Category Archives: gardening

Summer Time

It’s summer! We have moved. We have a back yard with a compost and a clothes line! Yaaaay! We are growing yummy things to eat, as well as Marigolds because we got seeds for free, and the wee one really wants to eat them, but I don’t think you can. I am working at a local natural food store. I am not going to make excuses for being so long between posts, as I am sure you are all used to it by now!

I did want to share some exciting news posted by a good friend though. Just in case you are not the type to click on links. Here it is copied below!

Austin, Texas is already home to Whole Foods, but that won’t stop a group of entrepreneurs from founding a new grocery store right in the natural food behemoth’s backyard. While the new store In.gredients will also specialize in local and organic ingredients, there’s one major difference between this venture and its hometown competion: In.gredients promises to be the country’s first ever “package-free, zero waste grocery store.”

The idea is so simple, it’s surprising that no one in the United States has implemented it yet. (The United Kingdom, on the other hand, got the bulk food-only Unpackaged in London last year). Just like many people bring tote bags to the grocery store, shoppers at In.gredients will be encouraged to bring their own containers to pack up items like grains, oils, and dairy. If a shopper doesn’t have his own containers, the store will provide compostable ones. It’s as if the specialty bulk food section rebelled and took over the rest of a traditional grocery store. In.gredients will replace unhealthy, overpackaged junk with local, organic, and natural foods, and moonlight as a community center with cooking classes, gardening workshops, and art shows on the side.

“Truth be told, what’s normal in the grocery business isn’t healthy for consumers or the environment,” In.gredients co-founder Christian Lane said in a press release. Americans add 570 million pounds of food packaging to their landfills each day, while pre-packaged foods force consumers to buy more than they need, stuffing their bellies and their trash bins: 27 percent of food brought into U.S. kitchens ends up getting tossed out.

In.gredients’s founders hope to open the grocery store’s doors in East Austin this fall, provided that the funding goes through.

Please please someone do this in Canada. Kingston would be great, though it may do better in a bigger city to start.

Also a local friend has started a blog to share deals on healthy natural food and also perhaps food swaps or food sharing. I really love the idea and I wish there was one in every city.

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Filed under food, gardening, Uncategorized

Playing Chicken

In the past few years I have become obsessed with real food. Gone are the days of Flakey’s and Jolt. I am now a hip mama shopping at farmers markets and making as much as I can from scratch. I am fascinated by growing food, even though I am just learning to garden (unless you count potted herbs). I was really excited when I found Path to Freedom and I even blogged about it. I also found an awesome bed and breakfast in Kitchener that grows their own food and has their own hens.
Finally, we have reached THE POINT of this post. There are a lot of awesome people in Kingston trying to legalize backyard hens. It seems that it is really going to happen, and because that is so exciting and important to me, I want to make sure that it does. So, if you are in Kingston, go to the meetings, sign the petitions etc. And if you are not, then at least read THIS…unless you’re chicken…brooock brooack.
And just in case you are too lazy (or busy or what ever) to go to the link, here’s some of it:
Benefits of Backyard Hens

Affordable Food:

The cost eggs for backyard hens are between $1-$3/dozen depending on the season and the amount of kitchen scraps supplementing purchased feed. Cost also depends on if the feed is organic, and upon the size and breed hen. A final variable is what type of bedding is used and how it is procured (straw, wood shavings, etc). (info sourced from forums on backyardchickens.com, accessed April 9th, 2010)

According to a 2005 study of grade 5 students in Nova Scotia, 73.7% of the children did not meet the minimum recommendations of Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating for meat and alternatives (eggs) (redorbit.com/news/health/152025/dietary_intake_and_risk_factors_for_poor_diet_quality_among/ accessed April 9, 2010).

Accessible Food:

True free range eggs are only available at the farm gate of a farmer whose operation you can see. If people want to buy farm fresh free range eggs, they need a car, and will have to pay at least $4/dozen. Those who keep hens in backyards can easily be car-free and receive delivery of bags of feed. Carless people can buy free range eggs at upmarket stores for $4-$6/dozen, but are they really free range? According to the Chicken Farmers of Canada, “The term has not been legally defined in either Canada or the U.S” (www.chicken.ca/DefaultSite/index.aspx?ArticleID=3434&lang=en-CA April 9th, 2010).

Reduced Solid Waste:

Those who wish to can enhance their food-waste-food cycle at home. Composted hen manure provides an excellent source of garden fertilizer: higher in N-P-K, phosphorus, and calcium than any other animal (Rodale Guide to Composting).

There is no hard data on how much of an impact allowing backyard hens would have on Kingston’s solid waste volume: we expect a small but measurable (on a household level) reduction in waste. Mouscron, a small city in Belgium has twice distributed laying hens to willing residents, as part of a multi-faceted campaign to reduce waste (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8539877.stm, accessed April 9th 2010).

A Community-Building Food Source:

There are a variety of ways in which hens build community. In almost all cities that allow hens, there are henning societies that provide knowledge-sharing venues on-line and in groups. They often form buying clubs to secure better pricing and delivery arrangements. Like dog-owners, henners like to get together and talk shop.

Education:

Children will see where their food comes from and have the chance to eat healthy, ethical food.

A Sustainable pet:

Many owners report taking delight in the behavior and character of their hens. Most continue to care for them when they stop laying after around five years (they might still live another two years). Eight hens would weigh about half of a Labrador retriever, the most popular pet in North America. Eight hens would produce about 240g/day of feces, all of which can be used to make excellent fertilizer (http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=3F5C48821BFEF99A572D92B6FD803481.tomcat1?fromPage=online&aid=606984 accessed April 9th, 2010). A typical dog produces about 340g/day of feces that must be landfilled (ftp://ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov/AK/…/dogwastecomposting2.pdf accessed April 9th, 2010).

Humane Food:

Backyard hens allow people to detach from the industrial-egg machine. It is not feasible for most to go to a farm in the countryside each week, and the claims that free-range supermarket eggs come from hens with good lives are overstated. They are not in cages, but still live 20,000 to a barn, and though there is an open door in their barn, they never go outside.

An April 7, 2010 video from the Humane Society of the US which depicts the typical treatment of conventionally raised egg laying hens : youtube.com/watch?v=59f3xeUgChc

Canada has 25 million hens are kept in battery cages: http://www.humanefood.ca/battery.html

Food of High Quality:

There can be no substitute for a fresh egg that comes from a healthy hen eating a variety of green leafy matter. The yolks are bright yellow/orange and are much better for cooking and baking.

Healthy Food:

Eggs are a good source of dietary protein (Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating). There is a small but building body of evidence showing that pastured free-range hens that eat a variety of leafy greens (ie grass and carrot tops) are more healthy than barn-raised free-range eggs organic or otherwise. Aside from being free of pesticides and antibiotics, pastured poultry eggs have:

• 1⁄3 less cholesterol
• 1⁄4 less saturated fat
• 2⁄3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene

(motherearthnews.com/Relish/Pastured-Eggs-Vitamin-D-Content.aspxa accessed April 9, 2010).
Animal Rescue

Unlike other pets, which can be bought on impulse because they look cute and are kept indoors, hens require significant input of time and money before they can be brought home. Coops cost upwards of $500 and must be delivered, and home construction is more time-consuming and can not likely be done for less than $200. Furthermore, hens are usually ordered, also requiring forethought.

We are taking steps to ensure that anyone who hens will be prepared and informed of best management practices. Based on this and the experiences of other communities, there seems no reason to anticipate a problem of abandoned hens.

Already there are henners in Kingston raising hens rescued from slaughter at local egg farms. We expect that there would be willing adopters for any hens that are abandoned.

Local veterinarians have expressed a capability to offer full service to hens: treatment, euthanizing, disposal.

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Filed under environmental news, gardening

Garden Woes

Once we found out there was no way we could use the land beside the apartment to garden in, I started searching for a community garden and found FRILL right by our home. A few days after I joined, they lost their land. Undaunted I expressed interest in helping to find find new land and being involved with the new garden. Unfortunately I can’t always do what I think I can because I have a toddler. I’ve already missed a planning meeting and a moving party (moving all the garden tings off the previous land and into storage) because Aurora didn’t want to go. So I’m asking for your help.
1. If you live in Kingston and have time and interested, please contact FRILL about being on the planning committee.
2. If you have or know of land in downtown Kingston that a community garden could go on, contact FRILL or myself
3. If you have a yard at all, plant a garden to feed yourself or your friends.
4. If you own an apartment building, and the tenants want to have a community garden and compost in the side yard, let them. If they haven’t expressed interest, encourage them too or start one yourself, please.
I will try to add a list of community gardens to both Trashless Toronto and Trashless Kingston (trying to come up with a better name) ASAP>

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More Inspiration

I really miss my garden. Our compost problem hasn’t been fully solved but we did buy the special bags so if we continue to guerrilla green bin, we can at least be sure it will be taken.
Anyhow I came across this the other day and wanted to share. It’s very similar to Path to Freedom and very inspiring. If I had a yard at all, I would plant in it. We do have many plants in pots around the house. I guess I could do a “how much food can I grow in my apartment?” experiment. So far it’s just mint, basil, rosemary and lemon thyme. We will have a yard soon enough though (I keep telling myself that).

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How does your garden grow?

Our dream is to eventually have our own little plot of land and a sustainable house. I want to build with cob but if we stay in this climate we might need straw bale as well/instead. One of the problems is we are both city folk and don’t really know anything about growing food. We took a main floor apartment with a back yard so we could start to learn. We’ve done well with herbs and lettuce, but last year I waited too long to harvest the tomatoes.
This year we planted seeds we had and picked up a few plants from the farmers market. We don’t put the time we should into weeding, and we didn’t do a lot of research so we just randomly planted. Next time I would like to do companion gardening. To save time I just sort of sprinkled the seed pack of “spicy sald mix” instead of planting individual seeds, which resulted a a tangled mess of some edibles and some weeds and we weren’t sure which was which!
We haven’t spent the time we should on the garden-the peas need something to grow up (it may be too late now), we don’t weed enough and we don’t harvest often enough (our spinach has gone to seed,. Despite all of this we have tonnes of food! I’m amazed at how easy it is to grow food with very little space. We have way more lettuce than we can eat. I’m not sure what we were thinking when we planted so much! We have been keeping up with the zucchini (zucchini bread, zucchini muffins, zucchini in every curry and stirfry) so far but only one plant has been producing and the others will start soon. If you are in Toronto and would like some lettuce or zucchini please contact me!
I bought one plant that the Chinese grocer couldn’t explain to me what it was. It looks like it is bitter melon. I hope we like it!
We have lavender and calendula for my salve making, and that is going quite well.
Next year we will be in Kingston and I’m not sure if we will be able to garden in the apartment’s side yard. If not, I will find a community allotment garden. It is getting easier to do things with Aurora. She likes to dig in the dirt and water the plants. It was a bit hard this year because there is broken glass and rusty nails in the garden, not to mention a series of other DANGERS in the backyard.
We haven’t used our compost on the garden as we had at least one rat, and we are afraid of contamination.
Every time I see a little front yard with grass I think about how much food people could plant there and I wish Victory gardens never went out of fashion.

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Home Grown Revolution

There’s a line in a Modest Mouse song that is something like ” I sound the same when I’m happy and I’m sad” that’s always really resonated with me. I just watched Home Grown Revolution and cried with joy. I would love to meet this family. The one thing I noticed was that they do wrap their veggies in plastic, but it’s not a criticism at all because they are doing so many amazing things. I can’t express my excitement. Just watch or go to the website. Oh I love these people! WHEEEEEEE!

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