seasonal changes

Hello readers,

welcome to another sporadic post. I promise that in the months since the last entry I’ve accumulated some extra good stuff to write about!

The main growing season is slowing a bit now as the summer veggies have given in to the first frosts, and the winter veggies become our main focus. Those summer veggies held on for a long time this year – we had our last harvest of peppers and eggplants in October! We’re still harvesting winter veg as we move through December, as many people are surprised to learn. The cold storage and root cellar are gradually filling up with goodies like carrots, beets, potatoes, onions, cabbage, parsnips and celeriac. It’s amazing how resilient some plants are.

First snow!
first snow

We’re also down a market now, and another ends within the next weeks. Having one less market per week to worry about is a bit of a relief, even though I really enjoy working the markets (despite the early mornings and the long drives sometimes made in the dark). This season I was grateful to learn how appreciative people are of the food. One market was in an area with a racially diverse population, and residents of differing backgrounds often recognized the vegetables as ones they would use traditionally but which can’t be found at the big supermarkets. Many market-goers were excited to tell me what they liked to make with specific vegetables. I learned that Independence day in Mexico is often celebrated by making stuffed poblano peppers; that basil is not only common in Italian cooking, but also Iranian; was recommended an at-home cough remedy made with radishes that was used in eastern Europe during periods of communism, when no antibiotics were available; and had regular customers coming back each week for months at a time because they found veggies like tomatillos at our stand – items which are part of their cultural menus, but were not on any grocery store shelves. It’s so rewarding to know people feel connected to what we grow. I hope this sparks ideas for folks who want these kinds of foods, which can be grown in their own backyards or on their own porches.

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having a field day

Hello blog-readers,

suddenly it’s July and I find myself so busy with farm work that I haven’t written anything about it until now!

I started a job at a new farm this spring in a supervisory role, which is exciting. Things have been going well and I’m learning a lot, as I expected to. We grow many of the vegetable crops I’m already familiar with, and some that are new to me, but the farm is run quite differently than any I’ve been at before. I always find it interesting to see how each farm does things, and this has definitely been a good learning experience so far. Brushing up on efficiency and becoming familiar with the small details are important parts of my position there, and I expect it to take the whole season before I really know it well, but things are going smoothly and I’m enjoying it of course.

Organic salad greens are relatively lucrative (and delicious). We grow many.GH

Most of my days are spent with the non-salad veggies, like this bok choi, in the field.choi

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Have your say on how pigs are treated in Canada

So, the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) is reviewing a new draft of their codes of practice for raising & handling pigs, and are inviting the public to give input on it.

From now until August 3, you can take their survey reviewing the draft of the updated code, and tell them what you think.

Currently, the standards include “requirements” and “recommendations”. Codes of practice are not legislature and unfortunately as such are not mandatory for people who keep animals, however, it’s still important to give feedback as many farms use the codes (and of course, it’s always important to give feedback on how animals are treated at the hands of humans, especially when they’re being used for profit or are viewed as commodites, as pigs are).

The survey can be found on this page (click the red box). Before completing it, there are a couple of things to know.

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hopes for the year

Hello out there!

As you can see, I’ve been on a long hiatus – we’ll just say I’ve been hibernating. But (of course), in my hibernation I’ve been ruminating on some things.

I’m happy to report that I’ve found a paying gig(!) at an organic vegetable farm, and am totally thrilled to have landed it. There will be posts about that soon, but in the meantime, I want to share with you a post I wrote at the beginning of the year, that’s been waiting in the drafts folder ever since. It involves challenges but also many successes. Thanks for reading!

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earth democracy

I recently had the pleasure of attending a talk by Vandana Shiva at OISE in Toronto! What an inspiration this woman is. If you aren’t familiar with her work, she addresses a multitude of issues through her work with farmers, government and educators, including food security and sovereignty, the value of and need for diversity (including biodiversity), the harms that occur when seed varieties are patented, women’s rights especially pertaining to agriculture, and the interconnectedness of everything. I don’t think I can emphasize enough how absolutely COOL she is. Some of her books include Biopiracy, Monocultures of the Mind, and Staying Alive, among many others (all of which I have yet to read…any recommendations?)

The talk I attended was recorded but I haven’t seen a video online (yet), so here’s a video of a similar talk she did at U of T about a year ago. “In diversity and multiplicity lies reslience. Monocultures are highly vulnerable. We know that in ecology, but we also know that in culture. Wherever a monoculture starts to take over, intolerance sets in…Diversity is the very condition of freedom, of resilience, of democracy, of abundance, of creating a future.”

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Reflections

Hi folks,

this post comes to you from southern Ontario – that’s right, my WWOOFing trip has ended (for now) and I’m back at home, happy to see my friends & family, and a little stunned at returning to the rat race that is the GTA.

After spending 5 months almost entirely away from cities, I have to say I’m almost in a state of grieving for the lifestyle I got to experience while I was away (the same thing happened last year after I moved off the farm when my internship ended). Living close to nature and being able to do work that I love is very important to me. I felt different almost as soon as I got off the plane, though I couldn’t put my finger on exactly how. But every once in a while I’ll notice something that I hadn’t given any thought to at first. For example, I woke up in the middle of the night a couple nights ago and my room was bright from the streetlights outside on the street. I could see the pattern on the curtain with the light shining through it, and see items across the room from my bed. I had started taking for granted the darkness that exists in places that are far away from densely populated areas. One thing I did notice right away is the water quality here. After months of drinking delicious, clean well water that was largely supplied by glacial runoff, the treated water here just tastes like chlorine. Unfortunately that means I haven’t been drinking enough of it since I got back, but I guess it’s just something to get used to.

It’s hard to compare the pristine water in the Slocan river, which was basically our well water, with the tap water here in Ontario

Another interesting thing I’ve noticed is my own attitude towards other people. In the Nelson area especially, I was very comfortable around strangers (everybody was…probably because they’re smoking something green). But seriously, the vibe there was generally friendly and relaxed, and the vibe here, even in a suburb of a small town, is very different. Many people who live here commute to larger places for work, like Toronto or Mississauga, so the traffic is more hectic and people seem more rushed and stressed about driving. There is no public transit within the town, so anyone who has to get groceries or run errands faces this traffic (or risks biking, but not many people here bike except for pleasure. The roads aren’t very bike-friendly). Folks seem to have that “tunnel vision” that happens when they just want to do their thing, not talk to anyone, and get home. I can understand that, because living here for so long has often caused me to do the same thing. Sometimes we call it “putting your Toronto on.” As well, being exposed to so much more media is overwhelming (I just heard a radio commercial advertising a show called “Canada’s Wost Drivers” on the Discovery channel…boy, have they one gone downhill. I’m glad I haven’t wasted my money and life on cable over the last 6 years).

The Slocan valley rail trail. nature at your door! The world is your playground in a place like this

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(re)claiming your home

Greetings readers. My time in the west is coming to a close, and I’ve been reflecting alot on some common themes that have appeared over the last few months. One of those is my role as a settler, a second-generation canadian, on traditional First Nations land. I haven’t reached any conclusions through pondering this topic, except that I want to learn more about how to be an ally to indigenous people and communities. So, if you have anything to add, please leave me a comment.

I’ve considered this subject for a while, having been around folks doing indigenous solidarity work at home. When I arrived on the west coast I noticed much more native art (or art in the style of certain nations) in public – and colonized – spaces. In Victoria I started to think about the meaning of this art; whether it was a symbol of acknowledgement to the communities who experienced genocide, war, and displacement at the hands of settlers, or whether it was simply a way to make residents and visitors feel comfortable with the current state of affairs. After all, these communities are not extinct. Despite the way much of our society handles the subject of First Nations people, they are alive, they are our neighbours, and they are still experiencing the effects of colonization, as are the rest of us in some ways. The following is something I wrote during my time in Victoria, which I meant to publish at that time and never finished.

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self-care, appreciation, fear, clarity

Greetings readers, from the lovely Slocan Valley (yet again)! I’ve been putting off posting for the last few weeks because so many things have happened that it’s overwhelming trying to make something coherent out of it all. So, this is my attempt.

To give you a brief idea, some of the things I’ve been up to recently include living off-grid, going to my first garlic festival, observing the power of intuition and intention, harvesting lots of root vegetables, skinny dipping in Kootenay Lake, and hunting for delicious wild mushrooms!

Pebble beach, on Kootenay Lake

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wild life

Welcome back, readers. This post comes to you from Nelson BC!

After a lovely month just around the corner in the Slocan Valley, I have moved onto a berry and nut “farm” (not really a commercial farm, but a small u-pick and homestead operation) on the side of a mountain just outside Nelson.

The new farm – view of the berry plants and the house

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a fish story

Here’s a story I wanted to share earlier that slipped my mind.

When I was in Ucluelet, I was chatting with one of the roommates of the person we stayed with, and found out that he works at a salmon farm. I told him (truthfully) that I had never visited a fish farm, and did he enjoy working there? The response I got was interesting and insightful. The company in question is one that’s striving to create a better living environment for the fish it farms; it uses an offshore, in-ocean pen (cage) system and doesn’t crowd so many fishes into each pen as some other farm do. The worker was pleased to know this, and also proud that the company avoided using antibiotics sub-therapeutically* (something that’s done to many different “food” animals who are raised in conventional systems.) (*This means feeding antibiotics frequently/routinely to animals who are not yet sick.)

Some things this person is unhappy with included observing the parasite load of the fishes in the pens and thinking about what impact that might have on the surrounding ocean ecosystem. He also felt conflicted over the way the fish were fed; their main source of food at the farm was herring (salmon are a carnivorous fish). He explained to me that he felt proud to work for a company that was trying to improve fish farm standards, but that this fact means the price of the salmon is high and thus only available to high-paying customers. Basically, the rich get to eat the salmon, the salmon eat herring (which could be feeding more people), and the area around the fish farm was potentially being affected by its presence in a negative way.

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