Caledon’s Community Farm

Originally written for Patti Foley’s Just Sayin’ Caledon

The Albion Hills Community Farm, tucked in the north west corner of Albion Hills Conservation Area. is one of the hidden gems in Caledon. The site of a former dairy farm in the area, the land has been reborn as a hub of local food production for the community.

Besides the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that supplies fresh produce to our Farmer’s Market or through food boxes that can be ordered by residents, the Farm also offers community gardens. These plots are rented every year by keen gardeners who prepare their plots with love and respect.

This year, as a result of caring for the Backyard Hens Pilot Program on site, I decided to take on a plot with the intention of growing some of the food needed for the chickens. It quickly evolved into much more than that when I saw the size of the strip I had rented. Besides the fresh food for the hens, and some traditional vegetables for the home table, I decided to honour the heritage of the land.

Not the very recent European arrivals after the War of 1812, but the thousands of years of hunting, trading and agriculture that were the history of the Mississaugas. To honour that culture, we now have a “Three Sisters” section of traditional Mandan Bride corn, Rattlesnake snap beans and squash. The wisdom here is that the corn grows tall, the beans climb the corn, and the squash leaves shield the ground to hold in the moisture. Under the surface an amazing symbiotic nutrient exchange takes place in the soil.

I would have planted a few smelt in each of our Three Sisters hills, but that tiny fish is one of the victims of colonial deforestation, agriculture, industrial pollution, overfishing and invasive species  in the Great Lakes. Their decline is so concerning that one researcher has coined the phrase “smeltdown” to describe their vanishing act.

Instead we’ll be using Gaia Green organic fertilizer from the award winning Plant Paradise Country Gardens just down the road. In addition, a four winds medicine garden with the smudging herbs sage, sweet grass, cedar, and tobacco will provide us with a gift for my friend, Elder Garry Sault, when I see him at Lake Simcoe for the autumnal equinox. A traditional way of cleansing the community and the sins of our forebearers.

For now, I simply enjoy the culture of my fellow gardeners from around the world who now call Caledon their home. A community of people who share, work hard, tell good stories, and love the land. And they are really going to love our organic, Omega 3, free run eggs when the Farm Gate sales begin in a few weeks. We already have two dozen in the fridge from our 4 Golden Girls, and the Canadian Heritage Chanteclers will arrive at the end of the month to add to that production.

To help keep them in the best feed possible, I have rewritten the Mary Poppins song to read, “Feed the hens, toonie a day. Toonie, toonie, toonie a day …” with all proceeds from the royalties going to bird seed.

From 8,000 years ago when children collected wild bird eggs fast forward to 2018 in Caledon and children collecting our hen’s eggs, it’s still all about healthy local food and shelter and safety and community and respect for the land. We lost it for a while, but it sure is alive and well once again at Albion Hills Community Farm.

The way I see it.

***

Skid Crease, journalist

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Durham EcoSummit 2018

EcoSummit 2018 Durham District School Board On Monday, May14th I had the honour of delivering the keynote address to the student leaders from a full cross-section of Durham Region secondary schools at their 2018 EcoSummit titled Beyond Talk. Organized by student leader Aidan Brushett, the conference was an inspirational and informative success. These are the teenagers who give us hope for the future – engaged in positive problem solving, open to creative solutions to build sustainable communities, and committed to put their words into action.

I have been doing this since 1970 with my own classes, and nationally since 1988, so this would be the 30th anniversary of attempting to move awareness to knowledge to action. At the conference I met a colleague who reminded me of how long we have been trying to get a comfortable society’s collective head out of the sand.

The first consensus climate change warnings were issued by the World Meteorological scientists at the “The Changing Atmosphere” Toronto conference in 1988. In 2018 we have Donald Trump and Doug Ford denying climate change realities. In 1988, we were warned about insect vector disease spread with thermoclines moving rapidly north. In 2018, we have the documentation of Lyme Disease as the “First Epidemic” of accelerating climate change. In 1988 we were warned about erratic weather patterns, more severe storms, changes in precipitation and food production. In 2018, we have catastrophic flooding, drought in previous productive food growing areas, and a disposed, hungry and angry humanity at the edge of starvation from Africa to the Middle East. On the other hand, life in much of the world is better than ever, with longer life spans, access to medicine and health care and education. And yet the gap between the very rich and the many poor of this planet is increasing. We are beginning to realize that we are simply pretty well off serfs catching the trickle down crumbs from the corporate masters of influence in the religious military pharmaceutical industrial complex.

This is not science fiction and these students know it. They are about to inherit the 21st century from a group of adults who have taught them to consume the resources of the Home Planet far above their needs under the philosophy of “Whoever dies with the most toys wins!” The concept of a conserver society is direct anathema to a consumer society. So, how do we put our environmentally literate words into action? Keep It Simple Stupid. We turn off the energy when not needed, we practice the 5 R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle, rethink and relax). As students, we put into action the practical things we have the power to do. We don’t buy the car, or the appliances, or the house, or vote. BUT we can use our voices to ask our parents to make wise choice for us.

No need to by a Ranger Rover to drive 5 km to the grocery store. No need to buy a 40,000 sq. ft. home for a family of 3. No need to buy from companies with unsustainable business practices. And no need to vote for alt-right wing populist politicians who are climate change deniers. Thanks a lot, Mom and Dad.

These students were well-informed and critical thinkers – something most politicians hate. When I told them that with one week of solid research on the local environmental issue of their choice they could be better informed than any politician on Town Council they were astounded. Equally amazed that they could mail a letter to their Prime Minister without any postage stamp. And equally challenged that if they prayed for potatoes, they had better pick up the hoe. Like many of us, these students were well aware of the issues.

In the same breath, they recognize that we are one of the most spoiled and privileged societies on the face of Earth. If, by some roll of the dice, we had been born in Syria or the Sudan, how different would our lives be? And so, like Private Ryan, with the luxury of life and education and a relatively safe society, how do we honour this gift, how do we earn it? This privilege of having enough water and food and shelter and safety and education that we can give back something of an intelligent legacy to the planet.

Many members of the student audience commented after that my talk was inspirational, and that I made them laugh and cry with my stories. One even said that he thought I should be a professional stand-up comedian. In these days of government approved climate change deniers, laughter is still the best medicine.

A good friend and colleague, Kale Black, drove me to and from the event. He too is committed to positive sustainable development for communities. We talked on the route back in his hybrid Camray about that repetitive cycle where environmental sensitivities take the forefront and then dip to economic concerns.

Yes, we get impassioned and turn off all our lights for one Earth Hour and then blaze them for the next 364 days plus 23 hours. This is a species about to earn the next Darwin Award. We have to decide if we want to go down as homo sapiens sapiens or homo sapiens stupidus.

Do we want to say to our children and the next generation that we said we cared, but we really didn’t do anything about it because it was all about the economy, stupid? Besides which there were just so many reality shows and Netflix series to watch. Or do we want to show them that with the best of our current knowledge,we made good decisions for the next seven generations.

I am getting closer to composting, but my wife and children and grandchildren will inherit this future. I really hope they don’t have to live on Mars eating Matt Damon’s excrement nourished spuds.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

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Caledon’s Crystal Clear Wisdom

There is a fellow citizen in Caledon who offered me wonderful words of wisdom today. Crystal Larouche wrote in an email that we should all try to be nicer. Beautiful.

Unfortunately, I am an only child, alpha male, and if anything threatens my pack, I go on instant defense mode. So was the case when I was sent Crystal’s Facebook blog about members of Town Council who I deeply respect. Sorry Crystal, when you attack mine, I respond.

Before she reminded us all to play nice, this is what Crystal wrote: that the Mayor and his cronies were all rich landowners. First, Crystal is partially correct here. The Mayor, as a result of approved land sales , made a mint. And the false charges brought against the  Mayor by Darnley and Bristol were not “dropped” as you wrote – he was found innocent of any wrongdoing and the complainants were charged $90,000 in court costs

The Mayor is legitimately a wealthy landowner, as are many political candidates in rurban and urban settings. With no children to take on the family farm, owners have no choice but to sell to developers.

Dear Crystal, Jennifer Innis is NOT a rich landowner, Johanna Downey is NOT a rich landowner. Their parents, or in-laws as in Ms. Downey’s case, may become rich landowners if they sell to urban development but what’s it to ya”? Not your land, not your problem. For a farming family to give up their historical title to a rapacious developer is not an easy thing. It cuts to the soul. But when the children move on and out, and no one is left to take care of the farm, what next?

In the meantime, in their roles as democratically elected politicians, do they each do a respectful and intelligent job representing their constituents? Absolutely yes! And we all have to remember that Bolton is NOT the Town of Caledon, or the belly button of the world.

Next, Crystal, sweet nice Crystal, wrote that those same members of Town Council treat their citizens “like shit”. .. her words, not mine. Really?! And you had the audacity to call me a bully? Dear sweet Crystal, saying that the democratically elected members of your Town Council are treating you “like shit” is hardly a “nicer” comment.

In summary, the Mayor was cleared of all false charges and awarded court costs. Any innuendo that he was guilty of anything is smear. The complainants were charged for court costs and who paid for that is still a mystery. The Regional Councillors you attacked are people who care, NOT like those funded by litigious developers. We’re not left with much here Crystal.

Yes, we should all try to be nicer.

Sincerely,

Skid

 

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An Apology and Correction

As my dear old Dad used to say, “When you make a mistake, own up to it and make amends.”

So to the reader who was having difficulty understanding the nuances of defamation, I apologize.  I incorrectly explained that if it was spoken it was defamation and if it was in print, it was libel. I was wrong and I promptly admit it.

If it is spoken it is SLANDER and if it is in print it is LIBEL and both are DEFAMATION. However, if one is considered a “public figure” like an elected official, or a political candidate, or a citizen who leads a lobby group or an aggregate pit protest or a save the salamander campaign, it is open season. They are considered to have placed themselves in a prominent position and are ripe for public ridicule.

That is why comedians can have so much fun with Donald Trump.  This also means, dear citizens, you can go to town on any candidates running for the upcoming provincial and municipal elections. You can tease their high profile apologists and lobbyists with your wit. Why, you can even put it into poetry if you like. It is still a good idea to make sure that whatever you say is true because that really keeps you in the clear.

To summarize, defamation of character can be either oral slander or written libel, public figures excepted. If you’re out there in public charging at dragons, get ready for a little fire. If you’re Donald Trump, expect a little Stormy weather.

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

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Trudeau Plays The Long Game

I have made it abundantly clear in past writings that I consider Justin Trudeau to be not only a friend, but a man I admire. So it came as a shock to some when I wrote my last two political articles detailing his political missteps over the past session of Parliament. “Is the bromance over?” I was asked. “Jamais!” I responded.

You don’t spend fourteen days at sea with a guy exploring the Arctic with  students and not make a lifetime bond. But considering someone to be a friend doesn’t mean that you agree with him all the time. He would have no hesitation in advising me to slow down before I “Ready. Fire, Aim!” and I have no problem in advising him to try his  best to avoid a repeat of the three K’s – Khan, Khalistan, and Kinder.

To be fair, none of these events was of his doing. A senior staffer should have caught the Khan vacation and taken it to the Ethics Commissioner before the trip, and similarly with the Khalistan connection on his recent trip to India. However, the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline is a lot more com[plicated.

  It is easy for those of us in the environmentally pure peanut gallery to cast aspersions about bitumen as we drive our SUVs to the shopping mall. People who drive fossil fuel powered vehicles shouldn’t throw tarbits. If a scientific approval process and full community participation are overseen by an environmentally literate Energy Board, all is well. We will still need pipelines into the foreseeable future, at least until Elon Musk straightens out the Tesla 3 production problems.

Until then, Canada, we have a problem, and that problem is the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. Without Alberta, that initiative could collapse. and Alberta is still a fossil fuel economy. Until Albertans can get their hands out of the oilsands and reach for the sun and the wind, we’re all stuck in the tar.

Justin Trudeau is waking along the edge of a sword with environmental purists like me on one side and corporate shareholders from Kinder Morgan on the other, each screaming for satisfaction. If you cancel the pipeline, you’re damned, if you approve the pipeline you’re damned. Trudeau is taking all of the heat right now for keeping his eye on the long game, trying to hold together The Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change for the good of all Canadians well into the future.

With Saskatchewan and Manitoba resistant, and B.C. and Alberta locked in mortal combat, our Prime Minister is in a very difficult spot. Perhaps we should all just backoff a little and give him room to negotiate. A new and improved National Energy Board is a good place to start. Certainly, build us the best, most secure, most efficient pipeline you can, complete with a banked insurance coverage for any unforeseen disasters. And continue on that transition into clean renewable energy, Alberta. We stopped burning whale oil when we saw the consequences, and we can surely see the consequences of accelerating climate change unfolding.

Let’s all give those we have elected to run this country a little more understanding and some breathing room to do their jobs. My dad used to say that until you have walked a trail in someone else’s shoes, you cannot understand their journey. I have no idea what the pressures of being a Prime Minister must be like, but I can imagine. And I can’t imagine anyone else who I would rather lead the way into the next decade. Carry on Prime Minister, carry on!

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