Farm Fresh Produce in the City

Permiculture Success

Fresh apples, fall lamb, guinea fowl plus pears, raspberries, chives and lots of picnics at a farm a couple of hours drive away.

Those are all the dreams awakened as I signed up for an annual membership in Miracle Farms,, a permiculture apple orchard run by my neighbours Stefan and Doreen.

My membership in the farm combines with a weekly basket from the rooftop urban farm called Lufa,, a seasonal basket with a CSA farmer through Equiterre,, chickens from another farmer and beef from a third farmer to provide most of what my family of four needs.

The opportunity to purchase farm-fresh produce and meat is something that is possible for anyone living in Montreal, but it’s not enough.

I also order milk in glass bottles and lots of organic goodies from my favourite organic grocery store that are delivered to our home from Visits to my local IGA, Becks on Champlain Street occur at least once every two weeks or so.

That doesn’t even include the Saskatoon berries, rhubarb, asparagus, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, peas, beans, raspberries and arugula we grow in our own garden.

It takes one heck of a lot of food to feed four hungry people!

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Students Sound Educated and Knowledgeable


This morning, I attended the first hour and a half of the general assembly of the Association étudiante du Cégep Saint-Laurent (AECSL). AECSL is one of the 171 groups that are members of CLASSE. (For more information about the group, visit

AECSL has 3 500 members who are all students of the college. It has existed since students went on strike on February 20. I’m told that typical meetings last as long as seven hours, in part, because the organization is committed to direct democracy. That means that anyone who attends the school can participate in decisions. I’d estimate there were between 300 and 350 in the large room I sat in. Another 75 to 100 people sat in a second room outside. This was the biggest meeting, because organizers weren’t expecting to have to operate in two rooms. They took about 10 minutes or so to set up the technical expertise to ensure that everyone in the second room could speak to a motion and vote.

On the way in, students showed their student cards at the door to get yellow voting cards. I saw four votes in which students held up the cards so that the chair of the meeting could get a read on what the room wanted. Charest has said a lot about the necessity of these votes being secret, but I saw no reason for such a demand. Does Charest run his caucus by secret ballot?

The discussion I observed didn’t concern the actual offer that students were considering, but was instead a discussion about the procedure that led students to participate in the negotiation. Students asked all the same questions I wondered about. “Were government officials and unions prepared to negotiate when they invited you to talk?” “If you don’t have the right to make decisions on our behalf, why is the government and the media talking about a tentative agreement?”

Then members of the media arrived and the room voted to hold the meeting behind closed doors. At that point, I had to decide whether I was there as a citizen observer, in which case I could stay, but would never have the right to report on what I saw. I decided to leave. I still don’t know whether AECSL voted to accept or reject the offer. Guess I’ll find out tomorrow.

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Jane Jacobs: An Icon for Citizen Action

Verdun's Jane Walk on May 6 begins here at 10 a.m.

As Quebec students prove that lots of people can make change together, it’s worth talking about an extraordinary woman who inspired a series of great walks this weekend.

Jane Jacobs was an urban activist who believed that cities are ecosystems with their own logic and dynamism that changes over time according to how they are used. She was born on May 7, 1916 and died in 2006, but her birthday is still celebrated through citizen-led walks all around the world.

In her most famous work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which was first published in 1961 and reworked in 1992, Jacob’s argued that local residents should have more say over their environment and pedestrians should be able to move easily throughout any city. She also argued in favour of reusing old buildings instead of tearing them down and said that human-sized density instead of sprawl was a priority.

Janes’ Walks are designed to make citizens more active in ensuring that they have a say over what happens in the neighbourhoods they love.

In Montreal, the Urban Ecology Centre ( promoted a series of 50 walks, many of which happened today. There are still 23 happening tomorrow though, including one by Véronique Landry along the shoreline of Verdun. It begins at 10 a.m. from Montreal island’s oldest country home, the Maison Nivard de Saint-Dizier, a two-storey stone cottage built by Gilbert Maillet for the Congregation of Notre Dame nuns in 1710. It ends with a picnic at 11:30 a.m. at Parc Monseigneur J.-A. Richard.


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The Lord Peter Wimsey Mystery Series, by Dorothy Leigh Sayers Fleming

Book cover

My favourite mystery series of all time is the Lord Peter Wimsey stories by Dorothy Sayers. I also enjoy her short stories about the crafty salesman, Montague Egg.

Despite the irritating class structure, a slightly misogynist air (chapter titles range from “A use for spinsters,” to “Lord Peter Turns a Trick) and a know-it-all main character, the Lord Wimsey stories are so appealing, the BBC made them into television shows. Sayers sarcastic humour stands out and she always manages to turn the story in a direction that isn’t immediately obvious.

The best things about reading Sayers’ mysteries, however, are her characters. They all seem like real personalities despite exaggerated traits and overblown situations.

The key character is Wimsey himself, of course, who is an honourable but eccentric example of England’s upper class who feels ugly but is extraordinarily-good at everything. Stories about this ideal man include feats showing his success at playing the piano, scoring in cricket and leading his men in World War II trenches. No matter what the situation, he knows exactly what to do, but is also charming and kind. He’s also rich and never gets angry.

Every story also includes at least one scene with the doting Bunter, Lord Wimsey’s fussing efficient assistant who manages to fill a variety of expert roles, including photography, chemistry and under-cover spying.

Only a few include the Sayers-like character Harriet Vane, who is described as a best-selling independent mystery writer and the love of Wimsey’s life.

His able old-fashioned lawyer, Mr. Murbles, handles  legal trials along the way. Particularly nice characters show up over and over, including Mary, the sister he hardly knows and an affable police detective named Parker. Unbelievable characters appear in very believable circumstances, including a ghost uncle, his fun-loving mother, his fuss-budget older brother and his brother’s wife, the super-critical Helen.

The best character of all is an extraordinary woman detective named Miss Climpson, who runs an all-lady detective agency for Wimsey.

She is my ears and tongue and especially my nose,” said Lord Peter, dramatically in Unnatural Death “She asks questions which a young man could not put without a blush…I send a lady with a long, woolly jumper on knitting needles and jingly things round her neck. Of course she asks questions—everybody expets it. Nobody is surprised. Nobody is alarmed. And so-called superfluity is agreeable and usually disposed of.”

These great characters, particularly the female ones, arise from a life of varied experiences. Born to the chaplain of Christ Church, Oxford and his wife in 1893, Sayers crossed many boundaries for women during her lifetime. She didn’t get a degree immediately after finishing studying at Somerville College in Oxford, because women couldn’t have them at that time, although she did get one five years later, in 1920.

Sayers had a son, John Anthony, “out-of-wedlock” in 1924, although she never told anyone he was her son and asked her cousin to raise him. She adopted him after marrying a journalist named Oswald Arthur Mac Fleming.

She began her Wimsey series a year later while working full-time as an advertising copywriter. She began writing full time in 1932 and died 35 years later.

Her son and his heirs kept her stories in print, which is why so many of them were published by “The Trustees of Anthony Fleming, Deceased”

Her Wimsey stories include:

  • The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, 1921
  • The Vindictive Story of the Footsteps that Ran, 1921
  • Whose Body, 1923
  • The Abominable History of the Man with the Copper Fingers, 1924
  • The Entertaining Episode of the Article in Question, 1925
  • The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Meleager’s Will, 1925
  • The Fantastic Horror of the Cat in the Bag, 1925
  • The Learned Adventure of the Dragon’s Head, 1925
  • The Unprincipled Affair of the Practical Joker, 1926
  • Clouds of Witness, 1926, in which Wimsey’s brother, the Duke of Denver is accused of murder.
  • Unnatural Death, 1927
  • The Bibulous Business of a Matter of Taste, 1927
  • The Piscatorial Farce of the Stolen Stomach, 1927
  • The Unsolved Puzzle of the Man with No Face, 1928
  • Lord Peter Views the Body, 1928 (12 short stories, most in London)
  • The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention, 1928
  • The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba, 1928-1930.
  • Strong Poison (1st Harriet Vane, 1930)
  • Five Red Herrings, March 1931 (Artists in Galloway Scotland) “The plot was invented to fit a locality”
  • Have His Carcase (2nd Harriet Vane, 1932, “the locality was invented to fit a plot”–walking holiday along the beaches near Wilvercome, on the south-west coast of England)
  • Murder Must Advertise, 1933
  • In The Teeth of the Evidence, 1933
  • Hangman’s Holiday, 1933
  • The Nine Tailors, 1934
  • Striding Folly, 1934
  • Gaudy Night, 1935
  • Thrones, Dominations 1936
  • The Haunted Policeman, 1936
  • Busman’s Honeymoon, 1937
  • Talboys, 1942

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Merlin Immobilier Lowers Height of Buildings in Proposed Wanklyn Project

Architectural view of Wanklyn

Original Architectural drawings

Revised Wanklyn drawings

Revised Architectural Drawings

LaSalle—Merlin Immobilier decided to lower the height of some of the buildings in its proposed Wanklyn project yesterday to ensure that LaSalle residents don’t block the rezoning of the 47,139-square-metre Fonds immobilier de solidarité property between Cherry Lane, Jean-Milot, Wanklyn and Highway 138.

Proposed 12-storey buildings will be adjusted to nine storeys, while the proposed nine-storey buildings will be lowered to six storeys.

“During the consultations we’ve held, we’ve heard residents complain about the number of storeys in the highest of our proposed buildings,” said Jean-Pierre Bégin, president of Merlin Immobilier. “We believe that we should respect the concerns of these residents so that our project will be attractive not only to future residents but also to the community in which it belongs.”

The bylaw revision proposes the elimination of zone H08-06 and the creation of four new zones, P08-06, H08-47, H08-48 and H08-49.

The new height revision would apply to one building in the first phase of the project* and several buildings in the fourth and fifth phases, which are within the proposed H08-48 zone south of Jean-Milot to the east of the highway. This part of the project is scheduled to begin in 2014 or 2015. The original and revised drawings appear above this article for comparison.*

The first three phases will be maintained in their proposed form.

Phase 1 includes 405 units within two Access Condo complexes and one low-income housing for families residence just north of Wanklyn next to Highway 138. These buildings are proposed to be five- and six-storeys high. The height revision applies to one building in this phase.*

Phase two includes 70 low-density family condos in a two-complex four and five-storey rectangle with an inner courtyard. The height revision doesn’t apply to this phase.

Phase three includes 275 units within three four-storey condo buildings along Ruelle Cherry, next the current properties on rue des Oblats. The new height revision doesn’t apply to this phase either.

Despite this revision, the number of low-income residences proposed during the consultations will be maintained, as will the size of the proposed neighbourhood park.

*These sentences were changed to reflect a correction from the builder; one building in the initial phase will be lower than originally proposed. Thanks to Merlin for providing a revised drawing as well.


À l’écoute des citoyens du quartier
Merlin Immobilier adapte le projet Wanklyn

Montréal, le mardi 1er mai 2011 – Dans la foulée des journées portes ouvertes et des deux assemblées de consultation tenues au cours des dernières semaines, Merlin Immobilier et ses partenaires annoncent une réduction substantielle des hauteurs des bâtiments prévus dans le développement résidentiel du quadrilatère situé à l’est de la voie ferrée, entre les rues Jean-Milot et des Oblats et la route 138.

Ainsi, trois étages seront retranchés aux bâtiments les plus hauts qui passeront respectivement de douze à neuf étages, et de neuf à six étages. Tout comme dans le projet original, les bâtiments les plus élevés demeureront situés aux abords de la route 138, là où impact sur l’ensoleillement ou la vue des voisins

« Les citoyens nous ont dit qu’ils appréciaient grandement la démolition des usines abandonnées, la création d’un parc de quartier, le verdissement généralisé, la mixité d’habitations pour les familles et les aînés, ainsi que la revitalisation du quartier. Mais nous avons constaté que certains se questionnaient sur le nombre d’étages des plus hauts bâtiments. Nous croyons qu’en posant ce geste de respect envers les préoccupations de nos voisins, notre projet saura séduire la communauté et les futurs propriétaires. De plus, malgré cette diminution du nombre d’étages, nous nous engageons formellement à maintenir le nombre d’unités de logements abordables et communautaires prévues au projet», a déclaré Jean-Pierre Bégin, président de Merlin Immobilier.

Merlin Immobilier a fait part de son intention à l’Arrondissement LaSalle et lui a formellement demandé de modifier son règlement pour garantir aux citoyens que les nouvelles hauteurs de bâtiment ne puissent être dépassées. « Il est important que ce geste d’ouverture envers les préoccupations des citoyens se reflète dans la règlementation; nous souhaitons qu’il ne subsiste aucun doute quant à notre volonté d’agir en voisin exemplaire », a conclu M. Bégin.

Rappelons que Merlin Immobilier développe ce projet en partenariat avec le Fonds immobilier de solidarité FTQ qui est propriétaire du terrain. Des discussions sont en cours avec la SHDM pour que les unités d’habitation qui seront construites soient admissibles au programme Accès Condos.

À propos de Merlin Immobilier

Merlin est un promoteur et un gestionnaire de projets immobiliers. Depuis sa fondation en 1999, Merlin met sur pied et prend en charge des projets de grande envergure à son compte ou pour ses partenaires ou ses clients.


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