Tuesday, 31 May 2011

First class in the garden!

Yesterday - Monday May 30th, 2011 - we had our first class out in the garden getting their hands dirty. Pierre Walter's class on Environmental Philosophy and Education came out and spent the afternoon in the garden, harvesting radishes and spinach, preparing and planting a few beds of different lettuces. The spinach looked and tasted amazing.

All the students left with a bushel of radishes and a bag of spinach, and hopefully a greater understanding of the importance of garden based/outdoor education and it's role in environmental education. We are hoping to have one of the students help us with the Chinese Market Garden project we are currently designing and building.

Stay tuned!

Friday, 27 May 2011

learning to move backwards: turning dirt into soil

the option to rototill the area for the Chinese Market Garden was vetoed on the premise that it didn't jive with our philosophy and relationship with the land.  so, as stated in the previous post, this meant 10 bodies were engaged in the manual labor of cultivating the measured area.  several construction workers in florescent vests offered to "bring in my machine for you", and couldn't comprehend why 3 women would choose to do this by hand (or foot as the case was).

so today, my chore was to incorporate the mushroom manure which had been laid on top of the turned earth.  as a solo meditation with the pitchfork, i was struggling as to how to accomplish turning the soil without leaving my bootprints on the packed earth.  when i was finishing the last 4 feet Andrew Riseman stopped by and offered words of wisdom: "why don't you go backwards?"  duh.  of course.  covering my steps with fluffy forkfulls of manure definitely did the trick.  sigh.  the garden teaches us in mysterious ways.  i love that my right leg and scapula/trapezius/ and breath have intimately learned the stories of the earth i turned.

so many beautiful perennial edibles are making their presence known:  rhubarb, asparagus, blueberries, figs (and my first ladybug of the season!)




are these edible?


Tuesday, 24 May 2011

shoveling mushroom manure

wow.  if my back is this sore today, how am i going to get out of bed tomorrow??

thanks to an awesome team today (Julia, Jennifer, Jamie, Natasha, Josh, Marc, Chessa, Leanna- am i forgetting anyone?) for turning under the soil and shoveling mushroom manure in preparation for the Chinese Market Garden.
after figuring out how to get the big truck from West Creek Farms through construction and traffic, we were gifted with 10 cubic yards of steaming mushroom manure- smelling of ripe processes :)

felt so good to be in the garden from 10am-4pm.  a never-ending project for the mind, body, and land.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Seeds for the Chinese Market Garden

In preparation for our partnership with the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of B.C. and their Saltwater City for Youth Camp (potentially July 23 & August 17), our team is planting a Chinese Market Garden.  These veggies will be a living reminder of 1930's Chinese gardens in Vancouver.  My task (initially a bit daunting) was to find the somewhat obscure seeds, which were not available from the larger seed companies.

Luckily a trip to the Richmond supermarket, Yaohan, proved successful (along with an amazing lunch of Dim Sum), and we now have seeds for planting next week. They include greens such as:  Pok choy, leaf mustard, Siu Choy, and Gai Lan, as well as melons such as Jeet Gua & Foo Gua, and some really cool long beans, red amaranth, and Chinese chives.We will direct seed the greens and start the others in the greenhouse to be planted in mid-June.

Now to do some archival research and hopefully discover special growing techniques...

Saturday, 21 May 2011

A preliminary conversation with Coyote & Raven: Working the Land

Below is a brief discussion between Julia Ostertag and Coyote & Raven (Peter Cole & Pat O'Riley) about what types of discussions need to be brought into our Outdoor Classroom project.

narrativity, Indigeneity, social justice, environmental justice

also garden design materials soils drainage
the small creatures that are parts of our gardens
native plants companion planting diffierent
kinds of gardens the effects of 'alien' or 'invasive'
speciies on native ones

at the same time that agriculture canada limits the import
of the thousands of varieties of vegetables that are native to
this hemisphere including some that would be suitable for growing
in the lower mainland we are still very much limited in terms of varieties
including in potatoes corn squash because of commercial
interests trumping individual/noncommercial interests [which
is the overwhelming majority] fear of blights and smuts and rusts

[on another note I like too the idea of the outdoor kitchen
at the ubc farm the strawbale construction the adobe
oven even making your own ceramic pots and various
ways of constructing and firing them though not for this short class]

I wonder if you know of the iseli nursery in boring oregon
my brother in law who is a horticulturalist in se bc
at a large tree nursery told me about it - I'd love
to go and visit it some time it has a really good
reputation in the nursery industry people who love plants

These are exactly the difficult questions of how we engage in placing ourselves within landscapes. For instance, at our last group meeting, we discussed how we want to work the soil. Until now, all the work has been done by hand but a proposal had been put forward to rototill. After group discussion, we decided to maintain the human-powered aspect of the site, largely for philosophical reasons.

The challenge is for us to bring these conversations with us in our everyday practices as learners, teachers, gardeners. Not always easy. There's an ongoing sense of urgency driving our human activities, which means we often forget or over-ride other important considerations. The spring push to plant meant that collaborative processes of design were neglected: "The soil needs to be worked" was a common refrain. I'm curious what the soil "really" thinks, when we speak on its behalf in this way.

Raining again. We're heading to the farm this afternoon to bake at the bread oven :)

when I was speaking with one of the mayan people who work the gardens at
the graduate indigenous conference he said they didn't use any tools just
their hands

I dug the earth from about the age of 4 or 5 with a shovel or garden fork and of
course on my hands and knees (the way one enters a sweat lodge)
to get the rocks and weeds out very often working from the early morning
until after dark sometimes even a few hours into the dark in the spring and fall
- my parents were against the use of rototillers powered lawn mowers it was
labour intensive ... it was only the hand tools that came from the owners of the
means of product shovels hoes rakes augers picks edgers hedge clippers
pruners weeders but then again we had a coal and wood stove for heat and baking
and we pumped our water from a well at home used an outhouse toilet allseason
and only had candles and/or coal oil lanters/lamps for light a lovely light to read by
some stayed with the non fossil fuel technologies some embraced the motored newcomers
but not chez nous though we did get an electric lawn mower eventually it was
like a helpful intruder

when I had my own landscaping and gardening company we bought
power equipment to augment our hand tools I always appreciated the feel and
smell and scent of the earth it's humbling to be close to the earth but in a business
the motorized machines sure cut down the prep time though they were not good
for weeding they just cut up the rhizomes which propagated them even more

it's lovely to see how much life there is in the soil and close to it the spirit of
food nourishes us the spirit of the soil nourishes the plants


Friday, 20 May 2011

planting wheat

with the sprinklers tinkling in the background this morning, Erik, Natasha, Leanna, and I stepped in a wide swath of Red Fife wheat along the western border of the garden.  as our careful baby steps over the seeds gently met grain with earth, a silence settled over us, and Erik wondered what the outsider's observation of four adults silently shuffling across the soil might be...

radishes are ready to harvest.  strawberries are bearing the beginnings of fruit, and our peas have finally sprouted.  apple tree infants are in full bloom.  spinach and fava beans are sporting tender leaves for nibbling.  i discovered a moth pupa today that wriggled in my fingers.  at nearly 20 degrees today, the promise of early summer is within reach.

Friday, 13 May 2011


Natasha and Marc were busy using the enormous scythe to cut down the nearly waist high cover crop (rye, vetch, and clover).  Wish Natasha would post her photos of wearing the pink cape with the scythe :)

I helped pull out some wild brassica that was about to go to seed and take over the garden.  Suddenly everything's growing at exponential speed...

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

preparing the soil

I spent nearly the entire day in and around the garden- in the morning Chessa and I met with Pierre Walter who will be bringing his class out on 5/30, then a GRA meeting to discuss further planting designs for the potential Chinese Market Garden, and then the afternoon with Marc & Natasha getting our hands in the dirt.

Josh & Chessa had the brilliant idea of solving our desire for screening traffic, and our partnership with EYA (Environmental Youth Alliance) in planting 100 sq. ft. of wheat, by planting a tall stand of different varieties of wheat along the border of the parking lot.  For further information on this initiative see: EYA Lawns to Loaves

The soil is rather poor and very compacted in this area, but it only took the three of us about 2 hours to turn under the cover crop with shovels.  We will let that sit for a few days and seed wheat and sunflowers next week.

Lots of good work to be done, and still so much that needs to happen in the next few weeks...

Sunday, 8 May 2011

IOP presentation

Yesterday Julia, Chessa and I had the honor of presenting this project at the IOP (Investigating Our Practices) Conference in the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at UBC.  We each contributed to a shared power point covering the history of school gardens, the experiences/benefits/challenges of teaching in a garden, and the up-to-date details of this ongoing project.  Check out our 'Publications' tab to view this presentation.
Although it was a modest group, we received constructive feedback and inspiration, especially from Dr. Anne Phelan.  We look forward to sharing our ideas and engaging in future conversations such as these.

As for the garden...  hopefully yesterday's insane hail (in May!) didn't wash away all the lovely lettuce seeds...

Thursday, 5 May 2011

a cold spring

dusk is really the best time in the garden.  last sighs of the day as the land buttons up for the night.

Natasha and I planted several varieties of lettuce, just as it started to rain tonight- rouge d'hiver, Australian yellow leaf, devil's tongue, super gourmet salad, hilde, red lolla, and others too beautiful to remember.  we saved a small part of the bed for our radishes to go in at the end of the month- as they only require 28 days til harvest and we want to time it for our party on 6/21- woohoo!

we also planted a few donated bulbs behind the compost- tulips, hyacinth, and allium, scattered with calendula seeds.  just as the sun set, i got in a bit of pruning of the oregano and then it was time for supper.