Tag Archives: organic gardening

Purple Potatoes

It was like digging for treasure. Squeals and squeaks rang in our ears as our daughters found yet another potato buried in the ground. Lying there in dusty violette splendour, waiting eagerly to have little fingers grasp it. Mother Nature’s Bounty. As we harvested our first modest crop of purple heirloom potatoes, I thought of Dag Falck.

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Originally from Norway, Dag studied agriculture and was taken aback by the ‘modern’ methods back in the 1970s.  Being interested in growing healthy food and protecting the land for future food production he was surprised and disappointed when professors taught him to use this ‘great new’ method for potato harvesting. Instead of a two week wait while the greens decomposed, Dag was taught to spray a chemical over the field. The greens would decompose overnight, saving the farmers some toil and time.

Dag Falck, Organic Programs Manager, Nature's Path Foods

Dag Falck, Organic Programs Manager, Nature’s Path Foods

‘But that was a toxin!’ Dag said still indignant after all these years. ‘To save two weeks they put a toxin onto the soil. Then to make things even worse, they used that same soil over again to grow more crops’. The agricultural scientists had it all wrong, backwards, inside-out, and upside down. Following his conscience, Dag eschewed these modern methods to follow an organic calling. And that was before GMOs.

Today we have evolved this system of “desiccation” (which is the “professional term for killing a whole field of something”), and today this method of spraying chemical herbicides on crops while they are ripening is practised all over North American conventionally farmed grain land.  When you see pictures on calendars etc, or drive on the prairies, you will have noticed tire  tracks in the fields of almost ripe grains.  These tracks are the evidence of sprayers driving through the fields only a few weeks before harvest to spray the toxic desiccants in order to “dry” the grains faster, so that the whole field will “ripen” evenly.

Dag post

Photo by Eloise Radziwill http://eloiseradziwillphotography.com/

Sarcastically Dag informs me that of course our government has assured us that these chemicals applied only weeks before harvest are completely safe as they are gone or so minuscule that they will do no harm to our health when we eat grains in cereals, breads or pastas.  Humm, I don’t know, who should we believe?

We have a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico from agricultural toxic spill-off. We have atrazine poisoning the waters that we drink. Atrazine is banned in Europe because it causes developmental defects.  Our bees are dying. The worst of it and the best of it is that none of it is necessary to feed the world. Dag will patiently, logically explain to you with results and hard data, that organic agriculture results in equal or higher yields than GMO agriculture which depend on perfect conditions to grow. Each independent study after other confirms it. There is no need for synthetic chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides.

We have the answer. We have the solution.

Hula Hoe

‘We come from the Earth, we return to the Earth and in-between we garden.”

– Anon

It’s been about three and a half years since we got a house with a garden.  With much help and advice, I’m starting to understand some fundamentals about gardening.  When we arrived the previous owner had a whole bunch of toxic things in the shed: de-mossers, some pesticides and other weed-killers.  I was alarmed at this – my father and forefathers always farmed and gardened without these toxic chemicals.  Dad has experimented with salt on the slugs and more than a couple tragi-comic stories involving live traps and relocating squirrels.  But no poisons, no toxins.  And fantastic harvests.  One tip is to plant garlic and onions near fruit trees.  Another principle I’ve garnered from dad is, “get a good hoe”.

Dad gave me one last week.  This is a killer hoe for shallow weeds.  It’s also called a Dutch hoe or Stirrup Hoe it cuts both ways.

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Why dump poisons into the soil to kill weeds when you can uproot them with a few flicks of the wrist?  I can’t wait to show you my Fiskars dandelion puller!!

Dad and the Tesla

“Whoever does not have a good father should procure one.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche

My father Arran has always been more interested in gardening than cars.  His Nature’s Path business card titles are ‘Co-CEO’ and ‘Garden-keeper’.  Dad makes the world greener and warmer and brighter.  Like Johnny Appleseed, wherever dad goes, he sows seeds: of vegetables and fruits, of kindness.  After eating a particularly good tomato or plum, Dad will spit out the seeds onto a napkin to dry and save (to plant).  Even when residing in a temporary home whose garden had no vegetable beds, Dad planted several zucchinis and tomatoes in and amongst the decorative floral landscaping.  When Dad came to visit our new home, clippers were out within minutes, dead was taken out of trees and bushes.  Lunch long-forgotten, berry clippings were planted and seeds sown.  A dedicated visionary, Dad even turned the back of the parking lot at Nature’s Path head office into a vegetable garden.

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Dad, going to garden at Nature’s Path in his Organic tee shirt that says, “Avant Gardener”

Now, I’ve been asked by a few folks to post about Dad’s new car, the Tesla Model S built and designed in California.  This seems like an appropriate Father’s Day post.  Although Dad is not a typical car fanatic, I’ve never seen him get more excited about a car.  Ever.  He’s driven a whole slew of motor vehicles since I was a kid, which, regardless of how pretty and clean they start off – usually end up being turned into soil-covered utilitarian vehicles in which to haul plants, compost, and gardening tools.

Now I’m not a car buff myself.  In a vehicle, I value functionality, beauty, and environmental sustainability in the reverse order.  We humans are addicted to fossil fuels, even knowing full well that they are hurting us.  It’s a drug and we can’t seem to stop using.  (Myself included).  When I moved back to Canada 4 years ago, I had to choose a car (as our trusty little Belgian-bought Peugeot couldn’t move with us).  My criteria for a car was “Whatever, however, as long as it’s a hybrid”.  When asked “What colour?”, my response was “Whatever, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s a hybrid”.

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After waiting a couple years for his Tesla Model S to be delivered, Dad promptly put it work, hauling his gardening equipment from the Nature’s Path Garden to his home garden and a few other gardens in-between.

Everyone agrees that fossil fuel consumption is unsustainable, and that if one must drive, drive an electric car fuelled by clean renewable energy (not coal-based power plants for example).  Rob Stewart, film-maker, was one of the motivators for me to write this blog. He explains in his film that we have billions of reasons to kick the fossil fuel habit.  We have the technology to make change but we lack the political will. We know the problem and we know the solution.  We just have to put it together.

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After driving dad’s Tesla, I am super thrilled for the future of the electric car.  The Tesla is going down in history as tipping the point.  I am no car expert folks but I can tell you a few things neat things about the Model S.  First of all, dad can drive from Vancouver to Victoria and back (with a trunk full of seedlings and fruits of course) on a single charge.    The key is shaped like a car, the door handles pop out, the top is an all-glass panoramic roof.  Plus there is a cool large screen which does everything like open the garage door, babysit your children and buy your groceries (just kidding it doesn’t buy your groceries,  But the next model will).  Sitting in the middle part of back isn’t a punishment because there is no hump in the middle of the floor.  The Model S is wider than regular cars so 3 adults fit comfortably in the back.  This is all very nice.

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But what is truly amazing about the Tesla Model S is the silent, ridiculously-rapid acceleration.  This is the reason why every one who drives a Tesla will want one. It’s like being in a quiet rocket.  It’s science-fiction.  It’s 0-97 km/h in 4.2 seconds.  That’s like roller-coaster, stomach-dropping, rocket-ship fast.  I have a strong stomach.  I am someone who enjoys airplane turbulence (the bumpiness is soothing) and I like amusement park rides with names such as ‘Twister ‘ and ‘Kamikaze’.  But when Dad accelerates too fast, a mischievous look in his eyes, I get motion sickness.  The Model S model is that fast.

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Me and Dad, Canadian-Bollywood-Gothic

My father has always spoken out against what is wrong and voiced his soft tenor for what is right.  Being a custodian of the Earth, he has always defended nature, spoken out against conventional (chemical fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides and pesticides) farming and GMOs which are poisoning our planet un-necessarily.  Being an organic gardener, dad knows first hand what soil needs to be healthy: sweat, toil and love.  He knows what the long-term data shows: Organic methods meet or beat GMOs production in yields.  We need bees, we need birds, we need biodiversity and love and compassion for all.  With his head in the clouds and his feet on the ground, Organic gardening, Tesla-driving Dad is one of my greatest heroes.  I can’t think of a better father, a better example for me – and everyone – to live by.

garden in Dad

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads who toil in the soil, who envision, support and spark change.  To the fathers who support the Earth – even when they could make more money by spoiling it.  I’ve heard dad say this a million times but each time it resonates and strikes a different chord inside me.  In everything we do, whatever we do, “Always leave the soil better than you found it”.   I need to share this as it is now what drives my every conscious action or purpose; in effectuating change we stand up against what’s wrong and stand up for what’s right.  In symphony with other salient, common sense truths, that mantra of leaving the earth better than we found it sings every day, ever louder in my heart.