Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rainwater capture and climate change

Hello Everyone,

Hope you are well.  If you are in the Southwestern Ontario area that's had so much rain lately ... I hope you are also dry!  I haven't checked the Environment Canada tally but we must have had two bouts of rain over the last two weeks that that had over 5cm of rain each time.

I actually went out and purchased two new garbage cans to store rainwater in!  Couldn't afford proper rain barrels or hose attachments, but I bucketed water from the one catch-barrel into the others and now have three on the porch.  The two proper rainbarrels at the side of the house were already full from the previous rain, as was a container by the back door, one by the vegetable garden, and every small buckets and watering can around the place.

And it rained a bit this evening!  Just to get a last measure in for June.

So a June with an overabundance of rain follows May with really no rain.

The interior of British Columbia is having a heat wave.  The Canadian Prairies are having drought.  And who knows if Ontario here will get rain for the rest of the summer!?

Welcome to climate change and weather anomalies. 

I wonder if anyone has yet put together the garden workshop series on Gardening for Climate Change, or a book of that title. 

A further odd thing is that we have all the things we did not plant specifically growing huge around the gardens.  Things like peppers, tomatoes, beets, and basil - things we planted - are growing slowly. 

I don't really know what it means ... perhaps just to be happy for the herbs we've got in abundance.  More catnip this year than I've ever seen.  Taller day lilies and coffee chicory.

Lots of flowers.

I'll take that.

Best regards to all!

Why's Woman

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The power of knitting - and Happy Birthday Stephanie

Hello everyone,

I've been busy gardening for many people ... and sometimes for myself and family.  And struggling to find time to ... time to do something that I haven't even been sure of what I wanted it to be.

And then I read Stephanie Pearl McPhee's Yarn Harlot blog post for today.  It's her birthday, and altho' she doesn't usually work on her birthday, today she's been working - teaching workshops to creative people who gathered to share ideas and be inspired - and discovered that this work day is really a good birthday because she has been doing things she loves.  As she said:

"Yeah, I'm going to work a 12 hour day on my birthday ... but ... I'm so lucky that this is my work.  I'll be surrounded by people who have set aside a whole weekend to learn to make things, and celebrate being someone who makes things, and the whole day we'll talk about knitting, and how it works and every person here, every one of them, thinks that's not stupid."

The parts I really like in that quotation are "celebrate being someone who makes things" and "every person here ... thinks that's not stupid"

The celebration of herself is something beyond the "do what you love" idea from the '90s ... and I think it takes it several big steps forward.

It involves loving the act - the art/craft of knitting in Stephanie's case - and it involves a recognition and celebration of her good self.  And the shared joy in the activity bolsters the community.

I'm just thinking quietly to myself that I am a gardener.  I make gardens.  I am able to help other people make gardens.  That's good.  And I like it.  And I like myself for that.

Well, isn't that something!

Happy Birthday Stephanie!  Thanks for working on your birthday and touching me, as well as all the people who are in your workshop.

Best regards to all of you!

Wise Woman

Monday, May 18, 2015

heat, no rain and long roots ?

Hello Everyone,

Does this month seem to be going at double speed?  Does that have something to do with the over-warm weather and the lack of rain? (I live in Southwestern Ontario)  Is there any keeping up with the gardens?

Well ... as for the gardens, I'd'a thought things wouldn't be growing so fast because of the lack of rain.  However, the heat must be causing everything to leap up.  I've got several stalksof peach leaf bellflower that have full buds on them.  The Sweet Cicely is blooming - a gorgeous sweep of it at the front.  Tulips flower for about two days then fade.  I blink and mised the sweetbay magnolias.

The other hand of it? Seems to me a lot of seeds are really slow germinating, and the ones that have germinated - some kale and coriander, beets and spinach in the gardens ... well, the tiny plants seem to have stalled in growth.  I'm hoping that they are sending down really long roots into the soil, looking for moisture.

The seeds that haven't hesitated to germinate are - big surprise! - garlic mustard.  It's all over my place, and several other gardens I work in.

Just realized I was asleep at my keyboard ...that's another indicator of the weird weather ... but one I'd better pay attention to.

Signing off ... and sending best regards,

Why's Woman

Monday, April 27, 2015

plastic bag reduction ... failure

Hello everyone,

Hope this short note finds you well.

For the last while I've been working one day a week for a local market vendor.

I end up having to give a plastic carry bag to about 8 out of 10 people.

Where do these guys think they're shopping?  It's a market.  Bring your bags!

The environment movement has failed on this one.

And how did we end up with people making purchases for $2.70 on debit cards? And whatever happened to the retailers' campaign to tell people that it costs them (via retailers) more to use a credit card for electronic purchase than a debit card ... because retailers are charged more per purchase. 

And how is it that a city the size of this one hasn't a food recovery project like Second Harvest in Toronto?

I'll spare you a longer rant on food waste.

Thanks for letting me blow off some steam here.

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Organic Weed Control - exerpt from Jean-Martin Fortier's book!



Hello everyone!

I hope this note finds you well. I've been taking a break from the political to get out into the gardens, and it's so nice to get away from the computer and research and just get my hands dirty and scratched up. Today an email came in from Mother Earth News which led me to why ~ once more ~ I just love Mother Earth News magazine:

So-called natural organic herbicides claiming to control weeds may do so in the short term, but they destroy the long-term biological health of the soil.
                                                            The Market Gardener, (New Society Publishers, 2014) by Jean-Martin Fortier

I didn't have Fortier's succinct words the other day to tell someone I was gardening for that it had not been a good strategy when her late husband would use "some really great stuff" he had that (supposedly) controlled "just the grass" in her flower beds.  She then went on to say that the Ontario government - in its folly at putting in the Ontario cosmetic pesticide regulations of 2008/9 - had banned whatever it was he'd used.

I'm not sure how I took on the particular gardening job I'm on, but I'll get through it.  I think the person is open to more environmentally sensitive methods.  After all, she loves her garden and says she wants butterflies and bees!  I'm so used to people who aren't already organic-minded, that meeting up with others throws me.  Opportunity!  I'll try to keep that in mind. 

Fortier goes on to say that:

For weed management practices to be both ecological and sustainable, a market gardener should rather look into careful planning for weed prevention and follow with effective and efficient weed control strategies. Dealing with weeds the organic way also takes persistence, the right tools, and innovative techniques.

                                                            The Market Gardener, (New Society Publishers, 2014) by Jean-Martin Fortier


I'm not a market gardener, but I always appreciate a practical, clear gardening book, and Fortier's sure is that.  With so much information that can be used in anyone's home or community garden!

Mother Earth News magazine has an excerpt about organic weed management, from Fortier's excellent book, online here:

I've just ordered my copy of the book from Mandala Books, and it is in the London Public Library too.

Thanks to Jean-Martin Fortier and his wife Maude-Hélène Desroches, who run Jardin de la Grelinette for the book, and thanks to Mother Earth News for bringing the excerpt to us.  They are saving the world in their full time!

Best regards to all of you!

Why's Woman

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

City Farmer ,,, ever hear of Harrowsmith? 1984

Hello Everyone!

Hope this note finds you well!

I've just had the darnedest thing happen: I ran across an article by Michael Levenston.

Now, if you follow these columns, you'll have heard me mention - thank - Michael Levenston for articles I've run across on his site City Farmer. City Farmer must surely be Canada's longest running urban agriculture website, and even non-profit (1978!): City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture.

The article I just ran across is titled Red Celery in the Sunshine, and is from Harrowsmith, April/May 1984.

For those of you below a certain age, or outside Canada, Harrowsmith, was a great Canadian magazine that began as what I'll call a Canadian counterpart to Mother Earth News or Organic Gardening.  It told us about gardening organically, how to live with less ... it was great.  Along its journey it got rather upscale, there were some falling outs, and then it disappeared. 

And I've just found a treasure trove of old issues of Harrowsmith ... right in my own kitchen.  Oh, I knew they were there ... lurking in a cut-down detergent box, on the bottom shelf of a pretty inaccessible shelf.  The ones from the 1980's were from the committed organic gardener who owned our house before we took it on.  The ones from the 1990s came from my husband or myself. 

Well, what brought them out (to dust!) to browse is my Christmas gift ... just finished now because everyone in the house got sick just before Christmas with the 3-week flu and it's taken months to catch up: a beautiful 5-shelf shelf, built by my brilliant husband, smooth as silk, stained a lovely reddish gold, sturdy, functional, fitting the space.  I love this shelf!  Thanks Chris!

Red Celery in the Sunshine talks about setting up City Farmer's gardens in the backyard of the Vancouver Energy Information Centre, near Maple Street and Sixth Avenue ... where it still is!!  The article talks about urban agriculture, biodynamics, food in the community, the importance of living soil, volunteers ... all the things some of us are trying to get across to some people today!

Back when the article was written, plans were afoot for a solar greenhouse!  Talk about City Farmer being ahead of the trend!  Apprenticeship programs had been in place since the garden began in 1981, under the management of Catherine Shapiro; 

Check the link to Michael's interview with Catherine, in 2007!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DY5wUYCZisg
     .... (I haven't found a site for Catherine Shapiro yet)

and the well-archived City Farmer site has Red Celery in the Sunshine online here:  http://www.cityfarmer.org/Harrowsmith1.html

The article gives inspiration to just get going on a project.  The history of City Farmer shows what happens when you do!

So, once again:  Thank you Michael!

Best regards to all!

Why's Woman

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Terry Pratchett ... We are left to rage and write





It’s not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren’t doing it. 
                        Terry Pratchett, from the foreword to The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Fantasy, by David Pringle




Hello Everyone,

I'm sitting, rather stunned ... browsing 'round the internet reading variations on the same reality:  Terry Pratchett died today, at home, in England.  
 
He must have set up ahead of time the announcement that went out over his Twitter feed ... one of his most important characters, Death, saying in unmistakeable capitals: “AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.”

... and the curiosity of the author as he began his next journey: “Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.”

Pratchett was good friends with author Neil Gamon, who wrote a while back about the coming death of Pratchett:

 “As Terry walks into the darkness much too soon, I find myself raging too: at the injustice that deprives us of – what? Another 20 or 30 books? Another shelf-full of ideas and glorious phrases and old friends and new, of stories in which people do what they really do best, which is use their heads to get themselves out of the trouble they got into by not thinking? ... “I rage at the imminent loss of my friend. And I think, ‘What would Terry do with this anger?’ Then I pick up my pen, and I start to write.”

So far, this little note is all I've written ... and, of course, most of the words aren't even mine.  I'm feeling a little numb.

But I'm sure I'll start raging about something soon, as soon as I read the news or my emails, listen to the radio or television, start thinking about Prime Minister Harper ...

... I'm feeling energy already.

Much love,

Why's Woman