Also, a few words about basement suites and ways to mimic the wisdom of nature in our gardens.
Do you realize that your old house’s incoming water lines could be lead-lined and dangerous to your health? A plumber discovered lead pipes in our house when we had a sewage back flow valve installed last year in our 1928 house. To reduce the concentration of lead and other harmful particles in our drinking water, we had a reverse osmosis water filtration system installed under our kitchen sink.
Speaking of back flow valves, it is well worth putting one in to greatly reduce chances of basement flooding. Edmonton has a program to subsidize the installation of such a device. Contact the City at 311 and ask for an information package from the Drainage Services Department. Your plumber will be able to tell you at the time of installation if you have lead pipes.
A word to the wise about basement suites in McCauley. McCauley is not zoned for such suites and therefore they are illegal. We found this out after having a city inspector in to assess our basement for renovation funding possibilities. We were not renting our suite but we were nonetheless required to remove our stove, decommission the relevant wiring, and apply for a permit to make our downstairs kitchen (i.e. sink) legal. If your suite is discovered to be rented out, your tenant may face eviction.
It’s time to talk a bit more about permaculture philosophy, which fits perfectly within the theme of housing and habitation. The basic premise is that the more we nurture the great diversity of life around us, the more healthy and vibrant the whole system (including ourselves!) will become. This is true for our neighbourhood, and it is true for our gardens.
In permaculture, we learn from the wisdom of nature. Edmonton’s river valley is a perfect example, right at our doorstep, of a self-maintaining natural system. Here is an incredibly diverse assortment of plants and animals in every stage of development and decay. Diversity is the key to health. Life thrives without tilling, pesticides, herbicides, or artificial fertilizers. All the annual plant matter from one growing season returns to the soil, and is the primary food source for myriads of different life forms within, who enrich it with enzymes and further build the soil.
Seeking to mimic this system in our gardens, we can begin to plant both perennial and annual plants that will feed us, beneficial insects, birds, and the soil. Plants of different heights, with different root structures and different light and nutrient needs. Fruit trees like apples and plums produce an abundance of organic fruit at no cost; dwarf varieties take little space. Bushes such as Saskatoons, cherries, currants, and raspberries provide seasonal treats and good bird habitat. Herbs and flowering plants feed us and many helpful insects. Ground covers such as strawberries shade the soil and keep it moist while providing succulent berries. A yard filled with such plants, as well as some favorite annual vegetables tucked into the sunniest spots, will be full of life, beauty, and sustenance for us and more creatures than we will ever know.
Dan and Jen live in McCauley.