Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas wishes ... and moving forward

Hello Everyone,

I hope this note finds you well, and that you have had a Happy Christmas. I hope you had some time to sit or take a walk, visit with someone you wanted to check in with, be as busy or as relaxed as you wanted to be.

Around here, we've had rain for the last few days on and off - altho' it's sunny right now and I think I'll do some laundry and get it outside to dry.  

I'm sure that for most of the years of my childhood there was snow for Christmas, so, no matter what I try to tell myself about how Christmas is spirit and family, and no matter how tasty dinner was, and no matter that everyone liked their gifts ... well, I have this feeling of something not quite right.  And, in the way of synchronicity, I thought I'd check in with Elizabeth May's blog and her last post was her December 14 post about the Climate Change talks she'd attended in Lima, Peru, earlier this month.

I'd followed her posts from Lima, where talks went two days longer than scheduled, and it seemed like no agreement of any kind was possible between the many countries.  Well, there was an agreement of sorts ... at least an agreement that countries were agreeing to keep talking; as May said tho', climate activists were not happy.  

May is an optimist in her very nature, which I admire and appreciate.  She points out that the U.S. did not pull out of the talks, no country did. 

Her optimism is of the best kind, based in practicality, based in working from the situation at hand, based in encouraging those of us who aren't politicians to keep communicating with the politicians.  To us Canadians she says: "Between now and next year at COP21 we need to keep a focus on the climate.  We need to demand that Canada meet the weak pledge Harper made in Copenhagen.  We must insist that Canada meet the agreed upon goal for all developed nations ... and to do so in the first quarter of 2015 ... and above all else, we need to make sure that climate change is an election issue." And she goes on to say "This is a moment that allows us to think like a human family. We need to make the most of 2015."

My blunt opinion is that the only way Canada can go forward without being shamed internationally is to get rid of the dictatorship that exists at the Federal level of government, that cabal that names itself after its leader, and is already putting out national commercials saying to elect that leader ... completely ignoring that we do not elect that person, he is elected in his riding.
I'll give some praise to provincial and municipal officials who recognize that at their levels of governance they can move on a huge range of issues that affect climate change, without needing federal o.k.  Change is going to come from everywhere, everyone ... except that guy currently at the "top" and his phrase-perfect clones.

Get radical everyone ... radical in the meaning of root.  Root yourselves in ideals and ideas, root yourselves in local support.  

Enjoy a few days off over this so-advertised "holiday" season if you really do have time off from paid or family work.

And then find your support, find your concerns, find your place in the big picture of change. 

With kindest regards as the daylight comes back,

Why's Woman

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pollinator Health Strategy for Ontario - everyone has a say

Hello everyone,

I hope this note finds you well.  

Over the last months - well, over a year - I've been doing so much reading about bees and other pollinators, and neocotinoid insecticides that I've sometimes thought I'd burst.  

Today  I attended the first of four public meetings, set up by the Ontario Agriculture and Environment ministries, to receive comment on a proposed Pollinator Health Strategy (PHS).  The controversial part of the PHS is its aspirational goal of reducing use of neonicotinoid treated corn and soy seed by 80 percent. 

People with very different perspectives exchanged ideas and opinions. Facilitators ensured everyone participated.  I am an urbanite concerned about food systems, environment and economy; differing opinions around the table did not "dilute" my comments.  I use that word "dilute" because the Grain Farmers of Ontario complained that their opinions would be diluted if they made them in a room full of city dwellers.  I've got to admit, that hurt my feelings at first  ... then I just laughed about how silly it was.

Isn't it supposed to be a good strategy to "be at the table", hearing what the other guy is saying?  Or, to use the joke, Isn't that the same as "keep your friends close and your enemies closer"?  (I figure members of Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) were at the meeting despite advising its members to boycott it; good strategy would require it)

The PHS recommendation to reduce acreage planted using neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds is based on peer-reviewed studies of  those insecticides' negative effects on pollinators, arthropods, and birds.   

Ag/chem interests are always saying we should base our decisions on "sound science". "Science" is a set of methods for gathering and interpreting information.  Rigorous scientific method may or may not give you the answer you want to a question; getting an answer you do not want does not make the "science" unsound. 

In my thinking the science behind the PHS is pretty sound.  And I've sure done the reading over the last year!

There are actually even stronger measures I'd like to see our provincial government take, and I'd like to have a much expanded over-arching pollinator health strategy than is outlined in the proposal.  I'm hoping the big picture stuff will be more fully worked up in the report due out July 2015.  

But I'm really pleased to see my provincial government take a step ahead of other provinces and the feds, and acknowledge that something has to be done to save our ecosystem and food supply, and to come up with a practical measure to make change ... even tho' it's ticked off the big ag chemical companies to a degree they haven't been ticked off in years.  

O.k., ... I admit ... especially since it's ticked 'em off.

Good on ya, ministers Leal in agriculture and Murray in Environment and Climate Change. 

Very best regards.  I hope your day was as satisfying as mine.

Why's Woman

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A New-Fashioned Food System


I hope this day finds you well!  The new issue of Mother Earth News landed in my mail box this morning and Joel Salatin's article got me all excited and into writing mode.  I've cross-posted this to the Community Gardens London website, which I try to keep up to date.

Very best regards!

Wise Woman

"Conscientious farmers need to do a better job of explaining their proven, cutting-edge methods"

This is the message in Joel Salatin's newest post in the Dec14/Jan15 issue of Mother Earth News.

"If I denounce genetically modified organisms (GMOs), I'm naive and anti-science. If I disagree with a food-safety policy that criminalizes an artisan who sells homemade yogurt to a friend at church, I'm an anarchist."

Salatin says that healthful food producers and environmentalists have to develop and use better language to explain and promote what we do. When we denounce something, we have to spend time and energy defending against the corporate cries against us.

Our time and energy is better used in promoting what we know to be better. Find new language to say why we are for something, use it with all the media-savvy we can, and get on with it.

What lexicon works? Salatin says "It has to be big enough, innovative enough, sacred enough to capture the hearts of all types of people"

We have to get away from the corporate/media promoted idea that we want to go "back" to old farming techniques or, in the case of environment issues, to non-technologic times. 

Acknowledge that people don't want to go "back". Even as we find ourselves media'd and consumer'd out - is it Christmas yet? - most of us don't want to be thought out of date. And frankly, we don't want to do all the labour we associate with "old-fashioned".

Food production systems are even more amazing than we ever realized, and deserve respect and care.

We can promote that what's newest is based firmly on the literal groundwork of generations of gardeners, farmers, and environmentalists. And yes, this is all based on good science and its practical applications can give food producers a living wage.

Salatin suggests we tell people that we want "integrated food and farming rather than segregated". Then we can speak enthusiastically about how the new farming understands the interactions between soil microbiology and animal and plant health, and both embraces and innovates technologies that save time and extend seasons. .

He goes on to explain about "food systems that caress rather than conquer" and "healing rather than hurting", and that up-to-date farmers don't use Grandpa's methods. We take his (or Grandma's!) best practices and upgrade them with environmentally sound and practical technologies and ideas.

And he reassures us that "getting a reaction is what we need to do, because it means people are paying attention".

Altogether, a great read.

Note: New-Fashioned Food System s not online yet because it is in the current issue, so a purchase of this excellent magazine or a trip to the library may be in order. A visit to Mother Earth Newswebsite is always interesting and useful. It posts articles from back issues, and its website carries articles on-line only and has blogs and forums about important topics like raising chickens, food, and homesteading (lots of great things even for urbanites). Several of Joel Salatin's books are in the London Public library and his Poly Face Farm website is:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

If we want to make climate action happen we need to hear about the solutions


Hello everyone,

I hope this day finds you well.

I'd like to say thanks to the Guardian News online ( for its environment pages.  There's always something new and interesting.  And altho' there is all the serious stuff, there are often galleries of fascinating photos and sometimes articles like the one I just ran across: If we want to make climate action happen we need to hear about the solutions.  (Mal Chadwick, Guardian News online,, Wednesday 29 October, 2014)

The article tells us that "the biggest threat to progress on climate change is cynicism" ... certainly not a new idea.

What was a pleasant and hopeful surprise was hearing about the 10:10’s #itshappening project's "brighter view to ‘restore a sense of possibility’ on climate action, showcasing real solutions such as this giant suspended bike roundabout."

I don't understand what this even is, but is sort of sounds like fun ... as well as a practical thing that makes bicycling easier.

The 10:10 project also highlights Dutch-style bike lanes planned for Los Angeles, solar-powered hospitals in Haiti and Nepal, a state of the art lifeboat station in Cornwall England that keeps lifeguards warm with the UK’s first marine source heat pump, community-owned river turbines in the Philippines, and an Aberdeenshire hair-dressing salon that reduced its energy use by 90% in its go-green efforts.

The 10:10 project describes its gallery as a simple "selection of things we wish more people knew about – a trove of inspirational stories that team 10:10 find during the year and squirrel away for autumn ... there for people to share, to start conversations with friends and for when you need a reminder of what humanity is capable of."

The 10:10’s #itshappening project is found at and will brighten your day.

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

One Plant at a Time

Hello everyone,

It's been a while, again.  I hope you are all well, enjoying the amazing colours of fall leaves we are having this year.  Perhaps noticing late-blooming roses, extra-tall Japanese anemone, Michaelmas daisies, scented alyssum, hardy Asian vegetables in your late vegetable garden (including Daikon radishes that may set records this year), and lots of children 'round about who are trying to catch every bit of after school light they can before the time change happens.

Over the last month I've been working to transform several gardens.  This is a real test of my knowledge, speed, and physical stamina!  I haven't keeled over yet, altho' there've been a few moments! 

The amazement at seeing a yard change its geography, then the plant-life in it, really keeps me going.  Knowing that I'm the one doing the changes amazes me too. 

That the changes are all in my mind's eye is an odd thing to realize.  After all, the new shoots and blooms won't start in either garden until next March!  But I know what's going to happen, what the sequence will be, what colours and textures there will be.

Saving the world, one plant at a time.  That's where I've been.

Very best regards,

Why's Woman

Friday, September 19, 2014

Peace and Climate Change - A busy September 21

Hello everyone,

I hope this note finds you well. 

I've been busy working with some amazing people on a pollinator sanctuary idea for my city. Haven't done much writing here.  I'm just now lifting my head from that project, and finding that autumn is almost here.

Sunday, September 21 is a busy day.

Saturday September 21/14 is International Peace Day, with peace activities around the world.  Here in London, Ontario there'll be a rededication of the Peace Garden near the forks of the Thames River.  Start time is 3:00 p.m.

It's been a neglected garden.  Most Londoners have no idea it's there.  Built in 1987, through the work of local peace activists - and mindful of labour's role in peace movements -  it was a lovely space ... quiet.  Over the years, its plantings became standard and easy-upkeep for City staff (which I don't blame them for ... they sort of inherited caring for the space and City budget is strapped for money for flowers).  The area of the river has far more foot and bicycle traffic now than years back too.  There's an even bigger need for a quiet space ... just off the beater (asphalt) path and across the path from the splash pad that was put in for summer use.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the Peace Garden is changing into, and hope to get down there for at least some of the event.  The facebook page set up for the garden and event is

Sunday September 21 in New York will see tens of thousands of U.S. and Canadian citizens – demanding action on the climate crisis. The march is timed to build pressure on world leaders and in support of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Climate Solutions Summit on September 23.  I noted in the news yesterday that Ban Ki-moon is going to be in that parade.  I'm not sure if participation in such a radical event has ever been by someone in his position.  My first thought when I read the article was: this man's a grandfather. 

And I just noticed ... on the Peace Garden facebook page ... that London is holding a Climate Change march, beginning at 1:30 at the Fountain at the Forks ... which will end at the Peace Garden.

Nice circle there.

And, of course, we think of September 21 as being the equinox - the start of autumn in this case.  I think that astronomically the equinox is actually another date, but I'll stick with the 21st.

Yes, it's a season of change.

Kindest regards to you all,

Why's Woman

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Robin Williams and a Sky Full of Stars

Hello Everyone,

I hope this day finds you well.

I've been thinking a lot about Robin Williams, who died - by suicide - almost two weeks ago.  I've read articles in the papers, looked at old pictures, put some of his films on hold at the library.

One columnist (and I can't find the article just now) wrote about why it is that when someone well known dies we mourn as if the person is someone we know.  The reason is because that person is someone we know.  

I've seen at least a dozen of Williams' films - laughed and cried with his characters.  I've heard him on t.v. interviews.  He has been for most of my adult life.  His characters get a bit mixed up in my mind ... possibly because the film characters he played were all Individuals my mind creates a bit of Williams-the-person in all of them, puts them together, and ... well, there he is ... someone I know ... just like I know the characters in favorite books.

Stories are real.  Just ask a 4 year old.  My own four year old remains, manifest with all the versions of me there are ... and they all recognize the reality of the stories and characters I see or read.

As for the depression Robin Williams lived with and which must surely have made him the Individual he was ... I'm going to grieve some more, and think on a lot of things.

Two (of no doubt many) articles worth reading are noted below.  The Redhill piece about the commonalities of depression is close to the heart/mind.  He mentions the last line from Dante's Inferno, as an idea to hold on to because it reminds us that depression may chew you up but it may then spit you back into a reality you can appreciate:  Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars.

I hope Robin is somehow, somewhere rebeholding the most beautiful sky full of stars.

Sincerely and with all best wishes,

Why's Woman

Thoughts on depression from an artistic mind
MICHAEL REDHILL, Contributed to The Globe and Mail, Published Friday, Aug. 15 2014

The mystery of creativity and madness
The Globe and Mail, Margaret Wente, Published Thursday, Aug. 14 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

Monday, August 4, 2014

World War I ... where are the voices of the pacifists?

Good morning everyone,

I hope this day finds you well, gardening, cycling, reading, or wall climbing ... whatever activity you enjoy!

This morning's CBC had yet another mention of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the first world war ... an important event without doubt: did I hear the number 8,000,000 as the number who died?

There's been a series on CBC, a re-discovery of interviews with WWI veterans done 50 years ago.  TVO is about to run the 4th part of a series, which shows worse images each part.

Commemoration services are across the country, and probably across the world.

What I have yet to hear on the admittedly few media I follow is information about people who were against the war.  I'd like to hear their ideas, know how they served in non-combat roles.  What little I do know - and you might laugh at my source - comes from Agatha Christie's stories.  She made several mentions of those who objected to the war who served as ambulance drivers and medics (right at the front), in hospitals, and generally in very difficult physical jobs.  They "served" but did not serve in ways they had to kill.

And that is what any war is about: killing.  Film from WWI - on the TVO series - does not hide the bodies, the amputations, the facial disfigurements, the pain.  One hundred years ago ... whatever kind of lives did the men with horrible facial disfigurement have?  I bet they didn't go out of their homes, or hold jobs.  The culture was that way; such people were hidden. 

None of the war shows so far has talked about the agricultural disruption, the education disruption that must have occurred for children. 

And, from the TVO series, even at the end of the first episode, all I could think was: men need to be kept inside their homes where they cannot get at each other.  I'll be kinder here and say, political leaders.  Political leaders need to be put in a locked room until they sort out whatever the personal power trip is that they are on. And if they kill each other, send in the second in command and let them stay in with the bodies and work it out. Don't involve the intelligent and capable men, women and children of a country in a boundary dispute or a resource dispute.

Perhaps let the problems be resolved by grandmothers or kindergarten teachers, people who have a proven track record of teaching how to share and be kind to one another.

The above is badly expressed, I realize.

Listening to the voices of soldiers from nearly 100 years ago, seeing photos of bodies piled on bodies ... and then listening to today's news of Ukraine, Gaza, Syria ...

... it's being done wrong ... it's being handled wrong ... I don't know the answers, or even the questions ... but I know it's wrong.

Sincerely and with kindest regards,

Why's Woman

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

We Save the World Together in Our Spare Time

Good morning everyone,

I hope this post finds you well ... certainly not under the influence of a miserable summer cold like the one I've had for over a week.

I've been in an exercise of choosing priorities.  Gardening when I'm able, first and foremost.  Then the step-by-step work of getting the word out about the Gardeners Beware 2014 report mentioned in my last post.

For the gardening, I've gotten help from the over 6cm (2 inches) of rainfall we've had over the last couple of days.  I swear that if I watched out the kitchen window for an hour I'd see the cucumber vines grow!

For the Gardeners Beware 2014 report, I've discovered that I'm one of a network of people across Canada and the United States who have been involved in saving the world for the long haul.

I'm putting down just the names I know ... I'm sure there are others involved in the groups helping these people!

The people at Friends of the Earth Canada include Beatrice Olivastri (director), and Micaela Buchnea-Chew, Karen Cartier, Maria Leung
People involved at Friends of the Earth U.S. are Lisa Archer, and Tiffany Finck-Haynes.
Pesticide Research Institute out of the U.S. are Timothy Brown, Ph.D., Susan Kegley, Ph.D.
 (Lisa, Tiffany, Timothy, Susan and Beatrice wrote the report)

Across the U.S. and Canada, the people who purchased plants for testing are involved with established local environment groups and projects.
Janet Kilby, Bee Safe Neighborhoods
Lisa Arkin, Beyond Toxics
Tracey Easthope and Melissa Sargent, Ecology Center
Heather Leibowitz, Environment New York
Luke Metzger, Environment Texas
Bill Hamilton, Environmental Youth Council
Heather Spalding, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Michael Goehring, Friends of the Earth Canada
Maureen Temme, Community Gardens London (Canada)
Arlyle Waring, Friends of the Earth Canada
Roger Williams, Maryland Pesticide Network
Lex Horan and Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network

Lynne Walter, Toxic Free North Carolina
Mindy Goldstein, Turner Environmental Law Clinic
Megan Stokes, Toxics Action Center
Timothy Brown, Pesticide Research Institute
Susan Kegley, Ph.D., Pesticide Research Institute

People reviewed the Gardeners Beware 2014 report too.  Just like for a journal published article.
Prof. Jim Frazier, Ph.D., and Maryann Frazier, Sr. Extension Associate, Pennsylvania State Univ.
Prof. Vera Krischik, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
Scott Hoffman Black, Jennifer Hopwood and Aimee Code, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
Pierre Mineau, Ph.D., Pierre Mineau Consulting

I've never participated in anything like this.  We've been on a few conference calls, and that makes all these people real.  It's awesome, in the correct meaning of the word.

Thanks to all of these people.

And thanks and best regards to all of you who read this.  I know you are saving the world in your spare time too.

Why's Woman

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Gardeners Beware 2014 - neonicotinoid residue in garden centre plants


Bee-killing pesticides have been found in "bee-friendly" plants purchased in London ... and in the 17 other Canadian and U.S. cities where volunteers for Friends of the Earth randomly purchased plants to test for neonicotinoid pesticide residue.

A new study released today by Friends of the Earth Canada shows that "bee-friendly" home garden plants sold at garden centres in Vancouver, London, and Montreal had residue showing they had been pre-treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been shown to harm and kill bees. 

All four (4) plant samples from London, Ontario contained neonicotinoids ... giving us the sad distinction of being the only locale of all 18 participating North American cities to have all its samples contaminated.

Gardeners Beware 2014 looks at neonicotinoids in the horticulture industry ... important, because most research has been on agricultural use.

 For me personally, the report confirms that gardeners who want to plant pollinator friendly, healthy gardens simply cannot do so from plants purchased at the standard retail greenhouses and big plant centres.  We have to buy organic.  We have to know our suppliers.

Friends of the Earth Canada's press release is here:   (attached for your convenience and list of references is below signature line).

Of the Canada/U.S. total of 71 plants tested, 36 tested positive for neonicotinoids at an accredited USDA laboratory.  Of the 36 positives, 15 of them - 40% - had 2 or more neonics present. Concentrations of the various neonicotinoids present ranged greatly from lethal to bees on contact/oral dose levels to "sublethal" levels which cumulate over time and repeat exposures to impair such things as motor and memory, fertility, and foraging efficiency.

The Gardeners Beware 2014 report is a joint undertaking of Friends of the Earth in Canada, Friends of the Earth U.S., and Pesticide Research Institute.  It goes through the important issues concerning neonicotinoid insecticides, gives all testing information and sample results, has suggestions for individuals, governments, and retailers, and has a big resource list. 

Please consider some of the ideas below to make your voice and actions heard on the issues of neonicotinoid contamination of plants. 

Please check out the press release, the Gardeners Beware 2014 report in summary or in full, and send information over your networks. You will probably get at least one other notice from me today because your names are on the Community Gardens London main mailing list, and thanks for your patience.

Send letters to the editors of whichever local newspapers you choose, phone in to a radio station, write a blog, give a talk, write whichever level of government and party you choose.

Send a letter of support to whichever organization you know is trying to get neonicotinoids banned.

Please sign the Friends of the Earth Canada PETITION if you have not done so:
Sierra Club also has an action on the go:

Pick a nursery or plant retail outlet and ask questions of its manager and/or staff. 

Keep an eye on the Community Gardens London website, where more articles will be posted on the News pages

Let me - Maureen, webkeeper - know if you/your organization are planning a bee-friendly event or an action against neonicotinoids.  I will post this event, and do my best to get the information sent 'round on our enews list. 

Also, please let me know of any garden suppliers who raise plants organically.  I'm working on a list.

Those of you keeping closest tabs on the neonic issue will be aware that a new meta-analysis of 800 peer-reviewed studies was released yesterday (June 24/14) by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides - a group of global, independent scientists - and confirms neonicotinoids are a key factor in bee declines and are harming beneficial organisms essential to functional ecosystems and food production, including soil microbes, butterflies, earthworms, reptiles, and birds.  The Task Force called for immediate  regulatory action to restrict neonicotinoids.

Such reinforcement between reports is important, and hurts the heart all at the same time.

Kindest regards, and sincerely,

Why's Woman

Gardeners Beware 2014 report:
Friends of the Earth Canada:
       and the report on its site:
Friends of the Earth Canada Bee Cause site:
Friends of the Earth Canada petition to stop neonic plant sales:
Friends of the Earth U.S.
Pesticide Research Institute:
Task Force on Systemic Pesticides and the report:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Prince Edward County Council takes some action on neonicotinoid insecticides

Hello everyone,

I hope this note finds you well, gardening, bicycling, and/or generally having time to do some of the things you enjoy during this time of year.

I've continued reading about neonicotinoid insecticides - not  a cheery thing to read about.  Just the other day, however, I did run across something that cheered me.

The Prince Edward County (Ontario) Council has taken a look at issues concerning bee health and neonicotoinoid insecticides, and has taken some positive steps to eliminate their use where the Council has jurisdiction, and will bring the matter to other councils' attention.  The Council resolutions below cover a lot of territory and I bet there was a lot of citizen input to bring these ideas forward!

Resolutions from the Prince Edward County Council minutes of May 27/14 follow.

Now therefore be it resolved that:

1.  We call on the provincial and federal governments to declare a moratorium surrounding the use of Neonicotinoid crop treatments, as soon as possible, pending further study;
2.  We support the Health Canada requirement*, and we urge local farmers to utilize the new commercially available seed lubricants during the 2014 planting season when using seed coated in Neonicotinoid crop treatments, if appropriate, to their farm equipment;
3.  The County show local leadership in this regard by discontinuing use of Neonicotinoid products on municipal property immediately;
4.  The County consider creating funding for the inclusion of the planting of bee and butterfly friendly spaces on appropriate County property in the 2015 budget;
5  This resolution be circulated to other municipalities through the Association of Municipalities of ONtairo, to request their support on this serious issue, and further;
6.  This resolution be forwarded to The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, The Honourable Gerry Ritz, Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Federal Minister of Health, Federal MP Daryl Kramp, Federal Opposition Members at this time, and the Premier of Ontario, Provincial Minister of Agriculture and local Provincial MPP immediately after the Provincial Election.
7.  Until such time as a moratorium is enacted where an agronomic assessment shows particular fields to be at minimal risk of damage from soil insects, we urge farmers to order seed not treated with insecticide for the 2015 growing season, and we urge seed companies to make adequate supplies available.

        *  comment: this would be the January 2014 requirement that Bayer fluency agent be used along with N'd seed coating (and I'm pretty sure the requirement came through the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, not Health Canada ... but I'll check)

I could argue that there is some wishy-washyness in the phrases like "pending further study", "if appropriate", and "consider creating"  ... however, it really is a huge thing for a Council to have considered issues concerning neonicotinoid insecticides at all.  I'm absolutely impressed that Council addressed some of the details like seed coating and impressed even more by its resolve to bring its actions to the Association of Municipalities of
Ontario and to send letters to all the people letters will go to.  And, of course, to look at practices on its owned lands.

The resolutions do not bring about a ban or a moratorium on neonicotinoid use in Prince Edward County (I doubt if the Council would have the legal ability to declare or enforce).  However, the Council made some important statements, seems committed to actions, and is showing initiative at the most important political action level.

Prince Edward County Council and (no doubt) citizens have done important work here. Let's hope other places follow. 

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Friday, May 30, 2014

What are our Ontario political parties saying about neonicotinoid insecticides?

Good morning everyone,

I hope you are fine, and enjoying the sunshine we've been having lately.  I've been doing a lot of garden work at my own place and for several people who even pay me for it!

I've been having a huge dilemma tho'!  Everyone asks me where to buy plants.  And I'm afraid to suggest any place like a grocery or hardware chain parking lot, or even a greenhouse operation, because bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides are so often used in greenhouses.  These days I'm just not buying plants or putting in anything new, unless plants are certified organic, or come from a source (like a neighbour!) where I know there's never synthetic chemicals used.  

For others who want to fill a bed easily with annuals ... I just don't know what to  say (altho' I'll say more on a future post ... and you know I'm going to say something!)
The Ontario Beekeepers Association sent 'round a press release - May 28, 2014 - to let interested parties know which political parties have responded to these two questions about neonicotinoids:

"1)     Ontario's beekeeping industry has suffered through the loss of thousands of hives in both 2012 and 2013 that Health Canada has confirmed were the result of exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides in soy and corn planting. Should you be elected to lead the Government of Ontario, would you support the Ontario Beekeepers' Association's call for an immediate moratorium on the sale of the neonicotinoid treated seeds that are killing our bees?
2)     Ontario is suffering a serious decline in the population of the insect pollinators we rely on for our locally grown foods as the result of the indiscriminate use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Health Canada and other studies have shown significant amounts of persistent neonicotinoid pesticides in water and soil samples across Ontario. If elected, will your party declare this an urgent environmental problem?"

As of May 28, the OBA had received three replies.  The entire responses can be found on  The NDP had not yet replied!  The Green Party calls for a moratorium

"From Kathleen Wynne, leader of the Ontario Liberal Party:
1)     “The Ontario Liberals are committed to working with the agricultural and beekeeping sectors to (1) ensure full and equitable access to non-neonicotinoid treated seed for growers, and (2) establish a system that allows for targeted use of neonicotinoids only in production areas or production circumstances where these pesticides are actually shown to be required.”
 2)     “The OBA proposal to hold a targeted forum to develop recommendations and identify a pollinator health roadmap is one that a Liberal government would identify as a priority action to be undertaken within the first six weeks of being elected.”

From Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party of Ontario: 
"1)     “The Green Party of Ontario proposes a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides until scientific evidence can conclusively determine that there is another cause for bee kills. The Green Party believes the precautionary principle should be applied to threats to our food system.”
2)     “We firmly believe that the provincial and federal governments should not put our food supply and our local economy at risk by failing to protect insect pollinators.” 

From Tim Hudak, leader of the Progressive Conservative party of Ontario:
“We appreciate the opportunity to listen to your priorities for
Ontario. We share your commitment to Ontario’s future and believe that with more and better jobs, we can do what’s necessary to bring about the change Ontario needs.”     "

The Ontario Beekeepers Association goes on to say:

“We are heartened by the response from Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne. She understands the issue and is committed to a science-based solution that balances the needs of farmers with the survival of bees and native pollinators. If implemented, this approach could reduce the amount of neonicotinoid treated seed by 80% or more.” said OBA president Dan Davidson. “We are also grateful to the Green Party for their continued commitment to this issue.” 

"The NFU in Ontario has adopted a similar position to the OBA on neonicotinoids and bee health. Both organizations have been working together on a solution that benefits bees and beekeepers while maintaining the economic viability of farming. 

“The NFU is pleased that the Liberal Party of Ontario is prepared to make untreated seed the default option and would only allow the targeted use of treated seed in limited circumstances, and that the Ontario Green Party supports a moratorium. As farmers, we will work with the OBA to ensure the next Ontario government takes concrete action to protect Ontario's native pollinators, bees and beekeepers,” said Karen Eatwell, Ontario President, National Farmers Union. "

OBA also pointed out that:

" In 2012 and 2013, over 14,000 hives were lost to bee kills linked to the indiscriminate use of neonicotinoid pesticides by Health Canada. Last year, nearly 99% of the 2.2 million acres of corn in Ontario were treated with neonicotinoids, even though the Ontario Ministry of Food and Agriculture crop specialists indicate that only 10% to 20% of acreage needs pest protection."

Just another issue to think about in the upcoming Ontario election!  Vote and vote often!

Best regards,

Why's Woman 

For further information:
Julie White OBA, 647-988-5942
Karen Eatwell, NFU, 519-232-410

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Books About Town Benches - wonderful literacy project!

Good morning everyone,

Just got my Agatha Christie enews from the official Agatha Christie website

Books About Town is a celebration of London England's literary heritage and reading ... just sitting down to read. There are going to be wonderful benches around the city!

One of the benches is a tribute to my favorite author, Agatha Christie ... there's even a facebook page to see the bench and meet the artist.  I think the artist is Mandii Pope, however, like many facebook pages, there's no direct place where it says whose page it is!    Enjoy the photo!  best regards from Why's Woman

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

To turn the truth into a story

Hello everyone,

I just listened to Elizabeth May on CBC, being interviewed by Carol Off about her longtime friend Farley Mowat, who passed away yesterday. 

Elizabeth spoke about Farley Mowat as an environmentalist, and environmentalists in general.  She said that it didn't matter how many data we put together, and how many studies we cite, we may not be able to change a person's mind or actions on a particular environmental need.  However - if we can turn the science, the facts, into a story that touches people then those people will participate and, perhaps, change for the good. 

Farley was that kind of a storyteller.  He experienced, he cared, he understood, he spoke.  I sure send kind thoughts to any and all of his family; and to Elizabeth and her family on the loss of this friend.

I appreciate Elizabeth pointing out the need for stories - something I know and forget - often - as I become caught into the need to document or follow links and "prove" what I'm trying to say.

I'll start rereading Farley Mowat's stories.  It'll be good for me.

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Symphony of the Soil

Hello everyone!

Yes, It's been a while!  I hope you are all well and busy with gardens and life.

That's why you haven't heard from me in a while.  Not that I mind the busy with the gardens part.  We've been making piles of branches, debris and leaves around the place ... sort of mini Hugelkulture* piles ... at intervals along a hill, regenerating some soil and height in preparation for terracing over the next few years.  Our neighbours must think we are nuts.  Last fall, they bagged up their fallen leaves and we dragged them home to the yard (about 100 bags and we realize we could have used 200).

Last evening we went to see the most marvellous film: Symphony of the Soil by Deborah Koons Garcia.  (

It's a beautifully crafted web of plant and soil science, amazing photography from microscopic to vistas of wonderful plants, interviews with so many great gardeners and soil lovers one can't keep track, the most amazing watercolour animation, and - most important - some hope for soil, the planet and ourselves.

My husband and I sat in the library auditorium, holding hands, mumbling to each other things like "I've heard her talk before" and "that idea was in a book I read thirty years ago" and "it's about time they're realizing that's how to do things".   For us, it was a superior "date night".

Rodale experimental farm figured in the film, and see my note below to get a report** Rodale just came out with to do with carbon sequestration and regenerative agriculture. 

Has U.S. President Obama mentioned this report in whatever his statement was today on climate change?  (haven't read that yet ... there's too much to read most days!)

This post is a bit short on order and lyricism, I know! But ... well, I got it posted! 

Very best regards!

Why's Woman


* hugelkulture - check the entry at and then follow thge links to a great page full of "how to"

** Rodale report: Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change.  For the press release and a link to the report: