Seed-saving workshop II

September 18, 2008
One of Wendy's squash patches; pole beans in the background

One of Wendy's squash patches; pole beans in the background

We had the September Kale Force meeting last night, one week late since I was out of town at the Sorrento gathering of the BC Food Systems Network last Wednesday. This month’s meeting was the follow-up meeting to July’s meeting when Wendy Devlin talked to the group about some of the basics of saving seeds. That was the classroom portion; last night’s meeting was the hands-on part. We met up at Wendy’s place, up in the far northeast corner of Wildwood, admired her ducks and rabbits and sheep, and then spent almost two hours wandering around in her garden, learning about the ins and outs of seed-saving.

We looked at chard, beet, dill, cilantro, beans, various flowers, talked about gathering seeds from plants like cucumbers and tomatillos, and spent some time gathering seeds from Wendy’s cosmos (cosmoses?). It certainly adds a whole new dimension to gardening when you have to think ahead to saving seeds, since you have to consider distances between plants, accidental pollination, flowering times, and the tradeoffs between growing plants for eating and growing plants for seed.

After that, some of us went down the road a piece to Heinz’ house and admired his incredible garden, built among the rock formations beside his house. Talk about making the best of a difficult situation for a garden! Heinz has trucked in large amounts of soil and amendments and created a very orderly and well-maintained fruit and vegetable garden. He has lots of strawberries, even this late in the season, which might be something to do with the fact that everything is surrounded by rock, which probably helps keep the garden from cooling down as much as it otherwise might. We enjoyed a nice potluck meal and conversation, and then called it a night.

One thing that came out of the workshop was a renewed interest in creating a regional seed-saving effort, whereby people in different parts of town could tale responsibility for saving seed from particular plants and varieties. This might allow for isolating plants from cross-pollination and accidental hybridization, and would allow for some plants to be grown for seed in areas which are more conducive to those plants. For example, Wendy was having trouble getting some of her plants to set seed before the cool damp weather starts; but in drier warmer parts of Powell River it should be possible to extend the growing season by a couple weeks or more.

So, this winter, as we continue to meet (second Wednesday of every month at 5:00 PM at the Community Resource Centre!), we will hopefully be planning a little network of seed-savers around the area, divvying up responsibility for seeds from various plants, and using these seeds to feed into Seedy Saturday. Perhaps over time this will evolve into a seed company or cooperative.


Understanding our local animal by-laws

July 17, 2008

If you consult the Animal Control Consolidation (by-law #1979) in conjunction with the zoning map of the City of Powell River, you can figure out whether you are allowed to keep animals on your property other than dogs or cats. Here’s how it works:

Go to page 4 of the Animal Control Consolidation. Clause 29 states:

29. No person shall keep any animal, other than a dog or cat, on a parcel of land in the District unless the land is in an area zoned RA1, A1 or A2 under the Powell River Zoning Bylaw No. 1851, 1999 except in the lawful operation of a pet shop or veterinary clinic.

There are no exceptions to this clause. So look at the zoning map. If you are not in an area zoned RA1 (Residential Agricultural), A1 (Small Lot Rural Residential), or A2 (Small Lot Rural), then you are out of luck. You’ll have to raise small animals on the QT. These zones cover all of Wildwood, except for Catalyst’s landfill; most of the parts of Cranberry lying to the south, east, and north of Cranberry Lake; and a few areas on the edge of Westview as well as the lands surrounding the hydro right-of-way.

Let’s say that you do happen to live in an area zoned RA1, A1, or A2. Clause 30 of the Animal Control Consolidation states:

30. No person shall keep any animal, other than a dog or cat in the District unless:

a) 0.4 hectares (1 acre) of land is provided for the animal, and

b) an additional 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres) of land is provided for each additional animal.

c) Notwithstanding sections 30 (a) and (b) of this bylaw, a person may keep any animal, other than a dog or cat on a parcel of land in the District in an area zoned Residential Agricultural (RA1), under the Powell River Zoning Bylaw No. 1851, 1999 provided that:

(i) 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres) of land is provided for each animal.

So now we learn that in order to keep any animal other than a dog or cat, you need to be in an area zoned RA1, A1, or A2; and you must also provide an acre of land for the first such animal (clause 30(a)) and a half-acre for each subsequent animal (clause 30(b)).

Clause 30(c) informs us that if you are in area zoned RA1, however, you only need a half-acre for each animal, not a full acre for the first animal and a half-acre for the subsequent ones. (So zone RA1 is clearly the gold standard of urban agricultural zones.)

Now we get to clauses 31 and 32:

32. Notwithstanding section 30 of this bylaw, a person may keep up to 24 poultry, one of which may be a rooster, or 50 rabbits on a parcel of land in the District having an area greater than 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres).

31. Notwithstanding section 30 of this bylaw, a person may keep up to 12 poultry, none of which may be a rooster, or 20 rabbits on a parcel of land in the District having an area of 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres) or less.

Upshot of these two clauses: the business we just went through about needing an acre for the first animal and so on does not count if we are talking about poultry or rabbits. In the case of poultry or rabbits, you need to be an area zoned RA1, A1, or A2, as always; but if your property is half an acre or smaller in size then you can keep “up to 12 poultry, none of which may be a rooster, or 20 rabbits”. If your property is larger than half an acre then you can keep “up to 24 poultry, one of which may be a rooster, or 50 rabbits”.

It seems that the by-law is written so that poultry and rabbits are mutually exclusive. At any rate, there is no simple way of figuring out of you can keep some mix of poultry and rabbits, and if so how many poultry equals one rabbit.

So, in the interests of simplifying this, here is the decision tree:

1. Do you live in an area zoned RA1, A1, or A2? (Consult the map.) If yes, go to (2). If no, you cannot legally keep livestock in the City of Powell River. Go to (7).

2. Is your property half an acre or less in size? If yes, go to (3). If no, go to (4).

3. You may keep up to 12 poultry, none of which may be a rooster, or 20 rabbits. If your property is in an area zoned RA1, and it is precisely half an acre in size, then you can keep one other animal other than a dog, cat, poultry, or rabbit. Go to (7).

4. You may keep up to 24 poultry, one of which may be a rooster, or 50 rabbits. Is your property in an area zoned RA1? If so, go to (5). If not, go to (6).

5. You can keep animals other than a dog, cat, poultry, or rabbit, as long as you provide a half an acre per animal. Go to (7).

6. You can keep animals other than a dog, cat, poultry, or rabbit, as long as you provide an acre for the first such animal and a half an acre for each subsequent animal. Go to (7).

7. Confused? If yes, then go back to (1) and try again. If not, you’re done.

So, it’s a little complicated, but not terribly so.

The upshot is that there are large parts of the City of Powell River where livestock are illegal. This needs to be investigated and changed if needed. Who wants to help with that?