- Centauri Dreams notes new studies suggesting the flares of red dwarf stars damage potentially habitable planets.
- The Crux notes that the wild apple is going extinct.
- D-Brief notes that recent high winds in Europe helped push energy prices there to negative territory.
- The Frailest Thing considers Neil Postman's thoughts on the intersection of mass media and childhood.
- Inkfish argues in favour of accidental wetlands in urban areas.
- Language Log looks at the trope of the repeated character in some recent Chinese advertising.
- The LRB Blog considers the costs, environmental and otherwise, to the United States' leaving the Paris climate agreement.
- Marginal Revolution wonders what assumptions about deep history the news of Homo sapiens' longer history overturn.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that, in the area of energy costs, mid-20th century Uruguay was worse off than New Zealand.
- The Russian Demographics Blog looks at polling on Russian opinions about the Russian Far East and its future.
- Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell is skeptical about Jeremy Paxman's claims about privacy in modern journalism.
- The Atlantic's Ed Yong notes the discovery of dated Homo sapiens fossils 300k years old in Morocco. (!)
- The Atlantic reports on Twitter-driven science that has highlighted the remarkable visual acuity of the spider.
- The Economist notes that multilingual societies can encounter more difficulties prospering than unilingual ones.
- Torontoist notes a Thunder Bay park devoted to the idea of First Nations reconciliation.
- The Inter Press Service reports on how gardens grown under solar tents in Bolivia can improve nutrition in poor highland villages.
- The Toronto Star's Christopher Hume trolls Rob Ford's supporters over the new, well-designed, Etobicoke Civic Centre.Metro Toronto calculates just how many avocado toasts would go into a mortgage in the GTA.
- MacLean's hosts a collection of twenty photos from gritty Niagara Falls, New York.
- The National Post shows remarkable, heartbreaking photos from the flooded Toronto Islands.
- Edward Keenan argues that the Toronto Islands' flooding should help prompt a local discussion on climate change.
Torontoist's Andre Proulx looks at how Ontario's wine industry is continuing to develop.
Cave Spring Cellars made their first vintage in 1986. It was a small 500-case batch of wine. This date is a reminder of how early we are in the history of wine in this province. It was one of the first eight wineries in the province and second on the Beamsville Bench.
I recently had a chance to speak with Len Pennachetti, the president and founder of Cave Spring Cellars (and brother of Toronto’s former city manager). He got his start in the wine industry when he was tasked with working vineyards that were purchased by his father.
Not all grapes are created equal; neither are Canadian wines. Prior to the founding of Inniskillin in 1974, Ontario wines were made using labrusca grapes—those Concord grapes found in farmers’ markets at the twilight of summer.
Today, the European grape, vinifera, is used to make most fine wines. Even by 1986, 10 years after Inniskillin had been founded, there were still only a handful of farmers who had made the switch. The challenge with growing vinifera in Ontario isn’t so much the summer but the punishing winters. When the temperature starts to dip below -15, frigid temperatures begin to cause damage or even kill vines.
As one of the founding members of VQA, Pennachetti had a hand in crafting the rules that determine the quality of Ontario wines. The VQA ensures not only that the grapes are 100 per cent Ontario grown, but also that the grapes are vinifera.
Chris Bateman described how the Reesor family in north Scarborough remain the last farmers active within the borders of the city of Toronto.
Dale Reesor figures he’s the last farmer in Toronto.
Since his elderly neighbour Jim Murison passed away in December, Reesor’s family is the only one he knows of that’s still growing crops commercially in the city.
From their 136-year-old farmhouse on the south side of Steeles Ave. E. in north Scarborough, Dale and Lois Reesor and their five kids work about 350 acres of land within the Toronto city limits under the name Sweet Ridge Farms. They grow mostly sweet corn, about 10 to 12 varieties, plus soybeans and wheat.
It’s a way of life that stretches back more than 200 years.
The Reesors “came to the Toronto area, Markham and Scarborough, in 1804,” Dale said. “It’s a Mennonite family. They came from Pennsylvania. They travelled up and bought land in this area. It’s been the same family ever since.”
- Beyond the Beyond shares Yves Behar's thoughts on design in an age of artificial intelligence.
- blogTO makes the case for the east end of Toronto.
- The Big Picture shares photos of a family of Congolese refugees resettled in New England.
- Centauri Dreams hosts an essay looking at the prospects for off-world agriculture.
- Dangerous Minds shares photos of the beauty created by graffiti removal.
- The Dragon's Tales looks for signs of possible cryovolcanism on Europa.
- Joe. My. God. shares audio of the new Blondie track "Fun."
- Language Hat remembers the life and career of linguist Leon Dostert.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money argues protest is needed in blue states, too.
- The LRB Blog warns people not to forget about Pence.
- Marginal Revolution considersa trends in the British economy.
- Neuroskeptic shares disturbing findings about the prevalence of plagiarism in science.
- Window on Eurasia notes that Russia does not expect Trump to take all the sanctions down at once.
CBC News' Cherie Wheeler reports from western Newfoundland, where an experiment in growing canola and wine grapes in this historically non-agricultural province has yielded success.
Thanks to the success of some unconventional crops grown last summer, western Newfoundland might soon add canola and grapes to its list of agricultural products.
Working with independent farmers, the provincial Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agrifoods experimented with the two crops that aren't traditionally grown in the province.
The hope was those first-time crops could sow the seeds for new farming industries.
While canola farming is big business in the prairies, it's unheard of in Newfoundland and Labrador.
"Yes, we're a lot different from Saskatchewan, but perhaps we might have a little better conditions than Iceland or northern Norway," said Kavanagh, the province's alternative feed co-ordinator.
[. . .]
It turns out she was right. Planting 12 hectares on private farmland on the island's west coast, in Pasadena, Kanvanagh said the yield was ¾ of a metric tonne per acre — which is on par with the rest of Atlantic Canada.
[. . .]
Like canola, the idea to grow grapes in Newfoundland was germinated in another province.
"There was a huge opportunity for grapes [in Nova Scotia]," says Newfoundland and Labrador's fruit-crop development officer Karen Kennedy. "And there was no one commercially growing grapes here."
Buoyed by stories of backyard gardeners growing grapes, Kennedy planted the first experimental vines four years ago in Humber Village, a small community in Humber Valley, as well as in Brooklyn, on the Bonavista Peninsula.
The Inter Press Service's Fabiana Frayssinet reports on the popularity in Argentina of agroecology, a variant on organic agriculture.
Organic agriculture is rapidly expanding in Argentina, the leading agroecological producer in Latin America and second in the world after Australia, as part of a backlash against a model that has disappointed producers and is starting to worry consumers.
According to the intergovernmental Inter American Commission on Organic Agriculture (ICOA), in the Americas there are 9.9 million hectares of certified organic crops, which is 22 per cent of the total global land devoted to these crops. Of this total, 6.8 million of hectares are in Latin America and the Caribbean, and three million in Argentina alone.
The Argentine National Agrifood Health and Quality Service (SENASA) reported that between 2014 and 2015, the land area under organic production grew 10 per cent, including herbs, vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals and oilseeds.
Legumes and vegetables experienced the largest increase (200 percent). In Argentina there are 1,074 organic producers, mainly small and medium-size farms and cooperatives.
“The organic market is starting to boom. We have been producing since 20 years ago, when this market did not exist in Argentina and we exported everything. Now we sell abroad, but about 50 percent remains here,” said Jorge Pierrestegui, manager of San Nicolás Olive Groves and Vineyards, an agroecology company that produces olives and olive oil on some 1,000 hectares in the Argentine province of Córdoba.
“Opting for organic was a company policy, mainly due to a long-term ecological vision of not spraying the fields with poisonous chemicals,” Pierrestegui said.
Vice's Allie Conti looks at the reasons for the decline of the women's land movement, a back-to-the-earth movement started by lesbians in the 1970s that now seems to currently be on its last legs. The general drift of non-heterosexuals to cities, as well as the declining popularity of traditional lesbian identities among the young, are equally responsible.
[A]fter the Vietnam war, as thousands of Americans moved away from cities to adopt an agrarian lifestyle, scores of lesbians simultaneously became disenchanted with the emerging women's liberation and gay rights movements, which many perceived as being either homophobic or misogynist. They reacted by forming closed-off, utopian societies—farms and communes where women often took on traditionally male activities like mechanics and engineering, in what would come to be known as the women's land movement. But like religious sisterhoods and lesbian bars, these male-free communities, which once boasted thousands of members, are in clear decline today.
Young queer people who want to get back to the land today have more options than women like [Susan] Wiseheart, who decades ago relied on the women's land movement to provide safety in numbers and reclusion from a society once hostile to their sexuality.
Terri has long since moved on from Aradia, but Wiseheart has remained, and says she never plans to leave. It is, after all, her life's work. But once she's gone, it's unlikely that anyone will be willing or able to continue her mission. Signs of that are written across Hawk Hill—where chickens, dogs, donkeys, guinea fowl, cattle, horses and a flock of sheep once roamed its fields, calling it a farm today would be a categorical misstatement. Wiseheart now lives there with a few friends, also in their sixties and seventies, and a straight woman helping to pay the bills while they seek out a lesbian renter.
"We're still sometimes nervous, because we live in a fundamentalist Christian area," she explains. "We've managed to be safe and fine so far. We just don't want to be advertising it widely."
Meanwhile, there may be few modern women left willing to live a relatively cloistered life on a lesbian-only tract of land in the Ozarks. Young queer people who want to get back to the land today have more options than women like Wiseheart, who decades ago relied on the women's land movement to provide safety in numbers and reclusion from a society once hostile to their sexuality.
The Globe and Mail shares Geordon Omand's Canadian Press article looking at the exciting research into ancient wildlife engineering for food production in British Columbia, with the design of marshes optimized for the yield of a tuber known as the wapato.
An ancient wetland-gardening site unearthed during a road-building project in British Columbia is as culturally important as any other wonder of the world, says a member of the indigenous group who directed the excavation project.
A study published Wednesday found that as early as 1,800 BC, ancestors of the Katzie First Nation in B.C.’s Lower Mainland were engineering the wetland environment to increase the yield of a valuable, semi-aquatic plant known as a wapato. The report describes the finding as the first direct archeological evidence of the cultivation of wild plants in the Pacific Northwest.
“This is as important to us as the Egyptian pyramids, or the temples in Thailand, or Machu Picchu,” said Debbie Miller, who works with an archeological consulting firm owned by the Katzie Nation.
Road-building crews uncovered a rock platform measuring about 12-square metres made up of flat stones that would have rested several feet underwater four millenniums ago. The distribution of the stones into a pattern of single and double layers, as well as their closely packed arrangement, suggests they were placed deliberately, the study published online in ScienceAdvances found.
The stone “pavement” would have prevented the wapato from penetrating deep into the sludgy, wetland sediment, making it easier for gatherers to use long, sharpened digging tools to locate the buried plant and cut it free.
- Apostrophen's 'Nathan Smith writes about what he has learned from his huskie.
- Bad Astronomy shares some gorgeous Cassini images of Saturn's polar hexagon.
- Centauri Dreams looks at L2 Puppis, a red giant star that our own sun will come to resemble.
- D-Brief notes climate change is starting to hit eastern Antarctica, the more stable region of the continent.
- Dangerous Minds looks at some of the cool pins put out by supporters of LGBT rights over the decades.
- The Everyday Sociology Blog looks at Susan Faludi's account of her life with her newly trans father.
- Far Outliers examines the War of American Independence as one of the many Anglo-French global wars.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money wonders why the Los Angeles Times allowed the publication of letters defend the deportation of the Japanese-Americans.
- Marginal Revolution's Alex Tabarrok argues that we are now moving beyond meat production.
- The NYRB Daily looks at Mexico as a seedbed of modernism.
- Savage Minds shares an article arguing for a decentering of the position of human beings at the interface of anthropology and science.
- Understanding Society has more on the strange and fundamentally alien nature of the cephalopod mind.
- Window on Eurasia notes that the North Caucasus is set to go through austerity.
- Beyond the Beyond notes how astronomers are now collecting dust from space in their gutters, without needing to go to Antarctica.
- blogTO notes the many lost dairies of mid-20th century Toronto.
- The Dragon's Gaze looks at how volatiles freeze out in protoplanetary disks.
- The Dragon's Tales links to a paper considering the exploration of ocean worlds.
- Far Outliers links to a report of a Cossack mercenary working in North America for the British in the War of American Independence.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money considers the grave and the life of Homer Plessy.
- Steve Munro looks at some possibly worrisome service changes for the TTC.
- pollotenchegg notes trends in urbanization in post-1970 Ukraine.
- Strange Maps looks at a scone map of the British Isles.
- Apostrophen's 'Natha Smith talks about his tradition of the stuffed Christmas stocking.
- Beyond the Beyond's Bruce Sterling talks about the decline of the Pebble wearables.
- blogTO lists some of the hot new bookstores in Toronto.
- The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly talks about some of her family's traditions.
- The Dragon's Tales looks at the ancient history of rice cultivation in the Indus Valley Civilization.
- Joe. My. God. notes the willingness of the Oklahoma Cherokee Nation to recognize same-sex marriages.
- Language Log shares a photo of an unusual multi-script ad from East Asia.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money considers the Russian involvement in the American election and its import.
- Marginal Revolution links to a book about the transition in China's financial sector.
- Window on Eurasia reports on efforts to revive the moribund and very complex Caucasian of Ubykh.
The Globe and Mail's Christine Sismondo looks at the emergent wine scene along Nova Scotia's Bay of Fundy shore, where vineyards are forming in suitable microclimates.
Despite the relative successes of the “Free My Grapes” movement – a consumers’ rights organization that was spearheaded by frustrated wine fan Shirley-Ann George a little over five years ago and works to remove barriers to inter-provincial wine trade – we still can’t find much Okanagan wine in Ontario (George’s particular grievance) nor expressions from Niagara in British Columbia. But you can find Nova Scotia’s Benjamin Bridge everywhere, even in the Yukon. The fresh, rosy-golden, peachy sparkler, called Nova 7, is more or less the headliner for Benjamin Bridge and one of the few Canadian labels you might find anywhere from sea to shining sea.
Why? Well, to hear the winemaker tell it, it’s just that good; it has practically addictive “drinkability.” Nova is no one-hit wonder, either. Benjamin Bridge’s other expressions, particularly the Brut Sparkling (a little less fruity and, arguably, more elegant), are featured on restaurant wine lists across the country, including those at the famous Hawksworth in Vancouver, Calgary’s Bar Von der Fels and Byblos in Toronto.
“There is a natural selection within the wine industry,” says Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, head winemaker at Benjamin Bridge, adding that he has spent very little time campaigning provincial liquor retailers. “Our responsibility is to make the most transparent wines in terms of sharing the story of the growing environment surrounding the Bay of Fundy. And we feel that if we succeed at that, the rest will come naturally.”
And it has. The enthusiasm for the operation’s wines is palpable, but as Deslauriers points out, it’s bigger than just his bottles or one winery. He’s working in a remarkable micro-climate and there are other wineries telling the same story he is. In response, wine lovers are eagerly listening and wine from the Annapolis Valley is trendy, possibly on the cusp of becoming Canada’s next big thing.
“It’s a little bit punny, but people here often say that the rising tide lifts small boats,” says Jenner Cormier, an award-winning Halifax bartender who recently returned to his hometown after three years in Toronto, where he was part of the opening team at Bar Raval. “For us to begin to be considered as a place that’s producing really good wine is huge for us.”
When Cormier left his home for Ontario three-plus years ago, Nova Scotia wines were mainly known for being passable seafood-friendly whites from an underdeveloped region. Upon his return, he was delighted to discover black cabs, pinot noirs and sparkling wines, many of which he describes as “unbelievably complex.” Halifax bars such as Little Oak, the city’s new wine destination, as well as the well-established locavore hotpot, Lot Six, are plucking the best of the best from wineries like Luckett, Avondale Sky and L’Acadie and offering as many as a half-dozen local options on their wine lists.
At the Inter Press Service, José Adam Silva writes about the efforts of some Nicaraguan women who farm to get better land tenure rights for their land.
A group of women farmers who organised to fight a centuries-old monopoly over land ownership by men are seeking plots of land to farm in order to contribute to the food security of their families and of the population at large.
Matilde Rocha, vice president of the Federation of Nicaraguan Women Farmers Cooperatives (Femuprocan), told IPS that since the late 1980s, when women trained in the Sandinista revolution organised to form cooperatives, access to land has been one of the movement’s main demands.
According to Rocha, as of 1997, the organisation has worked in a coordinated manner to fight for recognition of the rights of women farmers not only with regard to agriculture, but also to economic, political and social rights.
Femuprocan, together with 14 other associations, successfully pushed for the 2010 approval of the Fund for the Purchase of Land with Gender Equity for Rural Women Law, known as Law 717.
They also contributed to the incorporation of a gender equity focus in the General Law on Cooperatives and to the participation of women in the Municipal Commissions on Food Security and Sovereignty.
For Rocha, this advocacy has allowed rural women to update the mapping of actors in the main productive areas in the country, strengthen the skills of women farmers and train them in social communication and as promoters of women’s human rights, to tap into resources and take decisions without the pressure of their male partners.
The Guardian shares this story of possible tampering with Island potato exports. This is, besides criminal, decidedly unwelcome news for the Island's agricultural sector.
A sewing needle has been found in a dish of cooked P.E.I. potatoes, the latest in a string of incidents involving metal objects discovered in Island spuds.
Halifax police Const. Dianne Penfound said they received a report Sunday evening that a sharp object was found in the potatoes after they had been peeled and cooked at a local home.
She said the bag of potatoes was purchased at a Giant Tiger store on Nov. 6 and that the potatoes were from P.E.I., but offered no details on the brand or origin. She added that no one was injured in the incident.
Alison Scarlett, spokeswoman for Giant Tiger, said they have pulled the potatoes from the store's shelves.
“Giant Tiger Stores Limited has reached out to the Halifax Police Department to get more information on the matter and is currently working directly with our potato vendors,” she said in an email.
- Centauri Dreams looks at signs of advanced technologies detectable by SETI searches.
- D-Brief notes evidence of the domestication of turkeys in eth and 5th century Mexico.
- Dangerous Minds discusses a legendary 1985 concert by Einstürzende Neubauten.
- Joe. My. God. notes the banning of Tila Tequila from Twitter.
- Language Log looks about a Hebrew advertisement that makes use of apostrophes.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money bids farewell to one of its bloggers, Scott Eric Kauffman.
- The LRB Blog notes that Israel is fine with anti-Semites so long as they are Zionists.
- Marginal Revolution notes that Hillary Clinton won the most economically productive areas of the United States.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer suggests anti-sprawl legislation helped lose the recent election.
- The Russian Demographics Blog notes Russia's banning of LinkedIn.
- Towleroad notes Ellen Degeneres' winning of a Presidential honor medal.
- Window on Eurasia suggests Trump could be much less easy to handle than the Kremlin thinks, and looks at claims that small northern peoples are conspiring with foreigners.
Torontoist's Catherine McIntyre reports on how Toronto and Region Conservation Authority is encouraging Torontonians to cultivate some of their own food. This is an amusing idea, but--speaking as someone who has his own pots--I doubt the contribution to overall food security in Toronto will plausibly be that significant.
A 30-minute drive from his home near High Park, Carl Leslie’s peppers are turning a deep, vibrant red. “Sweet bell pepper success!” he proclaims in a photo caption to his social media followers. “First time ever. A testament to a hot, hot summer.”
Leslie’s harvest—of peppers, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, watermelon, squash, and some 30-odd other fruits and vegetables—is also testament to the success of Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s (TRCA) near-urban agriculture projects that now span the GTA.
Since 2008, the TRCA has been partnering with agricultural organizations and private farmers to develop farm enterprises closer to the city. These farm initiatives offer farmers like Leslie, who live in or near urban centres, access to land, equipment, and mentorship needed to run a startup or family farm.
Leslie runs his half-acre plot on McVean farm, a 45-acre chunk of TRCA land in Brampton within Claireville Conservation Area. McVean, one of the TRCA’s four near-urban farms, is managed by Farm Start, which leases the land from the TRCA and rents out small plots to farmers. For some land-users, McVean is a pilot program—somewhere to dabble in farming before deciding whether to scale up and buy their own land. For some, it’s a place to grow food for their families and communities without moving out of the city. And for others, it’s simply a way to feel connected to the land.
Christopher Dewolf's Vice article takes a look at one farm in Hong Kong and its connection to wider currents about Hong Kong identity and self-sufficiency. Fascinating stuff.
I went to a banana farm to learn about growing fruit in Hong Kong. Instead I learned about democracy.
It started with a visit to Hamilton Street in Hong Kong’s densely-packed Yau Ma Tei district, where a friend introduced me to Tam Chi-kit, who was selling bananas from a folding table on the street. “He grows them himself,” explained my friend.
These were not the ubiquitous Cavendish bananas you find with a Del Monte or Chiquita sticker on them. They were girthy, thick-skinned dai ziu—literally “big bananas”—native to this part of Asia. You can find them in markets all over Hong Kong, along with a few other native varieties. Like many local bananas, Tam’s dai ziu don’t lend themselves well to mass production, so they’re grown on a family farm that has somehow managed to survive in one of the most densely-populated cities in the world.
Though the city is most famous for its thicket of skyscrapers—it has more high-rises than any other place in the world—most of its land area is undeveloped. Much of it is reserved for country parks, but large portions are former agricultural land that has been illegally converted into junkyards and storage facilities. More than 2,000 acres are owned by property developers biding their time until they can build. Farming isn’t easy in Hong Kong.
“Can I come visit?” I asked Tam. “Okay,” he replied. “We’ll make lunch.”
Tam meets me next to a concrete pagoda. The air hums with the sound of cicadas and a chorus of songbirds. As we walk to the farm, Tam points at wild banana trees growing by the road. “Look—bananas everywhere,” he says.
The farm isn’t quite what I expected. It’s a muddy acre of land that spills down a hill to the Sheung Yue River. There are banana trees, but also papayas, soursop and an abundance of herbs. Walking down a concrete path, past two metal gates, we arrive at a cluster of tin-roofed structures. Three elderly people emerge to greet us. There’s Uncle Chan, a gangly, bespectacled man with a toothy grin. Auntie Wong, dressed in a floral print shirt. And Uncle Wong, a stout, bald man with a pugnacious demeanour and a t-shirt commemorating the Umbrella Revolution, the student-led pro-democracy movement that occupied Hong Kong’s streets for 79 days in 2014. It quickly becomes clear this is no ordinary banana farm.