Busting out… and then busted!

June 9th The day dawns to a sleeping homestead. The roosters soon rouse the kids, who rouse the parents who have been up late the night before pulling pork, drinking wine and finishing last minute preparations.  The morning light reveals the work of 6 years preparation: a green terraced garden, blooming fruit trees, a still pond, and a yard decorated as though for a wedding: a large white tent, tables, chairs…and the house which is the object of celebration for the day.

It has been a long, long haul, and after finally moving into our beautiful house in February, we are ready to really celebrate with a large scale house-warming party in June. We have spent the spring going hyper-speed on the exterior land-scaping and have transformed large areas of the out-doors: the first old kitchen has come down to be replaced by a dry-lay patio/stage and arbor, the front entrance has new retaining walls and gardens, the house patio has dry-lay red bricks which open onto steps, new gardens and lawn areas.  All is decorated with gorgeous planters and flowers, twinkle lights, and candles for the party.

We started with an open house afternoon, with visiting, casual tours, and a jam around the not-yet-lit firepit.  Then, to kick off the Hearth-Lighting Ceremony, Zena recited a beautiful and eloquent poem she had written (read her poem in the post above). Daniel, Zena, Zylo, Oren, Asher, Joah and I dipped our candles into the outdoor fire and proceeded up to the waiting hearth inside. The house was filled with a humming, clapping crowd as we lit the fire and placed our candles into the waiting holders. Then the party really kicked off! After the feasting there was an open stage which included a magnificent and humorous poem by our friend David Minkow, songs by the Balkan Babes (including a surprise altered rendition of More Ti Ci Cezna for us), songs by my dad, a song by young Djuna Lou, and of course 3 original homesteading songs by the Twisted Vine Farm String Band! Then the Sweet Lowdown  (Amanda Blied, Shanti Bremer and Ali Romonov) played a marvelous set of old-timey originals and traditionals. After a short break I had the honor of playing some of my songs with the talented Sweet Lowdown which was so fun! Then Craig Marcuk and Zane called a couple dances which got nearly everyone whooping and dancing! We pulled out all the stops with some fireworks which went off right before Aboubacar’s lively African pop set. The dancing just kept going and Abou really knew how to get the crowd going. About 1am things slowed down- kids dropped off to sleep, many retreated to their tents but there was some beautiful mellow music with Chris Berton and Dean. Then the campfire jam started up. I crawled into bed around 4am, but my dad was among the few who stayed up to see the sunrise!  Phew!

We had a huge guest list, but didn’t expect everyone (of course) to come. That night we had between 230-250 people come to visit our home. There were tears. There was extreme gushing. And we had the time of our lives!

I loved the opportunity to have the mic to thank everyone who has helped us on the way, but I kicked myself the next day when I realized I had forgot to thank the two most important people in the whole journey: Daniel and Zena. They had relinquished the speeches to me but a friend pointed out that I should have dragged them on stage for a speech…and of course I should have!

Anyways, the entire night was so gratifying in so many ways and was everything I could have wished for….


A week and half later the Building Inspector showed up. Now, for those that don’t know, the secret is now out: we have no permits for anything. We had a few reasons for not going legitimately: the cost of installing the required septic system (which we didn’t want to use), the difficulty and expense of approving experimental building methods, and the fact that we are so far off the beaten track (it’s not unusual to find folks building without permits). The building inspector told us he had driven by and seen us building, but he doesn’t bother to stop by unless there is a complaint.

And I guess we had a disgruntled neighbour after the party.

Anyways, we are now facing a health order to stop “dumping” our sewage (it’s only grey water, and it’s pre-filtered and goes into swales that water fruit trees- but certainly not acceptable to Vancouver Island Health Authority). So that means we have to install a septic system. It’s a big thing to face, so suddenly and quickly, but we have to do it and thankfully we have some amazing support, so it’s not going to coast nearly as much as it could have. Then we need to get the electrical, gas and plumbing signed off (another expense and a bit of work). But as for the buildings, we don’t think there is any way we can afford to get them up to code. Thankfully there is an avenue we can go where we ask the CVRD to accept a “Non-Compliance” on the land title. It’s risky (it can go to court if they decide not to accept it) but we’re hoping for the best outcome. It’s all we can do really.

Instead of being beaten down by the bad news, we’re looking at this change of events in a positive light: it’ll be good to get it done and be “legitimate”, it has happened at actually a pretty good time (having already occupied the buildings, and just having done a big clean-up of the property) and hopefully down the road we’ll be motivated to try to help change policy (we never felt we could fight that battle previously, being illegitimate). And we are aware more than ever of the loving community of support that believes in what we’re doing. So we still feel gratitude, even towards the neighbour who complained (whoever that may be)!



Busting out… and then busted! — 2 Comments

  1. So beautiful: Your place, the party and your words (and photos). How could the powers that be not accept what you are doing? Living sustainably within your community will be a model for future homesteaders. You all should be very proud!

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