If you have a garden like ours, we always have more kale, lettuce, chard and other greens than we could possible eat in one season. We give bags away to any neighbour who wants some, chop/blanch/freeze kale and chard, but what to do with extra lettuce? Powder it!
Here is the huge bowl of greens I picked the other night. The bowl looks small, but it is large enough for my 2 year old to sit in and pretend it is a car. There is sorrel, chickweed, kale, chard, and a variety of lettuces included.
After dehydrating the greens overnight in our Excalibur dehydrator, they were crisp and ready to head for the blender. When our greenhouse was set up differently, we were able to dry a batch of greens in 4 hours
About half of the bowl of dried greens fit in our Vitamix blender at a time. Turn the dial gradually up to high speed then ten seconds later....
...We have homemade greens powder ready to store!
Now this Vitamix is way more power than this process really needs, any blender should do. What is helpful about this blender is the tamping tool that helps the material get closer to the blade without ruining your spoons (and blender).
Put the powdered greens into a glass jar with a tight fitting top and store in a cool place away from sunlight and you will have a high quality superfood that can be stored for more than 1 year.
The quart sized mason jar pictured here will hold about 4 batches of dried greens which is over 65 cups of fresh leaves.
No special skills needed, kids can easily help with the process, easy to store, and TONS of nutrients preserved.
Any other tips to preserve greens for winter? Share your ideas in the comments below.
Happy harvest season!
Sara had the pleasure to work with members of the Sarcee Meadows Housing Cooperative last week to develop a plan for growing more food in their yards and creating opportunities for team building and fostering a sharing economy. Here is an excellent overview of how the sharing economy is being used around the world: CBC News Sharing Economy
During our short 1 hour together, we mostly discussed how to grow food and do it better in our challenging Calgary climate. Some of the participants are new to Canada and others were born and raised in the area. This blog is a reflection of what people wanted to know more about with lots of links and resources to hopefully help your food and flower production be more successful this year.
To begin with, when choosing your seeds for the year be aware of the "days to maturity". In the best year, Calgary will have an average of 114 frost free days and we are located in zone 2-3 (the lower the number of zone, the colder winter temperatures are). If you have lived here for more than a few years, you will know that we often will get snow in June...or July... or August. Choose seeds with less than 90 days to maturity and buy from a local source if possible.
Check our our Free Resources page for some of our favourite local seed sources.
If you are completely new to gardening, consider growing cold-hardy, fast growing plants that can be directly seeded in a prepared garden bed, raised bed, wicking bed, or straw bale garden. Here are some of our favourites: lettuce, arugula, spinach, peas, beans, chard, kale, shiso, and mizuna. Remember to start "Small and Slow" to help ensure success. In other words, don't attempt convert your entire backyard into food growing space at once. Make a multi-year plan and start with one project at a time, become comfortable with maintaining that space, then start your next phase.
Now, we know not everyone is growing 100% edible plants, so here are a few suggestions for the flower growers out there on how to attract pollinators to your yard from Chinook Honey: Pollinator Plants
Many people who get into gardening (or avoid it at all costs) do so because they hate weeding. There are several permaculture techniques to make gardening more enjoyable and avoid having to weed while building soil quality at the same time--triple bonus!
1. Cover Crops
3. Increase your soil quality with Dynamic Accumulators
4. Eat your weeds! Here is one of our favourite recipes for dandelions: Dandelion Syrup
USE WHAT YOU HAVE
Gardening does not have to be an expensive endeavour. Use what you have and develop your social networks by asking around for supplies and advice on how to grow your garden...
--Would you like to have an apple tree in your yard instead of the crabapple? Consider grafting an apple on the existing crabapple.
--Did you save seeds from last season's harvest? Ask around to see if you can exchange seeds with friends.
--Start your own seeds
--Don't have mulch for your garden? Visit a leaf drop off location in the fall and use those leaves in your garden and compost.
--Save on your water bill by harvesting rain water by using a bucket or buying a barrel (that has not been previously used for chemicals--ask for "food grade")
--Trade vegetables for flowers with your neighbours
--Search out Kijiji for free materials to make your garden out of
--divide perennial flower bulbs, herbs, and vegetables in the fall to share with others.
--If you see falling fruit on a neighbours tree, ask if you can pick it and return some of the produce as pie, jam, juice, or chutney. Way too much food goes to waste in the city because people are afraid to ask if they can take it. Your neighbour may be relieved to have you pick it!
Thank you all for attending our session last week on food growing and community building. There are more links specifically for Co-housing and team/community building ideas on our Free Resources page.
Hope to see again soon!
One of the principles that guides permaculture design is to catch and store energy. Water is looked at as a form of energy, for example by storing water high on a slope or above ground to build pressure downstream, or the required necessity to grow plants. Below are four aspects of water wise gardens:
1. Catch and store rain water.
There are many creative options to catching rainwater - analyze your site, use roof tops, decks, driveways, sidewalks, and more. Rain tanks are a handy way to catch water from a roof, however with the large and infrequent rainfall we get in Calgary designing a secondary catchment will help maximize your rainfall as small tanks can fill up quickly. Here are a few things to consider:
Knowing the potential amount of water you can catch allows you to design to maximize the water storage and create an area for excess water to leave if your limited by space. This can be done with the simple calculation below:
**Given that Calgary receives 330 cm of rain each year, how much rain falls on your roof?
_______square feet of roof area x 30 litres per square foot = _______________ litres per year
Using first flush systems are the best practice for capturing water off of roofs. These allow the few millimetres of rain event to be diverted from food gardening to a separate area, such as a a flower garden or fuel growing area.
Designing in-ground water storage may allow you to greatly increase the amount of water you can catch instead of a rain tank depending on your site. This can be done through cistern or by modifying the ground to store water in large rain beds or swales. These work by catching and storing water and getting it in the soil. It is critical that you ensure there is plants around these raingardens to be able to use the water, otherwise you can create stagnant water and a happy home for mosquitos.
Rain Garden: http://www.calgary.ca/UEP/Water/Documents/Water-Documents/Yard_Smart_Rain_Garden.pdf
Rain tank: http://www.basixcertificatecentre.com.au/Rainwater-tank.htm
Wicking Beds: http://www.leafninjas.ca/yasmin_raised_beds.
2. Increase the capacity of your soil to hold water.
By increasing the organic matter in your soil it allows your soil to act as a sponge - further storing more water when it rains and saving it for your plants! Not only does this help catch and store rainwater, it also helps to offset CO2 emissions, providing a win-win for the environment!
There are a variety of techniques for this including green manure/cover crops, mulching, compost and compost tea spray, and avoiding walking all over your garden.
Type of soil and water retention: http://www.noble.org/ag/soils/soilwaterrelationships/
3. Reduce water evaporation from the soil.
Protecting your soil from direct sun and wind will help reduce water evaporation - this can be achieved by a variety of means including wind breaks, mulch, cover crops, ground cover (squash makes an excellent sprawling ground cover!), plant guilds around large trees, even if in desperate times using plastic sheeting (use caution as your soil is unable to breathe then!)
4. Right plants in the right place.
Too many times plants are placed according to their looks and not their function, creating extra thirsty gardens or plants that just won't flourish. Ensure your thirsty plants are located where you have access to plenty of water, and if you do not have that water access choose a plant more tolerant of dryer conditions.
We often hear native plants are always better - however you still need to take into consideration water needs! Birch, blueberries and cranberries need plenty of moisture while roses, sorrel and rhubarb are tolerant or drier conditions.
But what about xeriscaping? These low water designs incorporate plants that require minimal water and can create lovely landscapes. In Calgary, these designs are best placed in areas with minimal access to catching rainwater, potentially near the top of a slope or close to the foundation of a building. However these gardens are not fit for everywhere. Xeriscaping does not catch and store water during large rainfalls - instead the majority of the water runs off, entering our storm water system and adding to the problem of plenty of pavement and buildings in the city. Combine this and Calgary's often infrequent rain (but sometimes quite the amount in a short period) these landscapes do not function well when it comes to really creating a water wise garden - one that catches, stores, and allows water to flourish the plant life.
Water Wise Gardening: http://www.calhort.org/calgary-horticultural-society/resources/waterwise-gardening.aspx
Water harvesting in a permaculture garden: http://permaculturenews.org/2010/03/31/zaytuna-farm-yields/
So what is the moral of the story?
Permaculture principles can help guide you on which type of water catchment to use, where to place it, and how to use it for the greatest advantage to you and your plants. As most gardeners are wrapping up their growing season, they are already thinking about what they will improve on for next year. What type of water wise gardening techniques will you implement for next year?
We would love to see pictures or hear stories of your water catchment techniques at school or home--post them below!
Starting a garden does not mean that the entire schoolyard must be reconstructed, it can start by simply introducing children to planting seeds in the classroom and at home. There is something so magical about planting a tiny seed and watching it grow into a plant that provides food.
Much of the reason that many gardens fail is due to the permaculture type 1 error: failure in design. Too much weeding, watering, and other maintenance sets up a system for failure. Instead of constructing raised beds that need daily watering, why not make them mulched wicking beds that need water once each week and naturally suppress weeds? Assess the location of your future garden: does it have easy access to water or somewhere for rain barrels? Where will the compost bins go? Will you have somewhere to store garden tools?
Perhaps an annual garden seems to be a bit too much work. Instead of planning ahead for 1 year, plan ahead for 100 years by installing a food forest! By installing a well designed perennial system with ample seating, your school will have an outdoor classroom for instant (and free) "field trips" and will require very little maintenance or watering past the first couple of years... not to mention FOOD!
Below is a list of resources to get you started on your journey to making your school yard (or home yard) into an oasis for fun, relaxation and FOOD!
We had the pleasure of meeting Ron Finley in Calgary May 2013. He is a truly inspiring and loving man who believes that a change in our society starts in the garden. Here is his motivational talk (there is a bit of course language):
Guerilla Gardner Ron Finley
Richard Louv, an author and advocate for getting children outdoors, was the keynote speaker at the ACEE conference in Canmore April 2013 that Sara attended. His work put into words what teachers and parents have known for generations: children perform and behave better when they have ample access to nature. We highly recommend his book "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder" to learn more.
To get you started on your journey to transforming your schoolyard to a magical, nature-focused environment "Asphalt to Ecosystems" has loads of ideas. The author provides examples from all over the world of the unique ideas that schools have incorporated into their designs. Not only do the transformations aid in preventing "nature-deficit disorder", they can reduce playground bullying (p. 8) and have a whole host of other benefits.
To get you and your teammates started on your food growing journey, check out this resource document we have put together for you:
Most importantly...Have fun teaching (and learning) about how to be more sustainable by growing food in your classrooms and on school grounds!
If we look at natural ecosystems there is no such thing as waste - nutrients are cycled over and over and over again. Exam the image below - we can look at nutrient cycling in a simple ocean ecosystem and see how nutrients are moved from the tiniest to largest of organisms. We can use nature as a measure of our success in creating ways of living in harmony with nature.
To get an idea of the amount and kinds of waste Calgarian's produce visit the City of Calgary website - in a single family home almost 50% of waste produced can be composted and redirected from the landfill! The City provides free school programs and you can arrange a tour of our city's landfill, recycling facility, and compost initiative. Regarding Calgary's waste and recycling initiatives you asked:
Where can I recycle electronic waste? Find the answer here.
How about those compact fluorescent bulbs? Find out here.
And hazardous waste? Go here! Also keep an eye out for community organized clean up events.
One component of waste that we often don't think about is the amount of non-renewable energy that goes into transporting our waste, compost, and recyclables around the globe. Anytime we refuse items that involve a large amount of waste, reuse items locally, and compost within walking distance a large amount of indirect energy is saved - it's not just about reduce, reuse, recycle - it's also about rethinking our whole system! That's why we love the permaculture approach to system design at it addresses nutrient cycling by trying to always design meaningful interactions and energy flows between components in a design. For example, chickens not only provide fertilizer, they also produce heat - so connecting a chicken coop to a greenhouse in Calgary would provide additional heat at night, while their poo would provide nutrients for the plants!
Check out this slideshow here from the UK for a deeper look into recycling - remember this is this last R for a good reason! And for further thought provocation check out this article on paper recycling - some interesting points are raised. Luckily we have the Forest Stewardship Council in Canada looking to promote responsible management of forests worldwide - look for this logo on your next paper product!
We also love the importance of responsible management of grasslands (less than 20-30% of grassland is remaining in North America) - folks like Earthworks Farm and PolyFace Farm are using nature as a model and mimicking the natural pattern of herbivores moving across grasslands to provide incredibly sustainable (and healthy) cows, chickens, pigs, and more.
These farms ensure they cycle the nutrients (aka poo in this case!) carefully on their land while providing the plants an appropriate amount of growth before moving in their herbivores. They also leave forested areas intact - increasing the biodiversity on their land for wildlife! With proper management they actually act to capture carbon out of the air - and store it in the soil... that's right you can sequester carbon simply with careful management of animals on the land - we even have the Carbon Farmer in our province! Want to talk about reducing waste? Sequester carbon this way - instead of investing a huge amount of technology and land to force carbon into. Watch the video below for carbon capture sequestration and reuse 101.
This nutrient cycling depends on the soil food web - which you can take advantage in your own home or backyard through composting!
Composting is one easy step to both reducing your waste and creating a valuable end product! Compost rich in life is special - as these soil microorganisms play a key role in helping plants grow healthy and strong. The image below displays some of the biology of the soil food web:
Secondly by creating your own compost you remove the need to use synthetic fertilizers - reducing the need to mine, process, and ship these across the country to you! See what the Dirt Doctor has to say about synthetic versus organic fertilizers here.
Looking to start your own compost? Check out Green Calgary's compost guide
Looking for worms to start your own worm bin or worm compost? Check out Living Soil Solutions and Worms at Work
All the best on your journey to reduce your waste and tread more lightly on our earth!
We had a wonderful time taking part in the Alberta Teacher Convention February 14 & 15. Over the two days, we met many wonderful people and saw some familiar faces too. Not only did we get to share the interesting world of permaculture, we also learned a lot from others experienced in permaculture.
Now a drum roll please........ the winners of our FREE 1 hour program for Thursday of the Convention is Joanne Wilson, Division 3 teacher!
The winner for Friday of the Convention is Wayne Kinjo, Division 3 teacher at Fairview School!
We will be contacting you shortly to set up a time when we can come in to do your FREE presentation. Thank you for participating!
We could write all day about this AMAZING project!
We will keep it simple and share why we love this:
- We are frustrated by the lack of passive solar design in Calgary - the SUNNIEST city in Canada - and throughout Alberta.
- Producing food year round or extending the seasons currently involves a huge input of non-renewable resources (coal, natural gas, etc) - but with the climate battery in this greenhouse solar energy is stored as heat in the ground!
- It is a student led project by youth - and how awesome is that:?
- This involves and benefits the entire community!
the educational opportunities are HUGE!
Learn more at the Lacombe High School EcoVision Website
and read a great blog about the climate battery here (go to section 4)
Wild spaces are an important part of permaculture design - whether they be an untouched corner of your yard or a vast area of wild landscape. We love this video as it highlights wild spaces through the arts. Hats off (or horns?) to Parks Canada for promoting wild spaces and working to preserve wildlife and habitat for future generations!
Do you have any favorite fun and uplifting videos or pictures that relate to wild places, permaculture, or sustainability? We would love to see them!
Today we had the joy of spending the day at the Western Canada Permaculture Convergence - what an amazing ENERGY, beautiful setting, and great people! Puzzle Permaculture held a short session on Tips and Tricks to Becoming a Purveyor of Permaculture - we had a great time and it was wonderful to gather other individuals input and experiences. We have included a few highlights below and some links where you can gather more information below. Thank you to those whom attended - if you're interested in hosting this workshop (or a longer version) at your event please contact us.
We touched VERY quickly on two important key items:
1) Emotions and Learning
2) Maslow's Hierachy of Needs
1) Why emotions? Emotions forge strong memories and drive behaviour (we like to gain pleasure and avoid pain) - we encourage you to think of the emotional responses you generate - love, happiness, and joy help facilitate learning! For an interesting viewpoint on killing the loss messaging (which generates emotions of sadness and pain) in regards to saving biodiversity on our planet check out this link here - we think this is equally relevant when sharing the permaculture - we want more love for permaculture!
2) Maslow's what? For more information check the great link here - it is important to consider where your audience is in terms of their Hierarchy of Needs and what they are experiencing to facilitate learning.
Starting Your Journey
One of our key points when being a purveyor of permaculture was to take off from a common point of a departure - what we can call this is the sweet spot! This is where you start on common ground in an area that is relevant to you, permaculture, and most importantly your audience. From here you can take off and expand to other concepts, ideas, and information.
We love to use 'hooks' to start this journey - these can be anything that your audience finds interesting (and ideally is relevant to your message!). Think food, pictures, stories, props, songs... the potential is endless!
One great question raised was: What to do if your conversation is going downhill and crashing? You could end that journey and take off from a new point of departure! If emotions such as fear, frustration, and anger are being felt you will want to ensure the emotions on your second journey change to pleasure - perhaps a comedic break is needed, a story, or asking the person about themself will help you recover the conversation.
On Your Journey
When trying to find ways to share permaculture be aware of different ways people learn, the learning process, and multiple intelligences of individuals. (Click on the words for more information). On your journey make sure you have fun and follow the general guide below:
1) Feel (build that emotional connection)
2) Think (stimulate the mind)
3) Do (provide opportunities for action)
4) Review (summarize key components)
Always remember: change what your doing, change how your doing it, change anything you can... Why the importance of change? Simply speaking, it can be hard to focus on one thing for a period of time and not everyone learns the same way. So change anything - stop talking and sing a song, share a photo, move to another location, show a model, have a discussion, play a game, or stand up and take a stretch! This simple article provides 8 Tips to Keep Your Audience Engaged - we highly recommend it.
Our Last Tip...
Be careful interpreting your audience's behaviours when building the love for permaculture; especially when in group settings. Perhaps the person texting on their phone has been paying attention and is writing about you; or the person whom sits alone during breaks is taking time to process the information by them self and is not disengaged from the conversation.
As a purvey of permaculture we encourage you to think about the quote below during your journey of inspiring hope and awe for a sustainable future - and always remember to have FUN!
‘Awaken people's curiosity.