Food Forests in Ottawa

Looking west towards the future Blackstone Community Park. This sign is close to the Monahan Drain, part of the neighbourhood’s stormwater infrastructure. Photo by Glen Gower, reposted with permission from StittsvilleCentral.ca: http://stittsvillecentral.ca/letter-a-field-of-dirt-and-potential-in-blackstone/

Guest post written by Paul Wilson and reposted from StittsvilleCentral.ca with kind permission from publisher and editor Glen Gower. Check out StillsvilleCentral.ca for more great stories!

LETTER: A field of dirt and potential in Blackstone

January 29, 2018

(StittsvilleCentral.ca Editor’s note: I recently went for a walk with Paul Wilson around the site of the future Blackstone Community Park near his home. Like many new parks in our community, city staff are planning to build a play structure, a swing set, a splash pad, some sports fields, and so on. But when Paul looks out over the field of dirt and snow, he sees potential for a permaculture food forest. In this letter, he explains what the concept is all about. -GG.)

I would like to see all new community and district parks include food forests.  The initial Blackstone food forest can become a community engagement destination and support charity and educational engagement.  The food forest, and nearby park features, can provide outdoor community spaces for numerous activities, including quiet reflection or picnics, in a setting conducive to education on the benefits of planting edible trees. It is intended to develop close ties to the other synergistic groups in the region.

My goal is to establish organic food forests within Stittsville and City of Ottawa with an emphasis on permanent, restorative agriculture.  By design, a permaculture approach in these forests builds soil structure, uses less water and can yields a dramatic amount of highly nutritious food per square meter.

Caveat: I am using many words, definitions and images created by others.

While I’m not an expert, there are a few things I’ve discovered about creating more sustainable forests, in particular why permaculture is important.  While the name is tossed around or omitted sometimes (as it is assumed), it’s important because it is the design system for food production that can be sustainable and minimizes the maintenance issues associated with forest management.  For it to be used in city parks, low maintenance costs can make a difference.  For any volunteers, less work is better.

Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centred around simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems.  Let nature do what nature does best: grow and evolve.

A food forest is a gardening technique or land management system which mimics a woodland ecosystem by incorporating edible trees, shrubs, perennials, mushrooms and annuals. This is more than a garden with trees.  It is a seven-layer system where a key aspect is diversity: a polyculture of native plants with careful selection of non-native and non-invasion varieties; promoting a symbiosis, less disease, longer grazing period for pollinators.

Permaculture food forest principles emphasize plant selections that are edible by people and support natural ecosystems such as bees, birds, and native inhabitants.

I think of the 3 P’s: Plants, Participants and Produce.  Key is a good design of plants and in establishing the forest, the multi-year approaches to creating synergies between the layers (it is easier than it sounds).  The participants are the people/volunteers, insects, birds, animals – the community enables the forest to thrive.  The produce is more than all the wonderful edibles and includes the environmental benefits, soil enrichment and all what may be viewed as intangibles – the ways the participants thrive in the forest… some claim, a “breathable, life enhancing, realm”.

I’ve always liked the following image to show the seven layers:

Seven layers of forest gardens. Via Wikipedia.
Image via Wikipedia

As described in the image, these are the edible polyculture layers:

  1. Canopy layer consisting of tall nut and fruit trees.
  2. Low-tree layer of smaller nut and fruit trees on dwarfing root stocks.
  3. Shrub layer of fruit and nut bushes such as currants and berries.
  4. Herbaceous layer of perennial vegetables and herbs.
  5. Rhizosphere or underground dimension of plants grown for their roots and tubers.
  6. Ground cover layer of edible plants that spread horizontally.
  7. Virtual layer of vines and climbers

The plants selected would be appropriate for our local community and climate zone, and suitable for a public park.

On Thursday, February 8, 2018 from 6:30-8:45 pm there will be a public information session on the proposed design plan for the Blackstone Community Park at the Goulbourn Recreation Complex. The current proposed plans for this park have recently been posted (you can see them here) but this current proposal does not fully establish a food forest; rather a provision for a future community garden and the initial planting of fruit and nut trees.

If you are interested in seeing a food forest in our community, please provide your input and if possible, attend the meeting. I’m hopeful many members of our community will take the time to express their views.  The city is encouraging residents to provide their feedback on the proposed plans to:

Paul Wilson
Stittsville

Protecting Ottawa’s Green Spaces: Rochester Field

We pride ourselves on being a city with an impressive amount of green space. However, unless we have a clear vision, commitment and political leadership to protect those green spaces, they will continue to disappear.

Rochester Field is one such space. It’s about 3.8 hectares of open field between Richmond Road and the Ottawa River Parkway, next to the historic Maplelawn Garden and estate.

The field is well used by residents as a route to the recreational pathway along the Ottawa River and to the Transitway, and as a place to run, explore nature, fly kites and walk dogs.

Its status has been in limbo for many years. The City zoned it as Parks and Open Space, which the National Capital Commission appealed in 2003. During negotiations about the western Light Rail route, the City agreed to change the zoning of part of the Field to allow development, in exchange for use of the Parkway for the LRT.

The plan has been adjusted since then, so that currently 80 per cent of the Field would be preserved as park and open space, with the rest, two areas along Richmond Road, up for development as Traditional Main Street. An intent to protect existing mature trees is also expressed.

The preservation of green space is laudable, but there is little rationale for the proposed development—why extending the Westboro Village main street is preferable to parkland, and why the parkland needs to become a manicured area. There are alternatives that would make better use of this natural, active, connecting space, but these are not being considered.

Community groups including the Westboro Community Association and the McKellar Park Community Association, and many residents, are opposed to the plan, as is the local city councillor.

These objections have been noted by City staff, which nonetheless will recommend to the City’s Planning Committee on January 23 that Rochester Field be rezoned to permit the development that the NCC intends. The Planning Committee and Council do not have to approve this rezoning, though. They could take more time to consider the alternatives that would enhance the safety and accessibility of the site while not detracting from the benefits it provides as a relatively large and intact natural space, in an area where green space is already being eroded through intensification and redevelopment.

Residents can express their views at the Planning Committee meeting, on Tuesday, January 23, 2018 at 9:30 a.m. in the Champlain Room at City Hall, or through written submissions. Further details are here or here.

 

“Canada Day” in Ottawa 2017

This year, July 1 is important. Not because it’s Canada’s “150th anniversary,” though.

This year, important and compelling voices are drawing attention to Canada as a colonizing, settler nation. It’s a picture that isn’t as pretty as the stories we tell ourselves about our country. But it’s a more accurate one.

Indigenous peoples are reminding us that our country is founded on treaties that haven’t been upheld; on dispossession of land from the people living here; and on policies and strategies designed to eliminate them. The policies and strategies have changed over time, but they continue, as does the discrimination and racism that have become institutionalized.

Celebrating this history, and the society we’ve created—however respectful of rights, diversity and the environment we try to be—just doesn’t seem right.

So, here on this unceded Algonquin land we call Ottawa, here are some things I think we can do:

Listen. Learn about Unsettling 150, and why people have gathered on Parliament Hill and at the Human Rights monument this weekend. Listen, and resist the urge to reply with all the good things about Canada and Canadians—yes, there are many—but that’s not the point here. Follow people on social media who bring Indigenous perspectives.

If you’re not sure what Indigenous people are asking for, and what it means for you, start with Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s article on land and reconciliation.

Read. Read the Truth and Reconciliation Report. Read Christie Belcourt’s Canada, I can cite for you, 150. Read an Indigenous writer. (My June/July reading includes Katherena Vermette’s The Break, Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian, Richard Wagamese’s Medicine Walk, and Leanne Simpson’s Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back.)

Support groups calling for change. Help protect the places in our city that are sacred to Algonquin and other Indigenous peoples. Spread the word. Make July 1, 2017 a turning point.

Written by Denise Deby.

Festivals in Ottawa

Grass Dancer via Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival https://www.ottawasummersolstice.ca/media/

It’s definitely festival season in Ottawa.

Festivals can be great ways to get outside, celebrate the diversity that is Ottawa, and connect with community. Starting this week:

Welcoming Ottawa WeekJune 20-30, 2017

Welcoming Ottawa Week is an annual festival celebrating Ottawa as a city that welcomes newcomers, and hosting events where residents can get to know more about each other. Activities include a series of heritage walks in Chinatown, Little Italy and Lowertown with local residents sharing the stories of how immigrants have shaped those neighbourhoods, and Indigenous Walks, to understand Ottawa’s public spaces from an Indigenous perspective. There’s also a recreational soccer tournament, photo and art exhibits, film screenings, community picnics and much more.

Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival, June 20-25, 2017

This colourful and fascinating annual festival at Vincent Massey Park (and a few other places) celebrates the artistic and culture diversity of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. It includes live musical performances, theatre, art and food vendors, Aboriginal Day Live! and a three-day Pow Wow. Not to miss.

Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, June 22-25, 2017

With origins connected to nature and the bounty of the land and water, the annual Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival brings more than 150 teams to compete in dragon boat races at Mooney’s Bay Park. There’s also live music, a family zone, food vendors and more.

Also on: Canada Scene, the Ottawa Jazz Festival and Festival de la St-Jean à Ottawa.

Reconciliation in the Heart of Ottawa

Hot Air Ballon Ride by Shanta Rohse Flickr Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic https://www.flickr.com/photos/shanta/2220015238/in/album-72157603793833860/

Between Ottawa and Gatineau, three islands in the Ottawa River—Victoria, Albert, and Chaudière—along with the nearby Chaudière Falls, are a sacred site—Akikodjiwan—to Algonquins.

Like most of Ottawa, the islands are unceded, but have been industrialized and urbanized, with plans underway for a condo development on part of the site.

These plans threaten a vision for the area, advocated by Elder William Commanda and Architect Douglas Cardinal, for an international Indigenous gathering place and healing centre that will be open to people of all nations.

Local community and Indigenous groups and individuals are concerned about a festival taking place this month on Albert Island. The groups are not opposed to the festival itself, Craft Fest, but say it should not be held on Albert Island and the proposed condo development site (Zibi).

Among those who have expressed concerns are Kitigan Zibi Elder Albert Dumont and Westfest producer Elaina Martin. The Stop Windmill group has sent an open letter to Ottawa 2017 regarding its support for the festival. Free the Falls and others plan to hold a rally outside the entrance to Albert Island on Sunday, Jun. 11, 2017, the start of the craft festival, at 11:00 a.m.

It’s important that we learn what’s at stake and why people are concerned about these lands, particularly at a time when Canadians and their political leaders are talking about reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Elder Albert Dumont is leading a Faith is Peace Walk from Victoria Island to Parliament Hill on Friday, June 23, 2017, starting at 10 a.m., for people to understand and support an Indigenous vision for the area:

We seek the return and restoration of our sacred site, Akikodjiwan/ Asinabka/ Chaudière Falls and Islands, to the Anishinabe (Algonquin)….

Together, we will show the world that Indigenous spirituality is real and is as rich with the blessings of Creator as are all the other faiths practised by the citizenry who make up the population of Canada.”

Image via Kairos https://www.facebook.com/pg/kairosCEJI/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10155424828861686