Rumble Pie | Deep Ecology Blog

Rumble Pie #28
Backyard Farming

IN THE 2009 SEASON, we successfully started a new ecological business venture, designing and building Living Roofs and Living Walls. In the 2010 season, we plan to introduce another new line of ecological services, growing gardens of edible and medicinal plants... even picking up the concept of small-scale animal husbandry. It's simply not possible to completely revamp the entire product line in a single season. But we can give you a little preview of what we're planning down the pipeline.


BEFORE YOU GET IN over your head, it's probably best to start off with something small, like a small herb garden. No, it won't fill your belly with a full meal, but it will add subtle and intense flavours to whatever you've got cooking on the stove. Or brew up a pot of tea from original ingredients that you know the names of. It's kind of like getting a puppy to see if you're ready to bring a baby into the world, know what I mean?

BUT IT GOES DEEPER than that. Historically, health care was not always state-subsidized, before there was such a thing as a state; and professional doctors weren't always a phone call away, before there was such a thing as a phone! But in every community, there were always women and men who had immense knowledge of the local roots and herbs that could be used medicinally to effectively treat almost every condition, without invasive surgeries.

YOU, TOO, CAN HARNESS this earth knowledge and let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food. Dress your salad with vinegars made from homegrown herbs, infuse teapots with what's growing in your garden. Cure what ails you by turning potted plants into tinctures, transform bay window gardens into botanical balms. Or relax your mind with aromatherapy by mixing essentially oils all by yourself. A cornucopia of plants eagerly await you.


LET'S START OUT SIMPLE with something that's already being done all across Toronto. The soil in this city is ideal for growing some of your favourite vegetables, and there are few things more pleasurable than walking into your backyard with nothing more than a big bowl and a pair of scissors to harvest a Sunday afternoon salad. Think radishes, green beans, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, garlic, lettuce, peas, and kale.

EVEN THOUGH TORONTO experiences horribly harsh winters, there are all kinds of fresh vegetables that can be grown in this climate. If you're serious about taking care of a garden, then there are a number of ways to extend the growing season with cold frames and greenhouses. Either way, there are no shortage of cool-season vegetables that are both delicious and nutritious, so it's certainly possible to keep your family well-fed on garden greens this far north of the equator.

WHEN THE SUMMER SUN starts to fade, that's the time to start thinking about what you're going to be eating during the winter months. Before the advent of refrigeration and transcontinental trade, what you ate in February was what you preserved in September. So after the August harvest, get out those old mason jars and start canning and pickling! You'll be glad you did once winter sets in.


FRUIT AND NUT TREES take several years before they produce food, so you have to have a long-term plan for the plot of land you're living on. But if your children are still young and you plan to live in your house to a ripe old age, it's well worth it to start thinking about the decades to come. In addition to fruit trees, there are berry bushes and grape vines that will go to fruit in far shorter time spans.

OUR SOCIETY HAS BECOME seriously addicted to glucose, fructose, and all kinds of highly-concentrated corn sugar derivatives that rot our teeth and turn our kids into crazy maniacs! Natural sugars in their proper proportions that come from fresh fruits are a healthy alternative that won't increase your family's chances of contracting diabetes.

FRUITS ARE ESPECIALLY versatile four-season foods. They can be dehydrated on drying racks, turning them into perfect between-meal snacks, or they can be canned into jams and jellies and baked into pies. And precisely because of their high sugar content, they can easily be fermented into an alcoholic drink of your choice, without any special knowledge of calculus or chemistry!

In the next couple of blog entries, we will continue to explore the multitude of ways that your front and back yards can be so much more than ornamental trophy gardens. With a little bit of professional permaculture advice, your home could easily become a homestead on an eighth of an acre, if you're interested in having more food security for you and your family.