The 2013 Edible Garden Tour

edible garden tour

Many thanks to the organizers of the 5th Annual Powell River Edible Garden Tour for making this FREE (donations we happily accepted) AM/PM tour such a success yet again.

Some gardens had upwards of 220 people visiting to see what can be done with a variety of variables including experience, space, soil and light conditions and time to garden. There was really something for everyone and that doesn’t ‘just happen’. There are some very thoughtful people and loads of work behind such an event. That it was a spectacularly beautiful day did not hurt one little bit. Many thanks to the WONDERFUL gardeners/farmers who opened up their homes and gardens to the public on this special day!

This starts this year’s 50-day, 50-Mile Eat Local Challenge and by the looks of it, there is a LOT of food growing out there. Enjoy!

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Massive Changes: The (real?) Future of Global Design

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Massive Changes: Repurposing an old dvd project as a psychedelic glare-crow.

Self-watering tomato planters made from repurposed food-grade plastic tubs and hoses: tomatoes need lots of heat, no water splashing on their leaves or on the soil beneath them. These get lots of sun and are covered by the roof overhang, and are watered through the hose that collects water in a chamber below. Click on the picture to see how it's done.

While I am not a Luddite by any stretch, I have my days.

I often come across the “technology will save us” concept. Now, I am a believer that good design (as of manufactured products, homes, neighborhoods, towns and cities) means that form is an outgrowth of  function. As a verb, “to design” refers to the process of originating and developing a plan for a product, structure, system, or component with intention. As I wrote in an earlier post, I am an admirer of designer/architect/ writer/ builder/ visionary critic Christopher Alexander and the irrepressible James Howard Kunstler. In my own work, I try to adhere to the idea that what the thing is used for must guide what it looks like, what it is made of and how it functions.

That dynamic space between form and content is something that comes up a lot during the film, web and media design and animation classes I teach, and daily through collaborations with clients or partners, as well as through my own personal art production.  The main idea is that form (what the ‘thing’ looks like, what it is made of, how it moves, how it sounds, what form it takes) must come from its content (what it is supposed to reveal; the ultimate meaning, even if that meaning is certain feeling or undefinable mood). Of course, all this happens within a context: a time, place, mind-set, culture or sub-culture.

Strangely, what design today seems to be lacking in a clear idea of both function and form: needs are imagined and catered to (often, badly), without a bigger picture of whether these ‘needs’ are real or illusory; whether they serve short-term ‘wants’ or actually solve a real problem for the intended public. The goal here is to first and foremost to generate quick cash , by any means possible. The length of time a consumer product lasts as a usable product is clearly defined, and made as short a time as acceptable by a fickle public. There is no attention paid to the materials the object is made with (probably plastic), that will typically last hundreds of years longer. Add to this the fact that most of what we buy and use is often produced and designed in a substantially different cultural context, thousands of miles away, under unknown circumstances in terms of worker treatment, environmental standards, etc. and you have the mess we have today: cheap dollar-store quality everythings; often it’s just the packaging and brand name that differentiates an actual dollar store object from one purchased from a higher-end store.

So, when I hear of creating intentional cities and communities, I often wonder if we can actually give ourselves the opportunity to really define what we need. In a sense, our 1950’s suburbs were designed with great intention: the ‘white flight’ aspect was definitely one reason many left the inner city. This was further enabled thanks to taxpayer dollars, by the multi-lane highway to allow people to daily commute the long distances from suburbs to downtown, and back.

Christopher Alexander often writes about how ancient cities developed organically over time, as did most homes and many of the churches. There was a basic understanding of building and design patterns that — within a certain cultural and temporal context — produced a livable home or a magnificent public space. These patterns were learned, but not in an academic setting. Rather, they emerged from lived experience: the night-time heat in one part of the planet created the need and mental/physical space for external sleeping quarters, while the ability to grow good quality thatching straw in another area brought about the thatched roof and the straw bale house, while another area’s cold temperatures and plentiful masonry or wood allowed for still different possibilities based on need (content or function) and the access to formal elements. I wonder if  “intentional community” design often takes it for granted that we actually can envision a long-term sustainable lifestyle.  I think that a mass awareness of what we are doing to the planet (and what the planet in turn is, and will be, doing to us) will need to solidify before we know how to design for our future communities. I see willingness to make tiny steps toward a more sustainable lifestyle, but nothing that really has much impact when you consider that at best, just slowing down the damage each person inflicts, when added to population growth, basically spells ‘full-steam ahead’. We have to come to a realization that we have been working against our real needs while accepting others’ idea of what ‘progress’ means.

There’s a massive change required, and it’s going to first have to come in our revaluation of what we have, where we want to go and how we want to go about it.

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This below is from the Chamber of Commoners organizing committee:

Greetings Commoners,

After a long gray winter, it’s time for all of us in non-profit, community, and people-based activities to refuel by coming together at the upcoming ‘Chamber of Commoners’. It’s going to take place on June 9, so save the date. Once again, the evening will be filled with snacks and drinks, information tables, ‘organizational’ speed-dating, door prizes, and even more open time to mingle with new and old friends. In addition, we’ll have a bit of fun trying our hands at some collective song writing. That’s right! We’re going to work together to add a few verses to John Prine’s ‘In a Town This Size’ and give it some local Powell River flavour. Some of Powell River’s very own music talent will be on hand to help perform the final product.

Mark your calendars, and spread the word! Here are all the details you’ll need:

Chamber of Commoners

Club Bon Accueil (French Club)
5110 Manson Avenue

7-9 pm, Wednesday, June 9, 2010

This is a ‘by donation’ event (suggested donation: $5.00). No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

RSVP to chamberofcommoners@gmail.com to confirm your attendance.

Please let us know ASAP if you’d like to reserve space for an information table (space is limited).

We are looking for donations of door prizes. Contact us if you have something to offer.

The Return of the Lasagna Garden

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las4

those red splotches are red orach, which supposedly grows as big as a bush.

Lasagna Garden 2.0

Lasagna Garden 2.0; Romaine lettuce, rapini, potatoes in the far distance

Just an update on the lasagna garden; it ended up being half the size than originally planned, but it’s keeping me busy. The trench is working well, although it is harboring some slug action. Yet, the area gets so warm and dry that few survive that and my scissors (“Gianni Scissorhands”, they call me… those voices in my head). We needed more soil, though… always more since the 8 huge garbage bags of seaweed just dissolved and the straw smooshed down too.

The grass underneath is now brown and the worms are all over the place, doing their good work. I have planted heat-lovers in here including zucchini and basil and cukes. I had hoped to put tomatoes here too, but the wind is a bit much, and they like to be covered to avoid rainfall(and the splash-back that gives them this fungus disease); they are nestled on the side of the house where the dark green paint also collects heat and radiates it to them in the night.

Out now to plant some beans I have soaking.

Fear into Ploughshares

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Today’s NY Times online headliner (March 6, 2009)

Here you have it; it just gets worse. The banks have been bailed out — and will continue to be — but the rest face a very uncertain future. Democtracy Now reported today that:

According to Moody’s Economy.com, an estimated 13.6 million borrowers owed more than their home’s worth at the end of last year.

Ok, so we’re going to have unemployment, and when the EI runs out (for those lucky enough to have it in this age of contracted just-in-time jobettes), then what?

While it makes sense to be fearful, it’s our task as individuals to work our way through that very natural feeling, but not be consumed by it. One way to deal with this is to keep busy, and especially focus on practical skills like cooking, finding out how to do some basic plumbing or simple building, or food-growing: skills that will be needed no matter what.

One possible drawback to engaging in these useful activities is the lack of tools. My guess is that there are large quantities of tools just rusting away here in Powell River, waiting to be donated to those who will use them. Last year, when looking through some tool-sharing information online, I came across a Seattle company that basically works like a gym: you pay a certain amount every month, and you have access to a wide array of tools, and a library of ways to use them and the face-to-face sharing of knowledge too. While this is definitely a high-end deal, most tool-shares are low-end and very practical.

This website: http://www.toolbank.org/ goes through a lot of the benefits of having a toolshare program.

As the folks at The Center for Sustainable Living and Joe Nolan write: ( http://www.centerforsustainableliving.org/library/?p=14)

“Organizing your own toolbank is as easy as holding a meeting, making a list of tools and trading phone numbers. Starting from the Phinney Neighborhood Association, Seattle’s nationally acclaimed Well Home Program grew to serve the whole city, offering tools and training to low-income people throughout the city. Thus, what begins as a pet project might evolve into the next best thing for your town.

Though starting up the toolshare program is relatively easy, keeping the program running successfully requires some planning. Funding, maintenance, liability, and return enforcement are all issues that will probably arise. In his 2004 article about tool-sharing Joe Nolan offered the following checklist for would be sharers:

  • Hold a meeting to find out people’s needs and available resources.,
  • Determine the scope of the program; it’s often best to start with simpler hand tools.
  • Determine storage—will tools be stored in homes or in a common space?
  • Determine how costs will be covered for tool purchases and ongoing maintenance.
  • Develop a clear set of lending, repair and tool-return rules.
  • Develop a list of “experts” who can share skills.
  • Organize a system to track checkout and return of tools.
  • Assign responsibility for maintenance and repair.

Last summer, when the Powell River Community Resource Centre’s (CRC) Demonstration Garden was being built through the efforts of a short-lived youth employment program, and through the hard work of volunteers/coordinators, a man came up and asked if he could donate a piece of equipment to the project, in return for a charitable donation tax deduction form. There was some question as to whether the form could be provided, and so the offer was apparently withdrawn.

While tax deductions are fine while this gov’t program lasts, I think we need to think about the big picture. Many volunteers offer their time and physical labour toward myriad community projects and receive no tax reduction or pay. Those who cannot or don’t want to put in this type of commitment should feel that their donation of equipment or dollars can also help a project: it’s just another way that people can feel that they are contributing somehow. That said, many seniors have huge storehouses of information that is so valuable, but often feel left out because of physical limitations. No one wants to feel left out and useless (especially when their skills and knowledge are anything BUT useless).

If a building is created to house tools, and with the help of a dedicated, knowledgeable part-time coordinator, I believe that the CRC is a logical place to house such a tool share project. There are many models that can be followed, and now may be the best time to start a toolshare, and focus on employment as ” the work in which one is engaged”, and the work may or may not paid work; and may or may not be for immediate gain.