Thursday, 29 September 2011

a garden-inspired meal

The Faculty of Land & Food Systems provides a regular Wednesday evening bbq for their students and staff, with all of the meals prepared by LFS student volunteers.  Last night was an especially unique meal in that The Orchard Garden was featured in every step of the process with a menu created around the garden vegetables at their peak.

chopping potatoes


assorted beans

frying potatoes

serving 100 people

dining in the garden

I was blown away by the passion and organization spearheaded by Roger, one of the LFS undergraduate students.  His menu (for 100 people) included a chick pea, coconut milk stew with green beans and kale, a kohlrabi/celeriac salad with a pesto of basil and turnip leaves, a beet green salad with an orange balsamic, beer chicken, rainbow carrots boiled in orange juice, and fried potatoes with miso gravy.  The flavors were unexpected and delightful.  Using vegetables harvested just hours before is one of the best ways to connect to the land and celebrate our efforts in sustainable urban agriculture.
Cheers to the localest of food!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Poetry in the Garden

Please join us in the Orchard Garden this Friday Sept. 30th, 2011 from 3:30pm - 5:00pm for a poetry working group. This group is open to everyone interested in exploring place-based poetry. We invite everyone to bring a poem about nature to share - or one you have written - or an article about poetry (i.e. Leggo). It will be very informal discussion.

We look forward to seeing you there!
- The Orchard Garden Team

Friday, 23 September 2011

Volunteer hooray!

The Orchard Garden is fortunate to have a devoted volunteer base (until this year the garden was run by only one paid position along with this dedicated group).  The volunteers consist of undergraduate and graduate students in Land and Food Systems, Education, Computer Science, Engineering, and presumably many more disciplines.

These students commit to 4 hour long shifts on Friday mornings as well as brief interludes between classes.  The soil seems to be magnetic for most- many people craving some dirt under their nails.

weeding in the rain

freshly picked carrots


planting cover crops of vetch and clover

cover crops prevent soil erosion, fix nutrients and maintain soil structure

Thank you beloved volunteers!  We are honored to share in your efforts.

If you are interested in volunteering please email

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Bean pickling workshop

Monday evening was the first official Orchard Garden workshop and I'm happy to say it was a huge success.  An intimate and eager group of eight participants was led by Leanna and Natasha in pickling and canning their own freshly picked beans from the garden.  The workshop included a bit on the history of preserving food as well as the connections to the local food movement.  Canning is a great way to enjoy the Summer harvest on dreary Winter days, as well as facilitate a special group activity leading to homemade gifts.  I was a total novice at it, (and still am, I'm afraid, as I was wielding my camera more than a knife), but I'm inspired to embark on this tradition and teach others.

purple peacock (my favorite) and yellow wax beans

chopping and cleaning beans

dill and cured garlic from the garden

sterilizing the jars

working outside... so lovely this time of day

filling the jars

waiting for the magical *pop*

finished at sunset

Following is a recipe that is to be followed exactly to ensure food safety, with the hope that interested parties will seek out additional recipes for other vegetables such as carrots, beets, sauces, and jams.

Fall 2011 Workshop: Pickled Beans                                                                                   

Method & Recipe:

4 Lbs Beans (green, purple, any variety you like)
6 Tbsp Salt
3 Cups Water
3 Cups Vinegar
1 Tbsp dill seed or fresh dill
6-7 cloves garlic (peeled)
18 whole black peppercorns or 6-7 red/green chilies

1.     Wash jars and lids. Place jars on rack in canner; add 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) water, and heat to a simmer. Keep jars hot until ready to use.
2.     Wash beans and cut off stems.
3.     Combine salt, vinegar and water. Heat to boiling.
4.     Meanwhile, pack beans into hot, sterilized canning jars. To each jar add ½ tsp dill seed or a fresh head of dill, one clove of garlic, and 3-6 peppercorns or one fresh chili.
5.     Pour boiling salt/vinegar solution over beans, leaving 1 inch of head space to allow for expansion of the beans and a tight seal (trim the beans if necessary, to ensure a proper fit).
6.     Soften snap lids in hot (not boiling) water.
7.     Wipe rims of jars and put on the (pre-softened) snap lids and rings, screwing down only to finger tight. Do not overtighten.
8.    Process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.
9.     Remove jars with a lifter and without tilting, and place on towel or cooling rack. Do not retighten screw bands.
10.  After 24 hours, or once they are cool, check jar seals. Sealed lids curve downward and do not move when pressed. Remove screw bands; wipe and dry bands and jars. Store screw bands separately or replace loosely on jars, as desired. Label and store jars in a cool, dark place.

Allow beans to rest at least 2 weeks before eating, to allow the flavours to develop.

"I think that was just about the first time I've ever picked a vegetable straight off of a plant and ate it right then and there.  It was amazing being able to be out in the garden… [learning] how things like the bean teepees, chimes of silverware, and your bees contribute to the garden's harmony that you've aimed for and achieved." - Workshop participant

Thursday, 8 September 2011

gathering minds and hands

continuing with the reflecting/celebrating theme, yesterday we had a potluck with the Land & Food Systems (LFS) returning students who have worked in and contributed to the garden in the past.  the summer produced a whole new interdisciplinary team and we recognize the need to acknowledge the energy that spurred and sustained the garden before we arrived.

gathered around our rickety picnic tables laid with quinoa, garden salad, strawberries and pickled beans, we made new friends and reconnected with colleagues who are dedicated to the vision of this space.

and like any good garden party, hands were quickly put to work, harvesting wheat and cleaning garlic bulbs...

as the season begins to slow to a different pace, our tasks and conversations begin to shift to preserving, planning, and taking stock of our efforts.  we finally have bits of time to finish small projects that have been staring at us for months.  

our comfrey, calendula & oregano are hanging to dry- ready to be made into skin salves.
our painted-by-children birdhouses have been mounted on posts.

and we finally finished hanging our raven guardian/scarecrow sculpture/ cutlery wind chimes...  following our mandate "no one thing does just one thing", this small piece of art started with the CEDAR youth camp will hopefully keep birds from nibbling our tiny seedlings, give music to the evenings, and remind us that this is primarily a food garden.

most of our fall crops have been seeded.  we will plant garlic and cover crops within the next month.  we will host a cider-making celebration (fingers crossed for our elderly apple tree), and now begins the arduous and exciting process of documenting our work.  we have no precedent for this.  we have intentions of publishing co-authored writings on the interdisciplinary journeys of this space.  we acknowledge that we are a unique learning garden fed by the three faculties involved:  Faculty of Land & Food Systems, Faculty of Education, and the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.  it is a slow practice of listening and responding.  and just when one or all of us gets frustrated or impatient, the garden reminds us that these things take time.  that is the beauty of learning from and through the land.