Kena Landry

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since May 17, 2018
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Recent posts by Kena Landry

I have Boston Ivy on our house. Mice *could* use it as cover to enter the roof, so I'll cut it as high as I can (typically about 8-10 feet from the ground) in the fall, just before it gets cold and the risk of unwanted roommates increases. It's really easy: you just snip it as high as you can, then grab and pull (ours is a brick house, so I don't worry about damage. Your mileage might vary.)

It just grows back stronger the next year, in time to keep our house cool over the summer.

8 months ago
More wip, after removing about 20 buckets of gravel. This is what the contractors considered "perfectly good soil" and could not understand we wanted removed.

We only managed to get them to remove the top 6 inches because that's what was in their contract.  That picture shows what was left after the worst was taken out, and before the green mulch.
9 months ago
Reverse work-in-progress pics.  In this one, the difference in soils is flabbergasting.
9 months ago
Update nearly a year later. The contractors kept messing around for no good reason, including filling our yard with gravel "so people will not hurt themselves falling down five inches from the sidewalk".

We had to complain three times for them to get at least 6 inches of that crap out, and then we told them we'd take care of the rest and NOT to put in industrial Kentucky bluegrass in rolls. Thank goodness we were working from home do we could stop them everyone they ignored our multiple requests.

Sowed a mix of green mulch (including peas, alfafa, winter rye and others) and let that grow a bit. Then we had three cubic yards of good garden soil delivered, deliminated garden beds in the middle and topped with ramial wood chips. Inoculated with mycorhizes and planted our herb and tea garden (mostly perennials)

It's still fairly crappy dead soil underneath, but I'm hoping the green mulch  added some organic material at the interface and the microorganisms and worms will eventually do they job bringing life back into the soil.
9 months ago
Our new front yard. Out with the grass, in with an herb and medicinal plants garden inspired by medieval monastery gardens with a modern twist.

Really looking forward to see it grow.
9 months ago
It depends in part to the availability of nice playgrounds in your area. I live in an urban setting, so no domestic playset could ever compete with a) the variety and scale of the municipal playgrounds we have around b) the fact that playgrounds come pre-packaged with "friends".

That said, I'm with the others in favor of some sort of swing, which is pleasant at all ages and complements what nature can offer. We don't have one, but the girls used the parks' swings a lot.

My girls loved having a mulched and shaded area in the back of the yard with pavers placed in a criss-cross pattern that they could play hopscotch on. They called it "the forest", even though it was tiny.

We also have a large rock (maybe 2 feet high, 2 feet deep, 4 feet wide, and mostly flat) that they used as their "crafting area": it was always filled with "special" rocks, sticks, wilted flowers... They had a large metal pot to make "potions" in, and that was the mud kitchen they used the most. At some point (6ish?), we added a kid-friendly carving knife to explore whittling, and when I prune things, I always leave long vines or branches with fort potential for them to play with.

(I gave up on fancy pinteresty outdoor kitchens a long time ago. Those were ruthlessly ignored, )
10 months ago
I'm very curious about intermittent fasting.

In my experience, fasting even for just a few hours will produce, for me, a steep decline in physical and mental productivity. It's not just cravings and hunger pangs: my heart will start pounding with the most minimal effort, I feel faint, I get cramps in my shoulders, my brain feels foggish and I'm really just not as sharp as usual. And generally that's the point where I'll make bad food decisions because my brain is just screaming for the first source of calories.

I'm wondering if that has anything to do with my metabolism. I'm at an healthy weight and I'm  generally good at following my hunger cues. There are a few days when I'll wake up and not be hungry at all (in which case I'll just have a tea and wait until I'm hungry to eat), but it's rare, and generally because I've overindulged the day before. But generally, I am very hungry and I feel strongly towards specific foods (and not necessarily junk - I can generally tell when my body screams for protein or when it wants fiber, veggies and fruits). I don't eat a lot between meals, and almost never after dinner (so I'm effectively fasting between 7 PM and 7 AM I guess?)

I figure my body has adjusted to regular meals and just doesn't store much? Maybe I'd just be the first casualty in a famine setting?
11 months ago
BTW, here's the landscaping business I was talking about. Might be an interesting model (but I doubt they make lots of money; looks more like a labor of love )

Urban Seedlings
1 year ago
We have a local non-profit that was mandated to take over the municipal greenhouse and use that to foster sustainable community projects. They house a small organic plant nursery, an eco-friendly urban gardening landscaper, some community projects, a farmer's market in the fall (when it's too cold for the usual outdoors market)... That said, they could not survive if they didn't get the greenhouse for free from the city, and they can only pay for one part-time employee.

The other bit of wisdom I could offer, is that my best childhood friend was involved in two community housing projects. The first one was starting from scratch and she gave up before the building even got started: too much bickering and argueing about conflicting visions and values. Lots of people mean different thing when you say"community"; from polyamorous groups to "we just wanted to share a single lawnmower".  The second one was an established partly-subsidized housing co-op with clear existing rules and roles, and an interview process. And that one proceeded super smoothly, and she and her husband lived there for a really long time pre-kids.  It actually worked way better than most condos, because it was clear what you signed out for. It was still a fairly diverse community in terms of economic means, ages, origins... But they all knew what they were getting into to start with.

The key, I think, was to start with an established structure and weed out people who did not fit with that vision, rather than try to reconcile a group with different goals. They also favored candidates with practical skills (idealism is great, but way better if you can back it up with know-how and resourcefulness). Having been involved in many volunteering projects, I found that those were often full of younger people with more ideas than skills (which is normal in a young person), but that people who could act as mentors were just too busy raising families and making a living to get involved.

Another model that I've seen succeed is the "let's tentatively remove the fence and grow from there", especially for families with kids of similar ages. But these were communities that grew organically between existing like-minded neighbours, and I'm not sure any of them would have committed beforehand to a larger scale project until they could dip their toes into it. That's what we're slowly trying to build: sharing tools with neighbours, knowing we can rely on each other in a crisis, having our kids roam in an age-appropriate way. But we're the only ones truly interested in gardening, so I only hope to inspire...

All this to say that you'll probably need a solid value proposition and a clear path to making money (if you need this to be a sustainable business that will pay you a living wage), because it's not an easy road. But the world needs that!
1 year ago
We just came back from 48h of the worst blackout in Montreal's history, caused by freezing rain. Near freezing temperatures, and tree damage all.over the place (but not on our property, fortunately)

Our house is 100% electric from hydro and wind: makes sense from an environmental perspective in an urban emvironnent, but risky when power breaks...

Here's an update of how we managed...

- First of all, both community and state responded beautifully. People with power shared with those without, all levels of gouvernement posted calls to solidarity and prudence, and within 24h shelters and safe spaces had been open. No fights for batteries anywhere or pillaging. Anyone sick or old was called and cared for (we saw lots of firefighters/first responders making rounds to vulnerable people)

- on a closer level, neighbours and friends pooled resources. Our next door neighbour lended us a few hours of his generator to give our fridge and freezer a boost. In return, we shared our (useless to us) electric portable heater so he could keep his young kids warm.

- Camping gear did beautifully. We have wood-powered and propane powered burners, so cooking food was not an issue. Our new 60W solar panel was used to charge our portable battery (mostly in day 2, because day 1 was overcast and still rainy). I could see it keeping us running for a long time. We kept warm in our  three season sleeping bags.

- our biggest weakness is our aquariums. Most of our backup power went to keeping the fish aerated and not too cold. (All 10 survived so far, but I'll be monitoring ammonium rates because the balance is probably out if whack). In a true catastrophy, we'd have to let out finned friends go...

- the permies of "keep people warm, not the house" worked great. We have an electric pillow and reusable hot packs that can warm up a cold bed. Hot tea does wonders too.

- a lot of victorian era things like fingerless gloves and tea cozies suddently made sense. My love for things retro was well rewarded. I now wish I owned a floor length wool walking skirt and matching petticoat...

- Not all of our house makes the most of natural light. I had to move a chair next to the window to sew, and my husband could barely read his piano sheet music when the sky was overcast. Not a catastrophy, but it makes us realize how much we depend on artificial light.

- And finally, my kids  (10&11) are so addicted to technology. Near the end of day 2, they finally got out of the complaining mode and started getting creative. But it drained a lot of my emotional energy to manage their mood and plan for activities to get them out of their slump . We still have a lot of emotional work to do before they can withstand a zoombipocalypse (of course, now that power is back, my youngest has been outside with her whittling knife for hours... Go figure!)

Conclusion: we fared well. House was at 13oC at its lowest, which was perfectly manageable for human members of the household. Without my neighbour's generator, we might have lost some food, but nothing dramatic or life-threatening. I'll keep pestering my husband for an EPA approved wood stove though, because that would be our biggest long term weakness in winter. But we are fairly restricted in what we can use in the city because of (very reasonable) smog-prevention regulations.  But we can manage well and confortably, if we ignore the whining.
1 year ago