Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city is hip and urban – and you can, too.

Tag: Flesh out

Climbing vines on the shady side 

My house is almost famous for the green wall of vines I have growing on it – which you can see in on our Facebook page. Of all the neighbours, the only others who have vines are those on the end on a row, with a big wall to cover.

My Virginia creeper is now about six years old, and for two years, I also  let one climb out back, on the  shady eastern side. At the same time, I nabbed a real ivy plant and planted it in the same place, but I suspect that Virginia creeper inhibits other plants, as it failed to thrive.

This year, out back, I dug out the creeper and planted a climbing hydrangea in its place, as I wanted the flowers, and a climber that thrived in the shade. Little did I know, but it also released the ivy, which has since taken off.

It’s inspiring me for next year, where I’m going to remove the creeper from the front of my house (except the garage wall) and plant ivy in its place, because it spreads nicely and is less rambunctious.

It is not true that climbing plants damage your bricks. They help shade your home so that it’s cooler, they look nice, and they also give wild birds a place to hang out, and berries and insects to eat.

Cutting out corn sweeteners

Each year on the homestead, I’ve made at least one significant change in habit or consumer choice to lower my carbon footprint. It seems that businesses and governments don’t feel like believing science when it implies we have to reduce and change our consumption of resources. Nonetheless, we as citizens and consumers need to do this for the good of our health, wallets, and planet. One thing I’m working on this year is cutting out corn sweeteners.

The things I’ve done to lower my carbon footprint:

  • planted lots of vegetation for shade in summer and for producing food,
  • reduced my use of water  (which requires some energy at the water treatment plant), and
  • changed my grocery shopping habits, increasing my organic and Community Supported Agriculture purchases and reducing  packaged, processed food.

This means I do a little more cooking, I’ll be doing a garden this year, and I only buy processed things I don’t make myself (fake chick’n nuggets, for example – or a certain kind of tofu that’s great with barbecue sauce).

Corn fractions are the starches and sugars that come from corn. There’s a negative health effect from all the refined sugar we eat, and even more of an effect on the planet in farming it. When I think about how much sugar we consume in everything, and if we all consumed less (and a greater variety), it might help with the environmental footprint. I will read labels and try to avoid high fructose corn syrup, and continue to buy food that is less processed.

Did you know? Corn syrup is made from the core of the cob, not from the kernels!

I’m also switching over my refined sugar needs. The world is a small place, and we in North America and Europe are at the top of the food chain. We can buy whatever we need; our ability to pay top dollar means other countries go for cheaper alternatives. So we buy cane sugar (some European countries use sugar beets), even though we can’t grow it, and these other countries buy cheaper corn sweeteners from us, and add to their health problems. I want them to have the cane sugar.

So what can I use instead of corn sweeteners and refined sugar? Take a look at this list, and you will realize just how easy it is. The biggest difficulty is remembering to opt for a substitute:

  • Honey for sweetening tea. Some people sweeten their tea with jam.
  • Barley malt (in the form of Ovaltine, or in the form from the brewer’s, or bulk store – the kind with bins and scoops!) for sweetening coffee and other hot drinks.
  • Red beets and, if I ever find them, sugar beets for cooking and baking. Cook them and mash them in. This is bonus for chocolate cake, as it produces a nice colour. 
  • Carrots and parsnips add sweetness to savoury dishes.
  • Dried fruits – raisins, apricots, dates, and figs – are all naturally sweet and add a nice touch to pies, crumbles, and stews.
  • The Great Canadian Maple Syrup.

I intend to recruit my Dad who has a knack for producing jumbo beets, and I will grow more of them myself (I love beet greens!). I’ll even try my hand at growing barley, though I don’t expect to malt it – it’ll likely feed the rabbits while it’s still green. Though, the Canada Malting refinery is in Griffintown.

Do you have any non-cane-sugar suggestions (other than stevia)? What would be your obstacle in making the switch?

Rewilding is about converting your lawn to groundcover (bit by bit!) to native species. This fosters biodiversity. It also creates habitat for urban wildlife. Finally, you'll only trim it 2-3 times per season rather than every 7-10 days!

The green driveway gallery shows you how you can DIY a driveway conversation using my first model as an example. There are other ways to do it, and things I learned in the process and afterward. Please call me at 514-815-5163 for my landscaping service, or to discuss upgrading your driveway.

The work season is April 1st through June 30th, but I install bird strike prevention (to stop birds from crashing into windows and glass balconies) whenever the temperature is above 5ºC. Call the number above or email. It's important to do this earlier rather than later,  in time for bird migrations in late April to end of May, and late August to mid-October.


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