Exciting things are happening around the old Blockhouse School near Mahone Bay. The 1962 building has been abandoned since the local French Acadian school moved to its new location outside Bridgewater in 2010. That left the property in the hands of the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg (MODL). Plan B was to bulldoze the property. They were looking for someone with Plan A.
A growing group of people has been coming together around a vision – repurpose the building, and show the world how it can be done. Insulate it to its eyeballs and add active and passive solar heating. Use it as a business incubator for projects that will make the area more self-sufficient and sustainable. Plant perennials that will add to our food supply in the long term, and teach people how to do the same. Aquaponics. Permaculture. Green roof. Composting toilets. Time-share commercial kitchen.
All these things have been done elsewhere; we just need a model of how to do it here.
Yesterday I went on a tour of Windhorse Farm, a sustainable farming and forestry operation located up the LaHave River from Bridgewater.
I was most curious to see their brush walls. When I first heard about Windhorse’s brush walls last winter, a light went on in my head. Here was the answer to several of my problems, including the strong north wind chilling the garden, and large amounts of brush available.
Windhorse’s brush walls are piles held in place by stakes 6 feet apart, making a thick wall. As the brush gradually breaks down, more is piled on top. Vines such as squashes and grapes are encouraged to climb over the brush, and in summer, the brush walls can be completely hidden by vegetation.
My picture also shows a higher brush fence that has been woven around taller stakes. In fact, it’s about 7-8 feet high, high enough to keep out deer.
The brush walls contribute greatly to the success of Windhorse’s garden. They enclose and shelter it, holding in heat. The decomposing brush adds to the fertility of the soil. And very importantly, the brush walls provide habitat for all sorts of wildlife, including the friendly critters that help control garden pests.
Apple blossoms were blooming in Lunenburg last Thursday, which means they’re past their prime in the Annapolis Valley already. The Apple Blossom Festival will apparently be blossom-less. Usually the organizers hit the blossoms right on with their timing, but this year it is generally agreed that spring is 2 to 3 weeks ahead of schedule.
Not that we’re complaining … this is my favourite time of year, when the leaves burst forth. If it’s part of a long-term trend, however, it could be very disruptive to the natural balance of blooming and birthing, migration and munching, which governs the ongoing survival of many animals and plants.
Spring is early across Canada, not just in Nova Scotia, or so I hear. Is spring early where you live? Leave a comment below.