Archive for May, 2009

Photo diary

Here instead of blabbering on I’ll just do a little show and tell without the tell

Fava Flower

Fava Flower

Fava coming out through a dead flower

Fava coming out through a dead flower

No wok strawberries!

No wok strawberries!

Pea flower

Pea flower



We’re off to Portland for the weekend so I’ll update you on that and how the upside down tomato hanging went when we get back.


CSA Bounty

We got our first installment of our CSA (community supported agriculture) of the season yesterday. Oh, the bounty. If you haven’t heard a CSA is when a group of people buys into a farmer’s season. They get a share of what is harvested each week. If things are good, you get more for your money, if they are bad, less. Plus in our case you get to know your farmer and you can quiz him on what kind of compost to use.  What you see on the table includes pea and sunflower shoots, beets, radishes, oregano, lettuce, Swiss Chard, onions, onion flowers and maybe something I’ve forgotten.

Our farmer, Ward, is doing a pretty awe inspiring thing. He lives in East Vancouver and does all of his farming within 5 km of his house and within the city limits. He farms his back yard and that of several other people; he also has a rooftop garden in the mix. Because he is an aware conscientious gardener (I guess that’s what happens to smart kids growing up on farms in Saskatewan) he can take advantage of the different soils and micro-climates at all of his various locals and produces suburb crops. His spinach didn’t make into the first photo but here I am with just one leaf of it. I try not to size myself up to Ward after all, I can hardly get spinach to do anything, but my favas and peas are about the size of Ward’s so I I hope I’m learning. Frankly, I think Ward should win gardener of the year. Check out his website cityfarmboy even though this year’s CSA is full .

Hope in Shadows. Another book review

hope in shadows

Here I am again with another admission right at the start, not on the book list, but something I’m reading for a competition I’m working. Nonetheless its a book I think people should know about.

It’s a hard book to recommend because its not always easy to read, but I think it’s very worthwhile reading. To explain, I guess I need to really say what it is. The name Hope in Shadows comes from an annual photo competition that happens here in Vancouver on the Downtown Eastside. even if you are not familiar with Vancouver the DTES might ring a bell. It’s got lots of hard statistics associated with it in terms of drug use, prostitution and homelessness. I have even heard said that while the quality of life in Vancouver has been rated the highest in the world, that of the DTES ranks with third world African countries. I have no substantiation as to the truth of that or even where it comes from, but it gives a sense of how people view the area. Our downtown studio is in that area and to be honest, its easy to see how people only have that impression. You can walk down the street and see people shooting up, among other crazy things and if you’re a guy you’ll often get approached by prostitutes. That said, I’ve also gotten used to the area. Its a place I wouldn’t carry a lot of cash and I don’t venture down alleys, but by day its not completely unsafe and at night its good to keep a sharp eye and walk with a purpose, but I don’t avoid going there, in fact there is a great veggie store down that way.

So, with that background, Hope in Shadows the photo competition, gives disposable cameras to residents and asks them to capture their DTES. The book takes some of the photographers and gets the story of the photographs and the life of the photographer. Some of the stories are truly amazing, what people have been through, what they are going through. From the stories emerges a sense of community and the strength of humanity in the DTES. The photographers sometimes fit the stereotypes of residents sometimes not, but even when they do fit the preconceived notions they always break beyond those notions and show what we all know if we are willing to think for a second, that people are always complex and always more that statistical.

The Fixer: summer reading list book review 1

the fixer

Okay, so I read the easiest book first… okay so I put a book I was already reading on my list, who cares.

The Fixer is good, just like Joe Sacco’s other work, but I sense that it would be best as what I think it is, an amendent to his Bosnia stories in Safe Area Goražde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995 and War’s End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-96.. That said, I wonder if I would like those as much. See, the fixer is about someone Joe meets in Sarajevo. He’s a fixer, someone who will take you to the story, bring you to the front lines. The book being all about this man and his relationship to Joe, the war and other reporters, brings out questions inherent in the field of journalism, but so rarely brought to the fore by journalists. There is the question of the authenticity of the source, the meaning of truth, the bias brought by his introductions, the inability to access any one else. There is also friendship and the real need to connect to people more deeply and how this can both aid and inhibit journalistic efforts.

I thought the best thing about Palastine was the way Joe Sacco revealed himself in the situation, making journalism what it is, a passionate, but inherently human and hence flawed but meaningful pursuit.

City Compost

I’ve been looking around for a really nice mix of compost so as to fully fulfil the requirements of Mel’s mix from Square Foot Garden. Truth be told, I have had a hard time finding 5 different kinds at all. There seems to be one brand of steer manure, one of mushroom manure one other animal manure and sea soil which isn’t actually strictly compost but might have been better anyhow.  My search lead me surprisingly to the city of Vancouver. The Vancouver metro area composts all of the yard trimmings from city parks and resident’s lawns producing around 18,000 tons each year. The best thing though is that you can go to the city dump and, at least in May, you can pick up 1 cu meter of compost for free.

over Colin's shoulder, all compost.

So we did this. We drove down to the dump in Delta and when we said we wanted compost we got waved past the huge line for the weigh station and were given a free compost coupon. At first we went to far and we ended up seeing the real deal of compost, piles and piles at various stages. Right in front of us an earth mover dumped a ton of compost into the back of someone’s truck. Seeing as we only have a balcony we really didn’t need a truckload of compost and we were sent back to the beginning.

The line to have compost dumped in huge quantities into the back of your truck

The line to have compost dumped in huge quantities into the back of your truck

When we finally found the do-it-yourself compost pile, there were a couple of shovels and a guy filling the back of his station wagon. No one took our coupon and it seemed the limit wasn’t really 1 cubic meter, but rather whatever you were willing to shovel. We took what we needed and were off.

There were two great things about going to the dump. First, the sign you can see in the photo of Colin shoveling says no hand loading in this area and yet, unless they mean load with bare hands instead of shovels there was no other option besides hand loading. Second, we saw a bald eagle. This is the second time I’ve been to a dump in Canada and the second time I’ve seen bald eagles in a Canadian dump. I love that our national symbol, so rarely found at home, likes to hang out in Canadian dumps.

Garden Update

The whole thing, whether you can see it well or not

The whole thing, whether you can see it well or not

I haven’t given much of a garden update recently so maybe it’s time. I did a lot of work today. The second square foot box I made did not look so stable stratling the railing and, though it probably would have been fine, it was a bit disconcerting. I detached the boxes and drilled them right into the railing. I’m planning on doing the same thing to the other box next season as age might be making that a wise decision. The process went smoothly as soon as we bought a new drill. Irrelevant but important aside- it is okay to buy cheap corded drills, but never buy a cheap cordless drill, its just a bad bad idea.

The favas have been amazing, followed at a distance by the peas. In 2.5 months the favas have gone from seed to being at least 3 feet tall. They are blossoming all over with flowers that turn out to be quite lovely. It’s enough to inspire me to only grow favas next year. There is something to be said for growing what grows best in your region. It could also be the container, which is significantly larger and deeper than any of the other containers I use.

The peas are doing great too especially if you compare it to the spinich, chard and mache that have hardly grown in 2 months. I’m going to pull them up and mix in some of my new compost (see upcoming post) and maybe some fertilizer.

I’ve got a strawberry, though I can’t take much credit as I bought the plant with the flowers on it and it really hasn’t grown much.

I also transplanted the arugula in two sets. The ones I set out first took some adjustment (I forgot to harden them off- opps). Though initially the ones still inside grew a lot more, they are weaker and I think the ones I set out first are doing better in terms of number of leaves and strength. I think I’ll plant some directly outside, which I think is the way to go for most things, especially small plants around here.

As per Robert’s suggestion I planted some radishes to give me a quick turnover and make me feel good about my gardening by actually getting some produce out of it since the spinach hasn’t done too well. As promised they’ve come up big and bold. Woohoo.

I’ve got squash, cucs and tomatos in the closets and hop rhizomes in the frig. I’m a bit worried I don’t have room for squash, but worse comes to worse, it doesn’t survive.

I’m planning on hanging two of the three tomatoes upside down with marigolds on top and have one of the hops hanging as well.

I may have bitten off more than I can chew this season, but I’ve already got all the food in my mouth and I think with just a few more big chews I’ll get back to enjoying things.

Henderson’s Books!


Care of Kathryn Hackney's Flickr stream

Care of Kathryn Hackney's Flickr stream



On our way back from a lovely family picnic in the Skagit valley we stopped in Belingham at what I am now willing to call the best bookstore ever.

Hendeson’s is a relatively small storefront, but once you get in the door it begins to unfold, row upon row of books twisting and turning through the space in a labrynth of text. Books rise all the way to the ceiling and then more are stacked on the floor where they should be shelved if there was room. All the books are used, but it is still remarkably organized.

Now I here some of you bouncing up and down in your seats with Powell’s whining off your lips. How can I compare this to Powell’s? It makes up for Powell’s five floors with a personal reading space feeling. Plus the price is right. At Powell’s, more often than not I’d look at a used book and it always seems a little too expensive. At Henderson’s I would pick up a book and think, “if this was $7 I would totally buy it.” I’d open it up and, low and behold- $7. Suffice it to say I now have much of my summer reading list and a lot of architecture books I would never have gotten otherwise.