Monday, October 18, 2010

Blight-free Shovel Tomatoes

I love tomatoes. Nothing beats the feel of holding a firm vine ripe tomato in hand...except the taste. For decades now I have been able to satisfy that love by planting between 25 and 30 mostly heirloom tomatoes.

This past summer my plants, loaded with green fruits, struggled through the cool, moist weather catching enough sun to produce a few mid-season ripe fruits. If the rains stopped and if the summer warmed up, it looked like I'd have a fair crop.

Then late season blight hit. Large brown spots began appearing first on the leaves, the stems and then the green tomatoes. I picked all the sound green tomatoes, washed them in a vinegar water solution, and laid them on newspaper in the cold room hoping to ripen them. After a week or so I noticed brown spots developing on some of the green fruits and decided to process the remainder into a green tomato relish.

There's always next year. Hopefully extreme cold weather will kill off the fungus and my tomatoes will flourish under the hot prairie sun. Meantime I have created my own shovel blight free tomatoes. Check them out:

               Tomato Shovel
               6 1/2" x 22 1/2" x 12"
               Clay, glaze

               Sliced Tomato Shovel
               6 1/2" x 22 1/2" x 12"
               Clay, glaze

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Grow Regina Community Garden

We all need to eat; and our food choices are many. Walk into any supermarket today and you are confronted with an abundance of food from all over the world. Not so long ago, in my youth and probably yours, most of the food we ate was grown right here. Times were tough but we ate well. Back then you built a house and you planted a garden because you intended to stay there for a while. Children grew up with backyard gardens and had the pleasure eating food fresh from plants in the garden.

Prosperity, convenience and propaganda slowly disconnected most of us from our food source: the garden soil, the sun and water that fed us. In a recent survey of children in large cities like New York, when asked where their food came from, they responded that their food came from the supermarket in plastic containers.

Ecological thinking and concern for where the planet is heading; and the clamor for good locally grown food, safe food, accelerated the growth of urban community gardens and farmers' markets. Well known is the Strathcona Community Heights community garden in Ottawa, Urban Eden in Edmonton and Cypress Community Garden in Kitsilano where I visited recently, a lovely spot in the middle of the city. More and more people are joining together to start community gardens.

Grow Regina is volunteer group of people gardening collectively with a mandate to enhance the social, economic and cultural well-being of Regina residents. The energy and inventiveness of this group makes it stand out as an inspiration, demonstrating what is possible when a committed group of gardeners come together to create a garden to grow food for themselves and others. It is a model for schoolyards, for backyards and even front yards and other modest green spaces in the city. The school children that are already involved in this community garden are learning how vegetables actually grow and are already committed citizens donating their harvest to the Regina Food Bank, providing families with children like themselves with good food for healthy bodies and healthy minds.

The next exciting building phase for Grow Regina is the gazebo that we are proposing to build that will be a centrepiece in this garden. It will provide a place for the gardeners to meet, relax, and talk about the unusual vegetables they are growing like purple broccoli, blue corn, Black Prince Tomatoes, orange cauliflower and yellow fingerling potatoes. Imagine culinary demonstrations in the gazebo, where food, grown in the garden, is prepared as an edible work of art, shared and eaten under its canopy roof. The gazebo may also provide a cultural venue for poetry readings, musical performances inspired by the garden and for collaborations with groups like New Dance Horizons who host the Secret Garden Tour. Weddings anyone?

A project like Grow Regina Community Garden does much good. I am pleased to offer my imagination to enhance this community effort to foster the passion for gardening and love of nature and art to deepen the sense of community and to give this place a soul.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Brackendale Pantry

I've returned from my Brackendale adventure. Artists for Kids operates under the auspices of the North Vancouver School Board. Over the years it has invited more than forty of the best-known artists in the country to the art camp to inspire both teachers and children.

As artist in residence I designed two projects for the students: one studio project and one environmental.

After a short slide talk about my pantries and jars, I produced a ceramic gallon of fish I had made and passed it around while we talked about what it was the students wanted to preserve. They were keen and pumped up with the magic of creation. "Just give us the clay!"... and the Brackendale Pantry was born, a collection of the jars these bright and talented students made.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Brackendale Outdoors

The spectacular Paradise Valley near Brackendale, B.C. is an important gathering place for Bald Eagles. In the late fall, thousands of eagles congregate in this area from as far away as Saskatchewan, to feed on salmon. How do they all know when the salmon are running? Like so much in nature we know little about this "lower life" form phenomenon. To understand more about these birds we invited local Squamish elders to tell us about their history in this place. Around the fire in the Big House they drummed and sang their songs and told us stories about fish and taught us an eagle dance.

The next day we decided to build the biggest eagle's nest ever on Eagle's Point. The nest is 25 feet in diameter and the eggs are about the size of a small car. The first image is the nest. In the second image, the teachers, assistants and staff are all doing the eagle dance. In the final image, the nest builders proudly pose for the camera. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lots of rain

The rainy weeks of May and early June have put a stop to my gardening plans. Today is the first really sunny day. The tomatoes (Brown Prince, Japanese Trifele, German Dwarf, Stupice, Lemon Boy, Black Cherry and a couple of red cherry varieties) I planted before I left for Calgary and covered with hot caps are still standing. The Japanese Trifele are about 12" high and have already developed flowers? Has the cool, wet weather stunted the poor babies? Driven them into maturity prematurely? These plants when they are mature stand a meter tall.

SUN! The tomatoes, the peppers, the squashes need at a minimum of six hours of vibrant life giving sun each day. The potatoes are loving this weather.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May 20, 2010. Radishes, onions and peas are up. The lettuces are doing great. What a delight to see these plants bursting through the soil. The swiss chard, Multicolor Bright Lights, I planted in peat pots is up. Next week I will plant them in bunches of three in the perennial beds throughout the garden. There's still so much to do. Two large beds 9' x 7' x 24" will have to be excavated. The large poplars in the park behind my place have invaded the beds breaching through the weed matt that linned the base and sides. What a chore. It has cooled off quite dramaticly so I'll tackle that job tomorrow, if it doesn't rain.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

May 13, 2010. By this date I'd have most of the garden beds dug and planted. Multiplier onions would be showing green shoots, early Yugoslavian lettuce and green romaine lettuces would be up at the two leaf stage. But not his year. The soil is still cool and wet. Fork in hand I dug a bed and was surprised how easily it turned over and without cling to the fork. It's the compost. I raked and levelled the bed and planted multipier onions, radishes lettuce. In a month or less I hope to be eating my first lettuce sandwich with a side of onions and radishes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Welcome to my new blog.

I'm a luddite, so this blog is a big leap and new venture for me. What I hope to post on this blog is my interest in gardening. This year it's been a slow.start. The weather has been cold and wet. I'm waiting for the sun.