Category Archives: On Agriculture & the Environment

The Comfrey Mocks Me

ImageThis morning I went out to the garden, coffee in hand, and was reminded for the umpteenth time that we really need to hack back the comfrey and throw it in the compost before it smothers the strawberry patch. It’s even turned up in the front yard and along the driveway fence; whether seed blew over or it tunneled underneath isn’t clear. Incredulous as it sounds, the latter wouldn’t surprise me. But instead of grabbing the shears, I went back inside…again. Don’t get me wrong, comfrey is a wonderfully important plant if you’re trying to recycle nutrients in your garden, but calling it an ambitious is putting it mildly. Only the raspberries and the mint are comparable opportunists.

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The comfrey somewhere it shouldn’t be.

So it seems fitting that later this morning I stumbled across an article on prickly comfrey in an 1875 issue of Canada Farmer, chiding me for my laziness. We have the regular comfrey, rather than the prickly sort they describe (thank goodness), but their wisdom still holds:

“The advantages which are claimed for it over other plants are these:–It affords a cutting earlier, and lasts longer than almost any other. If cultivated upon a good deep soil, it will yield a heavier crop than any other plant; and, when once planted, it will last for ever.

It sure does.

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Filed under Dans Ontario, History, On Agriculture & the Environment

Our Plucky Urban Garden

IMG_1017We’re late starting the garden this year, but since spring took its sweet-ass time we should be okay. The strawberries and garlic are mulched, the raspberry bush has been reprimanded for growing everywhere, and we finally sowed some peas, fava beans, chard, lettuce, radishes, and arugula. Roots tomorrow, if it doesn’t rain again. We even bought an electric rototiller. (If you’re in Hamilton and need a rototiller, you can borrow ours!) Continue reading

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Filed under Dans Ontario, On Agriculture & the Environment

The Sunflower Mess

IMG_0093Last summer I drove Cheddar the Chariot (my scooter) back and forth along Highway 6 on a regular basis.  As any historian of agriculture is wont to do, I’d often converse with things, like the cows at the farm with the big green barn near Morriston. Continue reading

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Shit Dead White Dudes Say…about Dairy

A few folks have mentioned that my occasional Facebook dissertation updates are amusing, though I suspect the amusement is partially at my own expense.  Nevertheless, I thought it fitting to start a series of short posts about stuff I come across.  Enjoy. Continue reading

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November 18, 2013 · 6:17 pm

When Farmers Don’t Co-operate (Dairy Style)

DSC_1331Hello, world!  I’m working on some lengthier posts, but in the meantime I’d like to share with you something I found in the archives yesterday that made me smile.

The context: I’m working on a couple chapters for my dissertation that focus on the idea of a ‘landscape of co-operation’ in the 19th century dairying countryside and all the ways in which that rational, scientific, spatial, and social ‘plan’ was thwarted by local networks, bad roads, grumpy cows, farmers shopping around for the best deal for their milk, and so on. Continue reading

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Filed under Academia, Dans Ontario, On Agriculture & the Environment, On Human Connections

Building a Hamilton-based Seed Library?

Seeds 2012Over the years I’ve developed a finely tuned tolerance for winter that balances the recognition of seasonality’s importance for southern Ontario with a curmudgeonly bitterness far more intense than the rest of the year.  I’ve coped with winters of late by dividing them into the holiday part, followed by the long, escapist part when I think about gardening, pore over seed catalogues, and mastermind brilliant garden plans. (Incidentally, my summers seem to be divided into two parts as well: the part when I try to put those plans in action, followed by the hot, sweaty resignation part when things get out of hand.) Continue reading

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Filed under Dans Ontario, Food and Cooking, On Agriculture & the Environment, On Human Connections, Politicking

The history of science, eureka! moments, and the apple that (maybe) fell on Newton’s head

Photo Credit: beautifulcataya via Flickr

Really this time, I mean it: I will post more often.  I’m running out of excuses, since my comps exams ended two weeks ago.  Since then I’ve been busy with welcome week events at the university, but I’m also in a bit of a haze.  What does one do with themselves after comps?

One teaches!   Continue reading

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Filed under Academia, Food and Cooking, History, On Agriculture & the Environment

A ‘Stampede’ of Cows and Thoughts that Tumble, Stumble

I don’t know if I can express to you just how apropos it was to see this video pop up as the latest post on City Farmer News, which is currently set as my browser homepage.  I was procrastinating checking my email, you see, between paragraphs of the paper I’m writing as part of my comprehensive exam requirements.  It’s meant to be an exhaustive rigorous literature search on a particular topic that is relevant to one’s currently-ephemeral dissertation.  I’m writing on animals.   Continue reading

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Filed under Academia, History, On Agriculture & the Environment, On Human Connections

Balcony Garden Euphoria

Note the latent bean lattice in the top left quadrant.

It’s spring!  It’s spring!  Everything is turning bright green and I can commence my balcony garden putter.  I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity since I moved into the apartment last fall and lounged in the warm autumn sun like a September tomato thwarting death. Continue reading

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A Brief Sojourn in Madison, Wisconsin


I meant to write this post about Madison, Wisconsin as soon as I returned home so my thoughts wouldn’t become a banal, nebulous ramble, but unfortunately I got back two weeks ago. Continue reading

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Filed under Academia, Food and Cooking, On Agriculture & the Environment, Politicking, Travel