Click here to read the newsletter.
Take a look at our November Newsletter!
Anyone who has read Laura Ingalls Wilder's book, The Long Winter, knows that ours is pretty mild compared to their North Dakota blizzards and deep freeze. Still, it's still hard to believe that spring will ever come. So it is with a great leap of faith that farmers start their seedlings, in hope of the nice weather to come.
We're starting to seed, as you can see in the photo, but ironically enough, we are also planning to build a larger cold room to keep our vegetables fresh for market. That way, I can pick the evening before for the early morning market, and not have to get up at 4 am to pick corn in the dark! But as we are on solar power, it's not so easy. We're looking at a DC air conditioner to cool, with a new device called the Cool Bot, a space of about 8'X6'X6'. That should be more than enough room to store our harvest for a day.
Also, we're looking forward to using our new solarium -- see photos on our Hill Top Gardens Facebook page!
There's a time to sow and a time to reap, and like every market gardener in April, I'm out in the greenhouse sowing, despite the cold spring! We've got tiny spinach, lettuce and kale seedlings in the greenhouse, and our sunny dining room is full of seedlings almost ready to go out into the big garden world. The Moskvich tomatoes are doing really well, I hope to have them planted within the next two weeks, and I must have 300 baby onions ready for the soil. We can hardly to get out and start digging -- once the soil is dry enough to be worked.
The photo shows our use of raised beds, hoops and row covers in the greenhouse -- this helps our plants survive below-zero temperatures that can arrive in April. In addition, we will be installing a high-efficiency woodstove that will heat the greenhouse during the night. Then I won't need to use my sleeping bags to cover our baby plants!
In the meantime, the snow is off the garden and soon I'll be releasing the asparagus and rhubarb from their straw mulch. It's exciting to see the first green shoots appear in the garden -- we are looking forward to that! I'll also be preparing the soil in our new hoophouse, ready to receive our peppers and cucumbers. Lots of work, lots of fun!
Most Canadians would agree that food prices have gone through the roof, for example, between 2006 and 2008 average world prices for wheat rose by 136%, corn by 125% and soybeans by 107% (Global Research, 2008). Currently, California is undergoing one of its worst droughts in 500 years, which could result in raising produce prices for Canadians by at least 20% -- Canada imports $5 billion worth of produce from California every year (CTV News, Feb. 5, 2014). This is just more bad news for many average Canadian families, where food is the only negotiable cost in the budget – hydro, rent, taxes all have to be paid, no compromise -- but food can, and is, being compromised to the detriment of our health and enjoyment of life. Add to that our busy lives with all adult family members working, some times at two or more jobs, studying, and/or generally just trying to stay ahead. There’s very little time to cook from scratch, or cook at all. No wonder the frozen convenience food aisles in grocery stores have exploded in size in recent years! As well as our waistlines! Yet while the government tells us to eat healthy, care for our children and lose weight, there is very little effort on their part to actually ease the food burden on Canadians. Food banks were supposed to be a stopgap, not regular institutions as they are now.
What if food was declared a constitutional right? In the Canadian Charter of Rights and Values, we are guaranteed “the right to life, liberty and security of the person.” Doesn’t food give us life? I’m happy to say that efforts are being made to try and enact a sustainable and healthy food system. The recently constructed Ottawa Food Policy Council wants to enact local policies and programs to create a food system that ensures everyone can access “sustainably produced, healthy, affordable, sufficient and culturally acceptable food.” Personally, I like the “affordable” and “healthy” parts – something we’re trying to do on our small farm here in the Pontiac.