Monday, September 26, 2016

The Plot: A Creative Community Garden in Newton


On Sunday I was invited by the SOFIA Collective to speak to some artist/gardeners at fall equinox celebration at The Plot community sharing garden in Surrey. My friend Sandra picked me up at the Scott Road Skytrain Station. After an arduous trip with a train packed with royal watchers, of course I had to use the loo. So I traversed the wilderness to the local big box store and discovered a really lovely patch of goldenrod. These "forgotten" undeveloped liminal spaces are becoming increasingly important for wildlife and particularly bees. As Lincoln Best (@entomo_b) pointed out on my Instagram feed (@beespeaker), sometimes these are the only spaces left to support bees.


So we picked up Matt and drove to Newton, the location of The Plot. What a great idea for a garden!


 I love the design of this space. The medicine wheel acts as a spiritual and social centre, grounding the food and flower plots.


Here are the remnants of the fall equinox ceremony.


It's a bonus that the site is right next to a community center.


These diagrams explain the significance of the medicine wheel that they chose to incorporate into the design.



Matt and Sandra are my buddies from Austria, currently living in Surrey. We have had many adventures together, but haven't seen each other for awhile. There should be a word for that warm glow you get from re-uniting with friends you haven't seen for a long time--something like freundefreude.


What a great idea! This is similar to an idea I had about giving seniors pots of perennial kale--but much better. It's practical and cute and would suit people who live a nomadic lifestyle. I love the broccoli sticking out the side. This would be awesome with mushrooms!


These natural benches are very cool, and safe for children to crawl up on and fly off of. (Well, that's what I'd do.)


These syrphid flies have so much personality.


 Nothing beats clear signage in a garden! I like the chalkboard style.


It was lovely to see a species of bumblebee other than those eastern bb's escaped from greenhouses. I think this might be Bombus mixtus, the mixed bumblebee. Ach, what a dreary name for such a sweet bee.


So this Brassica was the most popular plant with bees in the garden the day I visited. It was taken from the beach and planted here by a boy who gardens at The Plot. It tastes like mustard on steroids and I believe it's wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum). It's a very cool plant, but comes with an invasive warning. The leaves, flowers and pods could be used in restaurants and home cooking. Some folks pickle the seed pods. The Punjabi ladies at Moberly made me curry with domestic radish pods that was absolutely delish.


Lovely sunlit setae on those back legs!


Weeds can be fantastic when used as "a controlled substance" for bees.





When it comes to honeybees, these folks are doing it right. Two hives in a garden where many folks can have hands on experience is more sustainable than having multiple hives in many single family urban dwellings. Plus, locking them up to protect the girls from bears and dumb humans is a good idea.


Matt calls this enclosure "the food court".



I pointed out that most of the bumblebees in the garden were imported Bombus impatiens, the eastern bumblebee. This one looks like she's missing some hair from her thorax. It can get rubbed off as they enter and exit their nests. There was talk of a bumblebee housing project using garden pots. I must say that after talking to Dr. Ralph Carter, I think the wooden nests in trees idea is likely more resilient. But hey, give both kinds of nests a shot and see what happens.


This is how you've got to grow corn to get kernals. It's wind-pollinated and needs to be within spittin' distance of its kin.


This dude is a natural green thumb and he gifted me one of his cantaloupes, which really touched my heart. I must send him one of my books. He was also really good at spotting syprhid flies. Someone's already taught him a few things. Mentorship is a strong part of this garden's model.


And this is where you'll find me in a sharing garden. I love cape gooseberries!


True to their word, there is a free box as you enter the garden. Anyone is free to take these treasures home and make good use of them.


Many thanks for the invite! It was lovely to meet all of you and I hope your garden continues to thrive.

All the Best,
Madame Beespeaker

P. S. Here is a list of sources including info on the artists I mentioned in my talk.

Also, check out The Wild Radish Song. What can I say? I laughed, I cried, it was better than Cats.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Shibori Workshop at Trillium Park


It was a blue sky over goldenrod kind of day in Vancouver, which is to say one of the best kinds of days in this lovely city. We lucky folks got to play with a vat of indigo lovingly prepared by MOP artist in residence Catherine Shapiro and her co-conspirator Gloria Tsui.


The location is Trillium Park in Vancouver, bordered by busy soccer fields and a semi-industrial part of east Vancouver near the train station. We are in an area beside a container fitted out as a Fabrication Station, suitable for all sorts of creative pursuits.


While we worked with dye, Rebecca Graham processed locally grown flax fibres, creating a luxurious flax 'stache.



We tied marbles and nuts into the fabric, stitched and clamped it to create areas that would resist the indigo dye.


There are many recipes for indigo dye pots, and Gloria and Catherine have been growing indigo and experimenting with it for months.


We snacked on a potluck "blue feast" while dyeing and waiting between dips for the dye to oxidize. The deepest blues you see in indigo cloth can be dipped over a series of months.


Clipping provided the most resistance and the more dramatic patterns.



We worked with scoured cotton, but I brought along a pale green piece of thrift store silk to work with too.



Oliver is proud of his indigo sky.


East West brought in special violet blue potatoes by request and Catherine made a potato salad.



We didn't eat the blue tomatoes because they are not ripe and "didn't taste too great".


Gloria's fromage blue sur endives avec poire et noisettes: formidable!


Hey, my hands match my jeans!


This was the indigo we used, from MAIWA.


This is what the plant looks like dried.


As Rebecca broke the flax, with a rhythmic wacking sound of wood on wood, David Gowman and friends hammered and chiseled on paulownia wood to make musical horns.


It was like we were part of a village before the industrial revolution!


This is an empress tree growing on the site. Just like the MOP Garden  site, materials grown here are made into art. Soon this tree will be chiselled into a musical instrument. Someone should write a song about that. Oh wait, they already did.


A little caterpillar friend came to visit.

Sadly, this park is in danger of being lost to development for a replacement for the viaduct. Typical Vancouver problem. Please visit the site and help us save it. I've started a hastag on Instagram #SaveTrilliumPark, but my hashtags @beespeaker don't seem to be working. Le sigh. Maybe you will have better luck!

I've been informed that this is not the case--Trillium Park is outside the proposed re-route. Phew!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Beespeaker is on Instagram, and a Personal Loss


I have finally figured out how to post images on Instagram without owning a cell phone or ipad. And then moments after I posted my first images, I got news that one of my dearest friends had died suddenly.

It's like the experts say, I was absolutely in denial. Even this morning, the reality of what her death means to me has not fully penetrated the surface of my heart. That would be too much pain at once. Instead we let the truth in by fits and starts. Grieving takes its own time and you break down at odd moments. When you're eating peach crisp at a diner and you just wish you were sharing it with her. When you're grieving, you're eating for two.


Her voice is very much alive in my head: eating, shopping walking alongside me


John O'Donahue said we must create a raft of words to help the dead pass over. I will create a raft of images.



Donna, we love you so very much.

"You belong among the wildflowers."

--Tom Petty