Monday, April 30, 2012

We Need Rain!

Monday, April 30/12

Good morning Everyone!  Hope you are all well and gardening.  I just sent a note off to the local TV weather people. Let's all think Rain!  Best regards,  Why's Woman


Please, when you report the weather ... find as many ways to be positive about rain as you find to be positive about sunshine.  We need rain!

I appreciate the weather information you give because I garden.  At this time of year your forecast helps me know when to close the cold frame at night or put leaves or sheets over new plants so they are not frost-touched.  Right now, we need rain and we need a positive attitude about rainfall.  Rainfall means food.

You'd have to see my garden to understand just how many plants are growing (and if you want to visit, just get in touch).  Seedling plants (from seed or transplants) are stalled or in trouble; I'm watering them.  I'm watering some self-sown parsley that's come up (way to early in the year for parsley - it came up because of the early warmth).  I'm watering the swiss chard that wintered over; their growth is stalled and they are vulnerable at the small size.  Kale and swiss chard are two vegetables that winter over and produce early leaf harvest prior to sending up stalks and going to seed (which I want it to do so I can save the seed for next year). I'm watching perennial food plants like rhubarb, and will be watering soon if we don't get rain; the rhubarb is mulched heavily and is in healthy soil but will deteriorate in quality soon if there's no rain or watering.   I've had peas come up and they've been now "resting" at 10cm height for the last two weeks.  I used all the captured rainwater we had long ago.  I've been putting tap water in containers for 24 hours (to let some of the chlorine evaporate off) and using this to water the small plantlings in the cold frame, the self-seeds, tiny starts from seeds planted and germinated, the plantling transplants in the vegetable beds. 

More robust, perennial herbs and flowers have come up early this season, but are "waiting" for rain to grow.  Plants know the difference between rainwater and tap water.  I wouldn't know the technical information, but I expect plants' complex systems know the chemical mix they need ... and it's rainwater every time.

When the weather is off, less food is produced in my garden and on the farms 'round about.  Gardeners and farmers are not just anxious about frosts these days.  We are waiting for rain.

Right now, April 30, London and area may not be in drought, in meterological terms, but we need rain.  According to Environment Canada statistics, we had 18.4mm precipitation from April 1 through April 26 (none since).  In March there was 45.9 mm; 26 mm of that was in two rains prior to and including March 12. Going by the rule of thumb of 2.5cm per week it is easy to see this is too little.  In April, we have had less than one week's worth of required rain.  That data is after a funny winter*, with little snow cover ... leading to less run-off in the spring ... less ground water. 

Last evening (Sunday, April 29) Melissa started off the weather forecast by using the phrase "beneficial rain" and I was all excited about the positive term.  In her main forecast, however, every mention of rain was in negative or apologetic terms.

I really would like to hear a forecast that gives some glory to the rain forecast! 

For example, as you give the forecast, tell people the relation between rain and the strawberry harvest that they are looking forward to.  Field strawberries have surely began their growth early this year!  Farmers must be worried about frost already because plants are larger than they should be and may be starting bloom; and now, we've had no rain.  If this continues and blooms come and are pollinated, the strawberries won't develop to saleable size without rain.  Farmers have been planting corn early because of the warmer weather, probably anticipating rain; what's going to happen as the rain stalls? 

I know that letters should be short and to the point.  That's why I put my message in the first line:  Please, when you report the weather ... find as many ways to be positive about rain as you find to be positive about sunshine.  We need rain!

Thank you for the weather news.  I'd like to hear more complicated coverage, including positive views of rain and would love to have rainfall amounts included as much as possible.  I know there's a weekly gardener forecast ... Is there any meteorological model in other cities that monitors rain in gardens instead of "at the airport"?

Sincerely and with very best regards,
(Why's Woman's alter ego)

*And the early warm temperatures we've had!  We had bloom on the pear tree three weeks ago, and while there were insects out pollinating I don't know what pears we'll get because of the frosts we've had now.  Same with the apple, that's just gone through bloom but we've had freezing nights.  I heard on the CBC the other day that the apple harvest in (I think it was) the Georgian Bay area has been devastated, due to early bloom and then cold.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Meeting the future

Hello everyone,

This past weekend I attended two days of training to become a more innovative advocate for the Transition movement.  Transition has to do with preparing for a future when we will be required to use less fossil fuel (because it is decreasing), meet the varied challenges of climate change and economic shift.  The Transition movement looks to have us learn to do with less, be more able to do for ourselves - become more "resilient" - and prepare for change from a positive direction.  After all, it's got to be better to go into a situation with eyes open, and with a positive mindset, than to wait for crisis.  Remember that line from the movie Strictly Ballroom:  "a live lived in fear is a life half lived."  Holding back from fear usually does seem to mean holding back from life.

There were 14 people there, 9 were people I met for the first time.  It's amazing how quickly one becomes comfortable with people when you are laughing together, eating together, thinking together, and taking time to listen to each others stories.

Stories are important.

And there's sure nothing new in that statement!  How old are the cave paintings that tell stories?  The paintings on temple walls that tell stories?

I'm still thinking about how to tell some of the stories from the weekend.

Best regards to all,

Why's Woman


This post will be an adventure: blogspot (blogger) seems to have completely changed its look. 

Of course, there was no notice that went out to everyone, saying it was going to change.  And there's no "how to" ... which is the norm anyway.

I find I just tap away on the keyboard and see what happens.

So, here goes!

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Farmers wanted: we all need each other

Good morning everyone,

I was recently browsing the wonderful City Farmer site, and ran across an article by a young urban agriculture entrepreneur [Wanted:Farmers by Dan Allen ].

He seemed to be concerned that people who are just learning to garden and grow food at their homes do not know enough about soil, the plants they grow, and growing conditions to grow food efficiently and abundantly and to develop the health of their soil.

I had my first garden over 40 years ago. I have 6 shelves of garden books. Every year I make mistakes. Every year I do some things well. Every year I learn something. Every year I enjoy what I am doing. Every year I take care of my vegetable garden, myself, my family, and the soil. I also spend some of my volunteer time advocating for urban agriculture, and teaching about gardening. I keep going because I know I'm part of a world-wide web of people who care and are trying to develop healthy, food secure communities.

Urban food gardeners are spending hours of volunteer time slogging through the hoops of city bureaucracies to change regulations that restrict or forbid basics like community gardens or home gardens in sunny front yards, or that restrict compost piles to two units of a base size approximately 1 square yard. We talk to city planners and community organizations that have never heard of the varied types of urban agriculture that happen in our country and in others, for profit and not for profit. (check out In Canada and the United States entrepreneurial (paying) urban agriculture projects are only just starting. They are subject to all sorts of regulations at various levels of government, and the change in mind-set - from legitimate food production being able to happen only outside cities, to its possibility within our cities - is only just beginning.

Urban agriculture proponents try to let individuals, communities, organizations and local governments know that food production is not just a satisfying personal endeavor. It is a prudent aspect of food security, and is ideally carried out through an wholistic view of the pleasure and practicality of gardening within a system that continually brings healthy materials back into the soil web for its increased health. This system encompasses efficiency, continual learning and innovation.

Mr. Allen commented: "Farmers are stewards of the soil, experts at maximizing the productive potential of a plot of land, and keen appreciators of effective infrastructure investments." I believe he wanted to express appreciation for full-time, paid farmers who are producing food; and to acknowledge that they learn all the time, think, and care about producing good food. This is good.

You readers won't be surprised that my cynical self took over when I read the full paragraph. She substituted the pitch used by major agrochemical/seed producers: "You are the expert. You need our product to maximize and make profit. You are the best and only person with expertise to do the job right. You need our products to ensure that you do the job right. Leave it to us. Don't you worry your pretty little head about his little lady ..." ooops! I got carried away there!

Corporate concentration took knowledge about food away from people ... made us less able. It's resulted in commodification of seeds, oversize farms, massive fossil fuel use, degradation of soil, and toxins in air, water and soil.

I, and hundreds of thousands of people in North America want to be able again. We want the satisfaction of growing and eating healthy food. Ultimately we are working toward better health and food security. We really do try to understand the big picture. The beginning gardener - tender as any newly emerged plant - does need to know that gardening means labour and long-term. We need to find ways to have that be within a context of encouragement to garden, to have successes and make mistakes, to learn, and to grow something that delights.

We need each other.

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Wanted: Farmers. by Dan Allen, April 13/12 via picked up from Seedstock

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Preparing for the future ... what do you think?

Good morning everyone,

It's been a couple of busy weeks ... with a lot of things unfinished, so my mind hasn't been clear ... the general state of me, and many. Jenna Woginrich's April 6/12 post on her blog Cold Antler Farm ( caught my attention ... I check in every other day to see how she's doing. She'd written a post about technology, and I guess people were asking her what she saw as the future. I've posted part of her reply below, because it speaks to uncertainty and the wisdom of preparedness ... especially in regards to food. My own fear is that change will be harsh, in which case preparedness is still important and preparation may be even more important (back to Transition movement).

Best regards, from Why's Woman

Here's Jenna Woginrich:

"What do I think? Well, I'm walking a thin line. I don't think we're going to see the world change quickly and harshly, like some do. But I do think rising gas prices and a shifty economy will make our future far more local and less energy dependant. I would be lying if I said my interest in equine transportation, food storage, clean water, backyard chickens, seed safes, etc was about prepping for the end of the world. I just like this lifestyle. It makes me feel safe and useful. I am not creating a fort against the Zombie Hordes.

"I do think our current lifestyle will go from being cheap and normal to very expensive and abnormal, and in the next few years. It is foolish to think otherwise. I don't think we'll run out of oil or electricity, but I do think if we don't make strides towards more energy independence we are looking at serious trouble. (And I don't mean as a nation, I mean as individuals.)

"The best protection against rising food and gas prices is a safe source of food at home, and a strong community ready for anything. I am for every American learning to use less energy in their homes, driving less in their cars, and producing a substantial amount of food at home. I'm for it not because I'm afraid of the future, but because it seems sensible. I want pantries and larders to be as normal again as walk-in closets. (Come to think of it, walk in closets can hold a lot of food!) I want my readers to have enough set by that if anything scary ever did happen: from ice storms that take down the grid over night to $9-a-gallon gas price spikes: you are all okay. I think expecting everything you need to be at a store and an outside source to home to your rescue is both irresponsible and dangerous. I don't think this is about fear, but about sense. "
The italicized text is by Jenna Woginrich, Cold Antler Farm blog
Check her out at