Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Kill Bill 24: Save the ALR for Farmers, Food and Bees!!

 Please take the time to protest against Bill 24 BEFORE TOMORROW!

Here's the deal:  From the West Coast Environmental Law Website:

The BC government has decided to close debate on Bill 24, which would make changes to the Agricultural Land Commission Act that put our agriculture and local food at risk.
If passed, these changes would restrict the role of the independent chair of the Agricultural Land Commission, one of BC’s biggest agricultural champions. They would also divide provincial agricultural lands into two zones, significantly weakening agricultural land protection in one of those zones.

The problem? That “zone” contains 90% of the province’s agricultural land reserve lands, and 85% of its lands capable of growing a range of crops.
The government wants to pass Bill 24 this Thursday afternoon. Thousands of people from across the province have opposed the Bill and asked for further consultation before these controversial changes become law. You have only a few hours to ask to have your voice heard on this important matter.

Click here to register your protest. Look here to see felfies (farmer selfies) for the ALR.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Madame Beespeaker Events for May, June, and July

Please drop by and say hello to Madame Beespeaker at the following events:
1) Sat May 24: South Hill Festival at East 47th and Fraser 

2) Sunday May 25 11 am to 3 pm: Salmonberry Fair at the Dunbar Community Centre 

3) Sat May 31 1-4 pm: UBC Farm Hedgerow Workshop with Lori Snyder

Bring a jar of honey to infuse with spruce tips and other goodies!

Please register here.

4) Friday June 6: Bee flowers made of felted wool for seniors at the Richmond Arts Centre  

5) Saturday June 14 10-12 pm: Draw Down at Champlain Height Community Centre

Bumblebees and Beyond: Drawing Our Native Bees

 Champlain Heights Community Centre | 3350 Maquinna Drive
FREE | No registration required

6) Sunday June 15 Car Free Day on Main Street: Village Vancoouver Transition Village (time tba)

7) July 14-18: Moberly Creative Remix Summer Camp: Friends of the Earth week 3 (pg 11 in the Sunset/Moberly summer program)

Only $75 for a week of art-based fun from 9 am to 3:30 pm

Ages: 6-11 yrs

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Get in in the Ground! Victoria Day Plants for Bees

It's Gardenpalooza weekend! Celebrate queen Vikki's b-Day by planting for bees and beneficial insects. This weekend is like Christmas for gardeners in Vancouver where the temperature has warmed up to go full speed ahead. My mantra now is get it in the ground (GIITG). When I ask the gardener at Welk's corner store when they're getting alyssum she tells me it should be in any day now. "If you see it, buy it," she tells me, "otherwise it will be gone." She's absolutely correct. Don't hesitate, just go for it. There are some good sales happening around town, so take advantage of it to get some excellent deals.

What you should buy this weekend:

For the permies, ie the folks who are taking up lawn and breaking up concrete to grow food for the world, I see lupins in your future. . .

To fix nitrogen in the soil, buy some lupin plants this weekend. They will bloom very soon and feed our bumblebees and hummingbirds. The plants will be a good investment as they will provide seeds to plant in the fall for more plants. You'll never need to buy lupins again and you can share them with your neighbours.

Seeds permies are planting now:

Sow crimson clover and vetch in between your food plants to feed the bees and the soil. Buckwheat is a great green manure plant to sow at the back of the beds and calendula helps keep the soil moist and prevents roots from growing. It blooms for months and you can eat the flower petals and make them into skin-soothing lotions. Buckwheat, vetch and calendula seeds are easy to save and share.

Plant bush beans in between your perennials to fix nitrogen in the soil and scarlet runner beans in front of trellises for hummingbirds and bees. The Germans say "don't plant beans too deep for they must hear the church bells ringing!"

For those who think a year ahead:

Is your garden bereft of flowers right now for the bees? Plant kale all over the place right now and by next May their flowers will be bringin' in the bees. You can also make pesto, smoothies and salads with the sweet blossoms. I'm teaching kids how to eat them like candy.

Think about flowering plants for the fall: You can get helianthus, asters, and goldenrod much cheaper now than later on in the season.

For the foodie:

 Just pack your garden with flowering herbs to have an inspired summer of cooking and serve up side orders of nectar and pollen to the bees at the same time. Think of this as a toofer weekend--many herbs are two for the price of one and remember it's better not to buy root-bound plants. Smaller can be better when choosing plants. Trust me, they will grow! Buy both regular chives and garlic chives because they bloom at different times and provide awesome food for all kinds of bees. Try a new herb you've never cooked with before. I dare ya!

Buy a healthy cilantro plant, let it flower for the bees and go to seed so you can replant it in succession every three weeks. Even if you think it tastes soapy, use it as a companion plant and feed the bees.

For the Urban Homesteader:

If you're thinking of planting fruit-bearing shrubs, DO IT NOW so they will be established before the hot weather hits. Make sure the root ball is moist before you plant it and keep that soil moist (not soggy) until it roots in. Think of growing a flowering vine around the chicken coop to give your girls some shade--choose something that is not toxic for your peepers.

For the Master Gardener:

Try new forms of tried and true bee plant to see if they attract bees as much as the heritage varieties or get the heritage varieties and compare them with cultivars you have.

Examples: Mondarda, asters, goldenrod, penstemon, anise hyssop, mints, salvias, and sunflowers.

Plants for other beneficial insects and doctor plants that help keep your garden in balance: alyssum, nasturtiums, yarrow, dill, fennel, sea holly.

Also consider letting a couple of each of your veggies go to flower for the bees and beneficial insects: parsnips, carrots, onions and brassicas.

If you see someone gardening this weekend, give them a big smile and thank them for making the world better for our bees!

Pssst: Choices Markets near 16th and Trafalgar has some good deals on that end Sunday night.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Best Little Sunflower Seedling Sale in Vancouver! : Plant These Sunflowers for the Bees and Support HIV programs in Saharan Africa

From the Village Vancouver Newsletter:

It's time to mark your calendars for our TENTH ANNUAL grassroots HIV fundraiser for the Stephen Lewis Foundation!  Who can believe it's been ten years since we started this little fundraiser in East Van, growing and selling sunflower seedlings to support HIV programs in sub Saharan Africa! We've raised over $52,000 and are in full gear to have another GREAT fundraiser this year.

So please do join us and forward this announcement widely. Thanks!  Over 25 varieties of sunflower seedlings are for sale by donation and 100% of proceeds to support HIV programs in sub Saharan Africa, plus lots of live entertainment, line up TBA.

For more info, see

WITH  over 25 varieties of locally grown sunflowers

ON  Saturday, May 10th, 2014
FROM  10 am to 3pm

2133 East 7th Ave, Vancouver

 Bonus: Live Music at this location!  

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Digging Big at Moberly Arts and Cultural Centre: Mike Breaks a Pitchfork!

Thanks to all who came and volunteered at the BIG DIG. We were a small crowd so everyone had to work extra hard to get our plants in the beds. We were very happy to have Judy's Truck Farm and we checked out her Strathcona 1890 Urban Seed Collections, including the brand new hot of the press: Seeds for the Zombie Apocalypse!!!!! See photos of the seeds in stock at Homesteader's Emporium right  here. To read about how the truck farm came to be, check out Judy's blog.

Judy is a social entrepreneur in the true sense of the word. She is dedicated to creating sustainable communities and strengthening local food security. Check out her Strathcona 1890 Truck Farm Facebook page for some really juicy content. Judy will be attending Car Free Day on Main Street on Father's Day (Sunday June 15). She will be parked in front of a lovely store called Nineteen Ten. Check it out!

 This is such a sweet garden of microgreens with its own garden gnome.

We smudged the garden with sweet grass and lavender using a beekeeping smoker and thanked the ancestors before we shared the origins of our  own families before we started to dig. Our group's families came from Mexico, Europe, Central America, South Asia and Canada.

We had to remove the grass, take out a layer of soil, then loosen the soil underneath with a pitchfork. This was very difficult because the soil was dry, compacted and there were stones. It was so hard, Mike broke a pitchfork! Then we mixed in some soil and leaf mulch in with the existing soil, breaking up any clumps, and put most of the rest of the soil back in. Finally we could plant our shrubs. We sunk them in, tapped them down and put on the rest of the soil. Then we watered the patch. By the time we were done it was 3 pm. Hold on . . . that was only one quarter of the garden that needed to be dug. Time to strategize and perform triage. Thanks to Loree's quick thinking we came up with a plan and worked furiously to completion fueled by Madame Beespeaker's Flower Power ginger cookies!!!!!!

Some of us topped up the raised beds with beautiful black gardening soil, ignoring every safety rule about working with tools!

Herbalist Lori Snyder peeks through the community-built trellis made with artist Rebecca Graham. Rebecca is an artist in residence at Aberthau Community Centre where she is also doing a garden-based project. Check out her amazing project and fun community events!

A golden currant waiting to be planted.

Thanks to all who pitched in to get this stage of the garden completed. Stay tuned for the search for nine strong folks to finish the job! Ummm, anyone know where we can get nine strong folks to finish the job by next weekend? And a new pitchfork?

We are digging deep into our hearts to thank to our sponsors, friends, collaborators and partners: Figaro's Garden, Sunset Nursery, Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company, Tupper Tech School, Neighborhood Matching Fund Grant, Strathcona 1890 Urban Seed Collections, Lori Snyder, Loree Boehm, Susan Gillis, Hartley Rosen, Maggie Winston, Rebecca Graham, Jean Kindratsky, Erin Udal, Doug Courtemanche, Vancouver Parks and Recreation, ArtStarts and Walter Moberly Elmentary School.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Welsh Poppies are Blooming: Don't forget the BIG DIG this Saturday at Moberly RAIN or SHINE!

Join us for the BIG DIG! 

WHERE: South Side of the Moberly Arts and Cultural Centre, 7646 Prince Albert, Vancouver

(1 block east of Fraser on 60th--very close to Lee Valley for all you gardening folks.)

WHEN: Sat. May 3, 1--4 pm, RAIN or SHINE!

WHAT: Digging out garden beds, planting shrubs and ground cover and top-dressing the herb bed

PLUS check out the new raised beds constructed by Moberly Elementary grade 5 students with their mentors from Tupper Tech. Grade 12

PLUS an herb and weed walk by Lori Snyder at 2:30 pm

PLUS a garden info table and truck bed garden with Judy from Strathcona Seeds

PLUS the Village Vancouver Seed Library

PLUS "outDOOR" prizes!

WHO: You! All ages and abilities welcome!

BRING: Your own gloves, layers of suitable clothing, water bottle and a shovel if you can.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Big Issue: Forage for Bumblebee Queens

It's May and the gardening frenzy has truly begun. It was up to 29 degrees Celsius today and the queen bumblebees were foraging around the site of our new garden at the Moberly Arts and Cultural Centre. Unfortunately, there's not much forage there for them besides the glorious cherry and crabapple trees that are blooming right now. The queens are too big for the English daisies in the lawn and the dandelions even bow under their weight, making it an awkward job for them. The cherry trees are busy with competitive foraging as mason bees, honey bees and smaller solitary bees vie for nectar and pollen to feed their brood. I've seen mason bees knock the big queen bumblebees right out of the apple blossom. Bumblebees may be big, but mason bees have the advantage of speed and agility.

An angel came to my rescue today--not a cherub with wings and a harp. This angel was driving a bulldozer. We'd just been given a dump of garden soil for our raised beds. "Need a hand getting the soil in the beds?" he asked. "Oh yes!" I said, "Thank you so much!" I was ready to kneel down and kiss his dusty steel-toed boots. He was such a deft operator, he hardly spilled a drop of our precious soil. It was a pleasure watching him work from a sweet spot in the shade, especially knowing he saved us about three hours labor. "You don't know how much this means to me," I said. "Well, I do some landscaping part time, so I know you could use my help. It's your lucky day," he said and he was right. My heart was bursting. And I was relieved that we were one step closer to getting our garden ready for planting.

The grade five boys who had committed to helping move the soil were a bit puzzled when they saw almost all the job had been done. "Who did this?" They asked. I told them about the angel in the bulldozer. "There's still lots to do," I said, and we smoothed the beds, put down cardboard in the pathways and started to cover it with mulch. It was so hot I warned the guys to take breaks in the shade and drink lots of water. The boys worked for a half an hour but the heat made them cranky and tired. "Can we have a water fight?" They asked. "Sure!" I said. I'm a firm believer in water fights on hot days. But first I told them they had to put away all the tools. "And don't run with the rake!"

Another exciting event was the arrival of the Village Vancouver Seed Library for temporary residence at Moberly. Randy Chaterjee kindly offered to deliver the lovely box he crafted and helped stock up with seeds. While I sat in the sun waiting for Randy arrive, a little girl made taught me how to make daisy chains while her brother had his piano lesson. As we made bracelets out of dandelions and daisies, I imagined how we could plant more flowers around Moberly for those lovely big queen bumblebees. Later that night when I sat in my garden after dinner I saw queens foraging  in our  azeleas and rhododendrons. Free from the competing crowd, the large and lovely ladies enjoyed a solitary feed while the lilacs perfumed the air with their old-fashioned sweet scent.