Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Transition Beans

Aren't these purple beans gorgeous? I have neglected to post about Weeks 6 and 7 of my CSA Bounty, but I just had to post about these beans.

I have never seen aubergine colored beans before - they are beautiful just to look at. They came with our Week 7 CSA bounty yesterday, along with some of the bright green beans I'm used to seeing. So I had to cook some up along with a few almonds. Lo and behold - these beans change color!

I first noticed it when I put them in the pan and went to flip them, pancake style:
After about 10 minutes of slow cooking in the skillet, the purple beans had turned completely green. There is a scientific explanation for it, but I just think it's neat. Those three beans that are still really bright are beans I picked right from my own garden after work today! They were also very delicious. Beans with almonds is one of my favorite ways to eat beans, and a good combination of things for my vegetarian self.

I received my copy of the Transition Towns Handbook today, which is why I named these beans Transition Beans. Their proper name is Royal Purple Beans, but I have a feeling the Transition Bean name is going to stick with me for a while!

Alright, time to make a cup of tea and dig into that Transition Town Handbook...

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Two Water Stories

After a couple weeks of extreme busy-ness, I spent part of Sunday afternoon and yesterday evening walking around the yard, taking some pictures of the garden and just paying attention to all the flowers, trees and bugs I hadn't had time to pay attention to lately. I recently discovered I had yarrow in my yard, and bergamot too. And I had planted some sage a while ago, inspired by Heather's stories of her delicious mint and sage tea. The internet tells me that yarrow and bergamot leaves can be used in tea as well, and so I decided to give it a try, all together. The result is the beautiful concoction you see in the picture there. A pale green, leafy elixir, with a small dollop of local honey. It occurred to me that this was a totally local beverage, since the water we get is from the North Saskatchewan river. Just before my first taste, I hesitated a bit, thinking "These are some leaves I pulled off some weeds in my yard, do I really want to drink this?" I did, and the first taste convinced me that good herbal 'loose leaf' tea is available right in my own back yard!

My second water story isn't quite as nice. As I was on my way to work today I saw a huge vacuum truck parked on the side of the gravel road, with what looked like a big hose leading into the wetland area there. I pulled over and talked to the man beside the truck who confirmed that he was sucking water out of the pond at the instructions of "the County" for use at a nearby construction site. I said, nicely I think, that this is a wetland, a duck habitat, and that you can't just drain water out of it. A small duck was swimming towards us as I was talking. The man replied that I'd have to "talk to the County." I said I would be doing that, and he went back to his hose. I got in my car and drove to work, fuming. I needed some yarrow bergamot sage tea right then.

I have written to the County about proposed housing developments around here and they assured me there weren't any under consideration at the present time. When I get home I will check the name of the contact person on that letter and give them a call. I may call Ducks Unlimited and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society as well. I thought wetland areas were automatically protected, and now it looks like that just isn't so. It makes me sad.

July 30 2008 Update: Last night I retrieved the letter I got from the County and have just now on my lunch hour called them to talk about my concerns. Of course the contact person referenced in the letter was gone until after the long weekend, and the Mayor, who's signature was on the letter, was gone too. I was able to leave a message with someone the the admin assistant said was the "Planning and Development Manager" so we will see if he calls me back. I managed to speak quickly enough to get in both concerns (land development, pond draining) before the answering machine cut me off....

Saturday, 19 July 2008

CSA Bounty: Week 5, and a short hiatus

Whew, it's been a busy couple of weeks and I'm behind on posting about my CSA goodies again. I picked up this delectable bunch of stuff last Tuesday, so much it needed to be in a box, not a bag this time. There were two heads of lettuce (red leaf and butter), more spring onions, a bunch of radishes, baby beats and their delicious leaves, another big bunch of chard and joy of joys, some strawberries! I almost forgot to take a picture of the bounty before cooking and eating it, as you can tell by the beat-y knifes there, which had already been chopping stuff up. I love Tuesdays!

Also, just a note to say that the posts here will be getting quite a bit more sparse for the next couple of weeks. We have company coming and several family commitments to attend to until the end of the month. When I get back up to speed I hope to have some posts about these letters I keep getting back from my elected representatives, as well as some more ponderings about water and soil, and eventually a little bit of Folk Fest Philosophy, when the time comes.

Be well everyone, and remember to slow down and enjoy the offerings of whatever season and climate you find yourself in!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Sharon tells it like it is....

Sharon at Casaubon's Book has written a most excellent post today! Her posts are brilliant on a regular basis, but this one is just....well, beyond phenomenal. Do check it out for yourself, especially if you've been wondering what all this peak oil stuff is all about, and even more so if you've been avoiding checking into what this peak oil stuff is all about....

Edited to add: and if you're ready, head over to Daharja's site and see what she and her family have been doing to prepare for this whole peak oil thing....

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Water and Personal Accountability

As I mentioned yesterday, after reading the book Blue Gold, I've become acutely aware of the looming world and local water crises. This crisis scares me even more than peak oil issues, because while humans (and and animals, and plants) can certainly live without oil, none of us can live without water.

One of the most amazing things about water is that instead of contracting when it freezes, like most things do when they get cold, it expands. This makes it lighter than water, so it floats on the tops of lakes rather than sinking to the bottom. This has the added effect of insulating the rest of the lake, preventing the body of water from freezing. If this didn't happen, all the fish and other aquatic animals and plants would be killed every winter. I've always found these properties of water to be amazing, if not downright miraculous!

I also love the paradoxical nature of water (of which the expansive freezing is one example). It is placid yet powerful, gentle yet relentless. It can be restorative yet lethal, depending on the circumstances. It's also the "universal solvent," as my dad says, and that's true: literally and metaphorically I would say.

But all this waxing poetic-like is meaningless if I'm not doing anything differently, isn't it? Which brings me to my personal accountability for my water use. I'll start with what I'm doing pretty well at, move on to what I'm getting better at, and end with what I still need to change. In doing so, I hope readers will ponder their own water use and engage in a similar water reckoning for themselves.

What I'm already doing:
  • "Navy" showers, most of the time
  • Showering every second day
  • Saving shower warm-up water in a bucket in the tub to use for flushing the toilet
  • Saving kitchen sink warm up water for watering plants or putting in the tea kettle for later use
  • Low flow toilets, shower heads and faucets
  • Low water use front loading washing machine
  • Yellow/Mellow principle
  • Turning the tap off when brushing teeth
  • garden hoses on timers, using a soaker hose/drip irrigation for part of The Big Garden
What I'm in the middle of doing, or trying to do better:
  • One 40 gallon water barrel set up outside but not yet hooked up to downspout - materials to hook it up have been purchased and just need to be installed.
  • Spot watering with a watering can and collected rainwater before using the hose/sprinkler - this depends on how pressed for time I am on evenings/weekends, and if there's water in the barrel.
  • Turning tap off when I wash my hands
  • Not waiting for tap water to warm up before washing my hands or my face or my hair.
  • Looking into taking a rain barrel conversion workshop since we have two good blue plastic barrels that just need to be converted for water collection purposes but which are sitting empty at the moment
What I have to start doing:
  • Figure out how to waste less of my greywater
  • Increase drip irrigation system to Big Garden; start one for the Little Garden.
  • Use less water to wash dishes
  • Put something (maybe a rock and water filled 2 L pop bottle?) in the toilet tanks to make the low flush toilets even lower flush
  • Navy showers, ALL of the time
  • Figure out how to add contour/swales to my yard to help the water soak in instead of running off
  • I'm sure there is more to add to this list....
The amount of water I use for each of these things really hit home the day I partially set up the rain barrel outside about 4-5 weeks ago. It was raining for most of the day, sometimes quite hard. So I set up a bucket under the nearest downspout and just poured the collected water into the rain barrel, bucket after bucket. It took quite a while -- several hours actually, as the rain became ligher and heavier again througout the day. Mostly I used just a small 1 gallon ice cream pail, because it was easier to lift and pour it into the rain barrel without spilling that way.

As I'd wait for the pail to fill, I'd pull a weed or two, and even did a little bit of Tai Chi in my rubber boots and rain hat. Then I'd pick up the pail and pour it in the barrel again. It occured to me then that sometimes I've let the kitchen tap run and probably a whole gallon of water would go down the drain before it warmed up to my liking. Juxtapose this with the care I was taking in saving this rainwater from the downspout and putting it in the barrel - it just didn't make sense to waste in the kitchen what I was collecting in the yard.

So now when I turn on the tap, I imagine the water coming out of the downspout and into my ice cream pail, to be saved in my water barrel. It's made me waste a lot less water, making that inside/outside connection. Imagine how much more precious water is to someone who walks a mile or two every day to collect their family's drinking water! Generally speaking, we rich westerners are disconnected from where our water comes from and where it goes when we're finished with it. Going out and collecting my own water has changed that for me. I encourage everyone to try it sometime, and think about the paradoxical miracle of H2O!

Picture courtesy a recent rainfall in my yard

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Blogging Bookworm: Blue Gold Book Review

After more than two months, I have finally finished reading Blue Gold: The Battle Against Corporate Theft of the World's Water. This was the second book I had pledged to read during Green Bean's Be A Bookworm Challenge back in May. My review of the book is posted over at the Blogging Bookworm today - feel free to check it out over there! This book has really changed how I look at water and water issues, topics about which I will be writing more in the coming weeks and months. For now I'll leave you with two things to ponder:

1) Is access to sufficient safe and clean water a human right?
2) If your household water was cut off right now, permanently, could you access an alternate clean, safe supply?

Edited to add: Hey, a Greenpeace blog has also posted the review today! Neat!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

CSA Bounty Week 4, and Weekend Happenings

I've been sort of snowed under this week and completely forgot to post about what delicious veggies we received from the CSA this past week. It was the biggest delivery yet, with more garlic scapes, four heads of lettuce! (two butter, and two romaine), a bag of peas, a bunch of green onions, and a big bunch each of chard and kale. We've finished it all except the garlic scapes and the tops of the green onions, but those will keep for a while yet...

While I'm at it I might as well post a few other pictures from this past weekend:

I had high hopes for my willow branch weaving skills, but apparently I need a bit more practice. The morning glory vines probably won't mind too much though! And it doesn't look too bad, from a distance.

I gave in and bought several small cute iron trellis things for the peas in the Big Garden. The peas were supposed to grow up the corn stalks but this isn't happening, because I planted them too far away from the corn!

My herb garden is coming along - some sage and thyme so far, and some lavender there too. The parsley is in a different area, but I may move it over with these little guys:

And, with the help of my dad and brother, I now have a nice dark grey 1/2 inch steel plate in my solar cooker. It really made a difference, holding in all the heat from that nice free sunlight. The cooker is not yet perfect, but it is coming along. So today I made potatoes, carrots and garlic scapes roasted in olive oil, thyme and rosemary and they were about three quarters cooked after 5 hours in the on-and-off sunshine today. I put them in the conventional oven for another half hour and then they were perfect! So I probably saved about 1 1/2 hours of electricity, which isn't bad.

Oh, and I finally took the plunge and ordered a medium size deep freeze that was on sale. It is getting to be that time of the year where I will soon have a lot of produce to freeze and keep for the winter....

Saturday, 12 July 2008

July 2008 Challenge Update

It's nearly halfway through the month, and I thought I should post an update about how I'm doing with these two challenges. Especially after reading Chile's post about her blog-related peeves, which includes people who sign up for a challenge and then never post about it!

I have had more success with Heather's challenge than with Chile's challenge, I confess. I have mostly been able to sit down when I eat, although I do forget and out of habit will pop a carrot or cucumber slice into my mouth while making a salad for the guinea pigs, or dinner for us. I have also stopped myself a lot of the time though, put these morsels aside and then gone over to the couch and sat down to eat them more mindfully. Or at least stopped what I was doing and paid attention to what I was chewing.

Giving up eating mindlessly is what I'm doing for Chile's challenge. When I do stop, sit down and think about what I'm eating, I am glad. I deliberately think about the sun that has shone on my veggies, and the farmers and truck drivers and soil that have had a part in getting this food right here, right now, right in my mouth. My problem is that this thought process only lasts a few moments and then I'm back to being my scatter-brained self. But, it's a start.

Where I'm really making no progress at all is not eating in front of the computer or while reading a book. I seem to go into my 'do-what-I-wanna' trance state and just plop down and do it, even when the little voice in my head is saying, "hey, you're doing these challenges, remember?" I have yet to figure out why this is so hard for me. I guess 35+ years of doing things one way takes a while to unravel and change.

Time for a gatha, maybe? Here's one from the Everyday Yogini that seems to fit the bill perfectly!

When eating a sweet summer zuppa,
I vow with all Beings,
To savor each spoon of rich flavor,
Thanking rain, sun, and soil in turn.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Friday Questions

What is it about some Albertans that makes them get so upset about increased charges for text messaging, yet merely shrug their shoulders in response to the toxification of our rivers and lakes, killing of water fowl, and government subsidization of the Big Oil companies. No one seems to blink an eye when the Alberta government announces that they will use 2 billion dollars of taxpayers money to build a carbon capture and storage pipeline/system, yet make Canadians pay 'too much' for their iPhone data plan, and they virtually stampede to the company headquarters in protest. (And I do mean virtual - most of what people do these days is virtual, not actual.)

The 'stampede' had quite the effect though, with representatives of two companies being summoned by the Industry Minister to explain themselves. Minister Prentice sounded very concerned when he said, "While I have no desire to interfere with the day-to-day business decisions of the two private companies, I do have a duty ... when necessary, to protect the interests of the consuming public." Oh yes, the consuming public must be protected.

Funny how the Environment minister never summoned the oil company execs to Ottawa to be held accountable for their actions when 500 ducks died, or when the Athabasca river is continually ravaged and polluted and boreal forest and wetlands devastated. Oh, that's right, those companies are only accountable to their shareholders.

Why does the 'free market' apply more to non-renewable resources than to cell phone plans?

Is this not a tragedy and a travesty, that people are more attached to their cell phones than to the Earth?

Monday, 7 July 2008

July Garden Update

Just a quick garden update! We've had two hail and rain storms in the past two days, but the gardens have mostly come away unscathed.

The little patch of wheat I grew in the Little Garden was bent over, but not broken. And it sure looks nice in the post-storm sunshine! The barley was also quite bent over, although the flax made it through OK. The flax is now starting to bloom as well, with bright blue flowers. The celtuce I grew there is still going strong, along with the chicory, onions, carrots and garlic. The turnips seem to be doing well too, although not very many of those seeds germinated. Both kinds of beets (red and golden) seem to be growing, but they are taking their time about it.

In the Big Garden, the potatoes took a bit of a pounding, along with the pumpkins, but they were mostly upright again the next day. One of my corn stalks was bent right over, but it wasn't broken so I just propped it up and firmed the soil around it. We'll see if that one survives. Also in Big Garden news, I have harvested all of the radishes now, and so I have a space to plant something else. I'm thinking I will put some spinach in there, since my other spinach has bolted. I may also plant some kale, because it grows so quickly, and the guinea pigs and I just adore the stuff!

One more Big Garden note: One of the butter cup squash plants is pretty much taking over the garden! Next year I will definitely keep the squash plants to the outer perimeter of the garden, so the stalks don't take over my walkway and the carrots and everything else!

I sure do pay more attention to the weather now that I have a garden. It gives me just a small taste of what farmers worry about every day, and even more appreciation for the food I get to eat all year long.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Ready for a Challenge!

June was a lovely, challenge-free month. It was nice to just plug away at some of the habits I'm trying to form, while watching my garden grow and try to keep up with the weeding and yard work. Summer isn't very long around here, but when it comes, things grow like crazy!

Anyway, it's now July, and I've signed up for two challenges, which nicely coincide. These challenges will help me develop a habit I've been trying to get better at for some time now, which is to eat mindfully, instead of just scarfing down something while surfing the internet, reading or watching TV. And with the delicious food I've been getting from the CSA farm and the farmer's markets, I really want to make sure I take the time to appreciate and enjoy the food I'm making and eating. I want to be sure and acknowledge everything that goes into my food, from the energy of the sun and the rainwater, to the care and attention of the farmers, to the fuel it takes to get my food here, to my own efforts in preparing the food to be eaten.

Heather at Simple-Green-Frugal is hosting the No Graze Days challenge, wherein she is challenging us to do one seemingly simple thing: sit down when you eat. In Heather's words, this means: "no nibbles while I'm cooking, no nibbles while standing in front of the fridge trying to figure out what to really eat for dinner, and no nibbles as I'm scraping leftovers into tupperware. Yep! No nibbles if I'm not sitting down." This will be harder than it sounds for me, because I have the habit of nibbling constantly while I am cooking or making my lunch or feeding our two guinea pigs their veggie bowls.

And then there is Chile's Quit Now Challenge, which encourages us to try and change some habits now, by choice, rather than later when they could be forced upon us, by virtue of peak oil/climate change/economic depression scenarios.

So in my case, I'm going to restrict my food intake at home so that not only am I sitting down when I'm eating, but I also make time to enjoy and appreciate what I have, rather than vegging out in front of some kind of screen, or with my nose buried in a book while I eat. I'm going to consiously see and taste and smell what I'm eating, and think about what went in to getting it from seed to my grateful plate.

I really want to break my habit of eating mindlessly. I want to get better at appreciating things for what they are - enough of this multitasking already! I have to multitask at work all day long, and I want to give my self a break from that at home, so I can re-sensitize myself to the simple and separate enjoyments of eating a good meal, or reading a good book, or having a nice cup of tea. Canceling the satellite TV again this summer will help, and so will having all this delicious food!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

CSA Bounty! : Week 3

After coming home from the Canada festivities in my home town, I headed over to the CSA farm to pick up this week's share.

This week, my bag was stuffed with two absolutely huge heads of lettuce (curly red and freckled), a big bunch of chard, another big bunch of beet greens with tiny beets attached, and then these curly things in the picture that I've never seen before. They smell sort of garlicky and oniony. They are not hollow like I would expect an onion or chive to be. And the curliness is really throwing me off. Does anyone have any idea what they might be? I nibbled on one and it tastes oniony and garlicky too, so my guess is a garlic chive, but it doesn't look like any chive I've ever seen!

I made my favorite buttery nutmeg greens again with the chard and some of the beet tops - I just can't get enough of that dish! And I find that greens are really filling too - after eating them I don't get hungry for hours.

After cutting the little beets off the end of the beet greens I wondered what to do with them. I like the taste of cloves with beets, so I ended up just frying the baby beets, tails and all, in a little margarine and some clove powder. It was fantastic! The tails got nice and crunchy and the beets themselves were tender and sweet. And to think I considering putting them in the compost!

Happy Canada Day!

Happy 141st Birthday Canada!

I'll be back to blogging about some letters I got back from my elected representatives over the past few weeks, as well as about a couple challenges I'm taking on in July, just a soon as I take a break to enjoy some of the local Canada Day festivities....