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Celebrating 100 Years

Janet Scott

Aug 26, 2019

Celebrating 100 years, A Recap of our Meeting

Our federal Member of Parliament, Jamie Schmale, who sent regrets, wrote the Society a letter of congratulations.  Member of Provincial Parliament Laurie Scott brought a letter as well, and spoke of how glad she was to be home in her riding for our celebration.  Mayor Andy Letham, Ward 3 Councillor Doug Elmslie, and Ward 7 Councillor Pat O’Reilly were also in attendance.  “Well done and congratulations from City Hall,” said Mayor Letham.  Coun. Elmslie spoke of his appreciation for our efforts.  “Volunteers step up when they’re needed,” he said.  “We’d be a poorer community without them.  It’s up to us to get involved and make our community better.  Thank you.  See you in another 100 years!”   


Linda McLeod presented the Society with $521.00, the proceeds of a sale of named daylily cultivars from her own garden. 


The short film, “A Garden’s Family” turns the spotlight on Syd and Mary Perlmutter, who gardened at Blythe School House for many decades.  Director, actress, and teacher Geneviève Appleton co-produced the film with the Perlmutters’ daughter, Leah, and had hoped to join us but was called away by a family emergency.  Sharon Walker of Maryboro Lodge: The Fenelon Museum introduced the film for her. 


“It never occurred to me not to garden organically,” says Mary Perlmutter in the film.  “A seed grows into a plant.  It’s a miracle.  There’s joy in the garden.”  We saw how that joy reached three generations of the Perlmutter family as Leah introduced her children to Grandma’s garden and spoke of her journey from anxious citified teenager to a woman who had grown to realize that nature could find a calming place in her heart.  Mary expressed her belief that placing one’s hands in the earth can heal depression and that we garden for mental health.  The film ends with the family gathering for a meal grown mostly on their own land, noting that twenty-five years earlier, the land had been bare, and toasting Mary for her efforts.


When Kathy Armstrong parked in my driveway more than a year ago, handed me four slim binders from the Society’s archive, and asked me to write something about our first one hundred years, “two or three pages,” I said sure.  “Great! I’ll go get the other nineteen binders!” she said cheerfully.  I don’t think either of us knew what lay ahead.  The Society’s notes begin in 1940.  The Society began in 1919.  How to fill that information gap?  What about the Fenelon Falls Gazette microfiche archive?  With the only reader machines temporarily located in Lindsay, a series of trips began.  Thanks to Kathy, Judy Kennedy, and Mary Gascho for driving me through the winter weather to get the job done.  Thanks to the Fenelon library for finally transferring a reader back home.  “I think you should scan the Gazette right to the last reel in 2000 to get as full a picture of the Society’s coverage as you can,” said Kathy and she was right.  Librarians Shawnee and Constance reproduced countless archives for me and they are collected in a binder for all to read and to save the eyesight of future researchers who’d like to tell the Society’s story. 


I handed in a draft of my work in February. “It’s a bit thin after 1980,” said Kathy.  “Could you rewrite the last forty years?”  She was right again: more work was needed.  Copies moved between us for months to be edited; photos were selected from the Society and from the Maryboro Lodge archive (thanks to Glenn Walker); and a painting by long-time Society member and Secretary Bessie Nie was brought to our attention by Sharon Walker.  Patrick Wylde brought his design expertise to the project, photographed Society gardens and the tour in July, advised and guided the book to publication, and the result is one we hope you enjoy.


“Lasagna, wine. Wine, lasagna,” began Mary Carr as she poured herself a large glass of robust red and explained her garden-building method to us.  Quoting Alfred Austin, “To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body but the soul,” she presented a very well organized talk about a non-traditional method of creating planting areas.  “I’m lazy and I’m cheap,” says Mary. 


Lasagna gardening is less taxing, requires no digging, and saves work, energy, and time.  It’s like gardening in a compost pile.  Mary explained that she and friends built her latest lasagna garden, a 10-by-20 -foot bed in one day this past June!  Sous-chef & husband Ron Carr demonstrated the layering method which produces a lasagna bed: a base of cardboard or newspaper, a brown layer of carbon-bearing material (leaves, straw, shredded paper, or sawdust), and a green layer of nitrogen-bearing grass, compost, aged manure, coffee grounds, kitchen scraps, and or even seaweed.  Water each layer before adding the next.  Beds can be up to 24 inches high. Two inches of soil on top will add natural bacteria to the bed, which can be built in the fall and allowed to “cook” over winter, advice Mary confesses she doesn’t always follow.  Lasagna beds will soon host worms which help turn the various ingredients into soil.  Ready to plant?  Pull the layers aside, add soil to the hole, insert your plant, water, and replace the layers.


Mary fulfilled a dream of planting a pollinator patch with native Ontario plants (the topic of our next speaker on September 23rd!)  She placed a log in her new garden and created an unmulched backbone of sandy soil for burrowing critters.  In Year 1, regular watering and weeding are required to get your plants off to a good start.  Water as needed in Years 2 and 3.  Cut back plants in Year 3 and otherwise leave things alone.  Any mulch you apply in spring or summer or fall is left on the bed forever.  “After that, nothing,” says Mary, who recommends the book Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza (1998) as a great resource for anyone interested in learning more about Lasagna gardening.  Directions to building a pollinator patch came from A Guide to Creating a Pollinator Patch, created by the Ontario Horticultural Association.  Mary’s before and after photos of her garden being built and as it looks today, filling out lushly with pollinator-attracting plants, convinced many of us to try lasagna gardening ourselves

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