Saturday, 29 September 2007

Garden Update

Today was the day I took all of the last useful bits out of the garden. The things you see still in there won't likely grow anymore (e.g., feverfew, oat grass, some peppers that never grew much in the first place), but I didn't pull them out and probably won't. I'll just leave them in there to compost themselves over the winter. As far as I know there aren't any seeds left on anything, so I'm thinking that should be ok, but I'm just sort of winging it here.

I've mulched the strawberries with timothy straw - the hard and stemmy bits Corky and Scooter, our two guinea pigs, leave behind. I'll probably keep adding to this mulch for a few weeks yet so there's a good layer of insulation over the winter. From what I've read it's good to do this to the garden too, so with Corky and Scooter's help, I'll have a fair amount of straw bits to add to the garden until the snow comes.

When I picked out all of the remaining salad greens and carrots, I had a little surprise: A 'white' carrot. This is the only one of these I came across all year. I don't know if it's just an anemic carrot, or actually a different type of carrot altogether that was mixed in with my other carrot seeds. I haven't tasted it yet - I'm waiting to show it to Gord when he gets home from work.

I really enjoyed our little garden this year! I plan to add another 4X4 bed next year and change my plantings a bit based on what did well and what else I want to try, like potatoes and maybe some cucumbers or squash. I also want to expand the herb garden, but I'll probably do that in a permaculture-style, with herb plants strewn about among the annuals and decorative perennials. Eventually I'd like to have virtually all the plants I grow be edible or otherwise useful. I've got a lot to learn, and a lot of winter reading to do!

Friday, 28 September 2007


Nope, I haven't reverted back to my meat-eating ways, but I did try out a really great restaurant by the name of "Bacon" this week.

With a name like that, you wouldn't think a vegetarian would have much luck with the menu, but there was lots to choose from! And the best part was that their ingredients are as local as possible, many well within the '100 mile' foodshed guidelines. I was pleasantly surprised to see produce from the Sparrow's Nest organic farm on the menu, as well as organic, local herbal tea from Vitaly Teas. For meat-inclined folks, all of their meat comes from local producers who don't use any hormones and who raise their animals ethically and humanely. They even have biodegradable take-out containers!

I had the India Bazaar Rice Bowl for dinner, and a flourless chocolate cake for dessert. I had some Alberta-grown chamomile tea as an accompaniment, and it was served in a lovely cast iron Chinese tea pot along with a proper handle-free pottery tea cup. The whole experience was quite wonderful! I highly recommend it to anyone in the Edmonton area looking for a place to eat that is slightly off the beaten path. Although by the looks of it, the path to their door is getting a lot more beaten these days. Mmmmm......Bacon.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

The Tao of Soup?

Ok, ok, I know that's a bit of a weird title. But I had a neat Taoist reminder today while making soup.

It is getting a bit chilly out, and it is officially Fall now, so I wanted to make some soup, potato soup in particular. I didn't have any vegetable stock, so I had to make some, which I've never done before. Fortunately, there was a recipe for vegetable stock in the latest edition of Mother Earth News magazine, which just came in the mail yesterday. Also fortunately, I was able to collect a lot of the ingredients for the stock from our little vegetable and herb garden: carrots, celery leaves, parsley, oregano, chives and some fresh basil...mmm! The potatoes I bought at the Farmer's market and they came from Erdmann's Gardens, which is only about 10 kms from our house. I did end up putting some non-local things in there, like some onion and some dried herbs, sea salt and pepper corns and a bit of soy sauce. Oh, and two cloves from the head of garlic I got with my seed order from Saltspring Seeds, but it was still probably one of the most locally-sourced things I've cooked so far.

Anyway, back to the Tao part. I had simmered the stock for about 20 minutes when I thought I would taste a bit of it. It was watery, and I was disappointed. I immediately thought about what I should do to fix it, what else I could add, etc., etc. Then it hit me: I am supposed to let this simmer for hours. So I managed, with some difficulty, to just leave it alone and let it simmer, with the occasional stir and taste now and then. After about 2 1/2 hours it was quite delicious. This was a lesson to me that sometimes I just need to let things be, and they will work out as they should. It is a lesson I need frequent reminders about, being the well-intentioned meddler that I am.

From the Tao Te Ching, Chapter 63:
Act without acting
Manage without meddling
Taste without tasting
From Chapter 64:
The one who meddles will fail
The one who grasps will lose
Therefore, sages do not meddle and thus do not fail
They do not grasp and thus do not lose

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Trees or Concrete?

Late last week I was having a really bad day and decided to get outside during my lunch hour for a change. (I should probably do this more often, but I usually play hermit in my office instead.) It was a beautiful sunny day and I decided to trek the few blocks to a neat restaurant in downtown Edmonton, the Three Bananas Cafe, that I know makes a good vegetarian panini, served with organic corn chips and also has fair trade coffee.

This cafe is situated off to the side of Sir Winston Churchill Square, a newly redeveloped city block that is used for many different purposes, such as The Works visual arts festival and the Taste of Edmonton food festival. The Square used to have grass and trees in it, with some cement sidewalks going through on the diagonal; now it is pretty much covered in concrete, with some trees around the edges.

On my way through the Square to the cafe, I noticed a bunch of people kneeling on the cement drawing and writing with big chalk. Even an RCMP officer was drawing with chalk on the cement. People had written things like "A tree used to grow here" and "Green is Beautiful" as well as some other more poetic things I can't remember anymore.

All of this brought a smile to my face and turned my crappy day into a much nicer day. A lady offered me a piece of chalk to draw with, and so I did. I claimed a concrete sqare, got down on my hands and knees and wrote, "Don't trade away tomorrow for today" and drew a picture of a tree and a flower. I then went in to the cafe for lunch, had my delicious veggie panini, and watched people come and go, drawing and writing. By the time I got back outside, a huge area had been covered in chalk, all in the praise of trees and the loss of our urban green space.

I was sad for the loss of the trees and grass that had grown there before but glad that people cared enough to make their statements on the concrete.

I think I will plant a tree.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

The Swiffer Revisited

My sister Lori gave me this great Swiffer-related idea the other day! She had correctly assumed that I hadn't been using my Swiffer device for some time, being as it requires disposable wiper pad thingies. So my Swiffer skeleton had been in my closet, languishing for years.

But Lori's idea has changed all that! I can now bring that thing back into useful service by attaching a microfiber cloth to the base of the Swiffer and sweep with abandon once again! The extra parts hanging over the edge even help get into corners better than the original disposable pads. The microfiber cloth (or any other type of absorbent cloth, I presume) can be folded over and by doing so I get four uses out of one cloth before tossing it in the wash.

As a bonus, by dampening the cloth and sprinkling on some baking soda, those dried spill marks on the linoleum wipe up in snap. Even the dirt in those weird little linoleum grooves comes right up, thanks to the wonders of baking soda, the Swiffer Revisited, and a little (very little) elbow grease.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Six of one....

About two months ago Gord and I decided to discontinue our satellite service, which out here means we have no TV signal at all. I guess we could have tried hooking up the rabbit ears to see if we received a local signal, but we haven't ever bothered with that. It has been an interesting experience, living without TV. Neither Gord or I could remember a time where we had gone longer than the duration of a power outage without being able to turn the TV on whenever we wanted to do so.

Several of our habits changed. We stopped having meals in front of the the TV, and moved to having it over at the breakfast nook-type area of the kitchen. (The table is off-limits: it is largely used as a desk/office area.) At the breakfast nook we would read the paper or a book and occasionally even talk about what we were reading! Sometimes, we'd relax and listen to some music. We enjoyed not being bombarded by food, beer and automotive commercials every ten or twelve minutes. When I would go to someone's house who had TV, I really couldn't find anything worth watching, and the commercials seemed even more annoying than usual.

But, coinciding with cancelling the satellite was the upgrade from dial-up to high-speed internet. And I'm pretty sure that any energy savings we may have gained by turning off the TV have been lost by the fact that now both Gord and I have our computers on at night, often for several combined hours. And there doesn't seem to be much difference between staring at a TV screen or staring at a computer monitor. As they say, it's six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Vanessa at Green as a Thistle has committed to doing less superfluous surfing. I'm trying to get up the gumption to join her, and turn my computer off at, say, 9 pm on weekdays, 10 pm on weekends, but I'm hedging. It is scary to think of how attached (addicted?) I've become to this high speed internet thingy. I'll let you know how it goes.

Picture courtesy these guys.

Friday, 7 September 2007

How nice!

I had a lovely surprise today - I was nominated for a bloggy-type award! Lori at A Day in the Life of Connor nominated me for the "Nice Matters" award.

This is such an honor, especially coming from Lori, who is my sister and whose joy and enthusiasm for life and motherhood come through in every word she writes and everything she does! Thank you Lori!

The official description of the award is as follows:

"This award is for those bloggers who are nice people; good blog friends and those who invoke good feelings and inspiration. Also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world. Once you’ve been awarded please pass it on to 4 others who you feel are deserving of this award."
I will happily pass this award on to four other bloggers whom I enjoy reading regularly, and who inspire me in different ways:
  1. I'm going to re-award my sister Lori at A Day in the Life of Connor. I'm not sure if that's 'allowed' but I'm going to do it anyway because when I read Lori's blog it always lifts my spirits! Lori has a way of writing that is so heartfelt and genuine that you feel you are right there with her and her family as they do parenthood for the first time. There is such joy and gratitude in what she writes and how she writes it that the 'nice quotient' of the internet goes up with each of her posts. I raise my cup of tea to you Lori!
  2. Becca at Drops of Water writes a Taoist blog that is calm, serene and thought-provoking. I have had the privilege of conversing with her from time to time over at The Tea House Taoist discussion forum, and she has been kind, patient and non-judgmental even when I have been less so. In her blog she applies the Tao Te Ching to her daily life and thoughts in a way that is both humble and inspirational.
  3. Nobody doesn't like some Crunchy Chicken! Crunchy's site is an engaging and endearing place to learn about ways to be kinder to the earth. Crunchy is always up for an eco-challenge and never asks anyone to do something she isn't doing herself. She has polls and raffles and and kindly cajoles her readers into doing good things for the environment and ultimately, for themselves too! And she isn't afraid to talk boldly about things like the Diva Cup!
  4. Simple Living: Simplify and Reduce. Emme is one of the founders of the 90% Carbon Emissions Reduction project, otherwise known as the Riot for Austerity. Recently Emme had an article published about her in her local paper and on the internet version of the paper she received some unkind, dismissive comments about her and her family's efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. She responded to these criticisms with grace and aplomb despite feeling alienated, and continued to encourage others in their reduction efforts whether they were just starting down that road or had been living lightly for decades. If this isn't the definition of "nice," I don't know what is.
Nice does matter! One at a time and all together, we can make the world a nicer place!

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

What to do?

There are days when I get so confused and disheartened about the state of the planet. Then there are other days where I have hope and think, even believe, that humanity will get its act together and actually do something to stop us all from hurtling down this apocalyptic slope. On those kinds of days I think Al Gore is right, if we all just get together and change our light bulbs, turn down the furnace and stop using plastic bags, maybe we'll be ok. But then there are the other days, like today, where I can't help but think along the lines that this guy does, and that it's too late to do anything but brace ourselves for frying in the dark.

And no matter what kind of day it is for me on this front, I wonder what should I do about it? Should I talk to people about my concerns or shut up because they're getting tired of hearing it already? Should I worry about the privately-owned nuclear power plant they're probably going to build a couple hundred miles north of here, or be thankful it's not another coal mine? Should I keep trying to grow my own food or quit because there's not enough time for me to learn how to grow enough and preserve it properly anyway? Should I just keep politely telling people I've become vegetarian for health reasons or scream out loud that factory farming is one of the most horrific and cruel things we humans do to the species with whom we share this one planet?

Some days, like today, I just don't know what to do.

Image courtesy:

Saturday, 1 September 2007

The Scourge that is Junk Mail

Last month when my niece and I took a trip to the Earth's General Store I picked up a label for my mailbox that would identify it as a "junk mail free zone." The sticker will apparently prevent, or at least discourage, Canada Post staff from putting assorted junk mail into my mailbox.

So far, the little 2 inch square sticker has been languishing on the kitchen counter. Today, being up far too early for a Saturday morning and feeling strangely productive, I picked up the sticker along with its equally diminutive recycled newsprint backer, and turned it over. Lo and behold, there was a web address to the Canadian Marketing Association website, where I can register to have my name and address removed from their database, from where apparently "most direct mail marketers rent names." That's right, rent names. So when you read somewhere that they don't sell your address to others for marketing purposes, they are telling the truth, technically: they rent them instead.

So anyway, I signed right up and as soon as I leave the house today I'm slapping that little sticker on our mailbox!