Tuesday, February 12, 2008

100-Mile Valentines!

I know it's mid-February, and the sourcing for interesting fresh local produce is starting to feel like a stretch. We've made our way through bushels of squash, carrots, onions, beets and potatoes, and surprisingly only one cabbage (so far). A few weeks ago we were absolutely delighted to find local brussels sprouts and kale at the market, both being favourites of ours that we had not seen in a good long while (they sell out quickly these days!). However, we still have at least 3 months to go before fresh greens and produce like asparagus, spinach or peas show up at the local farmer's market and begin to sprout in our garden.

I thought, why not put together a tasty 100-mile Valentine's dinner for my sweetheart - and test my creativity and winter food flair. I've started my indoor sprout garden again, growing spicy lentil crunch, sandwich booster (which has radish and red clover), wheatgrass, and of course alfalfa. We are also very fortunate to have our greenhouse, which still contains a small patch of arugula & chard, that we sparingly harvest for salads a few times per week until our newly planted lettuces grow. So what can I make for a romantic Valentines feast?

On the menu so far:

Appetizer:
* Handmade mini samosas filled with local organic peas, potatoes, carrots, garlic & onions from our garden (from our cellar & freezer)
* Served with pear-plum chutney - made with local organic pears & plums (from the Wellesley area), and onions, garlic & hot pepper from our garden (canned back in September)

Salad:
* Small side salad of fresh arugula & chard (picked fresh from our greenhouse), spicy sprout mix (grown in our kitchen), local apples (farmer's market), and local hemp seeds (Millbank Foods), and locally made goat feta (Woolwich)
* With a dressing of local organic raspberries (in our freezer), & local hemp/flax oils (Millbank Foods)

Main:
* Handmade spelt pasta (made with local spelt flour, by our friend here in town)
* Zesty tomato sauce (canned from organic tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic and herbs, back in August) and with a dollop of basil pesto cream (made with organic basil from our garden)
* Steamed local kale (farmers market) tossed with locally pressed hemp oil (Millbank) and maple-tempeh croutons (locally pressed tempeh, and local maple syrup)

Dessert:
* Local organic icecream from Mapleton's (farm just past Elora, purchased at our local health food store), served with a warm decadent peach-mulberry sauce (peaches we canned this summer, and mulberries that we picked in our neighbourhood)
* Warm local cider (Wellesley) and/or homemade wine (we now have blueberry, sour cherry, apple, pear, and grape waiting in our cellar!)

Who needs chocolates & roses!!!?? It's easy to say "I love you" through local food! For more examples of food love check out "I heart farms"...

Diet for a Hungry Planet - Urban Agriculture on CBC Radio One

There was a great short piece on CBC Radio One this morning, as part of The Current's "Diet for a Hungry Planet" series. The show looked at issues around urban chicken keeping including examples of Canadian cities fighting to change bylaws; the history & future of urban agriculture on a global scale; and possible solutions to cities feeding themselves in an attempt help reduce our ecological footprint. As well, the final guest speaker on the show was a co-founder of an exciting new group called the "North American Urban & Periurban Agriculture Alliance". More information on this group can be found through the Ryerson University Food Security program (Toronto).

Below is a short summary of the program, and it can be heard via podcast or from the Radio One site at: http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/2008
(and thanks to various friends who called to let us know it was going to be on the CBC today!)

The Current: Part 2

Diet For A Hungry Planet - Urban Agriculture

As part of our ongoing series Diet for a Hungry Planet, we took note of three unassuming chickens causing a disproportionately large stir in Halifax. Their names were Captain Crochet, Bernadette and Chicken. They provide Louise Hanavan with fresh eggs. But they're ruffling the feathers of some of neighbours like Reg Harper. Ms. Hanavan and Mr. Harper explained the situation as they each see it.

The Halifax Regional Municipality allowed the chickens to stay until the end of February 2008, but what happens then is still very much up for debate. The community council held a public meeting on the issue, voicing some conflicting thoughts on chickens.

In January 2008, a similar battle played out in New Westminster, British Columbia. In the end, a family there was told their property was just too small to keep their six chickens.

For most city dwellers, the idea of raising chickens -- or other food -- in your backyard probably just seems quaint; a throwback of sorts. But for The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), it's a key part of a sustainable food system for the future.

In February 2008, the WMO called for greater investment in urban and indoor agriculture as a way of safeguarding food security in the world's mega-cities. Robert Stefanski is a scientific officer with the WMO and explained the thinking behind the proposal.

And according to Sunny Lam, urban farming could make a big difference in the size of your carbon footprint. He's an independent researcher who studies food and environment issues. He looked specifically at Kingston, Ontario and what would happen to its greenhouse gas emissions if more of the city's residents grew their own food.

Some ever-optimistic people look at these various threads and see a future where cities can feed themselves with community governments, food co-ops and even large, commercial market gardens all playing a part.

To get the lay of the land on that idea, we were joined by Joe Nasr, co-founder of the North American Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture Alliance who teaches urban agriculture at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Starting seedlings - planting guide

It's time to start a planting schedule, as we will need to begin to start our seedlings in the next few weeks. Last weekend we were at the annual Guelph Organic Conference, and bought some excellent varieties of heirloom tomatoes. Otherwise, we have saved many of the seeds we need from last year's garden, and can also purchase good seeds at the OSC in town.

PLANTING GUIDE (based on frost-free date of May 24):

FEBRUARY
Start lettuce, chard, other greens in greenhouse or in flats indoors (to be planted out to greenhouse). Start selected medicinal and culinary herbs by middle of February. Some take 6-8 weeks to germinate!

10 WEEKS TO LAST FROST (aprox. March 15)
Start seeds of celery, eggplant, leeks, onion, pepper and flowers like impatiens, lobelia, verbena and perennials indoors.

8 WEEKS TO LAST FROST (aprox. March 29)
Start seeds of early head lettuce and flowers like begonia, coleus, nicotiana, petunia and salvia indoors.

7 WEEKS TO LAST FROST (aprox. April 5)
Start seeds of tomatoes, hot peppers, and early basil indoors.

6 WEEKS TO LAST FROST(aprox. April 12)
Start seeds of early left lettuce, early cabbages including cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi and kale, and small seeded annuals indoors. DIRECT SEED broad beans, carrots, peas, spinach, leaf lettuce, turnips, dill, parsley, and hardy flowers such as alyssum, candytuft, pansies, poppies, snapdragons, stocks, sunflowers and sweet peas. Plant onion sets or transplant onion seedlings outdoors.

4 WEEKS TO LAST FROST (aprox. April 26)
Start melon seeds indoors. If desired, start seeds of late basil, cucumber, squash, pumpkin, large-seeded annuals, and flowering vines indoors in peat pots. DIRECT SEED radishes, beets, cabbages, chard, head lettuce, and flowers such as godetia, hollyhock, and mallow. Plant potato eyes and transplant seedlings of early cabbages, except cauliflower.

2 WEEKS TO LAST FROST (aprox. May 10)
DIRECT SEED corn, tender bulbs such as glads, and annual vines such as morning glory. Transplant early lettuce seedlings.

WEEK OF LAST FROST (aprox. May 17-24)
Around the last frost date you can finally direct seed beans, cauliflower, cucumber, squashes, heat-loving flowers such as zinnias, marigold, and lavatera. Transplant your tomaotes. If you've got them, transplant cauliflower, squash and cucumber seedlings.

1-2 WEEKS AFTER FROST (aprox. May 31-June 7)
Wait for a couple of weeks after the last frost before direct seedling lima benas, soybeans, melons and herbs such as basil, summer savory and sweet marjoram. Transplant celery, melon, peppers, eggplant seedlings when the night temperatures stay well above 10 degrees C. Plant sweet potato slips. Start second crop of kale seedlings, and reseed spinach and peas for second crop.

Strawbale dreaming

We're getting closer to firming up our strawbale addition plans. Greg has been steadily researching, reading, inquiring, calculating, sketching and designing over the past few months, and we are almost ready to submit initial drawings to an architect for further detail. What we are hoping to build is only a small addition - an additional sleeping space, living area, expanding our second bathroom, and bringing our laundry upstairs. We are hoping to use natural materials where possible, including staw insulation, earthen floors with radiant heating, natural paints and plasters. However, we also have to accomodate the building department here in town, consider our northern climate (damp, cold), and of course work within our budget. We hope to include workshops over the summer so that others may also learn from this project - including bale raising, plastering, and cob/earthern floors. Stay tuned to this blog for further updates and photos as our strawbale project unfolds...

Greg's work table is overflowing these days with these books:

Steen, Altena & Bill. The Beauty of Strawbale Homes.

Magwood, Chris & Chris Walker. Strawbale Details: A manual for designers and builders.

Magwood, Chris & Peter Mack. Strawbale Building: How to plan, design and build with straw.

Steen, Athena & Bill. Small Strawbale: Natural homes, projects and designs.

Lacinski, Paul and Michel Bergeron. Serious Strawbale: A home construction guide for all climates.

Magwood, Chris and Peter Mack. More Strawbale Building: A complete guide to designing and building with straw.

Weismann, Adam and Katy Bryce. Building with Cob: A step-by-step guide.

Snell, Clarke and Tim Callahan. Building Green: A complete how-to guide to alternative building methods including earth plaster, strawbale, cordwood, cob, living roofs.

New Partnership with Fertile Ground CSA!

Exciting new partnership formed with Fertile Ground CSA!

We have launched a partnership with a new local CSA (community supported agriculture) called Fertile Ground CSA! Angie Koch, who has recently completed a year-long intensive farm internship at the Everdale Learning Centre near Guelph, is the driving force behind Fertile Ground CSA. With the launch of this CSA project she is realizing a lifelong dream of growing good food for others in a sustainable way. Angie is now renting several acres of land just outside of Waterloo, planning to grow fresh produce, herbs and flowers for about 25 share members this summer/fall with the help of other assorted farm hands, friends and volunteers.

The CSA model of food production connects farmers directly with the people who eat the food they grow. Members purchase a share in the harvest and are treated to the fresh, locally-grown vegetables in season each week. Our model offers a combination of diversity & choice which we think you'll find appealing. Drop offs will be held weekly at Little City Farm (downtown Kitchener), every Tuesday from 3:30-6:30 pm, from July through October (18 weeks). We are hoping to create a neighbourhood feeling to this CSA, encouraging members to walk, bike or carpool when they come for their produce. The Little City Farm partnership will include hosting the pick-up days, helping on the farm, and creating newsletters with updates & seasonal recipes for share members.

Vision of Fertile Ground CSA:

Fertile Ground offers people a taste of the joys of farming. We are committed to providing our customers with the freshest, highest-quality produce we can grow.

At Fertile Ground, we believe in:

  • growing organically as the best way to nourish ourselves, our customers, and the earth, for years to come
  • distributing all of our produce through local food systems
  • striving to give back as much as we take

We are excited about getting our hands dirty and working the ground in ways that root us in hope and cultivate our wonder. We are committed to inspiring people to get excited about their food.

If your interest is piqued, please visit www.fertilegroundcsa.com more details, including registration form and an expected crop list.