Just do it

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After completing my time on Linnaea Farm I feel elated, inspired and motivated by all the positive initiatives being carried out by the individuals we encountered. However, I cannot help but feel perplexed by a thought that has stuck in my mind since the beginning of our course. How much of permaculture is privilege? The folks of Linnaea are in an exceptionally lucky position that allows them to do what they do. Max and Heidi are in a similarly fortunate position whereby they live on Henry’s farm in exchange for work and other services. Land is a limited and shrinking resource that is only attainable for a few. I disagreed with Max’s comment that we are facing a population problem rather than an abundance problem. True, enough food is produced to feed the world but I do not feel the human population size is at the heart of our greatest issues. I do agree it is a human problem in that human actions have led us here and therefore we too should share nature’s suffering (ie. ingesting contaminated foods). But I feel that our greatest problem is a systemic one. The structures that govern coupled with globalization have entrapped much of society in on an going cycle of growth by marginalization. As Charlie so poignantly noted, for some Indigenous peoples reproduction is a form of agency – a continuation of cultural values, languages, and traditions. Max said “there are too many people on Earth for any food system,” but I argue there are too many politicians on Earth for any food system.

I guess permaculture does not really translate into privilege in totality but I still can’t help but question just how accessible these practices really are? I suppose at the end of the day it comes down to what we are willing to give up in order to give back to the Earth; what we are doing to enact our individual and collective agency. Despite these quandaries, the greatest lessons I took away from my time on Cortes was that opportunity is everywhere and to just START. Even in the smallest of ways, it is better to do than not to do.

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Plant Project: Fuki

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Petasites japonicus, commonly known as sweet coltsfoot, Japanese butterbur, giant butterbur or bog rhubarb, is a perennial herbaceous plant native to Japan, China, and Korea. The plant was first introduced to British Columbia (BC) by Japanese immigrants. Fuki blooms during the early Spring or even late winter. This plant can grow in just about any soil type but prefers moist to wet conditions typical of woodlands or bog areas (Petasites japonicus, PFAF Plant Database, n.d.). While it prefers medium to full shade it can also thrive without any shade, so long as the conditions are wet enough. This wide range of tolerance to environmental conditions may attribute to why the plant is considered an invasive species in BC. As one of its common names suggests, this plant is quite large in stature reaching a height of 3 feet and the leaves can be as large as five feet in width (Petasites japonicus – Plant Finder, n.d.).

Due to their extensive root systems this plant can spread rapidly and improve soil stability. Because of this, fuki can be utilized in gardening as a protective barrier against pests, wind damage and encroachment of grasses or invasive species (Simpson, personal communication, May 22, 2017). They can also be used so stabilize the banks of streams and around the edges of ponds. The tall stalks and wide leaves make a perfect play place for small children, under which they can hide from the sun or their parents. Apparently giant butterbur is sometimes used as umbrellas by children in Japan! (Petasites japonicus, PFAF Plant Database, n.d.)

The stalk and the flower of fuki are both edible. The term fuki is actually the name for the Japanese dish of cooked Petasites japonicus stalks. The stalks, similar in structure to celery or rhubarb but much larger in size, are boiled and peeled before consuming. Fuki is typically then stir fried and served with rice. The stalks can also be added to miso soup for flavouring. It is important to note that the leaves do contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can cause liver damage (Petasites japonicus, n.d.). The flower buds are considered a delicacy in Japan, which are also boiled or used for tempura.

 

 

References:

Petasites japonicus. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved 23 May 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petasites_japonicus

Petasites japonicus – Plant Finder. (n.d.). Missouribotanicalgarden.org. Retrieved 23 May 2017, from http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=a645

Petasites japonicus Sweet Coltsfoot, Japanese sweet coltsfoot, Butterbur PFAF Plant Database. (n.d.). Pfaf.org. Retrieved 23 May 2017, from http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Petasites+japonicus

 

 

 

 

 

“Botanical Interventions”

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This morning (May 26, 2017) we were graced and honoured with the presence of Oliver Kellhammer who spoke to us of autonomous spaces, experimental landscapes, and natural regeneration. The first portion of his talk was particularly meaningful for me – as I listened to him speak of an early project he undertook in Strathcona Park I came to realize I was sitting before the man who created a space near and dear to my heart. The Cottonwood garden in Strathcona has become a safe place for me, and my dog; a place of contemplation and exploration. Fenced in between industrial box-like buildings and concrete commuter corridors lays an oasis thick with fruit trees, shrubs, and leafy greens. Mulch pathways course throughout, welcoming the wandering traveler. Community created but instigated by Oliver, this autonomous space exemplifies our capacity for opportunity, in terms of food security and sovereignty, collective agency, and social justice, as we move into the future chained alongside the repercussions of continuous climate change.

I felt inspired by his call to bring back the commons, to challenge authority and governing structures by doing first and seeking permission later. His idea of “weed sanctuaries,” in which he just “lets sh*t happen,” got me thinking about the manicured nature of our industrial food system compared to the ‘messy’ food forests of permaculture gardens. By allowing nature to take over and do its thing we are not only giving a voice back to nature we are enabling the inscription of its language on the landscape. Autonomous spaces and experimental landscapes are in essence classrooms that help us relearn what it means to be connected to nature. To be connected to place.