Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Garden, garden, garden

Hello everyone,

Hope you are well.  What's coming up in your garden?  Or what are you noticing on your walks, if you don't have a garden?  We had some rain yesterday, and it's washed away much of the dust that settled on last year's plants as the snow melted.  What this means is: the yard still needs cleaning and clearing, but there's  greenness to things instead of grey/brown.  This may no sound like much, but it is! 

And ... it makes it easier to see where the little nubbins of plants are starting to come up.  Scylla are coming through, with their leaves separating from the stems; no flower buds yet.  There curled grey/green leaves at soil level and they'll be centaurea dealbata (a magenta flowering plant I think of as a variant of cornflower). Swiss chard are coming up, wrinkled leaves like a collapsible umbrella; they need about two days to unfold. There are some lamb's ears leaves which were fuzzy and soft in today's sunshine.  Costmary is back ... costmary has doubled its area since last spring and is going to go to several new homes.   I ate a peppermint leaf, just a wee one at ground level.  Ate an oregano leaf, from one of the white-flowering oregano plants I propagated from the Cooper Street garden and brought into the nursery bed.  I also ate a catnip leaf.  Catnip leaves are quite sharp tasting anytime; I think in the spring they are double-filled with nip.  Don't eat catnip leaves when they are full of springtime.

I saw one tulip leaf in a vegetable bed (squirrel transfer).  The daffodils - 4 inches of green so far - have increased at the far end of a vegetable bed where I've said for at least ten years: "this year I'll move them to a flower bed once they've done blooming".  There are two clumps of snowdrops amidst the periwinkle at the end of the block (squirrel transfer). There are still Tulipa tarda in the herb garden; there are 6 green points coming up through the thyme.  And the orange balsam thyme came through the winter beautifully; perhaps because there was so much snow it was well insulated.

All the Attar of Roses geranium cuttings I took have new leaf growth, which means they are developing roots under the soil.  Only one of the 19 begonia cuttings has died off.  Tomato seedlings are at the first leaf stage, three Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) have germinated. 

The accumulation of compost in the one bin remains for the most part frozen (it's in a sheltered area) and we've hidden it by dumping two bags of leaves on top of it. 

I have not resisted the urge to rake up and cut back stalks of plants.  I'm trying to leave soft grass and leaves and small decomposable vegetation on all the beds.  No bare soil.

I need 10 bales of straw for mulch. 

We collected about 100 bags of leaves last fall; 40 were put in place immediately.  About ten of them went overtop of an area of light branches and vegetation.  The area was piled to about 3 feet.  It's at two feet now and when everything decomposes it'll make maybe 2 inches of soil.  But I can put soil on top later in the season and plant squash.

This is the year I regain control over the hops.  I understand why the customer who gave me the hops roots 5 years ago thought it was funny as anything hat I wanted hops.  I will never gain control over the hops, but I think that I can harvest the stems (which seem similar to grapevine) and weave about 6 Christmas wreaths for gifts this year. 

That's enough listing for now.

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

An urban forest strategy ... moving forward

Hello everyone,

Happy April Fool's Day!

I won't write a joke article.  I'm at my worst as far as humour goes when I try.

During March, I continued research into the topic of neonicotinoid pesticides and pollinators.  Basically, that class of insecticides kills 'em.  Of particular concern and media attention is that the Neonics (as they get shortformed) kill bees, the best known and most prevalent pollinators.  I made a presentation to the Advisory Committees on Environment at City Hall, and a subcommittee formed and just had its first meeting.  We hope to put together a succinct report that can make its way through City Hall and - ultimate goal - the city will make a statement that it will do all that it can to support and devise ways to make the city a sanctuary for pollinators.

Also in my city ...

... after much work over the last few years an Urban Forest Strategy document has been written. It's involved meetings of citizens, City staff from many departments, and work by members of  the Trees and Forests Advisory Committee.  An outside consultant did the final work and report so that a fresh eye could get an overall view of the work, which is sensible I think. (I find it hard to edit my own writing, for example, but can zero in on typos and structural problems in someone else'.)

The draft Urban Forest Strategy document was presented to the Trees and Forests Advisory Committee, for any last comments and approval to go on to the next level at City Hall.  Some last minute community support came forward to request that "produce food" be written in as one of the goals of the strategy, beyond its inclusion in the main body of text.  Two excellent presentations on the importance of food producing trees were made at the TFAC (and about 8 other letters came in) and after some conversation and excellent questions and answers (both) TFAC worked out the wording for their recommendations.

I came out of that meeting so happy.

And you all know how seldom I feel that after any meeting at city hall.

It'll take a month or two or three to get the report to the next level, but it is strong and it will get through to Council and be endorsed.  It'll be a way forward to protect and increase our urban forest, and include a wider variety of native trees and food-producing trees in naturalizing areas, environmentally sensitive areas, and in all sorts of community locales ... and encourage individuals to plant them too.

No fooling at all today.

Very best regards,

Why's Woman

Friday, March 21, 2014

Ontario Bee Health report is a reason to comment about neonicotinoid pesticides

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all well, and have your keyboards at hand.

The overdue report (http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/about/beehealthworkinggroupreport.pdf) by the Ontario Bee Health Working Group (http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/about/beehealthworkinggroup.htm) was published on March 19/14.  It does not recommend a moratorium on neonicotinoid pesticides.

Neonicotinoids are systemic insecticides that last for a year or more while travelling through soil/water courses.  They kills bees, and/or affects their ability to forage, fly, locate themselves and reproduce; they also have bad effects on other pollinators, arthropods and birds

The National Farmers Union has issued a press release which says:
"The recently released Ontario Bee Health Working Group Report is another case of "corporate profits trumping ecological needs," according to National Farmers Union (NFU) Vice President of Policy and Ontario farmer, Ann Slater.
... "This approach will allow chemical and seed companies to continue to sell farmers seed treated with neonicotinoid insecticides but will do little to protect bees or our natural and agricultural ecosystems." 
 "The report is a missed opportunity to promote the use of more ecological farm practices such as complex crop rotations, as well as to show a real commitment to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices, which recommends that pesticides be used only when there is a demonstrated pest problem instead of as routine practice," states Slater." 
It goes on to say that the National Farmers Union is "glad to see Minister of Agriculture and Food, Hon. Kathleen Wynne's commitment to establish a new Ontario Pollinator Health Working Group with an expanded focus beyond bees.  “This indicates some understanding on the part of Premier Wynne that the implications of neonicotinoids have broader ecological implications,” said Eatwell.  “I encourage the Premier to give a greater role to ecological and organic farmers along with bee keepers in the new working group and to limit the involvement of Syngenta, Bayer CropScience and organizations representing multinational chemical and seed companies.  This new group must be able to recommend actions that put the health of pollinators and our natural and agricultural ecosystems first.” (said NFU vice president for Policy, Karen Eatwell)

I admit that as of the date of this post, I've been too annoyed to read the entire OBHWG report.  I've got to get in the right frame of mind to plow through the ... deleted several things #*#*#*#*# ... text.   But I'll be writing Agriculture Minister / Premier Wynne and encourage you to read the report and write to say whatever you need to say about this issue.  This may be done directly through the Premier's website: http://correspondence.premier.gov.on.ca/en/feedback/default.aspx  or email premier@ontario.ca or via the Ministry of Agriculture minister.omaf@ontario.ca or phone 416-326-3074
with definitely send a copy to the National Farmers Union, via Karen Eatwell, NFU Acting Region 3 (Ontario) Coordinator, 519-232-4105, president@nfuontario.ca
and if you want to bother, a copy to the Debra Sikora, head of the Ontario Bee Health Working Group (OMAFRA)" <Debra.Sikora@ontario.ca>


On the positive side, there are pollinator garden projects going in my city, and everywhere.  People care that bees are in trouble.  People care about Monarch butterflies crashed population and even the Ontario government is taking milkweed off the noxious weed list.

We've got winter aconite blooming up against the sunny side of the house where the snow melted.  I'm going to go outside and enjoy that for a while.

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Frugality Quiz - part 1

Hello everyone,

It's been a few weeks, hasn't it?  Hope you are all well.

During the last few weeks I've been in charge of a meeting, made a presentation to a city committee, and done all the background work on those things.  It's amazing how long checking quotations takes.

Earlier today I was listening to CBC Radio 1 - a piece about how to make your wedding cost less money.  Fancy weddings and spending money on them are completely out of my realm, but I just found myself thinking about frugality and flannelette sheets.  So, here's part 1 of the frugality quiz.

1.  Do you head for the second hand linens table first when you go to a church rummage sale?
a.  Ick!  Rummage sale?!!  Why would I want someone else' old stuff?
b.  No ...  because I'm usually headed for books or clothes
c.  Absolutely!  They're good for dishclothes and dusting, paint rags and pretty near every sort of cleaning.

2  When your son brings you a flannelette sheet that's torn in the washing machine, you:
a)  Tell him to handle his laundry more carefully.
b)  Tell him to toss it out.
c)  Bake a pie for a special dessert.

3.  Where do you keep your flannelette dusting squares?
a.  Stuffed in a lower kitchen cupboard.
b.  Tossed in a plastic grocery box that's stuffed in a lower kitchen cupboard
c.  Folded and stacked in a pretty tissue box (they're just the right size!), handy on the kitchen counter or bathroom window ledge.

4.  Would you ever consider giving your old flannelette sheets to a second hand store?
a)  Of course.
b)  Are you crazy?
c)  What's that "cold, dead hands" quotation?  Oh ... that's about guns

Best regards,

Why's Woman  :-)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"get ready for more than 200 words" on the big topics

Hello all,

I hope this post finds you well.

I was speaking recently with someone on the topic of neonicotinoid pesticides, bees, critters being harmed ... and that led to the idea of "having everyone at the table" in order to solve problems. 
My philosophical self says, yes, I suppose you have to have the manufacturers of the poisons at the discussion tables, symposiums, study groups. My cynic self remembers the wise joke "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" while wishing "the other side" didn't take up so much time on the part of the people trying to save the world.  Really, there is a limit to our spare time.
For example, sorting out just one interview or article by a spokesperson for a major corporate lobby group takes up a lot of time:
- tracking down a statement in a report that s/he has taken out of context, and understanding the context
- figuring out how not-associated numbers have been associated ... then refiguring what the important numbers are and what they mean
- recognizing a detail that has been a focal point, to the exclusion of 10 other related things

And then, how to convey to the audience already spoken to that there are the10 plus 1 things that need to be looked at, and the numbers they heard were (at best) misleading, and the study quoted actually was about the opposite of what was said.
And, so often, response time is missed in the time taken to get the correct information. The phrase "yesterday's news" does refer to both something out of date and that no one wants to hear about.
What are the attributes of effective activist for social justice and change groups?  Whew!  There's a topic!

Have you ever read Barbara Kingsolver's book of essays, Small Wonder?  It came out in 2002.  In an essay,  A Fist in the Eye of God, she recalls a friend asked, "can you tell me about GMOs in 200 words or less?" and she replied - because the topic is not a sound byte topic:

"Sit down, I'll make you a cup of tea, and then get ready for more than two hundred words."

Many topics are like this: neonicotinoids and pesticides in general, genetic modification of plants, organic agriculture (to name just some in my area of interest).

The Fist in the Eye of God essay is a wonderful explanation of and commentary on genetic modification of seeds.  The entire Small Wonder book is filled with great ideas and images. It touches on food security, war, chickens, and family. 
I leave you with the suggestion to run down to your nearest library and take out a copy, or buy it, or borrow it.
All for now.
Best regards, as always,
Why's Woman

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Canada has more libraries than there are McDonalds

Hi everyone,

I hope you've had a pleasant weekend ... maybe enjoyed sunshine ... which I sure did today.  There's still a lot of ice on the sidewalks, but the sky was blue the whole time I walked downtown.

Just a bit of trivia ... from the Yes! magazine site, where I flipped to because I really wanted a bit of positive news and that journal always has some.

There are more library branches in Canada than there are McDonalds.

2996 public library branches in 595 library boards and only 1400 McDonalds.

Admittedly, there are 3000 Tim Hortons locations, but I won't get grumpy about that because I depend on Tim for coffee and writing space when I'm out.  And, that's really close.  I mean, a few Tims could close at a franchise's notice.  Libraries last.

Thanks to Yes!Magazine's latest issue for the idea to look up the number of libraries in Canada. It's article about 24 things we should know tells us that there are more libraries than McDonald's outlets in the United States. (17,000:14,000).  Hurray for that too!

Best regards,

Why's Woman

The "natural" way to increase your advertising revenue

Hello everyone,
A friend who knows my weird sense of humour sent me a wonderful satire on advertising ... or, perhaps, it's not satire.  It's how advertising really works?
You'll have to click twice ... the first takes you to the fellow who sent it to my friend, then click from his site.
There's a lot to learn here.  I hope you enjoy this!
Best regards,
Why's Woman