Archive for the ‘Sustainable living’ Category

My First Canning Project – Ketchup!

Like many first-year gardeners, I have way too many tomatoes.  And not only that, but I even bought some more tomatoes from my friend John! Ridiculous, I know.  I must have had about 50-75lbs of tomatoes in the kitchen sorted into baskets and buckets and bowls according to their level of ripeness.  After 3 rounds of pasta sauce, 2 rounds of raw pasta sauce and many tomato sandwiches, I decided to tackle a real tomato project – KETCHUP!  I rarely eat the stuff, but when I roast potatoes or we have scrambled eggs, that sugar and sodium laced condiment just screams to land on my plate.  So now, I am happy to say that I have an all natural, mostly organic (save for the red wine vinegar, pepper and ginger) ketchup.  Thanks to Fig and Lime Cordial for the recipe! It was the best and easiest one I could find on the internet.  I love the roasted tomato flavour.

http://figjamandlimecordial.com/2010/11/03/roasted-omato-ketchup/

I made a few changes because I made A LOT more than this recipe.  To be exact, I made 5x the recipe.  Rather than weighing the tomatoes at the start, I just used as many as I could stand to work through and then measured the passata based on the size of my pot when I had pushed all the roasted tomatoes through the sieve.  I substituted a combination of red wine vinegar, balsamic and apple cider vinegar for the white wine vinegar just for a little fun and I read in another recipe that this make the flavour very robust.  Fancy schmancy.  Besides that, the only difference for me is that it took probably about 3 hours to boil it down to a thickness that I was satisfied with, it probably could have gone for another hour or 2.   I actually stuck the whole pot in the fridge once it was cooled because I wasn’t ready to can it until the next day when I had the jars and another big pot to process in.  Which I think is ok because I heated it up again to a boil before canning it.

Voila! And without even asking for victims to taste test, I came home from teaching a lovely yoga class to Dylan’s expression that my ketchup is amazing!  yay!

Rice, we’re over. Cavena Nuda Je t’aime.

I confess – we eat rice.

Rice straight from the Bulk Barn.  Not straight from the rice fields, but from the truck that travels thousands of miles from the port in the US where it met the tanker that had crossed the ocean after it met more trucks in the harbour where it came from.  Straight from unsustainably managed rice fields somewhere out there where a farmer is just trying to feed his family.  Even worse, we love white rice.  Sticky white basmati rice.  While I keep a supply of what is touted as a healthier choice, brown basmati, on hand also, neither are remotely local and if I want organic, I’m bound to buying some form of plastic packaging.

With (purchasing) power comes great responsibility.

For the most part, I’ve played the ignorant card when buying rice, justifying it because well, everyone else eats it and if I have things on hand that Dylan enjoys, such as rice, he’s less likely to say “Pita Pit?” when brainstorming dinner ideas.  But rice, you’ve been replaced (it may be more of a gradual phasing out, and I make no claim to perfection).  Welcome Cavena Nuda. Je t’aime.  I first found you in the bulk barn flyer, labelled “New! Rice of the Prairies” and the possibility of a rice from Canada made me have to try you!   A “hull-less” oat that cooks just like brown rice, cavena nuda is a nutty grain that cooks al dente and is amazing in many dishes because it holds up very well.  I may be late for the cavena nuda train because apparently it was on Dragon’s Den, but I bet there are many people out there who have yet to hear about it.  I can’t remember all the ways that I’ve used it, but the other night I added some garlic scape pesto, basil, steamed beans (all from the garden), and some canned Ontario tomatoes and wow!

Here’s another fresh spring meal that we had, pretty much simple rice (eek) pasta with a simple home-made sauce of garlic, onions and canned tomatoes, made so fresh with herbs from the garden!

And here are our watermelon radishes that have been great additions to potato salads, beet salads and sandwiches…

Having vegetables right in our backyard has been the highlight of my summer!  No more ethical dilemmas at the grocery store, no more debates at farmer’s markets and lots more fresh, local, organic veggies!

Top 10 Kitten Toys – No purchase necessary

Our house has begun to remind us of the book Where the Wild Things Are.  We have 2 monsters who collide, jump from far distances, run at top speed from end to end and scale walls.  Dylan wanted to name then after the monsters in the book, but their names are among the likes of Emil, Aaron and Bernard – not the best kitten names.  When we first got the kittens I was almost lured into buying them those cute cat nip mice at the pet store (they even had “all natural” eco friendly ones), but boy am I glad I didn’t fall for that.  Here are Mister and Miss’ top 10 list of things to play with:

10) Dry leaves

9) Anything and everything that dangles – including my hair

8) Laundry piles

7) House flies

6) Dust bunnies

5) Crumpled up paper

4) Backpacks on the floor – so many buckles that make noise!

3) Socks

2) Tin foil balls  (Upgrade by tying it to the end of a string)

1) Another kitten

And, as a side note, in an effort to maintain our sustainable living goals, we’ve opted out of the “temptations treats” and instead, we shake a jar of their usual all natural kibble to get them to come inside and give them a treat of sardines! (A sustainable seafood choice). I can’t believe I just added a category to my blog titled “cats”….my apologies for the dog lovers out there but I can promise I’ll keep these cat posts to a  minimum. Chances are it’s just cat lovers still reading anyhow, and in that case, here’s one more picture of my latest love affair 🙂

I’m Not Supposed To Have Responsibilities….I’m a Hipsie.

We may have rooted ourselves.  It’s terrifying. 

We were debating chickens for a while but it’s pretty obvious we couldn’t commit.  We eased ourselves into it with a garden and some houseplants (just 2 houseplants).  But we still want to be mobile, we love it.  And then we even went and emptied Dylan’s storage unit and moved some more stuff into our house, as though we are going to live here for a long time.  Another year even.  It makes me want to run.  And now!  Now we’ve gone and got not one, but 2 cats!  We can’t even house-sit anymore unless we can bring it (we’re only planning on keeping one….for the mice of course), or unless we can find cat-sitters too.  This is getting ridiculous.  I feel like I should just pack up the car for practice to make sure I can still get outta here in one load.  One light in the dark tunnel towards “status quo life” is that we got a sweet FREE barbeque at the end of someone’s lane the other day!  Can’t believe they gave away a Weber that was barely used, came with all the accessories (even charcoal and mequite chips) AND it matches our cookware!

But then…..look at these faces…….I’m melting….

Talk about a Flexible Platform: From Poulet Chalet to Greenhouse

In the fall we began to build a chicken coop.  I say “we”, but I assume that everyone knows that I mean: Dylan built a chicken coop and I complained that my fingers were numb as I held the measuring tape, took some photos and then ran inside to start a fire.

This is as far as “we” got before we learned that the chickens that someone was hoping to hand off to us had been handed off to another loving home.

So we hummed and hawed about buying some chickens but decided it would not be wise to try our hand at them just as the cold season was approaching.  So the chicken coop stood, just as you see it, through the winter, gathering enough snow to hide it from our sights and thoughts.  When spring arrived, we moved the chicken coop to behind the shed and I wondered how long it would remain an unfinished project.  I began growing seedlings for a new non-profit that I am “executive director” of and when I had run out of light space indoors, our “president” loosely joked that we should use the chicken coop as a temporary greenhouse.

A couple days later I bought some plastic from the hardware store and posed the idea to Dylan.  Thank goodness he’s a carpenter and came up with a much more sophisticated creation than my idea of velcro-ing a corner of the plastic for me to get in and out.  He used re-claimed windows and put them on hinges to open down so I can open the whole side of the coop for ventilation during the day.

It’s an awesome concept, except I got a bit excited about it and let the tomato plants get too much sun all at once and they all got sunburned.  So we put some lattice work up on the other side of the coop to provide some shade relief on really sunny days and every day I check the plants a couple of times praying for those white-ish spots of sunburn to disappear.

Call me Buddha.

This is the gong that rings more times than I can count each day during a 10 Day Vipassana Meditation course.  Note that it is called a “course” as opposed to a “retreat”.  Those 10 days of my life were no holiday.  I cried, I sweat, I suffered, I smiled, and I walked.   I did not speak, sun bathe, play or communicate with any other human being, and I only laughed on the 10th day when the vow of silence is broken.  It was tough.

It is now 7 days since I have returned from my 10 Day course and while I’d love to say I am more peaceful, more loving and more happy…..I can not tell.  I can only assume that some benefit was had and it is showing very subtly in my day to day actions and reactions.   As how real change truly happens, on a deeper level than at the surface, at the root and source of the problem.  As much as I wish that it had been a 10 Day Magic Fix for all of my problems and misery, it was not.  It was simply an introduction to a technique that, if applied to the rest of my life, can help to eradicate the miseries that we all hold so deep within the mind and body.   So I am doing my best to meditate each morning.  We are instructed to meditate one hour each morning AND each night for the full benefit and true practice of the technique.  But shhheeeesshhh…..really??  Maybe when I’m retired, ok. But when my yoga teacher also says to do your asanas (postures) and pranayama (breath work) once a day and I must also contribute to the world, cook and clean, and of course blog…. 2 hours of meditation is a lot.  Yet, for 10 days I managed to meditate for 12 hours each day….and now 2 hours is too much?  hah.  The problem is not that 2 hours is too much, it is that our silly society thinks that we should spend 8 hours out of the house each day doing some sort of monkey task for someone else so that we may own a house and cars and pretty looking things.  Silly society.  Luckily, I lead a rather non-conventional life and should be able to fit in 2 meditations a day.  However, my goal for now is one each morning from 5:30am-6:30am.  Not terrible considering we were up at 4am while on the course.   Yet, some mornings, it is terrible.

The 10 days themselves were certainly the longest 10 days I’ve ever lived…..however they are gone.  Which is one of the primary teachings from the course: That everything will pass.  The teachings are the Buddha’s teachings from 25 centuries ago, that have been slightly lost and mis-interpreted so that while the faith and devotional teachings of Buddha have been emphasized, the actual practice of true knowledge and pure happiness has been muffled.  Luckily, those good Burmese monks were the ones to preserve the pure teachings of Buddha and they’ve helped to spread them all over the world again, all the way to right here in Angus, Ontario.  hah.  It really was cool being able to experience Buddha’s teachings in a very non-sectoral/non-religious place in rural Ontario.

The days themselves were simple – meditate, meditate, stretch, eat, walk, meditate, meditate, meditate, eat, walk, meditate…..etc.  There were 7 hours of sleep in there that I relished, and an evening discourse that I think everyone looked forward to. Not only were we able to watch someone else, we could sit however we fancied and change positions as many times as we wanted. That in itself was a treat!  The discourses a video recording of lectures from Goenke G, a regular Burmese business man who came into Vipassana in his search for a migraine cure and is now spreading the practice due to it’s importance and it’s power.  He is an enlightened man and thus his lectures are full of stories, jokes- even if you are having the ugliest, more painful day of your life, he will make you smile – and repeated reminders:  “Practice diligently, diligently.  Practice patiently, patiently.  Patiently and persistently, patiently and persistently.  You are bound to be successful, bound to be successful.”

On day 1, I survived just fine.  But already in the evening discourse when Goenke G begins by saying, “The first day is over, you have 9 more days to work”…..I was like….oh man, that’s a long time.

By day 2 I was like, ok…..8 days, not too bad.

Day 3 I thought, ok, 7 more days, a week, what’s a week in your every day life Kim?  A week flies by!

Day 4 – “I can’t do it.  I can’t do 6 more days of this.  It’s going to take forever!”

Dav 5 – “It is taking forever, not 5 more days”

Day 6 – “Longest 6 days of my life, I can’t wait for Sunday”

Day 7 –  “Not 3 more days, I can’t wait until Sunday”

Day 8 – “Just make it through today Kim, one day at a time”

Day 9 – “Ok, last day of work, work hard, work diligently”

Day 10 – I experienced such euphoria when we could speak.  Even before I said a word, I felt so light, so happy, the sun came out….it was pure bliss!  I forgot entirely about wanting to go home and just soaked up every second of this day!

Day 11 – I made a b-line for my vehicle the moment they handed me my keys.  7:30am, I was outta there!  hah.

10 Days of Silence and Nothing

 

 

Yet another move is ahead of me, and this one I’m doing solo.  This move is free of trucks, boxes, tape, food, work, books and music.  Thank goodness.  It’s free of all of the stuff that clutters my life and distracts me from living life itself.  It’s free of complex thought and free of the senses.   That’s probably a dramatic enough introduction so I’ll now tell you that I am beginning a 10 day Vipassana Meditation course tomorrow at the Ontario Vipassana Centre.  Me and 49 others will spend 10 days in complete (noble) silence with the following schedule:

4:00 a.m Morning wake-up bell
4:30 a.m. – 6:30 a.m. Meditate in the hall or your own room
6:30 a.m. – 8:00 a.m. Breakfast break
8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. GROUP MEDITATION IN THE HALL
9:00 a.m – 11:00 a.m. Meditate in the hall or your own room
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon Lunch break
12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m. Rest and interviews with the teacher
1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Meditate in the hall or your own room
2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. GROUP MEDITATION IN THE HALL
3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Meditate in the hall or your own room
5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Tea break
6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. GROUP MEDITATION IN THE HALL
7:00 p.m – 8:15 p.m. Teacher’s Discourse in the hall
8:15 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. GROUP MEDITATION IN THE HALL
9:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Question time in the hall
9:30 p.m. Retire to your own room. Lights out

 

I have chosen to complete this course because I have some internal work that needs to be done.  It involves healing, letting go, feeling safe, becoming more mindful and focussed, detachment from things that I attach my identity to, and I’m sure more that I’ll discover over the next 10 days.  However, I am also aware that I may just spend the next 10 days sitting, waiting for the next meal and secretly singing in the shower. hah.  Who knows.

Here’s some more information if you’re curious:

http://www.torana.dhamma.org/index.html