Tag Archives: CEED Centre

Earth Day, Cheers to the Planet, & our very own workshop!


Photo credit: BCLocalNews Christian Cowley, executive director of the CEED Centre, plants potatoes in a photo taken before last year’s Earth Day events. This year’s second annual Cheers to the Planet event will be raising funds for the CEED Centre again.

Whew! Life is busy right now. I’ve got a lot of farm updates to share (sooo many!), but those updates will have to wait for a few more days because right now I’m going to plug some great events that are going to be happening this weekend in Maple Ridge. 

This coming Sunday is Earth Day and there’s lots to do to celebrate! Here’s the low-down:

Celebrate Earth Day festival from 10am-2pm at Memorial Peace Park on Saturday, April 21st. Come down for lots of family-friendly activities and displays from local environmental groups, including the CEED Centre and GETI. This date will also mark the opening of this year’s Haney Farmer’s Market – yay!!!! Can’t wait to get some locally grown produce to munch on! The festival will also celebrate 40 years of the Ridge Meadows Recycling Society.

Cheers to the Planet: Eat, Drink and be Eco is the second annual food and wine fest fundraiser for the CEED Centre. This year’s event will be held at Meadowridge School, 6-9pm, Sunday, April 22nd (Tickets $45 in advance, $55 at the door). We’re DEFINITELY going to be here! Find out more on the Cheers to the Planet facebook page.

And if you’re going to be in Vancouver instead of Maple Ridge, Chris K. and I are giving our first workshop: Permaculture 101 at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House in East Van from 3:30-6:30pm on Saturday. Fun times!

Happy Earth Day everyone!

Growing Food Course in Maple Ridge (plus notes on crop rotation)


{Photo of Chris from last summer in our garlic, peas & bean bed. OMG, I can’t wait till it’s that warm again.)

This weekend, Chris M and I attended the February session of a new, year-long, food growing course in Maple Ridge. Taught by master organic gardener Gail Szostek (article of a course she taught last year here), the classes take place over an entire year so that gardeners can learn about food gardening from the preparing to the growing to the harvesting and eating. Every month features a new topic that will fit the season. 

February’s topic was Seeds & Scheduling. The class was great and I’m really glad I went. I learned new things, enjoyed the social atmosphere and got very motivated to start planning my garden beds carefully. Included in the session were lessons about vegetable plant types (legumes, greens, solanums, brassica, roots, cucurbits and alliums), a how-to on deciphering information in seed catalogues and a lot of discussion about crop rotation. We each drew up a map of our own garden spaces and started drawing in a planting plan and timeline according to crop rotation rules.

Crop rotation is the act of rotating annual plant varieties from one bed to another every year (instead of, for example, planting garlic in the same space year after year). This is very beneficial because it helps keep diseases and pests away that will make homes in spaces that remain unchanged year after year. It also helps return important nutrients to the soil. Monocrop farming (planting the same things in the same space year after year) leeches essential nutrients out of the land and never replaces them, whereas crop rotation allows those nutrients to be replaced. (A simple example: beans are great at putting nitrogen into soil. Therefore, including bean plants in a bed’s rotation schedule that also includes nitrogen-hungry plants like corn means that your soil’s nitrogen supply will continue to be replenished after the corn has gobbled it up). Practicing this is an important step to maintaining healthy soil year after year.

In class, we were taught the 4 rules of crop rotation:

  1. Root crops are not to follow potatoes
  2. Potatoes should not follow legumes
  3. Brassicas should follow legumes
  4. Root cropts should follow any crop with mulch

If you’re interested in incoporating crop rotation into your vegetable gardens, you should plan out what you want to plant where and also think about timing. Careful planning means that you can time your plantings so that you are getting multiple plant varieties out of one bed in a year (instead of just one variety a year). Here on the west coast, we have an opportunity to do spring plantings (for late spring/ early summer harvest), summer plantings (for late summer/ early fall harvest) and fall plantings for winter crops. That’s a lot of production from one bed if you plan well. And don’t forget about planting in cover crops during in-between stages. Cover crops (like crimson clover, fava beans and rye) help infuse important nutrients into the soil during gardening down time. Turn these crops right into your soil before they go to seed.

There’s a lot more information I could relay from my class notes, but for now I’ll just encourage you to do some internet searching if you want more info on crop rotation and recommend that you attend some of these Growing Food courses this year. If you can’t make it to all of them, you’re welcome to pay for classes individually and just attend the ones that fit your schedule and interest. 

The classes are held on the 2nd Saturday of every month (unless otherwise specified) from 12/12:30 – 4/4:30 at the CEED Centre in Maple Ridge. I’ve listed the upcoming months and topics below, but to register or for more information, contact Gail at greenspaceconsulting@live.com.

The Curriculum:

  • Jan – Sites and Soils
  • Feb – Seeds and Scheduling
  • Mar – Propagation and Spring Warmth
  • Apr – Garden Structures
  • May – Bed Prep and Planting
  • Jun – Compost and Fertilizer
  • Jul – Water, Teas, Brews
  • Aug – Winter Gardening
  • Sep – Harvesting and Seed Saving
  • Oct – Preserving
  • Nov – Winter Prep
  • Dec – Christmas Party and Wrap-up

2011, A Year of Notable Lifestyle Changes


Writing out my goals for 2012 inspired me to think about some of the lifestyle changes that I made in 2011. Some were planned, others unexpected, and all represent a new way of living that I want to continue pursuing. I thought I’d share my personal top 5 here – as a way to document the changes for myself, to express gratitude for the positive impact they’ve made on my life, and to encourage others to spend time reflecting on the positive changes they made for themselves last year too.

Looking back on 2011, I am so thankful for: 

1. Farmer Romance: Yep, it’s true. I’ve found myself a boy to love. I’m not one who typically shares personal romance stories on the internet, but this isn’t just any boy. Chris is a likeminded, homestead-dreaming, city-turned-farmer boy whose presence has made me very happy. Having him in my life means that free time is reprioritized so that we can spend it together, that I have an accountability partner for my ‘pursuing a healthier life’ goals, and that I have someone to make plans for the future with (cob house and permaculture business anyone?). Although he didn’t enter my life until halfway through 2011, he was definitely my highlight of the year and I am very, very thankful for him.

2. Going Vegan: I often joke that going vegan was just a matter of time for me. For the last 10 years there have been a number of significant people in my life who follow a vegan diet and lifestyle: employers, close friends, boyfriends, family members… This topic deserves a blog post all it’s own (which I promise to write), but for now I’ll keep it short and simple by saying that my interactions with the animals on our farm as well as personal research and group discussions about the ethical, environmental and health implications of a vegan diet led me to officially adopt it in October. Although I don’t know how to answer all the inquiring questions and critiques I hear from people about it yet, the more I explore it, the more comfortable and convicted I feel about this decision. Acknowledging that I was still unconvinced about some of the aspects of it when I found myself thinking about making the switch, I decided that I’d rather make the change now and err on the side of compassion (while figuring out the details) than continuing to consume and use animals products (potentially causing harm to innocent animals) before making my mind up about it. To err on the side of compassion – seems like a good motto for many of life’s situations.

3. Returning to Thrifting: In line with my desire to significantly decrease the materialism in my life and to save money, I made an effort last year to buy used instead of new (and only when I really needed something). This has applied mostly to clothing and household goods (which are already very minimal because I live in such a small space) and has been an enjoyable and rewarding process. Thrifting is something that I’ve always loved and that I did consistently while I was a ‘poor’ university student, but it wasn’t until this year that I returned to it so intentionally. You may not believe it because it’s not what the billboards or magazines market to us, but coming home with a great $8 pair of used jeans instead of a $150 pair of new ones is SO satisfying. 

4. Buying Local & Organic: For the past five months, I’ve been getting most of my produce and packaged goods from local farmer’s markets, Maple Ridge’s Roots Organic grocery and our own garden plots here at the farm. Although I’ve been a proponent of buying local and organic for years, it wasn’t until 2011 that I made it a consistent practice. I’ll write a more in-depth blog post about this too, but basically, I now keep this thought in mind when I shop: “If I choose to buy this non-organic product, it’s like I’m directly pouring harmful chemicals into our soil and ecosystems myself”. Not cool and definitely not something I want to contribute to. (Hopeful fact: Only 5% of consumers have to change their habits before large corporations will adjust their practices).

5. Community Engagement: It took a year of living in Maple Ridge before I really branched out and started getting to know anyone other than the few people I live on the farm with, but 2011 saw me joining the board of the CEED Centre, regularly attending their lively, weekly coffee discussions (open to the public – every Wendesday from 10am – 12 noon!), and becoming an active participant in Maple Ridge’s Transition Town movement, GETI. Connecting to other people and local initiatives has been incredibly inspiring, exciting and rewarding. You may not think it when you drive down Dewdney Trunk Road, but there are a growing number of Maple Ridge residents who are taking an active interest in making this city a better place to live. It actually makes me think that this could become the kind of place I’d want to call home.

Of course, all of these lifestyle changes are directly connected to my hands-on gardening lifestyle here at the farm. Thanks to everyone who continues to encourage me in this and to the farm family who has helped me make this lifestyle a reality.