Have you considered adding greens as off-season crops? I get the principle of using the most effort and space for calories, but if you can extend the growing season, it's all for the win. (And in general, for all but the most remote gardener, carbs are easy to stockpile in the form of rice/oats. It's the fats/vitamins/minerals that are expensive and harder to get.) Brassica, in general, are nutritional powerhouses and pack a lot of flavor.
With minimal effort, I'm still harvesting kale and mizuna from my garden, despite the fact that all calorie-dense foods have been harvested weeks ago. I'm exploring how far in the season we can go, but we've had first frost more than a month ago, here, and there's snow on the ground. And I've invested in nothing more complicated than floating row covers (in one case) and a totally ghetto plastic sheeting system (I'm reusing clear plastic bags that our cedar mulch came in as cover for our container garden. ). Greens are also the first things I can harvest in the season, and the only thing I manage to grow indoors with reasonable additional lighting.
Totally different setting here (I am in a neighbourhood of Montreal), but our community has been living through that transition.
My neighbourhood was developed right after WW2, so a lot of the original owners have died or gone in assisted living communities in the last decades. In their wake came young professionals eager to build a family (myself included), either in single-unit houses (there are very few of those in Montreal), in the ground floor of triplexes and five-plexes (often joining two small units into one), or in newly built condos. That, of course, brought gentrification, price increases, rent increases, and some social tension. There's been also a lot of renovation going on - one summer, on my street alone, about a third of the wartime houses were having some foundation work done. It's not uncommon to have buildings in such a state of disrepair that they have to be demolished and sold just for the price of the terrain. This has been the sake of many wartime houses where the owners were not in a position to take care of structural problems over time (roof leaks, etc.).
On the positive side, it made our community very vibrant, with lots of children, community organizations, a farmer's market and several CSAs. Main street, which had decayed into a collection of pawn shops and closed down fronts over the years is now very much alive, with a mixture of old standbys which got new customers and new trendy places. And our current municipal administration is investing a lot in active transportation (adding bike lanes and pedestrian zones) and gardening (supporting the greening of back alleys, supporting urban gardening initiatives, giving away trees...). Public schools are good and fairly mixed in terms of economical and cultural backgrounds.
It's not perfect, but I think we've survived the transition better than many other neighbourhoods.
It comes with several basic patterns for bodices and skirts, and while I haven't actually made any of their dresses (still on my TODO list), it helped me understand how to adapt existing patterns to my body. Lowering a dart point for instance, or adding gore to a skirt. There's still a lot of trial and error involved for me (I've learned the hard way to make a muslin of all my bodices/tops), but I'm getting to the point where I understand where the changes need to happen for something to skim my body right.
I'd think that once you've done a good muslin of their basic bodice and translated the changes back to a flat pattern, you'll essentially have your sewing sloper.
bruce Fine wrote:you know rather than taking advice from a hack like me it might be worth your while to hire a local electrician for an hour to figure out exactly what you need. all I know is what I've done in the past and what I'm able to learn as I go through this life.
In any case, I'd recommend getting an electrician to validate your installation (even if you're doing the grunt work), because not doing so might compromise your friend's house insurance in case of fire. (Happened to my inlaws and it took years of court procedures and insurance hell to demonstrate that their electric installation was not at fault.)
It's a simple wrap skirt made of Latvian linen (bought in actual Latvia on a trip).
French seams inside, so I can actually wear it inside out if it's stained. Or I can swap which panel is in front (since it's mostly the front that gets spilled on). Which makes for four wears before it really needs to be cleaned. And yes, I've been wearing it every other day all summer so far.
It's insanely comfy even in very hot weather, getting softer with every wash, can accommodate bloating, and the natural ecru hides dust very well (dirt brushes right off).
Kena Landry wrote:One silly thing I've done to build sustainability in my community is to use active transportation for gardening.
I wouldn't call that 'silly'. Riding a bicycle is very 'normal' here.
I meant silly in the sense that it's not a big gesture, a big community program, something that strikes me as a "save the world" big move. But it's part of the little gestures that normalize a more sustainable lifestyle.
One silly thing I've done to build sustainability in my community is to use active transportation for gardening.
Whether that's using a bike trailer to pick up supplies at the garden center, carting old bricks in a wheelbarrow along a busy avenue, or walking to the school garden with my gardening tools on one shoulder and a pitchfork in hand, it makes urban gardening extremely visible and shows the community it can be done, and without fossil fuel to boot.
We are so unused to those "rural" sights in an urban setting that it's sure to attract attention and curiosity, and often spark interesting conversations.
In my neighbourhood, we have a program called "Un plant de tomates à la fois" (One Tomato Plant at the time) which manages collective gardens. It's not a community garden - people sign up to a garden, go there at planned hours, and there's an instructor/leader teaching basic gardening techniques and dispatching jobs. There is also a rota for watering. And all attendees leave with their share of the weekly harvest. They also manage a community kitchen where people can cook together and bring home a portion of the meal, and organize nature/gardening activities for school age kids.
One of their gardens is on a community center rooftop, and it really reminds me of the Eden garden in The Year of the Flood: you get up there on a dreary escape stair and end up in a green lush garden brimming with produce. The others are in church yards, mostly.
It does require some funding (mostly to pay the instructor and some supplies. They also get donations from home hardware stores and such), but it's been running for several years now and it makes a huge impact in the community. I'm sure lots of gardeners, like myself, have "graduated" from there and gained the confidence to garden at home or in a private patch in a community garden afterwards.
We did it in our tiny urban yard (removed 2 parking places worth of asphalt/gravel/remnants of a garage) and it almost doubled our usable space. (Apparently, previous owners hated green things? The whole yard was paved in some manner or other)
However, it required heavy machinery (we were having a drain replaced on our house so it subsidized some of the costs since the machinery was already on site) and we paid something around 500$cad just for the disposal costs. Plus another 300$cad for full-panel testing of the soil underneath, and a couple hundreds to get good soil trucked in (we topped everything with 4-6" of good soil).
It was 100% worth it but it was quite a complex project.
Victoria cast iron products are made in Columbia (it's a long-established, local owned company), and I already own their tortilla press (I think they are pretty much the reference for high quality tortilla presses). I figured that if Columbian housewifes need to cook their tortillas in something, they probably use Victoria cast iron skillets.
I had been scouting for a few months for used cast iron, without finding any. So I bought mine for 35$CAN on Amazon (Currently 25$US on Amazon.com), which seemed reasonable.
It came pre-seasoned (whatever that means), with an instruction manual that said exactly what Paul says in his own video guide: boil a little water if something stick, scour with salt if need be, heat it up to make sure it's really dry after use, rub a little fat on it before storing.
Right from the first use, eggs were sliding off the bottom. The bottom has some grain to it - it's not mirror-smooth. But already, it is getting smoother with use. It has a little spout on each side to facilitate pouring sauces or whatnot in a plate. And the 10'' size is perfect for my needs.
I've been using it for several weeks now, and it's holding up well to all I've put it through. I've used vegetable oils, lard, bacon fat & butter. I've cooked mostly vegetable stir fries, eggs, pancakes and tortillas. It's also perfect for popping corn (borrowing the lid from my soup pot). It also performed well on my electric range as well as on a camping gas stove.
Cleanup is a breeze. It is a bit heavy for me to use with just one hand (I'm a petite woman with flimsy wrists) but I can live with that.
But the ultimate test was my mom (whose own cast iron skillet has half a century of seasoning built into it, and who used to flip pancakes professionally in her youth), who has deemed it "a very good pan" when making pancakes at my place this morning.
In short, if you have to buy a cast iron skillet new, this is probably a fair purchase.
What kind of soil are you working in? I've tried a few of these kind of tools in my yard (back when I was still trying to control dandelions), and our soil being heavy clay, they either broke the stem before getting the root, or left with huge chunks of clay each time (leaving terrible gaping holes in the grass and requiring intervention to get the clay unstuck).
I went back to crouching down and using a sharp hand tool (the kind that looks like a flat screwdriver with a V notch).
I've learned the hard way that making a muslin for anything remotely fitted is an absolute must. I can wing it for children's clothes (worse comes to worst, they'll grow into it or it will fit a sibling), but not for my own clothing.
Even with a fairly standard sized body, I often need to move the bust darts, raise the underarm seam, etc. I make my muslins from old bedsheets, so it's essentially free. (People always want to give me their old stained bedsheets to upcycle).
For a recent very fitted woven tank top, I even made TWO muslins before I was satisfied with the fit. But now I have something that skims my body exactly as it should without showing any gaps or a peek of my bra, and I can make that pattern as many times as I want with slight design changes.
Otherwise, for skirts, I tend to go with patterns that are made from your own measurements. My two latest were a linen wrap skirt and a linen circle skirt with yoga waistband.
I'm with you on the reel mower. Granted, I have very little (and working towards getting even less) grass to cut. But the freedom of doing it whenever without having to consider the disturbance to neighbours or my own is a blessing.
I find it a very zen activity. (We do have a weed wacker though)
I bought one for my girls (7 and 9), to teach them safe knife use. After a few sessions with very close supervision, they can now handle it safely on their own to whittle sticks and whatnot. The rounded tip is a nice feature, and so is the finger guard. I am very satisfied.
I am curious about how the pandemic changed the dynamics of tiny houses.
For myself, it killed any fantasy I had of getting a very small house. We probably live in way bigger than we'd need (2000 sq. feet for a family of four), but the pandemic, especially at the beginning when we were locked within the narrow confines of our house and yard, made me appreciate having the room.
Having a well-stocked pantry, room for a freezer, room for extra bits of material of all kinds for "someday" uses (I did a bunch of home repairs and sewed a small collection of masks just from reused material), room for tools, room for growing our own greens in the basement... These were all sources of great comfort.
I also appreciated having the option of working on more contemplative/indoor hobbies like painting or sewing, which require some room and storage. Just having the room for making large puzzles as a family - that alone played a great role in our mental health.
Holly Magnani wrote:
As for aronia, they never last long enough to make it to storage. I make a syrup out of them and then dilute it in water or lemonade or what-have-ya. Granted, I only have one large aronia bush and a huge stand of elderberries.... The aronia syrup is a big hit with the kiddos so it doesn't stick around long enough.
Can you give your recipe for aronia syrup?
We use ours as is in oatmeal, smoothies, applesauce (gives a wonderful color) and apple crisp/crumble.
I don't have enough elderberries yet to freeze them, but I've frozen aronia (similar berry) for more than a year with no problem (We're still eating off the 2018 crop since most of 2019's was lost due to a freeze).
You could also make "hedge jam" with various kinds of berries, or just elderberry.
I grow Concord grapes (which I love) and normally, they ripen right at the start of the school year (very end of August).
This year, it looks like we might get an early harvest (we had multiple heat waves, much earlier in the season than we'd normally expect. I've never seen a heatwave in May in zone 5b before) AND it looks like the vine is putting out new flowers (?).
Can grape really have two flowering periods in the same year? Should I prune the new flowers, to get the plant to put its effort in the existing grapes? (I doubt there's enough time to get the 2nd batch to maturity, but maybe there's interesting stuff to be done with very unripe grapes? Can I pickle that?)
This year, I really wanted to start a new round of seedlings indoors so that I can quickly replace once something is done. That is how intensive organic farms around here work around the very short season.
In practice... well, life happened and the only thing I managed is to throw some beet and carrot seeds in the empty beds. I am still procrastinating to get some new cilantro in.
So I'd say that the key is probably to have a plan with best case scenario AND an alternate? And possibly a plan C (mulch the empty bed or throw in some green mulch/fertilizer seeds).
Strawberries make a nice ground cover - most people won't even realize what it is. I'm planning to interplant mine with borage (which apparently is a good companion + eatable/medicinal, but also looks good)
I've made nice border arrangements with equinacea in the back row and peppers in the foreground. Runner beans can also be very ornemental, especially if grown on a nice obelisk or tripod. Some varieties have beautiful flowers.
Aronia bushes are widely used round here as ornamentals. Easy to care for, nice blooms, nice coloring in the fall. Most people don't even realize the berries are eatable.
I've planted lettuce -fairly thickly sowed - in window boxes this spring and it really thrived. We ate it as baby greens, just picking leaves as they grew bigger.
And two tricks for making things look "neat": edging material to delimitate areas and plenty of wood-chip mulch to hide a number of sins.
A few other options for an urban-adapted PEX system.
- Volunteer for at least 4 hours in a community-based gardening project (1 pt)
This can be a school garden, a collective garden, a fruit-picking drive for charity, your CSA, etc. Or you could simply help an elderly neighbour manage their garden. At least half the yield has to go back to the community - it cannot simply be your own plot in a community garden. Can earn this bit multiple times, but you need to perform different type of work. Document with pictures and include dates and hours.
Rationale: Grass-roots gardening initiatives help share the permaculture bug outside of our limited community, and are a good place to learn new skills from veterans. Teaching kids to garden will pay the world a hundred-fold.
- Haul garden inputs (at least 25 pounds of dirt, compost, organic material, reclaimed bricks, etc.) over > 500m using only human-powered transportation. (1 pt)
Use a bike trailer, a caddy, a wheel-barrow, your own two arms (enlist your kids)... You're allowed public transportation for part of the way (hauling bulk compost in the subway or on the bus would be particularly bad-ass) Can be in multiple runs. Honorable mentions (no extra points but you'll get my respect) if those are found/bartered materials rather than a run at your local store.
Rationale: Carrying a wheel-barrow full of dirt in an urban setting is very conspicuous. It puts gardening front stage, and normalizes non-car transportation, inspiring others to be creative with their transportation.
- Give a new life to at least 80 pounds of fabric. At least half of that should be clothing or textiles that are beyond repair (the other half can be clothes that you patch, mend or adjust to extend their lifetime). The end result can be clothing, household items, stuffing for cushions... Show the original item(s) and the end products with their weight.
- Rationale: 80 pounds is the average amount of clothing and textile sent to the landfill every year by Canadians. We need to start being accountable for that.
What about gardening requirements that take lot size into account?
This might be a different PEX system altogether (including small urban and suburban lots), but I'd suggest something like:
"Produce the equivalent of 100 000 calories per acre" (or maybe a smaller amount if this is for the sand badge?)
( I will assume for the sake of this that Paul based his original requirements on a 1-acre plot, which is what boots get allotted after a certain amount of time.
You should calculate the entire size of the plot you live in (you cannot deduce the building itself, the driveways or parking lots, etc.). If sharing the lot with other living units, divide the lot size by the number of units. If you have a community garden lot, you should include that in your calculation. My small urban lot is 8% of an acre, for instance. Someone with just a balcony and some common areas would have to produce a lot less, but still get creative with convincing the neighbors/landlord to use a fruiting hedge or have potted vegetables in the parking lot).
Lovely! Turning most of our driveway into a garden has been the best decision we've ever made.
And yes, if you dry then roast the dandelion roots (nothing scientific - I just popped mine in the oven when I was roasting some veggies), then grind, you can infuse to make an ersatz coffee. Pretty nice with milk and honey, actually. It's quite labor intensive to dig the roots for a single cup, but if you're going to dig them anyway, there is a nice poetic symbolism about eating the darn things.
I've started exploring lacto-fermentation, but I'm quickly running out of fridge space to keep the end result from over-fermenting once it's done.
I'd like to explore canning to make some of my fermentations shelf-stable (at the cost of some probiotics and texture, I know.). I've found clear information for sauerkraut from a reputable source (https://extension.psu.edu/lets-preserve-sauerkraut) but not for things like fermented carrots or mixed vegetables.
Any ideas? Personal experience with that?
I guess, historically, that people had a root cellar or an uninsulated attic to store their fermentations over longer periods of time. But for me, in my current setting, the "long term storage" of ferments is essentially null (It's not like I'm in the habit of losing cabbage or carrots in the fridge. They practically last forever in their natural form.)
Like Sonja, I like the concept of permaculture challenges, but find it impractical to actually document the process just to get a badge.
Often, the amounts/sizes required are unrealistic for a small urban setting. ( I don't have 150 sq. feet of vegetation to chop & drop, even though chop & drop is part of how I garden already).
Or I'd have no need for the end result, which would be a waste of resources. Ex: I am skilled in most textile arts. But I won't make a project just for the sake of it if I don't have a need for the end result, and especially if I need to buy material for it. I am already trying to work through my endless bin of discarded "broken beyond repair" clothes, so there's plenty of projects in my pipeline already.
Or I get started and then think of pictures when it's too late (hello, sauerkraut. By the time I thought of the BB, half the jar was in my stomach )
That doesn't prevent the BB challenges to be inspiring. I just chip at those challenges in manageable bites for me, adapt in ways that make sense, and have no need for external recognition.
- Examine where the grass doesn't grow at all (too much shade, too dry, too compacted) and turn those into plant beds or mulched areas, and use plants adapted to those conditions. In heavily trod areas, use cement/rock steps of some sort to spare the ground from over-compaction and damage. Kids adore walking steps, especially if you space them apart so that it's a slight challenge for them.
- If you feel the need to remove weeds, treat that as a harvest. Dandelion, violet greens, young plantain leaves, wood sorrel can all be eaten (we've been having those in our daily salads, soups and green smoothies all spring). Dandelion root can also be made into faux-coffee (I pick some up every spring to keep our perennial dandelion sort of under control. It still constitutes a good portion of our lawn, but I don't want it to overwhelm everything else), and it's a very potent compost addition.
Our lawn won't win any suburb "keeping up with the Jones" contest, but it doesn't require any watering, it does fine in all conditions, and it's a lot more resistant to pests than single-species grass.
Up to a certain point, the problem is structural, so the solution is probably structural as well.
Ask for bulk options. Pester companies you buy from for more sustainable packaging. Try no to look just at the price of the product, but also the cost (in time, "karma" and, in your case, actual dump costs) of taking care of the packaging. And when you find an alternative, tell your main brand why you're no longer using their product.
Pestering feels like a drop in the sea, but it eventually changes things. My grocery store used to over-package all their vegetables, including things that made no sense (plastic wrapping a turnip???). Everytime I saw a clerk in the produce section, I'd tell them politely "What a shame I can't buy this produce. It looks lovely but I don't buy things that are shrinkwrapped. Will you let your boss know, please?". Every single time. And I'd get the same lame excuse that wrapped veggies last longer, that customers find it cleaner...
Two years of this... and a few months ago, they figured out a less wasteful solution to serve vegetables unwrapped (they are in bulk boxes with a lid, which keep them fresher I guess? With tongs to serve ourselves.).
I'm sure I wasn't the only one, but with enough people letting them know that it's hurting their bottom line, companies DO change. And when they do change, they change not only for ourselves, but also for all the others who couldn't be bothered about the environment.
The back area (with the composter) is mostly shade (hence the mulch in lieu of grass). We might have some shade-loving fruits some day, but probably not much of a yield. We do eat the violet leaves though, and I'm hoping to add shade-loving medicinal/tea plants.
But the rest of the yard is decent, sun-wise. Enough to get a good yield on tomatoes. And our deck gets a lot of sun, so we can have containers that move depending on the needs and seasons.
We also have a balcony upstairs that gets full sun all day, so that could be an option for growth some day (but water access is a challenge, so we haven't exploited it yet. I might have to run a hose up the wall some day.)
As you can see, we use edges a lot. Actually, with the yard being so small, we have to use every bit, and make it both ornamental and practical.
For fruits, we have:
- strawberries (wild and standard varieties)
- amelanchier (serviceberry)
- black currant (not producing yet)
- wild raspberry (not producing yet)
- haskap (not producing... Ever? )
For vegetables, we have two main raised beds (both 3 feet deep - 18 feet in length total). I am also starting to add the brick half-circles along the neighbour's fence. They will hold a combination of perrenials and annual veggie plots.
Along the side of the house are strawberries and a few medicinal/ornamental flowers.
I grow day lillies in the narrow inhospitable border between my house and the neighbour's gravel parking.
This is very poor compacted clay, and they still manage to thrive and suppress weeds. I give them zero care or watering, and some get stepped/parked on each year, and yet they spring back to life the next spring.
Day lillies can be eaten as shoots, and they make abundant foliage and very nice flowers. They do spread though, so you will have to think about providing a barrier alongside your fence, or get varieties that are not too agressive.