Tardis Bird Feeder

Tardis Bird Feeder Garden Craft by Marlene Wurfel

Says Community Garden Director, Marlene Wurfel, “Within an hour of hanging this in our blue spruce, a blue nuthatch arrived to hover around it in wonderment. Yes, we named him The Doctor.”

To make a Tardis birdfeeder watch this tutorial.

And print these templates (click on them  for resized versions):

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Yield by Marlene Wurfel

In my last “from the permaculture patch” article I asked you to evaluate your relationship with your garden and with our community garden. In high summer do have a garden full of flowers but can only see the few weeds? Are you grateful the snow is concealing the state of your front yard? When you spot a garden gnome, does his look strike you as smug and reproachful? If your relationship with gardening could be summed up by: “Ugh, I just haven’t been doing enough in the garden,” I asked you to stop sewing those particular seeds of shame and regret. Instead, let’s think of a garden as something that is for people, that gives more to people than it demands, and that should give more than it demands. If a garden is taking more than it is giving, we’re doing it wrong.

“Yield” is an important concept in permaculture. In order to design a green space with intention, we need to know what its purpose is. We need to know what we want our garden’s yield to be. Carrots? Beauty? Renewal? Fresh air?

What do you want from your green spaces?

If you want a private place that smells like spice lilies and sounds like wind chimes, where you can sit and sip sangria with your best friend, then make one of those, and don’t feel badly that you aren’t also growing enough turnips in that very spot to feed a monastery.

If you want to fill a root cellar with carrots and potatoes, plant carrots and potatoes, and don’t feel badly that you’re not also growing a row of every type of vegetable ever cultivated by man, including lemongrass, eggplant, and quinoa.

If you want a spot where the kids can make mud pies and kick a soccer ball, or where the dog can chew on some rawhide, don’t worry if wedding parties don’t tend to crash your back yard for photo ops.

If you’re just learning to garden or are new to Zone 3, and you want to experiment with growing cantaloupe, try growing cantaloupe, but be content that both cantaloupe and the knowledge that cantaloupe doesn’t grow very well here are a type of yield.

Do you really just want a quiet and private spot to feel the sun on your shoulders? A place to notice the seasons changing? Something pretty to look at out your kitchen window while you do dishes? One really beautiful tomato to make the best sandwich ever each September? Someplace that renews and recharges your senses and your spirit? A physical challenge?

The really empowering thing about knowing what we want our gardens to yield is that it allows us to perform the essential calculation of yield – investment = profit. Taking the time to calculate how our green spaces are benefitting us or not can help us make good decisions. We may need to repurpose our spaces and recalibrate our relationships with them. Making intentional choices can help us remove ourselves from the grim soldiering through of gardening as a chore, something we do because we must, because that is the way it is done, because that is the suburban dream dreamed up before we got our particular chunk of it and that is the way it has always been dreamt. What is important about a garden to you? Is it how it looks to neighbours and to passersby? How it looks to you? How it feels to be in that space? To spend as little time as possible working outdoors? Any of these are valid but knowing what we want our “yield” to be helps us make good decisions about what we invest. In many ways, yield is such a simple, obvious, basic concept that it’s easy to overlook.

Is there a yield you want from the Parkallen Community Garden? Is it kale? Is it basil? Connections within your community? Solitude? To learn from more experienced gardeners? To teach what you know to less experienced gardeners? Fresh air? To put some food on the family dinner table whether you are 4 or 44? The wherewithal to look the next smug and reproachful gnome you meet in the eye and say, “Look here, lil’ buddy, I helped make the Parkallen Community Garden awesome.” If there is a yield you want from the PCG, I encourage you to go and get it. Take it. Plan to take more from it than you give. Manage your time commitment – guiltlessly – to produce a positive yield.

E-mail sustainability@parkallen.ca at any time of year to be placed on the Parkallen Community Garden mailing list and to receive communications about all ages workbees and gardening events.

Guilt in the Garden by Marlene Wurfel

Since I’ve been directing the Parkallen Sprouts and the Parkallen Community Garden, I’ve been getting a new look from some of my neighbours that I didn’t used to – it’s one that signifies intense garden-related-guilt.

“No, Marlene,” they tell me when I drop by their homes, “please don’t look at my garden. It’s so full of weeds…”

Or, “The community garden looks wonderful this year and I feel so badly that I didn’t make it out even once. Maybe next year…” they sadly say with nothing at all resembling hope in their voices.

The theme is guilt, shame, and missed opportunity. Parkallen – the thing with gardens is that what you cultivate in them tends to grow. Are you cultivating guilt, shame and regret in your garden? Are you cultivating these things in our community garden? Stop it!

The Parkallen Community Garden is a permaculture project and one important element of permaculture is “obtain a yield.” That means the focus is on “getting from” a garden, not simply “putting in” for the sake of effort itself. In an ideal permaculture space, nothing is required from the gardener other than strolling through a beautiful green space, replenishing one’s self while filling a basket with healthy produce. The aim isn’t toiling but taking. The permaculturist always strives to let the soil, the sun and the rain do as much of the work as possible because their space has been planned from the onset to perform in that way. That’s why, for example, the Parkallen Community Garden has swales dug into the slope towards the hockey rink: so the garden can catch and store rain and melt water all on its own. Maximum yield for minimum effort is the end-goal. Parkallen Community Gardeners have been putting in effort to cultivate what’s been growing in the garden but, ultimately, probably less than you think. We’re striving to create a self-regulating space that gives more than it demands.

I heeded quite a few warnings when the Parkallen Community Garden was in the planning stages as a communally tended space that everybody would show up at harvest time to take but nobody would be willing to put in the effort. The reverse has tended to be true. We’re civilized people: We’ve read the “The Little Red Hen.” People are reluctant to take from the garden because they don’t feel they’ve put in the requisite effort.

My neighbor who regretted not visiting the garden that season could have walked straight there, picked enough for a dinner salad, marveled at the sunflowers, listened to the birds, tossed a dandelion into the weed bucket, tasted the mint, smooched a loved one in the sunshine, called it a season, and left. But she didn’t feel entitled. She hadn’t put enough in to take that much out. It is my sincerest wish that the Parkallen Community Garden be a place you take more from than you give. It would help me in achieving my yield from the garden – the reward and satisfaction of knowing that I’ve helped create a space in my community that replenishes, teaches, feeds and gives; not one that requires more from time-crunched urbanites than they can reasonably afford.

One of the reasons I love working with kids in the garden so much is that they have absolutely zero compunction with proudly digging up an armful of potatoes for dinner even though they were swinging on the monkey bars while someone’s mom took twenty minutes in the spring to hill the seed potatoes into the soil. Really, they can teach me as much, or possibly more, about healthy relationships to food as I can teach them.

What’s your relationship with your garden? Do you think of it as a place that demands more from you than you can give each season?  Do you think of it as a place that should demand more than it yields? Why? Would it benefit you to re-evaluate your relationship with your green spaces?

People aren’t for gardens; gardens are for people. Gardens are for feeding people, for relaxing people, for inspiring people and for replenishing people. A space that inspires guilt instead of satisfaction is not a well-designed green space.

So pretty please, Parkallen, if you’ve been scattering the seeds of guilt and shame in our community garden, or in your own gardens, just stop. Stop watering the guilt. Stop fertilizing the shame. Stop. Re-evaluate. Let’s cultivate something beautiful.

Congratulations Parkallen

Congratulations Parkallen:

The Parkallen Community Garden is the proud winner of the 2012 Edmonton in Bloom Community Garden Award.

We should be very proud that our vision, hard work and community spirit has caught the loving eye of Edmontonians despite that our garden is just one year old! We beat out some very well-established and marvelous community gardens to collect this top award at City Hall.

“Edmonton salutes the Parkallen Community Garden for making our city a beautiful place in which to live and grow.” — Councillor Kim Krushell, City of Edmonton

One of the newest cg’s, (Parkallen Community Garden’s) story of engagement & education as well as the communal nature of their garden and its design, garnered over 100 votes. Runner up was last year’s winner, Sustain SU Campus Community Garden.  (W)e thank the over 635 people who took the time to cast a ballot!” — Sustainable Food Edmonton

Sitting Pretty

Diggers:

Our garden is so lush and productive. It is gorgeous to look at, tasty to harvest from, and so very easy to hand pull weeds out of the loamy soil in which the edible vegetables we planted are thriving.

The lasagne gardening technique we deployed to build the soil is clearly a raging success. Building our own soil from freely obtained mulch proved economical (we saved thousands of dollars), easy (oh, we sweated, but not as much as we would have scraping away the sod and piling truckloads of bought topsoil on top of it then fighting off the grass that would have come back this spring), and so effective (fertile, organic, exquisitely healthy soil!)

As you’ve probably heard, we’ve caught the eye of some granting and awards panels who will be touring our garden this week on Wednesday and Friday. We had a hearty work bee tonight during which we fought back some vegetation off the pathways, trimmed the grass around the garden, leveled our mulch and compost piles, and planted a beautiful apple tree with 5 zone hardy branches grafted on it, a plum, and a beaked hazelnut shrub. What a productive evening.

We also slapped several thousand mosquitoes, so if you visit the garden, please wear bug protection. All that rain has the mosquitoes thriving too.

For the rest of the summer until harvest time and Shedtemberfest (stay tuned for more details) we’re sitting pretty. When you visit the garden, please focus on any of the following tasks:

  • Make something prettier — tidy, yank and tend. We’ve got to keep our pathways visible and our garden weed free. Weeds get tossed in the garbage, everything else (yellowed leaves, etc.) can go in the composters
  • Eat something: just now there is kale, basil, oregano, chard, lettuce, sugar snap peas, spinach, baby carrots and lots and lots of beets. Eat fresh veggies on the spot or take them home to process. Fill your belly, fill your freezer!
  • If something looks thirsty, water it! Fill a watering can at our watering station (on the South side of the Parkallen Hall)
  • Tend the composters: add organic materials (your kitchen scraps are welcome), fluff and turn the compost, or water if it looks dry

As always, e-mail sustainability@parkallen.ca to join us or with your good ideas.

Inch by inch,

Marlene
Director, Parkallen Sprouts

Kale will make you Hale

Hello Diggers. Isn’t our garden lovely?

This is our kale patch. In case you’re a bit shy of it, let me tell you what I do with kale.

Step 1 is to snap off a dozen or so leaves. You don’t want the baby ones at the top, but the middle-ish ones that are fresh looking.

I took a dozen leaves plus a little red pepper and I doubt you could tell I was there.

There are two kinds of kale in our patch. One is a curly-leaf variety that is prized for it’s tastiness. The other kind is an ornamental variety.

The purple flowering variety is entirely edible (all kale varieties are) but prized for it’s showy colours, not for it’s flavor. I didn’t notice a big difference in taste this early in the season.

Take some home, wash it, and remove the spines. Toss them in your compost bucket. You want the leafy bits.

Kale freezes amazingly well so I like to stock up for the winter months. Kale is one crop that gets a bit sweeter with freezing and it holds it’s structure marvelously (more like cabbage then spinach) in soups, stews, sauces, chili, etc. so it’s wonderful to have a freezer full. In the winter when you’re cooking savoury dishes, add a few leaves of frozen kale. I don’t bother chopping them before freezing, I just crumple them into the pot. But do remove the spines. Kale adds so much green nutrition to winter foods.

I froze about half of the leaves I picked. I made a simple stir-fry side-dish out of the rest. My friend Audrey, a nutritionist and a rare beauty taught us this technique for cooking up any greens (bok choy, spinach, gai lan, what have you.) It works great for kale.

You need these ingredients:

Garlic (optional)
Onions
Kale (or any green)
Canola Oil (or Olive, or sesame & olive oil, whatever you like/have)
Black Bean Sauce (or Oyster sauce, or Teriyaki, or any stir-fry sauce you like/have)

The brand isn’t important.

Chop up your kale leaves about like so…

Sizzle the onions and garlic in a wok or frying pan. You need lots of room for greens in your pan, so you need a pan with enough volume.

I like them brownish…

Add the kale and toss it around.

Fry it until the greens are wilted, but still bright.

Add a wee slorp of black bean sauce. I used about about a tablespoon for six leaves of kale. It’s very salty, so don’t add too much. Use a little, taste it, then add more if needed.

Fast. Easy. So nutritious. Kale yum yums.

According to Organic Authority, Kale is the New Beef.

Drop by the Parkallen Community Garden anytime and help yourself to the kale.