Sunday, August 29, 2010

One nice guy does a lot of good

August 29/10

Good morning,

Jim Kogelheide is a really nice guy. Back in May he had a terrific idea: find a way to bring together people who wanted to pick blueberries and give them free transportation so they could pick and stock up. And he did it! His employer, Murphy Bus Line, of London, loaned him a bus and people from the Glen Cairn area went out and picked blueberries. Jim did all the arrangements for this outing himself. Like every project taken on, I bet it took more time than expected, and - although I don't know him well - I'm sure he did the work with a smile. And while he understands the complicated environmental and community issues it ties into ... he doesn't get bogged down - he goes for the fun and the good.

I just wanted to say "Hurray Jim!".

If you want to see the pictures of smiles and blueberries, go to:

Best wishes to all,

Why's Woman

Marjorie Harris hooray!

Just listening to CBC radio. Marjorie Harris, wonderful garden guide, is being interviewed by Karen Gordon. I appreciate that right off the top she made a plea for people to water their gardens/plants properly. You need to water slowly and check the depth the water goes to - more than 8 inches down please! 12" plus. I realize she was referring to Toronto, but her comments about rainfall were true for other areas: rainfalls we've had this summer have been rain dumps that came so fast that the water had no time to percolate down, it washes into the sewer systems and doesn't reach the plants. (my suggestion is to stay political and advocate for any developments in your community to have water catchment and re-use systems, and at least 50% of their area be planted areas instead of pavement ... this is a big suggestion)

Check out her website at

I'll mention two of her books that are worth having:
Ecological Gardening - Marjorie updated this book last year. Great attitude for natural gardening. Also, so many suggestions for taking care of your garden that are not expensive and will save you money in the long run because you won't have to replace plants.

Thrifty: sensible ways to save money. I suppose, if you are really thrifty, you'll borrow it from your local library ... but I'll suggest purchasing the book and you'll still save money.

Some of Marjorie's advice from the show:
- For most serious gardening, the long weekend is the beginning of the second planting season. New plants are in the nurseries, bulbs are coming in ... and because we will still have warm days and not cold nights, we can plant and root systems will establish. She's talking about perennial plants, and to do some trimming back of their foliage so the roots will be priority. (you can still put in Chinese vegetables too - I've just transplanted in my small Chinese cabbages and pak choi for late fall harvest. Also discovered that parsnips do not transplant, sad sight)

- Harris mentions Lawrence Packer's book 'Keeping the Bees: why all bees are at risk and what we can do to save them' ... apparently Packer came into her garden and the first thing he saw wasn't the plants but the varied insects. She makes the wonderful comment: 'We have a real responsibility for planting these things'; she was referring to plants that ensure food and water sources for butterflies, but of course this refers to diverse plants that nourish bees and all the other beneficials.

David Suzuki's website has a bee/pollinator guide - very brief! - at

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Backyard Fires - a burning issue that's making you sick

note: for information about the nasty stuff that is in the 'cheery backyard fire' you or a neighbour might be having: Below is a slightly amended version of the latest note I sent to Deputy Chief Kitterman of the London, Ont. Fire Department.

9:00 a.m., Tuesday, August 17/10

Good morning Deputy Chief Kitterman,

Would you please have someone from your staff see that the household at (address X) gets another copy of the outdoor burn regulations? This way, if they have another fire they'll get fined instead of just a warning.

On Saturday evening (late) and Sunday, I did not have the energy to sit at my computer to write this; it was too hot. And yesterday I was at work all day and then getting ready for guests. So, here's a note, a bit after the fact.

On Saturday around 10:00 p.m., after 20 minutes of walking around trying to figure out where the smoke was coming from, I found a backyard fire going at Address X.

From the cross street nearby, one can see that the firepit is a only a circle of bricks, and is less than 4 metres from the property line. The pit must be wider than regulation and there sure isn't the sort of encircling safe zone described in the bylaw. I think the guys burn anything at hand.

I think I've reported this address before. Unfortunately my record-keeping is lousy. One guy did hollar across that they'd 'moved it; this reinforced my recollection that I'd called about them before. I spoke to them from where I was standing on the cross street; they thought it was quite funny that I wanted the fire out and dumped a few glasses of water or something on the fire. I didn't call the fire department when I got home because - who knows? - by the time I got home they might actually have used the hose they said they had to put it out. But I bet they didn't. We just got stuck again with having to have all our windows closed in the heat.

There are probably backyard fires in our drift vicinity 4 times a week. Most of the time I can never find a source. I pick a direction and walk or bike around all the blocks.

To extend the issue of backyard fires ... from all the walking around I do, it is interesting to note the high percentage of houses that have all windows and doors closed. In the evenings a majority of people in this area continue to use air conditioning to cool their houses. So much fossil fuel used, which adds to the pollution burden we all suffer from in London, where the asthma rate is higher than the national average. I wonder how the people who live in these sealed houses miss the media articles about energy conservation. Given the package of environment issues locally and internationally, five years from now people will have to open their windows in the evenings. We are coming to a time when we cannot afford the financial or environmental costs of fuel waste.

Thanks for seeing the household at Address X gets outdoor burning regulations.

Best personal regards,

Why's Woman

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Stupidity again - Kingston and other prison farms close

Good morning,

I've been following the stories about the Feds closure of farms run by Canadian prisons/inmates.

The good thing is that hundreds of people apparently came out to protest at the gates of Kingston's prison, telling officials and the country that it is a mistake to shut down the farm and auction off the cattle.

The sad thing is that the cattle will be auctioned off today.

My hopes are:
- that the cattle will all be purchased by small farm operators who will have them in well-managed herds and that future breeding will result in healthy, well-treated and productive dairy cows
- that people arrested at the protests get a lot of press when they have their day in court

The great crimes are: the shortsightedness and narrow ideology of the Harper government ... and, likely and sadly, the forgetfulness and disinterests of Canadians when elections roll around.

Why aren't more people voting?

The current government probably doesn't want a system of everyone being required to vote because they'd be out. Neither are we likely to get soon a system so that there is more representative voting.

I'm going to have to go looking for a positive story today. It won't just come along.

Best regards, Why's Woman

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Herb drying time: dinner in a bowl. Eclipta

This morning I hollered out to husband and son: "There are two plates clean. If you want to eat something, come now!"

They both cracked up.

At this time of year, we've got two herb drying lines set in the warm upstairs finished attic space, and two short ones in my office on the second level. There are wicker trays and baskets set around on any flat surface in the house ... and I run out of baskets and take over the dinner plates.

This morning the chiso was dried and I consolidated the basil onto one plate. Hence ... two usable plates.

I've got three types of mint drying: peppermint, spearmint and another sort that has rounder, thicker, slightly fuzzy leaves. They'll each make tea or can be blended. Marjoram, oregano, thyme, sage, catnit, catnip and catnip, also catmint.

Eclipta is one of the new herbs we're growing this year.

There's an 8 foot line of Eclipta plants drying; it's the second harvesting. Eclipta alba is an Indian herb. As a tea it's good to keep one's mood steady (ie good for 'stress disorders'). It's also supposed to encourage head hair growth (don't know what part of the plant or how to use).

When Chris originally looked online for information, he came back with it being an annual that grew about a foot tall and it should be harvested when the plant started to have flowers and/or set seed. Don't believe this! When the first flowers started to appear - when the plants were about 12" height - I figured that if I cut them off - much like clipping back basil - they'd branch and grow more.

This guess proved correct. They branched more, and I clipped more. I did the clipping in a semi-organized fashion: I clipped plants in both planting locales once, then watched that nothing died right off, noted all put on new growth and did a more severe clipping of plants in one locale three weeks later. Well, everything has continued to grow. But - and this is important - the plants that did not get the second clipping did put on new growth but also sent out 1/2" diameter flowers in their axils (short white petals with large multi-pistil disc centre) and these began to go to seed (in place, they look like tiny black balls packed in a circle - they are slightly sticky): the leaves also started to change their shade of green to a more yellow-green. Yesterday we harvested the plants that were completing their life cycle; dry stems and leaves (I should have kept the roots too, but they were covered in soil, so I clipped them off. I may go out and pick them up, now that the soil can be shaken off. They ranged between 18" - 24" in height. The seeds are in a dish drying.

There'll be more basil clipped this evening. Also, the peppermint is taking over the foot spaces in the path it's already taken over, so I've got to clip more.

The boys better eat fast.

I forgot to mention that the small plates are for drying seeds. Oh, did I mention that one large wicker tray is full of stems of swiss chard seeds drying?

Best regards to all,

Why's Woman