heal the lake of the man-made damage.

Some of the ways in that the crew at Linnaea Farm Specifically were managing their impact on the lake was by creating a system of checks and balances to purify and filter the water before it reaches the lake. Any farm has nutrient run-off due to rains and exposed soil. At Linnaea, thickets and hedgerows for nutrient uptake have been placed as a last line fo defence along the water’s edge. Moving upstream, areas like the production garden and cow pastures are adding nutrients to the run-off. To mediate this, a creek channel has been gently damned up in sections to create slowing and deposition sites which will force the water to percolate and filter through the soil before spilling into the lake. At some of the miniature damn sites, a revolutionary filtration technique has been adapted where wood chips acting as a wick are pulling water from the creek and filtering it through a bed of Garden Giant, Stropharia rugosoannulata, mushroom mycelium. This particular mushroom is excellent at drawing these excess nutrients from the water, helping to purify the lake spillage.

Our downstream effects are not always considered, sitting at home right now, think about where your water goes, what is below you? Lakes? Wetland? Creek? Ground water? People? Ocean? Where is your water going? What is in it? Who will it affect? Please stop to think of your downstream effects and creative ways to reuse your gray water or filter it through some sort of biofiltration to cleanse it of nutrient overload or toxins. We all have an effect on the people and the world around us, realize your impact, and ACT ON IT!



Chainsaws – Your best friend with an attitude problem.

Dangerous, incredibly useful, and the most fun you can have with your chaps on. Don’t let the wave of adrenaline that rushes through your blood consume you, you are wielding a cambium hungry ball of fury with a plethora of razor sharp blades spinning faster than your auntie at Spinny Saturdays.

Chainsaws come in more varieties than ladies undergarments and are not one size fits all. Is the wood seasoned or fresh? Is the tree tall or short? Can you climb it? Can you fell it? What species is it? Does it fall straight? Can it have a hollow and dead core? Are you just pruning? Are you cutting on the ground? Are you cutting on a hill? Are there obstructions or assets that can be damaged? There is no overthinking it when using a chainsaw.

Every person at a different stage in life, with different body types and uses will need a different saw and it is up to you to spend the time and learn the language of said saw. Become very familiar with this piece of equipment as what giveth may also taketh away.

Always remember to keep the blades sharp, the fuel mixed, the lock on (until ready). Choke it to start it if it’s cold, AND ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN B! I can not stress it enough, if something will go wrong… have an escape route. If you are farming, you will use a chainsaw, remember this short and important lesson.

Safety gear minimums:

  • Safety glasses
  • Hearing protection
  • A sharp SAW!
  • Face protection
  • Hardhat
  • Steel toe boots
  • Chaps or safety pants
  • A friend to help in the event a mistake is made.
  • Focus and thought

The carpenter measures twice cuts once, the chainsaw user should measure, think, measure, think, think, think, cut (if safe).


  • Sharp blades cut fast and safe
  • Dull blades cut slow and dangerously
  • For big trees: chainsaws have two speeds “on” and “off”
  • When in doubt, don’t do it.
  • Every mistake can be deadly
  • Vegetable oil works great as a chain lube and is biodegradeable

Check out this fun Driftwood/Cob Greenhouse timber frame that was largely built using a chainsaw and some technical mumbo jumbo.


Passion shows and PermaRaps

I dig in dirt, I move mulch, I play with plants… I’m not a rapper, and by no means a poet. The permaculture design course has an integral component that is the Passion show. Despite lacking theatric abilities, I felt inspired to jump up and take my turn at performing for the friendly group of permies and linnaealiens. I didn’t have time to do a spectacular piece or learn a skill that is stage appropriate, but I was able to tweak the lyrics to Easy-E’s – Boyz in da Hood to suit our time and the epic people we met and experiences we had.


Cruise into Linnaea in my 0 – 4! (OH FO!)

Smellin’ the flowers n’ takin the notes

Went to the farm to get the scoop

Permie Heads out there cold shootin’ some



Tractor pulls up, Who can it be?

Tamara hops off the Massey Fergy!

She shows us the cows and started to say…

It’s all about makin’ that milk n’ hay!


Cuz the permz on the farm always grow


If you come talkin’ food you may get


Everything down here functions like a system

From the birds and the bees to legumes nitro-fixin’.


Set my tent by the lake to give me the pace

Cheesus is here n’ might give me a taste

Thought the bull William was a friend of


Till I caught him pushin’ up on my



Walkin’ through the forest with our boy


Learnin’ slime moulds and how to stay out

da slammer

Adam and Jeff makin’ Veggies like Pros

Liz n’ Brent stack functions, thatudon’t even knows!


Cuz the permz on the farm always grow


If you come talkin’ food you may get


Everything down here functions like a system

From the birds and the bees to legumes nitro-fixin’.


Kristen, Thanks so much for the food, it kept us goin’

PDC was a blast, thanks Linnaea, get growin’!!!


Now check out these permies getting excited at the natural building material sauna! What an awesome little hut!


In conclusion, I had a great time, possibly life changing, waiting to see where this wild ride is taking me. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to share this inspirational experience with inspiring and passionate people.

Life on Cortes

As university students in Victoria, life can get busy. In and out of class, we are repeatedly pumping out essay after essay and spending long, late hours at night studying for exams. Opportunities for rest, relaxation and to disconnect from the hectic city life are few and far between. When the ES 470 – Intro to Permaculture class was presented with the option of partaking in a Field School, a class that would happen at Linnaea Farm on Cortes Island, few of us could say no. The class of amazing and passionate students, with passionate instructors together in a hands-on learning environment facilitated deep inspirational learning. Twenty one students set out to Linnaea Farm we weren’t really sure what to expect, we knew it was about permaculture but I venture to say that not one of were prepared for this life changing experience.


(This face carving in an old tree was found by the Klahoose Nation on Cortes Island, They were kind enough to share this with us. We are excited to learn more about the history of this artifact.)

Cortes is remote, not remote like Alaska, remote in the sense of multiple ferries, many exciting distractions along the route, limited cellphone reception and sparse Internet availability. Immediately upon arrival, the smiling faces greeted us, welcoming waves warmed us, and the helpful hints of Cortesians led us. The warm sun, the soft breeze, the calm water and clean air had me feeling healthy. Linnaea Farm is big, 316-acres of covenant-protected land that is mixed-use agricultural and conservation with 8 super land stewards and their children that keep the farm lively and thriving.

I felt at home on Cortes Island, Like most of my classmates. This place was magical, inspiring and the perfect place to learn the skills of permaculture and being a productive member of a community. The lessons learned and experience gained on this trip have positively shaped 21 blessed students from UVIC.

Slow down, love, learn and live!