Winter's here; time to think...Gardening?

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
January 5th, 2011

Ahh, the perfect January day in Rossland. The new-fallen snow is sparkling in the brilliant winter sun; the air is just crisp enough to greet cheeks and noses with a kiss of cold; and the peacefulness of snow dampened sound set a scene that could be straight out of a holiday snow globe. What’s the first thought that comes to mind on these days? For some it may be first tracks at the hill, a snowshoe with the dog or perhaps a warm day cuddling under blankets with a hot drink in hand. For another growing number of Rosslanders, it’s time to think seeds, dirt, spades and (queue horror show musical lick) gardening.


Consequently, the Rossland REAL Food group has turned its sustainable summertime show into a four season affair with their latest events in an action packed winter schedule.


Initial rounds of garden tours were a hit with local foodies last summer. That popularity has spawned a winter/indoor version of the event series that gets underway Wednesday January 12th as Libby and Ian Martin host the first indoor garden tour. The new winter garden tours, along with a new garden conversation series starting Saturday, January 22nd, are designed as a way to share the knowledge base on gardening in Rossland that runs back through generations of experience in the Mountain Kingdom. With so much knowledge and experience to go around, getting started in mid-winter will be a necessity as opposed to an escape from colder activities of choice.


“I think it’s really cool that we’re doing something in the winter during gardening downtime,” explained the RRF’s Rachael Roussin. “People are so busy in the summer months and then it’s too late. This gives people plenty of time to digest the information and get a head start on the season. We have such expert gardeners in town and it’s really great that they are willing to share their information.”


Stop number one will give folks a peek inside the lovingly named “indoor grow-op” at the Martin’s residence where twenty years of gardening experience has been specialized into stellar tomatoes and geraniums.


The three part, monthly event series will then visit Sarah Flood’s house in February to learn some of her tricks of the trade. “She has experience with tons of varieties; in particular her specialty is in heritage seed varieties. We’ll probably learn more about herbs and peppers at that one. She starts everything indoors. Even things like lettuce. What I’m looking forward to learning is what king of potting soil to buy,” added Roussin.


Come March, indoor garden tourists will once again visit the Martin’s for a mid-March update on how things are working out and some last minute tips on when to put what types of plants in the ground.


Focusing on seed starting and seed variety selection, indoor garden tourists can expect to learn things such as where they can buy their seeds and what varieties work well in Rossland and when plants should be started along with ideas on what kinds of potting soils to use, how much daylight do the plants need and what types of lights to use. 


“It’s really early in the season so this is for the super keeners. To be thinking about planting and gardening in January isn’t everyone’s cup of tea,” noted Roussin.


Those who wish to sip from this particular cup of tea will have another chance to chat about all things food and gardening, cup of tea in hand, as Garden Conversation #1 kicks off at Café West Books on the 22nd.


Hanne Smith, an avid gardener herself has pulled together three gentlemen gardeners in town with lifetimes of experience in living sustainably through locally grown food to share their wealth of knowledge.


Les Anderson, who grew up in the bush in Northern Saskatchewan where he and his family lived off their garden and hunting with only two supply runs a year, will share their insights into how to live off the land. Scotty Knorr, who farmed for many years in Sheep Creek who now lives in town, will be chatting about his knowledge around all aspects of growing, processing and storing food. Rounding out the field of presenters will be Ed Davies who along with his wife Diane have had extensive vegetable gardens and raised chickens just outside of town for years.


“These folks are so willing to share what they know,” extolled Smith. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to just tap into people in a really informal way. Without really planning a set of subjects we’re just going to start conversations. I’ve found that in talking with people you learn things you would never expect to learn just by being there when a conversation is happening and listening and asking questions as the conversation veers around in all sorts of lovely directions. That’s the idea of these events: to create a free flowing opportunity.

With three men leading the discussion perhaps one of the sub-texts of the event is that gardening is not just a female activity as it may commonly be perceived as and that many men in town are well involved in the process of growing and raising their own food.


“If you go to the garden tours in the summer and look at how these couples have put their gardens together and what they have built to facilitate the growth of food is really fascinating,” added Smith . “Maybe the women came up with the plan of what to grow but then the guys get handy and using what they have around the shop or the shed or basement have built these wonderfully creative garden set ups.”


The overall message to take home from the events in the hopes of the organizers, however, is a simple one of ‘Yes, it is possible’. After all, growing and raising our own food in Rossland is not only doable, but was de rigueur in Rossland’s earlier days.


“Many people in the last ten to twenty years, when I talked to them about growing local, they’d scoff at the idea saying ‘we could never sustain ourselves here’, but in the years of the Chinese Gardens they did sustain this place largely,” closed Smith.“There was a lot of food grown around here for far more people than live here now. They imported things of course but they had most of what they needed grown locally. We could do it again.”


In the ongoing effort to go back to the future, Rossland REAL Food and their continuing efforts to make sustainable strides through tried tested and proven methods that have worked in the past and can work again are hoping their new events will continue to spread that good word.


For more information go to Rossland REAL food’s website.


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