So I decided to learn about farming

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Red Pocket Farm – Second Visit

I was back a Red Pocket on Friday. It was sunny and a cool 10 degrees Celsius. My fingers froze and I got a little wind burnt on my face. Having said all that, suddenly I am starting to feel like I am keeping a farmer’s almanac.?

So amongst the beautiful green organic Asian vegetables and the garlic and chives was ever so subtle… not really, whiff of Kentucky Fried Chicken from the corner of Keele and Sheppard…. oh it was wrong… oh so wrong.

Farmer Amy and I weeded 300 bed feet (new farming term and is defined as the linear distance of 1 foot measured along a raised, mulched bed. The total  number of Bed Feet in a particular planting system that is the cropped area of real-estate). We weeded carrots greens, and kale as well as the crop that we planted 2 weeks ago. Wow! They have have grown so fast.

I have also learned first hand one of the benefits of SPIN farming. SPIN farming using 24″ wide beds and not 40″ or 48″, so when weeding you have the option of standing up over, and straddling the bed. There is not so much bending, squatting or kneeling.


Mustard Greens


Gai Lan (foreground with yellow flower), Bok Choy (center with purple stems) and Soy Chum (far)


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Grey To Green

May 21 and May 23, 2013 I attended the “Grey To Green Conference” at Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto.

Sponsored by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities it was a very inspiring conference on all things green (so to speak) in Canadian and US cities.

There were keynote speakers and attendees from San Francisco, Chicago, NYC, Atlanta, Toronto and many many more. There were conversations that evoked discussions about how to do it better… and add value. For example, I attended an engagement stream “Beyond Aesthetics.. Additional Benefits of Green Infrastructure” where the Credit Valley Conservation Authority described their program in which they managed stormwater using boulevard planters and bio-swales; following which the Director General for the David Suziki Foundation made a suggestion to plants trees in the bio-swale to combat carbon emissions; and then Wayne Roberts, Canadian Food Policy Analyst and Food Writer suggested growing food for the communities in these areas.

This was the kind of innovative thinking that I was exposed to over the past 48 hours! These ideas may never see the light of day for whatever reason money, time, knowledge, lack of technology… but these ideas and others were not quashed or put aside… ideas were welcomed and fully expressed… about how we can do and be better! (kinda makes you tingle (not tinkle) when this happens)

The other engagement stream that I attended was “Beyond Managing Stormwater -Emerging Economic Opportunities from Green Infrastructure”. This stream happened to be very applicable to my “6 month leave project”. I heard presentations from Ben Flanner, from Brooklyn Grange an urban rooftop garden in Brooklyn, NY; Justin Nadeau (aka the greenest person in Toronto) Senior Coordinator from FoodShare; and Fay Rakoff, student and mother who spoke so very passionately about the importance of community gardens.

I also met some really wonderful people that I hope will be a part of my life in the next few months!

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Holiday Monday in High Park

I spent this morning in an allotment garden at High Park.  There are quite a few allotments in High Park and they are coveted. For a measly $60.00 fee a year you get a little piece of paradise. Many people were out today tending and tolling, but it was really upsetting that many of these gardens have not been cared for. I have placed my name of the waiting list for years with no success and I was sad to see that some people have this wonderful privilege and waste it away.

May be later this year I will do some renegade gardening… a garden “take over” so to speak. What is the worst thing that can happen… someone else gets to eat what I grow… isn’t that my goal? I don’t think there will be much of a chance that I will be arrested… what would be the charge be… “planting without a permit”!


Hemit and John

Friend Hemit (plaid) and Farmer John (hat)

Lot 10

Toronto High Park Allotment Gardens


John’s German garlic, and lettuces



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The Arugula is taking off like a Rocket!

Remember a couple of weeks ago I posted a picture of the rocket that I transplanted outdoors… well it appears to be quite happy… or it was until today. What was up withe the 5 rounds of hail this afternoon? I was able to cover the plants with a tarp with the hope that its placement might save them, but tonight’s temperature could finish them off. Poor patio plants. Stay tuned!



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Red Pocket Farm

On Friday, May 3, 2013 I spend the day of Red Pocket Farm with farmer Amy Cheng.

Amy has named her farm after the “… small red envelopes usually containing money or a candy treat…. given on special occasions such as Chinese New Year, birthdays and weddings as blessings for happiness, prosperity, health and good luck.  In farming, one certainly needs all four for a successful season.”

Amy’s farm is located at Keele and Sheppard in Downsview Park, Toronto. She grows, almost exclusively, organic Asian vegetables such as gai lan, bok choy and choy sum to name a few.

I don’t know where or how to begin to tell you what an amazing time I had on the farm!!! Amy is a great teacher and was very generous with her time and knowledge. My day was also very emotional as it was my first day on a farm since deciding this on taking this adventure, so I found myself smiling, kinda…. but not really, about to break into tears of joy, and giggling a little as I weeded, blended composts, planted, hoed, watered and set beds.

Things I learned…

  • If you take the time and do it right, care about what it is that you are doing, you will be rewarded
  • Vegetables that are loved taste better
  • Asparagus tastes WONDERFUL when picked and 2 minutes later eaten… and that says a lot for a girl who does really like green veg that has not been drowned in butter
  • Educate yourself on new planting methods (e.g. SPIN – small plot intensive)
  • Have a plan (e.g. seed, beds, harvest…) and write it down
  • Take risks, but plan accordingly and write it down… and cover your plans with plastic inserts
  • When hoeing or shoving turn your blade inward toward the bed, so not to spill soil from the bed in to the footpath
  • The smell of fish emulsion is very…  super, difficult to remove from hands and clothes
  • Wear sun block, wear a hat, and clothes that you no longer care about.


Gai Lan – Variety “Jade”


Penny and Amy planted Gai Lan

photo (11)

Lunch – Freshly picked asparagus

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Not in My Own Words

The following is an excerpt from “City Farmer: Adventures in Urban Food Growing” by Lorraine Johnson. This piece kinda sums up… not totally,  how I feel about growing food.

It seems to me that one of the most meaningful gifts we receive from the food we grow ourselves is the gift of story.  What we consume with each bite are the narratives embedded in the fruits of our labor. These stories emerge from the struggles (the squirrels or the mysterious fungus or the munching insect or whatever); the successes (the tricks to increase yield, the weeding that works); the surprises (the plant that survive neglect, the eggplant flowers that are as beautiful as any prized ornamental), and the triumphs (the cabbage bigger than the biggest human head).  The food we grow ourselves is invested with dozens of daily dramas that give it flavor and a meaning more enriching than anything we can buy.

Our gardens are narrative forms of self-expression that reveal our tastes and desires, our particular histories, who we are and how we want to create a place for ourselves in the world.