The Tale of the Evans Cherry

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This week, we’ve got a special segment of Dispatches of the Dirt brought to you by Terrainforma’s Danielle Dolgoy and Hamdi Issawi. Find out how the magical Evans Cherry came to be in Edmonton’s supposedly unforgiving climate!

The Tale of the Evans Cherry

Gardeners and farmers alike are all limited to the zones they live in. Since the 1960’s Agriculture Canada has been publishing a national map of Plant Hardiness Zones to help farmers and gardeners plan their crops to ensure their plantings can withstand the at times extreme temperatures to make it to harvest time. When it comes to fruit trees, most people consider the the temperate zones of the Okanagan Valley in BC or Ontario’s southern green belt as the quintessential food-producing areas. Most of us don’t associate the “Gateway to the North”, as a bountiful agricultural area.

Despite this perception of Edmonton as a frigidly cold place where very little can grow, north of the city boasts some of the finest soil in the country, classified as “Number 1 Special”. That’s where the Evans Cherry tree was first documented. And that tree has proliferated over time to become a ubiquitous feature in people’s back yards. Many folks don’t even know how delicious those cherries actually are.

Danielle set out on a mission to learn more about the Evans Cherry, where it came from, and who the mysterious man behind the tree’s distribution across Edmonton and throughout North America was.

If you’d like to learn more about the Evans Cherry, Ken Riske at Mill Creek Nursery loves to talk about it and other species he raises on his farm.

Links: Mill Creek Nursery, Government of Alberta Agriculture, DNA Gardens, Plant Hardiness 

What’s Happening

Wednesday Night Walks – Guelph, Ontario, Arboretum, August 20 + 27 at 7 PM

You can come out to the Arboretum this Wednesday night and learn to be a Bat Detective. For example: Did you know bats are pollinators? And that they’re great for controlling pests? Learn all about these nocturnal creatures and how we can help them thrive in Ontario. The cost is two dollars; kids under five are free.

3rd Annual Thebacha & Wood Buffalo Dark Sky Festival – Wood Buffalo National Park, August 21 to 24

Celebrate our little view of the universe at the Dark Sky Festival in Wood Buffalo National Park! Join in some night sky viewing with telescopes and binoculars in the world’s largest dark sky preserve. There will also be festival meals, camping, and keynote presentations.

Growing Green Sustainability Festival – Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, August 21 to 24

Growing Green Sustainability Festival is a colourful introduction to the idea that we can work together to ensure that all human and non-human communities have a home on our planet. There will be a local dinner, a film festival by the river, and bus tour of environmentally friendly businesses and organizations working in Lunenburg County.

Edmonton Repairathon and Clothing Swap – Edmonton, Alberta, John Walter Museum, August 24 from 1-3 PM

The John Walter museum (near the Kinsmen Sports Centre) is hosting a repairathon and clothing swap. On Sunday August 24, bring your damaged clothes and have them repaired by volunteers. They’ll do buttons, hems, rips, tears and zippers if you bring your own. There is a 1 to 2 limit item per person and they ask you only bring clean clothes and no under garments please!
The event is free and there is limited parking so it’s recommended to use public transit.

On Music and Remediation

Oyster mushrooms can be used in the remediations of pollutants such as petrolium and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

Oyster mushrooms can be used in the remediation of pollutants such as petroleum and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

This week we talk to two remarkable people whose environmental concerns figure prominently in their work. First, we reconnect with Leila Darwish, the author of Earth Repair, for an explanation and illustration of bioremediation. Then, singer-songwriter Morgan MacDonald shares how environmental issues strike a chord in his music.

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Leila Darwish

In a time when spills, leaks, and environmental disasters are becoming more and more common, how do we clean up in a way that’s both reasonable and responsible? Prevention, of course, is always the best policy, but even the best laid plans go awry, and when they do, one answer is often overlooked: bioremediation. Tasmia Nishat speaks with Leila Darwish, author of Earth Repair, about the healing potential of sunflowers and oyster mushrooms backyard contamination, big spills, and everything in between.

Leila Darwish is also a founding member of Terra Informa and the Council of Canadians’ Pacific regional organizer. You can read her blog here

Morgan MacDonald

Morgan MacDonald is a folk singer who is unusually forward about the environmental issues behind his songs. Trevor Chow-Fraser brings us an interview with this East Coast singer-songwriter

If you want to hear more of Morgan MacDonald, unfortunately, you’ve already missed his 2014 cross-Canada tour. But if you’re in Nova Scotia, you can still catch him playing a few shows this summer. And with a new album in the works, you’ll want to watch his website for upcoming singles and more live show announcements.

Listen to Blood Will Rust and other songs by Morgan MacDonald on CBC Music.

What’s Happening

3rd Annual Thebacha & Wood Buffalo Dark Sky Festival

There’s something about a clear, starry night sky that’s good for the soul. If you’re in the Northwest Territories August 21 to 24, head out to Wood Buffalo National Park to celebrate our little view of the universe at the Dark Sky Festival. There’ll be a chance to join in night sky viewing with telescopes and binoculars, festival meals, camping, and keynote presentations. Head out to the daytime activities or night-time star gazing in the world’s largest dark sky preserve.

Growing Green Sustainability Festival

Over in Nova Scotia, check out the Growing Green Sustainability Festival in Bridgewater from August 21 to 24. It’s a colourful introduction to the idea that we can work together to ensure that all human and non-human communities have a home on our planet. There’s a Close to Home Dinner on August 21 with superb local food and drink, a film festival by the river on August 22, and a Sunday bus tour hopping around to environmentally friendly businesses and organizations working in Lunenburg County.

Edmonton Repairathon and Clothing Swap

In Edmonton, AB, the John Walter museum is hosting a repairathon and clothing swap!  On Sunday August 24th, bring your damaged clothing down to the museum to have it repaired by their volunteers. They can do buttons, hems, rips, tears and zippers if you bring your own. There is a 1 to 2 limit item per person and they ask you only bring clean clothes and (please!) no under garments. The event is free and takes place from 1-3 pm. There is limited parking so they recommend using transit.

More information: Facebook,  Twitter,  email

Stories that Sizzle

Nearly-naked cyclists zoom by in Albany, NY

The World Naked Bike Ride is celebrated in many different cities, as Halifax organizer Ben Caplan tells us on this week’s show

The dog days of summer are upon us, and in keeping with the climate, this week’s show is sizzling. From naked cyclists to incendiary writers, and fiery film to free range eggs.

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How To Ride A Bike Naked (with lots of other people)

Ben Caplan is a singer-songwriter hailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia. A few years back, he helped organize a local event for World Naked Bike Ride. Since you really only want to do this sort of thing in the heat of summer, Trevor Chow-Fraser asked Ben to help put together a little how-to guide for hosting a Naked Bike Ride in your town.

More information:

Film Review: A Fierce Green Fire

From the dams of the Grand Canyon to the promise of the Kyoto Protocol, A Fierce Green Fire covers fifty years of the environmental movement while highlighting it’s victories along the way. Written and directed by Mark Kitchell, the documentary is inspired by Philip Shabecoff’s book of the same name, and regularly features the author himself to share the American perspective on events that garnered change through solidarity and media attention. This week, Terra Informa’s Natalee Rawat shares her take on this Cole’s Notes of environmental activism.

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The Magic of Environmental Writing

Do you ever wonder why some authors can make their words ring out and sizzle right off the page, but some can’t write a catchy sentence to save their life? Terra Informer Chris Chang-Yen Phillips has been curious for a while about the difference between two writers from the early days of the American conservation movement: Aldo Leopold and John Muir. Why is there so much poetry, so much fire in Leopold’s books? Chris was snowshoeing in Kananaskis a little while ago with ecology grad students Paul Cigan and Sonya Odsen. You can imagine his glee when he overheard them talking about just this question.

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Eco-babble: What Does it Mean to be a Free Range Egg?

Scrambled, poached, sunny side up. Whether they came before the chicken, or the chicken before them, eggs are a breakfast staple. Terra Informa’s Nicole Wiart brings us an EcoBabble – where she enlists some local farmers to try to break down the term “free range.” It’s just one of the many terms that you can find on a carton of eggs – but as you’ll soon find out, defining free range is not as simple as it sounds.

More information:

What’s Happening

Intertidal Wonderland

On August 9, the Stanley Park Ecology Society (SPEC) will be leading a walk along the intertidal zone starting at Vancouver’s Stanley Park Pavilion. From armored sea cucumbers to red feather duster worms, this waterside wonderland is supposed to be an out-of-this-world experience, so bring your curiosity and a good pair of rubber boots. The walk runs from 10:00am to 12:30pm and the cost is only $10 ($5 for SPEC members).

Milner Gardens At Show

This Saturday, August 8, travel to Qualicum Beach to support local artists as they paint, sketch and photograph Milner Gardens. There will be live music, a tea room with refreshments, and a silent auction. You can visit between 10:00am and 4:30pm on Saturday or Sunday.

Master Composting in Winnipeg

If you like worms, dirt, and rotting food, then the City of Winnipeg has just the course for you. The Green Action Centre is hosting a 12-hour Master Composting program that teaches the details of composting including sessions on soil health, compost maturity, and vermi-composting activities to name a few. Participants will also receive an in-depth composting manual. This event takes place in September, but the deadline to apply is August 25. Applicants must be least 18 years old to apply.

July Book Club: The Year of the Flood and For the Birds

A photo of Margaret Atwood

A photo of Margaret Atwood

For the July edition of Terra Informa’s summer book club, we dive into Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, the second volume in the MaddAddam trilogy. This week we’ll discuss some of the issues raised by the book and our own thoughts on the story. For our younger listeners, we also take a peek at Atwood’s children’s book For the Birds. Warning: this episode contains spoilers!

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July’s Book: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood

Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood

Imagine a future where governments are replaced by cold and calculating corporations, climate change has reconfigured the global landscape, and entire species are annihilated on the daily while gene-spliced hybrids run amok in their stead. This is the not so distant (or unlikely) world against which Margaret Atwood stages The Year of the Flood, the second installment in the critically acclaimed MaddAddam series.

Woven together by the experiences and memories of survivors Toby and Ren, Atwood’s story presents a glimpse of the world as it might be both before and after the Year of the Flood: a catastrophic pandemic that all but wipes the entire human race from the face of an already broken planet.

This week, the Terra Informa team pulled together and squeezed into a tiny little studio to voice our thoughts and answer some of the questions raised in the book.

Special thanks to this weeks guest Megan Clark  for joining us in studio, and Brandon Schatz from Wizard Comics and Games in Edmonton, AB, for joining the conversation.

Megan Clark can be heard on Why Folk Why Not airing Monday evenings on CJSR 88.5 FM in Edmonton. She’s also an associate producer on CKUA’s ArtBeat which runs Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evenings.

Alternative Reading: For the Birds (also) by Margaret Atwood

Just in case post-apocalyptic lit isn’t your Happicuppa coffee, we’ve decided to include a second book that doubles as an option for our younger listeners.

For the Birds, also penned by Atwood, follows the adventure of a young girl named Samantha whose disdain for the winged is suddenly turned upside down when she’s magically transformed into a bird herself. Along with a crow named Phoebe, Samantha embarks on a migratory adventure to South America while learning about the environmental problems of the day and the dangers faced by birds in turn. Full of fun illustrations by John Bianchi, and feathered with facts supplied by Shelly Tanaka, For the Birds is an informative read for all ages…so long as you can find it. Unfortunately, this book is out of print.

Next Month’s Books…

By popular vote, we’ve decided that next month’s book choices are Kill-site by Tim Lillburn and Alligator Pie by Dennis Lee.

If you’d like to join our discussion, pick up one of these two books (or both) and send us your thoughts over Twitter, Facebook, or email by August 27 . We LOVE to hear from you and share your thoughts on the show.