Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dig In!

Jody sets up for a the creation of a collaborative ephemeral maze with the pods, petals, and stems of the fall palette.

I just spend two lovely days working with my MOP colleagues at the Roundhouse Community Arts Centre. We set up in the light of a Yaletown morning, preparing the space for the students and families that took part on the workshops. The activities were a celebration of ecological art, with networking opportunities, artist talks, and an installation of photos of the works created by artists working in Stanley Park.

Purple asters or Michaelmas daisies are good bee plants for this time of the year.

I was thrilled to be working with seeds again. The warm, sunny weather has been perfect for saving seeds, so I made piles of them for the participants to sort through. Using 10 cups of red clay, 6 cups of soil, and 2 cups of seeds, we made 30 dozen seed balls in one session. So in all total we made 75 dozen seed balls. That's a lot of potential bee fodder!!

A typical day at the Roundhouse creates a found poem.

I created a seed game for the participants to become more aware of the shapes of the different seeds.

The grade four and five students at Elsie Roy created a lovely ball made out of ivy with Sharon Kallis.
These are the spools they use to crochet the invasive ivy. The plant has to be thoroughly dried out before it can be returned to the forest or it will take root and spread again.

I enjoyed watching Sharon and the volunteers strip the ivy of its leaves as people inside the foyer stretched to go out for a run. Some of the motions were very similar, but for a completely different purpose and with a different intention.

Jody did a lot of kneeling, bending and stretching to prepare, create, and clean up the ephemeral mazes and mosaics.

I was struck by the meditative quality of all three workshops, especially on the Saturday when the pace was very relaxed and easy-going. Once people got focused on one activity they were reluctant to break out of the zone to enter another. The intimate gestures of sorting seeds became conducive to sharing stories about food and gardening that lead to all sorts of interesting conversational threads and ideas about how to make our city more bee-friendly.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Alberta Bound

Hey folks, I am in Alberta, blogging for the Visualeyez performance art festival. I just posted about a beekeeper I chatted with yesterday at the downtown farmer's market.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tartan and Tweed Tea Party

"My parents make weird art."

It was a hot and sunny September afternoon and the tea flowed freely: lemon verbena with dragon's head, wild bergamot with anise hyssop sweetened with lavender honey and stevia from the herb garden. Lois Klassen handed out maps and battery-operated listening devices for people to take her Garden Gnomad self-guided sound tour.

Sharon wears a hand-crafted hip bag for her digital camera that she made herself.

While I gave tours in the bee garden I had some unexpected visitors: an orb-weaver spider snatching a honey-bee from its web, a mouse running up a sunflower stalk and a garden gnome with a clock and an aversion to plaid. I was very pleased that the audience was particularly interested in the bitter melon plant and two people said they cooked it themselves. My friend The Herbalist says that bitter foods like this melon are very important as we creep past forty because they help our aging bodies absorb nutrients. I was asked questions about the dragon's head plant, wild bergamot and some suggestions for bee plants for balconies, so I will do in-depth posts on those subjects. It was so much fun to meet more people who want to plant food for the bees!

Sharon wears the Canadian Centennial Plaid and Jody wears the perennial Art Girl tartan with a cute gingham apron.

Cucumber sarnies and crudités made by yours truly.

Banana bread with walnuts.

Lois sends listeners into the garden.

The camera girls are mad for plaid. I'm having flashbacks to 80's punk!

Have you ever seen Flying Monkeys with horns in kilts? Well, you have now.

Peter chills in the Weidenhammer sonic spa.

Microphones at the opening of the hive feed into the speakers in the ukulele. Note the spike board to deter robbing by racoons.

Solar panels power the microphones.

The other solar panels are at the back of the chair, which is actually in shadow in this photo. They power the skewers that are measuring moisture content in the soil which alters a b flat tonal scale that you also hear. Hopefully it blocks out some of the traffic from down the hill, creating a sonic refuge in an urban soundscape.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Saving Columbine Seeds at UBC Farm

Let the seed-saving begin! I was granted permission again this year to gather some seeds at UBC Farm, so yesterday I got to work. Those silvery grey columbine pods are quite striking against the patterns of the ugly concrete bunker. They are excellent spring bee plants and it is so satisfying to shake the pods into a paper bag. You can do this without damaging the plants, leaving them up for sculptural interest during the winter.

I collected lots of calendula and hollyhock seeds which of course come with free little earwigs, like a living toy in a crackerjack box, so I tip the bag out to leave them on the farm for someone else to enjoy. These seeds are great for teaching kids because they can learn to separate the chaff and outer parts of the flower from the seeds.

There weren't many cosmo seeds that were ready to gather. They are tricky to collect because they tend to fall off as soon as they are ripe.

Aren't these pumpkins gorgeous? They do look magical, like they could turn into a horse-drawn coach or happy-go-lucky scarecrow at any moment.

I'm very curious about these sunflowers with soft, silvery leaves. Who are they? Where did they come from and where are they going?

I took these photos last week when I was checking to see if the seeds are ripe. It has been raining since then, so it's still not the ideal time to collect seeds as they were a bit moist, but I can dry them out on baking pans in my back porch--much to the consternation of my partner when he wants to use the pans to cook our dinner!

The rudbeckias are stunning at this time of the year. They are the true late-bloomers here in Vancouver.

I've never seen this kind of amaranth before, and I like the colour. It would look amazing in a fall flower arrangement. Did I say fall? I meant late summer. Let's hope we get more days like this one so that seed savers all over the province can "rob the pods."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

White Lavender

Yesterday was a good day to collect coreopsis seeds. The white lavender was alive with bumble bees. It felt like rain. Last night it finally did rain.

The Cherokee Trail of Tears beans are beginning to appear as if by magic.

The anise hyssop is popular with the Bombus terrestris. I like to munch on a leaf or two between tasks.

Sunflowers start to uproot themselves under the weight of their own heavy heads.

The garden vandal has been at it again and pulled out a whole corner of the bee garden. I rescue the marigold heads to dry to use in mosaics. My brain twists with anger. And sorrow.