Thursday, 30 April 2009

And the winners are....

Thanks to everyone who entered my 2nd Blogiversary book draw! I used the random number generator at to generate the winning numbers, and here are the results:

For Peace is Every Step, the winner is Kale for Sale! Congratulations! I know you will really, really enjoy this book. It is simple and profound at the same time, a real gem of a book.

For the 1992 edition of The Four Season Harvest, the winner is Apple Jack Creek! Congratulations! This is a really good book for people in more northern climes, and so I know you will certainly benefit from it.

Kale and AJC, please send me an email at {myriad dot things at yahoo dot ca} with your mailing information, and I will get these books out to you in the coming week.

To everyone who entered, and to all of you who come by to read and/or comment - I am humbled that you would spend even some of your valuable here. Many thanks :)

Saturday, 25 April 2009

2nd 'Blogiversary,' and Book Giveaway

Today is the day that this little blog turns two!

Last year on my first 'blogiversary' I held a book draw and all sorts of neat things came out of it. I found another blogger who is also interested in Taoism and tai chi, the author of the book I gave away came and commented over here, and he kindly sent me a replacement copy of his book, Simple Prosperity. And the reason I decided on the giveaway in the first place was because I had won the book itself in one of Crunchy's draws, the second thing I have won from her (the first being a DivaCup). These were all very cool and satisfying things, but the main reason I want to do it again this year is because of how it helps me to practice non-attachment.

It is good to practice letting go of things that you want to keep. I love books and I have the urge to buy and read them all the time. I love just having them, holding them, the feel of my eyes as they run over a page of words. I love how they look on a bookshelf. So it is hard for me to give them away, especially certain ones.

I have been thinking about which book to give away for several weeks now. At first it seemed easy - I would just give away the extra copy of The Four Season Harvest that Gord picked up for me at Value Village, not knowing that I had already bought the 2nd edition. But I knew that was not what the giveaway was supposed to be about. I had to give away something I wanted to keep or it wouldn't be much of a non-attachement lesson. So, I am giving away my copy of Thich Nhat Hanh's "Peace is Every Step." And also the 1992 edition of Eliot Coleman's "The Four Season Harvest," because there is no reason to keep two copies of virtually the same book.

So, if you would like to enter into the draw for one or both of these books, please me a comment. Just let me know if you want to enter for either book or just a specific one. Both books are only gently used. Just like last year, you can enter the draw until midnight on Wednesday, April 29th, and I'll announce the winner on Thursday, April 30th. I will cover postage to send the books anywhere, so don't hesitate to enter if you live far away from me, in Europe or Australia or Argentina or Iceland or anywhere at all on this terrific planet of ours!

Thanks so much to all of you who come and read my thoughts and ponderings and rants. Thanks also to those of you who take the time to engage in conversation with me through your comments. Just knowing that there are people out there who are wrestling with the same kinds of issues and ideas really helps a person get through the days, months and years. My heartfelt thanks to all of you. Namaste :)

Cute cupcake picture courtesy this website

Sunday, 19 April 2009

First Birds, and a Gardening Update

Yesterday we saw the first robin of the year! That is always a happy day, because it signals that Spring is most definitely here. There is nothing like the song of a robin to cheer one out of Winter's stupor - it seems to remind my ears that there are more than just monotones to hear.

We also saw a bit of a silly sight - a ruffed grouse way up in an aspen tree, nibbling on the fuzzy buds. Grouse seem to be silly creatures, and this one was walking around on the tree as though it was still on the ground. It seemed to be stepping without care to wherever the fuzziest (yummiest?) buds were, no matter how far out on a limb he had to go. It sure gave us a chuckle. Eventually he fluttered down to the ground again, blending in with the still-brown landscape. Later on, we heard him making his drumming sound, advertising for a mate.

I managed to get some weeding done yesterday, and also uncovered the strawberry plants which were heavily mulched with straw. They were all alive, and even green under there, so I replaced the damp straw with dry and they should get a good start now. Also, my chives have begun to sprout again, and the thyme and lavender made it through the winter unscathed as well. So far, so good.

Of the plants I seeded last weekend, the perennial salad green French Sorrel is the first to sprout. It will be planted in with the rest of my perennial herbs and plants, once it gets big enough. I hope to have enough seedlings to pass on to family and friends as well, since I seeded quite a few.

Today is another lovely day, and I will go out and plant some borage in my two half whiskey barrels - that should look nice with the pansies that have self-seeded in there the past two years. Then at 3 pm (or thereabouts), I'll stop for tea of course! Do join me, if you get the chance!

Friday, 17 April 2009

Tale of Five Seeds - The Planting

Back in January, I wrote about the five seeds I was going to plant this year as part of my participation in the Seed and Plant Sanctuary of Canada.

Last weekend I started four of the five varieties of seeds: French Sorrel, Echinacea, Parsley Giante D'Italia and Chinese Rhubarb. The fifth seed, Golden Rocky Beans, won't be planted until I actually start direct seeding the veggie garden itself. That will be about a month or so from now, maybe three weeks if I can get ready in time. I'm trying to be a bit more organized about my planting this year, although so far I'm not sure if I'm having much success!

Earlier this week Gord and I went to two gardening seminars, instructed by The Urban Farmer, Ron Berezan. The seminars were on Xeriscaping and Edible Forest Gardens, and both Gord and I came away from that with visions of an Eden-like garden on our property, with us meandering down paths and plucking fruit and veggies from here and there at will. Well, it will be some years before that happens, but with the help of Mr. Berezan, we at least know where to start!

This weekend we have managed to arrange for two whole days at home, so we will hopefully get a lot of things done around the yard, and some prep work done to the garden. I was a bit dismayed to see weeds growing in there already - they were at least easy to pull out, since the soil was so moist. The Urban Farmer recommends mulching all exposed soil to retain water and reduce weeds, so I will have to look into that more seriously this year.

Spring is certainly well on its way now, and with it comes both the excitement of a new growing season, and feeling a little bit daunted about all there is to do. But there is comfort too, in knowing that the soil, seeds and sun have done this every year since the dawn of time, and so maybe I don't need to worry or fret quite so much about getting things 'just right.'

Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend, with some time for tea and relaxation!

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Depression Cooking Lessons

Yesterday in a very rambling post, I tacked on a link to the YouTube site of Depression Cooking with Clara. After watching the very first of her cooking lessons, I just had to try the easy and quick recipe she demonstrated, for pasta with peas. While she was showing her viewers how to prepare this filling and economical meal, I realized that it was the perfect thing to use up some leftovers I had: A lone potato out of its bag in the pantry, some onion chunks sitting in the fridge, and some very old frozen peas languishing in the freezer from when I had used them as a cold pack long ago. Clara added tomato sauce to her pasta dish, but I had visions of alfredo sauce on mine, and I have alfredo sauce powder as part of my food stores, so I was all set!

It turned out deliciously, and the pasta cooked with retained heat after I turned the burner off, just like she said it would. Clara commented that during the depression this was a common way to cook - turning off the gas flame, to conserve fuel and save money. During her cooking lessons, 91-year-old Clara talks about how things were for her and her family during the depression, and how they managed to stay healthy in tough times. Pasta and potatoes were a large part of their diet, and a home garden was essential. Very inspiring viewing, I must say.

Thanks Clara, lunch was very tasty!

Friday, 10 April 2009

April Showers, and other random thoughts.

Ah, it's raining. Not snowing.

I think Spring may have actually arrived! I went outside this morning to take a few pictures of things like the patch of green grass I saw near the sidewalk, and the amazing site of my thyme and lavender that actually seem to have survived the Winter. Birds are chirping like crazy out there, the squirrels are chasing each other all about, and it's raining. A nice, soft drizzle that you can hear patting the ground as the drops land. It made me smile.

I think my brain must be infected by Spring this morning as well, because I'm thinking all sorts of different things, like is Twitter useful or just another way to broadcast random thoughts out into cyber space? Some of these things like Facebook and Twitter just seem so narcissistic and egotistical to me, but yet they appeal to me and my fondness for gadget-y and neat things of all sorts. And if Facebook and Twitter are egotistical, then so are blogs I suppose. Hmm. I have decided to try out the Twitter thing anyway after a few friends and family members joined, and when I saw that even Thich Nhat Hanh has an official Twitter feed. So I've linked my twitterings (tweets?) in the side bar there - so far I'm thinking it could serve as a mini-updater for this blog, one which would contain shorter ponderings.

And now, right now as I type this, there is a story on CBC's Q, about this very thing: the narcissistic tendencies of the current society and how social networking sites figure large in this this trend. The Ego Boom is the book that host Jian Ghomeshi is talking to the authors about, and how focusing on enhancing kids' self esteem over the last 20+ years has actually raised a generation of people who think they are close to perfect, have the right to choose among limitless options, and are entitled to be famous. Ack, perhaps I should reconsider this whole blog/facebook/twitter thing after all.

Another thing I am thinking about today is the amazingness of Vandana Shiva, (who as it happens, is linked via the CBC program, The Current, which also has a twitter feed.) Vandana Shiva started the Navdanya organization, which has been instrumental in fights against logging, water depletion and genetically modified seeds. When I was listening to The Current on the radio this morning, Dr. Shiva related the astounding statistic that 200 000 farmers in Pakistan and/or India have committed suicide over the past decade because they lost their farms to Agribusiness. Dr. Shiva and her organization have been working to help farmers return to organic farming practices, with amazing results. Good things happen when people live out their principles in the everyday practices of their lives.

These random and unpolished ponderings brought to you by the effects of Spring!

Oh, and one more random goody I just heard about: Depression Cooking with Clara. These are YouTube videos of a 91 year old lady cooking and giving tips about how to stay healthy in tough times. She is adorable, and one smart lady.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

That connection with nature thing...

Last weekend Gord and I spent some time outside in the treed part of our property -- we really needed to get out of the house and just be out there. Spring has been a long time coming, and while there is still a lot of snow around, the sky was blue and the sun was warm. So we went out to feed the birds, deterimined to take our time about it, and just enjoy being out there.

We have a lot of black-capped chickadees around here, and they have become less and less shy over the years. Often they will fly over and sit very close to us when we fill the bird feeders, and chirp loudly as if to say, "hurry up already, we want our black oil sunflower seeds!" At times there are dozens of them that come to the five or six feeders we have set up, for sunflower seeds, peanuts and suet.

This year has been a banner year for squirrels as well - there are four of them! It seems like they may be two mated pairs, but we really don't know for certain. They come to the feeders as well, and it is quite the show to see the squirrels and the birds vie for the prime feeders.

Gord has told me of how one of his uncles used to have birds eating out of his hand, and this Spring he really wanted to see if that could happen to him too. These chickadees were pretty friendly, so they seemed like they might just cooperate.

And last Sunday was the day - after standing still and sort of blending in with the feeder for about 15-20 minutes, the birds started sitting on the feeder while Gord's hand was there:You can see the squirrel there (whom Gord has named 'Chomper') in the background, keeping an eye on the situation.

A few minutes later, one of the birds landed on Gord's hand and took a sunflower seed out of it, before flying away. This happened quite a few times with a few different birds, and I managed to get one decent picture of this:
Not to be left out, Chomper came by in a little while for a closer look:

And then came closer yet for his share of the sunflower seeds:

I can tell you this was the highlight of our day! I've cropped the pictures so Gord's face isn't in there, but in some of these shots he is really smiling! There's something pretty amazing about having a little bird or squirrel think you're just another part of the landscape, safe enough to sit on.

Next time it will be my turn to try and stand still for 20 minutes at the feeder, and see what happens. I knew meditation was good practice for a lot of reasons, but I didn't foresee this particular application!

Wishing everyone a happy weekend, with time enough to stop and connect for a little while with Nature's goodness.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

The "Branding" of Alberta? No Thanks.

Last week the Alberta government unveiled their new "brand"for the province. The old slogan, "The Alberta Advantage" had become stale, apparently, and oh ya, it was getting harder to find the advantage part. When the 'boom' was in effect, housing prices and rent had skyrocketed, it was hard to find a family doctor, dentist, etc., and huge pickup trucks ruled the roads with impunity, even when gas was $1.30+ per litre ($5.08 per USD, when the CAD and USD were at par). And the fact that the province doesn't have a sales tax didn't really make much difference when other fees and costs were always going up.

Then came the economic downturn. Now houses aren't selling, rents are still high, foreclosures have doubled, companies are shutting down, people are having their work hours cut, or losing their jobs entirely. So it was obvious that what the province needed was....a new slogan. And not just any new slogan, but one that cost 4 million dollars to research, develop and market.

The Alberta government even created a new website designed to outline why the province needs a new 'brand' and how the new 'brand' will just show everyone how good a place Alberta is to live, work and invest. There are gorgeous pictures throughout, and a spiffy new font for the word 'Alberta.'

Here is how the brand itself is promoted on the website:

"Alberta's brand enables us to consistently present the authentic story of our province to a set of stakeholders as diverse as Alberta itself.

Whether promoting Albertan products, ideas, and innovations to a global marketplace or welcoming the world to our home, the branding initiative encompasses the wide variety of ways Alberta's story comes to life.

A truly global brand for a place unlike anywhere else."

This really grinds my crackers, as Crunchy would say.

I am a citizen, not a 'stakeholder.' Alberta is not a product, it is a place! It is not a commodity, it is my home! It is not a 'story' designed to attract 'investors.' It is not a thing that can be owned, and then arrogantly and presumptuously stamped with a 'brand.' This 'brand' doesn't present the 'authentic story' of Alberta at all! It is just a way for the Alberta government to show off some pretty pictures of parts of the province they haven't yet managed to despoil and 'monetize,' or to sanitize and glorify the parts of it they already have. I can not even begin to describe the vastness of the disconnection between this government and the actual land and place that is Alberta!

While I was getting all riled up about this, I was also in the process of reading a book by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, which I bought from my favorite used book store recently. The book is called, "Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior." This was a great find, one which I just had to purchase when I read the summary of what the Shambhala tradition is all about:

"The Shambhala teachings are founded on the premise that there is basic human wisdom that can help to solve the world's problems. This wisdom does not belong to any one culture or religion, nor does it come only from the West or the East. Rather, it is a tradition of human warriorship that has existed in many cultures and many times throughout history."

According to the book, Shambhala is a legendary kingdom that was a place of peace and prosperity, governed by wise and compassionate rulers. Trungpa points out that whether or not such a kingdom actually existed isn't important. "Instead, we should appreciate and emulate the ideal of an enlightened society that it represents" (p. 27). The concept of warriorship is not utilized in the sense of making war on others, but rather to describe the Tibetan Buddhist idea of being heroic and kind at the same time.

Imagine leaders like that! Ones who are heroic and kind at the same time! I could go on and on about all the inspiring things I found in this book, but the passage that stood out for me the most while I was all riled up about the Alberta 'brand' situation was this:

"When human beings lose their connection to nature, to heaven and earth, then they do not know how to nurture their environment or how to rule their world - which is saying the same thing. Human beings destroy their ecology at the same time as they destroy each other. From that perspective, healing our society goes hand-in-hand with healing our personal, elemental connection with the phenomenal world" (p. 132).

So there it is then. Disconnection leads to ruination. We humans are certainly good at that.

But yet I have a little hope still, because I think what Trungpa says is also true: That the healing of society will come through restoring our own personal connections with the natural environment and natural phenomena. When we do this, we rediscover that we already are a part of the "authentic story" of our place, wherever that may be. That we are already woven into the very place and time where we exist right now. And when we are united with our place, we don't want to wreck it, or let other people or interests wreck it. It seems so obvious, yet everything about our society, including slick provincial branding schemes, is designed to obscure this very point.

So, let's begin. Let's put ourselves back in Nature's classroom, and encourage others to come there with us. We may even realize we've been there all along, and that will be a very, very good day: for us, and for the planet that is our only home.

Adorable Alberta groundhog picture courtesy Hatcreek, AB.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Ponderings Pending....

My home internet connection has been worse than erratic lately, so I haven't been able to upload any recent ponderings...I'm hoping to get that rectified later today or tomorrow..... :)