Friday, October 31st8.0°C
Guest Columnist

Vertical gardens: dig in!

Recently I watched a news segment on the popularity of vertical gardens in Vancouver and thought this was the perfect solution for the south side of my house. A vertical garden is when you grow plants in some sort of frame, using pots to minimize water usage and space requirements. I have a narrow strip of land between my fence and the house. My green thumb is a particularly unhealthy shade of green thus my gardening skills are pretty limited. I’ve killed raspberry bushes - not proud - just sayin’.

I created a frame using 4x4 posts, approximately 8 ft. apart. I used 1x4 boards to run between the posts. The boards on the front and back are 11” apart, vertically. I did the same along the back, with 2 inches offset so the back row was lower. This creates a slope that a typical 1 gallon plant pot fits perfectly into. The pot is actually locked in place by three points. I used 2x4 metal joist hangers and considered running a 2x4 along the back to support the weight but the 1x4 seems to work fine. I did drill a hole and secure it with a bolt.

Initially I created a trickle irrigation system, with a line into each pot. With limited water pressure, I was forced to install valves so I could isolate each row and water one row at a time. Watering the whole garden takes 15 minutes and when it was hot, I was forced to do it at least twice a day. I created a ‘fertilizer tank’ using 3” black PVC pipe and attached it to one of the end posts. The top opens and I can dump in fertilizer.

Next year I want to build some temporary plastic walls to enclose it to extend the growing season in the spring and fall. I would also like to automate the water system with timers and I want to put a trough along the bottom for larger plants like zucchini, cabbage and cukes. The system drains very well, and the plants in the bottom would likely not require irrigation. If I had filled the top row, I could fit about 100 pots, and with a trough on the bottom, you could easily produce a lot of produce (little pun there)!

I grew cabbages, carrots, tomatoes, lettuce and a whole variety of items. Peppers did very well, but were small. Carrots were sometimes 6 in a pot, with a mixture of long and short. My one pepper plant was 3 ft. long and my eggplant flowered very late, and I only harvested a single, small fruit. Well, would you look at that…my thumb’s changing colour to a healthier green!

If you have questions, feel free to drop me a line at [email protected].

How do billionaires invest?

This week I got a hold off the newly published Billionaire Census from Wealth-X and UBS. It revealed that the 2,325 world’s richest people are holding an average of $600 million in cash - each. That equates to about 19% of their total net worth. It’s roughly a 10% jump from the year before. Somewhat surprisingly perhaps, it’s also five times more than their real estate holdings. Staggering statistics, but what could we derive from this information?

I’m hawking the global financial trends and have conversations with many of the brightest professionals and investors in the world. Many interpret the stockpile of cash on the sidelines as a potential influx to drive stock prices even higher. Without a doubt there is a lot of money that needs to make some decent yield. With stock prices at an all-time high, interest rates (and bond returns) near an all-time low; every asset class seems squeezed for the last drop of low-risk return.

And yet, the billionaires (and their top notch advisors) are still on the sidelines for almost 20% of their holdings, and growing. They are well aware that inflation is slowly diminishing their capital power. But they haven’t found a better alternative yet – but surely are on the lookout every day.

I personally am of the opinion that the cash reserves will actually drive the appetite for more risky investments. However, likely not so much in the traditional assets such as stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Risk versus rewards ratios have already been pushed to outer boundaries. The class of private investments (also referred to as Direct Investments) still has many new and undiscovered gems. This asset class is growing and will surely continue to grow. Plus, in today’s global economy, cash is easily moved past borders. It can quite easily be invested in another country than our own. The world has become a smaller place.

There is currently a growing trend whereby wealthy individuals, Family Offices and fund managers are sharing investments in private deals. These syndicates or co-investments used to be reserved for the haut-finance world. With so much cash actively seeking alternative opportunities to make a return, the money is collaborating to identify these deals and take advantage of them.

These opportunities are widely available, from local start-ups to larger private equity deals. It provides a tremendous chance to be part of the next big thing, before it becomes as big as Google or Amazon. The trick is to cherry pick the very best opportunities, negotiate a Shark-like deal and use your connections to help the investment succeed. That’s why the Billionaires have 46.7% of their assets in private investment holdings. And a war chest of $600 million each to deploy. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all have that problem? We would syndicate together and seek the best opportunities in the world to put our money to work.



André Voskuil is a leading Alternative Investment strategist and Qualified Family Office Professional who specializes in counseling his Inner Circle clients in regards to their specific investments in this exciting class of opportunities. You can find out more about André at

I didn't know that!

I am an experienced teacher and homemaker that has tried and true ideas to use in your home and yard. We will begin with cleaning ideas that will make your home spotless quickly using non-toxic cleaners, giving you free time for other enjoyable activities in the beautiful Okanagan.

We will start with the kitchen and and then proceed to the bathroom.



For the microwave, bring a cup of water with a teaspoon of baking soda to a boil.  It will eliminate any cooking odour and make it easy to wipe off any food particles.

For your regular oven, you can wet a pumice stone and it will clean your oven faster than any oven cleaner and there is no waiting.

To clean any glass and mirrors use a coffee filter bought at a dollar store. Voila! No streaks or lint and the price is right!

If you have water marks on a wooden table, smear a little mayo on the spot, leave it for a few hours and wipe clean.

Bread is not just for eating! Remove crust from day old bread and use it to scour grubby finger marks from painted walls.

Use a black tea solution to produce a wonderful shine on hardwood floors.  Steep 3 tea bags in a litre of boiling water for 15 minutes, then pour into a bucket and damp mop.  Rinsing is not necessary.



Make a thick paste with oatmeal (instant is fine, but sugar free) and apply with a soft cloth or sponge.  Rinse to get a shiny clean tub.

If you have any vinyl items or tile flooring dip a clean cloth into plain lemon juice and rub into the stain.

To clean the shower, keep a spray bottle with vinegar handy and as you get out of the tub spray the walls and glass and wipe down. The film will be removed and the vinegar odour will evaporate in an hour.


Everything you need to make these natural cleaners is in your cupboard and not only will your home be clean and fresh but also less toxic.



Arlene Pilgrim is an adult educator with experience in various areas assisting people with personal and life skills. She has provided individuals with information on how to find a job, save time, save money and save energy for the past 16 years.  

Small business financing

Small business ownership is not for the faint of heart. The odds are forever not in your favour to succeed, which is why finding the right financing for a small business can be a daunting task. The information contained in this article is to help with the financing portion of your small business, but don’t forget that marketing, public relations, and branding are also incredibly important. In fact, considering that nearly all small businesses fail, and you can expect to go up to 5 or even 8 years before turning a profit, I would suggest that you do your homework. Every small business owner I have ever worked with believed they were somehow smarter or better prepared for the market than everyone else, and therefore they would instantly be profitable. .. that my friends, has yet to happen.

Firstly, it is much easier to borrow money against an existing business versus starting your own business. In my experience, Scotia Bank and Bank of Montreal tend to be the two major banks who will consider small businesses most often. And when they do, they tend to look at the financial health of the applicant as a whole. They want you to have significant net worth, excellent credit, a sizeable down payment (30% minimum), and be entering into a low-risk industry. So, let's be clear - businesses that fail most often are coffee shops and tanning salons. Why, you might ask? Because despite what you may have heard, there is very little profit in coffee and tanning. 

Another excellent source of business financing is the Business Development Bank of Canada. The BDC’s purpose is to finance businesses; their account managers will work with you to come up with a realistic business plan, projected profits and estimated costs. They can put you on a payment plan that works with your business and often allow you an interest-only period to get you on your feet. They will loan up to a 2:1 ratio of their funds to yours, provided you can give them a personal guarantee. They will check in with you on an annual basis and offer some business counselling and networking events. Hats off to the BDC - we need them! The only issue I have really had with the BDC is that I have yet to meet a BDC account manager that has actually owned a business. 

Another thing to consider is that you will also need to have access to additional funds as you may find yourself putting more money into the business over the first couple years. I would suggest that you go to your bank and get a line of credit prior to starting your business.


For more information on small business financing, and other useful information call, text or email - [email protected] or 250.575.5478



Billie Aaltonen graduated from the University of Calgary with a degree in Economics and a Business Minor in 2003. After spending 7 years working in various corporate credit roles in Calgary’s oil and gas industry, she moved to Kelowna along with her husband and two young children. Billie is now a Senior Lending Advisor with Mortgage Architects Okanagan and also owns a few small businesses. She is an avid investor & entrepreneur at heart!

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