Thursday, June 30, 2011

EcoVox tv and me

Hello everyone,

I hope many of you have some time off this Canada Day weekend coming. And if you don't, thanks for doing whatever job you have to do.

This morning I did something I've never done before: I was interviewed for a local television show - EcoVox. Voice of environment. Sounds good doesn't it? Maryanne MacDonald, founder of Waste Free World in London and a strong driver in the greening of London's many festivals, was asked to work with Rogers Cable tv on a 13-part environment series. They've already done several shows, and will be working a breakneck pace to wrap the shows by the end of July.

The show's producer, Christine, and Maryanne came to my gardens today. Maryanne asked me questions about why gardens and saving seeds are important, and asked me about London's food charter. I had to remember to not look at the camera! The cool thing was that I got to talk about things that are important to me ... and then I got to drag them around the garden and show them plants! I love to show people plants. As far as seed saving goes. I've got parsley growing a treat; it wintered over from last year and has a lot harvestable foliage as well as stems projecting upward that are just now at the bud stage. Loads of spinach and kale wintered over and is into the seed or pod stage. There are redemption Chinese cabbages ... two kinds, that will produce seed. Beans are climbing their poles, tomatoes are finally putting on growth, beets are just sprouting ... lots of things are happening. Plus, Chris had just trimmed back some paths so it was possible to get 'round the place. Altogether, it was the perfect morning for someone to walk through the garden.

Lest I get too carried away with a plant list, let me mention that earlier in the morning Christine and Maryanne had been visting a Community Supported Agriculture organic farm, and next on their appointment list were several organic farmers who were at the Covent Garden market. I think these will be blended with my bit to talk about the ways in which local and diverse agriculture is important for individual eaters and the local economy. I'm looking forward to seeing the show.

Food is the talked about issue everywhere it seems.

I think I'll add a bit to this post later ... I'm being called for dinner.

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Raising chickens a normal in Salt Lake City

Hello everyone,

Just to update, London City council voted to hold a public participation meeting on the topic of raising chickens in London's backyards. This will happen on August 16 (time to be determined).

Councillor Harold Usher, who was in the hospital while the Community and Neighbourhood Committee was going on and missed that meeting, sent a letter in to Council, urging his fellow councillors to vote to have the PP meeting. He said:

We are a Council that prides itself on citizen engagement and this is one opportunity to prove we are serious. As Council Members we know that we will ├że faced with many issues; most will be important to all, but some will seem more important to some than to others. We should not unilaterally or autocratically decide if an issue should or should not be heard. A member of the public might well have a piece of valuable information to help us decide on a matter in a democratic fashion.

Enough councillors got the point ... recognized that the expectation had been since last year that there would be a meeting. Sadly, several of them have said that no matter what people say their minds are made up to say 'no chickens.' The mayor Joe Fontana actually belittled the people in attendance, saying they were wasting their own and Council's time. It was an astonishing show of disrespect to citizens, some of whom might have even voted for him.

On a positive note, I was reading today about the Wasatch Community Gardens program in Salt Lake City, Utah (pop. about 190,000) (check out ) This week Salt Lake City is holding its 6th annual Tour de Coops. This Saturday there is a walking tour of 18 backyard chicken coops in the north of the city; the tour of coops in the south end was a few days ago. The week is "a promotion of home-grown chickens and urban farming."

In Salt Lake City, having a few chickens is considered a normal and harmless thing. The Wasatch CG's 2008 annual report outlines its Community Education Program and casually reported "Our very popular workshops are taught by local experts and WCG staff. Topics include composting, raising urban chickens, fall and winter planting, and food preservation."

Simple, straightforward.

Like it should be.

Best regards to all,

Why's Woman

Sunday, June 19, 2011

a bit more on chickens

Hello everyone,

At the expense of a slightly clenched jaw and a bit of an eye twitch, one of my alter egos wrote a polite letter to London city councillors. Excepts follow.

Best regards, Why's Woman


At Monday's Council meeting [June 20] I look forward to a majority vote of Council endorsing the report ... Overview of Policies and By-laws from Other Municipalities that deal with Backyard Chickens*-- ...

I also look forward to a majority vote of Council accepting the staff recommendation to call a Public Participation meeting on the subject of raising chickens and that any aspect of the topic may be spoken about.

Last year, I took time to do research into the subject of raising chickens in urban areas, and how it related to food security. [then there were delays in a report going to council]

[after all this time] ... I fully expected that once [the report was in] the Council would call for a Public Participation meeting, as the next step in citizen participation on this topic that is - ultimately and intimately - connected with the future of London's urban food security. Everyone who has an interest in this topic expected that in the step-by-step process of governance, our elected representatives would give Londoners an opportunity to be heard. The analogy that comes to mind is the social justice "witnessing" ... that is what public participation meetings are about.

There has been much written over the last few years concerning raising chickens in urban areas. There are many models. I attach to this e-mail the resource list and article I submitted last year to members of council and some City staff. I will augment it for my submission to the Public Participation process [previous post]:

A growing number of Canadians already have a huge interest in food issues: healthy growing methods and shorter shipping distances - which relate to both the nutrient content of food and fossil fuel use; humane animal raising practices; Canada's self-sufficiency in food production; fairer trade practices.

Within the next twenty years food production will not just be in rural areas surrounding cities. More people who live in cities like London will produce more food in backyard gardens, in cooperative gardens on shared lots, and on land farmed by small business entrepreneurs. Many paths of urban agriculture will be explored. The raising of chickens will be a logical, natural part of this.

... people should be able to grow, or raise, good food for themselves. To me, this comes from a human history of practicality and common sense. It is also manifest in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human rights in its articles dealing with social security and a standard of living adequate for health and well-being (which includes food and medical care).

Certainly, it is the responsibility of Londoners who want to raise chickens to educate themselves about both the practicalities of raising chickens and the concerns that some Londoners and Council may have. In the near term, raising any animal involves responsibilities to the animal, and there are also responsibilities to neighbours. In the longer term, we - people who want to raise chickens and our City representatives - have a responsibility to examine how London will be prepared to feed itself more locally 20 and 30 years from now when we will have do so.

A Public Participation meeting to do with the raising of chickens in London is an important part of this examination.


* to find the report on the June 16/11 agenda of London's Community and Neighbourhoods Committee agenda, item 26...... Go to

and then click on the second line, which links to the PDF of agenda items 25 through 32. In the left had icon list you'll find a bookmarks link ( looks like a roll of toilet paper). Click on this to get the Bookmarks open - then click on item 26 to get to the report Overview of Policies and By-laws from other municipalities that deal with backyard chickens.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Chicken raising resource list

Good evening all,

The resource list that follows was prepared over one year ago, when London Ontario's city council was first asked to look at the possibility of changes to bylaws that would make it o.k. to raise a few chickens in urban backyards. The long story is not going to be put down this evening: it's 11:30 p.m. and this questioning woman is tired, cranky and far too ready to rant about things.

There will be more entries on this topic, however.

Best regards,

Why's Woman


Chicken Resources

note: prepared April 21/10 by Why’s Woman ( Thanks to Ron Berezen of River City Chickens for the Urban chicken activists on line info which he put together for a recent article in Canadian Organic Grower. Thanks to Jacqueline Jolliffe for her paper. Any errors are Why’s Woman’s. Best regards to all users.

Urban chicken activists Groups on-line

note: most of this section was compiled by Ron Berezen for his article On a Wing and a Prayer. Thanks!

CLUCK (Calgary:):
River City Chickens (Edmonton):
Chickens in Vancouver:
SBCS (Saskatoon):
Backyard Chickens in Toronto:
Waterloo Hen Association:
Halifax Chickens:

Mad City Chickens: A Web site by, for and about the backyard chicken keepers of Madison, Wis.


Henderson’s Chicken Resources: Lots of basic information for keepers of small flocks, including a “Handy Dandy Chicken Chart” to help you choose breeds.


Mother Earth’s Chicken and Egg Page: Numerous chicken-related articles, complete details on Mother Earth’s egg nutrition tests, a comprehensive hatcheries directory and other essential tools.

The Modern Homestead: Virginia homesteader Harvey Ussery has tons of advice for getting started with poultry, including a question and answer section.

FeatherSite--The Poultry Page: An encyclopedic collection of all things poultry-related.

Robert Plamondon’s Poultry Pages: Chock-full of useful information on raising baby chicks, making your own feed and earning a living with your eggs.

Seattle Tilth: This nonprofit organic gardening group was one of the first to support chicken keeping as an element of sustainable local food systems. Learn about managing chickens in your garden, including tips for composting chicken manure.


Please! Always order your books from an independent book retailer!

Chicken Keeper’s Library Living with Chickens: Everything You Need to Know to Raise Your Own Backyard Flock by Jay Rossier

Encyclopedia of Country Living, 10th edition. Carla Emery. Sasquatch Books. 2008. This 922 page book is about more than raising chickens!

Keep Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs, and Other Small Spaces by Barbara Kilarski

The Idiot’s Guide to Raising Chickens. Jerome D. Belanger. Alpha Press - a member of Penguin Group USA) Inc. 2010.

Pastured Poultry Profit$: Net $25,000 in 6 Months on 20 Acres by Joel Salatin for small, rural business

Raising Poultry on Pasture: Ten Years of Success edited by Jody Padgham for small, rural business

Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens: Care, Feeding, Facilities by Gail Damerow

Articles in magazines and papers

Anyone Can Raise Chickens. Harvey Ussery. Mother Earth News, Dec. 2008/Jan. 2009. Ussery’s website:

Balking at Bocking: urban chicken policy in Canada. Jacqueline Jolliffe, member of Transition Ottawa. Paper for a course taken with Andrew McCann, St. Laurence College and for JustFood Ottawa.found at:

Best Chicken Breeds for Backyard Flocks. Troy Griepentrog. Mother Earth News, April/May 2010.

Chicken Keeper’s Library. Laura Sayre. Mother Earch News. April/May 2007. list has been incorporated into this Chicken Rsources list

Grow Your Own Poultry Feed. Harvey Ussery. Mother Earth News. Feb/Mar 2010.Ussery’s website is:

How Do Your Eggs Stack up? Laura Sayre. Mother Earch News. April/May 2007.

On a Wing and a Prayer: the urban chicken-keeping movement takes flight. Ron Berezen. Canadian Organic Grower, Spring, 2010.

Portable Chicken Mini-coop Plan. Cheryl Long. Mother Earth News, April/May 2007


American Livestock Breeds Conservancy: Pioneer organization working to conserve historic breeds and genetic diversity in livestock.

Cherry Creek Canadians. with information about the Chantecler Chicken.

Rare Breeds Canada Rare Breeds Canada's mission is to make Canadians more aware of their agricultural heritage and, through education and niche marketing, involve them in conserving endangered breeds of farm livestock and poultry.

Sand Hill Preservation Center: This small family farm in Iowa sells heirloom garden seeds and rare poultry. Their Web site features firsthand descriptions of many unusual breeds; they also offer a “tasty chicken treats” seed mix to encourage your birds to forage.

Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities: Works to perpetuate and improve rare breeds of poultry.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Food Down the Road

Good morning everyone,

I'm not personally acquainted with Aric McBay or any of the others involved with Food Down the Road, but I'm absolutely inspired by the interesting and useful articles that fill their most recent issue.

The Food Down the Road newspaper is a publication of National Farmers Union Local 316, in their own words "your connection to local food in Kingston and countryside."

I was lucky enough to be given a copy of the printed edition - way down here in London - by Karen Eatwell, executive secretary of the Ontario NFU and co-partner, with her husband Peter Duenk, of Duenk (organic) Farms. (

I won't mind if you skip the rest of this blog entry to go straight to the on-line version of Food Down the Road. The brilliant people involved actually had a flash mob of 100 people show up at the Kingston Farmers' Market on June 4, mingling and reading the latest edition of the newspaper. (

The lead item is titled Food Sovereignty. Aric McBay, its author, says that "At its core, the idea of food sovereignty is simple: communities should have a say in where and how their food is grown." McBay explains that all of us are affected by how food is grown or travels through our community: we all eat. The choices we make may add to a local, vital food system or may contribute to destruction of land and loss of jobs half way across the world. How do we make food choices that maintain jobs in our local community, contribute to children's health, heal soil, reduce fossil fuel use, and ensure that local varieties of food - usually the tastiest -continue to be grown? It's a wide ranging article and McBay puts it all together.

Among the other items:

Karen Holmes on Meeting the Challenges of Local Food

Greg Williams on Food and Oil

and a directory directory of local food growers and stores for Kingston and area

... two articles about children and healthy eating ... an item about seed saving and ....

In case you're still reading on this page .... best regards,

Why's Woman

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hands in the dirt


It's about 8:00 p.m. I'd arrived home from work, changed into grubby garden clothes and headed outside.

The Thalictrum (Meadow rue) is blooming fluffy purple flowers ... that smell funny ... sort of like dirty socks. But they look beautiful! The Rosa Mundi, purchased as a heritage rose, has reverted to its rootstock ... and there are cascades of light pink roses falling over the poppies and peach leaf bellflower. I've got to prop up the branches of the rose so the others don't get too squashed.

Went down to what gets called the nursery bed ... it started out as about 12' x 12' and has expended quite a bit. It's a nursery bed because it holds things like:
- lavender and sage that has been hit hard by winter, and have been pruned back to almost nothing so they'll regrow (I even discovered a bit of root from a sage I'd taken out completely last year sending up a few tiny leaves)
- overflow of catmint, winter savory, pink bergamot .... when I have too many plants and think I'm going to send them to new homes
- there's a stand of purple coneflower -
- tansy
- mystery seedlings coming up alongside purslane
- more lavender, oregano
- strawberry plants that were rescues from next door some years back when two owners ago was going to put in a patio (never did) but I asked if I could take plants out of the zone ... got winter aconite too
- one potato plant coming up that must have gotten transferred in from the bed across the way
- comfrey - spreading rapidly
- Jerusalem artichoke - which came up so late this year I was actually worried that it wouldn't show (stop laughing all of you who have the plant!)
- raspberries ... which are being overtaken by the hops which grows way faster than I can remind my husband that we need a trellis, need a trellis, need a trellis for it
- elecampane, just to try
- two types of Chinese cabbage ... have I talked about redemption vegetables? When I plant the ends of distant import produce we've had to buy through the winter. The cool thing is that the two Chinese cabbages are going to produce seed at different times. The one is almost finished its bloom period and the other hasn't sent up a stalk yet, so there's no chance of them crossing with each other or with the two Early Jersey Wakefield cabbages that miraculously wintered over (possibly because we had such a dump of snow) and that are in a bed 6 feet away. They's just starting to bloom.

Just got the dinner call. 8:20 p.m. I just had to write stuff. All that miracle in one bed.

Love to all,

Why's Woman

Thursday, June 2, 2011

We are part of the conspiracy to save the planet

Hello everyone,

I've been busier than usual, plus had a cold which slowed down everything. So I haven't posted in the last weeks. This lovely note just popped into my e-mail: Elizabeth May's thoughts on being sworn in as Canada's first Green Party representative, federally. You all know I was excited that Elizabeth won her seat. I trust you won't call it slacking off that instead of writing my own post, I let you read her words.

Best regards to all of you, Why's Woman


Elizabeth May's note

As of May 30th at 1:16 pm, Canada has its first elected (and sworn in) Member of Parliament! The ceremony was brief and efficient with the Clerk of the House, the impressive Audrey O’Brien, presiding. Gathered with me were some dear friends and family. My father, brother and sister-in-law in Margaree Harbour, Cape Breton Island were unable to make the trip, but my kids (three out of four!) made it and my nephew and family who live in Ottawa and many who have supported me for decades were in the room.

Parliament Hill feels like home to me. It has for a long time, due to my work when I was in government. And I am especially fond of the rooms occupied by the Speaker of the House—so it was meaningful to give my oath in one of them. In the struggle to save South Moresby, former Speaker of the House John Fraser played a significant role. In those long gone days, when Parliamentary conduct was more respectful and when non-partisan cooperation was the norm, Fraser would host gatherings of British Columbia environmentalists who were in town to lobby for the protection of the incredible ancient forests of the southern third of Haida Gwaii. And routinely, Fraser would invite my boss, Progressive Conservative Environment Minister Tom McMillan, to confer with the NDP Environment Critic Jim Fulton and the Liberal former Environment Minister Charles Caccia in his office. The Speaker has the use of a series of rooms along the rear north corridor of Centre Block. So I recall dinner meetings in the small dining room, more formal gatherings in the larger salon, and intense strategy sessions in the speaker’s office under the large photo of Winston Churchill, one taken by Yousuf Karsh in that same office.

On Monday, I was in the middle of the media scrum in the room where MPs are sworn in trying to describe to reporters how I intend to go forward—how I believe that one Green MP can change Parliament—when I remembered an event in that very room. It was when a number of environmentalists and Haida leaders were in Ottawa in 1987. The reception was more formal and John Fraser made his remarks in welcome. He said of our non-partisan collaboration: “We are part of the conspiracy to save the planet.”

And so that is my goal. The voices of the past, of greater people in public life, of Churchill’s and of Pearson’s; of Fraser’s and of Caccia’s, of men like Jim Fulton who turned his office into a beehive of green activism, these voices still echo for those with keen ears to hear. We still see their vision, those of us with eyes open and aware to the world of possibilities and not shuttered by the blinkers of fear, greed and self-interest.

One Green MP is the beginning of a new era in Canadian political life. Without your help and support this would not have been possible. Thank you.


Elizabeth May, O.C., M.P. Saanich Gulf Islands, Leader GPC