Monday, 30 June 2008

Solar Oven Contraption - Half Baked!

This weekend it was really hot! It got up to about 30 C, (86 F) yesterday, which is really too hot for my Canadian self. But I thought it would be a good time to build and test out the simple solar cooker I have been thinking about making for some time.

I wanted to see what could be done with just the stuff I had at home already, so I found two boxes that fit inside eachother, with at least one inch clearance all around. After lining both boxes with tinfoil (shiny side out) I stuffed the space with an assortment of packing material I've collected over the years -- packing peanuts, bubble wrap, sheets of foam, etc. I put black matte corrugated plastic at the bottom of the inner box and after putting my foil-wrapped potatoes into my thrift store black enamel roasting pan, I covered the whole thing with a clear plastic 'oven bag' (which I bought several months ago for this exact purpose). I threw this contraption together in about half an hour -which you can probably tell by looking at the picture! With some glee, I put it outside on the concrete driveway, under the blazing sun.

After about two hours in the sun, I wasn't hearing any sizzling or any other sounds of hotness, so I repositioned the cooker, propped it up at what seemed like a better angle to catch the now lowering sun. It wasn't getting any cooler so I decided I may as well stay outside myself and do some yardwork (the weeding is never ending!). After about two more hours, the sun was going behind the trees and so I figured I would check into the potato situation, seeing as it was now time for supper and I was planning on having baked potatoes after all.

Well, my potatoes were only half-baked. I'm sure that the main reasons for this is that my cooker contraption is slightly half baked as well! The instructions I was using as guidelines say that it helps a great deal if you have a steel plate in the bottom of the inner box, painted matte black. I didn't have a steel plate or any black paint at home though, so I skipped that part. I also didn't seal the plastic oven bag very well over top of the inner box, so I'm sure some heat escaped that wouldn't have otherwise. It would also have been better to have my box lids better angled to reflect the sun into the box. My box lids collected sun, but didn't really direct it inwards. An oven thermometre would also be useful, to see just how hot this thing is really getting.

Despite these shortcomings, I probably would have been able to fully bake those potatoes with another four hours of sunlight. It took me until the afternoon before I was motivated enough to even gather the materials together, so it was after 3 pm before I had the cooker outside. The best cooking sun would have been between 11 and 2.

There is still a lot of summer left though, so I will be trying this again once I get a metal plate of some kind and pick up some matte black paint. I will also keep my eye out for a bigger outer box, and one with a lid that can be cut into a reflector. I'm also seriously considering getting a proper Sun Oven, since I just love the idea of cooking with free energy!

I did get my supper of baked potatoes after all, although I did have to put them in the microwave for another two minutes or so. That's not so bad I guess, since it usually takes about 5 minutes for a potato to bake in the microwave.

Friday, 27 June 2008

CSA Bounty ! - Week Two

It was Tuesday evening and I was just getting back from an appointment after work, when it hit me: Tuesday is CSA pick-up day! AcK! I had completely forgotten. It was pretty late by then, way past the 4 hour pick-up window, and after calling the CSA farmers and leaving a message, I pretty much figured that was that. I re-read our introductory email from the CSA and was reminded that un-picked-up shares would be donated. I was glad my forgetfulness wouldn't lead to any waste, but irked at myself for forgetting something really important.

The next day, the CSA farmers reply to my email and say they've saved my share, and I can come and get it on Thursday. And once again I am thankful for the kindness and generosity of these people who are growing and harvesting and cleaning and keeping my food for me, until I can get my cluttered head emptied out of the things that don't matter, so there's room in there again for the things that do matter.

So yesterday I go to the farm after work and collect my share from the farm's harvest shed where it is patiently waiting for me. In the bag are a big bunch of chard and another one of kale, a large head of romaine lettuce, and another huge head of red leaf lettuce (I think). When I get home, I heat up my favorite frying pan and cook up all the chard the way I like it. When I feel the red lettuce I get a vision of "Dutch salad" from when I was little and I just have to make it. I call up my mom and get the recipe for this simple and delicious salad: red lettuce, oil, vinegar, and two boiled eggs - one to mix in the vinaigrette and one for garnish. A little ground pepper on top and with the first bite I am transported back to childhood. While talking to my mom on the phone she tells that I loved this salad so much when I was little that I even wanted to bring it to my elementary school when it was "bring food from your cultural heritage" day.

So it turns out my dinner had more than just almost all local ingredients yesterday: it also contained heaping helpings of generosity and nostalgia!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Tai Chi, a Tree and a Pickle Recipe....

Yesterday was a good day. I try to see goodness everyday, but there are days when you really have to look for it, and then days like yesterday, where gladness walks up and wags its tail at you like a puppy. All sorts of good things happened yesterday, but there were three things that happened all in a row within the span of an hour or so, that had me bursting with enthusiasm and gratitude.

The first two things happened at the Farmer's Market. More and more, this doesn't surprise me. Gord and I were wandering around the market before going to Tai Chi, and we ended up at the table for Shallow Creek Nurseries. I had popped by their table a couple weeks ago and noticed that they were selling some very hardy (Zone 2), yet sweet cherry tree varieties that we had learned about when we heard the Urban Farmer talk a few weeks before that. We ended up buying a Cupid Cherry tree, which already had cherries on it, which we will be able to harvest in about two more months! And this already-fruit producing tree cost us the grand sum of 22 bucks. As soon as Gord heard the price he zeroed in on the little tree, and bought some strawberries to boot!

The second thing happened up at the Lindbrook Farms table, where they sell delicious cucumbers. I gobble these things up like popcorn if I don't watch myself - I can eat 5-6 of their slicer cukes all at once. Back at the table, Gord is being his silly self asking absurd questions about cucumbers and pickles and how you make one into the other. Eventually the vendor lady finds out I don't have a clue about pickling and she says she has a very good recipe for first time picklers that she will happily share with me when they bring the pickling cukes out later in the season. I am taken aback at the generosity, and when we leave the table Gord and I agree that this sort of thing just wouldn't happen at the grocery store.

The third thing happened just a little while later, after I've eaten a cucumber, changed into my Tai Chi clothes and joined Gord and the rest of the members of my Tai Chi class. We are doing the warm ups as usual, and the instructor gives us a little extra instruction on one of them, called the Tor Yu. I have struggled with this exercise and it can bother my knees sometimes. Today for some reason the instructor's way of talking about and demonstrating the move tweaked some part in my brain and body, and I finally got it. I could do it! I could use my leg strength and not my knees! I could do it over and over again! This completely changed how I did the entire 108 move set, and I was a chatterbox about it for the rest of the class. Tai Chi is good for teaching me that repeated effort and practice, without apparent progress, can come to fruition any time. This gives me hope, and for more than just my Tai Chi.

Then, when we went back after class to pick up our tree and strawberries from the Shallow Creek lady, I mentioned I was thinking about building an arbor and trying to grow grapes in our yard one day, she offered to teach me which varieties to grow and how to prune them.

Things were coming to fruition (fruit-ion?) all over the place yesterday! It was a good day.

Picture of cherry courtesy this flikr site.

Monday, 23 June 2008

First Harvest: Radishes!

I was weeding in the rain yesterday, which was actually quite pleasant, when I spied the red tops of some radishes poking out of the soil. I hadn't seen them before, because the garden was so weedy. I had plucked a couple radishes out about two weeks ago and they were just tiny things, the size of a fingernail, so I was quite surprised when I pulled out radish after radish that were 2 inches long and about half an inch wide! (They are the French Breakfast variety, so they grow long instead of round.) I actually gasped audibly in surprise -- I had just terrible luck with my radishes last year. And when I nibbled on one, it wasn't woody at all! Initially it didn't even seem very hot but after a few more nibbles the peppery fire built up quite nicely on my taste buds!

I am going to have to give some radishes away, because the bunch you see in the picture is probably only 1/25th of what is left in the garden. Gord loves radishes, but even he can't eat that many! The rest will be ready for harvesting over the next week or two, and then I'll have to figure out what to plant in that space now, since it's still pretty early in the growing season. Time to flip through my seed packets....

Sunday, 22 June 2008

My Post-Apocalyptic Career?

This afternoon I came across a re-run on TV of the show, The End of Suburbia. It is a 2004 production, and it's interesting to see how things have progressed in the 4 years since it was made. In it, James Kunstler was talking about what kind of career he could expect to have in post-peak oil society. He noted that his current career as an author would have to change since mass distribution of books would certainly be unlikely when mass transportation of food isn't even possible. He said he would probably start a small newspaper in whatever urban village he found himself in at the time. This got me thinking: What would I do? I'm a psychologist, and I doubt there will be much call for this kind of work when everyone's busy meeting the fundamental needs of life like growing, harvesting and storing food, fetching and carrying water and trying to stay clothed and warm/cool.

I work in a jail setting, doing mostly crisis-related, problem solving kinds of stuff, very much in a triage-like environment. A lot of the time, being a psychologist in a jail is akin to what I imagine being a surgeon in a M*A*S*H unit would be like: do what's got to be done, do it quick, and do it right the first time. Maybe familiarity with how people act in certain crises would be helpful, and I could be useful for a while in helping people deal with and adapt to unfamiliar circumstances. (As long as I was adapting alright myself, that is.) But when it becomes apparent that the emergency isn't a short one but a long one, what then? I do have some skill in helping people deal with chronic stressors, but really, I doubt people will have time for this kind of thing, what with the above-noted food/clothing/shelter issues to face. I probably won't have time for it either, since I'll be dealing with the same immediate concerns myself.

So what's an interconnection-loving, paradox-pondering, pattern-seeking, 'head-shrinking' kind of gal to do?

I really have no idea. After going to school for so many years with just one focus, and then applying that knowledge in such a specialized area for another bunch of years, it's hard to see yourself doing something different. I hope to become more knowledgeable about plants and herbs, but that's going to take a long while. There are lots of willow bushes on our property and I could make things out of those to barter with, like baskets and such, but I'm unskilled in that area as well. I do love the irony of a psychologist becoming a basket weaver though!

What about you? Have you thought about what you might do when the current ways of doing things just aren't feasible anymore? Are you trying to steer your kids/nieces/nephews away from occupations like "computer game designer" towards some more universally practical work path? Do you have any hobbies that will come in handy, like woodworking or winemaking or quilting?

Friday, 20 June 2008

Canadian Lakes being Made into Toxic Waste Dumps!

Updated below with link to the letter I faxed June 21, 2008....

My fellow Canadian blogger over at Unstuffed posted about this today, and I am so mad I could scream! The Harper government has quietly been making Canadian lakes into tailing 'ponds' for mining operations, thereby saving the mining companies from building their own containment 'ponds.' The government just re-classifies the lake into a non-lake, with the stroke of a pen, and suddenly toxic heavy metal sludge is being poured into Canadian lakes from coast to coast to coast.

How DARE the government take a living, breathing ecosystem and kill it so the mining companies can save some money! The toxins will seep into the ground water and be consumed by humans and by the animals that drink the surface water. Humans and animals and plants alike will all be poisoned in the name of bigger profits for mining corporations and bigger corporate donations to the Conservative Party of Canada.

We can't just sit around and take this garbage anymore people! Clean water supplies are not unlimited. Clean water is a human right and part of the public commons, and we are allowing it to be poisoned! All the better for the private water companies to come in later and sell us back what should never have been taken and sullied in the first place. And how good is a job in a mine in your home town when you can't drink the water in your home town because the whole watershed's been contaminated? And you can't just boil the water to make it safe again.

Please, if you live anywhere a Canadian river flows in or out of, call or write your elected officials and let them know that this is absolutely unacceptable, a crime against nature and every living thing. You can get a start on your letter here. Canadians, don't let this one go - pick up your pen and write! It just doesn't get any more basic than water. When will we ever learn.

I am so embarrassed to have this government represent Canadians to the world - it is absolutely sickening. Come on Mr. Dion, bring this government down already!

Picture of lake downstream from one about to be toxified courtesy the above-noted CBC article.

Update: to see the letter I just faxed to the Fisheries and Environment Ministers, click here

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Two neat things....

Two days ago we saw a porcupine in our back yard. It was meandering along the grass, and then waddled its way into the bush. We have named him/her Pokey. I wouldn't have expected to see a porcupine here, although they are supposedly quite common in this area. He sure was cute. (But apparently they can do a lot of damage to trees, I guess I will have to keep an eye out for this.)

Then today I threw something together for supper and I think I can actually call it a recipe! I had cooked up the rest of the CSA greens with butter and nutmeg again, and thought I would boil up some wild rice in my veggie soup stock. I did, and for some reason when I tasted it, my tongue decided that dried apricots, raisins, pecans, freshly grated ginger, some flax meal and some balsamic vinegar would go really well mixed in with it. My tongue was right! Fortunately I have enough left over that I can even have it for my lunch tomorrow at work. (There are no more greens left though - I gobbled those up again with a big silly grin on my face.) I guess now I can finally put a check mark in the "cook something" column of my Independence Days spreadsheet!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

CSA Bounty!: Week 1

Oh. My. Goodness.

Today we received our first share from our CSA farmers and it was absolutely delicious. Let me say again: absolutely delicious.

It's still early in the season here, and our Spring has been cool, so this first share wasn't big, but boy did it satisfy. We received two crisp heads of lettuce - one romaine and one butter, I think, and then a bag stuffed full of what looked like rainbow chard, some other kind of chard, and some kale.

I wanted to taste this stuff in a fairly unadulterated fashion, so I made a salad with the lettuce, and I sauteed the greens with some butter, sesame oil, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

To the salad I added my favorite salad fixins, which are some pecans and raisins, apple chunks, cucumber, carrot bits, some feta cheese and drizzled this all over with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The salad was so, so good. The sauteed greens were yet a step above that - the flavor, the flavor, it just didn't stop. The buttery nutmeg-y kale and chard were like no other greens I've ever had. I can see now how mindful eating becomes easy. When the food is this good, you just can't pay attention to anything else!

And then there was the preparation, which made me smile the whole time, because while I was cutting and washing the lettuce I remembered helping to plant the lettuce (not these exact ones - those are still too small to harvest), and I remembered gently fluffing up the leaves to get the dirt out of the middle of the lettuce. The dirt I was now washing down the drain, I knew exactly where that dirt came from and whose hands had planted this glorious food.

Things just won't ever be the same. That sounds dramatic, and I suppose it is. But my mouth and my mind have tasted goodness, and now nothing is the same.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Canadian Film: "Be The Change"

I wanted to help spread the word about this film by David Chernushenko, Canadian filmmaker and environmentalist (among other things). Its full title is: Be The Change - Living Lightly and Loving It.

It's not a doom and gloom film, but rather one that is a "celebration of the human spirit" and shows how living sustainably is a rewarding way to be and to act. According to the website, the film was even made locally to the film maker's Ottawa home base, and bus and bike directions are given to the film's premiere in Ottawa, this coming Friday, June 2oth. The trailer for the film is encouraging, not despairing, and fits well with what a bunch of bloggers have been talking about lately -- that people want to be part of something joyous and uplifting, not a movement that only talks about sacrifice, hardship and guilt.

Have you had a joyful moment related to sustainability recently? One that comes to mind for me was when I used my mesh produce bags at the grocery store and the teen-aged bag-person said, "Hey, that's cool." Tasting my home-grown kale in my noodle stir-fry yesterday was also pretty darn good!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Of Guinea Pigs, Kale and Leeks....

This weekend I learned a few things about the garden. First, don't lose your garden map, or you won't know where you've planted your leeks. Second, don't let your weeds get so big that you can't see where you've planted your leeks. Third, leeks are probably better started in a greenhouse rather than direct seeded, because then I would be able to see where they are once I plant them in the garden. I think I have unwittingly weeded out several of of my leeks, because of the foregoing. As you can see, these supposedly "Giant Winter Leeks" are quite teeny tiny yet, the ones I haven't plucked out yet, that is! Well, lesson learned.

I also learned that when you give your guinea pigs succulent spinach, kale, lettuce, celtuce, and oatgrass from the garden, ordinary grocery store veggies just won't do! Scooter and Sophie go a little bit crazy for their local veggies, standing up on their hind legs to beg for more, and scarfing down the tender leaves as fast as they can chew!

Things are going pretty well in the Little Garden - I can harvest greens almost every day, and we even had a whole salad from the greens a few days ago. When we start getting our CSA shares, (which starts this week!) the little garden will mainly be used to feed the pigs, which will please them I'm sure!
And the Big Garden is going quite well too, despite the odd accidental leek-weeding. The corn is about 8 inches high, and the squash and beans are really starting to take off. I harvested a couple small radishes today, and they were quite tasty and spicy! And not at all woody, which is what happened to them last year. I did plant a few different varieties this year, and harvesting them earlier seems to make a difference as well. The cucumbers, potatoes, cantaloupe and garbanzo beans are also coming along reasonably well, although not all of these germinated, at least not so far. I have a lot of carrots, and will have to thin those pretty soon.

I've got my watering system worked out now too, with the addition of a watering timer that will ensure the garden gets the water it needs even if I'm away at Tai Chi or somewhere else in the evenings.

And now, I'm in from the garden and finished the day's housework, so I'm going to treat myself to a cup of tea, a cookie or two and bury my head in a book for a half hour or so before bed...

Friday, 13 June 2008

EPCOR and Foreshadowing

Beware: sarcasm ahead!

While listening to the news on the way home from work yesterday, and while driving to work this morning, spokesperson for the local electricity company, EPCOR, warned us all that power outages were a certainty sooner rather than later. He stated that our population has doubled and Alberta absolutely needs more transmission lines immediately, preferably yesterday, and that without them we'll all be in the dark in short order. His sound bites on the radio were full of urgency and anger, saying haughtily that Alberta shouldn't conduct itself this way -- it's like continuing to drive your car around when the low fuel light is blinking and you just keep ignoring it. The implication being that you should stop and fill up, you idiot! And, that we should just stop and build more transmission lines you idiot! Or we're all going to be freezing/boiling in the dark/light here any minute!! Be afraid, be very afraid!

Now, am I just suspicious and cynical or is EPCOR laying the groundwork for Nuclear Power! to come in and save the day? Ya sure, they're talking about transmission lines now, but with all that population growth it isn't just new transmission lines that we're going to need is it? It's more electrical capacity, to send down those bright shiny new wires. A few brownouts and blackouts or, horror of horrors, being asked to cut down your own personal power use, will convince people that of course we need more power plants, and thank goodness there is this nice power company just waiting patiently to build us a nice new power plant. And not a coal power plant, oh no. Alberta is way too 'green' for that, we'll build a nuclear plant, right here where we've been considering putting one all along, while we go through this open and transparent consultation process with the good sheeple of Alberta.

Whew, that was close! We almost had to cut down our consumption of something! Good thing we finally woke up and saw that metaphorical fuel light blinking and whipped into the nearest filling station before that last drop of fuel ran dry (or maybe that blinking warning light ain't so metaphorical?). Thanks Mr. EPCOR man, for scaring me into realizing that I need a nuclear power plant! Don't those come with hundreds of years worth of toxic waste though? Oh, don't worry my little head about that? Oh. Ok then.

Picture courtesy the Humble Narrator

Monday, 9 June 2008

Greed and Disconnection

Late last week I was sitting at my desk at work over lunch, thinking about a complex and persistent work-related problem. I won't get into what the problem was, but I had this thought all of a sudden, which said: "Disconnection is the root of all evil." Then my thoughts said, well no, everyone says it's greed that's the root of all evil. So then I figured, "disconnection and greed must be related somehow."

So I pondered on that for a minute, imagining myself when I am greedy and what I'm doing and feeling and thinking at the time of the greed. (Since I was gobbling down my banana tofu pudding at the time, the imagining wasn't all that hard.) And it dawned on me then: greedy acts cut us off from everything and everyone except the immediate physical and mental sensations of the greedy desire being filled. It's almost like a trance state of some kind, that distances a person from outside awareness.

Greed is the ultimate in narcissism. Greed is being cut off from last part of the equation that more for me means less for you. Greed even separates me from the rest of myself, because I lose sight of the consequences of my greedy behavior while I focus only on the sensations that come along with immediate, selfish gratification. Like when I gulp down the pudding, and I'm just focussed on the tasting and gulping. When that's happening I don't think of the fact that I'm lucky to have pudding (or anything) to eat, or that there are people who will never taste pudding in their entire life.

I remember the same kind of thing happening when I would go shopping. I would get into a mindset where I was focussed just on the thing I wanted to buy, and I would dismiss any and all arguments against purchasing it. I have a five hundred dollar PDA device sitting unused in my backpack as testament to an episode of zombie-like consumption I had a couple years ago. I was convinced I needed that thing and no information to the contrary was going to dissuade me.

I think greed has such a distancing effect that at times we don't even know we are being greedy. We are so used to consuming what ever we want, whenever we want to, that it becomes normal to over-eat, over-buy, over-indulge in all sorts of ways. Eventually we become de-sensitized -- our senses become dulled from continuous over stimulation. We become disconnected from ourselves, and we don't know the difference between being fulfilled, and just being filled.

How can we recognize greed sooner, before the trance-mode of sensory over-stimulation sets in?

Lately I've been captivated by taking close-up pictures of things. Like the picture up there, of the little drop of water caught in the corn seedling after this weekend's rainfall. Who knew corn could catch rain and save it, directing it right down into itself? Stopping and looking at things, at the little small tiny things has helped me to re-sensitize myself. To look at what's right in front of me, and appreciate it and marvel at it. To recalibrate myself, somehow. When I consciously take time to look at the very ordinary, very humble things, it seems to lower my sensory threshold and I only need a little of any kind of sensation for it to register in my sensorium. This recalibration is helping me to be joyful in moderate circumstances. It is a meditative process that is helping me to reject greed, at least some of the time.

Edited to add Chapter 12 of the Tao Te Ching, which speaks to this issue well I think:

The five colors make one blind in the eyes
The five sounds make one deaf in the ears
The five flavors make one tasteless in the mouth

Racing and hunting make one wild in the heart
Goods that are difficult to acquire make one cause damage

Therefore the sages care for the stomach and not the eyes
That is why they discard the other and take this

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Another Big and Little Garden update, and a request...

We've had a nice combination of sun and rain here over the last few days and things are starting to grow like crazy. From the Little Garden and the whiskey barrel planters I've been harvesting kale, spinach, celtuce, lettuce, leaf beats, and oatgrass for the guinea pigs and they are loving it! I've popped a few leaves into my mouth as well while picking stuff for them, and I can taste why they like it so much. It won't be long before things are big enough to make a human-sized salad.

I think I've figured out a reasonable Big Garden watering arrangement now - a sprinkler on a timer with some soaker hoses for around the edges of the garden to make sure the deer-deterring marigolds get water too. Unfortunately, due to our low water pressure, I can't run both the soaker hose and the sprinkler at the same time, but I will be able to deal with that I think.

The picture below is of a flower garden that was supposed to have sprouted daffodils, hyacinths and crocuses this Spring. But when June came and there was only one little green sprig poking out of the dirt, I decided to investigate. What I found were dry bulbs that were doing nothing, and some rotten bulbs that were beyond saving. So I planted the dry bulbs all together in the very front section of the flower bed, and now I have the remainder of the bed to do something else with. I think it could be a decent herb garden, but I am not quite sure what to plant.

I would like some things that flower (maybe echinacea?) but some little bushy plants would be ok too, and some ground cover, like thyme. I would like it to look casual, but not messy, and nothing that would impede the walkway to the front door. Does anyone have any suggestions for what to do with this space?

Wishing everyone a Sunday of contentment!

Friday, 6 June 2008

A tribute to Crunchy Chicken

There is a movement afoot to recognize and honor quintessential green blogger, Crunchy Chicken. Crunchy is a blogger like no other. She and her blog epitomize the concept of integrity: she doesn't just talk about doing things differently, she does them! And she gets other people to do them too, through her witty, clever, forthright and sometimes jaw-droppingly funny blog postings and challenges. She leads by example, and perseveres towards her goal of living more sustainably, even when her family is faced with heavy duty challenges in life, in the form of her husband's blood cancer. I was glad to see that she was able to give herself a break from blogging when she needed it, and equally glad that she's back to posting again.

Crunchy got me started down the road of putting my newly-emerging ideals into action with her first Diva Cup Challenge. I was the lucky winner of that first Diva Cup, back when fewer than a hundred people would sign up for her giveaways. Before last year, I had never seriously considered using anything other than the usual disposable menstrual products, but these days I bypass that aisle in the grocery store almost completely. I've saved at least $100 in "feminine hygiene products" over the past year because of Crunchy's generosity and the Diva Cup (and later, Luna Pads). And what better way to re-direct these savings than to Crunchy's Goods 4 Girls Foundation! Seeing those videos of the girls in Kenya receiving those pads, knowing they could now go to school every week of the month without feeling anxious or embarrassed - it was a profound realization of global interconnection and sisterhood, and I know I wasn't alone in that.

Thanks Crunchy, for all you do, and for all the inspiration you continue to provide to all of us working towards living a life of joyful moderation, in interconnection with our local and global communities. Namaste.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Suburban Sprawl: My next letter to government

So even though the response I received from my provincial MLA wasn't that encouraging, I'm sticking with my plan to write all three levels of government about issues I think are important.

The next letter is to the mayor and counselors of my municipal county, on the topic of suburban sprawl and what amounts to the ruination of the prime food-growing land around here, in favor of bigger and bigger houses that fewer people can afford. Lately we've noticed some surveying going on in our area and we've heard from a few local people that certain large parcels of land are being considered for development. The area I live in is out of the city, but on the way to the Ft. McMurray tar sands and close to several planned tar sands upgrader sites. So it's considered an area where people can live the 'country residential' lifestyle, while still being close enough to oil sands employment companies. That way you get the best of both worlds right? You can work hard and then play hard on your days off.

Unfortunately, this means that the farmland around our older, treed, out of the way acreage subdivision could now have the topsoil around it stripped off to make way for at least two new and much bigger acreage subdivisions. So I've composed a letter trying to bring some of this stuff to the attention of our local politicians, while trying not to come across as a wing nut whose opinion is obviously "anti-capitalist" and "un-Albertan." It's for the latter reason that I thought I should talk about more than just suburban sprawl and food security, and why you see that first point about "peaceful enjoyment" issues. I thought it couldn't hurt to show that I do have some individualistic tendencies in addition to my communal concerns!

Here is the first draft of the letter - I gladly welcome feedback on it so I can tweak it just right before I send it out....

Photo courtesy this flickr website

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Big Garden, Little Garden: June 2008

This bean poked its head out of the soil just this afternoon, because when I went out to water the garden this morning, it wasn't there yet. Sprouts are sprouting up all over the big garden in the last few days! It's been quite exciting (to me, anyway) to see what will pop up next.

The first to arrive were the radishes, even though I planted those a week later than everything else - they are speedy little guys! The corn is coming up, along with the peas and squash I planted along with them in their section of the garden.

In the hopes of deterring deer, I planted some marigolds around the perimeter of the garden, along with some garlic bulbs. I picked out the stinkiest marigolds I could find at the local garden greenhouse, and along with the garlic, well, so far so good.

The carrots are coming up as well, and so are the leeks, cucumbers and cantaloupe. I haven't seen any sign of the turnips yet - they must be slower growers. The potatoes and the pumpkins haven't sprouted yet either, but I planted them a bit later than the rest of the stuff.

The Little Garden is doing pretty well too - the wheat, barley and oatgrass are growing like crazy, and so are the garlic and onions. There are some carrots in there as well, which need thinning by the looks of it, and the celtuce and two kinds of beets are also coming along nicely.

My tomato seedlings got a bit cooked when I set them outside to harden off and then forgot to water them. They've come back somewhat, but as insurance I picked up a tomato plant at the garden greenhouse when I bought the marigolds, and planted it in a 5 gallon bucket, like I did last year.

My whiskey barrell plantings have also turned out really well - I've harvested a bit of the kale already for our guinea pigs, Scooter and Sophie, and they chomped down every bit! I put a few marigolds in those planters as well, for good measure. The leaf beats and chard are a bit slow in coming, but they're moving along too. And the lettuce and spinach are looking nice in the other planter.
It's amazing what you can grow in a small patch of earth and a few containers!