Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

5 Favourite Things About Growing my Own Veggies This Year

What was once a sea of red and green tomatoes, has now returned to being our counter.

The 4 last green tomatoes stand alone on the counter next to jars of pasta sauce, salsa and home-made ketchup.  We’ve begun making soups and I just finished eating the last of our watermelons (!).

Noses are beginning to run and the only stuff left in the garden are the carrots, some greens and one little head of cabbage that was decimated by cabbage fly shortly after planting but is now determined to provide for us.

It’s hard to believe that we did what the books say – just get one season under your belt.

Not only that, but it was so successful that we’ve got a boot-room (a post on my dreams of a root cellar is to come) full of squash, potatoes, garlic, apples and I taught myself to can! (ok, fine, Google and YouTube taught me to can. Kind of sad actually when you think it should have been my mother or grandmother, but alas, my mother only ever did jams and I didn’t know my grandmothers). I realize that I’m still in the honeymoon phase of growing my own food, I’m sure in 20 years, it may just be another chore, however I do love the creative freedom that I have, the luxury of having local, organic food in my backyard and especially the relief from having to hunt for local, organic food elsewhere.

Here are my top 5 favourite things about growing vegetables:

1) Harvesting potatoes!

2) The funny things the cats do outside

 

3) The fun conversations I share with fellow gardeners and the things that I learn from them.

4) The abundance to share with neighbours, friends and passersby

5) The creepy critters that turn up that you get to show to kids

Do you have any favourite moments from this season?

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A Pensive Walk in Grey County

I think this is the first time that I’m really feeling the season change.  It may be just coincidence that I’m in deep-thought mode while summer is turning to fall, but with the cooler crisp air and the leaves beginning to change I am taking a step back to see what I’m up to.  It’s also pretty interesting that I’ve been up high more than usual lately and the birds eye view of my surroundings is triggering some big thinking.

Dylan and I were treated to a sunset flight over Georgian Bay in a tiny 4-seater plane owned by one of Dylan’s friends.  Despite my rather embarrassing (sustainability-wise) history of frequent flying, this flight was different because I got a chance to fly over my own neighborhood, rather than the usual Toronto airport scenery, without disappearing into the clouds.  The contrast between seeing an expanse of land surrounding Georgian Bay, and knowing that what I was seeing is not even a pin prick on our globe, made me notice my heartbeat and a sent chill down my spine.  It’s a reoccurring feeling I get of being overwhelmed by the size of our planet and yet inspired to be a part of something bigger.

And it happened again while I was on a long, cloudy and cold walk yesterday.  I walked up out of the Beaver Valley to get first a view of the Beaver Valley, and then as I traveled further north I got a view of Geogian Bay and the Niagara Escarpment.  Pausing to breathe in the view, it was as though the breeze that puffed my hair off of my neck came from far away and whispered to me to come and do something bigger; be something greater.

Living back in my home country, and my home province at that, I’ve been feeling mediocre.  My work has slowed down this week (well, paid work that is….running a non-profit seems to have potential endless work, however the pay cheques are few and far between), and I’ve now been living in the Beaver Valley for 3 years.  I live with the love of my life and I have begun to build a network and some jobs here that are not easily walked away from.  While I don’t work the 9-5 lifestyle, there is still a sense of “normalcy” to my life that lacks excitement, big conversations and crazy dreams.  When I lived in Sweden with 65 people from around the world, we talked big.  We dreamed big.  And many of those people are still out there, circumnavigating the globe, drafting international policies, wearing organic cotton suits and owning homes.  And then there’s little me, helping people grow peas and taking them up and down the Beaver River in canoes.  It seems we are just living the simple life, eating veggies out of the garden, chatting with the neighbours, doing dishes and going to bed.  I intuitively don’t overwork myself, I actually don’t work very hard.  In university, I worked ridiculously hard to get my A’s, run marathons and make money, but when I caught on to what life’s truly about (not money or A’s), I seem to have entirely let go of my desire to overachieve.  Dylan told me the other night that I have a “lazy soul”.  He said “I am an Old Soul, and you are a Lazy Soul”.  I don’t quite know what to make of that just yet.

The big debate that takes place in my soul, likely seasonally, is “Am I meant I stay-put, in a culture that is home and make small changes that are hopefully effectively contributing to a larger difference, or should I put my gears in high, rubber to the road and work my brains out to be something, make some money and maybe get some award or something?” It’s probably obvious that I don’t know what I’m meant to do just yet, or what my path looks like.  I envy those people who have known their paths their whole lives: blacksmiths, artists, entrepreneurs, teachers, designers, dancers etc.  Those people who’s parents said “Yes Betty, we’ll drive you to your sewing club because you are going to be a fabulous seamstress”, even though they desperately wanted Betty to be a heart surgeon.  At 28, I just feel like I’ve missed my prime to really excel in one field.  There’s no chance I’ll ever get to be on So You Think You Can Dance or to be Prime Minister.  I have taken one sad hip hop dance lesson and I barely understand what I’m voting for on October 6th.  Yes, I do know how to grow veggies, how to teach yoga and I am working against the grain to live sustainably (not working for the man for 40% of my life just to own a house, a car, a kid and a whole lot of stuff I don’t need but want because they temporarily fill a void in my life that runs much deeper than the power cord for my outdoor living room).  It’s a tough battle as my parents and others coast through life, indifferent to many things as they go to and from work, buy food from the grocery store, clothing from the mall and watch TV to mute the little voice inside that’s tsk-tsking as they “throw out” their bags of garbage, drive to pick up a dollar coffee with sugar and milk, buy plastic products made in china that will end up as tiny bits in the ocean, never to disintegrate, and as they push paper for 8 hours of their waking day in a meaningless game of buy and sell that operates on fear and false desires.

So, that’s where it ends every time, inconclusive, unclear and frustrating as a rubix cube for Dylan.

But the photo at the start of this post is what I gathered on my walk.  A very red maple leaf and some delicious “wild” apples and pears.  So I made applesauce in the crockpot.

Gun in Hand….and He Waved at Me

As I rode my bike home from work one day this week, a young boy was playing in his grandmother’s yard wearing a cape and shooting a toy gun at everything.  “Oh man,” my mind judged, “Straight from TV and games, and his grandma is right there, I wonder what she thinks, I wonder if this will affect what he grows up to be….” Until inevitably I was passing the driveway of his battleground, expecting to be shot at.

But I guess this is what children are for, because this little boy instantly brought me out of my narrow-minded judgments.  I was reminded of the simplicity and impermanence of every moment when he let his hand with the gun fall to the wayside and lifted his other, empty little hand to wave to me.  All intention of shooting things completely forgotten as he entered a new moment of enthusiastically hoping to connect to the biker passing by.  Who knows what the next moment would hold for him – would he go back to shooting or would a new moment catch his attention?  For him it didn’t matter.  All that mattered was to wave to the biker and see if she waves back.  I did.

Week 1: Lessons from the Ashram

Week 1 in Yoga Teacher Training Ashram, Quebec:

MONDAY

– There is a french and an English chant book – all chants in Sanskrit

– “Om” is “hello”, “present”, “testing” (the microphone), an awesome way of getting the attention of a large group, and a universal mantra

TUESDAY

– Holding (retaining) my breath and sitting cross legged for-ev-er is the hardest part

– This is the first time in my life, I am not trying to escape from a rigorous schedule ie. it gives me complete happiness and health.  However, Swami tells us the first week is called Concentration Camp, full pun intended.

WEDNESDAY

– Our Swami (a large Italian man..?) said that if we practice breath work and yoga postures every day for 10 years we will have enough “prana” (energy) to shake the world……hold onto your hats!

– What the…..?? Did she start in the same position as me?

THURSDAY

– I fell backwards out of headstand and it didn’t hurt

– When I don’t consume caffeine, sugar, garlic or onions, I can use a natural deodorant and not be smelly

– I am in a class of 70 people from all over the world – Russia, Japan, Mexico, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc. , only 5 or so of us are from Canada.

– With everyone doing one hour of karma yoga a day (I sweep and mop with love), the place is clean and beautiful – built entirely by karma yogis, no contractors here.

FRIDAY

– While I am here, I read and sing and learn about the gods/deities, how to be a good yogi, what happened to yoga when it came to the west, the philosophy behind yoga with ancient yogic texts, how to pour water in one nostril and out the other and meditate……however I am encouraged to listen, ask questions, reflect….and THEN decide if I want to accept it as truth, there is a distinction between fanaticism (pushing others onto a certain path) and choosing your own path.

– When I completely quiet my ego, I have nothing to say. This may be an issue.

– I have no idea how I will continue this lifestyle, but it is one that I believe in and that helps me be healthy, happy and free.

– The Laurentians in Quebec are beautiful, I would love to live here.

There’s so much more to it, but sometimes there’s no words to describe it.  Like Brahman.

Tree-cycling

Tent caterpillars have suspended this can in their chosen target tree within their nest. Thanks for cleaning up caterpillars!

This photo did lead to a little research on what these critters are and here are the interesting bits:

– These caterpillars were laid as eggs by their mother moth last fall! They survive the winter in their eggs, up to -40C.

– Since they eat leaves, most of what they eat is indigestible so they excrete aka. poop, out 1/2 of what they eat.  In an area where there is an outbreak, this poop falls from trees like rain! ew.

– While they are seen as pests and people believe they “kill” trees.  They do not. They “defoliate” the tree (ie. eat all the leaves), however the tree lives on and re-foliates.  Only if the same tree is defoliated many times in a row and it is facing another threat ie. drought, does it risk death.

– If, for one reason or another, you don’t want them around, place a bucket of water 1/4 full at the bottom of the tree.  The caterpillars will be attracted to the bucket and will drown.

What do we have? Cabbage.

Cabbage has been just about the only vegetable that we can reliably get at our local small grocery chains, that is grown locally, is not over-packaged and is ok to eat non-organic.  I don’t really know anyone who “loves” cabbage like people love tomatoes, berries, chives etc.  Nonetheless, despite the deceiving greenness and summer-like weather lately, we are still bound to winter vegetables and cabbage is always in our fridge.

Desperate for a new way to make it, I asked Dylan yesterday if he thought we could roast cabbage?  He said sure, and for cabbage, that’s a decently enthusiastic reply.  So we roasted it and wow!!  By chopping it into bite-size pieces and letting the leaves fall apart on an olive-oiled baking sheet, they turned crispy and fun!  Like kale crisps (for anyone familiar with this delicious way of roasting kale).   So simple and thank goodness, something new 🙂

Roasted Cabbage Crisps

Wild Leek and Mushroom Risotto

Since everyone has been asking what we did with the Wild leeks we picked (ya right), we made Risotto!  The recipe was found here: http://convivial.blogs.com/my_weblog/2004/04/wild_mushroomle.html

We used about 20 wild leeks – the white stem and the leaves – in place of one leek.  We couldn’t find any fresh thyme that wasn’t packaged from Chile, so we opted out of the thyme and the parmesan cheese, and garnished with some more chopped leek leaves – it was lovely.

Here are some photos documenting the process!  It was delicious, simple and rewarding!  This made enough for 2 meals for 2. (First we had it with steak, the next day we had it with rainbow trout – both 100 Mile Market treats)