First Seedling Germinated!

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A little acorn squash was the first to germinate of this years seedlings. I saved the seed from a squash we recieved from our weekly vegetable basket from Les Jardins de la Resistence, a community supported agriculture (CSA) coop.

If your interested in getting a basket from them, check their website. If you want to know about other CSA’s that deliver in your area, check out Equiterre’s website, where they maintain a network map of CSAs in Quebec.

Seed-saving  is an important practice that (when combined with composting) helps to close a loop in our food system; from production, harvesting, distribution, consumption, and back to production while retaining soil fertility.

Click here to dive deeper into seed-saving as a cultural practice.

 

 

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Old Post never published from Julie!

When I told my dad I had begun to eat garbage, I did not expect him to think I was awesome.

The first time I heard about dumpster diving, the journalist in me immediately reacted to the VISAK-potential* of the story. I was doing an exchange semester at a journalism school in Denmark, we were making web video news stories with environmental focus. My colleague had managed to get in touch with a group of dumpster divers, and followed them on a nightly raid in the backstreets of Copenhagen. Imagine the shots he got: blurry, half-dark, with lots of running and secrecy. I was very jealous. How did he find these crazy, garbage-eating folks?

See, in Norway there were normal people, and then there were punks. At least in my mind. Normal people buy their clothes in stores, work, exercise, watch tv and get drunk on the weekends. Punks make their own clothes out of black fabric and safety pins, hold violent demonstrations, make zines and God knows what substances they are on.

My world view has changed a lot since then. Not only did I discover there is several other groups of people, and even people who are not in groups, but I also learned about why the dumpster divers dive. And I loved what I was learning, but I still couldn’t get myself to start going through garbage cans.

That was until this week’s Really Really Free Market at Concordia. Among all the wonderful things happening there (that I did not experience, since I go to UdeM and not Concordia), there was a dumpster diving workshop, and a dumpster diving tour of the Plateau, and I was lucky enough to be included in the email announcing this.

In about an hour of dumpstering, five people had gathered a bag of zucchini and eggplant, a kilo of grapes, cheeses, 15 bags of potato chips, two floursacks of breadrolls and pastries and something like 20 boxes of ice cream. What was wrong with this food? Nothing, as far as I could tell. It was all perfectly edible, and delicious. Moreover, dumpster diving is so much fun. Presenting all the food to the other roommates was like a little party in itself.

High of the feeling of achievement, I considered who in my home country would appreciate my tales of Montréal’s trash containers. I had almost settled on not bothering to tell anyone, when I read a story in Norwegian web newspapers. Apparently, Norwegian farmers had bred too many pigs for the production of our traditional Christmas meal, «ribbe». Afraid of being stuck with this surplus, the suppliers slaughtered the pork and started selling it at insanely low prices already in november. People were buying like crazy, even feeding our Christmas delicacy to their dogs. Eventually, the retailers ran out of cheap porc, and now we have what is referred to as a ribbe-crisis. We might have to import porc from other countries. Because we fed all of our own to the hounds!

I sent a raging email to my dad, informing him of my disgust for over-consumption and my newfound taste for trash. I was expecting him to shake his head and call me a hippie (in Norway, we hate hippies). Suprisingly, this is what he answered:

You are absolutely right! One gets ashamed. (…)

Dumpster diving is cool – some people do it here to.

I am proud of you!

Hugs,

Paps

If you want to go out and make your parents proud, check this google map of Montréal’s dumpsters. See you out there!

-Julie

*Abbreviation for the elements of a good story, according to Norwegian journalism schools. A good story includes Vesentlighet (relevance), Identifikasjon (identificatin), Sensasjon (sensationality), Aktualitet (actuality) and Konflikt (conflict)

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RIP Bike

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The first bike I’d ever built was sadly stolen a few weeks ago. A standard black Peugot frame that is ubiquitous in Montreal, I doubt highly I’ll ever recover it.

Thank you you great steed, for carrying me swiftly and safely for years. I’ll think of you fondly and with flashes of anger at our parting, every time I see a black Peugot frame.

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McConnell Foundation Report “Resilience”

As part of an ongoing youth leadership and organizational development series I help coordinate, we’ve begun exploring the concept of Resilience as a possible conference theme. I found the J.W. McConnell Foundation’s report: “In a World of Unpredictable Change, What Canada needs Most is Resilience” helpful. It was written in 2011 by former foundation President Tim Brodhead. 

What follows are my polished notes from reading the report, outlining the key findings and important lexicon related to the concept and practice of Resilience. It will conclude with the tangible and conceptual relevance for my own work.

 

What is resilience?

The McConnell foundation’s aim has evolved over time from change to adapt and finally to resilience This concept of resilience underlies all their granting decisions.

“In a world that is increasingly unpredictable, interconnected, and facing complex social and environmental challenges, ensuring Canadians, and Canada, are resilient is the greatest guarantee of future prosperity and well-being.” (7)

Originally derived from the study of ecological systems, resilience is the emergent property of a system which allows it to respond and adapt to (often disruptive) change. The foundation defines resilience in several ways, and at different scales.

 

“We balance our desire for autonomy and our need for community, our thirst for change and our attachment to what is familiar… this combination of adjustment and continuity is resilience.” (7, my emphasis)

“A resilient system is one that remains healthy and successful while responding to shocks or disturbances”. (7)

“Individual resilience grows by acquiring skills grows by acquiring skills, assets, confidence, leadership abilities, and access to knowledge and social networks”. (7)

“Communities are stronger when there is abundant social capital, dynamic civil society, supportive informal networks, and a culture of active citizenship”. (7)

 

Note the scalar invariance of the principle. Resilience is something which elements within a system (individuals), and the system as a whole (society, environment) can be said to possess. I’ll expand below on this point.

 

Pillars/Themes

The Foundation has themed their activities into four broad categories: inclusion, sustainability, active citizenship, and innovation.

 

Inclusion

Social inclusion must be appreciated and nurtured, it remains an aspiration in Canada. Traditionally, Canada worked towards inclusion through wealth distribution, and investments in public schools and hospitals. This becomes more difficult in slowing economic times. Stagnating economic growth and government revenues are shrinking public systems and services. Privatization and the business community cannot fill the void of public welfare (see 2008 crisis). This leads to increased strain on voluntary and community sectors; and increasing reliance on informal networks. Can institutions and informal networks collaborate to build systems of help and care?

 

Sustainability

Maintaining the natural system that sustains life and the social systems capacity to endure and adapt. The report has a great vision of sustainable communities: Sustainable Communities protect their environment, embrace diversity, work hard to achieve economic security, create opportunities for everybody, and aim to reduce inequalities; they are fed by their members active participation and sense of obligation to future generations.

 

Active Citizenship

Engagement and contribution create the sense of belonging we call citizenship. Many complain about a decline in participation; but traditional measures of participation may discount other ways people engage (ex: voter turnout). A diversity of values, perceptions, and understandings fuels resilience; but only when this diversity is coupled with inclusive participation.

The report makes an interesting point made about ‘engagement’ as being an unsatisfying end in and of itself. When relevant issues are being address and participants feel their input is valued, engagement happens. Not the other way around. This was the experience working with Youthscape (www.youthscape.ca).

 

Innovation

Human imagination is an abundant and renewable resource. Schools and other institutions often suffocate it, or treat it as an inherent quality only present in some people or activities. To achieve resilience, we need to unleash the creativity and resourcefulness of all Canadians.

Applications of the report’s findings

I thought about the learnings provide within the report as being either tangible or conceptual. 

The most tangible application immediately is the Social Innovation Generation (SiG), a project to build an ecology of social innovation which includes all sectors (government, private, academy, etc.). The SiG will build Canada’s capacity for social Innovation, mobilize new sources of capital, and create a culture of continuous social innovation.

Already the SiG Knowledge Hub (http://sigknowledgehub.com/) could provide a portal to which interested individuals and groups willing to learn (or learn more) about social enterprise, access resources and networks, and plan for greater social impact.

Conceptually, I found the scalar invariance the most applicable issue that surfaced in the report. Scalar invariance means that a principle exists and holds true at different scales (fractals are great visual representations of scalar invariance). In pursuing the application of this concept for leadership and organizational development, we need to be aware of what scale our intervention is aimed at. For example, nutritional workshops and meal planning may be poorly placed at an organizational development conference, despite the fact that an organization made up of well fed, healthy members will be more resilient.

 

Continuity vs. adaptation will be another difficult duality to navigate within the application of the concept of resilience. How will we know, or help organizers identify what needs to remain the same, and what needs to change (structurally) in their organizations in order to be more resilient? My first reaction is to return to the Form vs. Experience ideas presented at Campus Compass by Jonathan Glencross, originally developed by Warren Nilsson and Tana Paddock of Organization Unbound. We will need to work harder at recognizing the way we work is a form, or a means, to achieve a specific outcome, or experience. If we take this approach, and impart it to students, we will learn to intuitively recognize what needs to remain an integral part of the experience of change, and what we can be left behind as an outdated, or inefficient form.

 

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Great Blog from Sust. Practitioner! (Link Fixed!)

I just found out my friend Shona has a blog! I suggest you check it out, Shona is a committed sustainability practitioner with her fingers in a ton of different interesting pies.

Check it here: http://www.shonawatt.com/tinyhomestead-blog.html

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Nationa Farmers Union Youth Vision for Food Sovereignty

In their latest newsletter, the National Farmers Union sent around the Food Sovereignty Vision developed by their Youth wing. I thought it was worth sharing:

Food is for the people. Food is recognized as medicine, as a vehicle for health and wellbeing. Food is grown where the people are, and eaten at its freshest and most nutritious. Food is at the centre of community celebrations. There are no food banks, because food is a human right.

Food providers are honored. Farmers are valued by their communities and their work is seen as integral to its health. People are connected to those who grow their food, and appreciate and support farming. Farmers are proud of their vocation and are able to provide for their families by growing food for their community.

Food systems are localized. Family farms are everywhere, providing food for local communities. There is a diversity of farms in each region. Farmers work together, sharing land, equipment, and labour. Local businesses and systems are thriving.

Decisions are made locally. Those who are directly affected by decisions have a hand it making them. Food producers and consumers have autonomy over the food systems in their community. When farmers are consulted about a new policy or program, they are actually listened to and their input influences policies and programs.

We build knowledge and skills. Food sovereignty is included throughout the school curriculum. Children learn how to grow and process food in school.. Agricultural research is democratically controlled and accessible. We have successful apprenticeship programs and knowledge sharing networks for everything from seed saving to crop rotation.

Farming works with nature. Building healthy soil is paramount. Farms are biodiverse, soil is covered, tillage is minimal. Farms mimic natural systems, there is a holistic approach to pest management, seeds are saved and local inputs are used. Water is protected.

Food is sacred. Food is life given by the soils and landscapes that produce it. The right to food is inalienable and hunger is intolerable. We sustain life in our soil, with respect and responsibility. All people share equitably the fruits of our harvests.

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National Energy Board Info Session Notes

I attended the National Energy Board’s Information Session on April 4th. The purpose of the meeting was to explain the process of public audiences announced by the National Energy Board in response to a proposal by Enbridge to reverse the flow of their oil pipeline Line 9b. For all information relating to the Public Audiences, or the proposal by Enbridge, please check the NEB’s project-specific website.

Enbridge’s proposal is to:

1. Reverse the flow of oil, to move oil from the South-West of Ontario to Montreal.

2. Increase the capacity of flow to a range of 240,000 to 300,000 barrels per day

3. Change the classification of oil in the line from sweet light crude to diluted bitumen (often referred to as dilbit).

 

The NEB process of audiences will end in August, with the NEB’s decision to be delivered by November. The public audience locations will be selected based on the prevalence of intervenors who request to participate.

 

The last day to apply to participate in the public audiences is April 18th. This was an extension based on the levels of interest expressed by communities along the pipeline route.

 

This application process for participants is a new mandate legislated by Parliament last fall. The legislation stated states participants who are eligible to participate must possess some specific knowledge (normally technical expertise) pertinent to the NEB’s decision making, or must prove they would be directly affected by the project under review. There is no jurisprudence (no history of past legal decisions) as to how the participants are selected based on this criteria. For example, living in a community through which a projected pipeline will pass, may not make an individual eligible as directly affected.

There is a review process for all NEB decisions, including a rejection of participation.

There is $200,000 in financial aid available to facilitate participation. This money can be used for transportation costs for participants, or for professional costs in compiling evidence to bring to the NEB. Examples include commissioning studies, research, or impact assessments. The money must be applied for, with funding decisions made on an ongoing basis. The spokesperson stressed the need for participants to apply early, as the delays in funding decisions and disbursements could mean money is not available until after the audiences are finished.

An NEB Engineer explained the NEB’s role during the constructions and exploitation phases of a pipeline project. According to his experience, there are no perfect pipelines, and conditions are always attached to the NEB’s approval of a project.

Oil flowing in 9b under Enbridge’s proposal will come both from the hydraulic fracturing extraction in the Bakken Shales deposits in North Dakota and Alberta. The light Bakken crude will be alternated in pipe flow with the diluted bitumen. Due to the differing viscosities and the pressure in the pipeline, the oils will not mix.

Technical norms and guidelines for pipeline maintenance and construction allow existing pipelines to be grandfathered in.

 

Thus far, I have tried to simply present information as it was presented to me. What follows are my impressions, which I provide to add context to the meeting.

When the NEB’s toothlessness was demonstrated by a lawyer in the audience, making mention of a 3 year non-compliance of urgent maintenance demands (by the NEB to Enbridge) on the existing Line 9b, the Engineer and spokesperson offered platitudes and relatively weak assurances of “The file is still open, and we are still working with Enbridge on this”, or “Nobody’s perfect”. The facts of this non-compliance are a matter of public record, and were not disputed by the NEB representatives.

Temperature in the room was undulating from tense to open hostility. There was unanimous opposition to this proposal, but to differing degrees. There seems to be a portion of the attendants and opponents to the project who are resigned to the construction, and whose interest is only to ensure a huge insurance policy for when the pipeline leaks. This opposition is also generally resigned to the eventuality of a pipeline leak.

The other cleavage in the opposition are those who are interested in using the process to modify or block Enbridge’s proposal, and those who have no faith in the process of public audiences, or the NEB as an honest, impartial broker.


There were expressed feelings of marginalization based on the very clear power imbalance, the opacity of the system, and language. Enbridge’s proposal and communications has been unilingual English (though it was pointed out that all local papers featured full-page, coloured ink Enbridge ads in French). There was an underlying fear in the room that this democratic institution was hollow.

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Two Food/Farming Documentaries Worth Seeing

I’ve had the chance to watch two documentaries this week and both were worth recomending for very different reasons, thought they share a similar topic. Both showcase the need for a revolution in our food system, and demonstrate the positive benefits for individual actors who make a deliberate, intentional break from the conventional/industrial monoculture food system.

The first film I watched is a Canadian doc which has featured in several film festivals around the world: “To Make a Farm”. The film follows three farms in different stages of development, all started by young people who did not grow up in farming families. As someone who aspires to be a farmer, but didn’t grow up on a farm, this film was bound to resonate with me very deeply. But beyond my own personal attachments, the filmakers do an incredible job of crafting a cohesive narrative out of the three disparate storylines. On top of this, the film’s characters, and narrator are infinetly quotable, and can all speak lucidly and endearingly about the challenges they, and by extension we, face in attempting to change the food system. It’s also incredibly beautiful to watch. The filmaker has an obvious love for the landscapes of rural Canada.

The second film I watched was sent along by the Food Justice Reading Group housed at the Concordia Greenhouse. While I wasn’t able to attend the discussion of “Food Matters”, I watched the film and was amazed at what I saw. Markedly differnet in style, this film is an information packed 70 minutes (lots of talking heads) meant to get the word out about the nutritional vacuum that exists in our lifestyles, and the medical community. The premise is a clarion call to shift to an fresh,organic plant based, mainly raw foods diet, while paying special attention to vitamin and mineral defficiencies. You can check the film out here for free until Nov. 30).

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Farm Chronicle 1

Bertha, Jean and I arrived this past week at Le Boucherie Ferme St-Jean, in Saint-Francois-Xavier, Quebec to begin our 8 week stint as apprentice farmers and homesteaders. We found the farm through the organization WWOOF which stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms, an organization ¨that aims  to provide volunteers with first-hand experience in organic and ecologically sound growing methods, to help the organic movement, and to let volunteers experience life in a rural setting or a different country¨ (more on the wiki page).

We had a few reasons and expectations for coming, and so far, all are being met! We both wanted to come to a small francophone town to improve our French, and expose our 2-month-old Jean to a French environment. Our hosts have been incredible in this respect, offering advice, corrections and patience in equal measures.

As a young family that is interested in settling in a small town, and farming as a vocation, this is also an opportunity for us to learn valuable agricultural skills in animal husbandry, crop planning and management, horticulture, siviculture, and financial management. Here to, we’re making progress. The day begins at 6:30 when everyone ‘prends soin des animaux’: cleaning out stalls, feeding, and checking up on the cows (90) sheep (over 100), pigs (25), horses (2) and chickens (100). After breakfast (the humans eat after the animals), we set out and do what needs doing. This past week, our hosts have availed of the newly arrived (and thus encouragable) labour to tackle the weedy vegetable garden. Even thus overgrown, the garden is a daily source of onions, tomatoes, herbs and other veggies, with big harvests of beets, carrots, and celery root still to come.

Our hosts are a lively bunch. Ferme St-Jean, and it’s attached Boucherie is a not-for profit organization founded by a Catholic priest some years (read decades) ago. So while the farm’s workers and inhabitants are not a family in a traditional sense, there is certainly a family atmosphere that we have been quickly caught up in.

Here’s some of the gang at the Boucherie’s market stall. From left to right: Ingrid (French WWOOFer,) the Farm’s co-cordinators Carole and Jean-Marie, Bertha, Jean and I, et Angeline (French WWOOFer).

More to come next week on some of the specifics of the farming activities, and the people and animals that get it done!

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Edible Forest Garden Spring 2012

Despite the low temperatures, spring is here, and with it the window of opportunity to plant fruit trees and bushes.

Other signs of spring, a mallard duck’s nest I stumbled upon. I saw the mother flying in and out of here over the last two days.Image

Staying with the bird theme, Evan and I saw a Canada Goose waddling around the Trans-Canada on-ramp, favouring it’s right wing. A brief chase ensued.

Here it is at the Vet in Hudson. Le Nichoir Wild Bird Re-Habilition Center will come by and pick it up.Image

There has been some wind damage to some trees, namely the quick-to-bloom Asian Pear. Today was a good example of why. A quick estimate was gusts of 60km/h.

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My friend Alicia is dating Terry of Terryland farm up on 6th Concession. They offered me a load of manure (or “undigested fibre” as George the farm’s founder called it) so I ran out last night and picked it up.

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Another visit, and post will be required for there amazing farm which features 700+acres, 140 dairy cows, and a $1.2 Million bio-gas digester which generates electricity from the methane produced by the cows (they also collect waste sludge from the waste-water treatment plant, byproducts from other farm processes). The manure they gave me is the leftovers once the methane has been extracted. It’s nice and fluffy, which should help aerate the dense clay soil I’m working with.

While prepping the site before picking up trees, I started to impose the idea of order and started a strategic supplies depot/deposit. It’s amazing how much material (soil, mulch, compost) you lose when you dump on and collect directly from the grass.

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I’ll go into some detail of what I’m planting in a later post, but this picture gives and idea of the habitat architecture I’m pursuing. This phalanx of woodland shrubs and trees is designed for maximum solar exposure, and as a windscreen for the young trees.

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The trees wintered well, and the pears, plums and cherries especially are ready to roll. I’ll be expecting blooms and leaves to emerge in the next 10-12 days.

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I’ll be running over to the Green Barn Nursery bright and early tomorrow morning to pick up this year’s planting. Details to come soon.

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