Sunday, October 19, 2008

Putting Peas By


"Prepare. Shell...
Blanch. In boiling water - for 1½ minutes. Cool immediately, drain.
Pack. Leave ½ inch of headroom.
Seal; freeze."

To determine when to pick shell peas, check the pods by eye and feel. If the pod is round, has a nice sheen, and is bright green, it is ready. If the seeds have made ridges on the pod and the pod is a dull green, it's past its prime.

You can pick snap and snow snap peas at any time, but they're tastiest when the pods still have some play around the peas when you squeeze the pods.

Pick snow peas before the peas start to enlarge in the pods.

Frequent harvesting increases yields. Pick every other day to keep the plants in production. Pick any pods that are overly mature; if left on the vine, yields will diminish.

Peas keep best in the shell, so don't shell them until just before cooking.
Calories: 34
Dietary Fiber: 1.4 grams
Protein: 2.6 grams
Carbohydrates: 5.6 grams
Vitamin C: 38.3 mg
Iron: 1.6 mg
Potassium: 192 mg
Magnesium: 21 mg

Putting Food By
ISBN-10: 0452268990
ISBN-13: 978-0452268999

My edition was published by the Stephen Greene Press © 1973.
Edited by Janet Green, authors Ruth Hertzberg (New England Home Economics teacher and County Agent), and heirloom American recipe creator and writer, Beatrice Vaughan advise on everything from root cellaring to recipes for plain Dandelion greens and corn omelets.

There's been a lot of talk lately among the FSRN about ways we can teach ways to "extend" our growing season. Preserving, to take full advantage of everything grown an obvious direction. The basics are simple, but the possibilities for personal touches to recipes are inexhaustible.

The Anglo-Saxon word for peas was 'pise' or 'pease' as in the nursery rhyme, 'pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold.'

Thursday, October 16, 2008

World Food Day 2008

World Food Day 2008
Lakehead University Agora

World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Roots to Harvest, along with the Food Security Research Network, Advanced Institute for Globalization & Culture, Food Action Network, and LUSU hosted World Food Day today in the Agora.
The Boreal Edge Farm, Belluz Farm, Jeff's wheat mill and Brule Creek Farm, Seeds of Diversity, the Good Food Box, were among the many display booths; and Dr. Mustafa Koc co-founder of the Centre for Studies in Food Security visited Lakehead as keynote speaker.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Leaf Mould

The lightest air-stir
Released their love-whispers when she walked
The needles weeping, singing, dedicating

excerpt ~ Ted Hughes Leaf Mould

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

white paper and dirty dirt

Connie's tomatoes in the foreground
- with beams of morning sun bouncing
off The Hangar behind.
July 15, 2008

My first (and I suppose aesthetic) thought is that they are such strange neighbors. Together though, they illustrate quite well the partnership of urban spaces and gardens. SOME CONTRAST.

Except, this perspective is just one, from one rather large tomato garden to one rather large athletic facility. If you didn't know it was an athletic facility, this picture might make you think I'm talking about growing tomatoes on a runway. Had I turned around and taken the picture into the rising sun, you would think I was sitting in cleared space of a forest, with a river running through it. I love that about our garden.

Many thanks to Erin, Heidi & Bryan with their Roots to Harvest teams for all the helping hands in the garden!

Sara has been carefully tending to the tomatoes, plucking beetles and eggs (grin) and staking. All of the plants look wonderful. She also has been busy planting, and transplanting two other FSRN 30x15ft gardens - with attention to companion planting. I'll update more on those later. Around the tomatoes she's planted herbs and peppers.
One of these days I'll capture her as she flies into my office with hair askew and dirt all over, clutching her great pink hat and filthy, filthy notebook. It's a fantastic image even in a one line description. you should see it.
A common challenge in the life of a gardenerd is white paper and dirty dirt.

Old Brooks
70-85 days
great texture, sharp acidic flavour - great in sauces and pastes

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Hogarth Plantation

The Hogarth Plantation is a 44 hectare property used by the Faculty of Forestry and the Forest Environment for teaching and research.

Also using it for research is Connie, who is growing blueberries in a cleared section of the forest.
These pictures were taken last September, right around the same time I stumbled upon potatoes growing in the tilled rugby field.

I know that what attracts me most to the Hogarth forest is it's resemblance to the pine "plantation" that bordered the house I grew up in. The property was named 'Singing Pines', and for years there was a sign at the entrance tp the driveway. Over the years, each spring after winter, my father would replace or re-erect the sign which would get knocked down by the snowplows (sometimes driven by himself), until eventually the sign just never went up again.

The Pines always sang through the chickadees, and were beautiful - planted much like the Hogarth trees. I love the way they smell, and how the needles collect all over beneath them; even the way they eerily creek. The trees surrounded my playhouse, running from the road to the river west to east and north until they eventually thickened with the trees of Wishart.

Monday, June 30, 2008


Sara's superfantastic TOMATO MAP

Connie's heirloom tomatoes were transplanted by Sara and Roy June 21st. The plants have endured a lot already, but most look alright now that they're in the garden. Sara was careful to plant them deeply, and sink any broken stems. Beneath the new three way mix is quite a heavy clay, which she has expressed concern about, a concern I share...but, the soil's properties are not unexpected, all things considered - so we just have to work with what we're given this year and hope for the best.
Some will require staking.

Before and after additions to the soil; the three piles delivered by LCR have now been distributed between Connie's tomato garden, and two 30x15 FSRN plots at the south end.

y thanks to the help from the Physical Plant/Grounds for moving the soil from one end of the garden to the other!!!

Jeff is going to come rototill it all again - time permitting, hopefully on Friday. :)

planting map FSRN 2008

for reading in a bathtub:

Harborne, Jeffrey B., and Herbert Baxter. Chemical Dictionary of Economic Plants: Dictionary of Useful Plant Products. 2001

Thursday, June 19, 2008

neighbourly clematis

This lovely clematis has been peeking through the fence,
welcoming amy's garden to the new neighborhood.

pollination bzzzz

by S.E. McGregor, USDA
Originally published 1976

Virtual Beekeeping Book
updated continuously
additions listed by crop and date

red fife wheat

bread from the history books Maclean's Magazine

Perhaps it's the alligator bread baker in me that's so interested in wheat. Gators of late have been made of rye and wheat bran.

Red Fife Wheat, soybeans, oats, quinoa can be planted through the NW of the garden. Yukon gold potatoes too.

more on red fife:

The Garnet Wheat Controversy, 1923-1938
by Jim Blanchard Winnipeg Manitoba History, Number 19, Spring 1990
Press Reports and Other Writings on Halychanka (Red Fife) Wheat
from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

From the Ministry of Agriculture Food & Rural Affairs, fact sheets on organic farming in Ontario, field crop fact sheets.

Sex and the Gardening

I've been wanting to go see the Sex and the City movie with Caroline, but of course haven't had time. I'm pulled toward seeing that on the small screen anyway, where I miss seeing it.

I thank Katie Malloch again tonight for keeping me company while I write. My back is sore, I'm having difficulty concentrating. Might be because I'm sitting at my piano that I can't quite play (but can produce some quick Beethoven thanks to my years with the wind instruments).

Weeks ago I wanted to write a post about 'pulling the hose'. I realized immediately that the title wasn't appropriate for my pretty little garden blog, ....I couldn't find the words, so I dropped it.

Today Sara toiled in the sun, with Roy - turning over beds, weeding, readying soil moving. I went to visit her during "lunch", her and Roy were making the best of the compacted soil, thanks to the heavy rains. The soil piles are heavy, and on the opposite side of the garden. Volunteers will be needed to help move soil, dig out rocks. But first, I agree with Sara that Jeff will be required to till again. Had it not been for the rains....

We had a 2 hour meeting in about ten minutes in my office at the end of the day, discussed plans, pondered questions - one of which being what to do about water for Connie's tomatoes, which need to be in the ground yesterday - among other things we want to plant asap. Rain barrels of some sort for this year, the RAM pump for next *crosses fingers*. I had a vision of Sara carrying pails of water from the McIntyre and want to put more effort into that pump. I will deal with the barrels.

All this talk of how to get water to the plant made me think of pulling the hose again. You see, the hose I speak of is the hose we drag across the parking lot to the 55 + Centre to get water to the greenhouse on River St.. "Pulling the hose" refers to pulling the long heavy hose across the parking lot and attaching it to the 55's spout. I don't particularly like pulling the hose, at all. It's the work of firemen, and I am not that. But one day it needed to be hauled back, Dennis was nowhere in sight - so I pulled the hose. When Dennis did arrive, he gave me a funny look and said: you pulled the hose, hmh. (with a sly smile) The next time the hose need to be pulled he "had a sore arm"; so guess who pulled the hose. Yeah.

What I enjoy most about pulling the hose are all the people who go by me while I do it and say things like: looks like hard work! or that must keep you in shape!. There was a time years ago when I was pulling the hose and a number of 55+ members joined in pulling parts of it. It was kinda like a scene from Cocoon. I don't know if it's wrong of me to say that.

While I was pulling the hose the morning of Dennis' sore arm, a white haired man rode my purple bicycle around the parking lot, squealing in delight of course grin.

and speaking of doing it:
Yale's doing it too.
I look at the pictures in that article and see so much of what I have envisioned for our space - and I have to admit to being somewhat green with envy. Yeah, green.
and the
University of
Wisconsin-Madison also have a community-supported agriculture farm on campus.

Monday, June 16, 2008

FSRN garden update

I started receiving Google alerts for "university sustainable garden" a while ago. The articles I'm exposed to are filling me with so many expectations for our project, I'm bursting. Students at Grand Valley State are doing it, students at Princeton are doing it, everyone's doing it. Dude.

I receive other alerts for similar searches; that one seems to offer some pretty good loot.

Sara sent me scans of her staking/measurements on the garden plan, with what the dimensions related to in actual terms, posted below. I knew it wouldn't be exact, but I do have to say I'm impressed at how well it translated.
She's also reported a boggy area near the LUCK garden. Options are being weighed.

A call for volunteers to help move the soil will go out shortly, as an on-call request in accordance with the weather.

Sara's edits in pink are the plots, the blue are walkways. She's been so dedicated in getting out there to mark the plots, and recording her experience. She's certainly the Garden Voice of the FSRN garden this soggy spring!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

greenhousing on Father's Day

“Why do the pansies all look so crappy this year?” she asked, in a tone I didn’t like. I stood there, staring into the brightest sun all the while being pummeled with raindrops from the cloud that was more above me than her at that particular time. I looked up, shrugged – and walked back into my little greenhouse and got back to my work.

I thought of Boreal Edge Farm every time someone complained to me about their petunias being sticky, while my own hands were so sticky from the stupid greenhouse petunias and cleaning all the stupid petunia baskets, sorry – did I say ‘stupid’, I meant ‘sticky’. Both times. I came to peace with geraniums, I have yet to come to peace with petunias. I’d rather use those tables for pumpkins.
Dennis called me pumpkin all day Sunday, a reminder to not forget pumpkins for me to take home, so Hannah can share them with classmates, as it seems it has become our tradition. She also has a flat of snapdragons for those who don’t have the patience for pumpkins. We’ll pot those tomorrow, deliver Wednesday.
I’ve had mixed feelings over working River St. this year. Last weekend I arrived early like usual, to ride my bike around the parking lot of the 55+ Center, sipping coffee and thinking about the day ahead. I couldn’t imagine not having that experience each spring, now that I’ve had it. It’s about so many things, not just the exposure to plants, but people who know plants, people who don’t know plants, ignorant people like the one mentioned at the beginning of this story who care less about the big picture and more about what arrangement the latest magazine stand wisdom told them they're following this trendy garden season. Ahem. Pardon me.
In contrast to those who complain, there are those who change my life, my perspective, maybe just in some small seemingly insignificant comment – it does. It’s those who stand out. In numbers I think the crabby complainish types outnumber the ones who stand out, but I choose how I weigh my experiences, and tend to throw the ignorant off the scale.
One woman one day marveled at the lophospermum hanging above me, and while she paid for her containers and packs she said something similar to this:
Whenever I’m at a funeral, which I go to many these days, - and I’m not particularly religious- so I don’t believe in heaven or some wonderful place beyond here…but whenever the minister says “so and so is off to a better place, a glorious place…” I want to jump up and yell: look around you! Look at those incredible plants and how beautiful it all is, everything in here. People don’t stop to see what’s right here, what’s glorious here.
I paraphrase. She went on, she said some great things, sad things – I felt moved after our brief conversation. I couldn’t have agreed with her more. These kinds of conversations are difficult to translate. I’ve been trying to put years of experiences into written word and have yet to find the right voice.
Near Saturday’s greenhouse end I was stopped by a woman asking about hanging baskets. After answering her, she said, Are you Amy? I nodded, and immediately she said You knew my father. He talked about you often….I knew right away she was Nick’s daughter. I felt as chocked up at the time as I do now recalling it. We talked back an forth passionately about her father and what he meant to that greenhouse. He was a fixture, working at Grandview Mall just down the way, Nick and I saw each other almost every day. Whether at the greenhouse taking about trees and plants, or with him opening the door for me at the mall, something made me feel very paternal towards Nick.
Shortly after I moved away from the neighborhood, and the greenhouse season had ended that year, Nick became ill. That's the problem with seasonal work: only seeing people seasonally. Anything can happen in between.
I was standing at the counter at River St. one day last season with a line up of eager gardeners to tend to. I looked up to a voice asking “Do you recognize me? Do you know who I am?” I blinked in confusion, knowing the voice, not recognizing who it was coming from…It was Nick. Cancer had taken him. I knew him but didn’t, and it was heartbreaking. That huge line of gardeners were all silent - those who saw my reaction and heard; I couldn’t help but cry while I worked for a while after that. That moment with Nick was brief; it was my last.
The morning of his funeral I rode across town on my bike, from Moodie to St. Anthony’s overlooking my Sleepy G. It was a beautiful day. Blue skies, the odd fluffy cloud, warm. I rode through the campus, past my own father’s resting place (dinging my bell for him as I pass by), and listening to Fidelity on my ipod on repeat all the way there. I remember it clearly. Tina told me her way there in the family’s limo was greeted by all the staff at Grandview standing outside as they passed. I wonder how many others feel as fondly as I do.
I know especially well how often my father is remembered. By holding an office one floor above the Math department; people see my name on the door and ask: Are you related to the math professor? Followed by a story of how he’s remembered. He would be pleased. I remember his office for the chalkboard, and running my hands along the cinderblock walls while I traveled down the corridors. I still do that now and then – and wonder if Euan, Simone, Talia, Rhyss and Theo, Sean and Mark, Zack and Zoe, or new Simon will do it too.

It makes me wonder about all fathers who are remembered on father’s day by people who aren’t their children, but feel that their fatherly friendship was special.

My mother has been researching her family tree and it turns out my great grandfather was a Nick (story currently unfolding); an my great grandfather of my father’s side was a gardener for the city of Utrecht.

The influences and memories of many father’s, and family’s and stories and personal confessions made at the greenhouse – it’s in these experiences I absorb the most pleasure at this time of year. I love planting season for what it is, and selling season only (wellll, mostly) for these moments.

Gerardus Vervoort
Math professor, bee keeper, chicken farmer, my Dad

Friday, June 13, 2008

Thanet Earth Greenhouse Project

Britain's biggest greenhouse complex - the size of 80 football pitches - is under construction in Kent. When it is complete it will include seven 140-metre long glasshouses covering a 220-acre site. ...

Using the latest technologies the computer-controlled Thanet Earth complex will have the capacity to grow salad produce such as tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers which will be picked continuously 52-weeks per year.

Operators Fresca Group Ltd., say it will increase by 15 per cent the UK's crop of salad vegetables most of which currently have to be imported.


By Paul Eccleston

(thanks iDale! :D)

...down came the rains and washed the gardens out....

Matt's Boreal Edge Farm blog introduced me to the following titles:

You Can Farm
Joel Salatin
Polyface, Inc.. Swoop, VA. 1998.

Five Acres and Independence: A Handbook for Small Farm Management
M.G. Kains
Dover, Mineola, NY. 1973.

  • many thanks to my mother, the best of book hunters, for locating, ordering, and making it so these books are now in my possession ... :D

Sara's report on staking the FSRN garden:

"The 30'x15' FSRN plots remain the same (except for the combining of 2 15^2 plots for Connie's tomatoes), but they took up all of the ~90' on the south edge. I figured that the compost area that was to be against the east side of the FSRN/15x15 plot block could be pushed into the triangular area beside it to the east.

The garden was not as long as indicated, so the biology plot length was cut from 90' to 85'. Even at this length, the compost area on the south side of the bio plot will also be pushed south into the open SE triangle (edible flowers, as it was marked) area. Seeing as two compost areas were pushed closer than planned into the SE corner, they might be combined into one? (The other two composting sites fit into their original locations.) Because the width at the widest point of the garden was significantly short of estimates, the bio plot also had to be taken down to 25' in width.
The layout changes to the SE corner led to a small diagonal entrance way being created for access to the raised bed area. I have only marked off the outer edges of this area, as I imagine there will be some construction of the beds going on in there. I made this area 10' wide, and very roughly 100' long (running against the north side of the FSRN/15'x15' plots).

Just north of the raised bed length, against the west edge of the garden, I marked off a 10'x30' area for the compost/flower block marked on the plan. Just inside of that is the LUSU plot, which lost some length due to the short width of the whole garden. It is about 90' long by its original 30'.

The LUCK plot remains 30' long, but was reduced to 15' wide. The 6 10'x20' plots, and 12 10'x10' remain the same. After the placing of the preceding, only ~33'x60' remained for the large study plot area, so I just split this in half along an E-W line, creating 2 30'x33' study plots. I suppose if we have a great need for more study plots, the areas to the north of them that didn't yet have designated purposes would be suitable.

We actually could not mark off 1 of the 20x10 and 1 of the 10x10 plots due to the soil pile in the middle of them. This can be done once the soil is moved. I didn't mark off anything further north in the garden than the pile, so they could be moved easily. As the staking through the middle of the garden is done, the soil will have to be moved off to the west side of the garden and along the sod edge. Two of the FSRN plots are open to the edge, as is the tomato plot, for easy wheelbarrow access. The one inner FSRN plot can be accessed by the open 15x15 plot to its south. I think moving the soil on the sod, though a little further in distance, will likely be easier anyway as it will be a firmer surface.

The remaining length along the west side (marked FSRN/wheat/oats and sunflower border) is likely about 40'. When I first noticed that we were lacking length, I thought to cut down the sunflower border to about 5'. Does that seem like a good width at this point? (Amy's note: Yes! 5' will be fine :) )

So the plots as currently marked are:
10 15'x15' plots30'x15' tomato plot3 FSRN 30'x15' plots10'x ~100' raised demonstration bed area10'x30' west edge compost area~ 90'x30' LUSU plot85'x25' Biology plot15'x30' LUCK6 10'x20' plots (1 unmarked due to soil)12 10'x10' plots (1 unmarked)2 30'x ~33' study plots
Still to be marked:1 10x20 and 1 10x10SE compost area(s)FSRN grain plotunassigned NE plotssunflowersNE compost areawalkways

I figure a walkway starting on the west edge between the compost/flower area and LUCK running along the edge of the LUSU plot to the southern study plot, and branching off up the middles of both the 20x10 and 10x10 plots will give appropriate access. As these are smaller plots, I think I will shift the stakes over towards the study plots to make room for narrow middle walks, so no area is lost from them. Now that I know what kind of room we are actually working with on the ground with the stakes in preliminary place, it will be easy to tweak things here and there.

I think that running a walkway from the east garden edge, along the north edge of the bio plot through to the FSRN grain plot will give both access to inner areas, as well as round out easier compost delivery to those upper areas. It looks to me like the whole garden would then have relatively close access to a compost area.

Those estimated walkway figures add up to 430', just in case we need that figure."

Sara has been out marking plots since Wednesday morning, which was the only time the weather cooperated. Yesterday Sara was joined by Roy, on loan from the Boreal Edge Farm, to help put in some more fence posts in some weaker areas of the deer fence. They continued the staking until the rains became to intolerable - at which point they came to see me, in the English office.
I could hear them sloshing up the hall long before I saw them, and the sight of them would have made any Good Pig envious. Mud from head to toe - Sara even pointed out the she was in her "clean clothes". Impressed with their cherrfulness in spite of what they had been through that morning, I wish I could have been with them.

I wish Matt and his family the best of luck in regaining composure of their farm after the heavy rains.

For present, past, and future weather information, see here:
Thunder Bay weather (June 12, 2008) and historical weather data from Environment Canada

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Vampire Garden

Dressed for the English department, I stopped at Wanson's Lumber this morning to pick up bundles of stakes for the garden.
As I drove Hannah to school we talked about the various uses of stakes in my line(s) of work: garden stakes, and other stakes. Unable to slay 100 vampires before 8:30am, I dropped the stakes off at the garden for Sara to use in marking the plots.

LU campus spring things in June 2008

ants on Hazeldean June 11 2008

Centennial greenspace June 11 2008

campus pines

new life on Kateland's rose :)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

FSRN garden pano June 5 2008

It was a dark and stormy night....amy sat in the mud and took a big picture...

garden notes

I would like to thank the hospital for providing us with a windsock.

After wheeling the measuring device around the garden a few times I feel confident with the previously posted plan. I've tried to accommodate larger academic uses ( I find all aspects of this project beg for academic uses), medium sized plots for groups, smaller plots for individuals - all of which can be divided within, or reserved with an adjacent plot for whatever need might arise.
Talking to Sara earlier this evening in the garden was wonderful - it's great to be out there visually planning and bouncing ideas off another creative gardenerd. We talked about how we might keep bears away, nutrients and food - why we eat what we eat, marigolds, decorative yet space-conscious planting. We're collecting stakes, and soon we (Sara) can be out there marking off some plots.
currently growing: some red clover and alfalfa