Sunday, December 14, 2008

What should be the fast food of Windsor?

I think you should read Doug Saunder's recent Globe and Mail column on the glories of global street food before it disappears behind the paywall next Saturday. In it, Saunders describes some of the strange and wonderful foods he's had in the slums of Asia that put our poor street meat to shame. Speaking of which, I'm glad to report that there is a Toronto city councilor that has been endeavouring to to expand Toronto's sidewalk menu beyond hot dogs but sadly, his efforts have not yet been fruitful.

Also in this column, Saunders laments that we North Americans have given up the pursuit for innovative and amazing fast food. And, notwithstanding the bizarre inventions that appear at the State Fairs of America, I think he's right.

It got me thinking - what could be the base of a new "invented in Windsor/Essex County" fast food? Candied Tomato With Ice Cream? Smelt on a stick? We need a contest!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

TV made in Ontario matters

I was bummed to have missed TVO's AgendaCamp that was in Windsor last weekend. I don't get much opportunity to watch The Agenda but I wish I did as I am a policy-wonk wannabe. As well, I think the steps that the show has taken to involve viewers in meaningful policy discussion through email, twitter, AgendaCamp, etc is really quite commendable.

The state of manufacturing economy was the theme of Monday's live broadcast from the Windsor Art Gallery. The state of manufacturing is on many minds in town and also on their cars. Bumper stickers reading, "Out of a job yet? Keep buying foreign!" can be seen on many bumper stickers in town - sometimes even on foreign cars.

While I understand some of the reasons behind the frustration of the CAW who I believe distributed these bumper stickers, the meanacing tone of the message just puts me off. I much prefer an apparantly homemade sticker that I saw on a car this morning, "Made in Canada Matters."

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Any local charities accept clothes beyond wear?

I'm in the process of purging my home of clothing that I no longer wear. Items in good shape are heading to the Sally Ann. My question is, are there any local charities that accept clothes that are beyond wearing to be reused as scrap fabric? If you do, could you leave a comment?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Energy meters available at the WPL


Energy meter at the WPL
Originally uploaded by Mita

Located on the second floor of the Central Branch of the Windsor Public Library are electricity meters for your conservation research needs.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Techno is back on WDET. Sort of

Speak of the sun and it shines. That's a saying of my mother who doesn't speak of devils. Anyhoo, mere days after I complain that WDET no long plays techno, I get an email announcing that their WDET HD music station now streams online.

I've been listening only for an hour or so and its a little disconcerting because there are no defined shows, hosts, or playlists. It could be a very long mix CD on repeat, for all I can tell.

But its a step in the right direction and so for the donation drive, I will give it up for WDET.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

An open letter to WDET

Dear WDET FM,

In 2006, Fedde Le Grand's Put Your Hands Up for Detroit was the number one single in the U.K.

In 2007, WDET removed all of its electronica music programming, including Focus Detroit. Folk music remains on WDET. The Arkansas Traveller remains on WDET. But not the music that the world looks to Detroit to for.

In 2005, you removed many of your music shows to better concentrate on news and information programming but after a mighty hue and cry, these shows returned.

Its 2008. I continue to ignore every plea you make for much needed donations. I am putting my hands up for Detroit Techno.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The City Council, The Windsor Public Library Board and The CEO

The CEO of The Windsor Public Library is today's front page news after some investigative journalism has revealed that Brian Bell has been articling at a local law firm while on sick leave from his library administrative duties. According to Bell, there is no malfeasance because working at a law firm is as relaxing as pottery lessons.

The WPL has been embroiled in this sort of drama for some years now. Here's the context as I understand it.

City councils in Ontario do not have the authority to make management decisions regarding libraries because of laws designed to protect library collection decisions from political influence. The Windsor Public Library is accountable to its Library Board. And yet its safe to say that The City of Windsor have been trying to gain control of The Windsor Public Library Board. Here's the evidence:

In March of this year, Windsor City Council requested a "line by line" financial audit of the WPL despite the fact that a similar audit performed two years ago found that the library system was running efficiently. Why so many audits? "Under provincial legislation, the only way council can take over [a library board] is if there has been mismanagement, and that's the driving force behind the financial request". Also in March, Council requested that the library cut its budget by $400,000 while stipulating that there would be no reduction in hours or services. Furthermore, in May, the City tried to prematurely end the terms of the WPL Library Board members.

Complicating matters it is no secret that the mayor of Windsor and his allies in Council are not fond of Alan Halberstadt who is the only remaining city councilor on the library board. In fact, they had the knives out for him after he did not side with City Council's recommendation for such large budget cuts (addendum) and again after it was learned that the Board mistakenly applied an Pay Equity payment to "funny how the former director of Human Resources could make such a mistake" Brian Bell. As an aside, I have a tremendous respect for Alan Halberstadt and I feel that the call to remove him from the Board by some of his fellow city councillors was deeply hypocritical.

And something that might be completely irrelevant or just might be further complicating matters is that Brian Bell succeeded previous Library CEO, Steve Salmons, who may or may not be the "former librarian" referred to by local columnist Gord Henderson who is part of the Ontario government's Detroit River International Crossing team, which is, incidentally, currently battling a heated turf war with the City of Windsor's own plans for a crossing.

I'm not sure how this is all going to resolve as the WPL operates under the Carver Protocol, a commercial governance model which, according to City Councillor David Cassivi, "largely renders the library board impotent" as it vests all responsibility in the office of the library's chief executive officer.

(cross-posted at New Jack Librarian)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Being noxious on purpose - milkweed for butterflies

my butterfly garden

The first summer job I had was working the weekend shift of a Mr. Donut just on the outside of Sarnia's Chemical Valley. During the week, I was employed with three other students to take care of the Howard Watson Trail. The trail was once a railway corridor and so we were employed by Lambton Wildlife to keep the trail free of weeds to appease the homeowners who lived beside this precious ribbon of nature.

Removing the trail's ragweed didn't bother me. What did cause me angst was that we were obligued to remove any milkweed we found as milkweed is considered a noxious weed in Ontario as its thought to be poisonous to livestock. I hated pulling milkweed because its the monarch catepillar's sole food source. I still feel guilty about this.

So yesterday, after following the links from this page on Graffiti For Butterflies (via Kottke), I bought this Monarch Station Seed Kit from Monarch Watch. I don't know whether its too late to plant milkweed this year, butI'm sure I'll be able to find out with all the information and discussion space made available by this charitable group. The site's navigation is a little dodgy but in spite of this, I think their web presence is a model for environmental groups who are seeking ways to engage the public in their cause.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The dirt on gardening

I love gardens and I would love to have a beautiful garden. But I'm an awful gardener. I can't recognize many plants much less know their names or life cycles. Its all very daunting to me.

I know why I'm a bad gardener: I think of gardening as a relentless, back-breaking chore and not as an joyful escape from the stuffy confines of the indoors.

My goal is to put in a couple years of effort to establish a native garden which will hopefully need minimal maintenance on my part from thereon after. I made some serious efforts in this direction in 2006 and planted a bunch of good stuff (except in the wrong places for some of the species). Then I neglected the garden somewhat last year and this year, it appears that I am going to neglect the garden even more on account that I have a newborn.

So instead of a gardening story, I have a link for you to a TED Talk by Michael Pollan on looking at the world from a plant's point of view. Here's a brief synopsis: we humans think that we control plants to do our bidding in our gardens and through agriculture but how different are we from the bees and birds that are unwittingly manipulated by pl1ants that do the work of pollinating and distributing their offspring? After viewing this video, you may not look at gardening the same way again.

(And, if you are up to having your concept of self, subject and object messed up even further, you may be interested in Susan Blackmore's TED Talk on memes and temes)

[This post is part of a Windsor blogburst on gardening]

Friday, May 16, 2008

Eat real food. Eat more plants instead of meat

I'm at home on maternity leave and this means that for about 20 minutes every 1 to 4 hours, I am propped in a comfy chair lined with pillows and with a little baby girl latched on to me for dear life. As my toddler son so eloquently puts, she's eating me.

Being a food source, it shouldn't be too surprising that I have been thinking about food quite a bit as of late, especially after seeing Mark Bittman's TED Talk What's wrong with what we eat. I've been watching TED talks while I have been breast feeding. It beats the hell out of television.

Now, if you already follow Bittman's and Michael Pollan's work in The New York Times, then not much in this video will be new to you.But if you haven't, here's a synopsis of what he says: Eat more plants instead of meat. Eat real food.

The production of livestock is the second highest contributor to greenhouse gases. It's just after energy production and just before transportation. So instead of buying carbon credits every time you fly, perhaps you should buy some after you dine out at The Keg for steaks. Or you could eat less meat and more plants. It's better for your health and it's essential for our planet's health. Bittman provides many more details and many more reasons why to make the switch.

What I particular like about this talk is that Bittman lays out why the trendy and frequently promoted practices of eating organic food or being encouraging consumers to be concerned about food miles are not the solutions for the food problems at hand.

Bittman says that being a localvore only makes sense if you live in a place like California. Now, I would content that those living in 4-0-Wonderland, *do* live in a place like California - food-production-wise, of course. Its a good thing that we grow lots of plants round here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Building a (charity) foundation

Have you noticed that pretty much every celebrity has a charitable foundation to their name? (some of which are a little dodgy) It got me thinking and I started doing some thinking that perhaps I would like create my own. Evidently, its quite easy to do... once you have at least 5 million dollars you are willing to part with.

One of the off-shoots of this little research jaunt is that I learned of something new to me: the community foundation - the charity foundation for the rest of us. Here's a comparison between private foundations and community foundations [pdf].

And following this thread, I learned of The Greater Windsor Community Foundation.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The answers are really more questions

You live in the big here. Wherever you live, your tiny spot is deeply intertwined within a larger place, imbedded fractal-like into a whole system called a watershed, which is itself integrated with other watersheds into a tightly interdependent biome. (See the world eco-region map ). At the ultimate level, your home is a cell in an organism called a planet. All these levels interconnect. What do you know about the dynamics of this larger system around you? Most of us are ignorant of this matrix. But it is the biggest interactive game there is. Hacking it is both fun and vital.

The following exercise in watershed awareness was hatched 30 years ago by Peter Warshall, naturalist extraordinaire... The intent of this quiz is to inspire you to answer the questions you can't initially. [The Big Here Quiz]


I first read about The Big Here Quiz in a Whole Earth Review many years back. Late last year, I finally resolved to answer all its questions.

Its been a really useful exercise for me - as a librarian - and as a person trying to make connections to place where I didn't grow up but is now a place called 'home'.

What has surprised me is that I haven't been able to find anyone else who has done a similar job of properly researching their localized answers to the quiz. If you have taken it on, please let me know with a comment!

Name two places on different continents that have similar sunshine/rainfall/wind and temperature patterns to here. Last question of The Big Here Quiz

So I have to find a place in Europe and a place in Asia (if I stick to the same latitude of North 42 degrees) where there are similar sunshine, rainfall, wind, and temperature patterns as my home. Except, I live beside The Great Lakes which is very different than living by the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, or the Mediterranean sea. And somehow I think Windsor is quite different than the border of China and Mongolia.

Its the last question of The Big Here Quiz and I'm afraid its going to end with a whimper rather than a bang. I'm not going to give an answer.

What was the dominant land cover plant here 10,000 years ago? Q33 of The Big Here Quiz

According to The Ancient Life of the Great Lakes Basin: Precambrian to Pleistocene by J. Alan Holman

In summary, by 10,000 years ago the forest vegetation in southern Michigan had become more diverse, with mixed forests of white and red pine, yellow and paper birth, aspen, oak, white ash, red and white elm, and blue beech.

What other cities or landscape features on the planet share your latitude? Q32 of The Big Here Quiz

Windsor, Ontario is approximately at 42 degrees North - the same degree of latitude that separates Oregon from Northern California. Barcelona, Spain and Rome, Italy are a little more than 41 degrees North.

What species once found here are known to have gone extinct? Q31 of The Big Here Quiz

From the History of the Ojibway Prairie Complex:
  • The Greater Prairie Chicken
  • Trumpeter Swan
  • Eastern Elk
  • Passenger Pigeons
  • Northern Bobwhite

How many days till the moon is full? Q30 of The Big Here Quiz

The moon will be full in 8 days. It will be a pink moon except to those followers of The New Jack Almanac. To them, it will be a playoffs moon.

Where is the nearest wilderness? When was the last time a fire burned through it? Q29 of The Big Here Quiz

Another easy one. The closest "wilderness" is The Ojibway Prairie Complex and its last fire was in 2003.

After the rain runs off your roof, where does it go? Q28 of The Big Here Quiz

I'm not sure how to verify my answer to this one. Assuming that the water doesn't get into the storm water sewer system, I would think that the water makes its way into the soil and then...

1) evaporate;
2) contribute to the soil's moisture
3) be used up by a plant;
4) collect in an aquifer somewhere below; or
5) make its way to the Detroit River

Its another one of those questions that is easy to answer with a principle ("the ground water cycle") but very hard to answer with something specific ("water in my neighbourhood collects underground and travels out via the stream").

Where does your electric power come from and how is it generated? Q27 of The Big Here Quiz

The source of electricity is the "grid". But there are two power generators nearby that one would think supplies the local demands:

Brighton Beach Power Station is a natural gas-fired combined cycle electricity generating facility with a nameplate capacity of 580 MW located in Windsor... The facility is fuelled by natural gas supplied by Union Gas Distribution infrastructure. The plant delivers both 115 kV and 230 kV to the Ontario grid at the J. Clark Keith substation which feeds into the Ontario electricity market administered by the Independent System Operator.
and
The Lambton coal-fuelled generating station (GS) is located on the St. Clair River, in St. Clair Township, 26 km south of Sarnia, Ontario. Its four generating units are capable of producing 1,976 megawatts (MW) of power. The station's annual production is in the range of 11 billion kilowatt-hours.

According to the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (of which the City of Windsor is a member [!]), the Lambton Generator Plant is Ontario's #2 polluter (pdf).

What minerals are found in the ground here that are (or were) economically valuable? Q26 of The Big Here Quiz

Halite (natural salt) and Anhydrite
Ojibway Mine, Windsor, Essex Co., Ontario, Canada
ref: Geological Survey of Canada Miscellaneous Report 39.

In dolomitic limestone and limy shale. The main salt bed is 8.2 m thick and is at a depth of 289 m to 297 m below the surface. Another bed is 9 m above it. The salt is exceptionally pure containing less than 2 per cent impurities. The salt beds occur in the Salina Formation of Silurian age.
Sulfur
Amherstburg Quarry, near Windsor, crude large xls;
5 localities in R.Traill, Cat.of Can.Mins., GSC Paper 80-18, 1983

[In the mid 1800's, thousands came to Windsor every summer to visit the sulphur springs in Brighton Beach, just outside of Sandwich... more]

Name 3 wild species that were not found here 500 years ago. Name one exotic species that has appeared in the last 5 years. Q25 of The Big Here Quiz

I'm going to answer the second part first - as its easy: in 2002, the Emerald Ash Borer was identified in the Windsor area. (Living in the Great Lakes area makes you very aware of the problem of invasive species).

The first part of the question bothers me. By using the word, 'wild' I'm assuming the question is about animal migration - but how well versed are we in animal migrations from 500 years ago?

Ah, it appears that Kevin Kelly has had second thoughts on this question as well...

If I could re-write this question, I would ask about now extinct life that once resided where you lived -- if only to write about the now extinct giant beaver that once grew to 2/3 the size of a black bear.

What primary geological processes or events shaped the land here? Q24 of The Big Here Quiz

In the beginning (about 2 billion years ago) "two tectonic plates fused and created the Midcontinent Rift, forming a valley that was the basis of Lake Superior. When a second fault line, the Saint Lawrence rift, formed approximately 570 million years ago, the basis for Lakes Ontario and Erie was created, along with what would become the St. Lawrence River." Molten magma caused "the highlands to sink and form a mammoth rock basin that would one day hold Lake Superior." Then the geological process of glaciation defined the area which we now know as the (Laurentian) Great Lakes.

Friday, March 07, 2008

If you live near the ocean, when is high tide today? Q23 of The Big Here Quiz

I don't live by the ocean. Next question!

Where does the pollution in your air come from? Q22 of The Big Here Quiz

According to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, "it is estimated that more than 50 per cent of Ontario's ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter come from the U.S."

The MOE also looks at the point of origin of air pollutants from Ontario. From its 2006 Air Quality in Ontario report (pdf), the pollution in our air comes from:

Ontario Volatile Organic Compounds Emissions by Sector
- 22% General Solvent Use
- 22% Other Transportation
- 16% Other Industrial Processes
- 13% Road Vehicles
- 10% Printing/Surface Coating
- 9% Miscellaneous
- 8% Residential

Ontario Nitrogen Oxide Emissions by Sector
- 38% Other Transportation
- 27% Road Vehicles
- 12% Other Industrial Processes
- 9% Utilities
- 6% Cement and Concrete
- 6% Miscellaneous
- 2% Smelters / Primary Metals

Ontario Particulate Matter (2.5) Emissions By Sector
- 32% Residential
- 30% Other Industrial Processes
- 20% Transportation
- 10% Smelters / Primary Metals
- 5% Miscellaneous
- 3% Pulp and Paper

Ontario Carbon Monoxide Emissions By Sector

- 46% Road Vehicles
- 38% Other Transportation
- 8% Residential / Miscellaneous
- 5% Other Industrial Processes
- 3% Smelters / Primary Metals

Ontario Sulphur Dioxide Emissions by Sector
- 48% Smelters
- 22% Utilities
- 10% Petroleum Refining
- 9% Other Industrial Processes
- 5% Cement and Concrete
- 3% Transportation
- 3% Miscellaneous


Ha! But when I went to look at the other answers to this question, I noticed this comment from one of the creators of the Big Here Quiz:

When we first conceived of this question, we meant what "air mass" or "regional weather front" brought the pollution. So New York gets it from Detroit; the Grand Canyon gets it from LA, etc. It's seasonal too. Sorry for the confusion between source (cars, etc.) and air masses.

Hmm. There was an earlier question, Where do storms usually come from? Would the answer to that question be different from, Where do your air masses come from? That's the trouble with profound ignorance: you don't know when a difference makes a difference...

Friday, February 29, 2008

What was the total rainfall here last year? Q21 of The Big Here Quiz

Environment Canada is missing rainfall data during some months of 2007 and 2006 for Windsor, Ontario, but in 2005 there was 562.4 mm of rain.

Name five birds that live here. Which are migratory and which stay put? Q20 of The Big Here Quiz

Easy-peasy. First, I will choose 5 birds from the Bird Checklist of the Ojibway Prairie Complex.

  1. Ring-necked Pheasant
  2. Blue Jay*
  3. Red-tailed Hawk (only northern populations migrate)
  4. Ring-billed Gull**
  5. White-breasted Nuthatch

Then after referring to the The Birds of North America (my library has an online subscription), I will add an astrerix to those who are migratory.

*All aspects of Blue Jay migration poorly understood, although two general patterns clear: (1) some individuals usually present year-round throughout range; (2) at least some individuals depart during spring throughout range, except from peninsular Florida and Gulf Coast. Individuals that depart an area in autumn may be replaced by those migrating from farther north

**Aug and Sep dispersal widespread, congregating along lower Great Lakes. In Oct, southward migration apparent with southern portions of range showing increase in numbers. Extensive changes in north-south distribution by Nov and Dec. In Jan mean distance from northern banding and southern recovery sites greatest (about 1,600 km; Southern 1980). Northward migration begins in late Feb, increases in Mar and Apr when most adults have left southern extremes of range. First and second year birds depart later and some remain south over summer period. In s. Great Lakes, birds arrive at colonies mid to late Mar.

How many days is the growing season here (from frost to frost)? Q19 of The Big Here Quiz

According to this gardening website, first frost in Windsor Ontario is October 22nd and last frost is April 25th which would make the season 180 days.

Windsor, Ontario has the most growing degree-days in Canada. (definition of GGD)

Which (if any) geological features in your watershed are, or were, especially respected by your community, or considered sacred, now or in the past?

Geological features? They are few and far between in these parts.

Evidently, Talbot Road followed a natural ridge of glacial moraine which stretched from Windsor to Point Pelee and if I'm not mistaken, it was originally a trail used by the First Nations people in this area. But a road is hardly considered 'sacred'.

So, let's just say, "everything/nothing".

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Right here, how deep do you have to drill before you reach water? Q17 of The Big Here Quiz

The Sustainable Water Well Infrastructure (SWWI) Expert Panel Report: 'Water Well Sustainability in Ontario' [pdf] : Ontario has two principal geologic materials, which can be tapped for groundwater supply: fractured bedrock and sand and/or gravel overburden deposits. Bedrock is found throughout the Province and is the result of several billion years of geologic activity. The sand and gravel deposits, which are less than 100,000 years old, are associated with advances and recessions of continental ice sheets that covered the Province. Together, these two geologic formations form aquifers which provide storage for groundwater resources and a perpetual water supply to wells... Adequate groundwater for domestic supplies of up to 5 m3 /day can usually be obtained by drilling wells a few tens of metres into most of the bedrock or overburden materials found in Ontario...

The Dundee and Detroit River aquifers are also found in the southwest corner of the Province (south of Lake St. Clair), but the water is often sulphurous. As a result, it is mainly used for irrigation purposes. The mineralization in this area increases with depth. The region between London, Sarnia and the north shore of Lake Erie is underlain by shales. These formations yield small supplies and the water quality is usually poor.

Once I realized that I should be searching for the word, 'aquifer' as opposed to 'groundwater table' or 'water well essex windsor', I was finally able to find information on the topic:

Analysis of Agricultural Water Supply Issues (pdf) : The Southwestern Area has two major bedrock aquifers -- the Dundee Formation and the Detroit River Group (Lucas and Amherstburg Formations). The Detroit River Group has the highest permeability of the two but both are widely exploited for domestic, municipal and industrial uses... The upper portions of the Detroit River Group is used as a plentiful irrigation supply south of Lake St. Clair. The supply however, can be sulphurous in places.

This has been the hardest question so far. The closest information I can get to "right here" is the proposed second span of the Ambassador Bridge:

Ambassador Bridge Replacement Span – Environmental Presentation:
* Four Distinct Aquifers:
  • Water Table aquifer – essentially non-existent
  • Overburden aquifer – within 4 meters of surface regionally, near surface in site study area, has generated artesian conditions
  • Contact aquifer – located at bedrock/overburden contact zone, largest aquifer with respect to area
  • Bedrock aquifer – located within the bedrock, has generated artesian conditions

Again, my profound lack of understanding of the geology and geography of where I live, has humbled me greatly.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Where is the nearest earthquake fault? When did it last move? Q16 of The Big Here Quiz

faulty home

It appears that the closest fault to my home is the "Electric fault" and there has been some slight earthquake activity sometime within the last five years (I don't have the patience to look for more specific information from Natural Resources Canada's Earthquake Database).

It took me a while to find an article with a map as clear as the one above (with no thanks to you, Geoscan database). The world of earth science is not an easy one to navigate as a layperson. Even through I have a degree in Geography and Environmental Science, I have a very hard time with the language of geology.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Who uses the paper/plastic you recycle from your neighborhood? Q14 of The Big Here Quiz

I think this question is a little unfair. I'm pretty sure that the Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority are under little obligation to disclose to whom they sell their recycled materials (although their most recent audit does reveal that they sold slightly over $3 millions dollars worth of such material [pdf]) Besides, its quite possible that every year or multi-year contract, new players would be involved. Not one my favourite questions from the quiz.

How many people live in your watershed? Q.13 of The Big Here Quiz

Having already established the boundaries of the watershed where I live in for Question 7 of The Big Here Quiz, this question is merely a matter of adding up the population of the cities in my watershed:
  • Amherstburg, ON = 21,748
  • Belle River, ON = 4,531
  • Essex, ON = 20,032
    • includes Harrow, ON
  • Kingsville, ON = 20,908
  • LaSalle, ON = 27,652
  • Leamington, ON = 28,833
  • Tecumseh, ON = 24,244
  • Windsor, ON = 216,473
Total watershed population: 364,421

I used Statistics Canada's 2006 Community Profiles for most of these figures with the exception of Belle River, Ontario where I used 1996 data as the community amalgamated with the town of Lakeshore in 1999 which is outside of the watershed.

addendum:
This map illustrates some of the smaller watersheds of Windsor

Friday, February 15, 2008

Where does your garbage go? Q.12 of The Big Here Quiz

I didn't know this before: The Essex-Windsor Regional Landfill is located at 7700 County Road 18, Cottam in the Town of Essex.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

From what direction do storms generally come? Q11 of The Big Here Quiz

This is answer I just know from living here. Winter storms almost always come from the north and west. Summer storms come from the southwest.

A long, long time ago, I wondered why the poorer sections of town always happened to be East or South. Then I realized that it had to do with wind and smell.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Name five native edible plants in your neighborhood and the season(s) they are available. Q10 of The Big Here Quiz

This is one my least favourite questions in The Big Here Quiz because its tries to do too much and in doing so, accomplishes very little.

One major problem is that question asks what is available in "your neigbourhood." Now my neighbourhood is a relatively small residential area that might have homes with gardens containing "native" (and even possibly edible) plants -- but I can't be expected to know what's in all these gardens. So I'm going to ignore the word "neighbourhood" in this question.

That leaves me with trying to find the intersection of what plants are native *and* edible in the place where I call "here".

Well, there are books like this one on native plants but generally the emphasis of these books is to encourage their growth to support local flora and fauna, not for their consumption. I browsed through this book on edible and medicinal plants of the Great Lakes region but was put off by author's qualifications and his medical advice.

With time and effort, I'm sure I would be able to draw up a proper list of what Carolinian plants are edible, but instead, I'm going to trust this more general guide by Sweet Grass Gardens to provide my answer:

  • Nodding Wild Onion (Allium cernum)
  • (young shoots of) Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium)
  • Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)
  • Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa)
  • White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Before your tribe lived here, what did the previous inhabitants eat and how did they sustain themselves? Q.9 of The Big Here Quiz

Our extensive research in Essex, Kent and Lambton counties has revealed that contrary to statements made by many historical writers, for whatever reasons, religious or political, the Native Indians of the contact period and those who preceded them as early as the year 406 A.D. did not live by hunting, fishing and gathering alone. There were only a few wandering bands, who in some manner perhaps contributed to cultural diffusion, that did not live in fixed habitations. The Indians of the Canadian Southwest indeed had summer campsites, but they were not unlike today's urbanites going to a cottage or campground for the summer months...

... As evidenced from the examination of the midden pits, probably subsisted on the local animals, fish, fowl, and vegtation. Their agriculture practice included the cultivation of corn... A variety was developed by the Indians of Southern Ontario to mature in less than 90 days...

[Petagwana to Pele (Point Edward to Point Pelee) : The Story of Great Lakes Prehistoric and Historic Sties and Their People by Al Plant).

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Is the soil under your feet, more clay, sand, rock or silt? Q.8 of The Big Here Quiz

According to this map and accompanying Soil Survey of Essex County, the soil under my feet is Brookston clay or Brookston clay loam.

According to “The Physiography of Southern Ontario”, Essex County and the southwestern part of Chatham-Kent are situated within the physiographic sub-region referred to as the Essex Clay Plain – a broad till plain left after the recession of the glacial lakes - Lake Whittlesey and Lake Warren [pdf]

Judging by the very general answers given on Kevin Kelly's website to this question ("clay"), it would appear that most folks are generally unaware of the nuances of soil classification. Even Wikipedia is particularly thin on the topic of soil.


Monday, January 07, 2008

How far do you have to travel before you reach a different watershed? Can you draw the boundaries of yours? Q7 of The Big Here Quiz

Using Environment Canada's Know Your Watershed, I now know that I live in the Northern Lake Erie - St. Claire watershed (WSHED_ID=620)

I'm trying to figure out if there is a particular feature like a river that defines my watershed's Eastern border on the Thames River Watershed. I think it may be the Ruscom River which is approximately 30 km away.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

What spring wildflower is consistently among the first to bloom here? Q6 of The Big Here Quiz

While other places celebrate the first bloom of the snowdrop, there isn't such a tradition in Carolinian Canada. Early last year, I went out on a spring walk with the Essex County Field Naturalists and asked the experts among me what wildflowers bloomed first in these parts. There was no clear consensus but the candidates for the first flowers to bloom in this area are trilliums, jack in the pulpit, and the wood rush.

I tried to look for external confirmation but unfortunately, the results of PlantWatch are largely impossible to retrieve.

How many feet above sea level are you? Q5 of The Big Here Quiz

According to this website, Windsor, Ontario is 190 metres above sea level.

But according to Toporama, my house is closer to 182 metres. See?

My house is closer to 182m

Who knew that sea level means the world to pilots?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

When you flush, where do the solids go? What happens to the waste water? Q4 of the Big Here Quiz

Because my home is in the Riverfront Sanitary Drainage System (pdf), my educated guess is that the solids and wastewater make its way to the Lou Romano Water Reclamation Plant for treatment.

The facility, which discharges into the Detroit River, is believed to be the largest primary treatment plant discharging into the Great Lakes basin. The Detroit River Canadian Cleanup Committee, a community based organization working to improve the health of the Detroit River, recommended the treatment upgrade to local officials some time ago. The city is adding secondary treatment capability to produce cleaner effluent.

The biosolids "are heat dried and pelletized at a plant on Sandwich Street, operated by Prism Berlie Windsor Ltd. The finished pellets are used as a fertilizer and soil conditioner."

While the Windsor product is 3-5-0 on the N, P and K scale, it is also heavy in micronutrients and adds moisture retention characteristics to the soil. It's also a soil conditioner with high organic matter. Application rates vary from three to four tonnes per acre, based on the following crop and a soil tests.

The biosolids are roughly 65 per cent organic matter and take years to break down so the benefits are gradual, he says. Both active pathogens and cysts are killed in the pasteurizing heat treatment.

The Windsor sludge is of particular value because analysis shows it to be low in lead, cadmium and mercury, which have no place in the soil matrix. There is a decade of data backing claims about this product, he says. Bernie Calhoun cash crops more than 800 acres near Essex and says that over the years sewage sludge has helped his farm a lot by adding organic matter. He considers it a good substitute for cattle manure. He has used the pellets as well, but says "I like it for free, I don't want to pay for it," stressing that human biosolids have a pejorative sound, especially to non-farm rural neighbours.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

ShopEco in Tecumseh

One of my ongoing resolutions is to act more green. Making this task much easier for me is the relatively new ShopEco in nearby Tecumseh, Ontario which pledges to offer "products to the public that are environmentally responsible, coming from sustainable sources and using only the healthiest ingredients." ShopEco is the closest thing to a Grassroots store in these parts.

Yesterday I bought a bisphenol-A free plastic sippy cup from Born Free, a couple silicone nipples for baby-to-be (endorsed by the Children's Health Environmental Coalition), and some Bio-Vert laundry detergent.

When was the last time you felt good about buying laundry detergent?