Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A very local food supply

Now that I own (well, barely own) a tiny piece of this highly fertile southern Ontario soil, I've been trying to make use of it. While my work isn't quite bearing fruit, it is bearing leaves, so I thought I'd show it off.

These are my tomatoes. I spent so much time going back and forth on which kind of tomatoes to plant, that I forget which one I picked. I think these are some kind of cherry tomato.

Next up are some peas, on the left. I tied them up today. It took me a full hour to support 12 pea plants. I have a feeling that's not the way it's done on the farm. Barely visible are some carrots on the right. The carrots are really starting to get bushy this week. I pulled a few out, and there's still nothing down below.

This is my spice pot, featuring basil and thyme. I think it's thyme. I like basil, but I don't know why I bothered with thyme, since I've probably never cooked with it.

As you can see, with a little bit of work, I've been able to grow food to supply my family with nourishment to survive whatever crisis global politics throws at us, as long as that crisis still provides us with some protein, on which to put my basil, and it only lasts three days. Oh, and ideally it'll come some time in late July to August.

Anyone know what this flower is? It was a nice surprise for us that bloomed just today.


Darren J 5/30/2007 09:45:00 p.m. | 2 comments |

Monday, May 28, 2007

Group Commute Day - Yonge Street Edition

My commute lands me up in the Highway 7 and Leslie area, the city that hath no name. It's technically half Richmond Hill, half Markham, but that's beside the point. What does matter is that the employment area north of Toronto is so vast that it's difficult to have organized group commutes from one place to another.

Desparate for some company, this morning I met up with the southbound group commute from Yonge and Lawrence, heading to city hall. I would only ride with them far enough to qualify myself for a free t-shirt, which I decided was Eglinton Avenue.

The group was well formed upon my arrival at 7:25 AM. There were two cycling ambassadors who were busy giving out t-shirts. Two police officers were among the group. One sporting a bullet proof vest, one just wearing his short sleeve uniform shirt. They must have turned down the free t-shirts before I got there.

One cycling ambassador announced that we'd be leaving in about two cycles of the lights. We were told that we would try to stick together as a group, and if the group was separated by a red light, the front of the group would wait for the others. A police officer added that we should all ride to the right, in single file. Everyone looked around at each other, a little surprised by this. There were at least 40 cyclists here. The other officer asked if we could ride two abreast. They had a quick, quiet discussion and announced that we should ride single file, so the right lane was still available for cars.

I didn't ride in the group commute last year, but I did show up at the gathering point. In 2006, it happened to be on the day of the TTC strike, so Yonge Street was entirely jammed. That day the discussion was about whether to ride as a group behind the cars, or to try to "filter" up the side past the cars. The decision was to ride as a group in the right hand lane. I heard from others there that in previous years, the group used the full right lane.

Back to 2007. Eventually one person piped up and said it didn't make sense for us to ride single file. With this many cyclists it was safer for us to clearly take the full right lane. The officer reiterated his position that we should ride single file, but added "you don't have to listen to us". As surprising as that was to hear, it was actually a very truthful thing to say. The way we ride on the road is up to us. Each of us has to look out for ourselves, and essentially what the officer was telling us was just his advice, and not the law. At the same time, "advice" from a police officer carries a certain weight.

Although I don't commute South on Yonge Street, I use it often to get downtown. I know there are only about 2 or three short sections where it's wide enough to share the right hand lane with cars. The rest of the way, I take the full lane. One of the wide sections is just south of Lawrence, and another is just south of Davisville.

After sorting out what to do with the left-over t-shirts, we set off. The crowd spilled out onto the street and pedalled down Yonge Street. It felt good to be with so many other cyclists, and judging by the smiles around me, my neighbours must have felt the same way. One cyclist commented to me that riding on Yonge Street for a commute was a unique experience. I suspect many stick to side streets and the Don River trail. There was even a tandem bike among us. Its cyclists must have been happy to take advantage of this comfortable ride down Yonge.

For the part of the ride I was there, most cyclists in the front of the pack rode 2 abreast and chatted. The back of the pack was riding single file. Over 2 kilometres, one car managed to use the right hand lane to pass some other cars.

The ride was pleasant and casual. I turned around at Eglinton and headed north. Since I didn't make it to city hall, I'll have to speculate pancakes were eaten and enjoyed. I hope it was a good enough experience that a few cyclists are willing to keep going even without free t-shirts and breakfast.

(also posted on IBikeTO)

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Darren J 5/28/2007 01:55:00 p.m. | 1 comments |

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Others - They're Out There

I always like to tell myself that I'm seeing more cyclists out on the road. It's difficult to have a reliable count because the numbers are so small and there are so many factors that affect the results, like what time I ride or the weather.

This evening, however, there was a sight very special for me on the road ahead. I had three (that's 3) cyclists ahead of me on Leslie Street as we crossed the 407. I'm usually excited to see just one.

Maybe it's the fine weather, or the upcoming long weekend. It doesn't really matter. It was nice to see.

Enjoy the weekend! I hope everyone gets to spend some time outside.

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Darren J 5/18/2007 08:11:00 p.m. | 4 comments |

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

This quick fix is a sure thing!

I almost forgot! Whew. Good thing I didn't. Today is May 15th. Time to go out and get a good deal on gasoline since everyone else is protesting and gas will be cheap!

These days have come and gone in the past, but this time there is actually pretty strong support for it. I've received email from a number of friends and coworkers encouraging me to support this effort.

It's not that I don't feel sympathy for people who are spending a lot of money on gasoline. I know changing one's lifestyle can be difficult.

I just wish people would see the flaws in this whole plan. To have an impact, people must avoid using gasoline, not just buying it on a different day.

The whole thing reminds me of an episode The Man Show from many years ago. The show's stars, always eager to embarrass their rivals (women), set up a stand in a shopping mall advertising The Chocolate Diet. Eat as much chocolate as you want! In fact, eat as much chocolate as you can, and watch the pounds melt off your body. They had no shortage of takers. Everyone loved the idea. Someone was so eager to participate that she purchased and used a chocolate suppository they were selling. Then The Man Show had a good laugh at "women believing in the most easy fix, even when it makes no sense." I have a feeling this rule isn't so gender specific.

Everyone will find out tomorrow that this buy-no-gas-day is about as useful as a jumbo sized chocolate suppository.

Darren J 5/15/2007 03:37:00 p.m. | 0 comments |

Saturday, May 12, 2007


At Yonge and the 401.

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Darren J 5/12/2007 10:17:00 a.m. | 1 comments |

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

I Bike T.O. and so do you

I Bike T.O. You Bike T.O. Check it out.

Today, is the start of something new. A group of us have started a web site called I Bike T.O. The idea is to create a site that will provide a single place for news and announcements related to cycling in Toronto, but also to connect people through discussion. One of the features I'm looking forward to seeing is our profiles of cyclists around Toronto. I expect we'll all see that there is no stereotype that fits cyclists in Toronto.

I'll keep writing my personal stuff here (let's face it, I write some ridiculous stuff sometimes that may not be worthy of a site with a "focus"). If I feel like I have news items or stories that are relevant for I Bike T.O., then I'll put them up there too (or more likely, I'll post them there only).

Go over and have a look. If you have comments or advice, please share. Sign up on the site, if you like. You can start a discussion. Or just comment anonymously.

My hope is that the site will create enough interest that people who have never heard of blogs (or would never bother looking at them) will check I Bike T.O. out, and start to hear about the things going on in the city.

I expect my contribution to be that of a suburban point of view. I live in the official city of Toronto, but commute to the suburb of Richmond Hill. Things are a little different out here. Some would say it's hard out here for a cyclist. There are times when just by riding on the road in this part of the city, I feel like a radical activist.

Things are changing though, and I'm seeing quite a few cyclists further north as the weather warms up. It could be a very interesting year ahead.

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Darren J 5/01/2007 12:48:00 p.m. | 2 comments |