Posts tagged ‘Urban Homestead’

Clear Gold

Michigan is proposing build a pipeline to drain 322 million litres of water from Lake Huron. Ontario hasn’t agreed to it yet, because the proposal doesn’t contain assurance that the water “will stay in the Great Lakes basin and be used efficiently.” Since moving water from the Great Lakes sounds a lot like the plan for solving Lake Mead’s problems without addressing the issues of wasted water.

The people murmuring about Water Wars are starting to look less and less crazy as time goes on.

Sarnia solved the issue of water conservation. They raised water prices and imposed watering restrictions, and a miraculous thing happened. “The water is so bloody expensive, that’s why people are not using it,” according to Coun. Anne Marie Gillis. They cut their water down to 81,000 cubic metres/day from the 181,000 it’s licensed to sell. So, to celebrate, they are begging people to waste more water, because the loss of revenue is putting them in the red.

Water is more valuable a resource than coal, oil, or gold. Three days without it and you die. Period. And as we start to watch folks around the world try to deal with their water shortages, it’s probably a good idea to look at our relationship to it. The average American uses 4500 litres of water per day (and I can’t imagine the Canadian numbers are much different—but if you know your food consumption in kilograms, you can calculate your water footprint). It’s not so surprising when you realize that it takes 200 litres to make 1kg of plastic, or that it requires 2-4 barrels of water to extract a barrel of oil from the tar sands. And then, of course, there’s food.



August 1, 2009 at 8:14 pm 1 comment

Business School Grad on Urban Farming

I have to admit, sometimes I feel a little crazy about my urban homestead obsession, and though I try very hard to encourage the people around me to grow food (it’s so easy!), I know that sometimes the scale that I’ve taken it to can be a little intimidating.  That’s why I get excited when my web developer friends grow heirloom tomatoes on their apartment balcony (Gavin: “When the tomatoes started growing, I though it was a diseased growth.  It didn’t occur to me that tomatoes start out as these little green things”).

My friend Alec, a business school grad, has been courting my garden for some time now.  Last summer, we took him home to show him what we were growing.  He was excited about it because, as he says, he spends a lot of time thinking and reading about peak oil/climate change/sustainability issues, but he felt kind of powerless to really do anything about it.  But again this year, he was still talking about gardening, because he hadn’t felt prepared to start his own.  (Trust me, it’s not as hard as you think!) So this Canada Day, I invited him to join us for a day of gardening.  He gave me 9 hours of labour on a holiday, and sent me an eloquent thank-you note, as if his slave labour hadn’t been a tremendous help:

I realized it’s been almost two weeks since we spent the day gardening, and I never really followed up to say thanks. So…..thanks. It really was kind of you to take the time to share with me some of your knowledge about a very important skill for the future. I must admit, whether I was thinning radishes or planting tomatoes, there was a voice inside my head quietly asking “what the f@*! are you doing dude?!?” Mind you, that same voice was basically saying the same thing when I was being force-fed business school propaganda. (As I’m sure you can tell, I have a tough time hiding my bitterness with the mainstream economic/business establishment – another reason I’m seeking a positive alternative.) In any case, I’m glad I took the time to learn something new, and that you were willing to help me along my way. No doubt I have much still to learn, but the planting of that metaphorical seed was definitely a step in the right direction. I’d love to help out again sometime if you guys would be down. Anyhow, I just wanted to say thanks again. I know it probably wasn’t a big deal for you guys, but it was definitely a small, but meaningful step in the right direction for me.

Cheers ,

– Alec

July 18, 2009 at 10:22 am Leave a comment

First Harvest!

In spite of the fact that it got down to -1 this weekend…

Last night I made what I call Kitchen Sink Salad, which consists of me going outside and picking everything that’s ripe or needs to be thinned: radishes+greens (radish greens are a lot like spinach in taste/recipe potential), buttercrunch lettuce, red leaf lettuce, mesculin mixture, kohlrabi sprouts, borage, mizuna, sweet allium leaves, plus edible weeds like dandelion (only young leaves, which I think are less bitter), and shamrocks. Then I added herbs for a tasty suprise: anise hyssop leaves, oregano, summer savory, and lemon balm. Plus purple cabbage and crazy twisty baby cucumbers from the market. Yum!


May 19, 2009 at 9:52 am Leave a comment

Garden Warfare: Squirrels

As I moved my artichoke and pepper seedlings outside this morning, I was greeted by a horrible sight. My beautiful beet babies were tossed about and buried. My mizuna roots were lying bare.

Bane of my existance! Oh why do you torment me so?

So, I reached for my handy dandy secret weapon. Cayenne Pepper. Yup, just plain old cayenne pepper. You can sprinkle it right on your young plants, the soil, and even mature leaves, without harming anything. My only problem is remembering to reapply after rain and waterings.

The Brooklyn Botanical Garden suggests a more peaceful method: Feed the squirrels. They claim that squirrels are territorial, so it won’t increase your squirrel problem, and if they’re well fed, they won’t bother digging in the dirt. It’s a lovely thought, but I don’t negotiate with terrorists.

May 5, 2009 at 11:39 am 2 comments

Spring Makeover: Our expanding Urban Homestead.

This weekend we removed the last of our grass, making way for more food. Grass represents things that I’m not into, not the least of which is mowing. Last year, an old Italian lady asked me, as I offered her herloom black cherry tomatos from my front yard, “Don’t you have a back yard?” Now I can answer that with, “You should see how much food I can grow back there!”
The Urban Homestead says that it’s best to avoid tilling, but sadly, we are too lazy busy to dig it up by hand. This means more maintenance work later, but at least I can get right in there. And it’s so satisfying to look at 🙂

That’s sawdust, not dead grass. Excellent soil additive! You can see the tiny patch of dirt around the perimeter that I used last year.


I was so happy to tromp around in the fresh dirt 🙂

April 27, 2009 at 4:47 pm Leave a comment

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