Thursday, March 26, 2015

Looking for Land Mates!

And so now that we are moved in, we want someone(s) to join us here on this beautiful piece of paradise!  Here is our 'INVITATION TO SHARE":

We are a family of 3 (Jonathan, Gillian and 10-year-old son Jamie) 
living in the beautiful Yalakom Valley north west of Lillooet, interested in sharing our land and lifestyle with like-minded others in order to create a mutually beneficial, inspiring and socially stimulating circumstance for ourselves.  To that end, we are looking for folks who value organic agriculture, ecology, herbalism, alternative building, off grid living, and (ideally) have a kid or kids of similar age to Jamie; if no kids, compatibility and active, real interest in kids is a must. If this sounds interesting to you, read on!

 The piece of paradise we steward is about 70 acres of a larger (198 acre) parcel that used to be a ranch, perched on a long bench above the Yalakom River. Much of our place in steep and forested, but the flatter 10 or so acres is open meadow, suitable for haying, grazing or growing. In February of 2014, we moved into our newly built post-and-beam/straw-bale house, designed and built by Jonathan, with the help of many hands. (see past posts for pictures and more of that story).

  The Yalakom Valley is located in Northern St'at'imc Territory, 45 minutes from Lillooet on a winding, bumpy road. Climatically, we are in the transition zone between the Coast Mountains to the west, and the dry Interior Plateau to the east. Since the early 1970s, this valley has been home to a small community of alternative-minded folks who have experimented with varying degrees of intentionality and communal living over the years. In this current phase we live mostly as individual families, though we still cooperate to host community gatherings at the Solstices, occasional work-bees, pot-lucks, games-, music- and sauna-nights, as well as participating deeply in regional land use strategies and issues.

  Gillian and Jonathan have lived in the valley since the late '90s, with a two year hiatus on Galiano Island. Jonathan employs himself doing carpentry and odd jobs, and, as well as working on an endless list of projects around the place, loves writing poetry, riding his mountain bike, occasionally going to the city for Contact Improv jams and classes, as well as brewing his own beer. Gillian, an herbalist since 25+ years, owns and operates "Gillian's Herbs", a small, home based herbal products company (, does home care for a local elder, and teaches Nia (, a whole body, fun, fitness and movement technique set to music.  Gillian also has a soft spot for animals, currently caring for 4 horses (Jonathan does the hoof trimming, and lots of hay hauling). Jamie is a bright, healthy and active 10-year-old boy, into Lego, Karate, parkour, audio-books, playing drums, hanging out with chickens, and riding his bike. Jamie has chosen not to attend regular school, so over the years we have experimented with different home-schooling curricula and methodologies. We are currently following the non-coercive, interest-directed philosophy of Life Learning. (

Both Jonathan and Gillian have contributed their efforts to local land use strategies, mainly negotiations with forestry companies and promoting Ecosystem Based Planning. Gillian is a member of the regional government (SLRD)'s Agricultural Advisory Committee; past member of Lillooet Food Matters and Salmon Talks Lillooet; past community representative on the Sekw'el'was (Cayoosh) Restoration Advisory Committee.

Our current projects on the land include:
  • organically* growing and processing a wide variety of medicinal herbs for "Gillian's Herbs"
  • an acre of organically grown* hops for microbreweries, planted Fall of 2014, thanks to advice and help from HOOH ( and Crannog Ales ( and friends
  • organically* growing the vast majority of our culinary herbs, veggies (especially potatoes, garlic, shallots and onions), most of our spring to fall veggies; some fruit
  • processing food including freezing, canning, and making sauerkraut, yogurt, salsa, applesauce, etc
  • nurturing a new orchard (apple, apricot, cherry and plum trees so far; berry bushes including strawberry, raspberry, elderberry, currant, justa, haskap honeysuckle, gooseberry; hazelnuts)
  • organically raising "heritage" chickens for meat from summer to fall
  • composting horse and chicken manure for the gardens, hops and orchard 
  • installing deer fencing around the perimeter
* we are applying for organic certification in 2015

We have hosted over 75 WWOOFers, workawayers, herbal apprentices, friends, and family who have helped us tremendously over the years both on the house and in the gardens and on the land.  We happily hosted a Mud Girls Earth Plaster workshop in 2011, which empowered us to host our own earth plastering workshop the following summer, and we are proud to say our walls have been touched by hundreds of hands. We love the input of new ideas, fresh outlooks, and different cultures coming here to visit, help and share in the beauty of this land, and have made many lasting relationships as a result. 

  • expand the herbal products company
  • raise sheep for meat, possibly wool, while they help us weed the hop yard
  • raise laying hens for egg production
  • grow more food to sell, trade and to fulfill most or all of our food needs (minus the coffee, olive oil, spices, etc!) = inching closer to food sustainability
  • build and ride mountain bike trails here
  • build smaller one storey straw bale cabins while teaching alternative building skills to the public
  • re-train 2 of our 4 horse friends to pull machinery to work the land (cut hay; till the soil; haul logs; spread manure, etc.) and pull a buggy for local transportation and fun!

  • build a minimalist aka simple and modest Dance and Movement Arts Retreat Centre
  • build an organic brewery
  • become a mountain bike destination or hot spot (camp?)
  • build an alternative building style sauna and bath house

  • improve social life here for us
  • share this beautiful piece of paradise and provide land for like minded people
  • achieve a synergistic level of person-power that allows us to accomplish our dreams and projects while also having fun!     
 Our hope is to connect with people who are willing to come and try sharing this land to determine if we are compatible. After an initial trial period, we would make a few successively longer-term agreements, hoping to find a balance of security and flexibility. When the time and partnership are right, we would sign a Memorandum of Understanding, so that whatever we have collectively agreed upon is formalized, and able to be referred to. The details of such and agreement would be worked out thoughtfully, together, one step at a time.

Please contact us if these ideas appeal to and inspire you! And if not, please pass this information on to whomever you think might find it interesting.
Websites to check out to further give you more of a picture of who we are and where we live :
  • = scroll through this blog about our house building adventure
  • = Gillian's herbal products website
  • = an interesting article published recently about a literary journal that Jonathan (aka Swamp) plays an important role in, published in the Yalakom by a long time resident and friend

thanks for taking the time to read through this!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Did I mention that we moved in?

We're IN!  We moved, a year ago this month!  It's been so fabulous I couldn't stop to tell everyone (sorry!).

WE LOVE OUR HOME!  What can I say, except: to really appreciate what that love means, you will have to experience it for yourself in person.  One thing I will always be grateful for is the 100s (yes, hundreds) of hands from near and far that touched some part of the building process over the years = thank each and every one of you.  That, and the recognition that we are living on and from St'at'imc unceded territory = kukwstum.

Take a journey back in time, by scrolling down through the photos, check out the older posts to see some of the faces (maybe yours) who helped out.  They are only really a smattering of images representing 7 years of sweat, and yes some tears, get the picture!  Many smiles and laughs were mixed into the hair pulling for balance. 

If I were to do it again (ha ha), I would strive to improve on the photo taking/documentation, and subsequent photo sharing.  Probably not going to happen in this lifetime! oh well.

So, come and visit and take your own photos and hear the stories in person,  see the house in full view, and feel the earth plaster with your own hands!  We really do enjoy having visitors, so get in touch.  We have a guest room,  and a guest cabin, and a camper, and maybe a bus someday, and hopefully smaller straw bale cabins in the future, but always lots of room to stretch out and breathe in the delicious Vast Mountain air.  
Enjoy !
THE FIRST SPIKE!  June 30, 2006.  I had to start with my favourite photo of this great adventure, the first one.

Time warp to October, 2014 : the Dining Room

Kitchen with post and beam detail, and unfinished cabinetry (a home is never really finished...)

Hand woven original hangings commissioned from a local friend.  The door on the left is to the root cellar below the kitchen, and the door on the right is the pantry. (visit
Koda, in his happy place.

One side of the Apothecary.

Masonry heater, cob on the outside and hand formed shelves for the knick-knacks.

Bathroom sink

Jonathan's first tiling project, the shower.


One end of the living room

Some beautiful art on earth plastered wall, natural colour.

Some more art, some squash...

Jamie and Dancer, on her first day here.

Tyler meeting Hawk, father of Dancer, new friends to us since the fall; Mandy is on the left, and Dancer is eating.


thanks everyone for helping make our dream come true (and that is not our home in the background)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Moving right along...2013

Life goes on despite the lack of blogging, or posting, or even picture taking...2013 was busy, eventful and somewhat tumultuous perhaps, and no, we did not move in, and have not even still (though sooo close) but THE HOUSE which has taken on its own personality, continued to be nailed, plastered, painted, tiled, electrified, plumbed, and generally and constantly fussed over and fiddled with!  Here are some random pics, the photographer only occasionally visiting THE HOUSE with camera in hand while also juggling 3 jobs, a household (trailer hold?) and a home schooled 9 year old boy.  Never a dull moment.

Here are some highlights:

Behold! The magic and miracle of ELECTRICITY!

And here is the belly of that miracle, or one of the sources.  The main source is Buck Creek coming down Vast Mountain, and a micro hydro power system that generates enough hydro to run 7 or 8 households more or less, and which provides us with a continuous trickle charge that keeps batteries amply supplied to power our home.  Note the shiny new inverter!

Natural light still wins in the beauty contest.  Jamie in his future chambers, I mean bedroom.

Lots of snow, lots of love.


and now for some COLOUR inside!

Jamie and Swamp mixing clay paint, otherwise known as an alis.

Rich and warm master bedroom wall.

The apothecary.


Beautiful organic colour (the entrance).

Having little idea of how to mix clay colours, this is what we ended up with for the upstairs hallway!  Love it! Love natural clay painting...the texture, application and look are all appealing.

The master bedroom oiled.

Sometime in the colour phase, we finished the masonry heater, decorations, tile and all.


My cousin the builder (Charlie) and family came to visit and quickly and lovingly built us our front porch (Phase 1)!  Thank you Applefords!

And here it is: Fall after the garlic harvest, covered in...stuff....sigh.


Masonry heater tiled floor.

The shower stall tiled - what a beautiful feat for a first time tiler!

The bathroom floor and bathtub backsplash tiled!


Jump to November: smelling snow on it's way, we shifted gears and moved the shed...amazing what a little bobcat can do!

and the cabin! after hours and hours of jacking up each corner inch by inch.

More photos to come - much has changed since these were taken: the fir floor is almost done and about to be sanded, then oiled.  Kitchen cabinets and drawers will soon be installed.  The bathroom is 90% done, all that needs to happen is some plumbing to connect the sink, shower and tub to their drains.  Closets are getting their doors hung, and shelves and hanging rods installed.  Very exciting.  Must start packing in earnest.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

She's got skirts!

 We had yet another successful, FUN and fruitful workbee last weekend, 
and the house now has her skirts!  

 We got far more done than we expected, since we had no idea how many people would show up.  Over 2 days the volunteer crew applied 2 coats of earth plaster on the skirting wall (on wood lath) and if you scroll down, you will see some photos of interior walls (upstairs) being worked on during the afternoon of the second day.  
WAY TO GO CREW! Thank you so much!
 We are yet again reminded of the power and beauty of community, and love that anyone, young or old, can help on a natural building project.  

Now that the house has her skirts, we are that much closer to being able to move in (sometime this winter, fingers crossed).  The skirting wall provides yet another layer or wall of insulation from the elements.  The house no longer looks like it's standing on stilts - it's connected to the earth, and now we have a really nice crawl space under the house, which will protect the plumbing from freezing, keep the main floor warmer, the root cellar cooler....all even temperatures as it should be.  And, I have a mushroom growing space within it too and time will tell if it will work or not (the glass blocks are for letting some light in).  The mushrooms I want to grow (Shiitake, Oyster, etc) in bags filled with sawdust  like temperatures between 1C and 10C and filtered light, so we shall see!  It's a good thing I'm short, but I might have to enlist the help of a gnome or elf to help...

The mushroom growing corner
Here are some photos to show off the work, the people and the fun we had!
MIXERS EXTRAORDINAIRE! The mix: 4 parts Sand (sifted), 1 part Clay (sifted), 1 part Horse Manure (fresh dried and sifted), 1/2 part Straw (chopped), water.  Mix with bare feet until it rolls out like dough.

Screening Horse Manure = Very Important Job!

 The work went so well, with so many people, that we were able to finish some interior walls as well, left over from the last Earth Plaster workshop in June.  This was a really nice surprise for us. The second coat was applied, which does not include straw.  
These guys really know how to have a good time, no matter what they're doing!

~ The list of thank yous is not short, and we are so so grateful to all who could come this time to lend a hand, to add food to the table to feed the workers, to learn, and to get dirty with us yet again!  Many repeats, so I think some of you are hooked!  Yippee, more people for the natural building revolution!  
Big and Life Long Thanks to: Jan Wilson, Angela, Odin & kids, Mariko & kids, Andrew & Regan, Marty & Ashley, Toby & Wren, Llew, Van & Eleanor, Zack, Roy, Ina & Phil, Travis, Stepha & Lynda, Robin, Josh & Gabi, Tina, Oliver & Jenine, dogs (Canyon, Shade, Morley and Blue), and Laurie for coming at the end for moral and beer support!  

To all who have helped from the beginning:
Let us know how we can return the favour! 
 love...gillian, swamp, jamie and koda