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

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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.

 

Gifts that Won’t Cost the Earth

Image via Pexels Creative Commons Zero (CC0) https://www.pexels.com/

If, like me, you’ve been too busy with life to focus on seasonal pursuits (or blog posts–sorry about that), here are some earth-friendly (and local!) gift ideas that you can still find before the holidays.

The Maple Leaves of Kichi Makwa, a children’s book by local Algonquin elder, poet and storyteller Albert Dumont, addresses themes of nature, respect and support, and is written in Algonquin, English and French. Find it at Singing Pebble Booksonline, or from the author.

Escape from the Museum! is a mystery-adventure set in the impressive Canadian Museum of Nature, offered in collaboration with Escape Manor, that would make a fun gift for kids or adults alike. Groups can choose from two themes: “Back to the Fossils,” involving time travel to help some lost dinosaurs, and “Framed,” investigating a heist of specimens from the Mammals Gallery.  It’s an opportunity to explore the museum’s collections and spaces while solving challenges before the time runs out. (Escape Manor offers escape adventures at several other locations including Diefenbunker, downtown and at their Hintonburg location.)

These days it’s possible to find plenty of eco-friendly, locally crafted items around town that would make thoughtful gifts. One place to check out is Maker House. They have wall hooks made from fallen branches by Not Mother, a window planter made from reclaimed wood marked “less stuff more life” by Grains of Truth, and a framed vintage Ottawa map print, hand embroidered with a red heart, by Sadie & June, as well as much more. Plus, if you buy from Maker House during December, they’ll donate 2% of the sales to Parkdale Food Centre through the #craftchange program.

For more green gift ideas, see our past posts on Thingless GivingA Gift of ReadingGifts that Give Twice and Greening the Season.

Seasons greetings!

Written by Denise Deby.

Ecology Ottawa’s 10th Anniversary

Congratulations to Ecology Ottawa on your 10th anniversary!

Over the past decade, Ecology Ottawa has evolved from a small, volunteer-run effort to an organization and movement that has led significant progress on environmental awareness and action in Ottawa. They’ve brought sustained attention at a local level to climate change and clean energy, galvanized action against the Energy East pipeline through “Tar Free 613,” and promoted the health of rivers, trees and city streets.

Kudos to Graham Saul, who after five years as Executive Director is moving on, and to the rest of the Ecology Ottawa leadership.

Of course, volunteers are still the heart and soul of Ecology Ottawa, and much remains to be done. It’s a good place to get involved, if you have an inclination to contribute to or lead environmental change in Ottawa.

Looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Ecology Ottawa and local environmental action.

One World Film Festival 2017

I’m impressed by the effectiveness of film and the arts to foster understanding of environmental and social challenges and to inspire hope and action.

The One World Film Festival has been bringing such films to Ottawa for many years. The Festival is an annual series of documentary films from Canada and around the world that address social justice, human rights and environmental issues. This year it runs from Thursday, Sept. 28 to Sunday, Oct. 1 at the Saint Paul University Amphitheatre (223 Main St.).

The Festival includes:

  • The Three Sisters Community Garden, on the revival of an Mi’gmaq traditional garden;
  • Freedom Drum, about a 2006 drum circle and vigil on Victoria Island calling on Canada to support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People;
  • Water Warriors, on efforts to protect water in New Brunswick from oil and gas exploration and fracking;
  • Fixed, about repair cafes;
  • Tomorrow, exploring alternative ways of approaching agriculture, energy, economics and education;
  • Documentaries on resistance and survival, migration and refugees, arts and culture, and more;
  • Panel discussions on issues addressed in the films.

See the schedule and other details at the One World Film Festival website.

More Ottawa Tree Events

Heritage Bur Oak photo via Champlain Oaks Project http://www.champlainoaks.com/2017/09/the-heritage-bur-oak-at-211-daniel-ave/

Celebration of the Champlain Bur Oaks

Several of Ottawa’s ancient Bur Oaks will be recognized as heritage trees on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, National Tree Day.

Forests Ontario is holding a ceremony to mark the significance of four trees, and the community of Bur Oaks, in the Champlain Park neighbourhood. The neighbourhood is home to at least 60 Bur Oaks that were once part of a forest along the Ottawa River.

An impressive number of the older trees have survived residential development, but the Bur Oaks of Champlain Park continue to face risks. Infill development has destroyed or damaged trees, even those that are supposed to be protected as “distinctive” trees under Ottawa bylaws.

Fortunately, the Champlain Oaks Project has been documenting, nurturing and advocating for the Bur Oaks of Champlain Park. They’ve been encouraging the City of Ottawa to recognize and protect heritage trees, an approach that is under consideration as part of the Urban Forest Management Plan recommendations.

The Heritage Tree Recognition event starts at 124 Cowley Ave. at 10:00 a.m. and will visit several other nearby trees. Bur Oak saplings, grown from heritage trees, will be for sale at the event, with proceeds going towards tree planting in the neighbourhood.

Find out more about the Bur Oaks and the Heritage Tree Recognition event at The Champlain Oaks Project website, which also has stories about each of the trees being recognized.

Tree Walks

Here’s another opportunity to see the Bur Oaks of Champlain Park and other magnificent urban trees. Community group Big Trees of Kitchissippi is organizing neighbourhood walks to learn about urban trees and their importance, and efforts to map and to protect them. There’s a Champlain Park Tree Walk on Sunday, Oct. 15, and a Hampton Park Tree Walk on Sunday, Oct. 22. Find details on their website.

National Tree Day Challenge

Tree Canada is hosting an online tree planting campaign to mark National Tree Day and their 25th anniversary. Until October 1, if you plant a virtual tree online, they’ll plant a real tree on your behalf.

Fall Rhapsody in Gatineau Park

Fall Rhapsody, from Sept. 30-Oct. 22, showcases the changing colours of Gatineau Park. New this year are shuttlebuses that run 1) between downtown Ottawa and several Park sites including Pink Lake, King Mountain and Champlain Lookout, or 2) between Champlain Lookout and Camp Fortune. Check the NCC website for details.

 

Tree Fest Ottawa 2017 Fall Tree Festival

Behind Tree Fest Ottawa is a talented and committed group of people who use photography, art and urban design to engage and inspire our community in understanding and appreciating trees and nature.

Tree Fest Ottawa is hosting the 2017 Fall Tree Festival on Saturday, Sept. 23 and Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017.

A highlight is PhotoSynthesis 2, a photo exhibit portraying the resilience, beauty and contributions of trees. Following the successful PhotoSynthesis exhibit in 2015, Photosynthesis 2 presents photos selected from submissions on the topic of celebrating trees.

The free festival includes an eclectic series of workshops, with topics ranging from forest therapy and foraging to the art of doodling and the ecology of Brewer Pond. An Indigenous Walk (Sat.), a guided tree walk (Sun.), morning yoga (Sun.) and tree planting (Sun.) are also planned. Check the website for the full schedule.

Throughout the weekend, there’ll be music and drumming, all-ages activities (including storytelling, a nature trivia contest, henna art, crafts and outdoor games), and local and tree-sourced foods.

The Fall Tree Festival happens at Brewer Park, by the pond, from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. both days. Hope to see you there!

Posted by Denise Deby. Thanks to Christine Earnshaw, Tree Fest Ottawa for the information and poster image.