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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Blame it on La Niña

Posted by Dawn-Ann on June 26, 2011

When I was growing up in northern British Columbia, meteorology was actually one of the “Nature Girl” type interests I held. I paid attention to weather patterns and cloud formations and tried to learn how to predict what the weather was going to do.

I wasn’t terribly good at it, but I did learn a lot.

Recent flooding in northern BC and Alberta, including my hometown of Dawson Creek, and enduring a very long, cool, wet spring in Calgary got me wondering if La Niña was at work. Sure enough, a quick Google search (gotta love modern technology!) showed she was.

The La Niña weather pattern starts when colder than normal water pools along the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

Effects are felt in a shifting jet stream and changing high/low pressure areas. She can create cooler than normal winters with lots of snow along the west coast, higher tornado and hurricane counts, and hot, dry temps in the southern United States.

La Niña is probably responsible for all the freakish weather we’ve had this year. Thankfully, she doesn’t usually last more than a couple of years, although there have been longer episodes.

This video explains a little more about La Niña and is worth watching for the quaint hillbilly accent of the narrator alone! :)

The Urban Farming Guys

Posted by Dawn-Ann on June 20, 2011

I haven’t been this excited about a new ‘Net find since I found the Urban Homesteaders! Now Urban Farming Guys have taken things to a new level.

Learn about milking goats. Aquaponics. Making your own soap! Create a community of like-minded urbanite farmers around you.

Have a look at this video to get yourself as excited as I am! :)

Vertical farming, Part II

Posted by Dawn-Ann on February 14, 2011

What got me thinking about vertical gardening again was a post a friend sent to me about a back-yard structure you can grow strawberries and herbs on.

When you’re short on space, gardening UP makes so much sense, doesn’t it? Here are a couple of great ideas that some other very bright folks are working on.

The first vertical farm is on a very large scale. You can find more information on it here.

And here are a few really great ideas on a much smaller scale. After you’ve done watching this, go to and do a search for vertical farming. It’s amazing what some folks dream up! :)

Squirrels in Calgary

Posted by Dawn-Ann on February 12, 2011

I turned around just now and glanced out my office window and did a double take. There, on the stucco of the neighbor’s house, were two squirrels enjoying the sunshine and each other. Enjoy this brief little hint of spring to come. Some day…

Calgary now allows backyard chickens

Posted by Dawn-Ann on May 28, 2010

Tom wouldn’t let me raise chickens even if I wanted to but it’s nice to know the option has become available. Wouldn’t it be nice to have fresh eggs and chicken to eat? But they’re a lot of work and mess and I just don’t have the time right now, anyway.

(Though sometimes I think I’d like to keep a noisy rooster on the side next to the people with the yappy little mutts.)

According to this article, the City of Calgary has dropped charges against several folks who are raising chickens in their backyards.

It doesn’t say specifically that the bylaw is going to be changed any time soon, but it does say, “More than 300 cities in North America, including Vancouver and New York, have amended their bylaws to allow urban chickens.”

Urban agriculture in Edinburgh

Posted by Dawn-Ann on October 4, 2009

Sir Walter Scott memorial in Edinburgh

One of the highlights of our trip to Scotland last year was Edinburgh. We happened to hit town during the Fringe Festival and the music, people and vibrant sights are burned in my memory (and stored on my harddrive) forever.

The Scots are brilliant and resourceful, so it comes as no surprise that they are eying urban agriculture as an important way to address “the many problems associated with the globalisation of the food system, urbanisation and increasingly intensified agriculture.”

According to the summary of Jake Butcher’s dissertation to the University of Edinburgh, a “recent increase in urban food production has been stimulated by both the recognised advantages which it brings in terms of health, recreation and urban sustainability and by the solution which it represents to the many problems associated with the globalisation of the food system, urbanisation and increasingly intensified agriculture.”

Read more here

Edinburgh’s “Allotments” program in more detail

Dawn-Ann’s garden

Posted by Dawn-Ann on June 27, 2009

It’s been a hectic spring so far and I haven’t had the time I would like to work in my gardens. They need weeding badly, especially my potatoes. But the perennials are still blooming their little hearts out and that makes me happy.

Here is a little video of springtime in Calgary.

The new ice age cometh

Posted by Dawn-Ann on June 6, 2009

It’s snowing today in Calgary. Yes, in June. And while it’s true Calgary has seen snow in each month of the year (sometimes all 12 months of a single year), it took me by surprise and got me thinking.

My poor little tomatoes. Temps didn't get to freezing so I'm hoping they'll be okay.

My poor little tomatoes. Temps didn't get to freezing so I'm hoping they'll be okay.

I’d heard rumours about a coming ice age and the last couple of winters and springs have definitely reminded me more of the ones I experienced growing up in northern British Columbia. So I performed a quick Google search and did find that folks are talking about it.

Climate and temperatures go through long cycles of heating and cooling (with or without man’s CO2 emissions) and ice ages are more the norm. Between ice ages the planet often experiences brief periods of “interglacial” time, where temperatures are balmy and warm. They are usually relatively short-lived and have been known to get much warmer than what we have recently been experiencing. Then the cold and snow starts to settle back in.

Five hundred million years ago, carbon dioxide concentrations were over 13 times current levels; and not until about 20 million years ago did carbon dioxide levels dropped to a little less than twice what they are today.

It is possible that moderately increased carbon dioxide concentrations could extend the current interglacial period. But we have not reached the level required yet, nor do we know the optimum level to reach. 
[Source: The Coming of a New Ice Age]

The question is not if we’ll be plunged into another ice age, but when. Thankfully, these long cycles take tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years to run their course. No point in migrating to warmer climes just yet. Well, unless you want to.

Springtime in Calgary

Posted by Dawn-Ann on May 31, 2009

This spring is reminding me of the ones we had back home in Dawson Creek. Windy and bright – just wish we’d get a bit more rain.

The willow we planted eight years ago or so is now big enough to give us shade on hot, sunny afternoons and I think the new currant bushes are going to like that. They don’t like a lot of direct sunlight.

But speaking of currants – look at this! I’m so excited that I’m getting a ton of little blossoms and berries already! They’re just baby bushes but they’re obviously happy. I’m thinking of black currant jam and maybe even some wine?

Blossoms hanging in clusters on currant bush

Blossoms hanging in clusters on currant bush


A closeup of the wee berries beginning to form

A closeup of the wee berries beginning to form

Author says challenging simple concepts can save planet

Posted by Dawn-Ann on May 29, 2009

Going green doesn’t have to mean using less power or slower economic growth

    OTTAWA, May 29 /CNW Telbec/ – Author and democracy activist Frances Moore Lappé says we already know how to solve the pressing issues of our time, such as climate change and world hunger.
    But she says our own pre-conceived ideas about how things should work – our mental map of the world – is actually preventing us from taking action.
    In a speech at Ottawa’s Carleton University as part of the 78th Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Lappé called for a wholesale revamping of the way we view government, the economy and democracy. If we manage to do it, she says, we can save ourselves from our own demise.
    Lappé, made famous in the 1970s by her bestselling vegetarian cookbook Diet for a Small Planet, is an activist, author and co-founder with her daughter Anna Lappé of The Small Planet Institute. She says many people today are frightened by the potential for disaster, ecological and otherwise, and fearful that nothing can be done to prevent it. Lappé says we can do something – if we challenge five assumptions about the way the world works.
    The first is that going green means “powering down,” or reducing our consumption of energy. Lappé says all we have to do is stop getting energy from fossil fuels and start getting it from renewable sources like the sun.
    “Every day the sun supplies us with 15,000 times the amount of energy we’re now using in fossil fuels,” she says. If everyone had a solar panel or windmill on their roof, we wouldn’t be dependent on oil companies – and as
individuals we’d feel more in control of our own destiny.
    The second idea to dispense with, she says, is that going green means an end to economic growth. What we have to do, she says, is change our idea of what growth is. Right now, she says, the Walton family – owners of Wal-Mart -
controls as much wealth as the bottom 40 per cent of the U.S. population. Is it growth if the wealthy families just get wealthier?
    There’s plenty of room for growth, she says, if we learn to do things more efficiently. For example, she says various estimates show that between 25 and 50 per cent of all food produced in the United States is wasted. And that every year, Americans throw out some 300 pounds of packaging material.
    The third idea she wants to challenge is the notion that humans are by nature greedy, self-centred and materialistic. Under certain conditions, she said, we can be monsters. But there wouldn’t be 6.8 billion of us on the planet today if we didn’t also have positive qualities such as empathy, cooperation and fairness. As a society, she said we should simply try to make sure our rules try to bring out the best, not the worst in us.
    The fourth idea she disputes is that we dislike rules. She says humans crave structure, particularly rules that make sense to us as individuals and which foster a sense of inclusion. We will accept the right rules, she says, citing as an example a German law that enables individual citizens to sell power they produce at home, through renewable sources such windmills or solar panels for example, to utilities at a guaranteed price. People there have embraced the idea, she says.
    The final concept she wants to challenge is the idea that our problems are so pressing there’s no time for democracy, and only an authoritarian regime can save us. She believes the only hope for the planet is to trust in people and set rules that bring out the best in us.
    “The mother of all issues is who makes the decisions,” she says, adding that if decisions are taken by people with the most money, we all suffer.
    Lappé says she’s not against a market economy – just the idea that there’s only one way to run the economy.
    She also wants to challenge the idea, she says, that change is impossible. Recent history has shown that seemingly insoluble problems have in fact been solved. “It’s not possible to know what’s possible.”

    Organized by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Congress 2009 brings together over 8,000 researchers from Canada and around the world.