Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Annual Guelph Organic Conference coming up

The annual Guelph Organic Conference - formerly known as the Canadian Organic Growers (or COG) conference - is coming up again at the end of next month. This is an event that's well worth the while for anyone interested in farming, gardening, seed purchasing, livestock raising, learning more about biodynamics & organics, checking out new Canadian organic products, meeting other farmers, and generally connecting with a group of likeminded others from across the country. It's a yearly highlight and veritable pilgrimmage for us (Greg & I have been attending the conference for more than 10 years, and had one of our first "dates" at the conference many years ago!). The conference includes workshops, keynote addresses, an organic dinner, a trade show & food expo, video and book rooms, and lots of time to catch up with old friends, and see favourite vendors (there's always a line-up at the Mapleton's organic icecream, even though it's often been a January blizzard outside!). The event is usually held on the last weekend of January, the perfect time to purchase your heirloom seeds and still have plenty of time to start your seedlings for spring. This year it will be from Jan 24-27, at the University of Guelph. More details at:

December chickens

The chickens are doing well. They still like to run around outside each day, unless there is a raging wind, ice rain, or blowing snow. They love to perch on the strawbales, or the new logs that Greg has placed in their run, so they can get their feet off of the cold snowy ground. So far we haven't had any terribly bitter cold nights where we have worried about whether to bring them inside somewhere, but we do continue to heat their coop with a heating lamp that's set on a timer. We will also wrap a tarp around the rest of their run to help keep the cold winds out. Each morning their water trough needs to be checked, the ice broken and water changed if it's frozen. It has been cold enough most nights/mornings that the water is frozen.

They are still laying about once every 1.5 days, only slightly less than in the summer, and have made a new "back up" nest in one of the strawbales inside their run (for when the other nest boxes are occupied). However, we have noticed their egg shells getting slightly softer, so have started to feed them crushed oyster shells as a supplemental form of calcium. They are just not getting as much in their regular diet as they did when they could forage in the garden for greens. They love to nibble at the frozen broccoli and kale stalks, which we hang in their run just at beak's-reach. Otherwise, the main part of their winter diet so far consists of the store-bought chicken feed, shredded carrots, rice & beans, warmed oatmeal, bread crumbs, sunflower & flax seeds, apple bits, raisins and other dried fruit, and any greens we can spare from our greenhouse. Next season I will plan to dehydrate as many greens (kale, broccoli leaves, chard) as possible, so as to have a steady supply for the winter diet. We haven't been able to find much information about winter chicken keeping in northern climates (zone 5-6 and colder), but know many local farmers obviously do keep chickens year-round and they seem to do just fine as long as they have a warm dry draft-free place to get away to.

a little bird told me craft sale!!

The first annual "a little bird told me" craft sale was a huge success! We were amazed at the turn-out, with estimated 200-250 people dropping by to browse the beautiful hand-made wares. The house was packed with guests from start to finish, and we could hardly have fit more people in. It really shows that people want to connect with each other, and people want to support local artists.

Thanks to all our amazing vendors, and all of you who came by to check out the sale! We even met some other urban chicken-keepers, and are still considering forming a chicken keeper alliance in the spring as part of an urban agriculture network. We made some great contacts with other local crafters & artists from our neighbourhood, and are beginning to make plans for a larger neighbourhood nulti-house art-walk for the spring/summer 2008. If you live in our area and want to get involved, please contact us! Otherwise, stay tuned...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

New cork kitchen floor

We've been busy around here the past few weeks, with renovations to our own kitchen (cork flooring, new larger sink, newly tiled counter, repainting) as well taking on a side job of installing bamboo flooring at a friend's new place.

We debated flooring options for our kitchen, wanting something ecologically sound, durable, affordable, and easy to keep clean. Our beautiful old pine floor was just getting too hard to maintain, with cracked boards that needed replacing as well as a huge job of stripping off decades worth of old paint. We finally decided to add a new cork floor over the existing pine boards. As the manufacturer says, it was quite easy to install, with no glues, nails, varnishes or other finishes. So far we've been quite happy with the results.

Some of the benefits that convinced us to go with cork are (taken from the Wicander's site):

- Cork flooring products are made from all natural raw materials; offering the resilience and excellent performance of cork as an insulator, while providing amazing decorative possibilities.
- The glue less joint systems of the cork flooring floating planks permits fast and efficient installation of the cork flooring on any level surface at all levels of the home.
- Cork floors can be installed in kitchens with good performance and protection from moisture.
- The raw material for cork floors is obtained by harvesting the cork oak tree bark; with the tree never being cut down. This enables the bark to regenerate itself within a few years. Cork floors are an ecologically sound building material which allows for continual harvesting of cork for centuries making it a renewable resource for generations to follow.
- During the production process of natural cork flooring products, we utilize 100% of the harvested materials with no waste produced.

- Cork Forests cover worldwide an area of 2.5 million ha, of which 1 million is located in Portugal (1/3 of the country). Other countries cork grows include: Algeria, Spain, Morocco, France, Italy and Tunisia.
- Cork is harvested from the beginning of June to the end of August. This is possible only every 9 years, 20 times all together.
- Cork is peeled only from the trunk and from branches of a specified circumference down to the thin reddish parent layer, below which new cork is growing (approx. 1.5-4mm per year)
- 20 % of the cork bark is left intact to protect the tree from drying up.

Environmentally Friendly- Cork Flooring is produced using all natural cork products which are harvested with no waste materials produced. This results in no damage to the tree or the environment in which it is harvested.
Durability- Cork flooring is remarkably resistant to wear, as it is less affected by impact and friction than other hard surfaces because of it cellular composition. Cork flooring offers great warranties.
Resiliency- When cork floors are subjected to pressure, the gas in the cells is compressed and volume reduces considerably. When released from pressure cork flooring recovers quickly to its original shape. Cork floors are gentle on your joints and soft underfoot.
Insulation- Because 90% of the cork tissue consists of gaseous matter, the density of cork is extremely low giving the material wonderful insulating properties, thermal as well as acoustical. Cork floors are warm and quiet underfoot.
Impermeability- The presence of Suberin, an inherent waxy substance, renders cork impervious
to both liquids and gases. As a result, it does not rot and may therefore be considered the best seal available. Cork floors are perfect for residential and light commercial applications.
Fire retardation- A natural fire retardant, cork flooring does not spread flames and does not release toxic gases during combustion.
Hypoallergenic- Cork flooring does not attract dust and consequently does not cause allergies.
Electrically Dissipative- Cork flooring does not produce static electricity making it suitable for rooms with electronic equipment and appliances.
Exact Milling- Cork floors have a UV finish prior to milling that guarantees a seamless varnish coat and a homogenous surface.
Easy to clean- Cork flooring can be easily maintained by vacuuming and damp mopping with approved cleaners.
Easy Installation- Cork floating flooring panels are easily installed without the use of special tools.
Suitable for Radiant Heating- Cork floating floors are suitable for installation over Hot water radiant heat systems, provided that the temperature does not exceed 81 degrees F.