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The fifth annual Edible Garden Tour takes place on Sunday August 4, 2013!

Here is the link to the downloadable PDF version of the guidebook for the 2013 Edible Garden Tour, including the Food Literacy Treasure Hunt entry form and a feedback form. Printed versions are also available at Breakwater Books and Kingfisher Books in Powell River and at the Black Point Store south of town.

One of the wonderful gardens you'll be visiting on the Edible Garden Tour this year.

One of the wonderful gardens you’ll be visiting on the Edible Garden Tour this year.

Please be aware that the gardens are split up into two sets:

  • From 9:00 AM to 12:00 noon: a morning set of five gardens in Powell River (or slightly outside);
  • From 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM: an afternoon set of six more gardens on Southview Road north of Powell River.

There is no fixed order for the gardens, but be sure to visit the morning gardens in the morning and the afternoon ones in the afternoon! See the maps for the overall layout of the tour, and plan your day. Don’t feel that you must see every garden, and leave yourself time to relax and smell the roses (and everything else).

Members of the local chapter of the Master Gardeners Association of BC will be available at Rik Revfem’s & Larry Ramus’s garden in the morning and at Glen & Laura Bruce’s garden in the afternoon. They will be happy to answer any of your questions about plants, edible or otherwise. If you’re trying to solve a problem in your own garden, they probably know what’s going on!

There is a two-hour lunch break between noon and 2:00 PM; we’re encouraging everyone to meet up at the Open Air Farmers’ Market for lunch and to compare notes on the morning’s gardens. There will be an answer to one of the clues in the treasure hunt there as well.

Again this year, we have provided little stamps at each garden (look for the blue or red box in each garden). This lets you stamp your guidebook for each garden you visit so you have a record of the places you saw.

Once again this year, we are featuring a Food Literacy Treasure Hunt to enrich your knowledge of food and gardening. The description of each garden in this guidebook contains a clue. When you have found the answer for each clue, write it into your guidebook in the space provided. Once you have found at least four answers, you can leave your guidebook at the last garden you visit. We’ll be collecting these and drawing for prizes, including a $50 gift certificate for Sunshine Organics/Ecossentials, a $25 gift certificate from Breakwater Books, and a free Good Food Box. (Write your name and contact info somewhere on your guidebook, so we can find you!) If you don’t want to hand in this guidebook, you can find a handy entry form in each garden where you stamp your guidebook and donate.

Please feel free to leave a donation at any one of the gardens you visit. All donations will support next year’s Edible Garden Tour and other local food projects in the region. Thank you!

The Fourth Annual Edible Garden Tour is brought to you by Transition Town Powell River and the Powell River Food Security Project, with help and support from the Powell River Literacy Council. We acknowledge the support and participation of the gardeners who have generously opened up their gardens to the public. And thanks to our generous sponsors: Springtime Garden Centre, Mother Nature, Eternal Seed, Wildwood Gardens & Nursery, and Breakwater Books.

Hi there and thank you for your interest in the 2013 Edible Garden Tour. The planning team is working hard to get the gardens all lined up and we plan to have the guidebook (with maps and the clues to the Food Literacy Treasure Hunt) by July 19. Please check back by then.

If you would like to be on the email list for the Powell River Food Security Project and receive a weekly-ish email update with information about upcoming workshops and other food-related activities in the region, please contact us. Thanks!

Here is the link to the downloadable PDF version of the guidebook for the 2012 Edible Garden Tour, including the food literacy treasure hunt entry form and feedback form. Printed versions are also available at Kingfisher Used Books in Powell River and at the Black Point Store south of town.

Just one of the fabulous gardens on display on this year’s Edible Garden Tour. Come on out to see them all!

Please be aware that the gardens are split up into two sets:

  • From 9:00 AM to 12:00 noon: a morning set of five gardens south of Powell River;
  • From 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM: an afternoon set of six more gardens in Westview, Cranberry, and Townsite.

There is no fixed order for the gardens, but be sure to visit the morning gardens in the morning and the afternoon ones in the afternoon! See the maps for the overall layout of the tour, and plan your day.

Members of the local chapter of the Master Gardeners Association of BC will be available at Julia Downs’ garden in the morning and at Susan Canning & Roger Thorn’s garden in the afternoon. They will be happy to answer any of your questions about plants, edible or otherwise. If you’re trying to solve a problem in your own garden, they probably know what’s going on!

There is a two-hour lunch break between noon and 2:00 PM; we’re encouraging everyone to meet up at the Open Air Farmers’ Market for lunch and to compare notes on the morning’s gardens.

Again this year, we have provided little stamps at each garden (look for the blue or red box in each garden). This lets you stamp your guidebook for each garden you visit so you have a record of the places you saw.

Once again this year, we are featuring a food literacy treasure hunt to test your knowledge of food and gardening. The description of each garden in this guidebook contains a clue. When you have found the answer for each clue, write it into your guidebook in the space provided. Once you have found at least four answers, you can leave your guidebook at the last garden you visit. We’ll be collecting these and drawing for prizes, including a $50 gift certificate for Sunshine Organics/Ecossentials and a free Good Food Box. (Write your name and contact info somewhere on your guidebook, so we can find you!) If you don’t want to hand in this guidebook, you can find a handy entry form in each garden where you stamp your guidebook and donate.

Please feel free to leave a donation at any one of the gardens you visit. All donations will support next year’s Edible Garden Tour and other local food projects in the region. Thank you!

The Fourth Annual Edible Garden Tour is brought to you by Transition Town Powell River and the Powell River Food Security Project, with help and support from the Powell River Literacy Council. We acknowledge the support and participation of the gardeners who have generously opened up their gardens to the public.

Hang in there… we’re working frantically behind the scenes to prepare the guidebook & map for the Edible Garden Tour. This year, we’re featuring five gardens south of Powell River in the morning, and six gardens in Powell River in the afternoon. The Edible Garden Tour will take place on Sunday August 5, which marks the beginning of the 50 days of the 50-Mile Eat-Local Challenge, ending on the second day of the Fall Fair (Sunday September 23).

The morning gardens will be open for viewing between 9:00 AM and 12:00 noon, and the afternoon gardens from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM. We’re inviting people to spend their midday break at the Open Air Farmers’ Market.

The organizers are excited about this year’s lineup of gardens, and we know you will be too. So keep watching this space for updates. The guidebook & map will be available by the last weekend in July. If you want to be on the email list of the Powell River Food Security Project and receive regular updates about the Edible Garden Tour and all the other food-related activities going on in the region, please contact the Coordinator David Parkinson at david@prfoodsecurity.org.

Just one of the magnificent gardens you will be visiting on August 7, 2011...

Here is the link to the downloadable PDF version of the guidebook for the 2011 Edible Garden Tour, including the food literacy treasure hunt entry form and feedback form. Printed versions are also available in Powell River at Mother Nature, Springtime Nursery, Breakwater Books, and Kingfisher Used Books.

Hello and welcome to Powell River’s Third Annual Edible Garden Tour, kicking off the sixth annual 50-Mile Eat-Local Challenge. The Edible Garden Tour is a great way to see how other people in the region are producing some of their own food. Please respect the gardens you’re visiting. No grazing without permission! But definitely ask lots of questions.

Please be aware that the gardens are split up into two sets:

  • From 9:00 AM to 12:00 noon: a morning set of five gardens in Lund and Wildwood;
  • From 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM: an afternoon set of five more gardens in Westview, Cranberry, and Townsite.

There is no fixed order for the gardens, but be sure to visit the morning gardens in the morning and the afternoon ones in the afternoon! See the maps for the overall layout of the tour, and plan your day.

Note that the Lund gardens involve some forest walks, uneven ground, and possibly a bit of puddle-jumping. Wear good walking shoes. Those with limited mobility might want to drive as close to the Lund gardens as possible.

There is a one-hour lunch break between noon and 1:00 PM; Owen Gaskell and Daphne Wilson have graciously offered up their garden as a place to have a picnic lunch and meet some of the other people on the tour. Be sure to pack a picnic lunch and something to sit on. Then visit their garden and continue on from there into the afternoon gardens.

At most of the gardens you will see a display or demonstration from some local community groups connected to growing and food production.

This year, we have provided little stamps at each garden (look for the blue box). This lets you stamp your guidebook for each garden you visit so you have a record of the places you saw.

Once again this year, we are featuring a food literacy treasure hunt to test your knowledge of food and gardening. The description of each garden in this guidebook contains a clue. When you have found the answer for each clue, write it into your guidebook in the space provided. Once you have found at least four answers, you can leave your guidebook at the last garden you visit. We’ll be collecting these and drawing for prizes, including a $50 gift certificate for Sunshine Organics/Ecossentials and a free Good Food Box. (Write your name and contact info somewhere on your guidebook, so we can find you!) If you don’t want to hand in this guidebook, you can find a handy entry form in each garden where you stamp your guidebook and donate.

Please feel free to leave a donation at one (or more!) of the gardens you visit. All donations will support next year’s Edible Garden Tour and other local food projects in the region. Thank you!

As this guidebook goes to print, we are still working on bus and carpool service. Please check the Transition Town Powell River website for information closer to the date of the Edible Garden Tour.

The Third Annual Edible Garden Tour is brought to you by Transition Town Powell River and the Powell River Food Security Project, with help and support from the Powell River Literacy Council and Skookum Gleaners. We acknowledge the support and participation of the gardeners who have generously opened up their garden to the public.

Happy, illegal hens.

In an earlier post, I laid out my best understanding of Powell River’s somewhat complicated Animal Control Bylaw 1979, 2003. After some months of work behind the scenes, the City’s proposed amendments to this bylaw will be presented for a first reading this Thursday at the meeting of the Committee of the Whole. These amendments come in the wake of the successful ‘Hens in the Hood’ youth employment project back in late 2010, which constructed a number of test sites within city limits and monitored them for problems with odour, pests, noise, and predators. At the same time, the youth in the project conducted a survey among Powell River residents which indicated strong support for increased freedom to raise hens in the city:

  • food sustainability was important to 98.8% of respondents;
  • 98.4% believed that it is important for City Hall to support local food practices; and
  • 96.7% believed that people should be able to raise hens within the municipality.

In the context of the City’s own Sustainability Charter and ever-increasing public awareness of the need to promote local production of and access to healthy food, it’s a bit disappointing to see that the amendments as proposed actually appear to go backwards.

In order to best understand the situation, it might be good to review the earlier post, and especially to pay attention to the zoning map: specifically zone RA1 (which is restricted to parts of Wildwood) and zones R1 and R2 (scattered throughout Cranberry and Westview). It appears that the bylaw amendments will not affect agricultural zones A1 and A2

As I understand them, here are some of the main changes that this bylaw amendment would introduce if passed by Council as is:

  1. The current bylaw excludes animals other than dogs or cats from all zones except RA1, A1, and A2. The amendments would permit up to four hens on parcels of land zoned R1 or R2, provided that the lot area is 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres) or more.
    RESULT: City staff, in their report to Council, admit that “By limiting hens to half acre lots, very few R1 or R2 properties in the City would even qualify as candidate sites.” None of the test sites from the Hens in the Hood project would qualify under this new regime.
  2. The current bylaw refers to “poultry” when setting out limits on numbers of animals that may be kept on parcels of land zoned RA1, A1, or A2. The amendments continue to permit “hens  and  other  poultry” for zones A1 and A2, but hens only in zone RA1. In the City’s staff report it is noted that “The keeping of other poultry such as water fowl and turkeys is not recommended as these birds require different shelter, water, and care arrangements as well as additional space.”
    RESULT: Anyone currently raising ducks, turkeys, or other fowl on a parcel of land zoned RA1 will be in violation of the new bylaw.
  3. The current bylaw permits up to 12 poultry, none of which may be a rooster, or 20 rabbits on a parcel of land zoned Ra1, A1, or A2 having an area of 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres) or less; and up to 24 poultry, one of which may be a rooster, or 50 rabbits on a parcel of land zoned RA1, A1, or A2 having an area greater than 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres). The amendments allow a maximum of 10 rabbits in an area zoned RA1 provided that the lot area is 0.2 hectares (0.5 acres) or more. From the staff report: “Staff do not recommend expanding the keeping of rabbits as these animals multiply at exponential rates
    if released or escaped from pens.”
    RESULT: No change with respect to raising hens in zones RA1, A1, or A2. But the number of legally permissible rabbits is significantly reduced.
  4. The amendments state that “All owners of lands accommodating hens must be registered as regards this activity with the City in the form and manner prescribed by the Animal Control Officer.”

The upshot is that things remain pretty much unchanged for agricultural parcels zoned A1 or A2; it will become much more restricted in zone RA1; and there will be relatively no change in any other area of Powell River.

What has happened is that the City has had input from a number of organizations and individuals who see only the potential downside of making it easier to raise hens and other small animals in the City: the Conservation Officer, Bylaw Enforcement, the Human Society, and the local SPCA office. The City has not had any organized pressure from groups or individuals interested in making it easier to raise small livestock. There are serious challenges involved, especially the threat from predators, and some kind of city-wide plan will be required in order to address these challenges. Advocating for a more liberal bylaw regime, and helping the City deal with the potential negative consequences, is something that an existing organization might take on; for example, the Powell River Farmers’ Institute. Or citizens who are genuinely concerned could form an organization to carry out this advocacy work.

This blog isn’t getting the attention it deserves, and that’s probably because I have another personal blog, Slow Coast, to which I post almost weekly. (I’ve put myself on an every-eight-day deadline.)

This week’s post, “Why don’t we have a local food incubator?”, concerns an idea that has come up time and again since I’ve been coordinating the Powell River Food Security Project. We have all kinds of produce in the summertime and fall, but very little local food available during the cool wet months. many people have preserved or revived the traditional skills of food preservation, but many have lost those skills or never learned the in the first place.

It seems to me that we need to work towards this, and probably from a few different angles. We have the skills, materials, and facilities. We just need to put them together to support individuals and small businesses to help us feed ourselves throughout the year.

Anyway, take a look at the Slow Coast post and the Ecowatch post that it links to. Any thoughts? Leave a comment.

Stay tuned… the planning team is banging together the final details and preparing the guidebook and map. We’re hoping that it will be ready by the weekend of July 31/August 1, at the following locations in Powell River:

  • Breakwater Books
  • Ecossentials
  • Kingfisher Books
  • Springtime Nursery
  • Mother Nature
  • Rainbow Valley Feed
  • Open Air Market

It’s going to be a really interesting tour this year: lots of innovative approaches to gardening and growing food, and a few of the gardeners are overcoming some interesting challenges: one is gardening in a wheelchair; another has had to bring in or build almost all the soil in his garden, since he is gardening on a rocky outcropping; another two or three are older women gardening on their own and on a budget.

There are ten gardens in total, as well as one other stop of interest, where Master Composter Carol Engram will demonstrate her worm-composting operation. Once we have the guidebook ready, we’ll be letting people know.

Look for our lovely poster around the region (created by Giovanni Spezzacatena):

The 2010 Poster

Cross-posted at Slow Coast.

Workshop attendee and cheesemaker-in-training Julia Downs cuts curds into a workable size

After the full-on whirlwind of Earth Day, about 30 folks in Powell River had a stimulating opportunity to learn about cheesemaking from itinerant cheesemaker David Asher Rotsztain, who visited us from Mayne Island, where he farms and works to preserve the traditional craft of small-scale cheesemaking.

During the course of a three-and-a-half-hour workshop, we went through some of the basics of cheesemaking. David talked about the choice of milk, the politics of rennet, the odd history of orange Cheddar, the structure and types of milk proteins which are being manipulated to provide us with such a variety of textures and flavours, and plenty more.

What was most heartening to me was to see so many people come out on a Sunday interested in learning how they can engage with one of the most venerable means of food preservation. Some (like myself) were complete novices, never having deliberately made cheese; others were fairly old hands at certain types of cheesemaking willing to learn more about the complexities and details.

We started off adding some kefir to 4 litres of local whole milk warmed to somewhere close to body temperature, the perfect zone of warmth for bacteria to proliferate in. The bacteria, yeasts, and other critters in the kefir culture got to work souring the milk by converting the milk sugar lactose to lactic acid. Then David added a small amount of rennet, a digestive enzyme extracted from the fourth stomach of a suckling calf, in order to start the coagulation. Throughout the workshop, as we discussed other techniques and worked on other processes, we periodically checked the progress of the curdling as the curds separated from the whey.

Finally, as shown in the image above, we were able, gently, to cut the curds and, again gently, stir them to expel whey and firm them up. This is the step before pulling them from the whey and placing them in a mold where they would expel more whey, compress, and settle into the final shape and size.

David Asher Rotsztain setting out the samples of cheeses... first we learn, then we eat.

David told us all about the amazing and complex world of molds and their cooperative interaction with the process of ripening. I did not know that in order to create a camembert or blue cheese, all that is needed is to inoculate the souring milk with some spores from the desired mold (Penicillium candida or P. roqueforti respectively). The mold in question will create a mycelial network throughout the ripening cheese, much in the same way as mushrooms create vast networks throughout the soil of a forest. Spore-producing bodies analogous to mushrooms will pop up on the surface of the cheese, as in surface-ripened cheeses like camembert and brie — that’s what that furry rind is on those cheeses. In the case of blue cheeses, the spore-producing bodies are blue in colour and appear wherever the mold comes into contact with air. The veins in blue cheese are produced by thrusting skewers through the cheese to create air holes where the blue mold will appear.

We made paneer, a traditional Indian cheese produced by heating milk close to boiling and then adding something acidic as a curdling agent. We used a nice organic apple cider vinegar, which instantly created about three pounds of soft curds which David pulled from the whey with a slotted spoon, setting them aside to drain and solidify somewhat. Later he salted them lightly, split the batch in two, and added some ground chipotle peppers to half. (Delicious!)

After a dizzying ride through the amazing world of cheese, yogurt, and kefir, we concluded by sampling the paneer we made, along with a camembert from Salt Spring Island, another washed-rind soft cheese with a very pungent aroma, and a wonderfully yellow blue cheese from Moonstruck Organic Cheese also on Salt Spring Island. Some wine would have been nice…

Since I was coordinating these workshops on behalf of the Powell River Food Security Project, I sat through two in a row. Even then, I was fascinated both times to learn about the simple processes which convert milk into cheeses with such rich and complex flavours and textures. It’s an extraordinary art and one that would be nice to see revived here more visibly. There seems to be a cheese underground out there, and let’s hope that with some more practice and exposure we can work towards a flourishing local cheese industry.

(If you’re interested in knowing about future workshops offered through the Powell River Food Security, please contact us and get on our email contact list.)

[Cross-posted from Slow Coast]

Volunteers survey the results of the Good Food Box run (L to R: Claire Chase, Jaden Crooks, Lee Lorenzen, Jeremy Blanchette, M. Lee Lorenzen, elbow belonging to Robert Holmgren)

On the second Wednesday of every month (except July and August) a small miracle takes place in Powell River. This miracle is like many others that happen all around us all the time; we may be entirely unaware of them, but no matter — if we took the time to write the untold history of the communities we live in, we’d be endlessly finding unsuspected hives of activity; new groups, gangs, tribes, and teams coming together for special purposes; a whole buried secret world of affiliations and affinities. And small miracles that we take for granted at our peril.

Last week’s Chamber of Commoners get-together was intended to bring together some of the many organizations in the region whose activities are less well-known than they should be. In this age of information overload, it’s hard to stay on top of everything going on even in a relatively small region like ours. We have resources like the Powell River Peak, Powell River Living, Immanence Magazine, and the community calendar; but it’s not possible for every group to get its message out. I try to keep my ear to the ground, but of course I keep finding out about groups I’d never heard of (the latest is the Sunshine Gogos, which apparently has 56 members and is quite a going concern).

Imagine a diagram of all the people in the region, with lines connecting us together through our various groups and affiliations, with colour-coding to indicate all the different categories of activity. It would be mind-boggling — and, even then, it would only convey the most superficial picture of the complexity of the connectedness among folks in the region.

One of the little nodes of connectedness happens on the morning of the second Wednesday of the month in the Trinity Hall at the United Church in Powell River: the Good Food Box packing day. And I call it a minor miracle, because it produces so much positive action and energy with so little overhead.

The Good Food Box is a project that got started just over five years ago out of the PREP Society‘s BOND project, which supports pre- and peri-natal moms and newborns. The group of young moms was looking for a project that would help them provide for their own food needs, and they found the idea of a monthly box of produce, prepaid and reasonably priced. It’s been running since then with only minor changes. Here’s how it works: participants prepay their $12.00 produce box by the third day of the month; payment can be arranged through the Family Place in the Town Centre Mall, Centsibles thrift store on Marine Ave., at the PREP Society office on Marine Ave., or by calling the coordinator Annabelle Tully-Barr at (604) 485-8213.

Annabelle collates the orders and works with the produce department at Save-On Foods, who support the program by offering a hefty discount on the bulk order of produce. Then, on the second Wednesday, the team of volunteers gathers at the United Church to sort, weigh, and pack the produce into boxes and bags. This month, a participant’s $12.00 bought:

  • Five pounds of potatoes;
  • One or two onions, depending on the size;
  • Two pounds of carrots;
  • Four heads of garlic;
  • One head of romaine lettuce;
  • One bunch of green onions;
  • One bunch of radishes;
  • Four “Granny Smith” apples;
  • Three large oranges;
  • One lime;
  • One mango;
  • One bunch of four bananas.

Some families buy more than one Good Food Box, since it is such a good deal. And we know that there is a network of people buying boxes to help family, friends, an neighbours who are needy. So the produce is getting out there and promoting healthy eating and creating social solidarity.

And the activity of packing up the boxes and bags creates another whole network, one that I have been participating in for about three years now. For over a year, we are lucky to have a class from the Powell River Christian School come over and help. It’s always a bit of a madhouse making sure that everything weighs the right amount and is ready at the same time. And meanwhile, there is always a crew of volunteers in the kitchen cooking up some amazing food for lunch.

By about 11:00 we’re ready to start The Run: this is where some volunteers race around the tables set out in a U shape, with other volunteers filling the boxes/bags with the various items of produce. For a few minutes all is chaos, but eventually we’re finished and the floor is lined with neat rows of boxes and bags of produce ready to be picked up and delivered.

By this time, everyone is ready for lunch, so we all sit down together and enjoy a fabulous home-cooked meal. Last week, we had hand-made tortillas with rice, beans, fresh salsa, cheese, and sour cream; cold Asian noodle salad with satay sauce; chicken noodle soup made with local chicken and hand-rolled fresh fettucine noodles; and because it was almost Valentine’s Day, rice krispie squares with candy hearts. Our kitchen crew deserves kudos for stretching a small food budget into delicious and healthy meals (rice krispie squares notwithstanding).

We may only come together for a few hours each month, but we’re a gang of people who enjoy working together. We laugh and share jokes and stories, we share a meaningful task that makes a difference in the community, and best of all we share food. The crew of regular volunteers, led by the tireless Annabelle Tully-Barr, manage to make this initiative hang together from one month to the next, despite chronic lack of funding. Somehow the boxes from one month manage to pay for the little expenses, and we have support from the United Church, the Ministry of Housing and Social Development, and River City Movers. The Good Food Box is a clear example of the many small shoestring operations out there in the region which bring good things into people’s lives with very little fuss and fanfare, and whose disappearance would leave an empty space in these lives. We should do everything we can to help fan these sparks into flame — or at least to keep them glowing until some real kindling comes along.

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