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.

Fifteen people involved with the Garden City Harvest programs of Missoula, Montana recount their stories and their excitement about food and food production. The ideas are inspiring and the photographs wonderful. Example after example of how food connects people, not just the growers but all the eaters - and remember, eaters are every one of us!

Missoula has become what the book terms an Agriculture Supported Community. This means "1. A community bound to one another by local food and farming. Such a group often encompasses diverse members and multiple locations and projects, each undertaken to improve lives and create individual connections. 2. 'The new faces of local food.' "

Agriculture Supported Community is a term I'd never heard before, but it sure gives me a good feeling! Missoula, Montana is a city of only 68,000 people. One in 5 people live in poverty, and it has a frost-free growing season averaging fewer than 100 days (short). Missoula's Garden City Harvest has 7 neighbourhood-based farms and community gardens and produces 100,000 pounds of food per year grown to feed people in need.

The book is an absolute inspiration.

And the book leads to the Garden City Harvest website at

from the website, "Garden City Harvest builds community through agriculture by growing produce with and for people with low-incomes, offering education and training in ecologically conscious agriculture, and using our sites for the personal restoration of youth and adults ... Garden City Harvest was established in 1996 to provide local, sustainably grown produce to those in need. We are reviving the regional tradition of producing our own food for our community, focusing on the 20% of Missoulians who live in poverty.

Garden City Harvest has community education programs that offer children and adults opportunities to do some gardening or farming. GCH has four farms around Missoula, including one that works in conjunction with the University of Montana's environmental sciences masters degree program and another that gives job experience to young people. All the gardens provide food for social agencies in Missoula. There is also a program offering employment and therapeutic support to at-risk youth referred by several social agencies. The teens work at a mobile food market, and harvest and deliver produce for low cost to seniors. employment.

The Garden City Harvest project also has community gardens in low-income neighbourhoods in Missoula. Each community garden provides "the participants with a 15 by 15 foot plot, tools, water, compost, straw, common space, and the knowledge and guidance of a garden coordinator. Weekly programs for young gardeners include lessons about gardening, botany, food sources, and cooking.

In their own words "Our gardens are places where long time growers and newcomers garden together, learn from each other, and share resources. Gardens reduce stress on food budgets. They teach an essential skill: how to grow our own food. Gardens mean self sufficiency, pride, and the taste of a homegrown tomato. They bring people together for potlucks and workdays."

If you have time, check out the book, the website, or the blog below. It'll bring a smile!

Best regards,

Why's Woman

PEAS farm The PEAS farm - part of the Garden City Harvest - is the 10 acre farm where students in the Program in Ecological Agriculture and Society program of the University of Montana work as part of their degree. Check this post for a great overview. Facing Hunger in America, July 7, 2011

*Growing a Garden City: Written by Jeremy N. Smith. Published in 2010 by Sky Horse Publishing (Thomas Allen in Canada). London Public Library call # 635.0978685 Smi