Friday, 31 March 2017

Seediness - I'm digging it!


Shortly after Donald Trump’s inauguration I started to panic, many of my homesteading and canning sites had already by then turned themselves into right-wing-high-alert- prepper-status-civil-war-preparedness sites warning me of the leftist liberals that were coming after them with pitch forks.  Conspiracy theories and alt news sites were and are flourishing.  I dove into some of those theories, but that’s another story.

After coming to terms with the world didn’t explode when 45 took office, and neither myself or any my Leftist friends had turned into Conservative eating zombies, I was relieved and took a deep breath.  The dust settled and I looked around my office, and found in a minute of extreme prepper-ness – I had procured via online shopping a box of Heritage Harvest seeds big enough to plant a rather large urban garden.  That was my solution – plant seeds!.
The idea of food security and seed sharing is something we should be doing even if 45 becomes 46.  Climate change is real and is Bi-Partisan.   Interruption of our food supply especially for Northern Climate countries like Canada is a real issue and I have found it is top of the mind for many humans, all races, all religions and socio economic standards.  You can’t eat money.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations defines food security as: "A condition in which all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life".

I created a small Facebook event to try out the idea and invited my friends that I thought might be feeling the same way or those with big pieces of land to a seed sharing and garden planning party.  I reached out to our local urban gardeners and green fingers for guidance and support.   There was 6 of us on Wednesday night – all eager to start our own small plots in our yards and wanting to help on a larger scale of a possible urban garden.

It looks like these seeds will get planted and some seedlings will start this weekend.

I will be posting updates of our adventures of re-learning how to grow our own food!

Happy Spring – I’m digging this!

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Thinking about sustainability in Ancaster and taking a trip to Transition Town Totnes

What is a transition town and just how does a small town in England become an inspiration to towns all over the world?   

If you have never heard of the Transition Town network, check it out, it is an important movement of consciousness at a practical community level.  It is about sustainability and working towards goals of renewable energy and low carbon foot print.  It is about a community caring enough about each other that they by moral default, at all levels of government and business, and not for profits, make choices that benefit the community and greater good over profit and corporate greed.  It is about a community that chooses to unite and care and be kind.   

Upon arriving to Totnes, I was struck by the size of this thriving town.  I had been driving through the country side seeing small villages, and had in my mind expected Totnes to be similar but with a hippy feel and I had expected some type of self-promotion of the Transition Town movement.  There was none of that.  Totnes is about the size of Dundas/Ancaster, with a Main Street, it has colleges, and churches, and castle ruins.  It is a busy town. 

I had been emailing with the volunteers asking questions about their food supply and food distribution channels, and they gave me some shop names to visit, but had seemed somewhat befuddled by my questions.  I parked my oversized car in an oversized lot after trying to navigate the rather narrow ancient streets and started my walk around the town camera in hand, expecting to find some great inspiration to bring back to Ancaster.  I did, but not what was expected.

There are only a few official "Transition" office volunteers for Transition Totnes, I found the whole community is generally volunteers, and while there are some grants to help cover costs, mostly they just do it because it is important to them.  The transition movement is not organizing, they are facilitating, the community does the organizing on a micro level.   There is a group for just about anything, and if your passion is not already being talked about, boom another group just popped up. 

I found that local food is not even a topic here.  I was asking questions like, “What percentage of food in the shops is locally procured?”, “How are you supporting your local farmers?”.  My questions were falling on deaf ears.  I think they all thought me a bit dim for asking the questions in the first place.  Almost all the food is local and organic, it just is, people expect it, there are no soups from concentrate, or imported meat over local grown without proper labels. Every produce laden truck rolling down the motor way has “organic” and “local” splattered on the side, the local food distribution system is working here.  It is regional and it is supported by the consumers, not just in Totnes but generally-speaking in England and throughout Europe.

In Totnes, as in most small to mid-sized towns and villages, you will not find commercially prepared fast foods.  No MacDonald’s or Burger King or Wendy’s, really - seriously not one did I see until I got close to Bristol at a high way service station.  They don’t exist, and they don’t exist because people don’t support them.

Their main street is busy and thriving and people are talking to each other and engaged.  Everyone is volunteering and part of a discussion group, their civic center in town is active with local groups they are collectively hosting meeting and events, and it just is, it is isness, it is the doing, not the talking.  As a collective, they have “woken up” that they want to make the world a better place, and many of these people I would like to point out are active seniors, this is not just a hippy movement for millennials, this is the retired and semi-retired keeping young and engaged in their community.

Meanwhile back at home in Ancaster we are busy, driving our SUV’s and parking in oversized parking lots, tearing down Heritage buildings and replacing them with McCafe, tearing up farmer’s fields in our west end only to cover them with concrete, we shut down aspiring Farmers Markets to allow yet another box store. 

We are busy denying local business the opportunity to do business on our “Main Street” with complicated and cumbersome and completely un-necessary zoning regulations.  Instead of interesting and local clothes shops we have two “Winners” and a “Walmart” and a “Costo”!  It is no wonder the Heritage District in Ancaster is struggling to stay viable. 

We have numbered companies buying up all the desirable commercial properties and leasing them back to struggling small business for profit over community. 

Sustainability and transitioning out of a fossil fuel dependent economy is not something that can be preached It must be felt, individually, and then collectively.  It is an evolution of thought, where community and environment naturally comes first, without question. 

We must do it for ourselves, it is something that we need to feel inside of ourselves and care enough to make it happen.   We need to elect local officials that are committed to sustainability measures and we need to support local business that support the community.  We need to stop spending our dollars on business where profits leave the community and we all need to get involved.

So, Ancaster, what do we say, let’s get involved, lets prevent our West End from becoming another Meadowlands, let’s keep our Farmers Fields, let’s in-fill and grow our Main Street and help small business thrive, together we can do it, in fact it is the only way!

Find your passion and volunteer! 

For more information on the Transition Town Networks follow this link

For more information on how Ancaster's Farmers Fields became a box store haven follow this link -

 - the making of the Meadowlands - how Ancasters fields became Hamiltons suburbs

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Eating Local with Ojo - Tintagel Cornwall - 3-14 Happy Pie Day!

Eating local with ojo - where to start with my eating local blog, at the beginning of course.  For me my beginning starts on the south west coast of England, as the blood of Avalon runs thru my family’s veins. This journey begins in Camelot Castle, Tintagel on the coast of Cornwall, home to King Arthur, Merlin and the Lady of the Lake, some believe that humans have been living here, not just for thousands of years but tens of thousands of years or more. ( Science has recently proven that man has inhabited this area for 10,000 years. )

With humanity’s roots firmly planted here how has food changed over the last century, or has it?  My first meal started with the most beautiful plate of fish and chips and mushy peas at the King Arthur Inn, a glass of scrumpy cider on the side.  A walk around the small town of Tintagel, and I was pleased to find a bevy of bakeries all boasting the best Pasties in town.  Home baked pastries and handmade fudge and Cornish clotted cream ice cream.  With pasties, and fudge in hand and a bottle of wine in my back pack, I retired to my room to indulge in some tales of the Arthur and the round table. 

My bed was comfy and sheets were crisp at Camelot Castle, I awoke remembering my dreams for the first time in ages, and I was desperately searching for my dog, who had died many years ago.   Dogs are everywhere here, I am missing mine terribly, dogs are allowed literally everywhere, in the hotel, in the shops, and in the pubs.  I could live here already.  Everywhere I turn is a spaniel or a collie.  If you are visiting Tintagel – bring your dog!

Breakfast at Camelot Castle, for a very reasonable off season price of 99 quid for 3 nights with breakfast, was a full on proper English breakfast.  Eggs, Beans, Tomatoes, Spuds, Mushrooms, Bacon and Sausage, people were piling up their plates to sustain themselves for a hike along the Cornish Coast line.  I did the same, feeling entirely satisfied.  The view of the ocean bashing the shoreline and the ruins of Tintagel Castle was an added bonus, feeling quite posh.

I packed my last pasty and a flask of tea in my back pack, put on a pair of woolly socks and hiking gear, and set off to explore Tintagel Castle.

I am here in off season so the parks are only open limited days, which suits me just fine, I have had
the whole coast to myself, time to enjoy, sit and ponder, relax and enjoy.

The earth seems ancient and the rocks layered so neatly, I wonder the many hands and feet that have touched and walked laughed and loved in this very spot.

I am really pleased to say that Tintagel is devoid of corporate food stuffs, no fast food here.  Every food shop (except for two small variety shops) make everything from scratch.  This is much too easy, I don’t have to search or look for local and sustainable food, it just is and always has been. 

Cornish Pasties are the original fast food here, a variety of fillings packed into a flaky substantially secure hand pie.  Originally an easy hearty lunch for miners in the tin mines of Cornwall.  A traditional pie is beef, potatoes, swede and onion, all sliced thin with a good helping of meat.   It’s a feel good meal, that I enjoy.  Cheese and onion is my personal favorite, and the humble sausage roll is right up there with foods I will eat even if I am not hungry!