I recently had the chance to visit the home of one of Lakehead University’s professors, Dr. Florin Pendea, who specializes in climate change and historical ecology and is a member of the departments of Sustainability Sciences and Geography.
He teaches Environmental Science courses ranging from climate change to conservation geography, all of which emphasize the theories behind sustainability and conservation. Practising what you preach (or teach in his case) is an important part of Pendea’s daily life, as he and his teenage daughter live on rural property in Oro-Medonte, just outside of Orillia.
After an injury forced him to spend increasing amounts of time at home, he decided to embark on what he has called an experiment and a journey.
“It started as a personal experiment: can an adult and a teenager live off the land as much as possible?” Pendea explained. “ It has been a learning experience. Every day when I step outside my door I learn something new and it brings me so much joy.”
What is this personal experiment and journey all about?
View the photos below to learn more about Pendea’s commitment to a sustainable life and to see what he has been able to achieve.
Pendea and ‘Alex’, his favourite Beltsville Small White turkey. Beltsville turkeys are an endangered breed, which were almost driven to extinction by the profit-driven commercial mania in favour of larger breeds.
Along with the Beltsvilles, the property is also home to chickens, Khaki Campbell ducks, Roman geese, and guinea fowl, all of which play an important part in a successful and diverse landscape. For example, the guinea fowl help Pendea garden, as they eat bugs, don’t disturb the soil, and eat grass seeds, helping to control the grass from taking over. The diversity of fowl encourages biodiversity and supports healthy food production.
One of the most important things for a sustainable landscape is being able to mimic the natural diversity of the area. Pendea has been able to achieve this, as the area of land he owns had been untouched for 25 years when he bought it, which allowed it to return to its almost natural state.
The ducks enjoy a dip in their pool. They also sometimes like to cool off in the pond located on the property, although their shy nature makes them a little timid of going through the tall grass in order to get there.
Lakehead Orillia’s lab coordinator, Dr. Vicki Te Brugge (l), who has a background in biology and works alongside Pendea in the department of Sustainability Sciences, joined us. She was able to give Pendea some valuable advice about how to keep the trees on his property healthy and thriving.
The property also features an edible front lawn, where tiny, fresh strawberries grow throughout.
All of the animals on the property are allowed to roam free and explore the land. Sometimes they need a little help getting back inside the safety of their gated-off area though!
Pendea believes in creating as much as he can from what he has around him. He makes his own hay for his animals by using a scythe to cut long grass that then dries out in the sun.
An extensive garden, with a variety of species, from corn to kale, is located in the backyard of the property. The garden is sprinkled with weeds, which, I learned from Pendea, are actually advantageous if managed properly. They help to reduce the temperature of the soil because weeds slow down the drying out process of the soil.
I had a great time learning about sustainable living from Pendea and it was clear to me that he really does live what he teaches. His joy over his project is contagious and makes you realize how the practice of sustainability exists outside the classroom.
To follow Pendea’s journey and to see more photos and videos, follow his Instagram account @high.garden.place. To learn more about Sustainability Sciences at Lakehead, visit www.lakeheadu.ca.