The city’s Potato House, currently the only designated heritage house in the city, will be open for visitors during the Stampede Street Party Saturday.
Ever since Earth Day Marin Patenaude of Horsefly has been busy at the Potato House located at the corner of First Avenue and Borland Street.
On April 22 she started work as the new executive director of the Potato House Project and since then has expended a ton of energy sprucing up the grounds, preparing community garden beds, and new composting bins for a new community composting program.
“It’s hard to get work done because of the amazing amount of people dropping in,” Patenaude chuckled. “But that’s part of the job, the community outreach.”
Community workshops are being held at the Potato House.
On May 31, Patenaude conducted a workshop on how to set up a compost pile.
She taught layering, the ratio of carbon to nitrogen, and then demonstrated how to use pallets to make a completely affordable compost.
“We usually talk in terms of browns and greens when it comes to composting. Your browns are your leaves and your greens are your grass clippings and food waste.”
By composting you’re feeding a vast bacteria and fungi, she said, adding at home she composts religiously.
She’s a gardener and said she doesn’t want to pay for compost or buy a bag of it, which as a byproduct supports packaging and consumerism in general.
“I’ve always been an avid composter because it’s fabulous stuff,” she said. “You hardly have to fertilize your garden all year if you just put compost in at the beginning.”
Eventually she will establish a vermiculture system at the Potato House.
“That’s really wonderful for people who live in apartment buildings or condos where they don’t have a yard.”
People can have a vermiculture box on the porch or kitchen table. They are completely clean.
“It’s like having a pet and you gain beautiful compost out of it.”
A lot of people are resistant to composting with the ‘ick’ factor, but Patenaude said if a significant percentage of waste ending up in landfills is compostable it’s a no-brainer that people should be composting.
Recent statistics from the Cariboo Regional District estimate 525 tons of compostable food and garden waste are collected in Williams Lake for disposal every year.
This is costing taxpayers around $50,000 per year based on $100 per tonne for transportation, operations, and reclamation at Gibraltar Mine.
Patenaude ran a landscaping company in Vancouver and landscaped for over a decade while living there.
One of her clients only employed her to do aesthetic gardening, and she said that bothered her because she was making the property look beautiful, but she wasn’t helping produce something people could eat.
“My mother is an absolutely amazing gardener too,” she added.
A local Small Plot Intensive (S.P.I.N.) farmer is utilizing some of the community garden space, which is drawing local attention.
“It’s fabulous and gets people excited seeing this huge amount of farming happening on the Potato House land so the rest of the community gets activated.”
On Friday, June 7, Maggie Ranger shared her knowledge of medicinal uses for common local plants that was well attended and Sue Hemphill and Jurgen Hornberg hosted a pot luck and alpine flower and garden tour in Horsefly on June 15.
“There’s a lot of fantastic community support,” Patenaude said, adding the Potato House is always eager to receive donations of farm equipment and plants.
Soon after she said that a woman drove up the back alley and asked Patenaude if she wanted some rhubarb plants.
“The support has been fabulous,” she said afterwards. “Hillside Farms donated some heritage plant flowers and we are also focusing on having an indigenous plant garden here.”
Eventually the plants will have labels with information on them as well as how they can be used for cooking or medicinal purpose.
Through the summer she anticipates going full tilt, and then when things quiet down in the winter she’ll focus on grant writing and the Potato House itself.
“Right now we’re very land based, doing the community garden, the composting, the SPIN gardening and the landscaping and that’s all out doors.”
Erecting a new fence is also on her to-do list.
“The house itself needs some major renovations,” she explained. “We want to preserve the heritage elements of the house. That will be next.”
Earlier in the winter someone broke into the house, perhaps more than once, but Patenaude said there hasn’t been any sign since she started working there.
“Before nothing was happening here and it looked vacant and empty.”
Now, however, she’s noticed an element of respect that surrounds the place.