I’ve been meaning to tell you about Underground Organics since back in the spring when buckets of their beautiful flowers first started showing up at my local weekly market, the Dufferin Grove Farmers Market.
Underground Organics are a trio of farmers living just outside Toronto who are organically growing annual and perennial flowers and selling them locally at farmers markets and health food stores in the region. I had all but given up on buying cut flowers since learning about how bad the industry can be for both the environment and the people who work on big cut flower farms. My gardens aren’t big and are primarily dedicated to food so having flowers to cut and enjoy in my home is a rare treat reserved for the times when my flowers are blooming abundantly. Since this spring I’ve been enjoying a new bouquet every week.
Here’s what I bought last week.
Shane and the gang grow all kinds of interesting flowers and unique varieties, many of which I have never seen before. There’s a new selection of tempting colours every week making it difficult to choose. And they’re affordable too. Most bouquets run in he $4-8 range with bouquets of really fancy blooms at about 12 bucks. You can choose a ready-made bouquet from an assortment on display or choose your own blooms and have Shane, a gifted farmer and floral arranger, assemble it and wrap it up. They even use old-school butcher paper and beautiful hemp twine — none of that clear plastic or tacky floral nonsense used to package bouquets at your run-of-the-mill corner store florist.
If you’re in the Toronto area, Underground Organics sells every week at The Trinity Bellwood Farmers Market (Tuesdays), The Dufferin Grove Farmers Market (Thursdays) and other local stores (see the site for listings). If you’d like to learn more about the flower industry check out Amy Stewart’s eye-opening book Flower Confidential. And if you know an eco-conscious flower farmer or florist in your area please add it to the comments since many of us want to buy organic flowers but don’t often know where to find it.
I watched “Everything’s Cool” yesterday afternoon, hot on the heels of the UN conference on climate change held in Bali last week where my country was globally humiliated ONCE AGAIN by our Prime Minister’s refusal to support a new climate change agreement — an action supported by the rest of the planet, excluding our neighbours to the south. As 2007 comes to a close it is hard to believe that any nation would continue to deny that global warming needs to be addressed seriously let alone deny that it exists at all. It is this massive example of it-ain’t-real-until-I-say-it-is psychology that is at the heart of what the film makers attempt to expose and challenge in this documentary.
The movie begins in 2004 as the filmmakers cross America in a giant biodiesel-powered public service announcement delivery system talking to Americans about their views on climate change and conducting talking-heads-style interviews with well-known global warming “messengers” like Ross Gelbspan, one of the first investigative journalists to take the topic on, and Bill McKibben, acclaimed environmental writer and the author of several books including “The End of Nature” (in addition to my personal favourite, “The Age of Missing Information“).
The film goes on to address the controversy surrounding global warming and trace the roots of this controversy laying blame in the politicization of what is essentially a scientific matter, positioning global warming as a postulated theory rather than fact. The filmmakers explain that it is the uncertainty created by this never-ending “debate” that feeds indifference and inaction.
I am not a journalist with a need to present an unbiased opinion so I can say here that I believe global warming exists. I believe it is not a theory but a reality. My beliefs are based on the information I have read and on my own experiences as a human who has lived in this area long enough to see the changes that have occurred and as a gardener who experiences the climate and the seasons with all of my senses. Unfortunately as a believer this film felt a bit too simplistic and out-of-date, however I will say that I don’t think I am the intended audience. I don’t think it was made to convince the already convinced or speak to the choir but was instead meant to tip fence sitters over from the “wondering” side to the “believing” side. Because once we’re all on the same side of the fence we can actually start to get some shit done.
The Curious Gardener’s Almanac: Centuries of Practical Garden Wisdom
By Nial Edworthy
When I first sat down to review The Curious Gardener’s Almanac by Nial Edworthy I began in the most logical place, the introduction. I was immediately smitten. I found the author’s slightly dramatic, yet also dry and mildly self-effacing sense of humour to be immediately charming and easily relatable. Even more delightful was Mr. Edworthy suggestion to install the book in the bathroom where the reader can dip into it from time-to-time rather than reading in long sittings. By the time I got to his use of the phrase “sweet bugger-all” I was captivated.
Now, I realize these are all rather shallow ways to review a book — there is more to my assessment, I promise! Mr. Edworthy goes on to deliver a very hopeful and optimistic view of gardening as an act that has the potential to create positive change for the environment and in turn change the gardener. He writes about his early days as a gardener, discovering that there is no end to how much there is to learn about gardening and also discovering that the learning comes primarily from the doing, from getting down into the dirt and getting your hands dirty. By the end of the introduction I was more than ready to leap into the actual book itself, eagerly anticipating another 100 plus pages of charming, wittily told stories.
Unfortunately the rest of the book lacks the wit, sharp bite, and personal anecdotes found in the introduction. Which is not to say that the rest of the book is not good or interesting, rather it just isn’t what I had anticipated. For the purposes of description I would label the book a fairly traditional almanac in that it is comprised of quotes about gardening by all the famous gardeners, interesting historical facts, bits of wisdom, and chunks of gardening knowledge. The design is very much in keeping with the style of other well-known almanacs including vintage woodcuts and lithographs of plants, tools, and other gardening imagery. I particularly enjoyed the herbs section picking up a few new tips including using hops (Humulus lupulus) in herb pillows as a natural tranquilizer to help with insomnia. While I am highly allergic and do not have the space to indulge in an entire lawn of chamomile, the idea is not one I had thought or heard of. This book is loaded with great facts, tid bits, and inspiring ideas.
Unfortunately, what the book lacks is what sold me in the introduction, Nial Edworthy’s clever and very relatable voice. Instead the book takes on the slightly formal tone more closely associated with traditional almanacs. While I find these sorts of books interesting to read, I would prefer to read an entire book that takes off where the introduction ended. I want to hear more about Nial Edworthy the gardener and his exploits as a former city dweller who moved to the country and found himself drawn into the crazy world of gardening.
I realize this reduces my chances of getting one, but I must tell you about Mood Swing Studio’s Abloom collection of necklaces, earrings, and broaches. My favourites are the necklaces, each is one-of-a-kind and lovingly crafted by Kristen using vintage enamel flowers re-appropriated from old-school jewelery. With titles often referring to popular culture or songs, Kristen’s names for her pieces are almost as interesting as the pieces themselves. My current fave is called “Dance This Mess Around” which I am guessing (and hoping) is a reference to The B-52′s.
Photo by Mood Swing Studio.
Please note that items are listed in U.S prices.
1. Extreme Close-View Monocular – $16.95 A small, pocket-sized viewing scope that magnifies objects 7x from 10″ to infinity. Perfect for the geeky gardener or amateur naturalist in your life who enjoy getting a closer look at insects and flowers in the garden. It’s also really helpful for identifying bugs and disease. Of course, some may prefer to see those things from way back here, thank you very much.
2. Earthly Paradise Calendula Salve – $12.99 I make my own but if I were going to buy hand salve I would buy it from Earthly Paradise who just happen to make a killer salve. A healing hand salve is an absolute necessity for gardener’s like me who prefer not to wear gloves since the soil can really sap the moisture right out of your hands.
3. Oak Nail Brush – $12.36 It’s become a ritual: Returning from the garden the first thing I do is scrub my hands and nails with a bar of my favourite oatmeal soap and a good nailbrush. This beautiful oak brush is handmade using white tampico bristles — I have no idea what that is but it sounds terribly posh! And really, at that price it kind of is.
4. Richter’s Pot Maker – $12.95 Make your own seed-starting pots using newspaper — recycled and free you’ll never complain about running out of pots again.
5. Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education by Michael Pollan – $11.20 This isn’t a how-to guide but a book ABOUT the act of gardening and a “…manifesto for rethinking our relationship with nature.” A great thinking book for any gardener and one that I have personally gone back to many times.
6. Kitchen Compost Pails – $16.95 Again a Lee Valley item. I have seen these pails available elsewhere however they tend to be priced at a few dollars more. These buckets act like a sort-of purgatory for kitchen scraps, a holding station between produce and the compost bin. Believe me, being frugal-ish people we were resistant to purchasing a special container just to hold kitchen scraps on our counter, juggling an assortment of yogurt containers before finally taking the plunge. It was so worth it. This baby holds a lot and the handle makes it easy to carry out to the composter, especially given that we often have to carry ours a few blocks to our community garden plot!
7. Modern Birdhouses – $195 Like their human-sized counterparts these birdhouses modeled after real Modernist houses designed in the Case Study Houses Series are not cheap. But say I had a lot of money, and say I had enough that I could splurge on a very fancy birdhouse, I’d get the Richard. Just saying.