Our Living Family Heirloom



Spring has its delights.

The pussy willows beckon to be petted, fiddleheads curl me batty, spring-peepers drive Julian nuts

and songbirds serenade us all day long.

Spring can seem so incredible that it can be a wonder how we survived the winter.

Spring is also that time of the year for mother’s day, father’s day, reunions, weddings, births, birthdays, graduations and gatherings: an exhilarating season!

Yet, what I love most about spring, is watching my family heirloom start to blossom.

It lives in our bathroom: a warm, moist environment, perfect for her tropical roots. She gets plenty of eastern morning sunlight, and spends all winter tenaciously growing long tentacles, that once having reached the ceiling, then begin crawling across it.

Spring is all about nurturing the next generations and revering the past generations.

I am usually not one to dwell too dearly on things like dresses, blankets, photos, old plates, jewelery, watches and paintings, yet I do absolutely cherish these objects from my family’s past. I love imagining the people who came before me using and living with these objects and then deciding with deep gravity to pass them on to the next generation.

An heirloom, a thing that shackles a family history together, is a chain of love and care.

The most important living family heirloom, which I might cherish even more than this remarkable plant that lives in our bathroom, would be my chain of genetic code.

Your DNA can be a strange concept of an heirloom to grasp, unless you simply hold your own hand.

My family genetic code is full of wonderous and frightening things:

strange abilities in academics, the arts and athletics; perseverance and dedication in almost everything we attempt; outstanding levels of compassion and empathy; yet also with startling amounts of sadness and despair that have terminally gripped too many of us by the throat; and then there are those mysterious, incurable  diseases that have left a few of us with joint, skin, belly and neurological problems…

Our 100 yr-old “night-blooming Cereus” plant is our living family heirloom.

Our night-blooming Cereus has spanned up to 5 generations in our family. My great-great-grandma acquired it on her travels and handed down a cutting of it to her daughter. (Take a single fat, juicy leaf from a Cereus, stick it in some soil and soon you have your clone.) She then passed a cutting from her plant down to my Grandma. Grandma’s grew large and strong, also. She passed down a cutting from hers to my parents.

I received my cutting from my parents’ plant in my early twenties as a celebration of living semi-independently.

Receiving my piece of the family heirloom was a very precious milestone.

I stuck that leaf in the soil, added water, watched and waited. It has grown into the strongest looking Cereus plant I have seen so far: luscious and green, fat and juicy (as compared to my sister’s cutting, my parents’ and my grandma’s). I think it does so well because I have pruned it frequently or more likely, I have just been very, very lucky.

We often get 7-9 blossoms a year, which is quite a privilege when raising this tropical plant (even though it is always indoors) through the bitterly cold winters of Nova Scotia.

Growing up with my parents’ tentacled plant was fascinating. We got to stay up late on the nights it bloomed, celebrating, watching and smelling it unfold. But our old farm-house was chilly and well shaded by giant trees. Their plant only bloomed about 1-3  times a year, if we were lucky. Its leaves have always been a little narrow and pale.

So here it is: a little piece of my ancestry.

This was taken yesterday, the morning before the first blossom of 2014.

Then came another gorgeous, spring sunset, but my attention was elsewhere:

for as night falls, the Cereus opens.

It remains open all night, emitting an intense perfume that fills the house.

For a night-bloomer, it has an unusally pleasant odor: fruity and fresh, flowery and kind.

It creeps open into the early morning, hitting its maximum size just after midnight.

Everyone smiles and seems excited. My step-daughter swoons, the dogs are cheerful and relaxed. Julian then sleeps so deeply and peacefully, it is as if all is simply perfect in our world.

It makes me feel absolutely elated: full of tinglings of love, gratitude, exuberation and generous satisfaction.

The aroma could very easily be mildly intoxicating. Some say extracts from the plant and its fruit can cause mild hallucinations (we have yet to see ours make any fruit), and were once also used to treat heart conditions.

A relative of the dragon fruit, the Cereus, a type of cactus, also known as the “Queen of the Night”, is exotic and full of mystery.

By sunrise, it closes.

It is done, spent, exhausted and limp.

I imagine the whole plant is resting very deeply today, after such an energetic night.

The night the Cereus blossoms is always a monumental event:

it is a night to remember all who came before us and all who may come after us.

May we all leave a legacy of compassion and empathy:

one that smells sweet and clean,

that is beautiful to behold,

and most importantly,

 strong and enduring. 

And there are more to come this year!

Already, another bud is beginning to grow!



Making Strides

Here is a post I wrote back in February, 2014.  I had a very ponderous day.

making strides copy

Salt Springs Provincial Park, Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Canada

If you had the choice between making many, quick, short steps or making few, slow, long steps,

which would you choose?

I have tried both ways.


Making many, quick, tiny steps was loud. My feet made sharp scuffing sounds as they hit the ground. My whole body worked hard with each step and my breath was frequent. My snow-panted legs swished against each other piercingly, my arms snapped back and forth vigorously to keep up my momentum. I was expending a lot of energy and felt a strong sense of vitality. It was exhilarating, fun and enlivening. But, I also noticed, with all this noise my crunching feet and swishing clothing made, that I could no longer hear the birds or wind. I was concentrating so hard on moving and moving quickly that I lost track of the trees and hardly noticed the dogs running around me.


Making fewer, but longer steps felt smooth and stealthy. My motions were eerily quiet. I could hardly hear my steps. My body was calm and relaxed, my arms barely needed to swing and my breathing was stately. I heard a raven calling across the field, I saw the dogs racing and chasing each other. I felt the wind and I marveled at the trees slowly drifting by.


These two ways of progressing are completely different, and both essential to practise at different times while on a walk, in life and while starting a business. The quick, short steps are invigorating: they get the heart racing and the mind focused. The slow, longer steps are restful and allow for observations and creativity to flow.




We successfully completed our Kickstarter Project for “Okapi: the Intelligent Fan Control System for Solar Air Heaters” in November, 2013. It was an exciting experience full of very busy days, a lot of good noise and many short, quick accomplishments.


Now, we are taking slower, longer strides with our business. We are thoughtfully meandering the legal territories associated with bringing an electronic product into the market. The previous quick, short steps we used in announcing ourselves and gaining public awareness were exhilarating and awakening to our spirits. Currently we are calmer and quieter, learning, researching and creating so much along the way. Yet, soon, we may quicken our steps, again!


effects of time copy

Salt Springs Provincial Park, Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Canada


As much as I want everyone to have solar air heaters on their houses NOW, I accept that getting this technology into the minds and hands of the general public will take time. It will take many, quick, loud and small actions, combined with fewer, calm, large actions.

With time, we will reach our goal, our destination: our Greenhill vision.

end in sight copy

Salt Springs Provincial Park, Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Canada


This vision is beautiful and kind, sweet and relaxing. It is a place where the air is clean, the land is not disturbed, the hillsides are vibrant with wildlife, yet everyone is still warm and cozy.

And the Geese Return… Happy Spring!


geese return copy


Thank you to everyone: our Kickstarter Project was successful! Thank you to everyone who pledged for prints and paintings: your support was so very helpful. I hope you are enjoying the artwork. And to our adventurous solar air heater builders: your pre-orders were so very important.



Those special DIY backers will be receiving their Okapi Systems very shortly as we finally smooth out the last tiny legal details of our electronic product distribution abilities. We have been so very thankful for the kind patience.

We, ourselves, have been quite frustrated about how long it has taken to figure out all these details, but they make the process a difficult and meandering one for a very good reason: consumer safety! None of us want some dangerous person soldering electronic products in their basement and selling them on the internet without them being checked-over by officials and standards agencies to ensure they are safe for use, meant for their intended use, and comprised of safe and certified components. So the long certifications, standards and guidelines process, though frustrating, is something for which we should all be grateful!


At the bottom of our website are links to all our social media sites: Follow us on Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube and Like us on Facebook. We invite you to join in on discussions, post questions or comments, share our pictures and posts and become a part of this green movement!


The winter was busy and oh so quick: full of shovelling snow, cross-country skiing, working with CSA, learning about the sale of electronics products,  making our company website, writing proposals and applications, some research and development projects and lots of family time…  Check out the new website: www.greenhillenvirotechnologies.com.  The next major addition will be coming soon: our Purchase page: where you can make an order, pay for it and have your Okapi System delivered to you right away! Very exciting times….


home energy consumption copy

Check out our website pages devoted to information and calculations about energy, environmental and financial savings from the use of solar air heaters.


We are getting more involved with our community: next week is the local NSCC (Nova Scotia Community College) Entrepreneurship Conference. We have been invited to give a short workshop about how to pitch a good idea, and tell our personal tales of becoming entrepreneurs. Visit our social media sites to learn more: the entire day’s events are open and free for the public as well!

NSCC Entrepreneur poster




dawn of heating copy

You can also “Sign-Up” on our website to get an email-notification of when we will be ready to start receiving and processing orders.


Happy Spring, Environmentalists!


PS:   “Follow” this blog… I promise it will only get better from here!  😉


green fernsmall

“Green Fern”, 2013, oil on watercolor paper, 8″x10″, by Meredith Williams, MDW. A Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc. Kickstarter Reward.



The Time Has Come!


The time has come when it is sad if you don’t have solar air heating panels on your home! The time has come when it is frowned upon if you don’t have solar hot water! The time has come when your neighbors are writing a petition to get you to stop burning so much fire-wood and polluting their air! The time has come when it is a crime to not do everything you can to live sustainably! The time has come when cases of “Criminal Negligence of the Environment” by governments, corporations and citizens alike are hitting the headlines around the world!

The “Trial of Suzuki” is a fantastic project to read and learn about. Check it out and become a participant!


Tomorrow, Sunday, Nov. 3rd, 2013, our Kickstarter Project ends at just after 9pm!


I have butterflies: we know we can make our goal, we are so close! And what if we don’t make our goal? Well, the people that pledged will always be remembered as loyal supporters and green-hearted wonders (but their credit cards will not be charged.) We will simply continue on with our mission, regardless: making sure every home gets effective solar air heaters working on it!

And if we Do reach our goal? More people will learn about solar air heaters, More people will get involved and our air will get cleaner faster!


Two, 4’x8′ screen-design closed-loop Solar Air Heaters, operated by the Okapi 2.i System, help keep this old farmhouse warm during the cold months of the year.


Do you want less pollution? Do you want a healthier future for your kids? Then stop burning oil, wood and electricity on sunny days! It is so simple and you can easily get a solar air heater working on your home, too!

We came out of the wood-work in early September, 2013. No one really knew what we had been up to because it had been top-secret up until late August of this year! We had been feverishly working on writing our patent for “Okapi”: the first and only intelligent fan control system for solar air heaters.

We had been living like hermits. Suddenly, during the past two months we became very public and very social. What a glorious change in lifestyle!

We have been out to great gatherings: like the Tech Social, Small Business Week Social, Inventors’ Day and many great private talks and meetings with forward thinking folks. It has been so much fun making many new friends, learning about so many others that have been living sustainably already! What wonderful humans there are everywhere!

I am very thrilled to make numerous meaningful connections with such clever environmentalists. There are millions of people working to change this world for the better: organic gardeners, environmental activists, tree-huggers, clean-technology inventors, climate-change supporters, fossil-fuel dependence therapists… I am so happy to find these free-thinkers! These people are changing this world.

These people are working to save your children’s future!

The sustainability lifestyle is very attractive. It gives back to you everyday. It gives you that meaning and purpose you have been searching for in life! I am so inspired to do so much more. As soon as you get involved, you will also experience this revitalizing feeling of empowerment flowing through you.


I want to build a greenhouse!

I want to grow and preserve my own vegetables!

I want to grow my own herbs!

I want to build a chicken coop and raise our own chickens, meat and eggs!

I want to make my own clothes; wash them with a new, energy efficient washer and hang them out to dry on the line or in my “Okapi-controlled solar-air-heater Outdoors Clothes-Drier”!

I want to have solar home-heating!

I want solar water heating!

I want solar electricity!

I want to live off the grid!

I want cleaner air and a healthier environment.

I want your kids to be able to breathe in the future.

We will be having an open-house soon, our own Solar House-Warming Party.

You are invited. We look forward to meeting you. We look forward to starting more green projects. We look forward to helping you get solar air heaters on your home and providing you with the best fan control system for them. We look forward to attending Your Solar House-Warming party!


The time has come for us all to be able to breathe easier.

Kejimkujic Birthday


I just celebrated my birthday last weekend. It was fantastic. We went to Kejimkujic National Park, in southern Nova Scotia and hiked 5 of their 10 short trails in one day. They were beautiful. Each one. No, I mean: each tree, each leaf, each rock, each stream, each river was beautiful. The fall season is by far my favorite. And every birthday I make it a point to get out for a hike.
I was like this as a kid with my birthdays too. I had a simple formatted request for every one: a walk in the woods and mom’s home-made dinner of fried-chicken, potato salad and pumpkin pie. She never failed at delivering this. I was so spoiled. Truly. How many millions of kids in North America get to go for a walk through the woods, and wander over old farmstead pastures for their birthday? Not many, I bet.
Some just don’t have that available to them. Too many are trapped by concrete.
This past week an article in the BBC news talked about the fact that many kids are too disconnected from nature. That they do not get enough exposure to it, and that there is a strange growing idea that nature is dirty and unpleasant. Stepping off the pavement is a strange and creepy thing to some kids. This is terrible. (“Just one in five children connected to nature, says study” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24532638)
So I write to encourage you and your family to get out for a hike. Get into the fields and woods and go explore! You can fear the dangers of scratches and bug-bites and tick-born illnesses, or you can fear being mugged and run over at a street-corner. But if you take the right precautions, none of these fears are legitimate.
Live a life with nature, and you will be happy. Live a life without nature, and you have not lived.

What an adventure!


Our plug-in electric kettle broke yesterday. I am trying not to be devastated. I so loved the warm blue glow of its light as it boiled my water for an evening cup of tea. It has been a good friend to me. It still works, sort of. The lid-hatch-thingy just won’t close anymore, so the internal switch to turn it off once the water is boiling doesn’t get triggered and it just Keeps On Boiling… But, if I weigh it down with a towel, it stays closed and turns off when it is supposed to. I am not sure if that is safe.  I find myself wondering if I could tape it shut. Maybe, but I can’t trust it to leave it to itself anymore. It is no longer autonomous. That might be dangerous. We may have to open our purse-strings and get a new kettle.

This has affected me in a strange way. Before I would be angry and think “What bunch of crappy plastic and electronics.” Now, through this adventure we are on, bringing our own bunch of electronics to market, I think differently. I feel sadness for the maker of this kettle. I feel worry for them. I feel compassion. Someone worked very hard to get that beautiful kettle into my kitchen.

Last week, we met with an “Industrial Research Adviser” from the Industrial Research Assistance Program of the National Research Council of Canada.  He has been the most helpful person we have met so far. We have learned everything about the process of bringing an electronics product into the public eye. Through the National Research Council’s help, we have made very special contacts with expert electronics Engineers, local fabrication and machining businesses, marketing strategies, funding routes and programs.

I never realized that everyday products we all use and rely upon required so much work to get onto that store shelf and into our hands. Only a small part of the process is about marketing. Most of the hard work, long hours and financial investment required for something very simple, like a kettle, for example requires Standards Testings that can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. Any product with a patent behind it has tens of thousands of dollars invested in it. Defending a patent against someone else violating it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars at least. Working with lawyers to simply establish a business name and number, go incorporated and register costs thousands. Then don’t forget to add on the product disclaimer warnings, terms and conditions, and insurance costs…

I now look at all the great products swimming around me and I am in awe. We all take it for granted, particularly the years of work that people spend creating, testing and refining prototypes.

I will no longer ask “why on earth does this thing cost so much? It’s just a bunch of plastic and electronics”. The prices are all about the “overhead costs”.

We are living the dream of bringing a bunch of plastic, electronics and wires into the public eye. Years of hard research and development, a year working with a patent lawyer, and just a few months working further with lawyers, engineers, government representatives, marketing professionals, and banks: day after day of long, busy days.

I feel ashamed of the way I used to take for granted all the wonderful little helper gadgets and things that make my home a home.

Not anymore. I tip my hat to anyone who has gotten anything from home-made to professional grade. Well-done world!

…we still need a new kettle, though.

Okapi: The Intelligent Fan Control System for Solar Air Heaters


Our Kickstarter.com Project


Okapi Systems are intellegent, variable-speed fan control systems for closed-loop Solar Air Heaters. It is robust, serviceable, smart and Patent Pending.

Based in Greenhill, Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Canada, Greenhill EnviroTechnologies Inc. is introducing a new clean-tech product to help everyone deal with the rising financial, environmental and health costs of electricity and fuels used for home-heating throughout the world.

Visit us at our website: www.greenhillenvirotechnologies.com

You can learn all about Okapi: what it does, how it works and why not only you, but all of us need one.