Saturday, December 31, 2011

A busy year

Good morning everyone,

I hope you are all well. Well in whatever meaning of the word comes first, next and next again to your minds.

It's obvious by the date that it is the last day of 2011. Bloggers everywhere are writing their year-end posts. I'm feeling the pressure to do the same; I know I've been posting less and borrowing more. Borrowing from great people, whose ideas I'm grateful for, but borrowing.

I've never been through a year as busy as this one has been. Over-busy. Feeling that I'm leaking around the edges ... missing things ... not following up adequately with people. It's the sort of busy-ness that takes away from positivity, and with that comes a perceived loss of productivity.

Looking back, however, I recognize that I've done more than I have ever done in a year.

I'm going to make an effort to remember that I - like most people - do rise to meet the demands that come.

The other thing I want to remember, be grateful for, and use even more next year is that I get things done because of other people. Other people step in and help with things. Other people step in and help when I ask them (and I need to do that more).

A lot of activists aren't good at asking for help, at least not on the personal/emotional stuff. We can whip together a film series somewhere, but don't admit that cumulative loss of sleep is making us grumpy with ourselves and others. Or is adding to a tendency to depression. We all need to look out for ourselves and the others we "activate" with. This advice has been given by many others before me and is worth saying again and acknowledging.

Thanks Chris, for morning cups of coffee and boundless love.
Thanks Dylan, for the assortment of "sometime today could you" chores you do.

Thanks everyone in all the groups and at all the meetings, for all the ideas and support.

Thanks Marietta, Louise Ann and Beth ... who gave us home-backed cookies in this Christmas season where I had no time to bake (or knit, or shop, or houseclean).

Much love to all of you today and for 2012.

Why's Woman

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas message from Elizabeth May

By. Elizabeth May

As we all prepare for the holidays, it is customary to look back at the year that was. I am not able to do that (even though that’s what the newsletter editor wanted.) I cannot pretend the events of the last two weeks – first Canada’s sabotage at COP17 in Durban and then the breath-taking duplicity of filing notice to legally withdraw from Kyoto scarcely 24 hours after the close of the COP – belong in another part of my brain. The enormity of it demands that I not write about how great it is that I was elected and that we made a breakthrough. (For the moment, I assume that you know that and that you know how grateful I am for your support in making it happen).

This Christmas season I find myself thinking about Christmas of 1972. It was our last Christmas before moving to Cape Breton. I remember trying to sing Christmas carols in our church, standing with my mum, and both of us choking on tears and unable to sing. It was the year Nixon ordered the Christmas bombing of North Vietnam. Carpet bombing from December 18-30th. The theory was the godless North Vietnamese would not expect bombing from a Christian nation on Christmas. The element of surprise.

What triggered the recollection was nothing cerebral. I tried to sing and the physical sensation opened the portal of memory. The way the smell of rain on warm soil of a summer evening is evocative, I was transported back to that church, standing next to my mother and choking on tears. Once again I have a Christmas when I cannot sing. This time it is Stephen Harper’s surprise strategy. Wait til Canada’s negotiators are back from Durban, wait til Canadians are distracted by Christmas and then bomb the bridges to global climate action.

The climate crisis is not a war and the brutality is at a distance. But brutality it is.

Can we be Conscientious Objectors to the war on our children’s future? As Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote in a poem of that name, “I shall die, but that is all I shall do for Death. I am not on his payroll.” We need to resolve – heart, body and soul – to reverse over the next year the damage done in these last few weeks. We need to be grounded in the ways and strengths of every hero we can name – Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama – and yes, for me, the Prince of Peace whose birthday we celebrate.

We will not allow climate deniers and duplicitous politicians, oil lobbyists and fossil-fuel funded front groups to prevent action in the tiny bit of time remaining.

We have accomplished much in 2011. We must collectively accomplish more in 2012.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Elizabeth May on Canada's Withdrawal from Kyoto

OTTAWA - The Green Party of Canada is appalled by the Harper government’s decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. “It is extremely shocking that Canada has chosen to withdraw just days after the conclusion of the Durban negotiations,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, who was in Durban for COP17. “It is simply outrageous disinformation that there is a $14 billion cost to staying in Kyoto. Staying in the Kyoto Protocol will not cost us a cent. What will cost billions is if we do nothing to address climate change.”

“Canada should be continuing in Kyoto and negotiating the targets that would be palatable for this government. By withdrawing, we become a pariah on the world stage,” said May.

The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, in its report “Paying the Price: The Economic Impacts of Climate Change for Canada”, estimates that the cost of Canada’s failure to act on climate change will range from $5 billion per year by 2020 to as high as $91 billion per year by 2050. Impacts on forests and coastal areas will be particularly felt in terms of hits to the Canadian economy. An increase in flooding, wildfires, heat waves, and poor air quality has already resulted in increased death and destruction of property. Canada's insurance sector is seeing costs from storms and wildfire escalating rapidly.

“Refusing to be a part of the global effort to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate will put Canada behind economically as other countries make investments in efficiencies and renewable energy. Canada has an opportunity to capitalize on a green economy and instead we are clinging to fossil fuels,” said May. “Withdrawing from Kyoto is an appalling decision. It will only hurt us—economically and environmentally.”

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Urban Food Revolution by Peter Ladner

Here I am again!

"the struggle for individual agency ... I find to be at the very center of urban life ... Both as workers and as consumers, we fieel we move in channels that have been projected from afar by vast impersonal forces. We worry tha we are becoming stupider, and begin to wonder if getting an adequate grasp on the world, intellectually, depends on getting a handle on it in some literal and active sense. Some people respond by learning to grow their own vegetables. " from Matthew Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft

With a quotation like the above, right in the introduction, are you surprised that I really want to get hold of Peter Ladner's book? Ladner is Canadian, has been involved with urban agriculture in British Columbia.

The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed Cities. Peter Ladner. New Society Publishers, 2011. paperback
You can look over the Table of Contents and read the Preface from the website of New Society Publishers:

Book blurb from the New Society Publishers website:

Our reliance on industrial agriculture has resulted in a food supply riddled with hidden environmental, economic and health care costs and beset by rising food prices. With only a handful of corporations responsible for the lion’s share of the food on our supermarket shelves, we are incredibly vulnerable to supply chain disruption.

The Urban Food Revolution provides a recipe for community food security based on leading innovations across North America. The author draws on his political and business experience to show that we have all the necessary ingredients to ensure that local, fresh sustainable food is affordable and widely available. He describes how cities are bringing food production home by:

ü Growing community through neighborhood gardening, cooking and composting programs

ü Rebuilding local food processing, storage and distribution systems

ü Investing in farmers markets and community supported agriculture

ü Reducing obesity through local fresh food initiatives in schools, colleges and universities.

ü Ending inner-city food deserts

Producing food locally makes people healthier, alleviates poverty, creates jobs, and makes cities safer and more beautiful. The Urban Food Revolution is an essential resource for anyone who has lost confidence in the global industrial food system and wants practical advice on how to join the local food revolution.

shopping trip .... glitter and plastic

Hello everyone,

I made a rare trip to Masonville Mall area today. There were a whole bunch of items I wanted to locate ... things not sold where I work, but for which I get asked. I did find most of them, so will know where to suggest people shop.

The main thing I found though was piles and mounds and shelves and shelves and shelves full of STUFF. One store had pillars 10 or 12 feet high with things hung up that high - surely an inconvenient storage system for the staff! How many lint-brush-roller thingies would have been on the one section of pillar - 8 across the row, with a couple on each peg, and 14 or 16 rows high? Pillows and furniture on shelves too high for people to reach.

I went into a popular home furnishing store - and I admit I love looking at Christmas decorations and furnishings - but there's so much of it that I find myself wondering what value any of it will have for anyone. Glitter and plastic, glitter and tin, glitter and paper, glitter and more plastic. So much merchandise stacked - in multiples - that I cannot focus on the attributes of any one object before it melds into the identical one atop it ... or competes visually with items on either side.

I went into a major bookstore, admittedly indulging my fondness for journals, and just because I could I looked up one book. The store didn't have it. It's an urban agriculture book that I'll order where I work, tomorrow and will tell about in a separate post. The major bookstore did, however, have a cube of some dragon book or other, discounted. And the major bookstore's smaller bookstore (in Masonville Mall itself) was its own surprise. There was a whole section of children's books that were stacked spine out so customers have to shelf read to find a book; how does that sell anything?

And the big craft store didn't sell Christmas letterhead paper ... anywhere in the aisles and aisles and aisles of duplicated plastic and glitter, glitter and paper, metal and glitter ....

It was a useful venture and traumatic all at the same time. Finding out that all that STUFF doesn't have any value to me ... priceless.

Best regards to all,

Why's Woman

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

WASTE LESS this Christmas

Good morning everyone,

I've mentioned before that I subscribe to the World Watch Institute's e-news ... see

The latest mailing is a great guide to wasting less this coming Christmas season.

My guess is, of course, that if you read my maunderings you already re-use, recycle, refashion, and re-generate anything and everything that crosses your path. You probably spend less on Christmas gifts than the $600+ dollars that some survey said Canadians expect to spend this season and less than the other $600+ that will be spent on Christmas preparations that aren't gifts. That detail made me want to cut down on my own total (somewhat under $150.00 last year including gifts) and get knitting.

The World Watch articles notes that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted each year (1.3 billion tons). It's a head-shaker of a percentage.

The article I've linked to above is talking about reducing waste of food in a North American household that has the more-than-enough-plus-extras-in-the-pantry-and-leftovers-in-the-back-of-the-fridge, which, I'm guessing is your own situation. It's mine ... and I'm so grateful for it. And I know I can do better on using up those leftovers before they become compost!

It talks about supporting an organization that second harvests restaurant food [food recovery] for community agency distribution, buying free trade food items as gifts.

I'm going to suggest supporting an organization that advocates for organic, low-input agriculture or permaculture, or has one of the gifts of animals or garden packages (World Vision or USC). Support or start such in your own community. I'll get the urls. I still can't figure out how to leave an in-progress post and search out something to put in here.

So, all for this morning.

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Not an ode to my new toothbrush

Good morning everyone,

I hope you are all well and happy.

Today I'm going to talk about a very small matter: my new toothbrush.

My new toothbrush has a curvy blue and white handle. Some parts of it are much thicker than others. One place has little bumps. The bristles are higher around the edges than in the middle; the outer central bristles are a different colour from the rest.

The curves are supposed to be ergonometrically correct, ie. they are supposed to fit my hand so I'm comfortable brushing my teeth and will do so longer than I used to. The place with the little bumps - I'm guessing - is to keep my fingers from slipping as I hold the toothbrush; this will prevent me from jamming the toothbrush into a tooth and breaking it, or stuffing it down my throat and choaking. By not doing these damaging things, I will not sue the maker of the toothbrush.

As it turns out ... the way I hold the toothbrush has the handle curve pressing into my palm, instead of my palm curving into it. So, that part doesn't work.

I've not had my hand slip yet, so maybe the bumpy part works. However, since I've never had a previous toothbrush escape my grasp, I cannot make a fair judgement.

As for the bristles, both lengths feel the same ... I'm guessing the coloured ones are a signal to me to use them to do the little gum-line wiggle that one is supposed to do while brushing ... they are sort of a target zone. I don't know if this makes a difference.

The thing that got me started on this is realizing that the handle of the toothbrush, with its two types of plastic, must surely use twice as much plastic as an old-fashioned, basically straight-handled toothbrush.

So, it's a good thing that before I toss out an old toothbrush, it goes through use as a cleaning tool.

And you know what? I just realized that the handle fits my hand better when it's turned over for use as a grout scrubber. So, next year I'll have a good cleaning tool.

Here I sit, shaking my head in wonder at it all. I make the wage I make. You make the wage you make. A designer making $40,000 - $60,000 a year designed this toothbrush and a major drug store chain paid for it to be made. If I had cable TV, I might even know if the company pays to advertise this minor hygiene tool.

Let's guess that my new toothbrush wasn't even made on the North American continent and certainly not by unionized workers. Were the resources used to make it taken from the country where it was made? Were the resources transported by fossil-fuel using ship to that country, then transported back to North America? I know the handle wasn't from a recycled plastic, because that information was not noted and promoted on the package ... and such recycling may not always use less resources overall anyway.

Did I mention that I hate shopping? Even for the little things like a toothbrush?

How does this relate to saving the world in my spare time? Good question. Maybe only insofar as if I keep my teeth in good shape and spare myself huge dental bills, I'll be able to make a few Christmas donations to environment groups.

Best regards to all, as always,

Why's Woman

Sunday, November 6, 2011

where nowhere is heard a discouraging word

"This farm happened because I walked into a house I wasn't sure I could buy, with the belief that no matter what, I would make it mine. It wasn't a case of money, or who I knew, it was a case of stubbornness, faith, and belief in myself and in the outcome I had written down on a piece of paper months ago that I carried with me everywhere I went in my back pocket."

Jenna Woginrich' latest blogpost takes us through a description of a wickedly good pot pie ... and then switches to encouragement to follow our dreams.

I've been stewing in my doubts and fears lately. Thanks Jenna, for the encouragement to remain stubborn, faithful to a dream and to believe in myself. Also, I'd forgotten that magic of writing down the specifics of what I want and carrying it with me.

I'm off to do that right now.

Best regards to all,

Why's Woman

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Waste Not Want Not - a Booke of Cookery

In the introduction to Waste Not Want Not: a Booke of Cookery - Some Interesting Recipes of Old Acadia, author E.F. "Ted" Eaton, answers his own question of why he's written yet another recipe book:

"Mostly because we feel that the culinary customs of our ancestors, with their very limited facilities, are now, and will be of increasing interest and concern to us as we deal with rising energy costs and perhaps shortages. Our forbears ate extremely well without the aid of micro-wave ovens or pressurised dairy products. Perhaps we have something to learn from them. Moreover our forefathers believed very firmly (and with reason) in 'waste-not, want-not' so that Dear Old Granny was well acquainted with the virtues of such things as heads, tails and tripe which we have tended to scorn in our affluence but which we'd better learn to use in the future."

The reference to "rising energy costs and perhaps shortages" caught my attention when I began to browse this 1978 recipe book, which I picked up on the weekend from the London Public Library annual book sale. 1978. It was 1978 when this came out. I was 23. Did I know anything about rising energy costs or potential shortages way back then? Several years earlier, I'd handed out flyers in high school about the evils of phosphates in detergents. I'd heard the term "appropriate technology" - a term that is not in fashion in 2011 but is still around through the .....and, for me, is still a sensible, understandable term.

I certainly didn't have much sense of the interconnections of political levels in one country, let along internationally ... heck, a lot of those interconnections were not even formed yet. Fossil fuels usage back then must have been a lot less than it is now - not just because there were fewer people worldwide but because the appalling levels of production and consumption of badly made, cheaply produced junk was nowhere near what it is now. Think your latest cell phone - Ipod - Ipad - computer anything - interactive game. Every one of them obsolete before it even reached the store you bought it from.

Yet here, in 1978, is a cookbook author talking about rising energy costs and potential shortages.

I wonder if this was a bold political statement on the part of an historian (Mr. Eaton seems to have had a connection to New Brunswick's King's Landing Historic Site), or just a dig at his contemporary society which wasn't cooking frugally, as did our great-grandparents.

Mr. Eaton would probably never have contemplated that someone - like myself - reading his book today, would have to investigate whether the Corn meal she uses to make Johnnycake is produced outside of Canada and whether the corn was grown using a genetically tampered seed developed to not die if doused by RoundUp herbicide (several times in a season) and equipped to kill any caterpillar that happens to hatch on its leaves. He might not believe that sometimes she has to be grateful that something is grown within two provinces distance. I hope he would be horrified to know that in New Brunswick and every province the number of family farms has decreased tremendously over the years and the production of food generally has become specialized (monocrop) so that farms - previously the most self-sufficient production units in society - have far fewer abilities than in previous times.

(I'll take a bit of heart in supposing that someone involved in farming could still fix more things that break than the average urbanite. I'd better take heart too in knowing that there is a trend happening for (especially younger) people to buy small acreages and begin small scale farming.)

Where was I going with this? Oh yes, that these days environmentalists and groups like those in the Transition Network are trying to help us "re-skill" - learn how to do things for ourselves again - and be more "resilient" - more adaptable and able to recover from negative changes. There is (finally) a realization that we are going to be living in times where there is not abundant fossil fuel, where we will have to be aware of the resources we use, where myriad adjustments will have to be made because of negative (if not disastrous) consequences of climate change.

Yep, to quote the driver of the Night Bus in Harry Potter: "It's going to be a bumpy ride."

After all that, I'd better leave you with the Johnnycake recipe:

1 1/2 cups flour 1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cornmeal 1/2 cup maple syrup
4 tsp Baking Powder 1/4 cup melted butter or oil or shortening
1/2 tsp salt 2 eggs

Sift together the flour, corn-meal, baking powder and salt. Add liquid ingredients and the eggs, stir everything together only long enough to mix. Bake in greased and floured loap pan (11" x 7" x 1 1/2" at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes. Serve hot with butter.

Mr. Eaton notes that you'll get different results with different types of cornmeal and proportions of maple syrup to milk. You can also use honey in place of maple syrup, which will give a different flavour indeed.

If you are using maple syrup, please use the real thing, from a real farmer. If you use honey, thank the bees for millions of trips to make your honey. Make 3 or 4 pans of this at a time - if you've got the oven on, never bake just one little pan.

Enjoy the cooking.

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Permablitzing and conference thank you!

Hello Everyone!

I hope you are all well.

Thanks to Brian H. who handed me the word "permablitz" in an email and relied on my curiosity taking me to Google search. Here's a bit of what I discovered.

Permaculture is a design system that is inspired by deep observation of natural systems. It learns from them how to apply ecological principles to the design of human systems. Often used when discussing bounteous food-producing gardens, it extends to neighbourhood design and beyond.

A "Permablitz" is what happens when people get together to install a permaculture environment in one day, based on the plan/preparation that has been done ahead of time to suit the space.

The first permablitz resource I looked at was on the website of Permablitz Hawaii: Hawaii's Edible Garden Revolution - There's a video there at triple speed - always fun! - showing how a parking lot is transformed. I love the faces of the volunteers, the enthusiasm. The post went up in early October, so the site is up to date.

The other links I've browsed so far are:

A short film of an event of Permablitz Bellingen

The text box under the video opens to a list of resources.

Permablitz Brisbane, is on a page asking how we connect food consumption and people.

is on the website of OpenIDEO, which lists the principles of an OpenIDEO community as: inclusive, community-centred, collaborative, optimistic and always in Beta. I don't know what "in Beta" means - a computer reference? or brain waves? - but I like their principles.

Over the last months I've met several Londoners who are involved in permaculture. Their upcoming events include:

On November 19 and 20, there will be a two day Transition Training held at the Living Centre. Shantree and Lorenna Kacera are the principals of The Living Centre; all they do is permaculture based. Their place is beyond amazing. The left hand side of the Events page lists this event:

On November 26, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Jessica Roder of Wild Craft Permaculture, and Becky Ellis, environmental educator, are pairing up to offer an introduction to permaculture ($30.00 - details on ). At 1:00 p.m. there is a potluck lunch and from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. there is a food swap for people with baked goods, preserves, fresh food to swap. You don't have to go to all of these events. I'm sure it would help their planning, however, if you pre-register for the permaculture workshop.

The four mentioned above were amongst the nearly 60 people who brought their ideas and enthusiasm to the From Community Gardening to Urban Agriculture in London gathering last Sunday. There were nearly 60 people there, and they all talked with each other. There were so many ideas generated that we are still working our way through conference notes and the where to next. I sure want to thank everyone who came. I stopped by so many conversations and was so taken by people listening to each other, really interested in what others had to say.

Big hug for everyone!

Why's Woman

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Southwestern Ontario Food blog is really interesting!

Hello everyone,

I love the internet for its connections and synchronicities.

All I did was try to find out a bit about the Crunican apple orchard and store, ten minutes north of London, and the first thing I came to was a blog titled Southwestern Ontario Foodie

which is written by a woman who goes to all sorts of interesting places and eats and finds out how food is grown or prepared or celebrated. She visited the Kernal Peanut butter place in Vittoria, Ontario recently ... and coincidentally ... since I bought peanut butter from there less than two weeks ago.

Scroll down Dallas' site to find out about some recent garlicky food events in Stratford - my home town that I visit far too seldom.

I've bookmarked the site.

Best wishes to you all,

Why's Woman

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Why I am an organic farmer


I just ran across a great little video titled: Why I am an organic farmer.

Narrated by Gavin Dandy, Farm Director of Everdale Farm and Evironmental Learning Centre, it is a what the NFB would call an animated short.

Have a look.

Then check out Everdale at

Hope you enjoy it.

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Taking a break

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all well.

I'm still working on getting the word out about From Community Gardening to Urban Agriculture in London, Oct. 16. see the News page of

Lots of details, and I wake up in the morning thinking about some of them - and go to bed at night thinking about others. It's an extreme exercise in Saving the World in My Spare Time ... that's taking all my spare time.

I just used two minutes of that spare time to read Jenna Woginrich's Cold Antler Farm blog. One of her October 2 entries mentions that she heard Joel Salatin talk at a Mother Earth News event (and I admit to envy for both parts of that!). He was talking about the importance of sitting around a table and having dinner with your family ... and Jenna goes on to talk about that as something her family did. It's worth reading:
[just realized Jenna put several posts on today ... when does that woman sleep?!]

And worth doing. I admit to a certain separateness in our household when it comes to dinner. We sit down too many times in different rooms ... not paying good attention to each other or the dinner (that my husband makes most days, and he's a good cook and deserves praise!)

Best regards to all,

Why's Woman

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Go read Stephanie's blog

Good evening everyone,

One of two blogs I follow is Stephanie Pearl McPhee's knitting blog Yarn Harlot.

Which you should go to right now ... and scroll down to read her September 14th entry about birth and babies and mothers.

The column is a love letter to her friend Jen who recently gave birth to a beautiful girl.

Best regards to all,

Why's Woman

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wow! We got a dehydrator!

Hello everyone,

Hope you are all well, and had some great weather for whatever you did today. We had about 20C and sunny here in London. Just great.

It's just past 10:00 p.m. here. We just switched on the new Excalibur dehydrator to 125Fahrenheit, to begin turning slices of pears into pear chips, and tomato slices and halves into "sun dried." The dehydrator is our new household appliance - I was going to joke and say "toy" but it cost too much for a toy ... and I'm just starting to realize that it will be a useful kitchen tool in many ways I didn't know it would be. Apparently, as well as using it to dry tomatoes and pears, I'll be able to use it as a warming oven to make yogourt and let bread rise. Who knew?

I also did some experimenting with drying herbs, which I usually dry simply on trays or by hanging (depending on which herbs). I thought that a bit of time in the dehydrator would speed up the process a bit and that way I could deal with a particularly large amount of peppermint. I had four trays of peppermint, and put them in for about 1 hr and 15 minutes. That reduced the volume so the leaves fit onto only two trays. And I'd chopped up mustard leaves from a huge plant that was growing. They reduced by over 1/2 in that same time ... and I discovered that, although the leaves were large and almost soft, they must have a structure that lets them lose water quickly. They dried so much that they were beginning to blow around the trays. Quite funny. The sage - with a much denser leaf - dried a bit in that time, reducing a large tray's worth to fitting nicely on a smaller tray (the size I have available). So, all herbs will complete their drying on trays, but I don't have to find spaces for so many.

Tarragon is drying in my office, another jar of dried basil has been added to the cupboard; I think there's enough in the garden to harvest another collander-full. I've got to harvest rosemary ... and think about which plants will come inside for the winter and which will be sacrificed to winter. We had an accident with a jar of dried oregano, but lucky us we have more growing. Shadow cat was caught with her head in the compost bucket yesterday - I'd been harvesting catnip and she wouldn't touch the lovely leaves I'd put on the floor for her, but she went for the remains instead.

My fingers smell wonderful from handling so many things this evening.

Best regards to all,

Why's Woman

Community Gardening to Urban Agriculture

From Community Gardening to Urban Agriculture in London - conference/gathering

Sunday, October 16, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Brescia College Auditorium. Fee: $20.00 (students and seniors $10.00)

If you are interested in or involved with community gardening, urban agriculture and the related environment, food or agriculture issues ... we hope you will come on out. We want to make connections, help people find others to work on projects, and - after the event - stay connected with each other.

The morning session - update on London Community Gardens Program Review (LCGPR); generation of topics for ... discussion groups to map out practical ways to evolve community gardening.

Lunch - this will be a brown bag affair - please bring your own lunch plus something to share with others at your table [we will have healthy snacks and beverages available prior to and during sessions]

The afternoon session - short presentations about various urban agriculture projects ... generation of topics ... to take back into discussion / work groups. As with the morning group work, we'll get back together to share ideas ... and come up with some ways to stay in touch and work together after the gathering

There will be information displays from local groups involved with community gardening, urban agriculture, environment and food ... and a "seed swap" table - contributions are welcome, but don't be shy about taking if you aren't bringing.
Full information:

or email:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Can "sleep less" be the answer?

Good morning every one,

The question is: "How can a person even catch up with all the things she has to do?"

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Friday, August 19, 2011

Just one conversation can be all it takes

Good evening everyone,

I hope you are all well ... occupied with enough to keep life interesting but not so much to be overwhelmed.

I've been feeling overwhelmed lately. Unfortunately, when I feel that way I grind to a halt. Life is weird like that: when I need to be doing everything, I want to retreat to nothing.

Lucky for me, this afternoon I met someone who brought me back on track.

I was in Tim Horton's. It is a major vice of mine ... and an easy, anonymous retreat where I can sit and read through a book or notes. I was reading meeting notes when ...

"You've got a lot of paper there! Are you taking a course?"

This question came from the young man who had been sitting two tables away, talking on the phone. He was on his way out. It's unusual for a guy of twenty or so to speak to a woman my age, so I really felt that long two seconds of "Is he being sarcastic?" crossing my brain. And I replied: "No, I'm reading through the notes from a meeting I was at this morning. London has a new food charter and we're trying to decide what projects we want to tell people about first."

He stopped at my table. "A food charter?"

"Yes, it's a statement by a lot of organizations in London and even the City that says basically that everyone should be able to get healthy food every day. There's a lot of other stuff too, but that's the really important part."

He was nodding agreement. "You have to have a lot of money to eat healthy."

It was my turn to nod.

"It's like ... when you go to the store and there's something good on for $3.00 but it's not a lot and then the peanut butter is $2.00 and you buy the peanut butter because there's more ... but it's got a lot of oil in it."

"Maybe confectioners sugar too," I added. "The 'just peanuts' stuff costs more."

He was still nodding his head. "Not everyone can afford the healthy stuff."

"No, and companies like to sell stuff that's already made up so people don't have to cook and it always costs more when though there's extra chemicals and stuff in it."

"And it's cheap and fast. They want you to buy that." he added. "But it's not that good for you. The companies make a lot of money on it ... you know, the refined stuff. And when you get older you can get sick because you didn't eat the right stuff."

"Yes," said I. "There are a lot of companies making a lot of money ... and people can't afford the better food - the real stuff you have to make yourself. At the food charter group, we've talked about other things like how if people don't have enough money to buy the good food there need to be changes so that people get better wages at their jobs ..."

"A lot of jobs don't pay much," he put in. This gets really big. There's a lot of things that are mixed up together."

"Yes," I said. "It gets really complicated and I feel confused sometimes."

"But you're working with other people to make this food charter so more people have good food? Then that's good. You all help each other."

A little light went on for me. "Yes, we do. And some of them really know a lot. There are people in this group from groups that work with children, and health organizations, and there's a university teacher, and someone from the food bank and one of the City departments that works with people who have low incomes. And ... yeah, they're good people."

"I'm really glad to meet you. My name's Andrew."

And he reached out and we shook hands as I told him my name.

"I'm really glad you spoke to me," I said. "Thank you."

"I really like to talk to people," Andrew said. "Well, I gotta go. You take care."

And he headed off ... to work or home or maybe a date or a friend's place.

After he left, I just sat for a minute before I packed up all the papers, to head home. I felt pretty good.

Thanks Andrew. You made my day.

Best wishes to all of you reading.

Why's Woman

Monday, August 8, 2011

Chickens again!

Good morning!

I did it! I sent in my written submission for London's public participation meeting about backyard chickens on time so it can get into the committee's agenda. I wouldn't bore you with the 7 pages and 37 endnotes of the full thing! But the short form is:

Chickens can be raised in an urban back yard without disturbing neighbours by noise or odours, and without anyone getting sick.

Raising chickens has a traditional place in household economic and food security that continues today.

Raising chickens in urban yards can be a normal part of city living and an accepted part of a city's urban agriculture spectrum.

Varied societal and economic factors will require more food to be produced within London's urban boundaries, probably beginning within the next ten years. We need to be ready by developing varied models of urban agriculture in London. The people who learn now about caring for chickens will be the people who will teach others how to raise chickens, confidently; also, their purchases of hens for egg-laying supports established breeders of healthy stock within our region.

Other cities in Canada and the United States have done the reports, set the standards, examined and been satisfied about health concerns, and had some experience with chickens raised within their urban boundaries. London could easily get on with amending bylaws to allow people to raise a few chickens in their yards, now.

I look forward to a bylaw that begins: "London wants to lead the way in creative, environmentally sound, economically and socially inclusive styles of urban agriculture. We are open to individual households where raising chickens is part of a household's food plan. As London evolves its urban agriculture spectrum the guidelines in this bylaw/report are a starting point...."

And that's really short. It's just that councillors seem to like paperwork to back up simple stuff.

I've only got half a dozen major projects to get on with ... plus the garden ... and my nice husband who brings me coffee in the morning and makes me tea when I ask him, and proofread the submission (that was really above and beyond! I love you Chris. Thanks.)

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Kitchen Garden Day is August 28/10

Good morning everyone.

I've been surviving the heat - sort of - and not writing much here.

A bit of inspiration has come my way, through a visit to the Kitchen Gardens International website (

Apparently, several years ago, some KGI members realized that the US snack food industry celebrated itself for a whole month every year ... a mind-boggling thing to contemplate given the normal level of advertising there is for junk, er, snack food.

KGI decided to set the last Sunday in August as International Kitchen Gardens Day. It's not a day off work, or an official holiday ... but I figure that KGI has readers worldwide, so designating an international Kitchen Gardens Day is fine by me. :-) There's a lot to eat coming from our gardens around that time, that's for sure!

A lot to be grateful for! A lot to celebrate!

So! Let's celebrate the positive role of organic kitchen gardening in society, health, and cookery!

I've made my own list of ways to celebrate. Please do let me know your own celebration idea ... you could even let KGI know too via its website (

Best regards to all,

Why's Woman

Kitchen Gardens Day - Sunday, August 28, 2011

Celebrate your own kitchen garden ... or balcony garden ... or local farmers' market ... or the farmer you don't know whose fresh food comes to your neighbourhood grocery story.

* work outside in your own kitchen garden and take the time to smell and touch and observe all the good things you have

* eat something right there in your garden - hold the food in your mouth and savour the sweet or spicy or tart sensations

* at mealtime, mention to anyone eating with you just what food came out of your garden - even if it is just the chives in the salad dressing

* if you are dining along - say a little thank you to the food and the garden

* if you have gardening neighbours or friends, invite them over for an outdoor potluck - swap some recipes at your potluck

* take some photos of your garden and put them on your fridge door - or set them aside to put into Christmas cards, when we might need a reminder of our gardens

* ask an older person you know if s/he has a story about a family kitchen garden of her/his childhood ... maybe this could be story number one of a collection.

* if you don't have a garden or need more produce, visit a local farmers' market and buy something you love to eat, or try something completely new to you

* donate to your local food bank or to another local group - asking that the donation go towards its fresh produce funds

* send for a catalogue with good seeds for next year - see the resources page of Community Gardens London for a printable list (

* visit the USC website and find out about its Seeds of Survival program ( and the importance of saving seeds to people's livelihood

* let Kitchen Gardens International know your celebration plan - it's a good reason to visit an interesting website

Sunday, July 24, 2011

It rained!

Hello everyone,

I hope you've all survived the critical weather we've had lately.

I feel like the last two weeks have gone by without me being more than 1/2 awake. I don't do well in hot weather. And we've had temperatures over 30C most days, including a record-breaking 36.7C.

It is, of course, indication of the increased unusual "weather events" that we can expect in future due to climate change.

We've also not had rain for over three weeks (I don't count 2mm in early July).

I water my gardens as I need to. I'm not talking lawns, as you know; I don't do lawns. I'm talking areas where I've got seeds just in, or small transplants, the vegetables like beets that need regular water. And with our .2435 acres (1/4 acre if I trellis the produce!), a few water barrels off the roof don't supply the amount of water needed. So, I turn on the tap and fill containers ... letting the chlorine evaporate off ... and use that for smaller plants or areas where I've got a newly laid compost mulch down.

I water straight from the hose too. Letting a slow flow 'round a tree or shrub that's struggling; or setting the hose where the flow will be under the mulch and gently flooding a lowered bed. I weed or add mulch nearby so I can keep an eye on what's happening and move the hose frequently.

We put money and effort into the gardens, so that we get food for ourselves and help develop a safe place for birds and pollinating and beneficial insects. We don't mind adding the small amount of money to our water bill that this takes. Our return is many times more than our outlay.

And for those people, like a store customer recently, who commented "what 'til you see your water bill" ... I say that water is an inexpensive commodity. There are a few extra charges that go on the bill when we use more, but that's fair to pay for infrastructure or pay down debt or whatever it is. We live in an area that has safe water, there where we need it. We are far more water-conservation-minded than most people. We don't have air conditioning, don't take long showers, and most water that goes through our place is used twice - we've got quite the soak-wash-rinse-save-water to put on something outside system in place for just about everything. If anything, it's amazing that water doesn't cost way more than it does.

The cost of most utilities will be going up in the next years as fossil fuel resources run out and Canada gets farther behind in all levels of government policies to do with conservation and futures planning.

What's it going to take for Steve to "get" climate change? ... or just about anything ... hmm, that could take this post in another direction.

Back to water.

Thanks to the people who maintain the water supply system we have. I do thank you every time I turn the tap outside.

And check out the Council of Canadians website, water issues section:

Best regards to all,

Why's Woman

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Garden City Harvest - urban agriculture in Missoula, Montana

Hi Everyone,

It's a hot day outside ... not quite so warm sitting at the computer, so here goes ... a bit of a report about a book and website worth looking at if you want some inspiration about what urban agriculture can produce.

Let's start with the book - Growing a Garden City*: how farmers, first graders, counselors, troubled teens, foodies, a homeless shelter chef, single mothers, and more are transforming themselves and their neighborhoods through the interesection of local agriculture and community - and how you can too.