halifaxearthtech: Mysore fruit seller (Food)

As we order seeds and start them on our windowsills and kitchen tables, the last thing we probably want to think about are supplies of local vegetables for next winter. So I'll keep it short: order your brussels sprout, chard and endive seeds now, sow and forget. In ten months you'll be glad you did.

Belgian endive flowers
Belgian Endive flowers are highly ornamental

Here are Belgian Endives I grew last summer. The beautiful mauve blossoms and roseatte of green leaves are too bitter to eat in the summertime. They were developed for a practice known as "Forcing": the brutal art of causing a plant to use up it's winter root stores to create blanched leaves of a delicate flavour in the absence of light in your basement.
Winter-forced endives
The endive forced into winter production (picture by 3.0 from Wikimedia)

You've probably seen these torpedo-shaped salad greens in select grocery stores. They are much cheaper to create on your own with a little effort. These endives were grown in my furnace room, lights-off. If you don't get around to growing endives or are short on space, you can force dandelion roots too.

After a winter of cruel and unusual agriculture, my endives are greening up nicely in my porch. I will set them out again to gather another summers-worth of energy for future basement exploits.

 Endives turn green again in spring

The endive returns to bitter-tasting life in spring's sunlight
You can read about the impressive nutritional benefits of endive on their Wikipedia page

halifaxearthtech: (Default)
If you have a garden, you need to have on-site compost. here's why.

Composting corrects nutrient mining from farms by cities

One could consider composting to be a process of enriching your own land with fertility you've bought from farms. You've only eaten it first. When you send away your compost the city profits from your organics, which are then sold to landscaping companies to fertilize ornamental gardens.

During the second world war and before, micronutrients (vegetables and fruits giving vitamins and minerals) used to be produced at home, while macronutrients (carbs, fats and protein-and yes, fat is a nutrient, we need it to survive) were grown in the more spaceous lands of the agricultural hinterland and brought into cities. this meant that foods that demand a higher nautrient input, vegetables, were produced closer to home, where the nutrients could ultimately be composted back into the soil. Foods like grains or meats returned much of their fertility back to the farm's soil as chaff or manure and hides and other unused body, with only part of their total value being sent into the city. This represented a more economical transfer of soil nutrients, with less being sent from farms into cities.

Compost reduces the effects of acid rain

I worked at the home of one client who had gardened and home-composted on the Halifax peninsula for three decades. She had her garden soil tested by the Agricultural College at Truro and discovered that her soil was chemically neutral. No small feat in a part of the country with acidic bedrock and industrially produced acid rain. I credit the compost and the constant groundcover of perennial and self-seeding annual plants, even though those plants were almost all ornamental.

One reason might have been a good cationic exchange capacity, the process by which plants acquire the minerals they need. Basically plants break down water (H2O) into an H+ and an OH-. Their roots will hold out the OH- , wave it around, and hope to grab a K+ or Ca2+ atom or molecule, securing those atoms they need to live from their soil. Cationic exchange capacity is a measure of soil health, and the ability of plants to do this. It also makes the pH of the soil more stable, making sure it is neither too acidic nor too alkaline. A good fraction of humus and organic matter will increase the cationic exchange capacity of the soil. (wikipedia)

Compost provides the soil life plants need to make use of nutrients

Your soil can have fertility but without life to assist your garden, your plants will have a much more difficult time. The field of soil chemistry is immensely diverse, but simply stated, more living things in your soil means your soil aggregates more (clumps), providing room for more water absorption, more air, more habitat for yet more soil creatures and creating more surface area for cation exchange to take place. Soil organisms such as fungi and bacteria also form symiotic relationships with plants, especially perenials and trees.

So if your garden isn't up to snuff or even if it is, consider growing your soil. After all it's your soil that grows your garden.

Above are some simple designs for compost boxes. I like to have space for a cubic yard in a box, with 4'wide walls. Three pallets lashed together are all you need to get started, but I like to use 1/4 inch mesh or "hardware cloth" to keep out all but the smallest animals. The best deal I've found is at Pierceys on Robie street who sells 25 feet for around $30. I staple this to beams to make panels, and then assemble the panels. This design has the benefit of being modular, so if you move you can take it with you.
halifaxearthtech: (Capture and Store Energy)
I planted snap beans this year, purple peacock, painted lady and lazy housewife, and then I bought 10 lbs of beans from Hutten farm because I thought mine wouldn't grow for some reason. Well they did, and I've been pulling a little over a pound of beans out of my plot every two days. I like the spicy beans they sell at the Seaport market but I guess I'm cheap, and I now have an excess of beans.

I got this recipe from my favourite ex-con Martha Steward, here . I'm using her seasonal recipies far more often that I would like to admit. I despise dill in everything but soup. My mother is in shock that I'll pickle anything because when I was growing up I wouldn't go near them. I find the combination of dill, turmeric and cucumbers to be nauseating. This one doesn't have dill.

Needs used to carry something called Blair's Death Rain chips. They would come in flavours like scotch bonnet. They were great because you really only could eat just one! Greasy, satisfying, paced out and a natural antidepressant. They don't sell them anymore. Second best are these local jalepenos. I tried stuffing them once and they were just like Blair's Death Rain! The jalepenos from away don't do that. I got a kilo of the locals last summer and that lasted me the year.

A big heaping pile of dear god why

I don't know how many beans I had but I had to double the brine recipe. I sterilized my jars because I like to have the luxury of time rather than keep them in my fridge and worry about getting through them in a month.I shouldn't have worried. The results? Firey and perfect.


Aug. 11th, 2013 12:32 am
halifaxearthtech: Photo of fairy wrens taken by Bengamint444 from Wikimedia Commons (Habitat)
I've been quite busy all summer and I realise I've not posted much. Here are some updates on the home front.

All the garlic has been harvested. I've learned I eat 100 heads a year, and if I plant 26 heads (assuming an average 5 cloves a head) I'll grow enough to eat, and enough to plant for next year to have enough to eat and plant the following year (whew!).

I've finally finished building a pest-resistent second compost bin. Like the first, it can hold a cubic yard of compost, though this never happens because it rots down and reduces in volume constantly. We'd been contributing to the first bin for 18 months and there is just about a cubic yard of finished compost. It's all going in the raised beds. The composting toilet is also back in operation now.

One lesson from this year: don't plant zucchini in a permanent clover green-manure! The lack of airflow means it's succeptible to rust and then your zucchinis turn into slime. I did get one big one though early on. Fingers are crossed for subsequent zucchini.

Also, don't plant all your broccoli and brussels sprouts in the same bed, it makes it too easy for the moths to find them!

During July's heatwave my scarlet runners were curiously unproductive. I learned that temperatures had to dip below 35C for beans to set fruit. I had no idea they were so fussy!

I tried to be self-sufficient in peas this year. I got about half that far and froze a kilo of peas. I got maybe 6 L of raspberries and 10 L of black currants, most of which I sold. I also was able to give away many canes from thinning my raspberry row.

I was pleased with the wildflower bed this year.

All in all I can't complain. The new chest freezer is being put to good use and I'll be canning up peaches and tomatoes quite soon.
halifaxearthtech: Photo of fairy wrens taken by Bengamint444 from Wikimedia Commons (Habitat)
Last friday we began mulching around the trees already installed at the Common Roots Urban Farm. Work continues on the design, and we will be fundraising this year, and finishing installation probably next spring.

The mulch goes out at least 10 feet and will kill grass, reduce competition for the young trees and increase permeability and soil life.

First we spread a thin layer of fresh wood chips, to start the growth of more fungi. Tree trimming companies are a good source of fresh wood chips they will often give away for free. Use the raw wood sparingly or rot it somewhere else for a few years first, or else it will rob your soil of nitrogen.

Cardboard went over the wood chips to kill grass and preserve moisture and darkness necessary for the fungi to grow.

Soil went down to weigh down the cardboard and provide a matrix for green manures; white clover and daikon, that will be going in later.

Straw went down to protect the soil.

Thanks to the volunteers who helped with this! I think we will be there every Friday afternoon to make sure the trees are watered and finish mulching. Feel free to drop by between 2 and 5pm!
halifaxearthtech: (Default)
A few days ago I had the fortune to be invited to an exciting project, a secret compost pile in the Halifax rail cut. It seems neigbourhood residents who can't or don't want to compost at home bring their organics here, as well as several landscaping companies who would rather not pay to haul lawn trimmings. Perhaps some of these people live in apartment buildings, which when they are over a certain number of residents are not legally obligated to provide composting services.

A friend who shall remain anonymous checks on the compost at an undisclosed location.

The finished goods, ready to go back to the trees of the railcut.

Neigbourhood regional composting stations provide a necessary service to people who can't compost at home and who want to reap the benefit of nutritious finished soil for their gardens. They also save the gasoline that would be converted to greenhouse gasses shipping organics to city facilities. In an ideal world these could be out in the open, occupying a corner of city land such as in a public park, in attractive well build and rodent resistent boxes. It's a tough call to say whether these piles should be more vermin proof or not. Doubtless if someone built a couple of nice boxes in the railcut the clandestine nature of the pile would be removed and all manner of fits would be thrown to have them removed. I hope more discussion on central community composting can be started.

On my way home I also saw my first evidence of urban maple tapping. Maybe two years ago, buckets and spiles showed up beneath maples on Allan street. The CBC tried to find out who was tapping but never got answers. If you know who the tappers were, I'll ask you to keep mum about it here as well because it remains illegal to do any urban food production in the city, including tapping the city's trees.

I'm not sure I would use a paint-thinner can though. I hope they washed it very thoroughly.
halifaxearthtech: (Capture and Store Energy)

I have been doing some more research into using pallets for construction. Pallets are being thrown out all the time, and present a tempting source for free lumber. I always have a lot of projects on the go that require lumber, from potato towers, raised beds and cold frames to compost boxes, pallet gardens and frames to hold rain barrels. I'd recieved some information stating that pallets were safe for construction, and others saying they all were dangerous and treated with harmful chemicals. It turns out that some are okay to use while others aren't.

All pallets are treated with heat and pressure, to kill things like pine beetles that you don't want to ship internationally. Many countries also treat their pallets with something called methyl bromide which is used as an insecticide. It is a potent neurotoxin and carcinogen. Methyl bromide has the potential to 'gas off' as elemental bromine, after which it acts as a serious ozone depleter. I'm not sure if methyl bormide or its products enter food, compost or soil but exposure to it is dangerous and the effects are cumulative. During the Montreal Protocol talks, in which substances causing ozone depletion were banned, methyl bromide got an exemption when the pallet undustry argued that it was necessary to their trade and to prevent the spread of harmful species. 1 All except Canada, who still doesn't treat their pallets with anything except pressure and high temperatures. 2

Most pallets will have a country code. The HT stands for Heat Treated. It was illuminating for me to see from how far away pallets really came, from Germany and India to Mexico to the US. 3

Good to use

Not good

Also not good

Different pallets have different specs depending on what industry they are used as well. Pallets used in the food industry can be contaminated with e-coli 4 , but are probably still the most suitable to use. E-coli does not survive for very long outside of the gut of an animal, a matter of weeks to months, and you could easily keep pallets around for that length of time before having them be in contact with your finished produce. 5 Pallets that have been used to carry paint or hazardous chemicals might be avoided by the more careful.

This is a guide with specs for pallets used for different industries 6. One might avoid pallets used for telecommunications/paint, drums, military/cement, automotive, drums/chemical, and Military 1/2.

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methyl_bromide#Regulation
2 http://www.repallet.com/2.html
3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pallet#Phytosanitary_Compliance
4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pallet#Food_safety_risks
5 http://weblife.org/humanure/chapter7_8.html
6 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pallet#Dimensions
halifaxearthtech: Photo of fairy wrens taken by Bengamint444 from Wikimedia Commons (Habitat)
I want to be these people when I grow up. CFI plant forests and wildlife habitat in Africa and the Maritimes with the understanding that they are more likely to remain in place if they can also provide people with food, building materials and a living.
halifaxearthtech: (Default)
It takes a certain amount of research to source one's staples locally in Halifax but it can be done! Take advantage of my own reasearch and peruse if you will;

The 100 Mile Diet Resource:
Essential Goods Local to the Maritimes

I have heard from those beginning to eat locally that a big hurdle was not knowing where to procure local goods. It can be more complex than just going to one big box superstore
Beginning to eat local can be a daunting process at first, but is completely achievable by making small changes to our diet and cooking and procuring habits. This resource is intended to point the way to local providers of essentials and staples so we can begin to:

Reduce our carbon footprint
Keep money in the Maritimes
Keep Maritimers employed and local fields in production

The cost of eating local is at least partially offset by making changes like buying in bulk, direct ordering from farmers and cooking from scratch. Buy local as much as you can afford, and be sure your money is an investment in our foodshed of the future.

Dry goods and flour
Speerville's local products include: Red Fyfe flour, other wheat flours, pancake mix, Van Dyne dry beans, spelt, rye, oats, Maple products. Their other goods are organic but sourced from outside the Maritimes.

Speerville Flour Mill
152 Speerville Road
Speerville, NB E7N 1S2
Toll Free Phone: 866-277-6371

Mushrooms, spawn kits, mycoremediation
Available at The Local Source, The storehouse, the Seaport Farmers' market and more!

Valley mushrooms
Box 59, Waterville, N.S. B0P 1V0

Produce, eggs, fruit
The Local Source (5783 Charles St Halifax),The Grainery (2385 Agricola St, Halifax), Homegrown Organics (6186 Allan St Halifax), the Old Brewery and Seaport markets, Tantallon market, Halifax Shopping Centre on Thursdays during the growing season, Dartmouth farmer's market, Local Jo's cafe (2959 Oxford St, Halifax), other farmers' markets. Sobeys and Superstore will usually label Atlantic grown produce seasonally.

Dairy: milk, butter, cheese, ice cream
All Farmers Dairy is produced in Nova Scotia
Sobeys, Atlantic Superstore, Pete's Frootique,
That Dutchman's Cheese
Seaport Farmer's Market, The Local Source (5783 Charles Street Halifax, NS)
Fox hill Dairy
Seaport Farmer's Market
Leicester's Deli & Cheese Emporium (6253 Quinpool rd)

Soy Products
Tofu, veggie burgers, tofu slices, jerky, dips and spreads, veggie pate, pot pies, tofu turkey, okara sausage, okara bars and granola, baked goods. Available at Sobeys and Pete's Frootique, the Grainery, Home Grown Organics, Chester Organics, Mariposa Natural Market.

Acadiana Soy
Box34, Grand Pre, NS, 542-0675

Meat and poultry
Local seasonally pastured and grass fed meat and poultry can be found at the Storehouse (5544 Kaye Street), Halifax, the old Brewery and Seaport farmer's markets, Local Jo's, Charcuterie Ratinaud (2082 Gottingen), Flipburger (277 Lacewood), The Armview Restaurant (7156 Chebucto), The Wooden Monkey (1707 Grafton Street, Alderney landing) and more.

Fish (cod, haddock, or hake)
The Off The Hook CSA is organised by the Ecology Action Centre to link consumers to fishers who use sustainable harvesting methods. The fish is distributed to Halifax (Brewery Market and Ecology Action Centre), Wolfville, Truro, Bedford, Dartmouth, Tatamagouche, Tantallon, Lower Prospect, Musquodoboit Harbour, and the Digby Neck Islands. www.offthehookcsf.ca

Chadebucto trap caught shrimp are sustainably trapped close to the shore in the Strait of Canso. Available at Pete's Frootique and possibly other specialty fish stores. If not, ask for it!

Alen Newell
Chedabucto Bay Trap-Shrimp Fisherman

Vegetable oil
Organic bulk sunflower, flax, pumpkin, and canola oils. Available in bulk at the Grainery
(2385 Agricola, Halifax, (902) 446-3301 www.thegrainery.wikispaces.com)

Fox Mill Organic Oils
8961 Peggy's Cove Road
Indian Harbour, NS

Honey and beeswax
One of our largest producers are Cosman and Whidden, who can be found at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. Some other producers are Cornect Family Farm and Smeltzers, available at the Java Blend Cafe (6027 North Street Halifax) and Avery's markets.

Cosman and Whidden

Cornect Family Farm
New Glasgow, NS,

G.G. Smeltzer & Son Honey
Shubenacadie, NS

Maple Syrup
You can find a handy list of all NS maple producers at this website: www.novascotiamaplesyrup.com. One nearby producer/distributor is Acadian Maple: 13578 Peggy`s Cove Rd. Upper Tantallon NS, 826-2312, www.acadianmaple.com

Dulse is a dry seaweed nutritional amendment and snack food, it is leathery and salty and surprisingly tasty. Get your dulse from www.fundydulse.com Or many shops and grocery stores around town.

Juice and Vinegar

Boates Orchard

Apple cider and Pear juices and vinegar. Available at Old Brewery Farmer's Market, select Sobeys, Pete's Frootique, The Local Source, The Grainery

Terra Beata Cranberry Farms

Juice concentrate, dried and frozen cranberries, preserves, sauces
Available at the Local Source, Seaport Farmer's Market and Atlantic Superstore.

Northumberland Max
Union-made cranberry, cran-blueberry juices and lemonade from Miramichi. Available at Sobeys

If anybody is reading this who might want to become a grower, here is a wish list from one aspiring locavore:

Frozen and canned chopped vegetables;
Canned beans;
Beans other than Jacob's Cattle and Soy
Pasta and couscous;
Potato chips,
Hot malt and chickory drinks and coffee substitutes;
Raisins and dried fruit;
Sea salt;
Other seaweeds than dulse like Irish Moss, Kelp and sea lettuce;
Rice and other grains from wheat oats and barley;
Gluten free facilities;
Tree nuts;
Peanut butter;
A greater quantity and variety of greenhouse greens in the winter.

Also, coffee, chocolate and cane sugar would be nice, but we'll take it one step at a time.

--edit-- I've discovered today that Terra Beata also sells local dried apple and cranberry slices available at the Local Source.

--edit-- I believe Covered Bridge chips are Maritime-made. An interesting corollary to this is that PEI so aggressively exports potatoes that these Maritime spuds crowd out local potatoes in other places, including Peru, where the breed originated.
halifaxearthtech: photo by Lykaestria from Wikimedia Commons (Energy)
It finally looks winterish in Nova Scotia. In spite of a few very late very warm days into the double digits, we did have a white Christmas, and now the lakes are thickening up and it looks like we might even be able to skate on them this year.

On my locavore diet I find I need to supplement my vitamin c with some orange juice a couple times a week. Greens are scarce, I failed to harvest dandelion roots before the ground froze to force grow in the dark in my basement. I am making do on cabbage, sprouts, kale chips and some pricy greenhouse greens and some imported things, as well as some peppers I froze earlier on. The frozen berries are long gone and I am into the jams and syrups. I am planning some cold frames to start spinach as early as possible in late February, after the day length is greater than 10 hours according to Niki Jabbour. My husband and I went away for the holiday to spend time with family. We both felt much healthier after returning to our diet of root-cellar local, seasonal and organic vegetables and dry goods: flour, rice and beans. Ah well, Christmas is also a time for excess!

We are also thinking of ways to bolster the growing and house-heating power of our south-facing porch. It already heats the house a bit especially on sunny days but desperately needs to be insulated and have proper windows installed. These days I am building a rack which will hold bottles filled with water and painted black: thermal mass to capture solar heat and distribute it slowly throughout the night. The ultimate goal would be to have that room not freeze at night so we can grow plants in there year-round.

Winter is a time for planning, reading, administering and building. Winter is also a time to build soil. The city is always fileld with the raw ingredients of compost: horse manure from the Bengal Lancers on Bell road, grinds chaff and burlap from cafes and coffee roasters, and right now, christmas trees. This is a pile of chopped up christmas tree in my backyard that I am hoping can eventually become mulch for the native garden beds I am planning for my front yard.
halifaxearthtech: Mysore fruit seller (Food)
I wrote this blog post two weeks ago but never posted it.

Following up on the Bulrush starch adventure, I proceeded to make more wild foods for my Sunday morning humanist group. This time I made blancmange, a pudding from irish moss seaweed, as well as 'elm food' from the inner bark of elm trees, and an attempt at marshmallows from the marshmallow plant.

I cleaned and chopped the marshmallows, then boiled them in some water. I intended to make the marshmallows like merangues. The water did indeed come out very stringy and slimy like egg whites, but when I tried to whip them like egg whites they simply did not hold air. Perhaps I would have had better luck with an egg beater. Euell Gibbons had good results slicing the roots, boiling them, then frying them with some onion (Stalking the Healthful Herbs, 193).

The seaweed and elm I boiled in milk, with added sugar. The irish moss gelled up nicely and ended up setting well. The elm stayed pretty liquid and was not pudding like at all. The general consensus was while they are all certainly healthy, the blancmange would have been even better with a touch of vanilla. One in our number works at a fast food restaurant, and we all pronounced the wild foods a good antidote or supplement to the fried diet.

Boiling in milk

Squeezing out seaweed slime

Elm bark processing 1

Elm bark processing 2

Elm final results, not pudding-like

Seaweed results, pudding-like

halifaxearthtech: photo by Marlene Thyssen (Water)
Yesterday I went to Cow Bay with the intention of gathering on Rainbow Haven beach but wound up instead discovering Silver Sands beach. I was there at about dusk and didn't stay long. The tide was fully in and the place was deserted.

I found some shells of Jonah crabs, surf clams and blue mussels, and took home some bullrush roots. I gathered carageenan seaweed but lost track of my little pile of them and since I have plenty at home I did not gather more.

The sprouts I've peeled and steamed. The outer leaf layers were fibrous and inedible but the core was sweet, potato-like and delicious. It was a bit fishy too but these were saltmarsh cattails.

The roots I also peeled and rinsed in cold water. I cut the roots crosswize but this was not helpful ultimately. The starch really does rinse directly into the water and the fibers dissolve out. Cutting the roots just made for more little pieces to keep track of.

The water is strained and allowed to settle. Besides starch, the water has dissolved out lots of stringy, slimy polysaccharides, and in a survival situation could also be eaten, or fermented ;) ;) ;)

I've dried out the starch on the stovetop because air-drying I think would cause it to go moldy. I think rendering starch for flour would be a waste of time and fuel. However it can be boiled down to a nourishing pudding-like substance that tastes sweet and breadlike and would probably make good papier mache. The yield was 1 part starch starting from 2 parts root, which for a wild food is pretty good. Cattails hold promise, at least until you can grow a first crop of wheat.

As a biscuit. It looks very gluten-free.

I rinsed some dulse in tapwater and am drying it in the oven and I will see how that goes.
halifaxearthtech: Photo by Panphage from the Wikimedia Commons (Soil)
It's a familiar story. You didn't intend to grow potatoes in your garden but April came around and you were left with a bag of sprouted ones, pale necks yearning and straining towards life and you take pity on the potatoes and plant them. This time of year is like a second kind of Easter egg hunt.

I put these ones in a raised bed that was filled with fresh Bengal Lancers horse manure. This is part of my project to fill my raised beds without buying soil. A lot of soil available for purchasing can come from questionable sources: slow-to-replace peat moss strip-mined from bogs, biosolids, or sometimes the topsoil from a bankrupted farmer's field. And there is no need to buy it, if you are able to sit tight for a year or two. Just look at this finished product after only one year!

I eschewed the shovel and easily sifted through the raised bed with my hands. By the way, Bengal Lancers are always pleased to give manure away for free to anyone who asks nicely as they have to pay to have it removed.

Of course I have no idea what variety these guys are, I think they were the tail end of the Ecology Action Centre root cellar project, so they were organic and purchased locally. These will tide me over until the next root cellar purchase and are going to go into some veggie pate. And yes, I dug up my potatoes in the dark. The shorter days are catching me by surprise. And I'm kind of a goth, ok?

I want to see a side-by-side trial of raised beds filled with mulch and potato towers, to see if the potatoes planted into a tower that is already filled burrow down all the way and make just as many tubers as the potato that has mulch piled around it higher and higher all year.
halifaxearthtech: photo by Lykaestria from Wikimedia Commons (Energy)
the news reports say we might get rain today but after several false alarms in the last six weeks or so since it last rained, I am being cautious.

Every morning this week I've gone outside and picked a pint of raspberries for my breakfast. My berry bushes are going berzerk, and so are the ones in the wild. This is a combination of the fact that I fertilize them a little more than the average bear (finished compost, several times a season) and the fact that they are under stress from the drought, preparing to send forth as many seeds as possible in case they don't make it. A tiny scrap of genetic instructions, some food, maybe some compounds to fend off invaders, but that's all, and the seed is off, to lie in the soil and wait, sometimes for decades.

I am continuing my project of recording how much water we use in my household per month. I'm afraid that since I've had to resort to irrigating my beds, the numbers will be off the chart. The container gardens in particular require a lot of water, almost every day. I have a lot of container gardens because they make use of some of my enormous driveway. I always save the cookwater from potatoes, pasta or beans for my garden but now I've started to save greywater from doing my dishes too. It is an incentive to use less of it when one has to carry it all to the garden several times a day!

I read an aricle in the Cape Breton post on Sunday that got me thinking. The article reported on a lack of harvesting workers in Prince Edward Island, and that farmers were downgrading the size of their fields to account for the food going to waste. The article (I will try to get the title) goes on to interview a farmer who says that people have no ambition today and that he knew of some children who made $400-$700 a week picking strawberries. This comment is made at a time as an announcement that people on employment assistance will have to take picking and harvesting jobs to continue benefits.

Is this how we are going to make these jobs attractive? By saying that they are for children and those on benefits? In my opintion it continues the negetive public attitude toward farmers and producers which I suspect have been handed down since feudal times; that the only ones growing food are those who are of too low social status to find an alternative. Traditionally the province of migrant, possibly unpapered workers, picking was relegated to the status of virtual slavery in James Howard Kunstlers dystopic novel, World Made by Hand.

Can I propose that picking be elevated from the work of serfs to a civic duty? That's our food going to waste. Saving it is an honourable thing. Perhaps if we all were expected to help out for one weekend of the year this wouldn't be an issue. And maybe our kids would learn a little something about local food on the way.
halifaxearthtech: Photo of fairy wrens taken by Bengamint444 from Wikimedia Commons (Habitat)
As we enter into the harvest season things are not slowing down! I will next post an entry I wrote a month ago and neglected to post!

In the meantime, my two zucchini plants are producing as much as my house hold can handle. I am not going to plant more than two a year ever again unless circumstances change dramatically!

I am also observing many thread-waist wasps in my garden. These are a good sign as they prey on problem insects and keep them under control. I also saw a couple of
Pelecinus polyturator. From http://web.ncf.ca/bf250/gardenhym.html

"This wasp thrusts its ovipositor into soil to detect a grub larva, lays one egg on each. The wasp larva burrows into the beetle larva, killing it, then scavenges remains and pupates there in soil."
Gruesome yet effective. I did not get any pics unfortunately but this is from the above site:

I have put in my autumn planting: arugula, black seeded Simpson lettuce, Bloomsdale spinach, Bright Lights swiss chard, and some beets. I seeded the Occu-pee with white clover as a green manure.

The zucchini still going strong

As are the potatoes: they were a good use of not-quite-finished compost in these raised beds.

It looks like it's going to be another good grape year

My front wildflower garden has really come into its own:

Do you ever wonder, "what the heck is permaculture anyway?"? I am giving a workshop tomorrow (August 23) and the Thursday after, August 30 at Just Us cafe on Spring Garden road at 7:00 pm titled What Is Permaculture. Admission is free. Tell your friends.
halifaxearthtech: workmen stand outside Alexander MacKay school in 1918 (People care)
The common Roots Urban Farm had it's launching work party day today. The raised beds to the east side are for community groups, and there are a half-dozen or so that are for public consumption (the ones closest to Robie street). Jayme Melrose said she figured about 200 volunteers attended today. Councilor Jennifer Watts made an appearance.

The schematic of the final finished farm

a haybale insulated compost depot

volunteers wheelbarrow donated soil to the raised beds

chives on a chair
volunteers and a large pile of soil
halifaxearthtech: Photo of fairy wrens taken by Bengamint444 from Wikimedia Commons (Habitat)
The wildlife in my neighbourhood seem to have caught on to the fact that there are extra pickings my backyard. It was cute when the mother robin came to my compost bin to scoop up worms for her fledgelings. Last Wednesday I came home to see this:

A large raccoon looks up from my compost with an expression of guilt

As cute and humongous as this critter was, if my neighbours saw a raccoon going through my compost they would crucify me. So I was inspired to finally (nearly) finish this humanure hacienca or, as I call it, the over-engineered compost box.

compost box

It has a flipping lid on hinges, a locking front door on hinges, and is made of solid hemlock. It was rather expensive to make. Its future buddy compost box is going to be a much less accessorised $40 spruce box from Penny Lane work experience and assisted living for the mentally challenged in Bridgewater.
halifaxearthtech: Photo by Panphage from the Wikimedia Commons (Soil)
More pictures from my garden.
It's time for another garden update.

I've been harvesting salads of arugula, spinach, radishes and lettuce for a couple of weeks now.

A lettuce that I grew from the root ball of a hydroponic lettuce bought at the grocery store.

The Ecology Action Centre root cellar discharged and I cleared out the last of my produce last week. Much of it went to Food Not Bombs. Of the remaining 10 pounds of beets, I will probably pickle and can them.

The last onion.

In other news, this is what happens to tomato seedlings when you don't start them in good-enough soil. Can you believe this? This is from the third week in May


The first 2012 Fruit Tree Planting Day (and the second ever Halifax fruit tree planting day of all time) took place Mother's Day. We distributed more than fourty fruit trees in Metro, and I'll get some photos up as soon as I can.

One of two hazelnut shrubs I ordered.


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May 2017

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