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From the UK to PEI – A story of island migration, floods, fortune and food.

By May 25, 2011 No Comments

Submitted by Javan on Wed, 2011-05-25 15:28

Bug Hotel UpcloseSandra Storr and her partner are of a growing crop of people working towards their dream… to live with nature in stead of against it. Building a home around their own food needs Sandra’s story illustrates their tenacity in finding the right place to set down roots and start to plant seeds.

Sandra wrote her story for Permaculture BC demonstrating a solidarity of east and west island culture and the desire to find our own right livelihood.

I hope you enjoy her story as much as I did.

Be fruitful and mulch apply,

Javan “Love island folk” Bernakevitch

From the UK to PEI – A story of island migration, floods, fortune and food.

We are often asked why we came to Canada and it’s a funny thing but we probably came initially for the wrong reasons. I’ll have to go back a bit to explain what I mean by that.

Back in our home in the mountains of North Wales we were involved in organic gardening, community projects and local food sustainability. We didn’t know the word then, but were doing something called ‘Permaculture’. I’d opted out of corporate life to start a local food business making preserves from fruit we grew ourselves in our forest garden overlooking the Menai Strait. Fred was working towards early retirement to help with it, but over the next few years we met with a few setbacks which changed our course somewhat.Madala Garden



In 2000, fuel protests led by lorry drivers and farmers paralysed Britain for seven days, causing a crisis in the National Health Service, closing schools and emptying supermarket shelves. Not only did this affect our business, it was the first time we’d realised that supermarket shelves could be emptied in approximately three days.

We faced the foot and mouth outbreak in Britain in 2001 which was devastating for agriculture and tourism. It caused our business (and those of our friends) to come to a standstill overnight and I won’t even start to tell you about the horrible scenes we witnessed and the emotional toll it took on so many of our friends.

In response, we opened a shop and cafe to promote local produce and got more deeply involved in local food security issues like the Farmers’ Market Network. As local producers we joined with others and grew in strength in a spirit of co-operation rather than competition. The shop and cafe flourished until one day we became one of the victims of localised flooding. Despite being insured, the situation was so severe that it closed down the shop for good, leaving us to ponder deeply on all these events: fuel in crisis, agricultural disasters, vulnerable food supplies, flooding, peak oil and peak everything else!

strawbaleraised bedsThat’s what led us to the decision to come to Canada for probably the wrong reasons, as we then had the notion that self-sufficiency was the way to go, and in Canada we might be able to afford a little land to make it happen.

Our immigration to Prince Edward Island, Canada took place in 2006 and the next few years were spent setting up our permaculture B&B, attending my first Permaculture Design Certificate and generally learning a heck of a lot. The sometimes steep learning curve left us feeling empowered when we realised we could produce all our own food should it be necessary. Yet the self-sufficiency ‘dream’ wasn’t so great after all, it was way too much hard work and we had come to learn that it was unnecessary and undesirable. What was more important was community self-reliance. Happily, we had found ourselves living on an island with a great spirit of community, resourcefulness and resilience.

For various reasons we decided to move on from the B&B to a smaller more sustainable property where we would be able to practice some of the woodland skills we’d learned back home in Wales and be more free to practise permaculture. Aquaculture

pond‘Red Sand Cottage’ is a small bungalow, just a short walk from the beach and with acres of woodland. We spent the winter re-designing the home with a passive solar and eco-energy retrofit. The resulting energy savings have been staggering and we now use a tiny amount of fuel and energy. Now in progress we work to create a permaculture demonstration site here, as we want to share the home that we love with others.

It is very much a ‘work in progress’. I don’t want to create the impression that in setting up a demonstration site we feel we are terribly knowledgeable, because we’re still learning and I don’t think that will ever change. It is, however, a place where folks can come and take a look and share our lovely home and our experiences as we learn together.

If you ever find yourself on the East Coast you will be very welcome to come and visit. If not, we try to share as much information as possible on our website and blog and are always happy to hear from others either contemplating or already practising permaculture.

For us, permaculture continues to fuel our inspirational journey!

If you’re interested in more permaculture in action in the BC area click here.

food Permaculture Bill Mollison permaculture design certificate sustainabiliy

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