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.


WOW!!! Two opportunities to learn about wild plants and foraging! (Sat. May 10 and Sun. May 25)

May 6, 2008

We are lucky here in the Powell River area to have a few local experts in recognizing and gathering wild food plants, and knowing how to use them food food or for medicinal uses.

Brian Lee will be leading a plant walk this Saturday May 10, and Kristi McCrae will be leading another one on Sunday May 25. All the relevant information is given below. Please come out and support your local wild plant experts, get some fresh air, and learn a thing or two (hundred) about your local bioregion!!

Sat. May 10: Wild Edge plant walk with Brian Lee

Come out with Brian Lee (Bush Man) for a wild plant walk. You will see that the local bushes have a variety of plant life to offer and the Spring is when the edibles are at their peak.  Most plants are multi-use; edible, medicinal, clothing, shelter, tools, etc. and I will speak to these uses. The bush is like a supermarket and sometimes you can’t get everything on one aisle, but come out for a wild walk and we will see what Mother Nature has to offer us.
Saturday May 10, 9:00 AM to 12:00 AM
Meet in the parking lot of the Community Resource Centre, 4752 Joyce Ave., Powell River
$20 per person; kids of babysitting age are free (accompanied by a parent)
For more information call Brian at (604) 414-5183

Sun. May 25: Wild Edible and Medicinal Plant Walk with Kristi McCrae

Plant identification, a couple different ecosystems, discussion about properties of wild plants, harvesting and preparation.
Sunday May 25, 10:00 AM
Craig Park in Lund (on Craig Rd.)
$15-$25 sliding scale (kids free)
Bring: Lunch, Field guides, water
Be prepared to hike
If you have a back road worthy vehicle that we may carpool in that would be great!!
Contact: Kristi at (604) 414-5723 or woodwitch@ecomail.org


Kale Force meeting of Feb. 13, 2008

February 14, 2008

Good meeting last night: 20 people in attendance (including me, and including Phoenix, the youngest member of the Kale Force, at a mere 8 months). After the usual potluck and casual conversation phase of the evening, we went around the table and talked about what sorts of things were on our minds. Here’s some of what came up:

Susan mentioned that she is putting together a bulk fertilizer order, and invited all of us to get in on that with her. She has been preparing her own mix of ingredients, based on Steve Solomon‘s recipe, and finds that it works really well. She also has lots of experience growing, cooking, and preserving food, and we really need to start harnessing her knowledge and experience… along with the knowledge and experience of so many other people in the region.

Doug mentioned that he is raising honeybees, and would like to know if others are keen to learn more about this. A possible workshop topic, although there are some legal restrictions on having honeybees in the City of Powell River that might discourage some people from doing this.

Lyn talked about the Community Resource Centre & the demonstration garden behind it. She mentioned that there are going to be plenty of opportunities for people to get involved, especially once the youth who are working on it start getting put on workplace training. We’re going to have to work to have a good longer-term plan to make sure that the demonstration garden is well cared for, and that people are using it as a site for workshops and work parties.

Lyra referred us to her blog, The Gluten-Free Hippie, which is an awesome resource filled with good ideas about vegan & gluten-free cooking. I sense another worksop coming up, since there are quite a number of people around here trying to reduce their meat intake and also dealing with food intolerances; gluten intolerance being one of the biggies.

Julie, in her role as coordinator of the open-air market, talked about our real need to increase the amount of food being grown locally and made available through the market. We are seeing a decline in the number of farms locally, and we need to work on some creative ways to make farmland affordable to younger folks coming up.

This led to an interesting general discussion about cooperative land ownership and land trusts. We are very lucky to have Bryon among us now, who has some experience in cooperative land purchase and stewardship, being involved in the Horse Lake Community Farm Cooperative up in 100 Mile House. We threw around the idea of cooperative purchase of some of the ALR lands in town, and I suspect that this is a discussion that will come up again.

We also had a freewheeling discussion regarding how we are supposed to educate more people out in the community about the pressing need to become more regionally self-reliant, and about the ways to become more self-reliant. Of course, I’ve been asking myself the same thing, and the answer has to be something along the lines of: organize a group of people who are committed to strenghtening our regional food supply, keep that group growing, and find opportunities to connect with regular folks out in the community who might benefit from knowledge about how to grow more food, how to eat well for cheaper, how to preserve the summer’s bounty into the winter, and so on. No one said it would be easy!

We took care of a little administrative business having to do with the meetings and some of the activities of the Food Security Project:

  1. we decided to stick with the name Kale Force, which is good news for me, since I had already started this blog;
  2. I mentioned this blog, and let people know how to find it — hopefully over time we can use it as a more interactive thing or else connect it to a forum or something;
  3. I mentioned the Sustainable Microfarm Forum in Roberts Creek on Feb. 24, and it looks as though Susan & I will be going to that;
  4. I intend to order some seeds from various catalogues, so I encouraged people to let me know if there was anything they were hoping to order this year, especially harder-to-find seeds.

We need to start lining up some activites and workshops to get more people in the door. We all want activities… now that we are doing show-n-tell, we need arts-n-crafts!

So for the next meeting, we picked up on Lyra’s excellent suggestion to make seed balls, as stage 1 in world domination by seditious guerrilla gardening. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time now, and it’s a nice tie-in with Seedy Saturday, which will be on the Saturday immediately preceding the next Kale Force meeting. So we’ll figure out what ingredients we need, and start releasing seeds out into the community. This would be an awesome kids’ activity!

I’m going to look into a lactofermentation workshop, since there is interest in that. Anyone with expertise to share, contact me!