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!
     .... (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:

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

Monday, March 9, 2015

Food related programs - saving the world in their own time


I hope this note finds you well. How's the weather your way?  We've finally had some temperatures over freezing!  And all our seed orders have arrived.  There has to be spring!

I've been thinking about the title here - Saving the World in My Spare Time -and thought I'd just put down some of the organizations and events that have crossed my path lately, because they are all saving the world, in the spare time of volunteers and some paid staff.

The Pod Knowledge Exchange -
Online, you can find out about food issues, styles of local food security organizations, and find resources to help you find ways that your community can be more food secure.

The Pod is a part of the work of Community Food Centres Canada ( which helps community food centres across the country share information and celebrations, and learn about issues and how to do more effectively the work they do.

USC-Canada is focused on building agricultural resilience through ecological agriculture. Programs are in areas of seed security and diversity, climate change adaptation and mitigation, rural economies, gender equality, and young farmers.  Its core values of rights, resilience and respect have been with USC Canada since its beginning, which is all the way back to 1945 when a Czech refugee, Dr. Lotta Hitchmanova, founded the organization to help children suffering after the second world war.
USC-Canada has a new program, I Am a Seed Saver, to celebrate the importance of seeds for food security. To meet some seed savers: check here.

The Bauta Family Initiative on Seed Security in Canada is a partnership of USC-Canada and Seeds of Diversity Canada, working to find which farmers are saving seed across the country, encouraging more seed saving, and educating about its importance.

All those programs have volunteers ... saving the world in their spare time.

Ah! It's good to remember these good things sometimes!

Very best regards,

Why's Woman

Friday, February 13, 2015

Raising the Bar at Federation of Canadian Municipalities Sustainability Conference

Hello Everyone,

I hope this day finds you well.  We're continuing to have cold weather and this morning there was a dusting of new snow ... which in the sunshine just sparkled!  I don't mind that at all.

Something rather important happened in London over the last few days.  The City hosted planners and politicians  who are members of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities for sessions on sustainability topics.  And a new thing that was arranged was to have 50 local citizens who are members of various environment and community groups be in a think tank sort of session with 50 FCM delegates.

I got to be there, and it was pretty neat! 

The important comments are often overheard in the women's washroom, such as: "This is a great session, great exchange of ideas!" 

It doesn't matter a bit that some ideas came up that some of us had heard before.  Yesterday's session was between people from a lot of different places.  They hadn't heard some of our experiences and we hadn't heard their experiences and projects.  Even people here in London heard about projects they hadn't known about in London.  A lot of business cards and emails were exchanged.  No doubt today the connections started.

And yeah, there was fair bit of mutual admiration, and back patting.  But the thing is, if this was the first time for such an exchange of ideas between planners/politicians from 'cross country and "locals" in the hosting city - and it was the first time - then surely all of us who attended should take a bit of time before a critical or cynical mind kicks in and just think "wow, a step in a good direction".

Another important thing for this session is that we will be getting notes from it.  And there will be follow up for us Londoners at a June date.  I know I always need post-meeting think time to reread notes (I took lots at my table), add more notes in pink pen, and jot ideas about follow up and related things.

One FCM delegate thanked the London organizers and said that after three days her "bucket was full".  Her brain was loaded with information and ideas.  But she was so pleased to have been at those three days.  I spoke with her at the end of the day, and felt kind of proud ... and I hadn't even had anything to do with organizing the event!  I'd just shown up and gotten free lunch and great conversation.

The City staff person behind the event is Jay Stanford, head of environment services.  Enthusiastic, forward-thinking and a planner.  And a real stickler for keeping on task!  Thank you for all the work you did to get this community session.  Any future FCM conferences on sustainability (and maybe generally) will have to have such a host community / delegate session.  There's no going back from this!

So, I've had a good couple of days.  And my own bucket sure is full.

Sending best regards to all,

Why's Woman