Welcome to the June Saanich-Gulf Islands Electoral District Association (SGI-EDA) Newsletter. As the pandemic continues and BC moves into Phase Two of response, politics at the local and federal levels has never been more important. Our Green MPs continue to press the government to improve social and environmental accountability every day and crowds of people are protesting inequalities with greater zeal.
This issue features a message from Elizabeth, a guest article about local food production, as well as Firesmart information and some important Green Party updates.
Message from Elizabeth:
We are at a hinge moment in history. They come along rarely. These moments in time – Kairos moments – change everything.
This is an end to incrementalism. It is time to sweep away the remnants of an unjust, unsustainable world.
It is too early to use the past tense to describe the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is not too soon to begin learning from it. The unprecedented events of the past months have reminded us that we value one another and that we are stronger, united. They have also taught us that:
- In an emergency, governments can move – fast!
- In an emergency, we can put aside our differences and work together.
- In an emergency, our heroes are front-line workers, people who have been earning too little for too long.
- Women, in particular, perform vital tasks and have been underpaid and undervalued for too long.
- The globalization of everything allowed the virus to spread.
- The globalization of supply chains made it harder to access what we need.
- What we thought was normal and acceptable is no longer acceptable – a world of deep inequality and unacceptable levels of pollution.
- Billions of people around the world can all respond to share a collective responsibility.
- Governments around the world can decide that life is more important than money.
We have a lot of work to do to get Canada on track. I want to share with you that I am hopeful it can be done.
Life in the Local Lane:
June is bringing lots of sunshine and rain – sounds like gardening weather. This contribution from a couple of our members, both enthusiastic and accomplished gardeners, will bring you insights to a better garden.
Vegetable Gardening with Nancy and Gary Searing
The Covid Pandemic has taken its toll on society and continues to do so. But one of the bright spots is that with so many people forced to stay home, many have taken up gardening. Nancy and I both started gardening pretty much by tilling up some land and planting veggies. Isn’t that all there is to gardening? And we have had many gardens since that first one many years ago. But it wasn’t until we settled on our current property 22 years ago that we were able to really have the garden that we both wanted — a garden that goes well beyond simply tilling the soil and planting seeds.
Growing food is only one aspect of gardening. The other and more important role is tending the soil, and especially the billions of microorganisms in the soil. These tiny creatures are what make the minerals and elements in the soil available to the plants we want to grow and eat. So in our view, nurturing the soil is not only the basic tenent of gardening, but also the key to tending the little piece of this planet that we have been fortunate to look after these past two decades.
In our climate and with our generally heavy soils, the winter rains are a real challenge for gardeners. Not only does the constant rainfall leach many of the nutrients from the soil, it also can compact the soil making extensive digging and tilling necessary. Tilling destroys the soil structure and can lead to a hardpan situation below the tilled area making it impossible for roots to penetrate deep into the soil. Leaving the garden bare in the winter only exacerbates the problem. We built cloches (plastic tents) for our outdoor beds to protect them from the rain and to extend the growing season in our garden. These were made of wooden frames and while not heavy were awkward to carry. As we got older, Nancy found that she could not help me carry them anymore so we have come up with a new solution to cloches which do not need to be moved. Innovating in the garden is one of the things we like most about gardening (well, second only to eating all of that wonderful, fresh, organic produce grown just a few metres from the kitchen).
Part of nurturing the soil is adding plenty of organic matter to it. But there never seems to be enough organic matter to nurture a large garden. Every gardener should have a compost pile, the bigger the better. We compost about 8 cubic metres in our garden which nicely does our vegetable garden, but it still is not enough for the flower beds. One helpful hint is to use wood chips as a mulch (do NOT work them into your soil because they rob the soil of nitrogen as they break down). Keeping them on the surface shades the soil for those cool weather plants, keeps the rain from compacting the soil and as they slowly break down at the surface they will add nutrients to the soil. Wood chips work best in a “no-till” garden otherwise you have to remove them to till each year (or more often for succession plantings).
While we still till as needed, we are trying to move to more of a minimal-till system avoiding the use of our rototillers. Rototilling is actually counter-productive because it introduces so much oxygen into the soil it burns up all the organic matter very quickly and completely destroys soil structure and actually promotes soil compaction when the fluffed up soil collapses. The cloches help us reduce tilling, but keeping our soil covered with plants is key (and how nature does it). The roots of plants, especially deep-rooted plants like buckwheat and root crops such as parsnips help build soil structure by creating passageways for water, minerals and the roots of other plants. We are also fans of permanent raised beds because that way you walk below the soil level and do not compact the ground in your garden bed. Stepping in your bed just once severely compacts the soil. Even watering your beds with a sprinkler can compact the soil. Therefore, we have gone to a drip-irrigation system. It also keeps the leaves of the plants dry reducing disease problems. We also save water because it puts the water where the plants are and not on the aisles or in the air.
Our greenhouse is the “engine” of our garden. This is where we start all of our plants from seed beginning in February and we also grow the heat-loving plants such as tomatoes, peppers, long English cucumbers and cantaloupes in it throughout the summer. With a large garden we need a lot of space to start plants and we don’t have that space in our house. With a small garden plot, a grow light and a seed starting heat mat in the house would suffice nicely.
I always remember hearing someone remark about farming experience. A farmer who has been farming for 30 years could either have 30 years of experience or one year of experience 30 times depending upon what they learn from year to year. We look at each year in the garden as a learning experience. We try new things and plant one or two new crops each year. Our new crop this year is Aztec spinach. It is supposed to produce a grain like quinoa but without the saponins. Given the importance of fungi in the ecosystem and human health, we began a small plot of red wine cap mushrooms, our first toe-dip into growing fungi. We are also growing for the second time ginger and turmeric, hopefully with better success this year because we started earlier. We also seem to be constantly adding to our orchard turning all that lawn into something more productive.
Nancy and I are always willing to share what we have done, our successes as well as our failures, with anyone who is interested. Especially if you are just starting out, or if you are an experienced gardener who wants to share ideas and stories, feel free to give us a call and arrange a time to come and see our garden and talk about growing food. Or if you just want to come and look, we have a beautiful flower garden as well. You are most welcome. We can be reached at 250-656-1889.
The bounty of the Saanich Peninsula is now upon us. Please consider buying from your neighbourhood farmers at a local market, farm stand or grocery outlet. Many farm stands are bursting with produce, and the following weekend markets have opened on the “big island”:
- Peninsula Country Market at Saanich Fairgrounds, Saturdays from 9 to 1.
- North Saanich Farm Market at St. John’s United Church, 10990 West Saanich Rd, Saturdays from 9:30 to 11:30.
Good Green Reads
If Gary and Nancy’s informative article has you eager for more good gardening information, there are many excellent local resources available. Local gardener and entomologist Linda Gilkeson lives on Salt Spring Island and has published many books on growing food in our local climate. Many of her books are readily available in local bookstores.
Green Meditation Group
Image courtesy Pixabay
We are organizing a GREEN MEDITATION GROUP to be held at physical distancing. Everyone is welcome. It will be a gentle meditation session to accommodate regular meditators as well as those with no previous experience. Beginning with breathing exercises, there will be a short guided meditation before a period for silent reflection. If you are interested please reply to email@example.com.
I am embarrassed to say that I lost the contact information for one of the people who replied to the invitation in the last newsletter. If you are that person please contact me again. I do apologize. Shelagh
Is Your Property Firesmart?
With our warm weather hopefully on the way, many of us wonder about the security of our properties from wildfire. The BC Firesmart program provides a wealth of important information on ways to fireproof your home and property.
“The homes that are prepared are the homes left standing. Thankfully, there are simple steps you can take to drastically reduce your property’s risk.”
Visit the website to learn more about protecting your home from wildfire.
Firesmart Gulf Islands
Are you concerned about the impacts of climate change and wildfire in the Southern Gulf Islands? Do you want to learn new tools to mitigate climate change and adapt to our shifting world?
FireSmart Gulf Islands is running an online workshop series on Wildfire and Climate Change. The series is hosted by Dr. Deb Morrison, a Pender Island climate science educator. These free workshops will run Saturday, June 20th and 27th from 2-3pm on Zoom. For more information and to register click here.
Salt Spring Island Climate Action Plan Draft Launched
GPC Leadership Race
The leadership contestants are now finalized and a diverse and extremely inspiring field of ten candidates have declared their intention to lead this party into the new decade.
Over the coming months, we will inform you when we become aware of opportunities to hear from the candidates.
Click here for information on any of these candidates, the leadership contest and the opportunity to volunteer or donate to support your favourite.
Just a reminder – in order to vote in this historic leadership contest, you must be a member of the GPC by September 3rd. We strongly encourage all Green voters to become members and take part in this important event! You can learn more here.
Which Green Party?
People often ask “which Green Party are you”? It can be confusing sometimes. Everyone knows the federal Green Party of Canada and our three great MPs. Greens are growing in influence at the provincial level, and some have pivotal legislative roles, as in BC and Prince Edward Island. At the municipal level we have the amazing Vancouver Greens. Green parties can be found around the globe, winning seats in Europe, Australia, and Germany, among others. The Global Greens provide essential connections around the world.
The federal riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands (SGI) encompasses the Southern Gulf Islands, Saanich Peninsula and a fair bit of Saanich. The northern part of SGI is particularly strong–the only riding in Canada lucky enough to have both a Green MP, Elizabeth May, and a Green MLA, Adam Olsen. The southern part of SGI encompasses parts of the provincial ridings of Saanich South, Oak Bay-Gordon Head, and Victoria-Swan Lake.
With this in mind, and knowing that many of you have volunteered for one or more of the above campaigns, I have a favour to ask of you.
BC will have a general election next year. Our BC cousins in the Saanich North and the Islands Riding Association (SAN-RA) would love your help. The other three provincial ridings within SGI will also be excited if you live there and can help. We are prohibited by privacy legislation from sharing our contact data across organizations, and for good reason. If you are a provincial donor or party member, you are already connected. Otherwise, please complete the BC Greens volunteer form and someone from the local riding association will be in touch to discuss opportunities that can match with your interests. If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org attention Linda – I serve on both the SGI-EDA and the SAN-RA executives. Volunteering with both Green organizations has been fun and rewarding, and I have made many new lifelong friends. Thank you! Linda
SGI Annual General Meeting
We had previously scheduled our Annual General Meeting of the EDA for early June, but it was cancelled due to COVID-19. When we have further details we will let you know.
One of the most important, and exciting parts of the AGM is the election of new executive members. Even though an EDA Executive election may not be imminent, we welcome all applicants, and it’s simple. You can step forward and nominate yourself, so please do give some thought to volunteering at this time. In particular, we are under-represented by younger adults and members from the Saanich area of the riding, so if this applies to you, please consider joining us.
Finally – a gentle reminder: In order to vote at the SGI-AGM you need to be a member at least 30 days prior to the election. If you wish to join, renew your membership, or are uncertain of your status, visit here:
Update on Donations:
The Saanich-Gulf Islands Electoral District Association is blessed with many supporters who donate monthly to the EDA.
This year the EDA has decided to change the way we process donations, in order to simplify the tax receipts you receive, and reduce the work of our volunteers. Starting in March 2020, when you go to the donate page on the SGI EDA’s website, you are offered the choices of donating to the Saanich-Gulf Islands Greens or to the national Green Party of Canada (or to both, should you wish). Clicking on the Saanich-Gulf Islands Greens link will automatically bring you to the SGI donate page on the Green Party of Canada website.
For 2020 you will receive two receipts, one from the SGI EDA and one from the Green Party of Canada. In future years you will receive one receipt from the Green Party of Canada for your donations, including those directed to SGI EDA and the national party.
For existing monthly donors, we will be working with you to transition over to the new system. Willeke van Linden Tol is a SGI EDA volunteer who is assisting with this effort. Willeke is originally from Amsterdam and lived in England before coming to Sidney 25 years ago. She has worked in child care and banking, and has volunteered for various Green Party campaigns over the years. Please contact Willeke when you are ready to transition your donation. She will be able to assist you should you have any questions. Additionally, she will ensure that your existing donations to the SGI EDA are cancelled in order to avoid duplication. E-mail is preferred as it would contain the correct spelling of your name.
Willeke’s contact information is: email@example.com or 250-655-9337.
The timeline to complete this conversion is December 2020. Between now and December of this year Willeke will be proactively contacting any donors to make the change in order to ensure a smooth transition.