All About Community (as well as some other things)

As the end of July comes into sight, I’m pretty sure that every day we’re adding more to our “To Do” list than we’re crossing off. Winter is supposed to be the “quiet time” for farmer-types, isn’t it?

It feels very good to be busy. And to be busy doing things that I enjoy and think are meaningful, well, that’s got to be about as good as it gets.

I am well on my way in planning a “Community Day” at Toi Toi Manawa – an event to bring folks from the local village down to this place to show them around, share our plans, get their input, and have a bit of fun. While we’ve made several new friends in Whitecliffs already, we’re sure that there are others who have been wondering about the construction, the influx of shipping containers, the new faces out on afternoon strolls. And we hope that this will be a good opportunity to bring those people out and get their input as we move forward with plans for the program – like learning what sorts of workshop topics would be of most interest to them and what ideas they might have for the development of the land. We’ll be sure to put on clean shirts (and maybe even get haircuts) to make a good impression!

High on Andy’s list of priorities before the Community Day is the completion of the finishing touches of our composting toilet. We’re really excited to get it operational. As Andy says – we put so much effort into what is going into our bodies, why should we throw all those nutrients away when they come out? “Eww” factor aside, properly composted “humanure” will be a great asset to us as we establish young trees around the property. And, in that way, we hope that the nutrient cycles will be a little bit more complete – for the benefit of the land and for ourselves. Plus we’ll save an enormous amount of water. Win – win – win.

The Toi Toilet. On the home stretch towards first use!

In between event planning, we are also aware that spring is fast approaching – and that we’ve got a lot of preparing to do! Our main focus at the moment is on the garden. Which makes sense, since it’s the source of our FOOD! We have been harvesting the last remains of most crops (though there are still tons of leeks and Jerusalem artichokes in there), spreading compost and manure, and tackling some of the areas still full of couch (aka twitch) grass. For the upcoming season, we are planning to put one half of our garden into green manures, while the other half grows the vegetables. Green manures (aka cover crops) are very commonly used by organic farmers, with benefits including:

  • improving soil fertility
  • supplying additional organic matter and nutrients to the soil
  • improving soil structure
  • improving soil aeration
  • assisting in weed, insect and disease control
  • attracting beneficial insects
  • increasing soil biodiversity
  • ….and some of them you can even harvest for food! (peas, beans, etc.)

So, since we don’t need our entire available growing space to feed ourselves next season, we’re going to devote some of our energies to testing out different sorts of green manures and feeding our soil.

As many of you will know, much of my home province of Ontario (not to mention so much of the rest of North America) is experiencing a drought right now that is posing a very serious, and in some cases devastating, challenge to farmers. I am thinking often of my farmer friends and hoping that precious rain will fall soon. Times like these really do emphasize how important it is to support local farmers who take on such big risks in order to grow food for their communities. I will continue working on my rain dance.

For the moment, I am type-type-typing away next to our ever-appreciated woodstove, where dinner (soup a la Andy) is simmering away for us. It includes a dazzling array of veggies, including the leeks that I just harvested from the garden. So I’ll leave it there, wish you well, and thank you for reading my ramblings!



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