Putting a Dream out there.

I am so nervous, my heart is beating so hard!

So I guess I will just start… When you have a dream it is kind of a private thing, almost like a secret. You hold it tight and nurture it and grow it… I feel a bit of a golam about this one. Likely because I feel so strongly about it.

Now it is no secret that Joey and I want to have a real farm. That we talk about how can we possibly afford it endlessly. Buying a farm in Chatham-Kent is not easy, we have some of the most expensive farm land around….

Joey and I have a winter time game that we play a lot. We say things like “could you live in Brazil?” or “could you live on a boat?” and then we talk about the feasibility. Well a little while ago Joey said to me “What about Pelee Island, could you live there?”  and I said to him in all seriousness, “Yes I could”. Lake Erie is part of my personal heritage. I have spent many hours on its shores, and have always said if I had the chance to live on Lake Erie, I would  in less than a heartbeat. Just the thought makes my heart sing.

So it was put out there, and I started to look at the feasibility. You know what, it is actually more feasible for us to consider Pelee Island than it is Chatham-Kent. In fact, in looking at virtually everything I could find, I think Pelee is a really good fit all around for us. I was extremely impressed looking at the Islander’s vision statement and their plans for the future. I also feel like our idea would likely be well received.

I know, your thinking get on with the dream already! Right? Well, I will try not to ramble, and I will try to be concise, but it is my dream after all and that is not an easy thing to articulate. Without further ado, here goes;

Imagine yourself pulling up from the road, all you can see is a row of dense cedars with little peaks of tall Pine and nut trees beyond. You turn into the drive and find yourself winding through a forest of food. There are pastures where you can see the odd cow, goats or chickens meandering around. The sun dapples the tall grass of the pasture, now you start to notice the flowers, they are everywhere. Reds, pinks, yellows purples…. The air is scented with an abundance of mouth watering aromas, basil, lemon thyme, dill, violet… You look around to find that the smaller trees that surround the pastures are bearing fruit and berries of all kinds. Joey and I come into view, “Welcome to Van Campen Farms!”

Our aim is to follow the model provided my nature, the pioneers of permaculture have supplied working models of farms that follow these principals. These models are thriving, and they are able to reduce the need for costly inputs like pesticides, herbicides and designer seeds that do not perpetuate (you know they ones that are gmo and are designed to produce seeds that are not viable). We are interested in creating an environment that establishes symbiotic relationships between plants, animals and farmers.

Pelee is the southern most point in Ontario, it also has the longest growing season and apparently it is great for growing all kinds of things we cannot grow in the mainland. Making it an ideal location. The more types of plants you can grow that more bio-diverse and therefore strong your ecosystem is.

We want to establish a food forest, to make this concept a little more understandable I have included the following:

This diagram illustrates perfectly the layers that we will plant out. Large Canopy trees like nut trees, sugar maples, willows etc. The low tree level would include fruit trees, olives, almonds etc. Shrub layer would be things like berry bushes, and flowering shrubs for cut flowers and to attract pollinators. The Herbaceous layer would include both perennial and annual  herbs like lavender, mint, basil, marigold and calendulas. Ground covers like strawberries, violets, wild ginger etc.  And the vertical layer will include things like grapes and hardy kiwi. We would consider companion planting and topography , when choosing placement of course. I think you get the idea.

Bill Mollison, one of the founders of the permaculture principles said ” While all systems do require some work, good designs will require less as they are following natures rules rather than our own impositions. Any landscape will constantly try to revert back to what its natural state was. By designing a system that mimics that “natural” state while also providing yields that we need, we are taking much of the work out of the equation. Indeed, out greatest role in the system may become harvesting those yields and admiring the beauty and the bio-diversity that is around us. ”

We would also be keeping bees for pollination, honey, wax and bees wax products. Chickens and geese too, both for eggs and meat. Goats for sure, and maybe even cows and turkeys. It all depends on how much land, and which animals are actually allowed. But by keeping animals we will be giving back to the land in fertilizer, pest control (chickens and geese kick but in this area) and free lawn and weeding service.

In addition to the dream of the farm is the house. The dream house would look something like this.

I first saw this house when we were living in St. Catharines and it touched me. I don’t have other words for it. It was kind of like “people have houses like that? How do I get one?”  So, our house would not be identical or anything but it is more the idea. Green roof, organic lines, straw-bale construction, basically a low impact house. We are committed to ensuring we use passive heating and cooling systems, grey water irrigation is part of the plan as is using composting toilets. We would like to use our home as a model of how you can reduce your impact on the environment.

Furthermore, as an artist Pelee offers me a unique corner of the world where there is plenty of solitude, but also plenty of tourists. The opportunity to spend time in nature everyday would definitely kick start the creativity, and I would have a potential place to offer my works for sale as well.

A lot of what it comes down to is that we believe deeply in self sufficiency. As do the people on Pelee Island. We believe in creating your world the way that you picture it. There really is no sense in waiting for someone else to do what you wish. Just do it. I want to leap, but in this endeavor I know I will have to put all my energy into planning, planning and more planning. Wish us luck, we will need it to pull this off!

There are plenty more, this is just the tip of the Permaculture iceberg.


Joey and I have found a parcel of 15 acres of semi-wooded land on Pelee Island. It is only $30, 000! That’s an incredible price for land! Now, we just have to figure out how to get that much money.

If  you would like to help us realize our dream, please contact me! We are interested in helping hands and monetary donations. Ideas are welcome too!

If you want to learn more about permaculture take a look at the links below.



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