PennyGrows

So I decided to learn about farming


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My First

These are the first vegetables (herb) that I have EVER.. really EVER grown from seed… I think.

I may have planted seeds when I was a kid, and  last year I scattered seeds across Toronto parks that I collected from my garden, but these will be the first seeds that I will have watched and cared for with such appreciation.

This past Sunday I transplanted my little seedlings outdoors… fingers crossed that mother nature won’t bring us another frost till the fall.

I am pretty sure that it is butter lettuce and parsley, but it could be cilantro. See I am off to a great start already with my plant identification skills!

Butter Lettuce

Parsley


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ROOFTech 2013

ROOFTech –  roofing industry types who gathered together for an educational experience. It was “… much more than just a… trade show.”

In addition to the manufacturer and designers commonly pedaling their wares at the International Centre, there was oodles of information available, and roof companies “on the ready” to help developers and building owner’s comply with the City of Toronto Green Roof Bylaw. http://www.toronto.ca/greenroofs/overview.htm#thresholds.

While there I attended a seminar on a rooftop gardens and was able to view common rooftop garden configurations.

ROOFTech2013

Surprisingly, most, if not all, of the information supported green roofs that have nothing to do with growing food. The technology and industry, while going in a good and green direction, are not building green roofs to feed families… communities (or profit), the green roofs are environmental and ornamental in nature.


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Busy as a Bee – Part 2

Planting a Pollinator Garden – Session Two.

First, the Pollinators… there a 5 families of bees in Toronto and they are typically classified  into some of the following headings .. social/solitary… sting/no sting… general/specific (i.e. their diet or native bees only collect from native plants), and bee habitats (e.g. hives, wood, soil, in flower petals, etc).

Toronto has many interesting pollinators and the “Wood Carpenter Bee” is one of them. Wood bees will tunnel into unstained/unpainted wood and lay their eggs on a nest of pollen and honey.  Check out the nest (i.e. perfectly round hole) in this rafter at the Toronto Botanical Garden. This was one of many nests located over the front door.

Carpenter Bees

Second, the garden itself… Paul Zammit, Director of Horticulture at the TBG provided the instruction. Paul has VAST knowledge of plants… VAST, and he talks really really fast. He is very passionate about his work with plants, seeds and gardens… and it shows!

Below is a pic of Paul outside the Toronto Botanical Garden near the bee hives.

Signs

Interesting Fact – “Double-Flowered” describes varieties of flowers with extra petals and often are flowers within flowers, some examples are certain varieties of roses, daisies and carnations. Many double flowers have no reproductive organs and as a result they are sexually sterile… no pollen… and no use to bees.


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Busy as a Bee – Part 1

In an attempt to understand the complete cycle of farming I thought it also important to learn about Bees.

The Toronto Botanical Garden http://torontobotanicalgarden.ca/ offered a “Bee Keeping Series”… 6 sessions over 8 months.  Early April was the first session and we had a basic “Introduction to Bees & Hive Building”.

Some fascinating information I learned about bees…

  • If you construct a hive…  bee yard… aka apiary, you should ensure that there is at least three seasons of food available for the bees, as it is considered cruel not to provide a food supply.
  • There are 240 types of bees in Toronto, 900 types in Canada, and over 18,000 species in the world.
  • Bees are solitary.  97% of bees don’t live in a hive.
  • It is very hard to make organic honey, because bee keepers cannot control or guarantee the forge of the bee.
  • One bee may produce up to ½ tsp of honey in their life.
  • Ontario has a “Bees Act” , which regulates the keeping of bees. http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_90b06_e.htm (the Bees Act  is a mere 7 acts away from the regulation that I work with every day, the Building Code Act… coincidence .. I think not!).
  • The Bees Act states among many other requirements… hives must be setbacks 30m from a property line (i.e. you need full acre) to keep a hive…. you cannot feed bees honey… and the act sets out who owns swarms. For example, bees kept in hive are considered private property and the owner as a right to pursue and recover a swarm.
  • BTW: Swarms are not bad. A swarm generally means that the number of bees in the hive grew too large so some of the bees, including the queen, decided to pack it up and find a new place to make honey, leaving behind a smaller colony in the hive, to carry on the work.

 


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In the CLASSROOM

On April 6 and 7, 2013, I participated in Ecological Farmers of Ontario Association’s “Essentials to Ecological Agriculture” www.efao.ca course, because this mission would not be complete without a formal education component.

The course was a basic introduction to the principles of organic farming…. not certified organic.  I learned about weed control, soil biology (surprisingly because of my on-site knowledge I already knew quite a bit… thank you Ahmed), crop rotation, manure managementbio-dynamic agriculture, and that you cannot follow tomatoes with potatoes… well you can, but you might not have much success.

I also now know what “SCC” means – this is important to know if you consume raw milk products – SCC means “Somatic Cell Count”, and it is an indicator of the milk quality.  The SCC will increase as a response to pathogenic bacteria, a cause of mastitis (i.e. the cow is not well… don’t drink the milk). The SCC of milk will also be high after calving, when colostrum is produced (i.e.  not sick a cow… a mama cow). Apparently, it is not uncommon for farmers to have their “house cow”… the one they consume raw milk from, tested up to 4 times a year.

One of the most remarkable things I found out about the Ecological Farmers of Ontario Association (EFOA) is their referral program. It is a program offered to members…  and could be described as farmer to farmer advice.  As a member of EFOA you can call/write/email and ask a question about a farming issue, or simply seek advice. The EFOA will refer a query to a member/farmer who has encountered a similar issue and possibly propose a solution. What a great resource.


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Early THANK YOUs

Many friends have helped me sort out my plans. They have listened, brainstormed, offer opportunities, offered friend’s contact information, couches and spare rooms to crash; and people are still helping me… so expect this list to “grow” too!

Thank you…

Jason (my best friend), Sally, Marie, Nella, Lale, Ahmed, Hesther and my BDB family; my BMEC family, Nadine, Peter B; Ellen, Beatrice and Dman; Katie B, Sarah E, Miriam; Aldo, Lyndsay and baby girl Gemma, Sukko; Kim and Guy and the little one on the way; Flo and Dusty and Po; Tran, Patti, Dhruv; Sonny and Grant; Hemmit, Jeremy C, Erik A, Amy C; and Toby, Claudia and Justin.