Living Simply and Learning to Love

I have been curled up next to a television powered fireplace in Cape Breton, reading a book that has been surprising me in how much it  makes me contemplate the work I do. It’s a book by Bell Hooks, an amazing Black Feminist Writer, and the book is titled, All About Love. If you haven’t picked up any of Bell Hook’s books, I highly recommend checking her out (and I know Venus Envy has an entire shelf dedicated just to her work).

I bought this book wanting to spend time thinking about how I love in my life and expected it to make me contemplate my personal relationship. Yet again and again it makes me realize what a big part love plays in my work, in the decisions I make, and in the reasons why I think the work itself is important.

This book that makes me feel proud of what we are all up to: building community root cellars and community greenhouses, creating public spaces to grow food, riding our bicycles and waving to each other as we pass, figuring out how to work together and share what we have to make something bigger.

To give you an idea of what I’m on about, here are some words from the lady herself. Bell Hooks says it so well:

Greed subsumes love and compassion; living simply makes room for them. Living simply is the primary way everyone can resist greed every day. All over the world people are becoming more aware of the importance of living simply and sharing resources. While communism has suffered political defeat globally, the politics of communalism continue to matter. We can all resist the temptation of greed. We can work to change public policy, electing leaders who are honest and progressive. We can turn off the television set. We can show respect for love. To save our planet we can stop thoughtless waste. We can recycle and support ecologically advanced survival strategies. We can celebrate and honor communalism and interdependency by sharing resources. All these gestures show a respect and a gratitude for life. When we value the delaying of gratification and take responsibility for our actions, we simplify our emotional universe. Living simply makes loving simple. The choice to live simply necessarily enhances our capacity to love. It is the way we learn to practice compassion, daily affirming our connect to a world community.

(Bell Hooks, All About Love, pg. 125)

To top it off, here is a fireplace to sit and read this post by:

Happy Holidays Everyone. I wish you all relaxation and time with those you love. Rest up and I’ll see you back at it in the New Year.

Written by: Garity Chapman

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Nature Makes Sense

Last week the snow hit and just like that I realized I was feeling totally unprepared for what was coming in the Community Greenhouse. As I was shovelling it out I fretted, how do we keep the plants warm and happy in January with no heat? What happens if we get an outbreak of aphids? Are the plants getting enough carbon dioxide?

Outside-Inside

And so I wrapped myself in a blanket and pulled out Eliot Coleman’s book The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year-Round Vegetable Production Using Deep-Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses. He is a lovely writer and a phenomenal treasure trove of great growing systems and hard facts about how he does what he does at Four Season Farm.

He set me straight, assured me plants to want to grow through the winter and it can all be quite simple and straightforward. He had an especially amazing perspective on disease and pest management in the greenhouse, which just the thought of what I don’t know and understand, makes me shake in my bones. He sums up his approach when he states “nature makes sense”.

Whew, okay.

So when problems do hit and your plants aren’t doing so hot the question begs, what am I doing wrong? Well here is a great list of questions to help your identify your misstep and start on the road of growing healthy happy plants that will do their best to resist the temptations of pests and disease.

In the words of Elliot Coleman, ask yourself:

  • Is the soil ready for that crop, or should the rotation or choice of cultural practices be changes? (Some, like the Brassica, benefit from higher nitrogen availability; others, like tomatoes, will produce all leaves and no fruit when given extra nitrogen.)
  • How long ago were the green manure or crop residues turned under? (Three weeks is the minimum. The soil bacteria need time to digest the green matter and return the soil to its balanced state.)
  • Was the compost mature? (…Immature compost can cause a wide range of problems.)
  • What was the preceding crop? (If it was a heavy feeder, are more nutrients necessary?)
  • Have you corrected the mineral deficiencies indicated by your soil test? (Trace elements can often be the key. You need a complete soil analysis to get that information.)
  • Were the transplants stressed? (If transplanting on a dry, windy day, you need to irrigate immediately…)
  • Have you chisel-plowed or subsoiled to break up the hardpan? (Impenetrable or airless conditions under the surface are invisible until you plant a crop and then wonder why it is having problems. Take a shovel and do some digging to find out.)
(From The Winter Harvest Handbook, 2009, pg. 182)

I’m on my way to the library now to pick up his other well-known book, The Four Season Harvest: How to Harvest Fresh Organic Vegetables From Your Home Gardens All Year Long. I’m not sure what other wisdom it will bestow but I will keep you posted. 

Written by: Garity Chapman

Membership Lottery Now Open: Bloomfield Community Greenhouse

We are proud to introduce the  Community Greenhouse located at the Bloomfield Community Centre in the North End of Halifax. The greenhouse is now open to membership applications from residents in the North End of Halifax. These applications will be entered into a draw happening on September 6th, 2 p.m. on the Ecology Action Centre back deck (in case of rain, it will be inside).

About the Community Greenhouse

The greenhouse is a passive solar design that will function 10-12 months of the year. It is an exciting opportunity for North End residents to extend the growing season, growing greens throughout the winter months, propagate transplants in the spring, and grow warmer weather crops in the summer months.

This project is a prototype for future greenhouses, as this is the first season, we’ll be learning as we go. Our vision is many small scale, sustainable, community operated greenhouses across HRM. To do this we are looking for a small handful of intrigued and committed members who would like to build their skills in greenhouse operation, work and learn collectively, and share this knowledge and resource with the public.

The greenhouse under construction.

Becoming a Member

Being a member means you will have a space to grow in the ground of the greenhouse (a bed that is approx. 2’x4’), as well as a shelf to start seedlings. It also means that you are committed to working with the other members of the greenhouse to set up the space, manage the building operations, and build up collective skills and resources, with the support of a staff coordinator.

Interior wall still in the works, designed to collect heat from the sun.

Membership Details

Annual Membership running September 2011- September 2012

Membership Fee is $20 annually. If cost is a barrier please just let us know.

Membership applications are open to residents in the North End of Halifax.

Who knew construction sites were so dreamy?

Membership Responsibilities

Members should be prepared to spend a minimum of 5 hours a week in the greenhouse. This time includes tending to your own plants, doing collective greenhouse management, sharing your learnings, and attending monthly membership meetings.

There will also be the opportunity for members to attend workshops such as organic greenhouse management and native plant propagation throughout the year for those new to organic or collective greenhouse management to build new skills.

We also hope to work together to grow extra transplants to share with community gardens in HRM.

Our builder Zak (Full Cycle Builders), calls this the neapolitan insulation technique.

Lottery Application

As the scale of the greenhouse is quite small, and there is a large demand for plots, we have decided to run a membership lottery.  The draw will happen on September 6th, all are welcome to attend the draw. Winners will be notified and able to confirm their application at that time.

Beautiful barn board to finish it off.

To enter into the lottery please email us providing your name, phone number, email, and address. Please also write a line letting us know what excites you the most about our new community greenhouse. Send your email to Garity Chapman at: 

garity@ecologyaction.ca

Ph: 442 1077

Lottery closes midnight September 5th, 2011. Draw will take place September 6th at 2 p.m. at the Ecology Action Centre, all are welcome to attend.

Thank you to our funders: