Harvest Ontario

July 6, 2009

Harvest Ontario

I was recently doing some shopping at our local (Elmira) Home Hardware store when the word “Harvest” caught my attention on the cover of a small magazine sitting in a stack near the check-out.

Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was a stack of ‘Harvest Ontario 2009’ guides – a complimentary listing of many of the small ‘local’ farms, markets, fairs/exhibitions, B&Bs, Wineries, and Meat/Deli businesses from across Ontario.

As I mentioned in my recent ‘100 Foot Diet‘ post, I seem to have caught the ‘buy local’ bug this year, so I was certainly more than happy to grab a copy on my way out of the store. As the name implies (and as mentioned above), the guide isn’t focused only on businesses that are ‘local’ for us here in Waterloo Region, but there certainly are quite a few listings from our area.

I think it’s also great to have a guide like this if you are planning to do some travelling this summer – no matter where you end up (in Ontario) you’ll be able to find some great local attractions.

You can find lots of great information (and listings) on the Harvest Canada website as well, so I recommend you check that out if you can’t track down a copy of the guide.

In my next post I will share another great guide/website that IS geared specifically to businesses in our region.

Stay tuned!

Little City Farm

June 30, 2009

Little City Farm

During the last few years I have certainly become much more aware of, and connected with the ‘green movement’ – especially online. Given the web’s global reach, it is no surprise that I’ve ended up meeting (virtually speaking) lots of like-minded people in other places. As I’ve recently discovered however, I’ve all but ignored many cool people/places that have been sitting on my doorstep all along.

Funny how that works sometimes…

One of these special gems is definitely Little City Farm, a self-described ‘urban homestead’ and ‘eco bed & breakfast’, located in the heart of Kitchener Ontario – in other words, about 15-20 minutes drive from me!

When I first stumbled on their website earlier in the spring, I just couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard about them before. The site is exceptionally well put together – positively bursting with loads of fascinating information and photos. And judging by their news/events notices, this little ‘farm’ is clearly a green hub in the region – where eco types gather for workshops and sales throughout the year.

I made sure to send the folks at Little City Farm a nice note right away, promising to make mention of their site here on the blog. Unfortunately, time got away from me this spring…so here I am.

Better late than never I say!

With my own ‘suburban farming’ efforts now underway, and my increased focus on the local green community, I have little doubt I’ll be spending a lot more time on their website – not to mention, hopefully making a trip over to the farm for one of their events in the near future.

The 100 Foot Diet

June 29, 2009

I’ve been amazed by the fact that ‘buying/eating local’ seems to almost be a trendy thing to do these days. I feel like I’m hearing about it EVERYWHERE, which definitely gets me excited!

I’ve been somewhat familiar with the “100 Mile Diet” idea for awhile now, but in all honesty, it wasn’t until this year that I finally really started paying attention. I caught a few episodes of “The 100 Mile Challenge” on the Food Network and it was really fascinating watching these normal families (out in BC) trying out this approach – and for the most part, benefiting a great deal in the process.

Interestingly enough, my wife has become very interested in ‘buying local’ this year as well (after taking a holistic nutrition course), which has certainly helped to add that extra bit of motivation to really take this stuff seriously. I’ve always been the eco-head in the family, but sadly I can also be really lazy and lax with some of my earth-friendly practices. Now that my wife is onboard with all of this, I foresee us moving a lot more quickly in a positive direction.

We’ve already been making an effort to learn a lot more about local farms and businesses that subscribe to these sorts of philosophies, and it’s been fun starting to break away from the run-of-the-mill grocery store fare when it comes to meal preparation. I should mention that I have plans to write about a lot of these local businesses etc here on the blog in an effort to spread the word a little more, and help to get things a little more active around here.

As the title of this post might imply, one of the major things I am also focusing on this year is growing a LOT of our own food. I’ve always been a gardener at heart, and have even grown some decent yields of various summer staples (tomatoes, zucchinis etc) – especially last summer, thanks to my restaurant food waste project – but I’ve never really taken the time to get serious about gardening, and to learn proper organic methods etc. This year I decided it was finally time to do so!

It’s kinda funny when I think about it now, but I’ve always day dreamed about my ‘ultimate’ small farm property, where I would finally be able to put down roots (no pun intended) and get serious about my sustainable gardening efforts. I always just assumed that as long as I was living in the ‘burbs’, there wasn’t really any point in going too crazy with all of this. Thankfully, I finally woke up this year and realized that A) we might end up being here awhile, so I might as well take advantage of that and B) I have enough ‘land’ and sunlight to create a pretty serious little suburban eco-farm.

Of course, my outdoor worm herd is playing a very important role in all of this! I’ve written previously about my vermicomposting trenches. Well, I’m happy to report that these systems are back in action this year, and I have even expanded my trench network. I am also experimenting with some other wormy methods, such as living mulch and worm box gardens (hope to write more about those in a future blog post). I have been really happy with the results so far, and expect that we’ll have a LOT of produce available later in the summer. Thankfully, we recently bought a small chest freezer, so now we have some place to store a lot of the extra veggies.

Anyway, I hope to write a lot more about all of this on the blog in coming weeks and months!
Stay tuned!

Almost forgot…

One thing to mention for those of you living in Waterloo Region – if you are interested in the 100 mile diet challenge, it is my understanding that there is a group of people in Kitchener-Waterloo who are doing this right now. Be sure to check out the “100 Mile Diet Blog” put together by the folks at Healing Path in Waterloo. I’ve only had time to quickly skim over the content, but it looks really interesting! Once I’m able to spend more time reading, I may write more about it here.

Composting At The Crossroads

July 16, 2008

Two months ago I sent an email to Anton heimpel, owner/operator of At The Crossroads Family Restaurant (often referred to simply as ‘Crossroads’) to see if he was interested in providing me with some coffee grounds and egg carton cardboard (excellent fodder for worm composting systems). Given the huge popularity of the restaurant I suspected they would have lots of both, and might not mind sharing some of them.

I received a friendly response back, and as it turns out Anton had already been starting to think about ways the restaurant could deal with its food waste in a more environmentally-friendly manner, so he was quite eager to sit down and chat about the possibilities.

As I discovered, Crossroads produces hundreds of pounds of fruit and vegetable waste every single week. I have never see so many broccoli stalks and turnip peels and apple waste in my life!

I’ll be honest – initially I was wondering what on earth I had gotten myself into. Dealing with two (or more) garbage bins of food waste each day, 6 days a week requires a lot more work than I had initially envisioned. On the plus side, I’ve been able to get outside for gardening work a lot more, and it has been a much needed source of exercise for me this summer. Even more importantly, I’ve been able to prove to myself that it can be done.

Referring to ‘hundreds of pounds’ of waste may sound pretty impressive, but it’s important to keep in mind that these sorts of waste materials are almost entirely water, so they tend to reduce in volume and weight quite quickly, especially in the heat of the summer, and especially when a herd of hungry Red Worms are helping to move the process along.

I’ve been using the materials in various outdoor worm composting systems with great success thus far. I’ve tried multiple ‘composting pits’, and have added LOTS of waste to my big outdoor worm bin, but I have been most impressed with my vermicomposting trench systems. These trenches were dug directly in front of the vegetable garden along my fence, and through the middle of my raised bed garden. The general idea behind this method is that composting worms (and countless other organisms) convert waste materials into nutrients for the plants, not to mention releasing lots of water for them as well. It is essentially like a slow-release organic fertilizer factory.

I’ve absolutely been blown away by the growth of my tomato plants – they are already bigger than the maximum size my plants reached last year – plants that were fed with inorganic tomato fertilizer I might add (I haven’t added ANY this year)! I can’t wait to see how everything looks in a months time.

The Crossroads project has required a huge commitment of time and energy, but I’m really glad I decided to go for it – not only is this helping a local business shrink their environmental footprint, but it has been a great learning experience for me and will hopefully serve to show others what is possible when these “waste” materials are actually put to use, rather than sent off to the landfill!

Waterloo Teen Discovers How To Decompose Plastic

June 4, 2008

Just as I was starting to really get excited about biodegradable bags, some kid has to go an figure out how to decompose real plastic! Sheesh!

All joking aside, this is actually very cool! It seems that one Daniel Burd, a WCI student, took it upon himself this year to figure out how to breakdown plastic as part of a school science project. He has apparently refined the process to the point where plastic bags should be able to be broken down in about three months! Certainly a lot more impressive than the 1000 years it can take to decompose these materials under normal conditions.

Here is an excerpt from an article in the Record (link to follow):

At 37 degrees and optimal bacterial concentration, with a bit of sodium acetate thrown in, Burd achieved 43 per cent degradation within six weeks.

The plastic he fished out then was visibly clearer and more brittle, and Burd guesses after six more weeks, it would be gone. He hasn’t tried that yet.

To see if his process would work on a larger scale, he tried it with five or six whole bags in a bucket with the bacterial culture. That worked too.

Industrial application should be easy, said Burd. “All you need is a fermenter . . . your growth medium, your microbes and your plastic bags.”

The inputs are cheap, maintaining the required temperature takes little energy because microbes produce heat as they work, and the only outputs are water and tiny levels of carbon dioxide — each microbe produces only 0.01 per cent of its own infinitesimal weight in carbon dioxide, said Burd.

“This is a huge, huge step forward . . . We’re using nature to solve a man-made problem.”

Be sure to check out the full article: WCI student isolates microbe that lunches on plastic bags

Obviously, as exciting as this is, it is still really important to try and cut down on our use of plastic in general. That being said, this may one day lead to viable large-scale solution for the vast quantities of waste plastic filling our landfills!

Way to go, Daniel! This is an outstanding accomplishment.

[tags]plastic, plastic bags, daniel burd, wci, waterloo region, science project, decomposition, microbes, fermentation[/tags]

No More Free Compost in Waterloo Region?

May 9, 2008

I just came across an article in the Waterloo Chronicle. I thought it was quite interesting, especially considering my recent post about the annual compost giveaway.

I actually didn’t even realize you could get free compost from the landfill any other time apart from the giveaway events, but apparently in the past “excess compost” has been piled near the dump and residents have been free to take it whenever they like.

Here is a excerpt from the article:

Steve Lindt thinks that something stinks about the Region of Waterloo’s waste management strategy — and the lack of a familiar odour this spring is a telling sign.
Lindt, an avid gardener and longtime Waterloo resident, was upset when he discovered that the region isn’t providing free compost at the Erb Street landfill on a daily basis this season.
Last year, excess compost was piled near the dump and citizens could take it away at no cost.
When Lindt visited the landfill this spring, he was told that compost would only be available for free on two designated days instead of every day.
Lindt was disappointed by what he heard, and thinks thousands of other Waterloo gardeners will be perturbed as well.
“I think a lot of people appreciated the service,” he said. And not only was the compost available at no cost, it was high quality, he added.
Lindt had taken between 30 and 40 bushels of compost over the past years, enough to fill his gardens with top-notch compost.

Be sure to check out the full article: Resident says something stinks about the end of free compost

According to the article, regional compost-making takes place exclusively in Cambridge (“where there is a market for the soil”).

This is definitely unfortunate. Perhaps the silver lining is that this will encourage more residents to expand their own backyard composting efforts!

[tags]compost, waterloo, waterloo chronicle, kitchener, cambridge, ontario, landfill, transfer station, composting, gardening[/tags]

Waterloo Region Compost Giveaway – May 10th 2008

May 8, 2008

This Saturday – May 10, 2008 – the annual Waterloo Region Compost giveaway is taking place at the Cambridge Transfer Station & Waterloo Landfill. It runs from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm.
There is a 5 bushel limit. Bring your own shovels and containers.

The compost is of course free (hence the “giveaway”), but please take some non-perishable food items with you when you go since there is a food drive associated with the event.

[tags]waterloo, waterloo region, compost giveaway, compost, cambridge, composting[/tags]