FOCI’s Create, Connect and Conserve series

The Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI) summer programs have long been popular with tourists and summer. This year FOCI wanted to offer something for the year round community. 

“ The inspiration is partly wanting to make sure that more members of the community know about FOCI. We do a lot of projects, but they’re not really shiny and we don’t really advertise them.  They’re on our website, but if people don’t go there and read about them, they don’t know that they’re happening,” explained Soma Feldmar, the society’s Administrative Assistant.

Soma Feldmar

Executive Director Helen Hall came up with the idea for the ‘Create, Connect and Conserve’ series. 

“Yes, we need to!” responded Feldmar. “We take so much for granted from the natural world. Especially working at FOCI the last couple of years, it’s really much more in my face how in trouble the natural world, and therefore us, really is.” 

She used a simile to complete that thought, “This is our home. This is like housekeeping, but our house is falling into pieces.”

Soma Feldmar became the project coordinator of ‘Create, Connect and Conserve.’ 

“I spent most of January planning the series and getting the events set up. There’s still one that  I have to do a lot of work on, which won’t be happening until June, so there’s time.  Once I had the first three events set, I started advertising.” 

CC: Where did you advertise them?   

Soma Feldmar: On social media, in terms of the two Facebook Cortes groups, as well as on Tideline. Then I put the poster with the three events in Whaletown, at the Cortes Natural Food Co-op, at Bertha’s Cortes Market, in the Squirrel Cove General Store and the Klahoose Multipurpose Building. Now I’m talking to you about it, so it’s going to get up on Cortes Currents.

“The first event already happened last weekend. The theme was wildlife coexistence. Sabina Leader-Mense helped me coordinate  and plan the event. She’s one of the wildlife coexistence pillars in the community and she has connections off island as well.” 

One of them was Bob Hanson from WildSafeBC

Soma Feldmar: “He worked on the initial Wolf Primer and the Wolf Project with Sabina in 2009. She told me about him and his expertise and his storytelling.  I said, yes, get him over here. So  she made all that happen.  We provided some of the funding, and he taught us about electric fences, and how to use them to protect our gardens, our compost, our livestock, and our food storage. There was the fencing part of that presentation (photo at top of page), as well as the bear spray part.  The event was to help the community learn how to coexist with wildlife in a way that they’re kept safe and our stuff is kept safe.  If we can minimize the conflicts between humans and wildlife, that’s good because what ends up happening almost all of the time is the wildlife has to get put down.”

“The next event, coming up February 24th is building bug hotels.  We will be providing all of the material and all of the hardware for 12 bug hotels.  We’re hoping that people will come and small families will come. We have limited space, of course,  but you’ll be able to take them home with you and you’ll also be getting some organic flower seeds. I think the seeds will produce plants that will attract the kinds of bugs that you’re going to want in the bug hotel that will be healthy and beneficial for your garden. Autumn Barrett Morgan is going to be running that event. She’s the one who has the knowledge about  who we want to attract and who we want not to come in because we do not want a bug hotel to be inhabited by invasive species.” 

On March 24th, Maria McKenty is going to do a live gardening demo at the Cortes Natural Food Co-op. 

Soma Feldmar: “At the back  of the Co-op building, there is a rain runoff. Apparently it can be like walking into the building next to a shower. A rain garden helps to save that water, filter that water, and store the water in the ground.  Maria will start the construction on the rain garden before the event, you can’t build a whole rain garden in two hours, and then we’ll have a hands on planting party.  The plants will be drought resistant, pollinator friendly, and deer proof. Hopefully this will help people learn about how they can build rain gardens on their property to catch and use the rain. It’s about using the water rather than letting it go away. It’s more about the water than the plants. But there is the bonus if you plant plants that are gonna attract pollinators, then that’s good for everybody as well.”

“In April, one of the last two weekends, we are doing a bird song ID event. Cory Dow is going to lead a small group of quiet people around Linnea very early one morning. It’s an introduction to being able to identify birds from their songs and there’s also going to be breakfast. It starts at 6am in the Linnaea parking lot and there will be a walk around, not sure how long it’s going to take, but then we meet back at Linnea.  There will be  a serving of breakfast, which is optional and then there will be a discussion about what was heard,  who was saying it, and all the bird books.” 

CC: What’s happening in May? 

Soma Feldmar: “Rex Weyler is giving a talk on the state of the world, climate and  Ecology on a global stage. Where we’re at and what’s going on, that’ll be the end of May.” 

“Then at the end of June, or perhaps mid June,  hopefully we’re going to have somebody come over from the Mars Wildlife Rescue Organization and talk to us about what we can do if we find hurt animals, and who will help us take care of them and rehabilitate them.”

CC: They’re in Merville, do we have a local connection? 

Soma Feldmar: “We have people on the island currently that are working with them but  as I said, that one’s not set. That one was just an idea that came up today.”

“I hope that the series as a whole encourages people in the Cortes community  to engage more with the natural world. Most of us are here partly because we love this island so much and I’m sure that people give back to the island already, but there’s always more we can do. That’s what I’m hoping for.”

Links of interest:

Top Image credit: Participants at Bob Hansen’s Feb 3, 2024 Electric Fence demonstration at Linnaea Farm – Soma Feldmar photo

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