Monday, November 7, 2016

The Bison are Back

There were between 50 and 60 million bison on the prairies when the railroad and European settlers arrived. Within a couple of decades, their numbers were reduced to about 2000.

Grant McEwan, author and historian, has called this “the most spectacular slaughter of wild animals in world history.”

The prairies were covered with bison skeleton bones. Gathering the bones became a lucrative cash “crop” for the first settlers.  The bones were shipped east where they were processed into phosphate fertilizer, used in the sugar refining industry and in making bone china. Carloads of bones shipped from Moose Jaw and Regina represented well over several million bison.  

Today, bison herds, large and small, are distributed all over North America from Alaska to Texas, and throughout the Canadian prairies.

The bison are back! Enjoy your bison burger!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Edible Landscape

The Edible Landscape takes us back to the land.

The most profound garden image I carry is of my grandmother in spring, bending down to gather a handful of soil in her hand. She squeezed it, smelled it, opened her hand and let it fall back to the ground. Was it moist enough? Did  she smell the life force of the compost? Was it ready for planting?

There was something magical about her connection to the garden and the bountiful flowers and vegetables she would produce. It is that connection that inspires every bite in my edible landscape exhibition.
                                                        – Victor Cicansky, October 23, 2016
                                            – Photo by Gina Fafard/Slate Fine Art Gallery

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Garden of 2016

Gardening has always been part of my life. When I was a youngster growing up in the Garlic Flats, my first toy was a shovel forged by my dad in his blacksmith shop. I grew up surrounded by gardens: a front yard garden, another in the back yard and a much larger side yard garden. We had no lawns. 

We all shared in the garden work and learned early were our food comes from.  Our gardens were a mix of flowers like poppies, calendula, bachelor buttons, cosmos hollyhocks, and vegetables. The flowers attracted birds and bees and other pollinating insects and in a good summer our gardens were brimming with vegetables – an abundant, edible landscape wonderful to behold. 

I like a garden that has a wild natural look, one that’s treated like a work of art using plants for their shape and color. But unlike a work of art the garden escapes the control of a finished work of art. Nature knows best. Plants grow, move and constantly change in size and color.  I plant in beds large and small. Some plants like corn and potatoes need a lot of room. Others, like beans, carrots, eggplant, okra, peppers, various types of lettuce, and radishes can fit into smaller beds. Each bed has a different mix of herbs: dill, parsley, summer savory, sage, rosemary, mint and basil. The perimeter surrounding the beds is planted to perennials: Karl Forester grasses, Saskatoon bushes and flowers. Rouge sunflowers often plant themselves, as does dill, burgundy and green lambs’ quarters. Each year the garden takes a different look.

 This year has been an especially good garden year. I’ve never seen plants bigger and more productive.

Thursday, July 7, 2016


I love honey-sweet, tangy rhubarb. I enjoy it on my cereal in the morning. And I enjoy it with plain yogurt drizzled with maple syrup.

I have three separate plants in my garden, some I’ve picked weekly and shared with family and friends, some I’ve cooked as a simple compote for myself. A third plant on the east side of the garden I’ve only started to pick. Yesterday, as I was picking some stalks from that plant I noticed several gigantic leaves. Rhubarb leaves bigger than I’ve seen before. Sure we’ve had good rains recently and lots of prairie sun. But there was something unusual in the size of the leaves that caught my attention.

A recent Financial Post article by Lawrence Solomon: “Hooray! There’s reason to celebrate that CO2 levels are rising,” that my brother-in-law sent me, jostled my mind. Plants love CO2. Could it be the over 400 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere has given the rhubarb leaves an extra growth spurt?  Nature loves abundance. Should I celebrate?  Should I shout out “Hooray” with my 400 ppm CO2 filled lungs?  Not likely!

CO2 levels are rising at a rate of 0.04 % annually. Existing coal fired plants and over a billion cars spewing out CO2 may well raise that to 550 ppm.  Concentrations that high were last seen 23 million years ago. That may be way more than humans, plants and animals can handle. Welcome to the Anthropocene!*

What the planet needs is a green thumb species, working with nature, building healthy soils in backyard gardens, in community gardens and adopting Miquel Altieri proposal for an agroecosystem of agriculture which “could sequester more carbon than is currently emitted.”

Let’s start digging and planting!

* "Record Levels of CO2 Herald the Future of Climate Change", by David Biello in the November 10, 2015  issue of Scientific American.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Cicansky Gazebo

Large or small, a gazebo is a refreshing focal point in the garden, providing shade, shelter, rest, and intimate views of the surrounding landscape. It's a place where life and art are rooted, a place where the smell of wet earth, the sight and feel of nature's fecundity and the rhythm of its unfailing cycles reminds us of our place in creation. And it's a place to watch butterflies and bees among the flowers, to delight in the passing seasons, the evening moon and the morning star.

Grow Regina and I have actively begun the process to raise funds to allow the construction of this gazebo in the Yara Community Gardens on Queen Street in Regina. If you would like to help, or make a donation, please contact Grow Regina.