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Posts Tagged ‘ander’

Sorry for missing last week’s update, cats and kittens. Sometimes there are just not enough hours in the week for me to get everything done! But to make it up to you, you get two super-double-plus-awesome posts today.

 

I sat down for a brainstorm with the housemates the other day (okay, it was like two weeks ago) about just what’s been going on at the Farmhouse. Here’s the latest from the team:

 

  • the potatoes are getting huge … they sprouted in the pantry over the winter
  • Ander and Sara built a new trellis with peas in the back
  • drying kale for seed
  • lots of sprouts in the greenhouse
  • there’s a new container garden on the patio (it’s so amazing, need pictures!)
  • planted corn, squash, and beets along the side fence
  • lots of cut flowers for the house
  • borage and touch-me-nots are sprouting everywhere there’s bare soil
  • seriously, if you want a borage plant, let us know
  • Sara developed a kickass recipe for hot sauce based on things in our garden (TOP SECRET)
  • parsnips are ready to be harvested
  • mint is recovering after being transplanted (I did that!)
  • there’s a new dish line on the counter made of two kinds of tape … if the dishes cross it, you wash the dishes … if it’s not kept to Max’s standards, then he’ll take away the nice pots; if we keep it up, Max will make tasty treats
  • lots of group eatings, including impromptu brunch one lovely Saturday and a house dinner yesterday
  • quinoa and lentils sprouting right now
  • discussed the correct pronounciation of quinoa (which, in the Farmhouse, is kee-NO-wah)
  • harvested the burdock root … it’s surprisingly tasty according to the roomies, “sort of artichoke-y”
  • scavenged some stuff from a house that was torn down on our block, including an old-school oven that Sara’s going to convert into an outdoor cooking surface
  • oh, and we GOT A NEW ROOMMATE WOOT WOOT!

 

Yeah, life at the Farmhouse is kicking ass and taking names.

 

This week in the links, MAIN STREET CAR FREE DAY! It’s one of several car-free events happening in Vancouver on June 20, but it’s the closest one to our house. They’ll be shutting down Main from 33rd to 16th from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The organizers are still looking for volunteers so if you’ve nothing else to do on Father’s Day, consider helping out a good cause.

 

Great news out of California: the state assembly has voted to ban single-use plastic bags in retail stores! It’s not officially law yet until it’s passed by the state Senate, but it’s looking like a done deal. California currently uses 19 BILLION single-use plastic bags each year. San Francisco has been plastic-bag-free since 2007.

In light of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster—now the worst in U.S. history (if not the world)—I’ll take any eco-friendly victory I can get.

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Hola, blogoverse! I haven’t forgotten about you, I swear. But even the most intrepid Internet user needs to take a break sometimes (and this weekend was far too nice to spend inside!).

The dirt is gone, the door is clear! I have the best roomies ever!

 

This week on the Tuesday links docket? A lot of events!

 

The annual IGNITE! Youth Festival is happening this month from May 17 to 22! This is Vancouver’s largest youth-driven arts festival, featuring music, dance, theatre, and visual arts from individuals between the ages of 13 and 24. Our intrepid Ander sits on the youth panel and will be there every night so stop by and say hi!

Here’s the link to the Facebook event listing, so add it to your calendar. Seriously. Do it now. I’ll wait for you to come back.

 

What else should you be getting up to this week? Farmhouse open house on Saturday, May 15 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. We’re looking for the Farmhouse’s Next Top Roommate (ad is HERE: Farmhouse Seeks Dirty Hippies!) so please come by and check out our house or pass on the ad to some dirty hippies you might know!

 

After you stop by the Farmhouse on Saturday, you should make your way over to the Grandview Park block party! The park is located on Commercial Drive, and a group calling itself “Friends of Grandview Park” (and supported by the local business improvement association) is looking to have the park redeveloped (closing it down from July 2010 until at least March 2011). Among the groups’ complaints? The park attracts “non-families” who tend to loiter along with hard drug dealers, protesters, and, most scandalously, children who are learning to ride bicycles and bicycle polo players (They use the tennis court for that! HOW DARE THEY!).

However, a group of park users disagrees with this assessment, saying that the “Friends” of the park are contributing to the gentrification of the neighbourhood as well as discriminating against the homeless and “non-families” (what the hell does that even mean???).

Read all about it at the Defend Grandview Park blog.

 

And since this blog’s all about shameless self-promotion, yours truly will be opening for the fantastically wonderful Jackie Treehorn on May 12 (that’s tomorrow) at Nyala Restaurant (4148 Main Street). They’re smutty, soulful, and always put on a good show. I’m smarmy, break strings, and sometimes even funny.

With that RINGING ENDORSEMENT, I hope to see your lovely faces there! Bring your dancing shoes and buy me a beer :)

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Sorry to overwhelm everyone with photos today but I wanted to post some happy ones in the hope they’d cheer me up. I spent hours crying last night and have remained in a foul mood all day, but these pics are full of joy and light. Hope you enjoy and have a beautiful weekend; maybe we’ll see you out on Sunday!

Pretty, pretty yarden.


Things are growing!


This is our wheelbarrow.


Its wheel is the worst.


Oh, hey there onions.


The refurbished fairy altar.


Yes, that cactus's name is Quagmire.


Seriously, please do.


Sara rocks it out.


My double chin and I are way too cool for school.


And now it's Max's turn to play us a tune.


Max and the illusive Sam chill on the steps.


Ander works way harder than I do.


Our yarden has hidden flowers everywhere.


We don't always play guitar. Sometimes we drink beer, too.

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Hello World!

This is a message from Ander. It is my first time posting on the Farmhouse Blog, although many of my photos have appeared here since I joined the tight-knit community two years ago.

The past two weeks have been turbulent, to say the least. Started with a call to a mystery meeting at City Hall (scheduled for April 26, it was later canceled); followed by a court order from the City of Vancouver; followed by both positive and negative conversations with city officials; all resulting in an outpouring of political, media and individual attention, and finally leading up to the forced removal of our boulevard, while at the same time loosening of the city’s demands on the design of our yard, accepting it the way it is after only minor changes and tidying.

But you already knew all that. This post is to tell more of the story. Coverage of our struggle appeared in the Globe and Mail. We appreciate the media attention, but there is a lot more to the issue than was mentioned in the article. In fact, most of the key points of the conflict, as we see them, were never mentioned.

 

1. The implications of the untidy premises bylaw.

All properties must be keeping with “the prevailing standard of maintenance in the neighborhood”. We believe this phrase is extremely troublesome for many reasons. For starters, it’s incredibly subjective. In effect, it gives both the city and the citizens an incredible amount of power and say over fellow residents’ yards. Don’t like what your neighbor is doing on their side of the fence? Call the city and cite this bylaw. If the inspector who visits agrees with your position, then you know those residents will be forced to comply with your wishes—with virtually no option to defend their position.

The bylaw also functions to keep our city segregated by economic status. It’s not okay to have one house of lower property value in a higher-class neighborhood. Why? As Mr. Dyck put it, we are converting the neighborhood into a slum. It’s a process we jokingly refer to as: “hippie-fication”. It’s the opposite of gentrification, which the City of Vancouver seems to spend much less effort fighting.

 

2. The incredible weight that one complainant has.

In our case, we demonstrated through a petition that the majority of people on our block, including many who live close by, are indifferent or supportive of our garden. However, 21 signatures were not more powerful than one, two, or three complaints. We were required to have the three complainants retract their complaints in order to be allowed to keep our yard the way it was. As we aren’t permitted to know who they are, we must request that they contact us, and then wait to see if they so choose to. (Note from Miranda: The city contacted all three complainants, all three of whom refused to meet with us to come to an amicable resolution.)

 

3. The original stance of the city

The only acceptable solution for the city would have been a radical (pun intended) redesign of our front yard—converting the whole thing into raised, wood container boxes, or alternatively the construction of a fence or hedge around the entire yard. With these as their only suggestions, the city officials we met with complained that we were not wiling to make compromises, and we felt the same of them.

 

4. The deeply conservative opinions of Mr. Dyck

Mr. Dyck, the individual who owns the property next door (but he does not live there) was the main complainant in the conflict. Firstly, I must say that I hold a deep respect for Mr. Dyck. We have spoken on the phone and, despite having a clear difference of opinion, we maintained a positive and respectful interaction. However, his opinions include the statement “In Canada, we have lawns” and that only acceptable location for a vegetable garden is the backyard.

Although we sympathize with his concerns about property values, we don’t feel the issue is important enough for us to change our entire way of life and cease using our front yard for work, food, and play.

We are also not completely convinced that food gardens bring down the property values of surrounding properties. As gentrification pushes more and more eco-centered people out of East Vancouver into the rest of the city and, as climate change and peak oil concerns lead large volumes of citizens to reconsider their lifestyles, food growing, sustainable neighborhoods, and backyard sharing will all become more and more common and desirable. It’s already happening.

 

5. The Untidy Premises Bylaw stands in clear opposition to food and permaculture gardens

How can you turn your front yard into a food garden if it must fit in with all the other houses on the block? Most houses in Vancouver still feature grass and a few flowers in the front. Yes, it is completely possible to grow edibles in such a way that they appear to be ornamental. But that takes about 200 percent more time, energy, and money, and will likely produce a smaller yield. It’s not practical to ask Vancouver residents to operate their urban farms like flower gardens.

Urban farms will have well-worn paths, harmless/beneficial weeds sprouting from the edge of garden beds, constantly migrating buckets, and wheelbarrows. They will have trellises mounted long before any beautiful bean stalks curl their way around and they will have dead plants still standing proudly by the end of summer. During a drought, an urban farm is not a feast for the eye: it is a truthful reflection of the climate around it.

 

What about permaculture? It’s a word we throw around a lot here on the blog, and it’s a rich, fascinating, and challenging approach to designing systems to benefit humans, plants, and animals.

The idea behind permaculture is designing PERMANENT systems—ones that are truly sustainable forever. Permaculture draws inspiration from the self-sufficient ecosystems found in nature. Every plant and animal has functions that provide the needs for other plants and animals. By considering the role of every element in a system, we can design gardens that provide for all of the needs of every element—humans included—by using the wastes of other elements in the system. One element’s output (for example the fallen leaves of a tree) fulfill another element’s needs (moist, mulched soil). Make sense? Permaculture is a big topic. It’s a set of principals that can be applied to anything from your little vegetable patch to your large corporate organization.

 

But why can’t your garden look more like ours?

Here is where I draw the connections between Mr. Dyke’s criticism of the weeds in our yard, the city’s assertion that our garden is not “tidy”, and the reasons we have chosen to cultivate our land the way we have.

If you have been raised to understand a “garden” to be a collection of straight, square or circle beds with identical plants symmetrically placed, then when you look at a permaculture garden, all you see is unmaintained chaos. But once you have been introduced to the concepts of self-supporting ecosystems—and gardening with rather than against nature—one is able to better understand what is going on in the yard in front of them.

Rounded garden beds that blend into the paths, multiple crops planted together in order to support each other, plants that have been allowed to go to flower in order to collect the seeds, thick layers of leaves covering and protecting the soil, “weeds” that are allowed to stay because they are benefiting the earth while not in use… Just because a purpose isn’t immediately clear doesn’t mean there isn’t a reason. And just because there isn’t a reason doesn’t mean that unidentified plant needs to be pulled up this instant. Why not take a week and observe why that plant has grown in that exact spot? Listen to Mother Nature, work in harmony with her, and in return she will reward you will all the food and materials you will ever need.

This is why one person can describe our garden as “carefully maintained” while another person refers to it as being full of “metre-high weeds”. What does “tidy” or “maintained” really look like? What’s the difference between a tended garden and a wild, unkempt yard? Are you sure you can tell the difference? Are you sure there is a difference?

 

What now?

In the end, everyone in this conflict has met somewhere in the middle. We have been placed under large restrictions that we feel interferes with the farming process, although we will be able to continue growing food. Neighbors will find our yard has improved in appearance, but is still not up to their standards. And the City of Vancouver? From our perspective, we hope they will approach the next front yard vegetable patch with a little more sympathy for the realities of urban farming. We city farmers are serious about our food. Urban agriculture is growing bigger and stronger, and it isn’t going to hide the shadows of our backyards.

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Wow. After all that, our landlord has sent a crew to rip up the boulevard right now. So awesome.

My home is no longer my home.

UPDATE (11:36 a.m.) This sucks so much because we’ve always had an incredible relationship with our landlord. Always been supportive and kind and patient with our hippie ways. The Farmhouse is so appreciative of our landlord.

The City of Vancouver has been communicating with our landlord on this issue without including us in the discussion and I have no idea what was said between the two parties. It totally feels like the City has completely sabotaged our relationship with our landlord and it’s a punch in the gut to know he’s angry with us.

I can understand our landlord’s position 100 percent but we still have until May 15 to negotiate with our neighbours … and we only had one more to talk to.

We were so close to winning this fight.

Ander called to let me know that there’s nothing left of the boulevard garden anymore. They managed to save some of the plants but they might not recover.

And now I am broken.

UPDATE (12:13 p.m.) Max called to let me know Ander spoke to the landlord. Managed to smooth things over somewhat. Landlord did leave some poppies growing in the boulevard next to the tree but the rest is levelled.

However, the rest of the yard will NOT be touched. That in itself is a massive, massive victory.

Damn, I wish I had photos right now. So glad I took pictures last night.

Also, the Museum of Vancouver mentioned us today in their blog! I’m totally stoked that the issue is out there and other people are just as interested in food security issues as we are. Greater good has come from this. We’ve found new community. We’re raising awareness. And in a few months, we’ll have food.

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Hello beautiful community!

First, a quick note. News 1130 contacted me last night about the imminent destruction of our yard. The story is currently the most popular story on the site! Thank you so much to Graham for putting them in touch with me and to Renee for writing the article.

Also, there has been an incredible outpouring of support for our yard from the general community. So many people have let me know they are writing letters to council in favour of our project. I really couldn’t have imagined so much support and encouragement from Vancouver residents. It’s really helping during this tough time. Thank you and many Farmhouse blessings to each and everyone one of you who has taken the time to write to the City and passed our story around!

 

Sara, Ander, and I met with Mrs. Carlene Robbins, manager of the Property Use Inspection branch and Property Use Inspector Tom Hamilton this morning. There were many things said, the most important of which is that we have until May 15 to get the yard together. Wouldn’t concede us an inch on planting the boulevard (“It’s City land! Who said you could use it?”).

This is growing just in the space between the sidewalk and the street in July 2009. We were growing borage, kale, and poppies. The dandelions we used for tea.

The City says it has had three neighbours complain over the last two years (two complaints this year, two complaints last year, with one was a repeat complaint. Part of the City’s “evidence” were photos of our yard from last summer. Remember when it was really dry and most yards were dying? We put straw and other materials over the soil in our yard to keep moisture in (permaculture!) so our plants wouldn’t die. Yep, taking photos during the driest part of the year is surely going to include a little ugly. And it’s funny that the city’s photos don’t match the photos I took myself during that time.

The other photos the City presented us with were from March. MARCH. It’s not March anymore! We’ve done a lot of work on the garden in the last week! You can’t use old pictures from the off-season against us.

This weekend, we collect over a page worth of signatures (I’m guessing at least 20) from residents of the block who are all in support of our yard. Why does the word of three complainants outweigh the rest?

When asked if she would speak directly to the five points contained in the legal notice we received, Mrs. Robbins completely refused, stating she “isn’t going to plan [our] yard for us”. Then she said if we built a fence two feet into our yard, we’d be free to do whatever we want within the confines. Um, how is that fair? You think we can afford a fence? She also pointed out the container garden at City Hall.

“Why can’t you make your yard look like that?” she asked. Maybe because we don’t have thousands of dollars for pressure treated lumber, an in-ground irrigation system, and fancy plaques delineating what garden belongs to whom? Part of the reason we grow our own food is because we are POOR!

Mrs. Robbins admitted to us that if we lived on Commercial Drive, our yard wouldn’t be an issue. Hypocrisy, hello? I asked her why she didn’t see the larger issue at stake—a vaguely worded bylaw that is selectively applied to a subjective notion of beauty and order. She asked me why I was continuing to be argumentative.

Why am I argumentative? Because it isn’t fair. We can’t afford to live on Commercial Drive. We can’t afford to build container gardens. In fact, we don’t want container gardens because we think they are ugly. Plants grow better in a natural state. You put different kinds of plants together for support, to improve the soil, to mimic the natural growing system. Most of our supplies are donated. We have to haul a wheelbarrow eight blocks roundtrip to get free woodchips. We had wonderful people donate their time and energy to help us last weekend. This is not a money-making enterprise. This is about food security. This is about food as a right. This is about a hypocritical city that brands itself as some sort of green leader yet won’t support five hippies who want grow their own food.

So much irony is coming out of this process. The City of Vancouver has
Guidelines for Planting City Boulevards
program where residents are ENCOURAGED to use the boulevard for planting!

 

Planning to Plant

* There must be reasonable pedestrian access between the curb and the sidewalk. If there is no City sidewalk, access must be provided so pedestrians are not forced to walk on the road.
* Plants should be perennials or shrubs that will grow less than one metre (3′ 3″) in height to ensure good sight lines.
* Several of the plants should be evergreen or have winter interest for those months when the rest of the plants are dormant.
* Contaminants from the roadway may affect consumables, therefore vegetable gardening is not encouraged.
* No trees are allowed other than City-planted street trees.
* No structures or ornaments are allowed since they can interfere with public safety and the City’s ability to quickly access underground services.
* Permanent installations such as in-ground irrigation systems are not permitted.
* Plants should be set back at least 30 cm (12″) from a) the sidewalk to avoid overgrowth and b) the curb to allow for car door opening.
* Fire hydrants must be easily visible and accessible from both the street and the sidewalk. A clearance of 1.5m (5’) must be maintained around hydrants for access, visibility and to ensure that plants do not interfere with the operation of the hydrant. Outside of the Fire Department, Waterworks and Sewers staff use the water from hydrants for a number of purposes.

 

I can totally 100 percent get behind those guidelines. Last weekend’s work project was all about getting the boulevard presentable. Nowhere on that Web page does it say you need City permission to grow anything in the boulevard.

But the extension is a goodness. The legal notice we were served is dated April 15 but we didn’t receive it until April 19. There goes one weekend. May 1 is Saturday. There goes another weekend. So, with the May 15 extension, we get two more weekends to get things together.

Here is a list of e-mail addresses for Vancouver city councillors if you have the desire to lodge your opposition to the city (via Christina).

clrreimer@vancouver.ca

mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca

clrdeal@vancouver.ca

clrcadman@vancouver.ca

Gregor.Robertson@vancouver.ca

clranton@vancouver.ca

clrchow@vancouver.ca

clrjang@vancouver.ca

clrlouie@vancouver.ca

clrmeggs@vancouver.ca

clrstevenson@vancouver.ca

clrwoodsworth@vancouver.ca

 

Also, if anyone wants to contact the Farmhouse about this, please call 604-628-9509 (the house), 604-762-6557 (my cell), or e-mail farmhousepress@gmail.com.

We love you!

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So this weekend’s work party was a resounding success! We had five or six people stop by over the course of the day and Ander did a fantastic job educating passerbys on our yarden. We had a bunch of people sign our petition to keep our yard exactly the way it is and we’re so much closer to getting a block party organized!

It was really nice to connect with the neighbours, actually. One told us tales of how people would come by our house with empty strollers and steal our pumpkins. One guy who works as a landscaper was fully in support of us and promised to bring us clean grass clippings, plants from other sites, tools he doesn’t need, and topsoil as well as offering to help fix the tools we have. So much love!

Kiko was a total jerk and did not help at all.

Fun story: The tenants previous to us used to use the front yard as some sort of trash can. I made the champion decision to tackle the one bed we’d never bothered to dig out previously because it’s full of trash. Ander pulled out two baby carriage frames from it weeks ago. I managed to dig out a garden hose, three bags of garbage, a fully-inflated basketball, a used diaper (ewwww), an army man, a plastic Viking figurine, and numerous pens and pencils. Seriously. Disgusting. Who buries trash in their yard when we have a weekly trash collection service?

Max was a champ and not only fixed up the greenhouse and finally (FINALLY!) got all the Christmas lights off the house but he tackled organizing our garage. We have cleaned that bastard out at least six times in the past two years, and yet it magically accumulates stuff. I think there’s some sort of vortex in there which allows for remote garbage dumping for aliens or perhaps time travellers. But it’s more organized now. Just need yet another dump run.

Sara was fantastic as well, hauling woodchips and tackling the out-of-control back beds. The whole yard is really starting to come together!

And … OH GOD we totally terraformed the boulevard. Now it has five nice neat ordered rows for planting. We’re going to put yarrow, flax, borage, and … I can’t remember what else in there. Should be neighbourhood friendly.

I definitely need to spend more time in the garden. I hauled dirt and dug weeds for almost eight hours on Saturday and my poor body is still aching today.

Special thanks to Razan and Erik for playing in the mud with us all day and to Tristan and Lina for bringing us much needed nourishment.

Photos to come whenever Ander gets them to me!

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