Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Late October garden tasks

We're looking forward to the winter months, where we take time to reflect, read, research and plan for next season's activities. One point that I took from Vandana Shiva's presentation at the university last week was the imperative to link ecological food production, poverty reduction, and climate change together - any solutions or actions we come up with should be addressing all three areas to be truly effective and sustainable. I hope to delve more into this topic through her latest book, Soil not Oil, this winter. Also, included on the ever expanding reading list are Arundrati Roy's Living with Grasshoppers, Novella Carpenter's urban farming book, a SPIN-Farming manual, and Eliot Coleman's Winter Harvest Handbook, as well as a few crafting books like the Handmade Home (I plan to keep my basket of sewing right near the woodstove, so I take real time to settle down and work on some projects each day). By the way, yes, we did finally take the plunge and decide on a woodstove - a small Jotul model - it has arrived and is awaiting installation. More on this in another post when we install it, light the first fire, warm a pot of soup on the cookplate and take a few photos...

For fall wrap up we are now pretty much done in the yard and garden. Seeds collected, vines pulled out, mulch spread, compost turned, winter greens planted...The garlic still needs to be planted, and as we are planning on reworking out garden layout for next year (putting in smaller 30-inch wide beds, instead of 48-inch as we now have them, and narrower paths - all to maximize our growing potential), I have yet to measure out where to plant garlic so it will be in a proper bed next season. The coldframe has been planted with greens, spinach, chard, herbs, chicory, and mizuna, and the plastic cover is reinstalled to keep the bed warm on sunny winter days. We need to transplant some flats of seedlings into the greenhouse beds (various lettuces for winter consumption) and then we're ready for winter.

2nd annual Central Art Walk & Studio Tour successful!

We had a busy Saturday opening our home to the art walk masses and hosting four talented artists for the 2nd annual Central Art Walk and Studio Tour. A few photos here show some of the felted wool vegetables, woolen reconstructed clothing, natural soaps and herbal products, pottery, jewelry, and wooden games. There were 16 houses participating, with over 30 artists in total during this all day walking tour of the neighbourhood. We estimated about 150 people dropped by - it was great to meet so many new folks from the neighbourhood and beyond - thanks to everyone who came out to support this event! This is such an important event for the neighbourhood to be a part of, showcasing hidden talents and bringing people out onto the streets to meet each other and support local art. We're looking forward to next year already...(and, for all the cupcake fans, sorry we didn't have enough to go around this time).

Bring Food Home conference, March 4-6, 2010 in Kitchener connects sustainable food and farming

Bring Food Home 2010

Bring Food Home – Connecting Ontario Farm and Food Networks
Provincial Conference, March 4-6 at the Kitchener Delta Hotel.

“Bring food home” is a seemingly simple directive, one that immediately brings to mind a shopping cart and a family dinner table. But in the case of the upcoming conference sponsored by Sustain Ontario, FoodNet Ontario and other partners it means so much more.

To a low-income earner bringing food home necessitates sometimes difficult choices. It may be the choice between nutrition and empty, hunger-abating calories or the choice between food and some of the other necessities of life. To someone who works in their community promoting healthy choices, bringing food home encompasses the areas of nutrition, health, education and community engagement. Farmers, challenged by a global trading system that places control and profits in the hands of a few multinationals, are re-examining the opportunities to bring food home to local consumers. Others, conscious of the challenges of climate change, peak energy and environmental degradation, see the decision-making power that brings food home as a universal right. To a community, bringing food home is part of the discussion and planning to develop a local sustainable food system.

The conference will bring together a broad range of participants from diverse regions and sectors, including farmers, food enterprises, health promoters, community groups and government organizations. The purpose of this gathering is to facilitate our learning and working together to create food systems that are healthy, just, accessible, culturally appropriate, financially viable and sustainable.

The Conference has been organized into the following streams:
· Training for Emerging Farmers
· Community Food Security
· Strengthening Regional Economies
· Sustaining Food Production – Farm, City and Countryside

To date we have confirmed Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm and of Food, Inc. fame as one of several keynote speakers, as well as Martin Gooch from the George Morris Centre who will lead a workshop in value chain management. The FarmOn Alliance is planning a whole day of events related to new farmer training.

Opportunities for Action - urban agriculture symposium coming up Nov 20 in Guelph

Opportunities for Action: An Urban Agriculture Symposium

There is an urban agriculture symposium being organized in Guelph for Fri, Nov 20 - above is the poster, below is the invitation letter:

Dear Urban Aggies and Friends of Urban Agriculture, Municipal planners, Community and Backyard Gardeners, Environmentalists, Business entrepreneurs, Student’s, Academics, Social innovators, Government officials, Farmers, engaged citizens and local food supporters;

On Friday November 20th 2009 Backyard Bounty and the University of Guelph will be hosting the first symposium on urban agriculture in Guelph. Opportunities for Action: An Urban Agriculture Symposium will bring together the movers and shakers in the Urban Agriculture scene. The Symposium aims to not only inspire action but address key issues and provide connections that enable the Urban Agriculture movement to advance.

The morning will start with a keynote presentation from Dr. Karen Landman who will inspire us with stories of her summer tour of urban agriculture projects across North America. A panel discussion will follow that brings together experience and ideas from those near and far working in the field of urban agriculture. During the afternoon participants will take part in an interactive facilitation process to identify common barriers, seek feasible solutions and set achievable actions. A local lunch and snacks will be provided.

In partnership with Guelph-Wellington Local Food Initiative, City of Guelph Healthy Landscapes project, The Organic Conference, Chris Jess and his army of Locavores. We invite you to join us!

Please register at:

Shannon Lee Stirling

Project Co-ordinator

Backyard Bounty

See below for schedule of the day’s events and rates!

Opportunities For Action: An Urban Agriculture Symposium

This Symposium has arisen out of a need to bring together and build the capacity of the Urban Agriculture movement. Those in attendance will meet with like-minded people and leaders in the field. They will share ideas and make connections with others involved in urban agriculture. The afternoon’s facilitated process, with allow for interaction between various sectors of the movement, and form a dialogue to help better understand and develop collaborative solutions.

Conference Schedule

8:30am -Registration

9am - Keynote Dr; Karen Landman will speak about her recent North American tour of Urban Agriculture Projects

10:15 - PanelHow Can We Move Urban Agriculture Forward?

Experts that will be joining us include:

Paul Winstanley is an urban farmer from Victoria, British Columbia who has been raising chickens and growing food in the city for 8 years.

Katherine Pigott has worked at Region of Waterloo Public Health since March 2000. A key part of her role has been the development of a comprehensive local food systems planning approach in Waterloo Region as Manager of the Healthy Communities and Policy Team. Katherine has over twenty years experience in community based program development, planning, and systems change that has spanned economic development, health promotion and environmental planning.

Katherine is an avid cyclist, distance runner and gardener and lives in downtown Kitchener. She serves of the Board of Directors of the Association of Health Centres of Ontario and on the Steering Committee of Food Secure Canada.

Tracey Tomlik formerly a student of the University of Guelph, now resides on the East coast. She will return to share with us an Urban Perma-culture plan she has designed for the city of Guelph.

More presenters and information to come!!!

Noon- Lunch & networking

One of the most valuable parts of a conference is the connection’s made, so we are planning a long lunch to provide room for this. We are also in the lovely arboretum setting and encourage you to enjoy walk about, you may even spot GCOUF (Guelph Centre for Urban Organic Farming)!

1:30- Interactive Facilitation Process

We are working with a group of students from the University of Guelph to develop an interactive facilitation process that will empower individuals to work as a team! Participants will have the chance to connect with both those that are working in similar capacities and also those with which they may share compatible goals. We will discuss our various projects, resources, experiences and methods. The aim of the process will be to seek ways we can all cooperate to meet our goals and the larger goal of seeing progress in the field of Urban Agriculture!

4:30- Closing remarks


Early bird before November 1st

Industry, Academic, government: $90 includes keynote

Producers and Other: $20 includes keynote

Keynote only: $10

After November 1st

Industry, Academic, government: $100

Producers and Other: $25

Final registration date Nov 13th

Symposium Fee (Circle One):

Early Bird Before Nov 1st

After Nov 1st

Industry, Academic, government: $90

Industry, Academic, government: $100

Producers and Other: $20

Producers and Other: $25

Keynote only $10

Keynote only $15

Final registration date Nov 13th !!!!!!!

Cheques payable to University of Guelph.

Please Mail registration and payment to:

c/o Beth Livingstone

Crop Science Building

University of Guelph

Guelph, OntarioN1G 2W1

Questions regarding registration: or 519-824-4120 ext 52783

Questions regarding symposium or 519-803-2539

Friday, October 16, 2009

Vandana Shiva - speaking locally Oct 21 and 22, on Earth Democracy

The UW Hagey Lecture Series
with the support of Alternatives Journal and WPIRG
presents the 2009 Hagey Lecture

Vandana Shiva: Earth Democracy

LECTURE: Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009 at 8 p.m.
Humanities Theatre, J.G. Hagey Hall of the Humanities, UWaterloo
No ticket is required, but free registration is appreciated here

* * *

COLLOQUIUM: The next day –Thursday, Oct. 22, Shiva will address a student colloquium with a talk entitled Soil Not Oil: Food Security in Times of Climate Change. The colloquium begins at 9:30 a.m. in Environment 1 building, room 221.

WPIRG and Alternatives will be present to offer students an opportunity to become involved in local initiatives that reflect Vandana Shiva’s ideas and values.

Award-winning ecologist Vandana Shiva will propose a new form of democracy to counter financial, social and climate meltdowns in her talk: “Earth Democracy: Beyond Dead Democracy and Killing Economies”

Shiva will discuss her views on why democracy is under siege, yielding to both corporate dictatorship and violent extremism from excluded elements of society. "The triple crisis," she says, "needs a new imagination that transforms the dominant economic systems, political systems and socio-cultural systems into living systems that serve the planet and people. I call this re-imagining of society 'Earth Democracy'."

In India, Shiva established Navdanya, a movement for biodiversity, conservation and farmers' rights. Navdanya means the nine crops that represent India's collective source of food security. She also launched a school for sustainability on the Navdanya Biodiversity Farm in north India.

As well, Shiva is the founding director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, a network of researchers specializing in ecology, health and sustainability. She serves on the boards of the International Forum on Globalization and the World Future Council. She is the vice-president of a global movement called Slow Food International.

Shiva, who completed her PhD at the University of Western Ontario in 1978, is a physicist and philosopher of science, as well as an ecologist, activist, editor and author of many books. Her most recent books are Earth Democracy and Water Wars.

Shiva was a recipient of the 1993 Right Livelihood Award - considered the Alternative Nobel Prize. The award recognizes "vision and work contributing to making life more whole, healing the planet and uplifting humanity."

Hagey lecturers have distinguished themselves in some scholarly or creative field and their work cuts across traditional disciplines and national boundaries. Previous lecturers have included Nobel laureates in various disciplines, internationally renowned scholars, architects, peace activists, and well-known artists.

100-Mile Thanksgiving Manitoba, AND the Landless Farmers Collective

I had the fortunate opportunity to travel out west to see family over Thanksgiving. Manitoba is a province that is proud of its farmers, having always been supportive of their local growers and producers. The 100-Mile / eating locally / locavore idea has caught on quickly, with many more tasty options available than would at first have been imagined in a province with long winters and shorter growing season than Ontario. In particular, I found there are many more locally grown organic grains available, as well as some exciting urban farm initiatives going on in Winnipeg.

My family has been happily growing, picking, sourcing, and preserving local foods all season and treated us to an amazing harvest feast. Here's what we had...

From my parent's garden: fresh garden tomatoes, and grapes saved from the last grapevine,
From a friend's organic farm and preserved by my mom: homemade crab-apple sauce, pickled cucumbers and beets, apples and lentils for a vegetarian salad, peas and corn,
From a local organic grain farm and baked by my mom: homemade bread (made of local grains - rye, spelt, wheat, flax), with local butter,
From my sister's partners urban farm (an very innovative project called the Landless Farmers Collective): potatoes, herbs, kale, and homemade apple cider from wildcrafted apples,
From another nearby farm: for the carnivores a free-range turkey,
For dessert of course there were homemade local apple and pumpkin pies, with whole wheat crusts, and a taste of maple syrup from urban tapping of 10 downtown maple trees,
and I brought along herbal tea from our garden. Mmmmm...

More on the Landless Farmers Collective - they are a group of 4 people who had been farming with an organic CSA just outside of the city. They decided to do an urban farm (market garden and CSA) this season, and be able to deliver the produce by bicycle, trailer and cargo bicycle. They approached the city about using a large parcel of downtown land, just infront of the Pan Am Centre and near a highschool. They received approval to till up the land, and set up about 1/2 an acre of raised beds in permaculture style. The garden is gorgeous, with curves and spirals, and not many straight-lined rows to be seen. The group received several grants to help with capital costs (trailers, storage bins, tools), including money from the city, province and also Heifer International. Not a small feat, to be planning a huge garden, marketing your sales, working with volunteers and the community, and also applying for grant money! That's another reason why a collective of four people works well, using each of their strengths in different ways to get the various aspects of the project done. The Landless Farmers Collective also values education, and worked with teachers at the highschool to bring the students out of the classroom and into the garden throughout the season. The week I was in Winnipeg, the group had their last session with the students, showing them the final harvest, talking about winter gardening, demonstrating hands-on seed saving, and reiterating the problems in our global food system, the importance of local food security (and what we can do about it locally). A very inspiring project!

New Farmers & Crafters Market in uptown Waterloo

Exciting! For those who haven't seen the signs, or stopped by the new market yet, there is now a Thursday evening Farmers & Crafters Market in uptown Waterloo! Located in the new town square, from 4 pm-8 pm every Thursday in October, this new market hopes to draw on small-scale producers, urban farmers, and local crafts/artisans. Only one more week left for this season, but the plan is to reopen again in the spring for a full season!

For more info go to:

Friday, October 02, 2009

Lime Plaster Finished!

Our strawbale house is nearly finished! There are now three coats of lime on the exterior walls, and we are rodent and weather proof (let's hope!). And good thing, as it's a very cold drizzly rain outside today and we sure don't feel like applying more lime out there right now. The house could use one more coat, which may happen next week, but for now we are at least ready to go for winter weather. On the weekend we are planning to move our fence and build a new front deck/stair coming

Blogged by Margaret Atwood!

Last week we were given a short mention on Margaret Atwood's blog, on the Globe and Mail website!

From the Globe and Mail website - Margaret Atwood's blog:
Margaret Atwood writes about her visit to Kitchener:

"At the special lunch, at which Mayor Carl Zehr was present – I don’t always get mayors! – and at which I got an earful about the need for better train connections to Toronto – anyone listening? -- I was given – Yes! – some organic coffee and a basket containing many organic treats, including some Homestead Herbals from Little City Farm, an Eco-Bed and Breakfast, and some honey from Knechtel Apiaries in Wellesley.

There was also a plantable wildflower bookmark from, a lovely tribute book about farmers (Keepers of the Land: Hiebert and Cripps), and a Buy Local, Buy Fresh map guide to local food in the area. Ironically, one of its sponsors is the Government of Canada, which at the moment is planning to close down all of its local-food-crucial prison farms under the pretense that the farming skills taught at them and thus by extension the food grown at them are “useless.” Listen to that, Keepers of the Land! Do I hear some growls? I certainly hope so! (Write to the Hon. Peter Van Loan and tell him you aren’t useless.)"

Canadian Wildlife Federation backyard wildlife friendly certification

We applied to the Canadian Wildlife Federation backyard wildlife friendly certification, called the Backyard Habitat Program. This application is open to any homeowner, and involves a complete description of property listing food, water, shelter and space elements to attract wildlife - listing plants on property which are fruit, nut, or seed bearing, perennial, native to the area, as well as what types of pollinators, birds and other wildlife frequent the property. Also important are water features, compost, and organic methods, water conservation measures, etc. For more details on this certification and how to apply go to the CWF website at:

Herb Shares for 2009 members

This past week seemed to fly by - the weather was still warm during the daytimes, but getting cool at night with risk of first frost in our area. Many of the farms outside the city have already had first frost, but we've been more sheltered here. However, we did decide to harvest all the last tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, as well as cover our greens, chard, zucchini and basil in hopes of keeping them going for a few more weeks if possible. Also gathering seeds, cutting last herbs to dry, and preparing more cold frames.

The herb shares for this season were also completed, and members came to pick them up this past weekend. Herb shares work like a vegetable CSA, in that members pre-pay at the start of the season and that allows me to know how many herbs to plant and harvest, and how many products to prepare. For this season they included salves, teas, tinctures, soap, cough syrup, migraine oil - and for next season I hope to also offer fresh and dried herb bunches (medicinal and culinary).