Archive for July, 2007

I think the subject of food seems daunting because there are so many different questions, so many different problems. And that’s something that really compelled me about writing this book. I love to start with a huge unanswerable boggling kind of question and see if I can whittle it down into the shape of a really good yarn. You know, I just love to see if I can give it a plot and make you laugh all along the way and maybe make you cry at the end, and create something that will invite you in. And then when you’re finished and you close the book, maybe you’ll step out into the world in a slightly different way and ask your own questions and answer the questions in your own way.
– Barbara Kingsolver in an interview with Krista Tippet, host of Speaking of Faith

Ever since I read The Poisonwood Bible seven years ago, Barbara Kingsolver has been one of my favourite writers. Her latest book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is on my “to read” list and today after listening to the podcast of a recent American public media program, this book has now moved to the #1 spot on the list.

Here is the link to the web page with all your listening and reading options for this episode of Speaking of Faith.

I downloaded this podcast and listened to it on my ipod while walking Piper this afternoon, but it’s so engaging you may want to just sit and listen. I’m going to replay it later and do just this.


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This is the context of my urban garden this summer: Canada Line construction (and Cambie Street deconstruction and worst of all, merchant devastation) one block to the east; high-rise condo construction 1/2 block to the west; busy alley less than 50 feet from my balcony. Tearing down and building up, digging holes and filling holes, and the daily traffic to and from work — all this generates a lot of dirt. Not the good kind that nourishes plants. It’s what I call dead dirt, or simply, filth.

So today, after spending two hours cleaning the grime and dust from my balcony garden, a task I should repeat weekly, nothing expresses my feelings better than this song by Mother, Mother:

Dirty Town (excerpt)

I don’t like living in a dirty town
Cause a dirty town gets me down

I saved up and i bought some land
Cause i can’t stand living in a dirty town
Yeah i pinched my pennies and i put em down
And i washed my hands of a dirty town

Plant my seeds in the ground
Yeah i put em down in my new found land
Cause you can’t plant seeds in a dirty town
No you can’t plant seeds in a dirty town

I choppin’ firewood choppin’ firewood
Chop chop chop
Just like a country boy should be chopping wood
I country
My kindling sticks are the perfect little width
Kindling sticks

Get gone from a dirty town
Everybody now
Get gone from a dirty town
Ah-ah-ah-all i need is a chicken wire / and a chicken feed
And a ah-ah-ah-all i see is a new found land fertility, yeah!

You can listen to this fun, smart song on the band’s My Space page here.

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Enjoying a peach
Have you subscribed to the KGI newsletter yet? I received the latest edition this morning. I really need to stop checking my email before I start gardening. I’m doing a clean-up today — eventually — but the newsletter looked too luscious to save until the evening so I’ve sampled some of the contents. Who could resist that sweet Georgia peach?

This issue covers garlic, cucumbers, tomatoes peaches, 101 simple summer meals and g-pods (sounds intriguing).

Photo downloaded from the newsletter. Credit: Savannah Grandfather.

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Do you need inspiration? Encouragement? Perhaps to create your magnum opus? Or, to try yet again to grow your dream garden?

Look no further than this small and beautiful zine by jen lemen:


I received my eagerly-awaited copy in the mail yesterday. It will occupy the dining room table for some time — perhaps indefinitely — so I can read passages throughout the day, whenever I walk by.

I’m hoping jen will write “middles” to help us get through the stage where we get stuck or off track.

You can purchase jen’s book on this Etsy page.

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~ Summer Poetry

Some people eat ice cream or drink iced tea, some go swimming, and others nap on a blanket under a shady tree — and I enjoy these pleasures, too — but lately, I’ve been seeking relief from the heat (and to be honest, other stresses) by reading poetry.

Here is a selective sample of poems I discovered through my favourite blogs:

The Sun by Mary Oliver (posted by jen lemen)

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver (posted by Christine of Abbey of the Arts)

Daily by Naomi Shahib Nye (posted by Christine of Abbey of the Arts)


Addendum: I feel the need to tie this post to gardening. OK, here is the connection. Until today, for the past week it’s been too hot to garden on my south-facing balcony with its glass railing and heat-amplifying deck. Even some of my nasturtiums got sun-burned. So, I’ve been taking refuge in the coolest room in my apartment, the office, and spending a lot of time online reading blogs. Well, one blog leads to another and it really isn’t much of a leap to go from gardening to poetry. It’s really a natural pairing.

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What I’m reading

Books and websites such as these (1, 2, 3) have inspired me to try to eat seasonally, locally, mindfully and sustainably by transforming my balcony from an ornamental to an edible garden and myself from a gardener to a farmer (although I think I can be both).

I have so much to learn. In my quest for knowledge and guidance, this week I returned to a trusted source of wisdom on how to live with nature: Orion Magazine. Here are links to a couple of articles I’m reading in the online version:

Stalking the Vegetannual by Barbara Kingsolver
Grace Before Dinner by Deborah Madison

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Sowing seeds in July

I am wilting in the heat today, but according to Linda Gilkeson’s calendar shared at the Seedy Solstice Talk, early July is the right time to think about planting these winter crops:

carrots, beets, rutabagas, endive, radicchio, Swiss chard/leaf beet and kohlrabi.

I’m contemplating growing After looking at this photo, I’ve decided to grow Bright Lights Swiss Chard from West Coast Seeds. It sounds ideal for year-round container gardening:

Grow this 1998 All-America Selection winner in your flower garden for fantastic colour all winter! This chard has thick stems of red, yellow, rose, gold and white, bearing lightly savoyed leaves of burgundy and green. Another choice vegetable to use in containers, and just picture the vivid colour on your table on a dull winter’s day! Grows 50cm (20 in.) tall.

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