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at van tech 2016

Small Magic in Late Autumn

The Pineapple Express breezes through Vancouver, bringing a day full of sunshine and a tease of spring weather.

After spending lunch with the Aboriginal Youth Program at Van Tech, I was feeling very soft and charmed by the warm air. So I went outside to our Fresh Roots farms to just notice. To notice what activity, small or large, was taking place on the farm. The Kale was upright and loving the sunshine. The hoop houses looked secure. The remnants of garlic planting were visible.

Unseasonably warm, I was able to be in my t-shirt. Charlotte, our head farmer rolled up in the Fresh Roots truck, I was excited to see her because it meant I could help on the farm a little and also because I was hoping to have some company on such a warming day. And little did I know, my favourite task was the garden task of the afternoon- mulching the garlic beds.

From the truck, we unloaded free barrels of straw collected from Halloween houses (thank the spirits for craigslist!). Charlotte saw my excitement and let me have the honour of tucking the garlic babies into bed for the winter. A thick layer of straw blanketing over, in my opinion, one of the most rewarding plants. The warm golden sun illuminated the straw blanket. Charlotte and I looked at how far the straw stretched as a blanket over the garden beds, and visually estimated how many more Halloween houses we needed to contact. As we observed quietly, the aspen tree just south of the garden shed its leaves as the warm breeze blew in. A shower of amber confetti aspen leaves bumbled over the garden through the golden sun. The earth bringing us in for a warm embrace. We couldn’t help but laugh at the magic we were witnessing.

Taking time to be present, to receive the gifts the natural world is constantly offering us, to just feel the changes, can lead to pure magic.

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East Van Press Fest

I’m impressed to suggest that this year’s fall fest, is just around the bend.
It’s hardly a jest, I must confess, we have so many apples it almost offends
But not quite. It’ll be all right – if only you bring us your bottle.
We’ll fill it up quick, with cider that fits, you’ll have to carry it home with a waddle.

What: A Free apple pressing extravaganza. Join your neighbours in celebrating the harvest. Try your hand at pressing local apples into sweet cider and take some home!

Where: Vancouver Technical Secondary School (at the farm near the tennis courts) at Slocan and Broadway. Here’s a map.

When: Sunday, October 16, 2016 from 11-3

Who: All are invited. Bring your family, bring your friends and BYOJ Bring your own jar to help take home the cider.

RSVP

Brought to you by Mother Nature and a few simple machines

Thanks to: The Vancouver Foundation & Neighbourhood Houses of Vancouver (Small Neighbourhood Grants) Duncan’s Backyard Henhouses, Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society, Homesteader’s Emporium, and all our wonderful volunteers

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Season of Pruning and Trellising

On leaving room and creating space.

On pruning and trellising.

On learning about learning.

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“They’re called ‘suckers’ because they suck energy from the plant. Also because they just suck.”

(Gaelan, teaching a friend’s little sister about what he calls “the theory behind why we prune tomatoes”.)

~~~~~

Aaaaand… we’re back!

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Well, it’s been awhile, huh, Fresh Roots cyber land? I’ve missed you guys! I’ve been out ‘n’ about since the end of my Schoolyard Farm Internship last season, immersed in the good things of academia, and family, and such. I’ve been back with the Fresh Roots family, in a slightly different role and capacity. This growing season, I’ve been gardening with a group of students at Windermere Secondary School, growing food together and selling it at a weekly summer market stand! (Shameless plug: We’re at Collingwood Neighbourhood House every Tuesday from 11am – 2pm in July and August. Come say hi!)

On paper, I am a garden coordinator. The #Windermeregarden crew is amazing in many ways, of course gardening being one of them! My job is to support them in that. In the beginning days (sometimes now too) I wondered to myself, “What does that even mean?? look like? feel like? taste like?”  “How does one ‘coordinate’?” “Empowerment is a great word and all, but how does one walk in it, practically, in the everyday kinda things that the inspirational speakers don’t have time to talk about?”

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In the process of all this new learning, messing up, adapting, and becoming… My hands, they still get to work the soil, plant seeds, and yank out weeds. My head, often is in a buzz and bubble of uncertainty-laden AHHH!-moments, but so too soul-happy Ahhh 🙂 -moments. My heart, oh my heart, is continually being nurtured and challenged to grow into new capacities, to hold onto peace, to allow and embrace processes of pruning.

Tomatoes.

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The very first thing I grew tried growing. I have a pair of handmade earrings (yay for sculpty clay!) that are tomatoes, in honour of that life event. The poor tomato plant weathered a couple bad storms, got bushy beyond recognition, and tried with all its might to have its measly fruit survive. Granted, we got a handful of cherry tomatoes off of it. But, indeed, it was a sad plant.

And then the students at Windermere teach me about pruning. Brave new world.

This season, we’re growing A LOT of tomatoes at Windermere. Tomato pruning has become a regular thing for us. Heart-level, I’ve been reflecting on how this new role as a coordinator/facilitator involves a lot of pruning, but also trellising. There’s the oft-times stressful process of having my mindsets re-adjusted, my words revised, to honour, empower and leave room for student learning and leadership – pruning. But then there’s also the support of a string or a stake that helps hold me up, helps guide my stalks and arms as they reach up higher – trellising. In this role, I am supported, encouraged, and enlivened by the Fresh Roots team, by the neighbours who visit our market stand, by the students who never cease to come up with witty veggie puns, and naturally and effortlessly create a culture of creativity and good times that I love being in.

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It’s a season of pruning. It’s a season of trellising.

And I am still learning. So much.

On letting go, on balancing to-do’s and to-play’s, and fostering farming and fun. On letting old perspectives and boxes be pinched and pruned away. Leaves and suckers – endless task lists, overbearing efficiency, perfectly executed plans. Some things can (and should) be held with an open hand, so that we can focus on growing and maturing the fruit – student ownership and leadership, confidence and creativity, skills and silliness, joy!

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Well, perhaps some of that had some semblance of sense and logic. I’m not too sure yet what shape this 2nd iteration of “Hands, Head, Heart” will take on, but I hope you will join me in reflecting on the roles that we play in our communities, and in the diligent work of pruning and trellising tomato plants – in our garden beds, and in our minds and hearts and relationships.

Before I sign off, some scribbles from a day back in the spring, when all this first began. Such is the tone of this season, I think… to hit those low notes.

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March 15th, 6:40pm. On the bus heading home from the garden.

If I were to describe what I’m learning in one word, it’d be this:

Humble.

Be humble—always ready and attentive to learn, change, shift your mindset. Quick to listen, and slow to speak (or instruct, or suggest). Know and be ok with knowing that you know not everything, that you do need help, that you need encouragement, and support, and a community to grow in. And know that it’s a good thing, this not-knowing-it-all-from-leaf-tip-to-root-end, that you need not burden yourself with aspiring for perfection and clear lines in all that you do, in all that it feels others depend on you to do, and do well.

“It’s important not to let perfect take away space for just okay.” (- quoted loosely from Marc Shutzbank)

Sometimes just okay is okay.

Sometimes it’s better than perfect.

Because in those spaces there’s then room to grow, nuggets to dig up, and reason to reflect, and think, and enjoy the loopy jaddegness of swirly lines.

On paper and in planting rows.

Through the avenues in my mind that new neurons fire through,

Excited by novelty.

 

When I feel that I’m a hopeless bumble, it’s really just good times to practice being

Humble.

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Gnome More Gnome!

Garden gnomes might eat your crops
But no worries, I’ve got something that stops
those pesky hands from digging in
It’s mustard greens, spicy as sin
When those gnomes eat mustard greens
It blows them into smithereens.
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Grow Something Good!

If it’s something you’re looking to plant
But your farming knowledge feels rather scant.
No worries for you
We’ve got a ‘how-to’
So get ready for your garden and transplant!

You’ve just stopped off at your Victoria Drive Vancity Branch, and now you’ve got your own seedling to take home to take care of.  Now what?

Don’t you worry, Vancity and Fresh Roots have all the tips right here on how to grow it.  If you’re looking to get out in the garden and learn more about healthy schoolyard farming – come and get involved with Fresh Roots!

How to Grow Kale

Before planting, make sure to add nutrients to your soil.  You can easily do this with any compost or fertilizer – we recommend a mushroom compost that you can pick up at any garden centre.

The recommended space for planting seedlings is 12 to 15 inches apart in rows 18 inches to 24 inches apart. When you plant your seedling, be sure to set the plant deep enough in the soil to support the plant, but generally no higher than than the base of the first leaves. Remember that this is a general suggestion that helps to make sure that your plants have enough space to grow nice and big!

Harvesting

Your kale should be ready in roughly 45 days from transplanting – yay! Harvesting is easy.

You can begin to cut individual leaves off the kale when the plant is approximately 8 to 10 inches high, starting with the outside leaves first.

If you decide to harvest the entire plant, cut the stock two inches above the soil and the plant will sprout new leaves in 1 to 2 weeks.

Make sure to harvest kale leaves before they become too old and tough. If you can’t eat the kale leaves fast enough and they begin to turn brown, pull the old leaves off and compost them.  This helps to create more airflow and reduces pest pressure.

You can also pick kale regularly and store it in the fridge for up to a week. If you choose to do so, keep it lightly moist and place it in a bag, but unsealed, in the crisper bin.

Eat and enjoy!

 

 

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Negative Food Stories: Opportunities for Relationship

Food is nourishment.  Food is connection.  

Good days, bad days, celebrations, mourning.  Food is there.  It can be a burden, an obligation met by busybody, overstressed workers, parents, caregivers.  It can be a relief, a comfort, a joy; a refuge to hide away, to spend all the time one’s heart desires to craft the shapes, and flavours, and undertones of a remembered but distant dish–of remembered people, places, experiences.  

And of new ones.

Food can be the poverty of an empty table.  It can be the extravagance of waste and excess.

Food can be dreaded.  It can be hoped for.

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I attended a [food-]storytelling workshop yesterday.  Parts of the words above came from my scribbled thoughts to the free-write prompt: What does food mean to you?

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Food is fundamental and vital for life.  We need it (and we need to grow/gather/cultivate it) to survive, to live, to thrive.  Food can be a source of nourishment not only physically or biologically, but also for the soul.  Traditional foodways and meals can bring back good memories and warm fuzzy feelings.  We like to eat.

These things we know.  And often we hold them as universally applicable to all.  After all, everyone eats, right?

Enjoying a potluck lunch with the crew

Enjoying a potluck picnic lunch with the crew

Talking with a friend at the storytelling workshop about our personal stories of food and “food stories” in general, the topic emerged of Hey, wait a minute.  Not everyone has a positive relationship or association with food.  

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Being at Rest

It’s a Pro-D (professional development) Day at David Thompson today.  Oh, how calm it is.

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Guess what?  I got my rainbow carrots photo!

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These past two weeks, we’ve had a bounty of these colourful root veggies.  I can’t help but be in awe of their beauty.

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