Posts Tagged ‘Sustainability’

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!


My Sustainable Future…

In my sustainable future, No Frills will be a farmer’s market.

Wal Mart will host trade-ins, where you pay with credits that you’ve earned for bringing “stuff” back.  No one will work more than 30 hours away from home a week, and that work will be meaningful, inspiring, fulfilling and will always contribute to the greater good (why on earth most jobs do not seems terribly self-destructive for a species).

Sunday’s will return to a day of rest and family.  The plastics loop on the planet will be a closed system, only using and re-using what we’ve already made, no more new plastics.  Population growth will be an oxymoron.

The standard forms of transportation will be bike, horse (this is “my sustainable future” after all), wind powered boats, sun powered planes (they’re mighty close to the bright light) and food powered feet.  My love will be my life will be my work will be my pastimes will be my partner will be my children will be me.  We will live in a community of small, natural homes, surrounding a massive food forest.  Our compost heap and the sun will heat our greenhouse where we will grow an avacado tree. We will have a shared outdoor kitchen, even with a bbq. We will also have our own, private kitchen with a solar dehydrator, some new eco-kind of refrigerator, root cellars, and renew-ably powered appliances.  I will teach yoga, including handstands and cartwheels, and sustainable living and writing to youth and adults.  Children will be afraid of “strawberry candy” because they learned what a juicy, ripe, organic strawberry was long before the candy imposter.  Thus, “food” that in fact is not food, will not be sold as such.

Our community will have a huge library, with windows, plants and big spaces where we can lay on cushions, read and discuss.  Somehow, computers will have a role, maybe they will take the shape of a calendar on the wall listing everything that needs to be done that day, including baking cookies in the solar oven, meetings and having the youth learn to build a home.  My sister will be my neighbour, well maybe down the street, and my brother will be dreaming up designs for whole systems of communities that include not only building designs, but land-use, retrofits, and cradle to cradle principles.  We will know our neighboring communities, and while we may not always like them, we will compete with them in sport wholeheartedly.

Consumption will have been recognized as a black hole of human potential and a perpetuator of unhappiness. Clothes will be simple, natural, functional, beautiful and biodegradable.  We will have slowed the production of all forms of toxins enough so that nature will have removed those that she could, and enough to be able to exist forever with the ones that nature will never know what to do with.

The idea of going shopping as an activity, without a true need, will not be an idea.  Instead, that time will be spent thinking, creating, repairing, discussing, reflecting, and being still.  The only packaging that food will come in, will be the packaging that nature gave it.  You will carry your own basket or storage container to the store, fill it up from their storage container, weigh it, exchange some form of currency for it, and be on your merry way.  There will be one rainbow a day.  Two on holidays. And sometimes, just sometimes, you’ll actually see a flower open one of it’s buds, witnessing one of the most beautiful events this life brings.

I will feel joy with every breath I take, I will use intellectual intelligence every day and I will listen deeply with compassion and love for even the people I do not understand.  I will still feel pain, loss, sadness and despair.  And because these feelings seem innate to our species – a natural balance to my butterfly and unicorn fantasy – maybe the world will go on as it does.  We are in the Kali Yuga, the age where human civilization degenerates according to Indian scriptures.  There are systems that I can not paint in pretty pinks and sky blues, such as the legal system, the finance markets and the human ego brought to you by the letters “I”, “Me” and “Mine”. I don’t doubt that a sustainable future will indeed occur, but that does not mean it will be in our favour.  We are not the centre of the universe.  We are a mere manifest of it, and the Universe will sustain itself, not us.  But that does not rob me of my imagination and my heart.  So I will go on seeing the world through my rose-coloured glasses, picking flowers and singing on my bicycle.  I’m pretty sure in any future, I will still get to ride a horse and grow an avacado tree.

The Value Village/Dollarama Conundrum

Our new place is not entirely furnished and having led our Gypsy way of life these past few years, we own very little in the household department.  In need of some of the basics, we made a trip to Guelph with our friend Riley to hit the Value Village, Thrift Store, Winners and some antique stores (“Shopping for yourself at this time of year?” you ask?  Yes, keep your eyes peeled for a post on how we’ve managed to completely avoid the gift frenzy of Christmas this year).

When we are shopping, our ethics and values bring us to look for things that are:

1) Previously loved

2) Made in North America

3) Of high quality – long lifespan still

4) Made of renewable resources (ie. wool, untreated wood, glass etc.)

5) Healthy to have in our home

6) Functional for me, design pretty for Dylan

7) Amazing, one-time-in-your-life finds

8 ) Ridiculous

9) Recylcable, repurposable, re-giftable or biodegradable

So, in that order we set out and I remembered that I had offered to find a client 12 sets of office pen holders second hand and under budget (a personal challenge for myself and a way to bring sustainability to even the smallest of purchasing decisions in a small organization).  On the hunt, I came across some small glass jars at Value Village that were good for the job and looked at the price – $1.99.  Not terrible and if I could find 12 for that price I’d be successful.  However, curious to see where they had originally come from, I peeled back the Value Village price sticker to reveal that they were initially a product of Dollarama and thus, brand new, these things had only sold for $1.  I was to pay a 100% markup for a second hand piece of glass from China.

Saying my thoughts out loud, I said to Riley that I may as well go across the street because there’s a Dollarama there.  Thank goodness I have some very mindful friends and she wisely pointed out that then I would be voting for making low-quality, cheap goods in China, whereas buying it here, I am not bringing new material into the world, it already exists.  But paying 100% more.  And, now we get into the fact that Value Village is a for-profit organization owned by U.S. parent company Savers Inc.  Check out the comments in this blog post for a response from Value Village to the myth that they are owned by Wal Mart and a discussion on whether or not they benefit non-profits and charities.

So, I put the jar back down and opted for the copper container stamped by a blacksmith in Canada for $1.99 as well.  Nonetheless, there’s something pretty off about this system.

Our 10th Home of the Year!

One year since The Local Gypsies Spot was born, we are moving into our 10th place of residence for the year.  Similar to this time last year, we are renting a cottage for a longer-term stay which always gets me both excited and apprehensive.  It will feel nice to unpack our bags (that we otherwise just leave open on the floor and live out of)

The cat loves our out-of-the-box way of life

and in this place we even have some space to set up our own paintings, decor etc.  What makes me a little nervous is that we’re committed to live here for a year, maybe more!  The commitment gets even deeper in that we’ve built a chicken coop for a family of chickens that we are expecting on the property!  Luckily, the coop is movable (like us), however we must confess that it will never fit into our gypsy-mobile/Range Rover.

We are expecting!....Chickens and a rooster!

I have also committed to working for an organization that runs out of this house (you may know it – Free Spirit Tours) and the owner/entrepreneur/my friend has got me nicely wrapped up in several projects that will keep me busy for a few years by the sounds of it.  Could this be the end of our nomadic life?  Not likely.  I don’t think Dylan will completely settle until we’ve purchased land or a house, and even then, we will move on.  It just may not be 10 homes in one year, perhaps one home every ten years. wow. that seems just crazy.  Ten years in one place?! Are we getting old?

How to Save $9000/yr ….. and the world.

Did you know that it costs an average of $9000 per year just to own a small car? That is not including the cost of purchasing the car itself, but just the gas, maintenance, insurance, license, etc. each year.  I don’t know how much a truck or large vehicle could run you, but I can imagine.  What this tells me is that when considering a salary that I need to live comfortably and sustainably, I can pretty much take $9000 less than anyone owning a car and survive quite well!  This is awesome news.  So, if I thought a $50,000/yr salary would make life easier, I can take a $41,000/yr salary and still afford those $3 local organic carrots!  What this also means is that if you can find a job close enough to home to walk/bike/transit, then you can save $9000/yr by selling your car (make sure to get rid of it, the $9000 still applies if it’s sitting in your driveway even).  This may be easier for households with 2 cars (Dylan has his beloved Land Rover, so tasks like buying watermelon aren’t so exhausting!), because you would still have one vehicle to get around in, especially if you live in either a suburb (designed for cars) or the country.  I love knowing that I’m saving $9000/year! Amazing.


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.