Unconventional Gardening!

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Gardening. One word that has been the focus of much research and experimentation since about 10,000 years ago when humans first discovered the benefits of keeping plants close to home. The history and current practices of gardening are very interesting, kind of like reading a mystery novel, sometimes you just don’t know what is going to happen. Anyway, I plan to focus on plant farming or gardening, not farming as a whole because that would take up my entire life. Also I don’t know enough about livestock to speak about it with confidence. 

So, you want to have a garden. What do you do? examine the plots that your neighbours have placed? go to some gardening workshops if those exist? All valid ideas. But,  be aware that there are a lot of ways to go about gardening. Be open to all the ideas proposed to you and gather all the information you can. Then, spend some time among plants, follow a gardener, volunteer somewhere. Or just, build a little sample plot, put in some seeds and watch what happens. The best way to know what a plant needs is to experiment with a small batch. If the plant looks like its wilting, add some water. Doesn’t help? try some fertilizer. Observe your garden for the first year at least. Don’t do much, just OBSERVE. You might not feel like you’re learning anything but its amazing what you pick up.

I have tried this and I’ve learned a lot after my first summer of running a garden. People can say what they want but practicing an art is not the same as just learning the theory. Granted, I spent about 5 years looking at how to make a garden, different methods of doing so and trying to learn from professionals through books. It was exhausting.. I didn’t really know what they were talking about and I thought that planting a garden was something very difficult to do and best left to farmers. This turned out to be false. Creating and maintaining a garden is frightfully easy. And really overwhelmingly satisfying. Also, you get a nice tan. 

Some issues that are frequently proposed by folks who are starting gardens are in regards to pests, fertilizer, watering, plant varieties, soil type, amount of sun, and when to harvest. 

There are many ways to handle these questions, but first, as I said, observe your garden, find out what pests are coming your way, if your plants are doing well in one area and not in another.. just look at what is happening. 

Then, research the pests, find out what eats them. Or what plants repel them. Put in some of those. Look at your plants, do they seem weak? ask someone why that may be. The best way to handle these problems is to educate yourself on what the natural world is doing. Perhaps planting that marigold allowed for a certain little creature to venture into your garden and eat other little creatures that were enjoying your peas. Sometimes planting something somewhere gets in the way of some natural process that has been occuring in that area. Say, you planted something in the middle of a bug highway. The bugs in all their rage will maybe set about destroying your lovely stand of carrots. This will teach you to not put plants in that area. I maintain that there are always ways of dealing with garden problems that do not involve searching for the easy way and whipping out a can of ‘kill all creatures in the area in the hopes that the things you want to kill will die’. Why you say? because a can that kills pests will also kill your beneficial insects and naturally your plants will not do as well. 

Anyway, some other time I will continue that rant. Right now I want to introduce some wonderful gardening alternatives, hints, tips and tricks 🙂 Enjoy.

  • Huglekultur: Mound culture, Pile up branches and logs that are already mature or decomposing about 4-8 feet, Toss on compost or compostable material, Moisten up pile with water until moist like a sponge,  Add some soil about 3″thick and then add a nice thick layer of sawdust or wood chips. Seed in some plants like potatoes or melons. Anything really, I’ve found that 100% of the time everything grows better on a mound because the mound keeps moisture in longer and decomposes slowly so you can use the same mound for many years without exhausting the soil. See: Sepp Holzer, he has made these and provides greater details. 
  • The key to a flourishing garden is to OBSERVE everything such as topography, shade, weather, moon cycles
  • Moon cycles: New moon- good for planting root and leaf vegetables growing moon,  all energies go DOWN, full moon- all energies go UP good for seeds and fruits. For example: Planting on a full moon leads to a smaller weaker crop usually- radishes show this easily. Generally each moon cycle is 7 days long, 3 pre and post each phase, there are 4 phases. Equinox is a great time for transplanting, especially on a full moon.
  • Examine your soil type. Clay soil means that lots of nutrients are present but it is very compact, needs plowing to aerate, it expands and contracts with moisture
  • Overtilling leads to a loss of micronutrients and microorganisms in topsoil
  • Biodynamics is an agriculture method that really works with nature, more so than any other system I think. For example there is emphasis that its not just moon phase that is important but also its ascendance and descendance across sky which changes everyday.
  • Three sisters planting is guid planting, so arranging together plants that work together. A traditional method uses three sisters: squash (or melon), maize (aka corn) and beans (or peas). The reason these work togther is that not only does the height of corn allow peas or beans to venture skyward which then allows melon to take over the ground but also peas/beans bring nitrogen into the soil which corn really needs in order to grow and melon or squash shades the area allowing moisture to remain which benefits all involved. Amaranth is sometimes considered to be a 4th sister. This is similar to companion planting for which a good rule is this: if you like to eat them together, chances are they like to grow together too. Example- tomato and basil. But not just flavours, also fruit, also about space like carrots and lettuce. Fast and slow harvesters.
  • Herb Spirals. I’ve made one, its fabulous, all the herbs you need for spicing up food in one space, and on a mound, so you don’t have to strain your back trying to pick things. Also, if you place it in a good location (close to the kitchen) then you have fresh herbs within easy reach 🙂 Here is how to make it: make a huglekultur mound (see above) but make it to fill in a 3meter wide circle rather than a long mound then add: 3-5cm of soil, rocks about fist sized to make the spiral shape on the mound. Tips: use herbs you use everyday, subsoil layer first and then topsoil, Layer 1: downed woody debris, highly decomposed and flaky. Border: big head sized rocks, Layer 2: compost. Lots. 3 feet high at least. Big mound. Average rock border moving up, Layer 3: earth, will sink, add lots. Example herbs: oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage. These enjoy heat and dryness. Thyme gets big, needs lots of space- take this into account. Basil= needs lots of sun, Mint- some varieties like sun, some do not. Spreads. Put rosemary on the very top, grows slowly, likes lots of sun and not too much water. The driest and sunniest spot in on the peak of the mound, detect which ways are North, South, ect. Chives and parsley can be on the bottom, Oregano, sun bottom because it creeps. Parsley- bi-annual, plant anywhere.
  • Pests attack weak plant. A natural bug repellant is this: bug juice or water from drowned bodies of bugs, cover it but not airtight, leave 24 hours in the area where you found the infestation. The negative energy scares off other bugs.  Can also dilute with water and spray on plants. White soap, grated with water, is good for fungus and helps remove slugs, slugs also like beer. Garlic, rubbing alcohol and water blended is good for removing small beetles. Wood ash good for snails and ants and potatoe bugs, damages their exoskeletons
  • Seeds should be fully dried when stored, best to leave in well shaded spot
  • Put paper bag on seeds that blow in the wind to collect
  • Ask people around you what their gardening techniques are
  • Best way to learn about gardening is to just do it, talk to people, older people, indigenous people, local folk

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Becoming the difference

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Welcome!

Previously I have posted information on education, gathering credentials, learning things because you want to… and the like. This time I will be discussing ways to transition theoretical knowledge into practice, actually putting the things you know into use. Just to clarify, education as a whole never ends, but it is possible to transfer theory into practice. The obvious ways that this is done is by working in your chosen environment- foolproof way to practice your knowledge, also volunteering in  your chosen field is useful. I have found this transition from learning theoretically to practicing knowledge and learning away from school to be quite difficult. The reason, I believe, is that learning at school is organized, structured.So, the best way to remember things is to not only learn them theoretically but also put them into practice- standard knowledge right? This is a well known phenomenon but it is not practiced frequently enough.

In my view, I believe that anyone can alter their reality and make a difference. All individuals have unique traits and talents that make them well suited to different tasks, we can’t all fit into one box- we can’t all be very good at school, or great soccer players right? I feel like sometimes this is forgotten, we are composed of many elements, we all have different interests. For example, my sister likes lawns whereas I cringe when I see one, she is better at using machines and I unfortunately have a fright of large machinery. We belong in slightly different worlds, but that is ok because we each fulfill different roles in the house and on the farm. The important thing to keep in mind is that being different is the best thing ever! This leads to creative diverse thoughts and solutions to issues, helps maintain balance among people. But, we must honour difference and use it wisely to become the best people that we can be. As Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Things that don’t work out- make them into opportunities 🙂 If you don’t like the state of the world, change it. And what better time to do so than right after school and before stable employment? This way, if you begin your path correctly, you may end up in something that you like and has meaning- something that can create change.Your skills and talents will for sure be needed somewhere, go, find your niche.

Watch this video for more information about being the change: http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-change/

A way that I help to make a change is by being a part of Transition Town, these are awesome because they do this: (direct quote from Transition Town Peterborough website) “volunteer, non-profit organization focused on reducing our community-wide dependence on fossil fuels while increasing local resilience and self-sufficiency in food, water, energy, culture and wellness with economic localization. With a focus on community building, TTP is made possible by ordinary citizens working toward positive change, and is shaped and guided by all who are able to participate, in whatever capacity they can.” If you were to live in a great community that satisfies all your needs- why would you want to leave? wouldn’t you want to stay and help the place improve further? Some links to awesome transition town websites:

So many more are out there, when I find them, I will add them.

There are many ways to help create change in the world, simply by eating locally supporting farmers close by, contributing to a local economy, driving less, walking more, consuming less, enjoying simple things more.. I bet you’ve heard them all. Now, you know the theory and the reasons, why not actually use that knowledge and put into use?

This is a great article about how to be sustainable- through creating change, not just by fantasizing about it: http://blogs.worldwatch.org/sustainabilitypossible/sustainable-consumption-myths/

 

Extra self education

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Lately I have been both unemployed and out of school. This – I once thought- would be AWESOME, vacation all the time. But, it turns out that boredom sets in rather rapidly and can damage a lot of enthusiasm, motivation and desire to fulfill the projects that were set out for “the moment I have more time”. Also, sometimes it is not just boredom but pure procrastination- oh I don’t want to make that dress today (example), I am too tired, maybe I’ll work on it some other time.. it gets to the point where it gets super easy to be too nice to yourself, eating the second you’re slightly just a teeny bit hungry, resting after anything mildly strenuous, ect. At least, this is what I’ve noticed from myself. Now, I’m working on trying to break from this suddenly sedentary lifestyle and regain former lust for life. The way to go about this, in my opinion, is to continue self-education. Unless the time and motivation is too difficult to find for this, in which case- some programmed courses may be a suitable alternative. Can’t be too educated right? Now, free time is good, in fact a lot of can help you slow down your pace of life to something more peaceful and calm. But if you find that there is too much time to think and analyze life, then here are some options:

  • Learn an instrument, I have taken up accordion, it is fun, keeps me entertained
  • Think about an interest that would be nice to take up, and do just that- take it up
  • Learn a skill- to sew, to cook, to plant
  • Examine the local college or university course calendar- usually they should have something called: continuing education- meaning- courses for those who don’t necessarily want anything like a certificate but want to fill their time and learn something cool. Example, my local college offers courses in Spanish learning, salsa dancing, wild plant foraging, wilderness survival, art courses, computer courses, mandolin classes.. ect. Pretty nifty right?
  • Or, take enough courses to gain a certificate, may become useful one day.
  • Another option is of course, volunteering- you learn lots (likely) and are a useful member of society. I am now volunteering for the Transition Town movement in my city, it is awesome, I recommend. Although some volunteer positions require just as much or more paperwork and time as a full time job, so, if you still want your thinking time.. be careful what you ask for.

Here is one example of something that I plan to do, and the respective links, just something that will hopefully fill little void of “I need to do something with my life”.

Herbalism. This is a  fascinating topic and something I think will always be useful. Instead of spending lots of time (7+ years I hear) and money (many thousands) to become a doctor, why not learn about plants and their properties and be able to (mostly) self-heal? links:

Some of the herbalism courses are offered online, with short field sessions that you must attend, all cost money sadly, but all seem really useful. Other examples of courses that I think would always come in handy are: permaculture design, gardening, learning about wild plants- animals- mushrooms-ect.

So basically, if you’re bored with nothing to do and want to do something useful, there are options. Extra education is possible, not always through traditional means such as certificate courses (which may take more time and money than you want), but rather through single courses, classes that teach you so you add to your inner storage bank of knowledge of the world. Learning for yourself. I have (I hope) provided ideas on where to go looking for cool and unusual extra education- college portals, associations, inner community workings (Transition Town organizations), self- learning, options are out there!

Unconventional studies and programs

ImageAfter the internships I attended (please see previous post) I figured I’d do a masters program or diploma or certificate or something to show that I have credentials in my field, because often this helps make you more believable. My wish is to do eco-village planning or sustainable ecological design or something like that, I also want to learn more about sustainable building, how to live with few resources, I want to know more about herbalism, wild plant foods, gardening, community building… ImageI don’t actually know what I want to specialize in in the future, but this is a start (right?). I wanted a program that was different (obv) that required less sitting than a standard course, possibly more outdoor work and hopefully really interesting coursework. To date I’ve found several excellent looking programs.

  1. http://www.postgraduate.hw.ac.uk/prog/msc-sustainable-community-design/ This one has a mandatory three week field trip to Findhorn eco-village, tuition is quite average (I think) and it is only 12 months long.
  2.  http://www.ntnu.edu/studies/msa1 This one has a two months placement in Africa, takes two years to complete but has no tuition! beware though, living costs in Norway are quite high.
  3. http://acs.aalto.fi/masters-programme/ this one is really intriguing, no tuition cost, two years, and the content is ultra cool! interdisciplinary which is important and focus on creativity!
  4. http://www.chalmers.se/en/education/programmes/masters-info/Pages/Design-for-Sustainable-Development.aspx no tuition for EU citizens, two years, very very cool.
  5. http://www.gaiaeducation.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=71&Itemid=75 This, from what I understand, can be taken either online or at various locations- Brazil, Spain.. there a few options. It is a year long and you do receive a certificate. Really nifty, a potential possibility in my books.

Also, don’t be afraid to teach yourself! You may learn a lot more that way. Educating yourself for your own benefit and love of a topic can only really lead to something beautiful.

Fabulous internship, volunteer and work placement opportunities

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For a long time I’ve been searching for really good programs, studies, and internships that actually educate students. First I went to Trent University. This school was great, I achieved a degree in Environmental Sciences, took a variety of courses that taught me things.. my favourites were Indigenous studies courses- I highly recommend these! However, a year before graduating I worried that I had zero experience in my field. I had no success obtaining jobs in the environmental science field and actually worked in a factory for a couple summers instead (bleh). So this is what I decided- to take a year off and do some internships or volunteer work that would give me real practical experience. Also I was tired of sitting all the time, I just wanted to shovel something, dig a hole.. whatever. Ok, so I found a lot of epic websites that had internship listings, volunteer opportunities, work away possbilities ect. One suggestion that I have for anyone looking for an opportunity: don’t look to far from home, some of the best links I found were right on my university homepage. Since I like lists- I find it helps with organization, I will make the following links into a list format:

  • http://www.goodworkcanada.ca/this is my favourite website. Useful for anyone, not just Canadians (although most of the jobs and volunteer opportunities occur in Canada), anyway, you can search jobs or volunteer placements in any province. All are related to the field of the natural environment. The two internships I ended up attending were found on this website, one was through a Canadian organization called the Urban Farmer http://theurbanfarmer.ca/ run by a permaculture practitioner named Ron Berezan. This organization along with the University of Alberta run a program that takes several (12? usually) Canadians to Cuba for six weeks to learn about permaculture. Best thing ever. Ok, the other internship I attended was located in Argentina and had nothing to do with Canada except that it happened to be on this website, I’m not sure why it was but I’m VERY happy that I found it. The internship was located at Mama Roja, here is the blog: http://www.mamaroja.blogspot.ca/
  • http://www.goabroad.com/– this website has drop down menus to facilitate searches, you can look for study programs, jobs, internships, volunteer placements.. just about anything in any country. The list of sectors and organizations is also giant. Very useful website but be careful, the website cannot go through all the programs and check their validity.. so some of those cool sounding options may be fake money grabs. I haven’t chosen a program from this website, I’ve only taken suggestions from it, but I think its a good idea, when you find a cool program- to contact the organization yourself and find out if its legit.
  • http://www.acdi-cida.gc.ca/home– this website is mainly for Canadian students who wish to do development projects in countries such as Africa and South America. The programs sound amazing and some even pay! 
  • http://www.thepoosh.org/mapofbuildprojects– a friend of mine sent me this link, I haven’t used it yet but I think it is similar to the following WWOOF link where projects are listed and you hunt down the ones that interest you.
  • http://www.wwoof.org/– WWOOFing is a fabulous way to learn about organic gardening while living on a farm and eating healthy food for free. Basically you work for your lodging and food, generally work is about 4 hours long.
  • http://www.workaway.info/– Similar to WWOOF it seems, you find a project, work and get benefits like education! food! a home! basically it is a work exchange.

These present only a few options. It is easier if you know what you want to do- the best way to find something is to contact an organization or person who specializes in your field and talk to them about potential opportunities. Or Google search.

To begin,

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                     Hi, I’m Kasia. I decided to write a blog for probably not the same reasons as most- to collect information that I have gathered over the years in relation to sustainable living, planting permaculture style, traveling, learning ect. The information I will present is not always accepted, it certainly will not be conventional and it might be controversial. Regardless, I am making this blog for myself and the benefit of my family and friends. One day I hope this will become a good resource for those who wish to live better with nature. My wish is to one day live in an off grid small abode (made of mud or straw or both or canvass- yurt), within an eco-village or sustainable community, where I can be myself without harming the natural environment, where I live simply yet lead a full life, where I work hard but with passion.. I know this is possible for I have lived this way at one glorious point in my life, at the lovely farm Mama Roja in Argentina. I was there only for three months whilst on an internship but man, it was a beautiful time. I hope that one day (soon) it will be possible for us people to use our brains and desires to achieve really great things, that our creativity leads us to hopeful futures rather than ones that bring grief.

Ok, that’s all for now, adios!

Some initial links: