Monday, August 16, 2010

Cool links and an update!


I just found a really interesting (I think) physiological oddity, check out the link:

Also!!! An AMAZING website with resources to help transform your eating and cooking habits to be more local, cheaper, and balanced when looking at global food economy:

As for the garden, we've had a slow couple of weeks but have released our first newsletter, with the next one coming later today!

Our cucumber plants are struggling with a wilting disease; at the start of the summer, I thought that cucumber beetles were only dangerous to the seedlings of these plants, eating at the stem and causing them to wither. Turns out that cucumber beetles are dangerous once the plants are adult as well, by transmitting a wilting disease from plant to plant. This is exactly what has happened to our cucumber plants, at this point we're hoping to salvage as many as we can though it doesn't look too good. For next year I think I'll recommend that they continue hunting cucumber beetles into the plant's adulthood, though I wonder if that would be effective?

Right now available for sale or for pick up on Thursdays 12-1pm in the Macdonald Stewart Lobby on campus, or Saturdays 9am-2pm at Marche Ste-Anne, we have:

Cherry tomatoes
Green beans
Swiss Chard
Spicy Asian Greens
Red Romaine (almost done!)
Hot peppers
Ground cherries
Asian Radish (larger and stronger flavour than normal radish)

If you email us we can put aside a selection of items for you to pick up. We've been having trouble with wasting vegetables since we are only harvesting once a week for the market; so if you are at all interested in receiving veggies during the week other than Thursday or Saturday, please let us know!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Open Gardens on Full Moon Sky

With delectable food & sweet friends, we enjoyed our Open Garden Pot Luck yesterday. It was good for me to hear the comments and questions that came up as we were going through the garden. It gave me some perspective and insight on first impressions of the Gardens. For example, a comment that came up about the Meditation Garden was that it seemed as though it had been there for some years already. To me, that meant we had done a good job at designing, for the area had somewhat of a "natural" design to it. We had planned to play music, dance, do several tours of the gardens, do some 'official' talks... All of this, except one garden tour & a roundabout the medicine wheel, was, lets say 'postponed', for better enjoyment of food and friends. The food ended up taking the bigger part of our attention... Even the 'un-kosher' peaches and hard boiled eggs :) We had prepared pizza with veggies from the garden, as well as brucetta with tomatoes from Carya Farm (graciously offered :), and coleslaw with cabagge and carrots from Coop Tourne-Sol. The B.O.V. was probably not advertised as such enough, but the one brought was a success. I was surprised at the end of the evening that even the 'muddy punch' with green froth -kale, swiss chard, cabbage, carrots, celery, cucumber, beets, apple, lime) got almost finished :) Thank you all for coming and joining us for our gathering and open garden tour :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Transitions & Communications

Last tuesday, July 13th, Emily and I were on the air with Ryan Young's show Ecolibrium (CKUT 90.3 fm) Check out:

It was a great experience for all of us. Thanks to Ryan for inviting us!
We've been up to so much in the last few weeks. I can hardly realize 3 weeks have already passed since the end of june!

Liberated greenhouse plants
It all started with having to liberate the greenhouse by the first week of july for a "heat treatment" they (Greenhouse managers at Mac) are doing to prepare for the school year. Since our beds for the Meditation Garden weren't ready yet, we started building them with stones from the piles accumulated over the years of field cleaning at the Mac Farm. We had first thought of wood beds with untreated wood or pressure treated wood. Then we thought or rock beds for they would last longer. People we asked around seemed to disagree about which would be better in the end (practicality) so we started dreaming of this other option which, instead of buying and contributing to the consumption circle, we could "recycle" these local field stones :)
Beginning of a raised bed

Not quite the obvious task. None of us had done it before. We didn't build very high beds for security sake and anyways, we will not have plants in there that necessitate so much rooting space... or so we thought (stay tuned :)

Now the shrubs are in. 3 seating areas are created with rocks, wood stumps and hay (on a little hay hill ;) The soil has been delivered. Our task this week is to get the beds all ready. This means turning over the grass killed by the cardboard that has been laying on it for a while now. Hopefully this will be enough to discourage unwanted plants to grow there and be food for worms&friends. We'll mix some compost also from the Gorilla Composting of Macdonald Campus (our tripartite partner :) perhaps even leaning towards the "Lasagna" gardening style. Still need to look into this further.

Check out for composting & for lasagna gardening

So in terms of beds for the Meditation Garden we are still planning on building one more. We were given funding by the Macdonald Community Garden to get shrubs and vines. As we were waiting on getting the foundations (the stone beds) established in the space before transplanting the shrubs, we will start taking pictures to show all of you via this web spider (uploading pictures on a Picassa Album -blogs are not the best for them, unless we just couldn't figure it out) how it now looks with those beautiful shrubs (blueberries, black and red currents, rasberries, roses, elderberries). We placed them in the space thinking of access to the fruit shrubs -harvesting!- and the beds, the general flow of the walking area, the visual pleasure and keeping a sense of enclosure while fostering the openess of the gardens.

And since this is an Open Garden... we would Love to see you too! So this is an invitation to all of You to come and Celebrate with us on the 25th of July.

This sunday at 6pm at the Meditation Garden (beside the Mac Community Garden) we will be holding a pot luck to thank all of you for making this happen and introduce you to our Gardens.

I would also like to invite you to join us for a Yoga/Chi Kung/Dance session at the Meditation Garden (under the CC's roof if its raining or too wet). Sessions are resilient to the participants. I'll guide a movement/centering hour were each participant can feel good after. Days are 6:15 to 7:15 monday evenings and thursday mornings. Contact us for more information. Check out my myspace for credentials postalpoems It's free :)

Andrea H
p.s. these pictures date from a few weeks back

Picasa Album

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hort center update

It finally feels like our plot at the hort center is under way. The picture here is us laying black plastic mulch for weed suppression (shades weeds from sun) and to extend the season by keeping our plants warm into the fall as the black absorbs heat from the sun. This was a pretty crazy undertaking as we did it all by hand. The trick is to tuck the corners of the plastic underground pretty tightly so that the wind doesn't rip the plastic by flapping it around. We very intelligently did this at the hottest time of the day, not recommended in the future. While it feels kind of weird covering the soil in plastic, this is a good way to suppress weeds without herbicides, and the plastic is corn-based and photodegradable so it won't have to go in a landfill at the end of its life.
The next picture shows our plants poking out of the plastic, awwww. The closest plastic row is cucumber, then behind is squash and then tomato. Now all we can do is let them do their thing. And water them and think positive thoughts.
At this point all of the rows at the hort center are planted, at least partially. We have some leeks that aren't quite ready to leave the greenhouse, but everyone else is living life in the field. I wish we had a picture of us transporting the seedlings. We don't have a tractor or anything so we use our bikes and sometimes we have to get creative. Balancing trays of okra seedlings on handlebars has proven to be impossible and even tragic (we lost one in the crash I'm afraid), but peppers and eggplants are more manageable. It's pretty awesome to be replacing fossil fuel energy with human energy and silliness, and at this scale it just makes sense, time-wise. We may need to build a trailer or something if we get more/further land next summer.
That's it for now!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Katryna & Emily enjoying the life!

Hort Update

Drip tapes have been laid & Tomatoes transplanted

Tuesday transplant pics

I think pictures can speak for themselves.
Here are some of our tuesday pics...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

HOW embarassing

So, we have had a breakthrough event at the community garden this week. For the past little while, our seedlings have started coming up and we have had some trouble trying to weed. Seedlings are really hard to tell apart from weeds, but we have been doing our best. Yesterday we were gingerly weeding around what we thought were are young persian cress seedlings when our friend Chris let us know that we were nurturing wild mustard, a nasty weed. The ragweed we had been pulling out was actually cress, so pretty much, we messed up. On the bright side it seems like the mustard was much more attractive for the flea beetles than the cress, so it acted as a `catch crop`, a sacrifice to the flea beetles. So we have less cress than we should but it is looking pretty scar-free. Maybe there is something to be said about leaving weeds?
The Hort Center garden, our biggest one, is looking good. We have been delayed due to rain and availability of materials, but we now have a nice row of tomatoes and another of onions, Shungiku (edible Villa Incognito by Tom Robbins, these flowers are magical!), marigold and dill. We also snuck a few poppies on the ends of rows. The flowers are to attract pollinators and pest predators, but also they`re just so darn pretty. Gotta have a nice work environment.
Finally, big news, our first vegetable was produced this week, got ourselves a little green pepper in the community garden. I`ll put up pictures soon. I felt like an overexcited parent on their kid`s first day of school, taking pictures from every angle. We can`t be cool all the time I guess.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Flea beetles and RAIN (an uplifting post)

We are running into some problems in the garden. But here at MSEG we are pretty hardcore and can handle them. The first is the flea beetle infestation in the community garden. These little guys (see picture) have been attacking the

eggplants and peppers, as well as all of the Ladybug and Purple Martin plots. They avoided our May Queen lettuce for some reason (thanks guys). I don't know about everyone else but I have a pretty protective attachment to our plants and it's quite possible that I sing to them in the greenhouse when I'm potting them up and no one is around...they REALLY like "Golden Slumbers"... The point being, this kind of attack can be pretty traumatizing for both the plants and myself. We are using this garlic spray to try to combat the flea beetles. Ingredients: three heads garlic, 1tsp Dr Bronners soap and lots of water. The greenhouse and our plot at the CG smell pretty bad right now. While we were spraying there was a small girl and her mother having a bonding experience gardening and we just might have ruined it with our aroma. Sad times. We are hoping that this spray will work. We ran into a Mac prof who uses spray made of Neem, that magical tree whose virtues are extolled by my hero Vandana Shiva. So there is hope if this doesn't work out.

Also, the rain these past couple of days has set us back a bit. The land at the Hort center is super clay, so we have developed a severe fear of compaction here. In this wet weather there is not much we can do in the field so we have been getting ourselves super organized for next week when we will be putting a lot of our seeds in the ground (parsnips, rutabaga, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower...) and transplanting our onions...AND laying the mulch and row covers. Monday should be a pretty beastly day. Again, nothing we can't handle (*manly grunt sound*)

Lets end this on a positive note: we have been getting some pretty sweet volunteers, who have not complained about weeding or the sun or how smelly the garden is right now. Thanks guys!

We are at the Mac Market as usual this Saturday 9-2, where this week you can listen to the lovely fiddle tunes of our most die-hard volunteer Anna Elbon. Get excited.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Clean Food, Organic Agriculture (2005)

I just watched this 28 min. movie produced by Films for the Humanities Production. I took a few movies from the school's library which were found under 'organic agriculture'. What I decided to post here are just a few of the points brought up in film that I find interesting... (I also watched The Future of Food -2004- and One Man, One Cow, One Planet -2007- of which I won't go into here, I welcome you to watch it though)

For example, some guy interviewed (ooh! that's bad quotation!) said that organic farming was partly created to bring transparency to the agricultural system. Although I had never formulated this thought, I feel comfortable with it... What do you think? Is it reasonable to affirm this? In my personal experience, the event of organic agriculture has certainly brought about a lot of discussions on origins and opening up to where food came from. But was that because it's organic, or was it a mandate a lot of organic producers believed in? The conventional animal farm at the school is certainly very open about its process... Was it just not reaching me before I found an interest in it?

Also, maybe the same guy, or another (!) brought up how choosing to buy organics meant that one had a real impact on preserving life. This point was expressed by Vandana Shiva (I knew of her, so it was easier to remember) as a "moral obligation to be a co-producer of a sustainable, healthy, just, peaceful economy of food". Her choice of words resonate with me. She also added "the moment we are choosing the food we eat, we are supporting the production system". But that ain't just about food... Knowing what's behind our buck is a full time leisure activity. I would like to be more coherent in my spending... But the I fear the consequences... No computer (programs made to last only a certain period of time)... No cell phone (war in Congo)... Already, I don't have to go very far in my research that all of my daily time table in put into question. Anyways, I put that aside for now, but comments are welcome.

The original owner of Stoney Fields (organic yogurt company) had another moral obligation to point out. His company was bought up by Danone (giant yogurt company), yet he said he remained independent after the deal in his decision making. And in that sense, he said small organic companies had the moral obligation to show the way to giant companies. This mandate would foster an 'aggressive commitment' from these big companies, which would 'change the world'. Somehow, I feel uncomfortable with that. 'Big' means a lot of money and profit... To achieve this it seems to me like a lot of travelling needs to be done (for example). All this is done because people live in cities and have an urban lifestyle... I think a more fundamental shift is needed. What do you think? (notice how I'd like comments on this page?)

Vandana Shiva enumerated '3 Big Myths' of the 'vicious industrialized, globalized agriculture':
  1. Industrial and chemical agriculture (including GMO) produces more food. 
  2. Globalized agriculture is based on competition
  3. It is self-generating surpluses
In response she argued that often times organic agriculture produces more food (she said 10x to 100x more... I'm surprised and not surprised. I would think that in developing countries that can be the case for conventional soils, which would tolerate less droughts than say, an organic one). She also pointed that the world of agribusiness corporations  (controlling inputs, distribution and consumer prices) was under the tyranny -that's my word!- 5 giant companies (she didn't name them but I just typed agribusiness corporations on Ecosia -instead of google- and found out about other companies than Monsanto... Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill (wow! so much to learn about these companies too! I encourage you to go read about them). It reminds me about this video I saw recently Monsanto Blocade or this one Monsanto, the genetic conspiracy. This is partly why I decided to buy seeds from small organic seed companies that I knew: Tourne-sol Coop, La Val'heureuse and Salt Spring Seeds. And finally, coming back to the third point, Vandana Shiva argues that the companies created an export paradigm, where only the trading agribusiness are making a profit... Now that is true for the USA as a whole (although they are considered the world export leaders by the Federation of International Trade Association) but not for Canada in terms of their goods (in $). More reading is needed to continue this topic and comments are welcome!

The disconnection between what we eat and how it is grown, is partly why we created this garden. Getting educated though practice.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Gardening at the Community Garden

The plot with a G-shaped path has been named Lady Bug in the honor of this beneficial insect, natural predator of the aphids. We thought this shape of path would maximize space on our plot. We created raised beds in this quite weedy plot to insure good drainage an early start for the seedlings... It has been so warm lately, that may have been a bad move for this season. It has been direct seeded May 18th with a few varieties of leafy greens (cress, buttercrunch) and sweet peas. We also transplanted basil quite close together to avoid weeding... we are going to see in the season if basil plants would of like more space or if this spacing helped them thrive. A few May Queen (lettuce) was donated to us by a fellow gardener (Branislav, thanks!). They seemed shocked today! It was quite warm. We watered several times to insure good infiltration.
The plot with a U-shaped path was named after an american (continent) bird, the Purple Martin. This bird feeds off flying insects... (see and so was considered an interesting predator to welcome in our gardens (but they do like bees... a good balance is what we are looking for). This plot was direct seeded with carrots, beets, turnips, rutabaga, parsnip and radish on May 18th.

Meditation/Medicinal Herbs/Permaculture Garden

Sharing with you our latest attempt at designing the area west of the community garden, where we are planning to implant a garden meant for meditation and gatherings for workshops and activities. One of the activities I was excited to start is happening this Thursday, full moon, may 27th at 7am. For about an hour I will guide participants through a series of exercises of yoga, chi kung and simple dance exercises, according to my own experience and practice. I will lead these morning gatherings every Thursday until June 17th.

We will keep on working on the design of the garden. Comments and critiques are welcome! We already have a few reservations ourselves. For example, the amount of work a rounded raised-bed figure would ask for is most probably considerable. Also the cost of materials... Which makes me think of hexagons! I was just reading this excellent comic book on honey bees, called Clan Apis by Jay Hosler, and it described how the cells in a comb are of hexagon shape for the most efficient use of space... But then again, I don't think we want a filled up space, but an efficient use of our materials. To be continued...

Here's a portion of the Mary H. Brown fund application that we submitted concerning the meditation garden... which is now called the permaculture garden to promote the practice of peri-urban permaculture:

Part of the Project is centered on creating an outdoor space where students and the community in general can peacefully enjoy ways of living with the land. An opportunity to slow down from a busy schedule and contemplate life as it unfolds in a garden designed specifically for meditation and medicinal plant cultivation. It is now an established notion that chronic stress is more a cause of depression than acute stress (McGonagle, 1990). In response, meditation and mindfulness techniques have been used successfully to alleviate chronic pains (Rosenzweig, 2010). Gardening has also made its noble letters at the Douglas Hospital in contributing to mental health. Designed with permaculture principles, the garden will be visually pleasing, key words being “curves” and “simple”, and will use organic and biodynamic practices to ensure proper growth and pest management. Raised beds will ensure the accessibility of the aging population. Activities will foster engaging human relations (Wills, 2009), body and breath awareness as well as gardening skills related to medicinal plants, planning, design and mushroom cultivation.

   1) First and foremost the Meditation Garden will improve access to a quiet and intimate outdoor space where one may simply sit and enjoy the calmness around and observe within. Regular group led activities of yoga, tai chi and dance will coherently support meditation practices by focusing on learning how to take care of our mental health through movement and sitting meditation.

   2) Consequently, MSEG’s influence is with education and outreach. The Meditation Garden will act as a demonstration of permaculture on the McGill, Macdonald campus. It will also provide opportunities for research into methods of sustainable horticulture, experimental and hands-on learning, while connecting academic knowledge with the environment and local community. The garden will be available for use as an eco-teaching tool for courses at the University. Support from university professors already exists and can be integrated into the projects plans, along with potential research topics. By reaching out to students and professors from different disciplines and the community, MSEG will aim to create awareness about native and non-native medicinal plants and mushrooms. Honours thesis and independent project research on medicinal plants and mushrooms, supervised by professors, are amongst the examples of student independent research projects suggested on last year’s Student run Eco Garden.

   3) The sharing of knowledge through workshops, lectures and meetings, as well as the organization of volunteer and tour groups from both the downtown and Macdonald campuses, and also the local community, is a vital part of the project’s intention. Experience has shown that by directly exposing students to the issues surrounding their health  nourishes a much greater understanding of the natural resources which provide it, and also the holistic aspect of agriculture. 

In the future the MSEG will coordinate activities with the Macdonald Food Systems Project (MFSP) to provide herbal teas and mushrooms produced by students from the Meditation Garden.

Last Wednesday I went to an information session created for the interns at Carya and Zephir farms. Graham Calder was there to present the basic underlying principles of permaculture. He aslo spoke of his Urban Permaculture Design Course happening this summer (see which seemed quite interesting. Hopefully some of our members will go and come back to share the good news! 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Community Garden Plots

These are the four plots we are going to be using at the community garden this summer. We spent some time hand weeding (shoveling really) and incorporated whatever we found sound to. A lot of earthworm activity!
Earthworms, the agriculturist's friends
This picture was taken at 4 pm, so we can fairly assume a good part of the day, 2 of our plots are going to have shade from the tree west of the plots. We will take this into consideration when planning our crops' spacing.

The Meditation Garden - Before & ...

The meditation garden will be designed around the four young fruit trees west of the community garden. We are planning a design over an area of 35 feet by 75 feet, which will include raised beds with medicinal herbs and flowers, mushroom cultivation with wood plug spawn (under the coniferous tree in the background of the picture), curved paths and various forms of benches.

Tuesday May 11th -Working on a the greenhouse

Last week the Sustainability Fund comity got together and selected our project as one with potential... Here you see Katryna, Emily and Kourosh working on a response to their comments, to be handed back to the comity before tomorrow, when they meet again. From this meeting tomorrow, we should be able to know what kind of funding is available for the MSEG. One of the point we want to get across to them before they take their decision is that we want to make this garden financially sustainable with sound budgeting and a deep economist vision. We want to use the words "environment" and "economy" together, not as opposites, but as complements. In his book Deep Economy, Caring for Ecology, Humanity and Religion (2001), Hans Dirk van Hoogstraten suggests the use of a new term "deep economy", analogous to "deep ecology" : "Deep economy is not just a play on words-it is the area that we must address to find the root causes and final solutions to our present ecological crisis. We must examine human motives, influences, and manipulation both on a surface level and on a deep level. Economy is inextricably linked to modern environmental problems. Many environmental ethicists believe that the economic actions are the fundamental agent in environmental problems and warn that profound changes in economic thinking and acting must be made."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Today its snowing. In the last 24h, the temperature dropped 17°Celsius!

Glad our seedlings are safe in the greehouse!

All our fund proposals are in, which gave us all a break to study for our finals. Last day of finals is friday the 30th. Then it's gardening time!!
On April 22nd, Myriam (watering) and I (looking up) seeded some more herbs, tomatoes, peppers (hot!), flowers and more! The thyme is already showing up! I received also our seed orders from Coop Tourne-sol, La Val'heureuse and Salt Spring Seeds! I want to thank our seed donors Steve Leckman and Caroline Begg! I also want to thank Anne-Sophie Tardif for her sweet potatoes from her plant propagation course (on the foreground of the picture with Myri)!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

MSEG : Primary Objectives

The Project has three main objectives

1. Address issues concerning sustainable food systems by:
- Improve access for the McGill and local community, to quality, sustainably grown, local foods
- Demonstrate the university’s first closed-circuit food system through cooperation with the student-run Mac Happy Belly and Gorilla Compost groups (please refer to Appendix B)
- Publicize these results and be an example to the community by providing their produce through the Ste. Anne’s Farmer’s Market and McGill Farmer’s Market
- Rehabilitate conventional agricultural land for preparation as an organic research field, which takes an average 3 years to become fully certified
This objective in particular will enhance the culture of sustainability at McGill and Macdonald.

2. Education and community outreach regarding ecological agriculture:
- Building on the foundation of education and outreach established by the former summer’s student garden such as
- Emphasize research projects already in the works such as vermicompost and pest control, and attract additional student and faculty research projects that require sustainably managed fields (i.e. UNIS)
- Connecting academic agriculture knowledge with the McGill and local community through workshops, lectures, meetings, demonstrations and publicity days

3. Engage the campus community in all aspects of ecological agriculture
- Providing a living classroom for many of the professors on campus, some of whom are already involved in the planning of this coming year’s plantation and management
- Establishing a profile as a club on campus to improve student accessibility
- Taking an active role in the Macdonald Food Systems Project to connect stakeholders such as the Horticulture Centre, the Farm, UNIS, etc.
- Employ motivated students to expand their field of knowledge in this area of extreme interest and importance to our global society


When the phrase “sustainable development” came into widespread use in the last half of the 1980’s, it signaled a new phase in our struggle with the twin catastrophes of the resource depletion and environmental degradation. The shift may go very deep indeed. It could mean a change in course for the waning industrial age; it might even be a central part of one of those rare periods of metamorphosis in civilization itself. […] Our ecological understanding developed over the last few decades makes it clear that we can only meet the needs of humans in an environment where the needs of other species-countless other species- are also met. This requires maintaining the integrity of nature’s life-support processes. In this case, maintaining does not mean simply preserving. […] Cities now cover less than 2 percent of the 61 percent, but they include over 42 percent of the world’s population. These small, intense clusters of activity are the decision centers as well as the energy-consumption centers. They are determining what happens in the rest of the landscape, namely, a pattern of degeneration. […] The global statistics on deforestation, desertification, salinization, soil erosion, habitat loss and other landscape pathologies tell that story very clearly.” John Tilleman Lyle (1994)

… current cities are parasites that, unlike successful parasites in nature, have not evolved mutual aid relationships with their life-support host landscape that prevent the parasite from killing off its host and thereby itself.” Eugene Odum (1993)

Aldo Leopold

Conservation is not merely a thing to be enshrined in outdoor museums, but a way of living on land.” –Game Cropping in Southern Wisconsin (1927)

Cease being intimidated by the argument that a right action is impossible because it does not yield maximum profits, or that a wrong action is to be condoned because it pays. That philosophy is dead in human relations, and its funeral in land-relations is overdue.” –The Ecological Conscience (1947)

The landscape of any farm is the owner’s portrait of himself. Conservation implies self-expression in that landscape, rather than blind compliance with economic dogma.” – The Farmer as a Conservationist (1939)

Seeding Day 1

Today we finally started seeding! Made all of us very happy!

We cleaned up 2 rows in the Summerby Greenhouse then seeded a few things we had handy.

Emily recording the number of seeds planted

Katryna seeding trays