Back in Kamloops Again

I love how my life has now given me a break! I spent 9 months in Rotterdam with a group in an intentional community. We lived and worked on many aspects of the Our Heart Gardens concept. Unfortunately, the project closed and the participants disbursed across the world, but perhaps that’s how it’s supposed to be done! Their experience is seeded into the greater reality and, like dye thrown in water, it spreads!

I returned to Kamloops in Spring 2017 to trade in my PT Cruiser for a Chevy Van (for passengers! Not a camper) and took off on the road for 5 months to visit music festivals, other communities living with similar values and beautiful places throughout the central and western States. One of us, Rob Uzzell, is a film-maker and he’s posting videos now of some of the people we met; the places we visited. But tenting and being on the road takes stamina! I’ve come home to roost for awhile; house-sitting a place decorated in the Colorado/New Mexico style (a wall mural of the desert!) like a reassurance that I will return!

I have created a Patreon site and invite you there to keep up with developments – and new developments are anticipated. I’ve contacted Judy Villeneuve, City Councillor for Surrey, BC, (and Scilla Elworthy, author of The Business Plan for Peace, and the Dalai Lama) in response to a news story of a big homeless shelter they are creating. It is the city where I used to live; the city where this idea was born; the city where some of my most amazing experiences happened – like the Story of the Stones. If you aren’t familiar with it, be welcome to view my YouTube video playlist – it’s first up.

I don’t know where I’m going after the owner of the house comes home – but I traded in the van for a Honda that is very comfortable – if all else fails, I can sleep in it!! That’s silly; Mom is happy to put me up, but I am aware of the “edge of the cliff” and change is always expected…


COM21 & United Earth

Thank you for coming and I apologize that I haven’t been around much – believe me, it’s not because I don’t care – I’ve been a bit busy, as you’ll see in the recent post from my personal blog!

I don’t talk much there about the COM21 and I’d like to here because Our Heart Gardens is a major part of why I’m going – if not for the passion I feel about providing a way for every person to be empowered to be part of something that uplifts and supports them in a real way, I would not be involved with United Earth, the organization putting on the conference, in collaboration with the Zeitgeist Movement and the Meesteren Foundation.

In recent years there has been a lot of talk of unity and collaboration. Imagine what we could achieve if all the hundreds of millions of people and hundreds of thousands of groups talking about a brighter future, were to unite and collaborate towards a common cause and vision. As a United Earth initiative, the COM21 is inviting change-agents, grassroots leaders, organizations and movements to move beyond words – and into effective unified action.

The theme of COM21 is adventure and quest – a collective heroes’ journey, with a knightly code of conduct, that will catch the imagination of the world, from youth to Elder. We become heroes when we step off our own platforms to collaborate upon the creation of a plan for unified action. At COM21, we are not putting together pieces of a puzzle, figuring out how we will link together. Rather, we are creating the canvas for a masterpiece that we will create together–with the colours that we are…

It’s really quite amazing what has happened to get me to this point – and I think it is because of throwing myself into it with my whole heart, no thought of what I would “get out of it”. That’s my belief; we each choose our own, hopefully with a guide or mentor to help us choose well!

Oh, and while I’ve been busy, the seed I planted with the Kamloops Food Policy Council (KFPC) has sprouted! They have received funding for a ‘food hub’ and are considering using some of the concepts of Our Heart Gardens. When I get home from COM21 I’ll do my best to inspire them to use more than just “some”!

Please click over and read my blog post – I wrote it for you…


One Down… Next…

The Red Garden is planted and everything is growing like mad – it’s good to see results!  I’ve been away at an Earth Dreaming Retreat, following up on an intense dream that seemed to be asking, or telling me – something.  The Guidance for Gaia post is now up on WordPress and shared on FB & G+.  The dream is extremely pertinent, and provides comfort and encouragement to all who are open to that sort of thing – an important part of our cultures for as long as we’ve wondered ‘What’s next?’ but it has fallen out of favour with the current prevailing culture. Ah well, can lead a horse to water…

Now it’s time to get back to business – getting Our Heart Gardens established. On-line, similar types of facilities abound. While some might find it disheartening, seeing them as competition, what I see is collaborators and affiliates! Those people are involved in Being the Change as they interpret it and their expertise is valuable – there’s a teacher in the Bronx that has his students tending indoor gardens and planting in neighbourhood lots. I hope to hear back from him regarding his Green Bronx Machine. There’s also Will Allen and The Stop Food Bank, mentioned in previous posts, and many other diverse organizations, but few come close to the holistic vision of Our Heart Gardens.

One that is very close is a prospective location, better than the very visible (expensive) location I had my eye on before. The Interior Indian Friendship Society is selling their Parkcrest facility to consolidate their staff in their other location, close to the Red Garden and the Food Bank. Their programs are very similar, right down to providing bus tickets to participants! It’s on a bus route in a residential neighbourhood close to where I live, and the community is used to it already, and used to using it! They didn’t put in the garden this year because of their plans to sell, so greenhouses, or something similar, could be installed very easily! It’s time to contact Venture Kamloops again, show them the business plan that I’ve taken as far as I can, and see if we can put something together.

Thank you for your interest.  I treasure thoughts of creating places where I can show you some hospitality, meet you and greet you. Have some fun together!


A stepping stone toward opening Our Heart Gardens in Kamloops has appeared before me and I’m JUMPing on it! Until yesterday, I had no idea how to become known in the community, and get people to help move Our Heart Gardens from a vision into reality. Yesterday I went to help at a new communal community garden prepared by volunteers and arranged by Glenn Hilke of JUMP Kamloops (which provides free community kitchen meals, farm fresh produce and wellness workshops for the homeless and others living in poverty). Glenn did a lot of leg-work, talked to an amazing number of people, and he also did a lot of physical work – when I got there on Friday I saw 13 beautiful raised rows with seeper hoses laying along the 100′ lengths. But no plants and no body. No one was there. Oh no.

I went over the the Food Bank across the street and asked. I was welcomed by Bernadette Siracky who told me that Glenn had been called away unexpectedly and would be gone for a month. That put the fire in me – all that work that Glenn did going to waste was completely unacceptable! Bernadette and I talked about why this is so important to me. I told her about Our Heart Gardens and I told her about working, like her, for a paycheque. I told her that was why, for 15 years I was increasingly medicated while incorrectly diagnosed, and finally had a breakdown. Meds were changed; I spent a year healing and, when Mom suggested I move to Kamloops to help her while she had back surgery, I came back to where I grew up. In short, Bernadette and I bonded in a quick flash of sympatico and understanding! She saw that my passion was based in personal experience, genuine, and that I was absolutely sincere in my desire to make this garden happen – she decided to help, provided me with an office to make some calls, introduced me to the staff and invited me to share their lunch. She arranged for snacks and water for my volunteers and told me how important the garden was to the community, and to her. Produce from the garden not used by the volunteers will be distributed to various charity and community groups, and the Food Bank! Fresh vegetables in the bags will be very welcome.

I used that office to call Barbara Lundstrom, whom I’d met through the Community Kitchen and the Community Innovation Lab (remember that, back in Feb?) She had plants and Lynda had seeds and both of them agreed to meet me at the garden that night. I emerged at one point from the office and had a conversation in which I learned that I was the only volunteer they had seen and I said “OMG, I need help, I should call the newspapers!” without thinking about what it would take to find the right person to hear me – and Bernadette picked up her phone and said, “You need to talk to Dale Bass!” What a blessing! She paved the way and I called Dale, told her the story and was told the next paper wasn’t out till Tuesday so she would have her team get it onto social media. (And it’s THERE! we heard today from Gabrielle, Saturday driver for the Food Bank. A good follow-up to the 3 issue series on the Food Bank just finished.)

Last night… OMG (again!) it was only LAST night? Lynda brought Barb who brought one of her relatives, a gentleman from Poland, 82 years old, and he planted tomatoes like a dynamo! He knew what he was doing; grew up on a farm. It was a pleasure for all of us to share the work – a burden shared is a burden halved! And we laughed!

We met this morning, as arranged, at 7:00 and Barbara brought more plants and seeds, and we started planting. At 8:30 Darlene came and we welcomed her with open arms! The “planting machine” that was the 2 of us, now was 3 and we moved really fast. Cooperation is a kick! Darlene stayed after Barb and I left and will return… Thank you, Glenn, for talking to her!! Darlene, thank you for coming!

I had heard, when I stopped at Penny Pinchers thrift store to get a gardening shirt, there was to be a plant sale by Grandmothers for Grandmothers in Africa, for women taking care of children orphaned by AIDS, and that last year someone got a tree for $2… The garden needs a tree, so I went hoping I could make a deal. When I got there, they were expecting me! Apparently, Glenn had told them he could use any unsold plants at this new garden and so they were ready to give me plants, I didn’t even have to sell the idea! They did get some money though because I saw “solitary” bee (Mason Bees) hotels, made by the inmates at the local prison – I had wondered how to attract beneficial insects! The questions keep being answered – it makes me giddy!

Tomorrow’s agenda is the template for as long as it takes to get the garden in: 7-10 am & pm every day. After than I’m taking a break – I’ve got an Earth Dreaming Retreat coming up first weekend in June on Whidbey Island on the Salish Sea. I get to walk in the ocean again! And then I come home to start weeding! and then harvesting!

Just the other day I said in so many words, “I’m not a gardener, I’m a visionary,” and there are two lessons in that. 1) don’t speak too soon, and 2) even visionaries eat, work, laugh, and have friends!

Come plant, and laugh with us, if you’re in Kamloops!  If not, talk to us and we’ll talk back – we’ll start the Our Heart Gardens virtual connection…

The First Plants are Going IN!!!

Plants need to be planted in the Spring (unless they’re growing indoors!) and there’s a garden ready and waiting…  JUMP, the Food Bank, Butler Motors and Aspen Electric have brought together the resources to create a public garden at the corner of Clapperton & Wilson, Kamloops, BC, Canada.

Glenn Hilke, of JUMP, the instigator of the garden, has been called away for a month and I answered the call for volunteer gardeners, but no one was there. I needed help! Knowing Barb Lundstrom, one of Glenn’s team, made it possible for me to find out what was going on and what was needed. She is getting the plants and seeds and other members of JUMP together, but they are all physically challenged. I contacted Dale Bass of Kamloops This Week and she’s putting the call out for volunteers on social media. The newspaper doesn’t come out till Tuesday and we have to get the onions planted now!

According to Barbara, planting must be done early or late so I’m meeting the JUMP team tonight. Tomorrow at 7:00 am I hope others join me because all JUMPers are otherwise engaged on Saturdays. Again in the evening from 7 until 10, then mornings and evenings until it’s done. The more help we have, the sooner we can go back to easy mornings. Bernadette Siracky of the Food Bank, has kindly offered respite for volunteers and an office for me to hang out in! She welcomed me warmly, happy to see someone willing to step up and take on this project that will feed many people, and give us all a garden we can grow together.

Four Families, Plus

How would the lives of people in a community be improved by having Our Heart Gardens open up?  The effect of opening a primary Our Heart Gardens (OHG or the Gardens), projected about three years, is discussed below; first on the people it will help most, and most visibly, and then on four families in different communities in Kamloops.

People don’t always live with a family, sometimes by choice, sometimes not; many of their needs can be satisfied at OHG:

  • Man, 26, works long hours and has no time to find friends – comes to be with others, get a good meal (better than going to the bar!) and he’s met a nice girl!
  • Woman, 35, works hard all day and misses her family but the job is here – comes to get her hair cut, do her laundry and laugh with the ladies in the Moon Room
  • Boy, 17, kicked out of home – came to eat, find a place to sleep and something to do
  • Girl, 19, pregnant and beaten – came for sanctuary and help
  • Man, 65, fixed income, rent increased so needs to access rental lists, lonely, hungry – finds a friend to share a place!
  • Woman, 72, lonely – came to share her story, wisdom gleaned in her long life. She has time and money and likes to be a part of things. Buys her meals at OHG because they’re good and she doesn’t have to cook. Casinos take her money & give nothing.
  • Young Man, 19, takes meds for Clinical Depression and cannot hold a job because of side-effects and appointments – finds the atmosphere uplifting and he’s feeling better, no extra appointments needed. He’s hopeful…
  • Young Woman, 23, broken home, broken life – comes to a place that welcomes her, gives her something to do and helps her find her way.

In the centre of the city, downtown, the atmosphere has changed – no panhandlers or people hopelessly sitting on the sidewalks, no people with nowhere to go and nothing to do. The Welfare office doesn’t have line-ups anymore… where is everybody?

  • some go to the downtown Our Heart Gardens to access services or volunteer for gardening or city maintenance tasks
  • some are up at the Sa-Hali OHG where Grandfather Weston tells stories, and they can access services there too.
  • coffee with breakfast draws people in, and once in, they can wash up, do laundry, stash their stuff and participate!
  • some do the things they used to do when they worked for money, or teach it (acting, tutoring, baking)
  • provide support to the staff of Our Heart Gardens
  • get and give help to others.

The Easters

Live in Valleyview, new family, husband works at Hydro; mother stressed by baby, no outside contact, money issues, health concerns

  • She takes the bus (using bus pass earned yesterday) first thing after husband goes to work so she can have breakfast at the Gardens. While she learns good management/people skills, supporting volunteers in the day’s tasks, the baby stays with the Aunties in the child-care centre (free if she’s working there). Getting good healthy food, she is able to breastfeed her little one, good value! She enjoys working in the happy atmosphere where the bottom line is not the focus, and she likes the idea of encouraging people instead of pushing them. She especially likes contact with people and being close to her baby.

  • He takes the bus to work (using pass earned yesterday) where he manages the contracts that bring alternative power sources to the grid. After work, he joins his family at OHG. He likes to use his muscles after sitting all day so helps move planters, mix soil or works out in the POP (Power of People – gym with machines that convert his effort into power). He enjoys the speakers that educate or entertain them while they eat supper, and afterwards there’s lots of different ways of socializing. He’s glad there’s something cheap to do that’s fun. Paying a reasonable rate once a month covers all the suppers and the work outs and the fun, and helps to keep Our Heart Gardens running. For others, without work, different arrangements are made but it’s not important to him – they are all the same, working together at Our Heart Gardens!

  • They’ve been unable to find a family doctor so having access to the drop-in paramedics, nurses, nutritionist, herbalist, chiropractor and naturopath students has been very good; he’s been able to avoid medical issues that could have benched him. Knowing that his family is safe and happy, eating good food with good people, relieves his concerns and all symptoms of Clinical Depression have disappeared – it’s surely the atmosphere but is it the positive vibes or the effects of the bacteria that lives in the dirt that makes the air smell so good? Either way, it works for him – and it works for everyone!

  • When they go home, there’s lots of others on the bus, people from the Garden and others, even though it’s late… Since ridership has increased the buses are more frequent and the people on them are happier too, so more people use them.

The Weston Family

In Brocklehurst a single mother with 6 month old twin girls and a 2 year old son share a 1 bdrm apartment with her First Nations grandfather-in-law; nobody brings in a paycheque, both are diabetic. She was an honour student with plans to become a doctor but got pregnant at 17. The father stood by them but was recently killed in a car accident after having a couple of drinks after work and there’s no insurance money.

  • While she dislikes being on Welfare, there’s really no choice until she’s worked long enough at OHG to be able to get a reference. She tries hard to get there early so everybody can be fed and settled before she starts work but things happen, so sometimes they’re later than she likes but OHG doesn’t watch the clock. The babies are left with Grandfather or the child care centre until she’s finished work. First she helps Mrs. Easter manage the tasks for the day until it’s time to make lunch; then she lends the chef a hand with food preparation, has a bite to eat herself, then helps in the Community Kitchen handling the food collected or gleaned for the Food Hub. She’s learning how to run her own kitchen some day, or will take classes to become the doctor she dreamed of being, but that decision doesn’t have to be made yet. She’s young, and so are the kids.

  • She’s been seeing a grief counsellor once a week. The support she gets from the counsellor, along with being a part of the OHG community, is comforting and helps to keep her family together. She’s been urged to think of others, to take her out of herself and her troubles, and when she listens in the sharing circles, she forgets her broken heart. It’s helped her confidence to share how she feels, and people treat her better now they know her.

  • Grandfather Weston watches the kids or teaches carving. After supper, he drums for the circle and tells stories, shares his culture and wisdom – the kids just love him! Having people around keeps him stimulated as does being a member of the Elders Council. It’s been a source of great satisfaction, first that he was elected and now, that he is valued highly.

  • After lunch he takes a nap in the lounge and then teams up with a couple of young people for a half hour to walk the place, providing a welcome to new people or a calming influence should discord arise. It gives him a reason to go for that walk everybody’s supposed to get everyday, and allows him to get to know some of the young people. Having two to walk with him, one can go for assistance should it be needed. Hasn’t needed it yet, but it’s good to be prepared!

  • She goes home early with the children so they can get to bed and she gets the place to herself. She takes a well-earned long soak in her tub – yes, hers, because everybody else baths at the Garden. She enjoys bathing there too because she loves getting her back washed, and the towels are so fluffy. A little luxury to warm her heart, to help her remember the pleasures of being alive!

  • The whole family uses the nurses and the doctor that drops in once a week. He created a diabetic clinic to deal with all the people with the same kind of issues. It’s become a club, like AA, where everybody gives everybody else support and help. The doctor has been pleasantly surprised at how well people are, especially because of the peer support in the club, and getting diabetic-appropriate meals!

  • Grandfather comes home and sleeps on the couch, happy after a long day and quiet bus ride home. He doesn’t miss the excitement of the years he spent in bars now he has a good place to go that appreciates him. He sleeps well, though not for long… You don’t when you’re old and happy!

The Norths

2 car family in Westsyde, father/mother both work, 2 teenagers – 1 in sports, the other a problem, live on land that flooded so house needs costly repairs

  • She works part-time in a grocery store. It’s hard to find full time work as she never knows when they’re going to call her in for an extra shift, and the money is needed. But she can drop in to work at OHG anytime and, for a few hours of quiet transplanting or weeding, she can take produce home and bus tickets for the next day and avoid using the car. She’s looking forward to when they open the Westsyde Our Heart Gardens!

  • He works shift-work at the mill and it’s hard work. He used to stop at the bar on the way home but now he meets his wife at OHG, works out and learns how to carve, something his father did but didn’t teach him. Free lessons makes it affordable and it’s good to be around happy people! Sometimes the entire family eats dinner there because the food is good, the atmosphere is congenial and there’s stuff to do after dinner – like dishes! But his hands are soft now, and his wife likes that.

  • Daughter is struggling in school but loves grass hockey; time after school is spent on the field and twice a week she goes to the Sweet<3 Cafe*, a place in OHG for teens to gather, where a tutor helps her with math and English. Seeing how math is used every day in calculating everything, she has learned the value of math, and hearing the way the storytellers weave words, she’s turned herself around in the last 6 months. In the Cafe, a group of young people are working towards a Camp Unci Maka* (Grandmother Earth) summer holiday, where they go out to learn Indigenous ways to live on the land, ceremony, respect and connection with the Earth.
    * interesting expressions of interest received, value noted!

  • Son has stopped hanging out with the bad crowd – actually, they’ve all started coming to the Gardens and it turns out they weren’t bad after all. They just didn’t have anything good to do! Now they’re all thick as thieves up at the Gardens, working out in the POP and just making eyes at the girls, well chaperoned as they are. They’re putting on some muscle and learning good ways from the Elders – they’ll make good husbands and fathers some day.

 The Southills 

Up in Sa-Hali, a temple-going Hindu family with room-and-board students of Thompson Rivers University (TRU). Grandparents live separately, in Riverbend and in long-term care for Alzheimer’s

  • Stay-at-home Mom has felt isolated since the kids started going to the Gardens after school. While she’s shy, she decided to see where her children went; they always come home laughing and bright-eyed. It was good to get her hands back in the dirt again. Too busy, they had hired a gardener a few years back. The nice woman at the Garden told her they would consider planting the crops she was used to, and was interested in seeing the baskets she wove as a girl. It would be so wonderful to be able to pass on that skill; it’s not hard but you need to pay attention at first, and a quiet corner in the Garden is perfect for it, or the Moon Room, that special room where menstruating women can get away and be themselves, be pampered, eat, dance and share with other women the stories of their lives, their joys and sorrows. She was told it’s very popular, especially with women who work at the City who get time away from their jobs during their cycle to volunteer at the Gardens and spend time in the Moon Room. It’s made a huge difference in the attitudes and atmosphere at the City Hall!

  • She’s loyal to her temple but it seems more like work now, with so many gone. The new priest has inquired about OHG and she suggested he might speak to the Elders about talking at dinner sometime, and join the sharing circles. It’s hard to attract new people these days but she could use some help; maybe he can find some there, but he’s not supposed to “preach”, just talk about the good things they believe and do, and the history of the religion – or his own!

  • The kids go to the Gardens after school to help plant, transplant or tend the outside plants, clean up and listen to Grandfather Easter tell stories. If they help out, they get tasty meals and bus tickets to get home and back again. What’s especially good is that they don’t have to have any money to have a good time. The school is considering starting one on school property and that would be great because no travel time, but they’d miss the stories and being with the people they’ve come to know here. Knowing the bus will connect them makes it easier.

  • Visiting the children’s grandparents includes a once a month visit to Papa who has Alzheimer’s and twice a month to Grandma, living in Riverbend. She still visits Papa almost daily but he hardly recognizes her anymore so it’s disheartening. It was suggested that she bring Grandma with her sometimes so she can enjoy the children. If she wants to come more often she may be able to take the proposed dedicated bus – OHG has become so popular a schedule has become necessary.

  • Staying with strange people who eat strange foods is a challenge when it’s your first time away from home and TRU students find the Gardens to be a welcome alternative, as well as it being part of their classroom. To see the positive results of so manystudents’ innovative work, like the POP, and to work with some who’ve been there since it started and just won’t leave is a testament to the integrity of the concept. The entry art piece was by a TRU student with only a few guidelines – it had to be grand, it had to show how bulrushes clean the water they live in (you put dirty water in here… and it comes out clean here…) and, if they showed the life cycle and usages of the plant, they’d get extra credit. The contest was open to the public, but it was a TRU student that won! Was it because of all the research they did on the bulrushes and how to cultivate it? Now we havebaskets we wove ourselves, diapers don’t go to the landfill and we have great compost! The cattails stand until we gather them and taste great steamed. All those little tiny seeds can be ground fine like flour or planted and become 6-8′ tall plants! Or eaten when they’re sprouts or leek-like. The roots are like potatoes and new shoots will grow again next year; just thin them out! There’s a wide range of projects available to put one’s mind to, as well as easy quantitative tasks like measuring the size of plants after 1, 2 and 6 months. Chef students are forever trying new ways to cook bulrushes and the other crops grown at the Gardens.Psychology, nursing and engineering students all get hands-on experience and enjoy the opportunity to interact with such a diverse community.

Do you see yourself in any of these profiles, these situations? Please share with us how an Our Heart Gardens in your community, your town or your city could help. Come and tell us in Contact Us.

A Home for One?

We are One. That’s what they say… and I agree – I’ve been putting my money where my mouth is. (Time is money, right?!) When the garden needs seeding, you sow seeds; when it needs weeding – you get the picture. Not to say I’m not vitally concerned with Our Heart Gardens; I am! I also am aware of the politics that govern our communities, the environment that will feed or strangle the growth of Our Heart Gardens. I’ll tell you more when I know more, that I can share. Like good compost, it’s working!

I’ve also found some really good information, one of which I’m going to share with you because this is what Our Heart Gardens IS, with a few tweaks (like 24/7/365 indoor gardens for unscheduled volunteers whose contributions are exchanged with meals and bus tickets!) I am confident that, with organizations like this, new community food-growing facilities like Our Heart Gardens will find the support they need.

Community Food Centres Canada

I’ve already posted a link to the people that referred me and I can see why. Community Food Centres Canada is really interesting and I’m going to delve deeper when time allows. Enjoy, and share your impressions with us, please! Right now, I have to get ready for my meeting tomorrow with Community Futures.

UPDATE: I found a building! The Indian Friendship Society  is consolidating their facilities and closing a location in my community. It’s been there for over 10 years, is part of the community and has a mission similar to Our Heart Gardens, with the understanding that as the lives of Aboriginal people are improved, so are we all. Our Heart Gardens could walk into a ready-made facility. If Spirit wills it, the money and the program leaders will be drawn. We are being woven into the fabric of what life is when We are One!

The world may be having problems but I’m having a great time – am I playing a fiddle?

No, and I’m not the emperor of Rome, either!!