Sunday, December 20, 2015

Quotations through the year ... perhaps they'll touch you too?

 Hello everyone,

I hope this note finds you well, as we head toward the end of 2015.  Not overburdened with Christmas or other celebration dinner plans, and certainly not having to do more shopping! 

I've just taken a browse through my 2015 Inner Reflections calendar, where I put quotations from whatever I happen to be reading, as the thought touches me, through the year.  This past year I've not filled in nearly as many days as usual; this is a pure reflection of being too busy with other things that aren't as important as taking the time to reflect  each day on someone else' thought, idea or belief.  Next year I'm going to try to get back to keeping the notes.

Below are some of the thoughts that I did record.  Individually or together, they have meaning ... and not always do they reconcile.  That's people and ideas!  That's one's own mind, over time and situations.

I hope some of the the quotations below have meaning for you, or spark your own train of thought and perhaps writing or action.

Best regards, as always,

Why's Woman

You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture.  Just get people to stop reading them. Ray Bradbury

Don't ask what the world needs.  Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.  Howard Thurman

The strength of collective silence is probably one of the most powerful spiritual forces.  Ursula Franklin

A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.  Leonard Nimoy

I ask only one thing of you: give me your hand.  I will not let go.  We are on a mission to help nature, our world, and our only home.  Together, we will succeed.  Diana Beresford-Kroeger, from The Sweetness of a Simple Life

I rage at the imminent loss of my friend. And I think, 'What would Terry [Pratchett] do with this anger?' Then I pick up my pen and I start to write.  Neil Gaimon

Granny Weatherwax' definition of sin: "When you treat people as things."

A good garden's built on basics.  The first is soil fertile enough to grow crops well and the second is the knowledge of how to make the soil fertile if it isn't.  Harry Dodson, from Harry Dodson's Practical Kitchen Garden, 1992, BBC Books

In nature's economy, the currency is not money - it is life.  Vandana Shiva

All it takes is one good person to restore hope.  Pope Francis

We need to discern who we are and expand on our humanness and sacredness.  That's how we change the world, which happens because WE will be the change.  Grace Lee Boggs

I veer between optimism and realism.  As ever, I like optimism better.  Elizabeth May, from COPS21, Dec. 7/15 report

The key to the future of the world is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.  Pete Seeger

Things are impossible only until someone decides they're not.  Let's imagine a better future and work together to create a safer, cleaner and more just world.  David Suzuki

Prepare for the victory party.  Elizabeth May

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Final Agreement Reached at UN Climate Negotiations

Final Agreement Reached at UN Climate Negotiations
December 13, 2015          The following was posted by Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada. She has been at the COP21 climate talks in Paris ... where she's gotten the energy to make regular postings I don't know, but she has ... and hurray for her!

               The morning after 13 days - 3 all nighters…And the Paris Agreement is accepted. The COP21 decision is agreed. What does it all mean?
               I have been working on climate for the last 29 years. In that time I have seen lip service from most politicians, courage from a few politicians, venality from some corporations (Exxon come to mind), leadership from others. I have witnessed opportunity after opportunity squandered for political expediency.                Agreements signed and then ignored. Overall we have procrastinated and lost decades when we could have averted the climate crisis nearly entirely.
               Now we are in it. With loss of life and devastating droughts and heat waves, extreme weather events, sea level rise and loss of Arctic ice and permafrost. No longer are we arguing about a future problem. We have already changed the climate, so the debate of 2015 is “can we avoid the very worst of the climate crisis? Can we ensure the survival of human civilization? Can we save millions of species?” To do so requires transitioning off fossil fuels.
               You will undoubtedly hear some denounce the Paris Agreement for what it does not do. It does not respond with sufficient urgency. It does not use the levers available to governments to craft a treaty that is enforceable with trade sanctions to add some teeth. Those criticisms are fair. As trade lawyer Steven Shrybman said more than a decade ago “If governments cared as much about climate as they do about protecting intellectual property rights, we would have laws that require carbon reduction in every country on earth.”
               Nevertheless, the Paris Agreement is an historic and potentially life-saving agreement. It does more than many of us expected when the conference opened on November 30. It will be legally binding. It sets a long term temperature goal of no more than 1.5 degrees as far safer than the (also hard to achieve) goal of no more than 2 degrees. In doing so, it may save the lives of millions. It may lead to the survival of many small nations close to sea level. It may give our grandchildren a far more stable climate and thus a more prosperous and healthy society. It clearly means the world has accepted that most known reserves of fossil fuels must stay in the ground.
               It is absolutely true that Canada announcing support for 1.5 degrees mid-way through the conference made a huge difference in keeping that target in the treaty. I heard that from friends and contacts around the world.
               To avoid 1.5 requires immediate action. Unfortunately, the treaty is only to take effect in 2020 (after it is ratified by 55 countries, collectively representing 55% of world GHG emissions). We have built into the treaty mandatory global 5 year reviews – what is called the “ratcheting up mechanism.”
               The mechanism to force all governments to assess the adequacy of their own plans only kicks in in 2023. That gap from 2015 to 2023 could well foreclose any option to hold temperature to less than 1.5 or even 2 degrees.
               So in addition to the Paris Agreement we also passed the Decision of COP21. It includes some actions before 2020. The language there is far from perfect but gives us a chance to increase targets before 2020. In 2018, there will be a “facilitative dialogue” within the UN to assess the adequacy of targets and to prepare for new ones for 2020. The decision document is actually longer than the treaty itself and includes many actions to be undertaken within the ongoing UNFCCC COP process. Among them, the IPCC is requested to produce a report to COP spelling out what level of GHG emissions will lead us to holding global average temperatures to no more than 1.5 degrees C above those before the Industrial Revolution.
               Canadians can be rightly proud of what our government did in Paris. While I did not support our position on every single issue, I cannot be more proud of what we did on most issues, nor can I thank our newly minted (and now totally exhausted) Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, enough for her work.
               What matters now is what we do next. Canada’s climate target remains the one left behind by the previous government. We have no time to waste in re-vamping and improving our target. We should be prepared to improve it again in 2020. But let’s ensure we get started. The Liberal platform committed to, within 90 days of COP21, consultations with all provincial and territorial governments. In his speech at COP21, Trudeau expanded that to engaging with municipal governments and First Nations as well. That is all excellent. Ideally this sets in motion a quick-start to identifying a more ambitious target with actions spelled out in the spring 2016 budget.
               Earth Day 2016 has been chosen in the decision document as the day for formal signatures to the Paris Agreement. Ban Ki-moon has been requested to organize a signing ceremony in New York at UN headquarters. Let’s all take a moment to send a thank you note to Prime Minister Trudeau and Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna and urge that Canada’s new target be ready to be tabled at the UN on April 22, 2016 when Canada shows up to encourage all other countries to improve their own targets.
               Paris threw us a lifeline. Don’t let it slip between our fingers.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

100 Canadian Communities endorse environmental rights

Good morning everyone,

Just received an email from the David Suzuki Foundation.

Toronto, Ontario has became the 100th community to pass a Blue Dot municipal environmental rights declaration — a significant step towards ensuring that all levels of government recognize your right to breathe fresh air, drink clean water, eat safe food and have a say in the decisions that affect your health and well-being.

This means that, so far, 8,000,000 Canadians live in cities that have said formally that citizens have a right to drink clean water, breathe fresh air, eat safe food and have a say in health and well-being decisions.

This is pretty great.  The initiative was launched in September 2014 by the David Suzuki Foundation, and there's more information about it here

I'm going to do some checking at London, Ontario City Hall to find out how it is that London isn't on the list!

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Sunday, November 15, 2015

It is said that the heart has to break to hold more

Good morning everyone,

I hope this note finds you well.

Some days are more full than others.

Wednesday through Friday I and a friend spent many, many hours travelling by car between London and Ottawa for a conference: Food Security in a Changing Climate. It was organized by the Canadian Climate Forum* - itself begun by scientists from a disbanded Canadian federal government department, along with other climate scientists and people in other professions and avocations.  The conference was more than worth the travel time, and rain on the scary 401 highway at night!

To be in a room with activists, politicians, scientists from many realms - all people who care and think and act - is amazing.  Mind and heart filling, physically felt ... amazing.  Tho' there were ideas I'd have liked to have heard brought forward at the sessions, given the format and the 1 1/2 days of meetings, nothing else could have been squeezed in.  And we've got time to go forward and bring in more people and ideas and actions ... especially actions.  Dr. Richard Hebda** helped sum up our time and was emphatic that we have to keep in touch.  I'll be mailing him a real card soon, thanking him for two kinds of bean seeds.  His research and that of other presenters was as sophisticated and done-by-protocol as anyone's ... that he is at heart a gardener touches me and confirms that that sort of connection keeps us all stronger.  I got to have a chat with Elizabeth May, head of the Green Party of Canada, and an ongoing inspiration for all the environment-related work I do!

In the way of our contrary universe, I returned home to a plumbing problem (at least we now know where the smell was coming from and can begin to fix much).

In the way of the universe that smacks us upside the head to put things in perspective, I returned home to hear about the shootings in Paris. They had been happening just at the time our conference had been wrapping up. 

At the food security and climate change forum we'd heard about a six year drought in Syria that had begun well before the current military horrors ... and that, very likely, the disruptions caused by 80% reductions in crops (climate change related!) are as strongly related to what's going on there as any political infighting.

What grief were the organizers going through as they had to clear up after the conference, a time when they should have been excited and planning forward?  The French ambassador to Canada had been guest speaker at a Thursday evening dinner, speaking about the upcoming climate change conference of parties.  What shift in heart and mind has he felt in the last two days?  

The above is such a short note to cover 5 days of life!

How is it that an "empty" feeling can be heavy and physical at the same time? 

Twenty years ago I trained as a yoga teacher at the Kripalu Center, and over the years did much reading.  Many times I've come across the idea that a heart can be so full of emotion that it breaks, so that it can heal and be able to hold more and help a person give more.  I explain that badly, no doubt.  And no doubt the psychologists have a different take on things.  I do know that the emotion of deep grief "bursts" and moves to a fatigue and other feelings and can, with thought and time and compassion from onself, lead to greater strength.  I've certainly had my most recent break in these last few days ... and I'm glad to know that I've experienced that regrouping before and will again.

Namaste dear people,

Why's Woman

* Canadian Climate Forum:
** Dr. Richard Hebda's short biography:

Monday, November 9, 2015

Something to say again as Canada changes government


I hope this note finds you well.  There's been a lot happening in the last while.

People who know me would not believe that I can be lost for words.  I'm usually writing a letter to the editor or to city council, researching something, or posting on a sister site Community Gardens London.  For a long while now, posts here have been infrequent.  I'm hoping that will change.

On the CBC news and vaulting through Facebook is a post by journalist Jody Paterson, beginning with some thoughts from her scientist son and continuing with her own relief at being rid of Canada's just past prime minister.  (Paterson's blog: here )

Paterson's son wrote about the un-gagging of Canadian government scientists: "It is official. At an all staff meeting today with some of the best scientists in the world, certainly the ones who know our coast better than anyone (and I am lucky enough to work for some of them), we were told that it's ok to talk to the media or anyone about what we do without permission. That's how surreal it was. That's how things changed over night."

Journalist Paterson followed with: "What I have come to see through the popularity of that post is just how oppressed, bitter and sorrowful Canadians had become under the Harper government, and how hungry they were for optimism and hope again. I wonder if we even knew how dejected we felt until the day of the election, when even apolitical types like me felt our hearts lift at the prospect that maybe, just maybe, the Dark Lord had been vanquished and hope was possible again."

On the morning of October 20 - the "morning after" Canada's federal election.  I scanned news sites to double-check results.  And somewhere along the way my shoulders relaxed.  Something inside got quiet in a way it had not for a while, in a way that's different from meditation. 

Over the last couple of weeks I've identified the feeling as feeling hopeful about an array of things, including: that Canada just may be able to contribute something useful to the upcoming climate talks in France; that perhaps Canada may be able to get itself out of a trade agreement that gives 12 more countries the right to sue us when they cannot take over our economy.

I've been fighting with myself to not smile when I hear our new prime minister Trudeau make a speech.  That fight comes from the years long habit of worry and fear for our country.  As "a Taurus" astrologically (even tho' I profess to not put any credence in the characteristics given) I am slow to change.  My head also realizes that fear is pervasive and moving from fear is not an overnight trip.

I've also spoken with acquaintances who are members of the NDP and Green Party who question what is going to happen next ... and then - to a one - make a positive comment about Mr. Trudeau along with their "we'll see" comment.  From these people, this is high praise.

So, I'm taking a breath, smiling a bit as I write, and expecting that I'll be writing more. 

Very best regards,

Why's Woman

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Faith ... some ideas for activists from 500 years ago

Hello everyone,

Hope this note finds you well.  I'm not the blogger today ... just sending along a quotation about faith ... written by Francesco Guiciardini, an Italian historian and politician who lived 1483 – 1540. 

Faith breeds obstinacy—for faith is no more than believing firmly and almost with certainty things that are not in themselves reasonable; or if reasonable, believing them more unreservedly than reason warrants.

Therefore, he who has faith becomes stubborn in his belief, and goes on his way resolute and intrepid, contemning/disdaining/disregarding/deprecating difficulties and dangers, and ready to suffer every extremity.

And so it happens that, as the things of this world are subject to infinite changes and chances, unlooked for help may come in many ways over time to one who has obstinately persevered. And when this perseverance is the result of faith, it may well be said that faith can accomplish great things.

We currently have a great example of such stubbornness of the Florentines—a group who, contrary to all human reason, prepared themselves to await the joint attack of Pope and Emperor, with no hope of receiving help for anyone else, with disunity among themselves, and with difficulties facing them on every side. For seven months, they have managed to fight off the assaults of armies, even though it seemed impossible for them to do so even for seven days.

In fact, they have brought things to such a point that if they were to win now, no one would be surprised, whereas earlier, everyone assumed they would lose.

And this stubbornness of theirs is mainly due to the belief that—as Friar Girolamo of Ferrara told them in his sermons—they cannot be destroyed.

I note this here because I'm feeling obstinate after a meeting at City Hall today ... and need to get myself ready for the next round.

Kind Regards,

Why's Woman

Francesco Guicciardini: 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Reaching beyond the climate change reports ... to keep going

Hello everyone,

I hope this note finds you well.

The summer has been going by quickly ... I've been working gardening for other people many mornings... taking naps in the afternoon as the heat knocks me out.

I've never done well in the heat.  And the nightly weather reports have been revealing about this.  A lot of heat records in August were set in 1955 for our Southwestern Ontario area. And I've been thinking: Poor Mum!  At home with a new baby in a month with days at 34 degrees celcius.  And Mum hated hot weather even more than I do. 

As a matter of fact - and forgive me if I mentioned this in a previous post - I'm quite sure that it was hot weather in 1999 that contributed to Mum's death.  Never mind that she was 80.  There'd been a spate of really hot weather ... and several days after it passed she passed away.  It was quick, for which I've always been grateful.

And now, with the weather reports and the climate change reports in the media and on even local news ... well, I'm sure glad she's not around to hear about it all.  Or to hear about the harms to the animal world, or poaching of endangered species in other countries.  So many shows on her favorite TVO would be bringing her awful information, if she were here to watch.

How does this little reminiscence fit with Saving the World in My Spare Time? A number of ways. 

Certainly, there's having to say that being upset by all that goes on is distressing.  Being distressed about climate change reports or (yet another) report on the harm neonicotinoid insectivides are wreaking upon the environment (pollinator deaths) is a normal response.  And those of us who are working on environment topics need to be able to say to others that we get tired. 

As Jenna Woginrich (Cold Antler Farm blog) happened to write today in regards to her farm ... it takes a community to make it work.  We who slog away reading pesticide reports, watershed diagrams, or community garden strategic plans that make no commitment to the gardeners all need to realize that ... altho' we are using hours of our lives on lonely paperwork, we may be one of the few people in our community who understand the local history/impact of a particular situation and that is good.  A few more of our hours need to be spent locating and speaking with the other few who are concerned about a topic.  And it's together that we will be able to continue fact-checking, letter-writing, webkeeping, and communicating.

Sometimes, we need to spend that little extra time on something we don't think we have time for ... and the reaching out will eventually save a bit of time and add a bit of stamina and inspiration for saving the world.

Just a few thoughts.  Getting back to the blog page.

Hope you are taking time for yourself this summer ... gardening, bike riding, reading a great book, eating good food with friends.

Very best regards,

Whys Woman

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rainwater capture and climate change

Hello Everyone,

Hope you are well.  If you are in the Southwestern Ontario area that's had so much rain lately ... I hope you are also dry!  I haven't checked the Environment Canada tally but we must have had two bouts of rain over the last two weeks that that had over 5cm of rain each time.

I actually went out and purchased two new garbage cans to store rainwater in!  Couldn't afford proper rain barrels or hose attachments, but I bucketed water from the one catch-barrel into the others and now have three on the porch.  The two proper rainbarrels at the side of the house were already full from the previous rain, as was a container by the back door, one by the vegetable garden, and every small buckets and watering can around the place.

And it rained a bit this evening!  Just to get a last measure in for June.

So a June with an overabundance of rain follows May with really no rain.

The interior of British Columbia is having a heat wave.  The Canadian Prairies are having drought.  And who knows if Ontario here will get rain for the rest of the summer!?

Welcome to climate change and weather anomalies. 

I wonder if anyone has yet put together the garden workshop series on Gardening for Climate Change, or a book of that title. 

A further odd thing is that we have all the things we did not plant specifically growing huge around the gardens.  Things like peppers, tomatoes, beets, and basil - things we planted - are growing slowly. 

I don't really know what it means ... perhaps just to be happy for the herbs we've got in abundance.  More catnip this year than I've ever seen.  Taller day lilies and coffee chicory.

Lots of flowers.

I'll take that.

Best regards to all!

Why's Woman

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The power of knitting - and Happy Birthday Stephanie

Hello everyone,

I've been busy gardening for many people ... and sometimes for myself and family.  And struggling to find time to ... time to do something that I haven't even been sure of what I wanted it to be.

And then I read Stephanie Pearl McPhee's Yarn Harlot blog post for today.  It's her birthday, and altho' she doesn't usually work on her birthday, today she's been working - teaching workshops to creative people who gathered to share ideas and be inspired - and discovered that this work day is really a good birthday because she has been doing things she loves.  As she said:

"Yeah, I'm going to work a 12 hour day on my birthday ... but ... I'm so lucky that this is my work.  I'll be surrounded by people who have set aside a whole weekend to learn to make things, and celebrate being someone who makes things, and the whole day we'll talk about knitting, and how it works and every person here, every one of them, thinks that's not stupid."

The parts I really like in that quotation are "celebrate being someone who makes things" and "every person here ... thinks that's not stupid"

The celebration of herself is something beyond the "do what you love" idea from the '90s ... and I think it takes it several big steps forward.

It involves loving the act - the art/craft of knitting in Stephanie's case - and it involves a recognition and celebration of her good self.  And the shared joy in the activity bolsters the community.

I'm just thinking quietly to myself that I am a gardener.  I make gardens.  I am able to help other people make gardens.  That's good.  And I like it.  And I like myself for that.

Well, isn't that something!

Happy Birthday Stephanie!  Thanks for working on your birthday and touching me, as well as all the people who are in your workshop.

Best regards to all of you!

Wise Woman

Monday, May 18, 2015

heat, no rain and long roots ?

Hello Everyone,

Does this month seem to be going at double speed?  Does that have something to do with the over-warm weather and the lack of rain? (I live in Southwestern Ontario)  Is there any keeping up with the gardens?

Well ... as for the gardens, I'd'a thought things wouldn't be growing so fast because of the lack of rain.  However, the heat must be causing everything to leap up.  I've got several stalksof peach leaf bellflower that have full buds on them.  The Sweet Cicely is blooming - a gorgeous sweep of it at the front.  Tulips flower for about two days then fade.  I blink and mised the sweetbay magnolias.

The other hand of it? Seems to me a lot of seeds are really slow germinating, and the ones that have germinated - some kale and coriander, beets and spinach in the gardens ... well, the tiny plants seem to have stalled in growth.  I'm hoping that they are sending down really long roots into the soil, looking for moisture.

The seeds that haven't hesitated to germinate are - big surprise! - garlic mustard.  It's all over my place, and several other gardens I work in.

Just realized I was asleep at my keyboard ...that's another indicator of the weird weather ... but one I'd better pay attention to.

Signing off ... and sending best regards,

Why's Woman

Monday, April 27, 2015

plastic bag reduction ... failure

Hello everyone,

Hope this short note finds you well.

For the last while I've been working one day a week for a local market vendor.

I end up having to give a plastic carry bag to about 8 out of 10 people.

Where do these guys think they're shopping?  It's a market.  Bring your bags!

The environment movement has failed on this one.

And how did we end up with people making purchases for $2.70 on debit cards? And whatever happened to the retailers' campaign to tell people that it costs them (via retailers) more to use a credit card for electronic purchase than a debit card ... because retailers are charged more per purchase. 

And how is it that a city the size of this one hasn't a food recovery project like Second Harvest in Toronto?

I'll spare you a longer rant on food waste.

Thanks for letting me blow off some steam here.

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Organic Weed Control - exerpt from Jean-Martin Fortier's book!

Hello everyone!

I hope this note finds you well. I've been taking a break from the political to get out into the gardens, and it's so nice to get away from the computer and research and just get my hands dirty and scratched up. Today an email came in from Mother Earth News which led me to why ~ once more ~ I just love Mother Earth News magazine:

So-called natural organic herbicides claiming to control weeds may do so in the short term, but they destroy the long-term biological health of the soil.
                                                            The Market Gardener, (New Society Publishers, 2014) by Jean-Martin Fortier

I didn't have Fortier's succinct words the other day to tell someone I was gardening for that it had not been a good strategy when her late husband would use "some really great stuff" he had that (supposedly) controlled "just the grass" in her flower beds.  She then went on to say that the Ontario government - in its folly at putting in the Ontario cosmetic pesticide regulations of 2008/9 - had banned whatever it was he'd used.

I'm not sure how I took on the particular gardening job I'm on, but I'll get through it.  I think the person is open to more environmentally sensitive methods.  After all, she loves her garden and says she wants butterflies and bees!  I'm so used to people who aren't already organic-minded, that meeting up with others throws me.  Opportunity!  I'll try to keep that in mind. 

Fortier goes on to say that:

For weed management practices to be both ecological and sustainable, a market gardener should rather look into careful planning for weed prevention and follow with effective and efficient weed control strategies. Dealing with weeds the organic way also takes persistence, the right tools, and innovative techniques.

                                                            The Market Gardener, (New Society Publishers, 2014) by Jean-Martin Fortier

I'm not a market gardener, but I always appreciate a practical, clear gardening book, and Fortier's sure is that.  With so much information that can be used in anyone's home or community garden!

Mother Earth News magazine has an excerpt about organic weed management, from Fortier's excellent book, online here:

I've just ordered my copy of the book from Mandala Books, and it is in the London Public Library too.

Thanks to Jean-Martin Fortier and his wife Maude-Hélène Desroches, who run Jardin de la Grelinette for the book, and thanks to Mother Earth News for bringing the excerpt to us.  They are saving the world in their full time!

Best regards to all of you!

Why's Woman

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

City Farmer ,,, ever hear of Harrowsmith? 1984

Hello Everyone!

Hope this note finds you well!

I've just had the darnedest thing happen: I ran across an article by Michael Levenston.

Now, if you follow these columns, you'll have heard me mention - thank - Michael Levenston for articles I've run across on his site City Farmer. City Farmer must surely be Canada's longest running urban agriculture website, and even non-profit (1978!): City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture.

The article I just ran across is titled Red Celery in the Sunshine, and is from Harrowsmith, April/May 1984.

For those of you below a certain age, or outside Canada, Harrowsmith, was a great Canadian magazine that began as what I'll call a Canadian counterpart to Mother Earth News or Organic Gardening.  It told us about gardening organically, how to live with less ... it was great.  Along its journey it got rather upscale, there were some falling outs, and then it disappeared. 

And I've just found a treasure trove of old issues of Harrowsmith ... right in my own kitchen.  Oh, I knew they were there ... lurking in a cut-down detergent box, on the bottom shelf of a pretty inaccessible shelf.  The ones from the 1980's were from the committed organic gardener who owned our house before we took it on.  The ones from the 1990s came from my husband or myself. 

Well, what brought them out (to dust!) to browse is my Christmas gift ... just finished now because everyone in the house got sick just before Christmas with the 3-week flu and it's taken months to catch up: a beautiful 5-shelf shelf, built by my brilliant husband, smooth as silk, stained a lovely reddish gold, sturdy, functional, fitting the space.  I love this shelf!  Thanks Chris!

Red Celery in the Sunshine talks about setting up City Farmer's gardens in the backyard of the Vancouver Energy Information Centre, near Maple Street and Sixth Avenue ... where it still is!!  The article talks about urban agriculture, biodynamics, food in the community, the importance of living soil, volunteers ... all the things some of us are trying to get across to some people today!

Back when the article was written, plans were afoot for a solar greenhouse!  Talk about City Farmer being ahead of the trend!  Apprenticeship programs had been in place since the garden began in 1981, under the management of Catherine Shapiro; 

Check the link to Michael's interview with Catherine, in 2007!
     .... (I haven't found a site for Catherine Shapiro yet)

and the well-archived City Farmer site has Red Celery in the Sunshine online here:

The article gives inspiration to just get going on a project.  The history of City Farmer shows what happens when you do!

So, once again:  Thank you Michael!

Best regards to all!

Why's Woman

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Terry Pratchett ... We are left to rage and write

It’s not worth doing something unless someone, somewhere, would much rather you weren’t doing it. 
                        Terry Pratchett, from the foreword to The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Fantasy, by David Pringle

Hello Everyone,

I'm sitting, rather stunned ... browsing 'round the internet reading variations on the same reality:  Terry Pratchett died today, at home, in England.  
He must have set up ahead of time the announcement that went out over his Twitter feed ... one of his most important characters, Death, saying in unmistakeable capitals: “AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER.”

... and the curiosity of the author as he began his next journey: “Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.”

Pratchett was good friends with author Neil Gamon, who wrote a while back about the coming death of Pratchett:

 “As Terry walks into the darkness much too soon, I find myself raging too: at the injustice that deprives us of – what? Another 20 or 30 books? Another shelf-full of ideas and glorious phrases and old friends and new, of stories in which people do what they really do best, which is use their heads to get themselves out of the trouble they got into by not thinking? ... “I rage at the imminent loss of my friend. And I think, ‘What would Terry do with this anger?’ Then I pick up my pen, and I start to write.”

So far, this little note is all I've written ... and, of course, most of the words aren't even mine.  I'm feeling a little numb.

But I'm sure I'll start raging about something soon, as soon as I read the news or my emails, listen to the radio or television, start thinking about Prime Minister Harper ...

... I'm feeling energy already.

Much love,

Why's Woman

Monday, March 9, 2015

Food related programs - saving the world in their own time


I hope this note finds you well. How's the weather your way?  We've finally had some temperatures over freezing!  And all our seed orders have arrived.  There has to be spring!

I've been thinking about the title here - Saving the World in My Spare Time -and thought I'd just put down some of the organizations and events that have crossed my path lately, because they are all saving the world, in the spare time of volunteers and some paid staff.

The Pod Knowledge Exchange -
Online, you can find out about food issues, styles of local food security organizations, and find resources to help you find ways that your community can be more food secure.

The Pod is a part of the work of Community Food Centres Canada ( which helps community food centres across the country share information and celebrations, and learn about issues and how to do more effectively the work they do.

USC-Canada is focused on building agricultural resilience through ecological agriculture. Programs are in areas of seed security and diversity, climate change adaptation and mitigation, rural economies, gender equality, and young farmers.  Its core values of rights, resilience and respect have been with USC Canada since its beginning, which is all the way back to 1945 when a Czech refugee, Dr. Lotta Hitchmanova, founded the organization to help children suffering after the second world war.
USC-Canada has a new program, I Am a Seed Saver, to celebrate the importance of seeds for food security. To meet some seed savers: check here.

The Bauta Family Initiative on Seed Security in Canada is a partnership of USC-Canada and Seeds of Diversity Canada, working to find which farmers are saving seed across the country, encouraging more seed saving, and educating about its importance.

All those programs have volunteers ... saving the world in their spare time.

Ah! It's good to remember these good things sometimes!

Very best regards,

Why's Woman

Friday, February 13, 2015

Raising the Bar at Federation of Canadian Municipalities Sustainability Conference

Hello Everyone,

I hope this day finds you well.  We're continuing to have cold weather and this morning there was a dusting of new snow ... which in the sunshine just sparkled!  I don't mind that at all.

Something rather important happened in London over the last few days.  The City hosted planners and politicians  who are members of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities for sessions on sustainability topics.  And a new thing that was arranged was to have 50 local citizens who are members of various environment and community groups be in a think tank sort of session with 50 FCM delegates.

I got to be there, and it was pretty neat! 

The important comments are often overheard in the women's washroom, such as: "This is a great session, great exchange of ideas!" 

It doesn't matter a bit that some ideas came up that some of us had heard before.  Yesterday's session was between people from a lot of different places.  They hadn't heard some of our experiences and we hadn't heard their experiences and projects.  Even people here in London heard about projects they hadn't known about in London.  A lot of business cards and emails were exchanged.  No doubt today the connections started.

And yeah, there was fair bit of mutual admiration, and back patting.  But the thing is, if this was the first time for such an exchange of ideas between planners/politicians from 'cross country and "locals" in the hosting city - and it was the first time - then surely all of us who attended should take a bit of time before a critical or cynical mind kicks in and just think "wow, a step in a good direction".

Another important thing for this session is that we will be getting notes from it.  And there will be follow up for us Londoners at a June date.  I know I always need post-meeting think time to reread notes (I took lots at my table), add more notes in pink pen, and jot ideas about follow up and related things.

One FCM delegate thanked the London organizers and said that after three days her "bucket was full".  Her brain was loaded with information and ideas.  But she was so pleased to have been at those three days.  I spoke with her at the end of the day, and felt kind of proud ... and I hadn't even had anything to do with organizing the event!  I'd just shown up and gotten free lunch and great conversation.

The City staff person behind the event is Jay Stanford, head of environment services.  Enthusiastic, forward-thinking and a planner.  And a real stickler for keeping on task!  Thank you for all the work you did to get this community session.  Any future FCM conferences on sustainability (and maybe generally) will have to have such a host community / delegate session.  There's no going back from this!

So, I've had a good couple of days.  And my own bucket sure is full.

Sending best regards to all,

Why's Woman

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Joel Salatin shows us a new fashioned food system that helps and heals

Hello everyone,

I hope this note finds you well.  We've got snow happening outside.  I don't think we're in for a lot, but it'll clean things up nicely.

As I was trying to find my desk the other day (under all the paper!) I was rewarded with the Dec./January issue of Mother Earth News, which has a particularly good article by one of its regular contributors, Joel Salatin.  Salatin describes himself as a "renegade" farmer.  Salatin, whose Polyface farm is in the Shendoah Valley in Virginia, is "renegade" in the best possible way: someone who rejects conventional ways of doing things.

His article, A 'New-Fashioned' Food System That Helps and Heals, points out that we need to rethink a lot of ideas about farming.  For him "old"-fashioned farming is monoculture, GMO, petroleum input agriculture.  The most up to date farmers are finding ways to use efficient, simple, and energy-saving technologies - many of them right up to the minute as far as the techie crowd goes - to farm well, produce safe healthy food, and give back land that is better than they found it.

He assures us - and particularly any young person thinking of getting into farming - that farming is not going "back" to the land.  It is going forward to regenerate land.

He tells us that the language used to get out the message of good farming "has to be big enough, innovative enough, sacred enough to capture the hearts of all types of people".

I reall like his combination of practicality and spirit.

He tells us we have to "upgrade the language of stewardship". 

We can get out the message that farming and food are integrated; not segregated in their own aspects or from neighbourhoods and society.

We can emphasize that farming and food production are not systems that conquer; they can be thoughtful and practical actions that "caress" the land, that work with and learn from natural processes.  And overall, they are healing and not harming.

Salatin's full article is worth reading. His own words are more inspiring than my summary!  The link to his MEN article is below.  And his website is sure worth a look too, and has audio and video interviews and segments.  His moveable poultry pens are fascinating to me!  And he's written several books, some of which might be in your library.

I hope you are delighted by something you find in his work.

Very best regards!

Why's Woman

Author and "renegade farmer" Joel Salatin calls for food producers to tell a better story of a "new-fashioned" food system that rejects the industrial agriculture paradigm while embracing technology.
By Joel Salatin, Mother Earth News, December 2014/January 2015

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Water in the City ... how'd that get me thinking about Dad?

Hello everyone,

I hope this post finds you well.  I 'specially hope you haven't had a bout of the flu that's been going 'round this post-Christmas and January 2015.  I had several miserable days of it, followed by three weeks of something akin to sleeping sickness!  Been years since something knocked me out the way this has.

But, I'm pretty well over it and trying to reconcile the fact that I can only do so much.  This evening I was online reading, and ...

I'm 59.  When I was a kid, National Geographic Magazine only came by subscription.  I didn't realize way back then how lucky I was that my England-born, school-leaving-at-grade-six father subscribed.  I don't know what experiences led him to be interested in the whole world, the world that came into our home through National Geographic.  Perhaps it was his 14 years in the British Army, 1937-1951, serving in Egypt, Malta, and Palestine.

Dad was born February 7, 1912; died June 1, 1992.  In Stratford, Ontario, where he emigrated to in 1951, he became a house painter and paper hanger, and worked at that until he retired.  I've got a feeling I underestimated him, probably a lot.

Today I was browsing the City Farmer website as I do most days, and ran across a National Geographic article Securing Water for Urban Farms (  The article outlines some ways in which cities can capture and use water for use in urban farms.  The article also points out that water issues are everywhere we look. 

And we need to look around us more.

Last year I happened to have a chat with one of the senior London, Ont. city staff - found out that we don't have such a thing as a reservoir to hold captured rainwater.  I was sort of surprised by that because I've been at Planning and Environment meetings where the topic was problems caused by stormwater run-off mixing with the sewer system, and overwhelming the water treatment system.  That means that too much rainwater goes down the drain (so to speak). 

The staff person did say that he figured there'd be a need for rainwater capture in future as energy/economy changes.  He's no slouch when it comes to big picture stuff.

When I look across the road from my place during a rainstorm all I see is cubic meters of rainwater running down paved road and asphalt parking areas, rushing into the sewers, not having any way to get onto land and benefit growing plants ... not having a way to become a part of the "ecosystem services" a city needs to keep its natural areas growing.  And not just its natural areas down by the river, but water to keep the lawns and gardens of homeowners flourishing.  All the water gets taken away before it gets to urban lawns; properties and roadways and sidewalks are sloped to take the water away.

How often have you seen a "berm" cleverly holding in a parking lot so it doesn't escape ... and the berm is sloped so that any rainwater immediately runs off onto the sidewalk and thus onto the road and down the sewer?  So there's no chance for the rainwater to linger and soak into the carefully arranged "planting" of four spirea and a pampas grass (even with the artificially straight ditch enclosing them).  Even the drive in/out of the parking lot circles the garden with a curb, so any rain going onto the parking lot rushes down the in/out road and away.  Not a chance for those four spirea and pampas grass.

My "one thing" done today may be to have read the article on water and to think about how important it is.

What's your experience? 

Best regards,

Why's Woman