By Michael Roboz, friend and past/present co-worker
North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Ruth Tschannen hails from a small town in Switzerland. At a young age, she found her way to a Camphill Community in Botton, England. Botton is one of the many worldwide Camphills engaged in caring for special needs children and adults. 

There she trained in biodynamics and eurythmy, including therapeutic eurythmy. Around 2000, she left England to join the urban Camphill in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. At Cascadia Society, where she became the Artistic Director, Ruth managed the urban biodynamic gardens on several Camphill properties. She is known as an expert in making compost heaps and creating pathways using dried cedar needles. 

For many years, Ruth headed the willow basket weaving workshop, eurythmy classes for both special needs adults and adults in the greater community. She incorporated her skills by creating garden borders, trellises for pole beans and peas, and hoops for row covers, all of willow. 

As Artistic Director, Ruth directed festivals and pageant plays at festivals at Cascadia and nearby churches. These efforts expanded to putting on Grimms Brothers fairy tales at a large nearby theatre. She coordinated the handbells with various musical instruments and eurythmy for these fairy tales. 

During Ruth’s sojourn at Cascadia, she planned, directed, and created many projects out of mosaics. There is one huge mosaic at the rear of the main house with the zodiac, where we often performed ceremonies for festivals. 

During the pandemic, Ruth officially left Cascadia and continued to foster biodynamics, creating a much larger community footprint, which she was unable to do previously. While still at Cascadia, she started by planting in one nearby roundabout. That expanded after she left to two other roundabouts on the same street, as well as empty areas near the curbs up and down several blocks on this street. Many residents of the community came by and were drawn into biodynamics, participating in gardening, stirring the preparations, and building compost heaps around the neighbourhood with compost preparations. Ruth also taught members of the neighbourhood to create willow fences, hoops, and trellises. Knowledge about basket weaving has also been passed on to community members. 

At first, Ruth was purchasing willow from her mentor/teacher in willow weaving who lives on an island off the coast. Ruth is now growing her own willow forests in a local garden, two hours away in the Fraser Valley, and four hours away on a biodynamic farm in the high desert in Princeton. In winter, usually around February, she has to travel to these locations to harvest the willow. 

Ruth has created a large labyrinth on a biodynamic farm two hours north of Vancouver. The ridges are planted with plants that will produce flowers with colours related to the planets. It is so huge that it takes about ten minutes to traverse across its diameter. Ruth is planning to build another labyrinth on the Forstbauer farm in Chilliwack in the Fraser Valley. 

Last fall, a short seven-minute documentary was made about Ruth, her roundabout gardens, and the gardens created by community members with her mentorship. 

The article "Lovingly tended boulevard and roundabout gardens are this North Vancouver neighbourhood's 'COVID hope corner'" shares more about how Ruth’s efforts created spaces for civic engagement and inspired her community.

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