Dear <<First Name>>,
The snow on October 7 was a surprise, an inconvenience for city folks and a pain in the rear for us gardeners or urban farmers. For many rural farmers, the excessive moisture this fall has been wreaking havoc. Fields are too wet to bring bales home and for harvesting crops, many of which are spoiling. Machinery is getting stuck, animals are muddy, and the soil in the fields is getting compacted. Not a good situation. Not much we can do, but below are some thoughts in that direction.
Farm Shares / Community Supported Agriculture
When we shop at the grocery store, we don’t really know who grows our food, and most of it comes from a long distance away. It may be cheaper, but the lower price disguises the real cost of producing food and the cost to the environment. If we really want to eat fresh food and support Canadian agriculture, we need to make an effort to purchase more local products and get it from our own farmers. Farmer’s Markets are a great way to connect with farmers, and many producers also sell to consumers directly in larger quantities. Back in June, I wrote a short piece about two farms I visited that sell products but also offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Visit my blog to check it out again or visit the CSA Alberta website for a listing of farms http://www.csaalberta.com/
Small Scale Food Growing – Challenges and Benefits
At the end of the season, we often reflect on whether it was a success or not. This year, many of us agree that it’s been a wet and challenging year. We started with a warm February and a hot and dry April. I was happy to harvest lovely parsnips at the end of March but then the trees needed water and we all remember the Fort McMurray fires in early May with temperatures around 27 degrees!!. Our stressed landscapes finally got some rain in mid-May with a much cooler May long weekend - exposed tomato plants were really suffering. Up and down it went, and the rains brought slugs and other bugs. At my community garden plot, we saw deer damage (bye, bye corn and peas), then voles eating root veggies, and slugs getting into the beans and greens. To top things off, there was also theft.
What??! Was it worth it? Yes it was. Because despite the challenges, we end up harvesting ultra fresh, local food that has hopefully been grown in chemical-free soil, alive with microbes and worms, enriched with compost made from your kitchen and yard waste.
While rural farmers deal with farm-scale challenges and potentially catastrophic losses, in or near urban centers we have the opportunity to experiment, tweak and coddle our plants on a small scale with a fraction of the investment and risk. Urban gardens can be planted sooner and enjoy a longer season than rural fields, and we can fairly easily weed, water and protect our plants. As the soil improves, yields, plant health and nutrient density also increase. Urban farming has all these benefits and also gives us an appreciation for the farmers that take on the bigger challenge of feeding us when our gardens are empty and we visit the market or grocery store.
Slow Food – Late August Planting
Last year, my arugula in a cold frame was a nice finish to the gardening season. Planted on August 30, the greens grew very nicely under the plastic until mid-November. This year, I decided to plant some arugula and radishes in an Earthbox (see photo).
With the early snowfall and cold overnight temperatures, I have been rolling the box in and out of the garage. While I'm impressed that radishes are developing and the arugula is large enough to pick some leaves, this is definitely slow food and not a large crop. However, I love nurturing plants and experimenting, so it’s been fun and worth the effort for a fresh snack from the outdoors in November.
Composting Workshop Update
The warm weather is an opportunity to catch up on composting. We had a snowy day on October 8, but enjoyed some hands-on fun in the yard building a compost pile. We mixed roughly 2 parts leaves with 1 part yard and kitchen waste, as well as my partially decomposed compost from this past summer. Within 4 days, the compost temperature went up to 50 degrees C and once the snow was gone, I turned the pile a couple of times. On October 24, the pile was back up at 59 degrees. I turned it again, and now most of the material is dark brown though still fairly recognizable. The warm weather gives the microbes a chance to feast but in the next few weeks it will cool and the microbes will slow down. In spring, I will turn the pile again, and moisten the materials. Some of it might be ready, but I will leave it to cure and sift it next October to add to my veggie beds and under trees, shrubs and flowers.
End of Season Tomato Sauce Recipe
The last batch of tomatoes ripened in the house is often not good enough for canning and the tomatoes are rather bland. My sister told me about this recipe from a Swiss cook book – it’s a nice change from the more traditional sauces.
Roasted Tomatoes with Rosemary
3 kg of ripe tomatoes, cut into pieces
2 tsp salt
2 or more tsp pepper
1 Tbsp sugar
100 mL olive oil
100 mL balsamic vinegar
4 sprigs of rosemary (remove leaves and add to the mix)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
some chili flakes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the tomato pieces with all other ingredients and place them in a roasting pan. Let them roast for 1 ¼ hour. The recipes states that you can preserve this sauce by canning, but with end of season tomatoes, I would use the sauce fresh or freeze it.
Workshop Survey – what do you want to learn for the next growing season?
This very quick online survey is your chance to select some proposed topics or suggest what interests you. Thank you in advance!
Permies at the Pub, Nov 17, 6-10 pm at Situation Brewing, 10308 81 Ave
Along with 3 other speakers, I’ll be doing a 5-minute presentation on Microbes. Come join us for good company and a drink. For tickets and to check out other permaculture-related events click here.
Giving Tuesday, November 29
Want to support a worthy cause? Some of my work involves coordinating the Little Green Thumbs program in Edmonton and area schools. This indoor gardening program gives school children and chance to grow veggies and herbs from seed to harvest. Sustainable Food Edmonton operates this program as well as Community Gardens and Urban Ag High. On Giving Tuesday, consider donating to this organization and supporting its mission of building community through urban agriculture.
Enjoy the warm November breezes!
Claudia Bolli, Wild Green Garden Consulting, www.wildgreen.ca
If you would like help with your plans, please contact me for a consultation or design, firstname.lastname@example.org.